Cartoon Network Orders Skyler Page’s “Clarence”

This guy above is Skylar Page, a young recent Cal Arts Grad and now the creator of his own show “Clarence” for Cartoon Network.

According to this Cartoon Brew Article:  “CN has greenlit 12 fifteen-minute episodes, which according to Deadline, is about “an optimistic boy who wants to do everything because everything is amazing.”  

Just looking at the picture of the artist/creator and reading the pitch line for his show, does this really seem like a guy whose had anything happen in his life? 

Read the Cartoon Brew Article: 

Cartoon Brew Article

To be fair, I post below two of Skyler’s Cal Arts Films

This first one is Crater Face:

The Second here is Girl Wallet:

Neither of these are badly made films, and Skyler shows promising talent as a filmmaker.  But the first film, I’m not sure what the story is trying to say, and the second film just doesn’t go far enough.  Starting with “Girl Wallet”, it’s like Skyler wants to be so much more outrageous and crude, but with the one tampon joke is about as far as he’s willing to go with the gag.  And I suppose if you need a reason why he doesn’t push it farther, you can check out the credits in both films where he thanks God and Jesus.  

Cripes man.    

So we have a religious kid with a 12 year-old sense of humor whose way to giggle and shock people is to show a tampon.  Its also not like we haven’t seen the joke 1000x over either about a man-child who is too embarrassed by the fact that he owns something a girl would own.  I’m sure he had every jocular straight man in the audience rolling in the aisles, but for the rest of us…at least myself… I see a filmmaker too nervous to put it all out there and tell us what he really feels about himself, and what he really feels about women.  Okay, it’s a comedy.  It’s a throwaway joke.  But its one thats been told a hundred times over.  And he’s not telling us anything new.  

The other film is Crater Face.  It’s a well drawn and boarded film.  But the animation borrows from just about every current cliche TV cartoon.  It’s not surprising Skyler boards on Adventure Time as he seems to have perfected the sad giant eyes expression we’ve seen a million times.  And as far as the story goes….why is the astronaut willing to risk  his life to play matchmaker?  Why doesn’t he just leave and come back later?  If there’s a hole in the ship at the end and he’s getting sucked back towards it, how is able to fly forward and hit the button, which apparently does nothing but blow up the ship?  If I ever felt compelled to risk my life to bring two people together, I think there should be a pretty good reason to do it!  

Again, I know the line:  “It’s just a cartoon.”  But this is the problem, just as it is with the “Cal Arts Sensibility” argument.  The visuals are always ascetically pleasing, but the stories are mush.  They don’t push far enough.  It’s not that they’ve learned how to tell an emotionally engaging story, they’ve figured out all the emotional buttons to push in the audience to get them to react.  A truthful, honest filmmaker admits they don’t know how the audience is going to react.  They don’t know if an audience is going to laugh, or cry, or be repulsed, or hate you for what you just showed them.  This filmmaker Skylar is borrowing styles from everything that’s current in TV Animation today.  He’s figured out everything that works and everything that audiences will respond to.  But he hasn’t figured out for himself what it really is he has to say.  Looking at his picture, I’m guessing he’s about 22 or 23 years old.  In the credits for both his films, he thanks Jesus and God.  He’s a conservative.  I’m willing to bet he’s got almost no life experience, and if he does, I certainly don’t see it in any of his films.  And now Cartoon Network is giving him a show.  

I don’t want to sound like a crooked S.O.B. for pointing this out, because Skyler is obviously talented and can draw very well.  But the real Cal Arts Sensibility that exists is that we have a lot of artists coming out of the school, with a variety of aesthetically pleasing styles of drawing, but few of them can actually tell a sincere story that’s true to themselves.   

Sorry for the lack of posts

Hey everyone, just to let you know, more stuff is coming soon.  I got caught up in a personal project for the last week, but I think it may have led to something I might post on this blog once in awhile:  Parody Storyreels!  I did a Laurel and Hardy Parody for my Film Historian friends and it was a smash hit…I think I had a few people in tears they were laughing so hard!  

So it got me thinking about once in awhile making Parody Storyreels and putting them on my blog, complete with music!  I have one in mind right now actually.  Hopefully you’ll see it sometime soon!  Heh heh…  

Have a good weekend everybody.  

Feature Cartoon Analysis: Cinderella

 A few days ago I re-watched one of the Disney classics.  Cinderella’s not one of my favorite Disney films…I liked it as a kid and its one of those movies that grew on me over the years.  It‘s an important film for the Disney company for sure, because it was made just after the war, and Walt went almost 7 or 8 years without doing a solo feature.  Most of the features released were package features, like Ichabod and Mr. Toad, or Make Mine MusicBut he was in need of a hit.  So he went back to what made him successful in features in the first place:  A classic princess fairy tale.  

Cinderella marks a turning point in the future of feature animation for Walt Disney.  It’s a good movie for sure.  But the tone is much different than his other features.  The animation is starting to get much more refined and a little more sophisticatedHowever, compared to Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Fantasia, and Bambi, one thing that is noticable is that the emotional undercurrent of films during and after Cinderella isn’t as strong.  There is a much more light-hearted feel to those later films.  I feel this a lot with all of Disney’s features after 1950.  There are a few good moments of emotional drama, but none of the films for the rest of Walts career had the stirring powerful impact that his first five films did.  In these later features, we get some classic moments for sure.  But Cinderella definitely marks a change in the studios output for features.  

In revisiting Cinderella, one of the first things I’ve noticed about the film is that it’s humor isn’t terribly funny.  There are a few good moments, and thanks to Ward Kimball we get a great funny villain out of Lucifer, and great classic takes like this one:  

Lucifer steals the film for me, and is one of the best things about the film.  What’s a little ironic though is that Lucifer’s big funny take here went right by me as a kid, and was something I never found funny until I saw the movie again much later as an adult.  As far as the humor goes in this film, it‘s not to say that the mice aren’t cute or that they don‘t have their charm.  But you can feel throughout this movie that there is something just kinda…toned down about the gags themselves.  

 While Walt‘s direction into light heartedness may have changed the tone of his films, the one thing thankfully that keeps the film grounded is its drama, which to me is the most memorable aspect of Disney’s films.   “Cinderella” has a good solid story structure, which is something Walt excelled at.  We’re not introduced to the villain for a good 20 minutes into the film, but Walt based the structure of the film around the situations of the characters.  What’s good in the beginning is that a simple scene of the mice trying to get passed Lucifer so they can get breakfast, the sequence builds up to the introduction of the Stepmother.  Sequences such as the mice getting the beads and sash, and all the hard work built up to getting Cinderella’s dress made, only to have it destroyed later by the Stepsisters, Walt was able to have the moment change from something comical to something emotional and devastating.  I can see this is is what Walt learned from his idol Charlie Chaplin, who could build a funny situation, and turn it on a dime to something serious.  

 Modern animated features are much more dialogue heavy than these earlier films.  “Cinderella” has dialogue where its needed, but relies more on putting characters into situations that are based around visual gags.  Which is what I think animation is meant for to begin with.  There shouldn’t be a lot of dialogue unless its absolutely necessary to the story.  There are some times in animation where I think we forget its supposed to be a visual medium, and its more than just coming up with clever camera angles to keep it from looking like a “talking heads” scene.  

 Walt as well as the animators who worked on his films during that time were majorly influenced by silent films, and the works of Chaplin and Keaton.  Even Laurel and Hardy made some terrific silent shorts together before sound came in.  We know their films for their witty banter and dialogue, but the strength of those films are based around visual gags.  Cinderella is not the best of the Disney crop.  But it’s got a solid story structure that holds it together, based around the situations of the characters.  It still holds up today as a great, entertaining film.