Having spent much too much time this week setting up the Fan Boy/ Fan Girl Detante and getting involved in the debates surrounding FanLib, I hope I will be forgiven for a post which is mostly a series of interesting links that I have had stumbled on recently, all surrounding one of my favorite topics — comics and animation.
I recently had the pleasure of introducing CMS graduate student Andres Lombana to the astonishingly original cartoons which came out of UPA studios in the 1950s, including my personal favorite, Gerald McBoing Boing, or their highly stylized version of The Tell Tale Heart or their adaptation of James Thurber’s The Unicorn in the Garden or the oft-neglected Christopher Crumpet and Family Circus or… Andres returned the favor by introducing me to a really interesting blog that author Amid Amidi has created around his book, Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation. The blog is a treasure trove of classic commercials and cartoons, often obscure early works by important animators, as well as storyboards, sketches, promotional materials, and the like, surrounded by interesting critical commentary. I strongly recommend this site to anyone who shares my interest in 50s animation or who is simply interested in understanding the intersection between modern art and popular culture.
Have you seen A Fair(y) Use Tale? It’s a provocative video circulating on YouTube and where-ever else fine mash-up videos can be found which explains core concepts in American copyright law, including, of course, fair use, through the appropriation and re-contextualizing of segments from classic Disney movies. The film was produced by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University. The video is being distributed by the Media Education Foundation. (I don’t always like the films produced by the MEF, which often seem to be heavy-handed and pedantic and tend to demonize both media producers and consumers, but this seems like an especially valuable contribution to our teaching about the current copyright wars and came just in time to be a welcome relief from grading papers.)
As the closing moments of the film suggest, Disney as a company has been the big bad wolf of American copyright law, bullying everyone from local daycare centers to the Academy Awards which seeks to quote images from their films. Some have gone so far as to describe the current copyright statues as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act because it essentially keeps expanding the period covered by copyright to insure that the rodent never falls into public domain. So, it seems only fair that Disney sounds and images be used to help the public understand its rights and responsibilities under current intellectual property law. That said, I’d watch this one now before the Cease and Desist letters start to fly.
The Apple vs. PC advertising campaign has become one of the most quoted themes in contemporary popular culture. Not since the “Whazzup” madness of a few years ago have we seen a commercial which provided such a rich and recurring template for grassroots appropriations. So, it is not surprising that fan boys are using it to comment on the ever-green debate about the relative merits of DC vs. Marvel superheroes. You can see the results in two very different videos making their rounds these days — the first focuses on the two companies and their products, the second pits Batman against Spider-man, suggesting that Peter Parker has a way to go before he can match Bruce Wayne’s record for pain and personal trauma.