Lost in the jungle of 3-D animation
In addition, the huge success of the film “Avatar” will likely lead producers of animated film to use not only 3-D CG but also stereoscopic 3-D technologies. In fact, DreamWorks has already announced that it will now use stereoscopic 3-D technology for all of its films.
If most animated films go 3-D, however, I will not be happy. I know that animated films made with 3-D technology have a bigger presence than 2-D films due to the sheer volume of the figures on the screen.
One of the directors who knows how to get the most out of 2-D animation is Michel Ocelot (1943~). The French director is well known for exquisite silhouette films such as “Princes and Princesses” (2000). He applied some 3-D CG technology to his animated film “Azur and Asmar” but he continued to describe the backgrounds as flat surfaces filled with various arabesques. Accordingly, the images came to look like partly-protruding Islamic miniatures. The effect was strange but beautiful.
Ocelot first gained recognition in Korea with the release of his 1998 traditionally-animated film “Kirikou and the Sorceress,” which is based on a West African folktale. It tells of a strange boy, Kirikou, who speaks in his mother’s womb even before his birth and runs with super-speed as soon as he is born. He leaves home to defeat the witch Karaba, who has been harassing the people in his village.
The film draws out its story slowly but tastefully, just like a grandmother’s tale. There is also an exciting twist in the latter part of the movie, related to why the witch has become so evil. The twist reflects Ocelot’s philosophy that problems should be solved with tolerance, understanding and nonviolence.
But I think that one of the biggest charms of the film is its picturesque visual images. The colors of Kirikou’s home and village - yellowish brown and red brown - complement the rich chocolate color of the village people’s skin well. And though they are drawn in strong colors, their forms are simple. In contrast, the trees and grass in the jungle scenes are described extremely elaborately and they overlap with each other, looking like a wall filled with exquisite patterns of green.
Rousseau, who has been called a “naive artist,” painted every blade of grass in the distance with precision and earnestness. This, ironically, removed the sense of depth from the painting, which was a deviation from the tradition of realism in the landscape paintings of Western art. Rousseau was essentially a self-taught artist, and did not receive a formal education in the academy. He studied painting, working as a low-ranking public servant for a long time. He made his debut in his early 40s, and his paintings and background were ridiculed at first.
However, Rousseau’s lucid but unrealistic images have a strange power. His paintings look like the pieces of dreams, which are sometimes more vivid and colorful than reality. The paintings also carry the artist’s innocent sense of awe and affection for nature.
“The Snake Charmer” shows a black snake slowly and calmly slinking through the dense jungle, lured by the sound of a flute that is played by a sorceress, painted in black. The sorceress wears another snake around her neck, and three more snakes coil around her feet. At the first glance, I was appalled by the shadows of the snakes and the sharp eyes of the sorceress. But after seeing the three snakes turning around the sorceress in harmony with the flute melodies and a bird peacefully standing near them, I began to smile at the innocent and childlike expression. And I like the pale white moon on the pastel blue sky, which is so poetic.
These elements, which are characteristic of Rousseau’s paintings, eventually began to attract young avant-garde writers and painters of the time, such as the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire and the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. Rousseau’s jungle paintings were made in his latter years and, in one of these years, Picasso held a party for Rousseau at his studio.
One of the earlier paintings that earned Rousseau the attention of the critics, rather than their ridicule, was “The Sleeping Gypsy,” of which Rousseau himself was especially proud. It is said that he asked the government of Laval, his home city in France, to purchase this painting but the request was not accepted.
According to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which is the current holder of the painting, Rousseau described the subject of The Sleeping Gypsy in this way: “A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her [a vase with drinking water], overcome by fatigue in a deep sleep. A lion chances to pass by, picks up her scent yet does not devour her. There is a moonlight effect, very poetic.”
This painting is so poetic that the artist himself called it “poetic” as well, especially because of the pale white moon, which also appeared in The Snake Charmer.
Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), a French poet and film director, was fascinated by The Sleeping Gypsy and also wrote about it. He regarded it as a painting from a dream, saying that all the things in the painting, including the lion and the river, could be seen as the sleeping gypsy’s dream.
This painting was another that did not follow the traditional techniques used in Western art to make paintings more realistic - such as perspective and a sense of depth. But its strange perspective has created a dream-like and mystical atmosphere, which is what fascinated Cocteau and so many other artists.
The animated film Kirikou and the Sorceress has successfully adopted the beauty of Rousseau’s paintings - through the use of 2-D animation. But all of that would be lost in the world of 3-D animation. Am I the only one to recognize this?
By Moon So-young [firstname.lastname@example.org]