Aaron Wolf's Blog


An Oberlin course blog

Cartoons capturing an adult audience

We have been suggesting in class the change in the content and nature of cartoons and comics following WWII as veterans returning from the war desired something more sophisticated than Superman-esque early comics. We can see some of the effects of this change in cartoons like Rocky and Bullwinkle, where fears of communism are played out in the characterization of the villain.

In order to consider the nature of this change and its long lasting effects on cartoons, consider the following two videos. The first is from De Niro’s remarkably graphic and adult content “Taxi Driver”. The second clip is from the live action/cgi full length Rocky and Bullwinkle which came out in 2000. The scene, which includes De Niro, clearly references his early work, a parody which only an adult audience would be able to discern. Cartoons now are not filled with content for kids, but also aim to entertain or at least amuse adults.

What’s art? Or: Why is my toilette in the museum? by Aaron Wolf

In preparation for a continuing discussion on what art means I wanted to throw out some of my own thoughts.

The post-modernist conception that anything could be made into art is a little difficult to swallow. Maybe its the rebellious attitude of the whole movement, constantly trying to challenge authority and make anything controversial and uncertain. While I acknowledge post-modernism has raised certain questions about the status quo that needed to be raised, I don’t think placing a toilette in a art museum makes it necessarily art.

But neither does everything have to be a Rembrandt or Monet (besides that leaves out Caravaggio and that dude is wicked baller).

In my own opinion, art is expression, and it always has been, even when we still lived in caves. But art should also have purpose, or rather it should be created with the purpose of being art. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that “intentionality” is the key to art. If a comic book writer wants to make his work art, then it can be art, even if he approaches it with the style of stick figures and black and white. Conversely, Will Eisner’s colorful and detailed pages in the Spirit don’t have to be art if he doesn’t want them to be.

Wallace and Gromit go Hollywood. By Aaron Wolf

I first saw Wallace and Gromit about 15 years ago and what really struck me at the time, besides the humor and obsession with cheese, was how “rough” the animation was. This wasn’t a neat and clean Warner Bros. production of “Batman”. The movements of the characters were jolting, and the characters’ appearances were full of imperfections.

I think this artistic imperfection was what made W&G endearing. It wasn’t “underground-art”, but it wasn’t mainstream, which meant that it could still poke fun at “the man” and the norms of society without being hypocritical. This ability came to define W&G in a way. Its comic/cartoon style meant that it could broach serious topics without being too overt or heavy handed.

So when “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” was being produced, I’m sure the creators and artists were intent on not loosing that Wallace & Gromit charm. Despite the use of CGI in assisting the animation process, the style of the old W&G is still apparent. The characters still carry imperfections, like added in fingerprints, and their movements are still jolting. The artists clearly were intent on preserving the non-mainstream appeal of the W&G brand. Brand name integrity! With the use of CGI, it would have been too easy for the characters to get a shinny overhaul and get revved up to appeal to a mainstream audience. But these modifications would have undermined the the anti-mainstream ethos which has come to define Wallace and Gromit.

Why make Gromit a dog? by Aaron Wolf

In watching “Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit” I found myself considering a question that had never occurred to me despite the numerous times I’ve seen the Wallace and Gromit films: Why does Gromit have to be a dog? Really I guess the question is why does he have to be an animal at all?

I get the idea that animals in animation let you pull of stunts and tricks that would, with a human subject, be either tastefulness or subject to serious censorship. But Gromit doesn’t really pull off any horribly violent or distressing stunts like Bugs-Bunny.

What Gromit’s character offers is a suspension of belief (and I guess this is true for all animal animated characters and really should have been obvious from the start). Why can Wallace and Gromit go to a moon made of cheese? Who cares?! There’s a dog that makes breakfast and drinks tea! This ain’t real!

O Hi

Well this is nice.