Archive for March 2012

Blog Post 9b: Lizard costumes   1 comment

At some mysterious point in time, I became known as a depository for pictures of bearded dragons dressed in costumes.  And why not?  It’s a niche market.

Is it a submarine?  Is it an airplane?  It came with the caption “I think we’re gonna need a smaller boat” so I guess it’s a shark.

“Yer a hairy wizard.”

THAT BEARD IS REDUNDANT.

Posted March 26, 2012 by agentksilver in Lizard

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Blog Post 9a: The Politics of Marriage in Disney Princess Films   5 comments

There is, in fact, a canonical list of Disney Princesses, a who’s-who of Disney characters as it were:

Snow White (Snow White)
Cinderella (Cinderella)
Sleeping Beauty (Sleeping Beauty)
Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
Jasmine (Aladdin)
Pocahontas (Pocahontas)
Mulan (Mulan)
Tiana (Princess and the Frog)
Rapunzel (Tangled)

Clearly the superior princesses managed to get their movies named after themselves! Heck, Jazmine’s movie was named for her love interest! For shame, Jazmine.


See more on Know Your Meme, and know that I was tempted to link to, like, sixteen of these.

Ten princesses is way too many for one blog post, so we’ll see how I do at three per entry (I haven’t seen Tangled…yet). Tonight’s entry is the big three: Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty.

Snow White (1937)

Blatant lack of nose aside, Snow White is Disney’s take on the old German Fairy Tale, Sneewitchen, or “Little Snow White”, not to be confused with Schneeweißchen of Snow White and Rose Red, obviously. Rather annoyingly, the Disney version skips over the interesting part, where her mother pricks herself on a needle and wishes for a beautiful baby girl. Then she dies after giving birth to the baby. Then her father, for some insane reason, marries this woman:

The movie doesn’t say whether or not the father dies. Certainly if the woman can go scurrying off into the woods selling poisoned apples, she’s probably not running a kingdom, so I’d say, probably he is still alive. This is where the movie picks up. Snow White is forced to be a scullery maid and dress in rags, but she somehow manages to win the heart of…somebody good-looking.


OH MY GOD HIS NOSE IS GONE TOO!!!!!

I would like to say that, for the Record, we never find out how Snow White knows he’s a prince. We just assume, because we all know the fairy tale. And Snow White just assumes he’s a prince, because he’s a good-looking guy, and good-looking people back then tended to be either nobility (or demonically possessed). Snow and the Prince never actually talk. She’s singing about how much she wants to meet her true love; then he shows up and talks about how he has one song for her (creatively entitled “One Song“). She runs away before they have a chance to, like, tell each other their names.

Skipping forward to the end,

People talk about the Prince like he’s a necrophile, but actually this was a common thing to do at funerals, as a way to say goodbye to the dead. The ritual was practiced up into the 20th century. It…it very rarely ended in the princess waking up and marrying you though.

So that’s the situation. We have a young man, who may or may not be a prince, marrying a young woman, who may or may not be a scullery maid. Now, she’s definitely a princess. And he’s a prince. The story appears to take place in medieval-era Germany, judging by the outfits the characters are wearing. This would mean that the story takes place during the days of the Holy Roman Empire (962-1802), which was when Germany was a loose confederation of princedoms under the nominal rule of an elected Emperor.

What is an almost-king doing running around the backwater provinces, checking out scullery maids and attending funerals? That’s what I want to know.

Cinderella (1950)

Not to be outdone in the swishy dress department, Cinderella came roaring along in 1950, to prove that you could be a princess AND maintain a nose. Seriously. The nose thing bothers me.

The opening narration of Cinderella merely states that Cinderella father was wealthy and devoted to Cinderella. He remarries, in order to give Cinderella a “mother’s touch”, and then dies an untimely death. Her stepmother then squanders the family fortune and forces her to be a slave in her own house. At least this time we got to see some of the action, even if only in a brief montage!

Also this time, we know the person she ends up with is definitely a prince.

He’s in a palace and has a nose and everything! In fact, his father is a king sort of king, and is looking to marry him off! So he arranges a ball in the big fancy palace, and whoever the prince sets his eye on, he’s going to marry!

Excellent point, Agatha Heterodyne! How does Disney justify this complete lack of political brains? Why, by making the King absolutely baby crazy!


Grandbabies! They’re like regular babies, but GRAND!

If you read Disney’s version of “Extended Edition” or “Word of God” or “Behind the Scene Notes” you know that the stepmother’s name is Duchess Tremaine, implying that Cinderella herself is probably some manner of Duchess as well. This would make her fairly high up in the nobility. GOOD SAVE THERE, DISNEY. Of course, given that Cindy herself has very little to her name — her stepmother probably fired all the servants so she could save a little money to spend on her daughters, which is probably what led her to force Cinderella to do all the chores. The house is therefore a wreck, and she has no money, or clothes, and probably a horrible upbringing. Cinderella needs a little bit of princess school, and a lot of luck, to keep this marriage politically convenient.

She needs to have a boy. That’s what I’m saying.


A horrid, horrid little boy.

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

What can I say about Sleeping Beauty? They cover all the angles here. The marriage between an actual prince and princess was politically arranged between two intelligent, friendly kingdoms. Or is it princedoms? Both Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty seem to take place in a weird French/German nation. Cinderella’s home is described as a “chateau” and the Duchess’ name is “Tremaine”, yet that castle is totally Neuschwanstein, in Bulgaria.

At least we get a sense of geography from Cinderella: southern Germany somewhere, or possibly France or something. Heck, people in France didn’t speak French until nationalism was invented in the mid-1800s! So either way works. But Sleeping Beauty manages to be really really vague: “Aurora” is actually a Spanish/Italian/Portuguese name. But those kingdoms weren’t really unified in any sort of manner until Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon hooked up in the mid-late 1500s. Philip specifically says, in the greatest line uttered in any Disney movie until Emperor’s New Groove:

Now, father, you’re living in the past. This is the 14th century!

It’s the 1300s, so IT DOESN’T MATTER. PRINCESS AURORA COMES FROM NOWHERE. HER MARRIAGE IS FINE.


It’s the 14th century, so teenagers can make out in the forest now!

Blog Post 8b: Quantic Dream’s KARA   2 comments

I swear, this is my last entry on the Uncanny Valley. Next week, I plan on pointing out the weird politics of Disney princess movies. But for now, the Uncanny Valley, and KARA.

This is a tech demo by Quantic Dream, testing their graphics engine for the PS3. I can almost imagine the developers sitting around a table, saying, “Hey, we’ve got to test our graphics — why not start out with a robot being tested?” Then the story turns dark. Maybe someone didn’t pay for their share of lunch. And then they paid for donuts later? I don’t really know.

One of the things that makes me like this film is that it almost manages to avert the Uncanny Valley. Maybe it’s because we just stare at one robot in an unnaturally harsh light. She has completely human proportions, because she’s motion-captured and made to look exactly like Valorie Curry:

For me, the Uncanny Valley hits when she steps into the box to be shipped out of the factory. Something about the way her hand and arm move just throws me. In fact, as soon as she steps out of the white light, she seems to be more computer-generated and less human.

But the short also tells a story, it’s more than just a tech demo, which is perhaps why it hits you as hard as it does. My favorite bit is around 3:45.

Kara: Oh I see. I…I thought…
Operator: You thought? What did you think?

Then one of the robotic arm circles across her, almost threateningly, as she considers her next words. The shot could have worked just fine without the robot arm moving, but it’s just that extra piece that makes the emotions all that more convincing.

I have no idea what Quantic Dream is going to do, as I don’t play video games. But I’m still pretty excited about this film.

Posted March 19, 2012 by agentksilver in animation

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Blog Post 8a: Comments   Leave a comment

Comment 1

Posted March 19, 2012 by agentksilver in animation

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Blog Post 7a: Midterm Revision   Leave a comment

I chose to revise my post on the Uncanny Valley, because the initial graph and the initial explanation didn’t do a sufficient job. I would like to point your attention to this graph here:

This image is more objective and thorough, although actual visual examples are always handy. It’s difficult to read a chart sometimes.

Uncanny Valley is a term originally created by a Japanese scientist to explain human reaction to robots. As we create more and more human-like robots, we will find their humanness more and more endearing, until the moment that they are almost, but not quite, human. The same thing can be applied towards animations; as we are able to create more realistic animations, we ooh and aah over the effects, until that moment when they look human, except for that too-stiff hand, those soulless eyes.

You’ll notice that the Valley rises steadily for moving creations, before dropping suddenly. This is an important part of the psychology of the Valley.

It takes a moment to become unsettled by the sight of it. You don’t realize, right away, what’s wrong, just that you know that something is wrong. That’s why the realism has to build up.

It’s been theorized that the Uncanny Valley comes from an evolutionary tool. Our instincts tell us to shun that which is not quite right, because back then, what was not quite right was probably a sick person who could infect us.

This graph of the Uncanny Valley is a random internet person’s version of the Valley. That person is probably a nerd (I speak as one). This graph uses entirely live-action examples.

Industrial Robots- perhaps you might find the sharp parts scary to be around, but they don’t inspire the same fear that Uncanny creatures do.
C-3PO- appears to be based on humans, but is clearly not; the stiff and awkward gait and movements make the robot more endearing, and more like it could use an upgrade, and less like a killer robot.
Michael Jackson- The dip in the Uncanny Valley is completely subjective. It’s very odd that a real human enters the Valley, and it’s generally through plastic surgery.


To be fair, Jenna Jameson always was part of the Valley

Boomer- I forgot who this was. I actually thought Boomer was a dude! Boomer is a “chick”, from Battlestar Galactica. She’s a Cylon, so she’s an incredibly human-appearing robot. Played by a human. Who is not made to look anything less than human.

As computer animation has gotten more and more advanced, we’ve managed to sink into Uncanny Valley several times.




Skin textures, fur, the subtle, dramatic shading of a few pieces of hair against the sun — we can do all that. But somehow, we can’t quite make them human, unless we make them look less human.


When did my eyes get blue?!?!?

This is Pixar’s Tin Toy, a very, very early short. It won an Academy Award for Best Animated Film (short subject), although lord knows why, considering that baby’s jerky movements and frightening rendition. A baby, apparently long abandoned by its mother (considering the state of the diaper and the fact that she never appears), sits on a hardwood floor and jerks its little baby legs around, spitting things that do not look like spit. It grabs baby toys and sucks on them, which frightens the titular Tin Toy. The baby chases after the Tin Toy, who runs away. The baby falls during the pursuit. The Toy has a change of heart and allows the baby to suck on it — only to get dropped in favor of the Toy’s own box.

After you’ve watched it a few times (which I have, sadly), you can start to see where the animators were coming from, in terms of rendering the baby. The folds of the skin, the proportions of the body. In an actual human, with human fluff and soul and roundness, this baby would be less terrifying. But like most Uncanny things, this baby has no soul, and instead the proportions become all wrong.

This is part of the reason why Pixar chose to do Toy Story as its first big commercial feature-length film. Most of the action was on non-humans, and generally the humans were depicted as arms and legs, speeding quickly through the screen. It wasn’t until The Incredibles that they learned how to stylize humans.

Posted March 17, 2012 by agentksilver in animation

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Blog Post 6b: Comments   Leave a comment

A comment on the seriously creepy Mark Twain cartoon

A comment on Superman’s super animation

Posted March 10, 2012 by agentksilver in animation

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Blog Post 6a: Uncanny Valley   7 comments

Uncanny Valley is a term originally created by a Japanese scientist to explain human reaction to robots. As we create more and more human-like robots, we will find their humanness more and more endearing, until the moment that they are almost, but not quite, human.

It’s based on a simple evolutionary tool. Our instincts tell us to shun that which is not quite right, because back then, what was not quite right was probably a sick person who could infect us.



My original image search came up with nothing but Japanese people and Japanese robots, and I decided not to be racist, although wait, do robots count as a race?

As computer animation has gotten more and more advanced, we’ve managed to sink into Uncanny Valley several times.



Skin textures, fur, the subtle, dramatic shading of a few pieces of hair against the sun — we can do all that. But somehow, we can’t quite make them human, unless we make them look less human.


When did my eyes get blue?!?!?

This is Pixar’s Tin Toy, a very, very early short. It won an Academy Award for Best Animated Film (short subject), although lord knows why, considering that baby’s jerky movements and frightening rendition. A baby, apparently long abandoned by its mother (considering the state of the diaper and the fact that she never appears), sits on a hardwood floor and jerks its little baby legs around, spitting things that do not look like spit. It grabs baby toys and sucks on them, which frightens the titular Tin Toy. The baby chases after the Tin Toy, who runs away. The baby falls during the pursuit. The Toy has a change of heart and allows the baby to suck on it — only to get dropped in favor of the Toy’s own box.

After you’ve watched it a few times (which I have, sadly), you can start to see where the animators were coming from, in terms of rendering the baby. The folds of the skin, the proportions of the body. In an actual human, with human fluff and soul and roundness, this baby would be less terrifying. But like most Uncanny things, this baby has no soul, and instead the proportions become all wrong.

This is part of the reason why Pixar chose to do Toy Story as its first big commercial feature-length film. Most of the action was on non-humans, and generally the humans were depicted as arms and legs, speeding quickly through the screen. It wasn’t until The Incredibles that they learned how to stylize humans.

Posted March 6, 2012 by agentksilver in animation

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