When Japan’s Top Animators Made a Thrilling Cyberpunk Commercial for Irish Beer: Watch Last Orders (1997)

When it came out in 1995, Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell showed the world what the art of Japanese animation could do with the kind of gritty, tech-saturated, globalized cyberpunk visions popularized in the previous decade by William Gibson and other writers. The film's particularly successful release in the United Kingdom got some culturally savvy marketers in Ireland thinking: why not use this sort of thing to sell beer?

But rather than ripping it off and watering it down — all too par for the course in advertising — they hired animators straight from Production I.G., Ghost in the Shell's studio, to create a whole new animated cyberpunk reality, the one in which Last Ordersthe minute-long spot above, takes place. The 1997 commercial tells the story of six samurai rushing through a cityscape that has everything we've now come to expect from this genre: forests of high-rises, bustling streets, mysterious women, artificial humanoids, the technological everywhere merged with the organic, and neon signs aplenty.




The samurai converge on their destination, a tavern, just in time to silently but firmly signal their demand for their drink of choice: Murphy's Irish Stout, a Heineken-distributed brew offered as a lighter, less bitter alternative to the market-dominating Guinness. But no matter of the steely determination of the samurai in Last Orders, the first anime-style commercial ever to air in the UK and Ireland, it seems that one challenges such an iconic brand at one's peril: Murphy's currently has only a five-percent share of the Irish stout market, and that mostly thanks to a 28-percent share in its native Cork.

The Japanese animators who worked on the commercial have fared rather better, going on to, among many other respected projects, Blood: The Last Vampire and Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. Though I've never encountered Murphy's on any tap, I'd gladly watch a movie or even an entire series set in its world. The stout market, the mighty Guinness included, may have been on the decline in recent years, but cyberpunk, in our own ever more globalized and tech-saturated reality, seems about due for a comeback.

via Kotaku

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch Animated Scores to Music by Radiohead, Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem, Photek & Other Electronic/Post-Punk/Avant-Garde Musicians

A few weeks ago, we told you about Stephen Malinowski and the Music Animation Machine, a popular and pretty expansive YouTube channel that features scrolling, color-coordinated animated “scores” for classical works from Debussy to Bach and Stravinsky.

But what if there was a version of this, somewhere somehow, for electronic music?




Ask the question of the Internet, dear reader, and the gods will provide. For just over a year motion graphics designer Johannes Lampert has been working in a similar style to interpret the work of electronic, post-punk, and modern composers like Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt in which every sound is represented by a different animated symbol.

In the above video, Lampert takes on Talking Heads’ multilayered, Fela Kuti-inspired “The Great Curve” from Remain in Light. The video gives us jagged lines for Tina Weymouth’s bass, a steady border of dots for Chris Frantz’ propulsive drum tracks, and several gaps into which the three vocal lines of the song—David Byrne’s lead, and Nona Hendryx and the band's multitracked call-and-response backing vocals—drop and pulse. Add to that an unbroken jagged line that replicates Adrian Belew’s searing and soaring solo.

Currently there are 12 tracks available on Anatomy of a Track’s Youtube channel, with a posting record that suggests Johannes Lampert is working on one every two months.

Lampert experiments with the layout and graphics of his animations, making their design complement the music. Hence "The Great Curve" looking like African textiles, Gil-Scott Heron’s “New York Is Killing Me” aping the New York Subway map, and Photek’s “The Rain” as a puddle filled with pulsing raindrops.

Maybe the most complex video so far is for Radiohead’s “Bloom,” which is just as chaotic as the band's tumbling drum machine. But it does uncover how steady the bass is in this track while all around the other instruments are shimmering and ethereal. And for just a good time, Justice’s “Phantom” is turned into a dynamic light show that looks like a night drive down a Japanese expressway.

I would put it to you that modern electronic artists think about their music much like these animations. I mean, what are music editing programs like ProTools or Logic Pro but horizontal scrolls of dots and sound waves?

No doubt Lampert has more tricks up his sleeve and more tracks to animate. Stay tuned.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Celebrate the Women’s March with 24 Goddess GIFs Created by Animator Nina Paley: They’re Free to Download and Remix

As millions of women, men, and friends beyond the binary gear up for Women's March events around the world this weekend, we can’t help but draw strength from the Venus of Willendorf in Graphics Interchange Format, above.

Like the pussy hats that became the most visible symbol of last year’s march, there’s a strong element of humor at play here.

Also respect for the female form.

As Dr. Bryan Zygmont notes in his Khan Academy essay on the Venus of Willendorf, her existence is evidence that “nomadic people living almost 25,000 years ago cared about making objects beautiful. And … that these Paleolithic people had an awareness of the importance of the women.”

Animator Nina Paley has taken up our Paleolithic ancestors’ baton by creating two dozen early goddess GIFs, including the Venus.

As further proof that sisterhood is powerful, Paley is sharing her unashamedly bouncy pantheon with the public. Visit her blog to download all 24 individual goddess GIFs. Disseminate them widely. Use them for good! No permission needed.

Paley is no stranger to goddesses, having previously placed the divine heroine of the Ramayana front and center in her semi-autobiographical feature length animation, Sita Sings the Blues.

She’s also incredibly familiar with rights issues, following massive complications with some vintage recordings her Betty Boop-ish Sita lip-synchs in the film. (She had previously believed them to be in the public domain.) Unable to pay the huge sum the copyright holders demanded to license the tunes, Paley ultimately decided to relinquish all legal claims to her own film, placing Sita Sings the Blues in the public domain, to be freely shared, exhibited, or even remixed.

If Paley's the poster child for copyright issues she’s also a shining example of deriving power from unlikely sources.

As she wrote on her website nearly ten years ago:

My personal experience confirms audiences are generous and want to support artists. Surely there's a way for this to happen without centrally controlling every transaction. The old business model of coercion and extortion is failing. New models are emerging, and I'm happy to be part of that. But we're still making this up as we go along. You are free to make money with the free content of Sita Sings the Blues, and you are free to share money with me. People have been making money in Free Software for years; it's time for Free Culture to follow. I look forward to your innovations.

As for Paley's own plans for her goddesses, they’ll be a part of her upcoming animated musical, Seder-Masochism, noting that “all early peoples conceived the divine as female.”

Download Nina Paley’s Goddess GIFs here. Watch Sita Sings the Blues here. March ever onward!

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Join her on February 8 for Necromancers of the Public Domain, when a host of New York City-based performers and musicians will resurrect  a long forgotten work from 1911 as a low budget, variety show. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch the History of the World Unfold on an Animated Map: From 200,000 BCE to Today

"Where are you from?" a character at one point asks Babe, the hapless protagonist of the Firesign Theatre's classic comedy album How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All. "Nairobi, ma'am," Babe replies. "Isn't everybody?" Like most of that psychedelic radio troupe's pieces of apparent nonsense, that memorable line contains a truth: trace human history back far enough and you inevitably end up in east Africa, a point illustrated in reverse by the video above, "A History of the World: Every Year," which traces the march of humanity between 200,000 BCE and the modern day.

To a dramatic soundtrack which opens and closes with the music of Hans Zimmer, video creator Ollie Bye charts mankind's progress out of Africa and, ultimately, into every corner of all the continents of the world.




Real, documented settlements, cities, empires, and entire civilizations rise and fall as they would in a computer game, with a constantly updated global population count and list of the civilizations active in the current year as well as occasional notes about politics and diplomacy, society and culture, and inventions and discoveries.

All that happens in under 20 minutes, a pretty swift clip, though not until the very end does the world take the political shape we know today, including even the late latecomer to civilization that is the United States of America. Bye's many other videos tend to focus on the history of other parts of the world, such as India, the British Isles, and that cradle of our species, the African continent, all of which we can now develop first-hand familiarity with in this age of unprecedented human mobility. Though the condition itself takes the question "Where are you from?" to a degree of complication unknown not only millennia but also centuries and even decades ago, at least now you have a snappy answer at the ready.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Spheres Dance to the Music of Bach, Performed by Glenn Gould: An Animation from 1969

From Norman McLaren and René Jodoin comes a 1969 short animation called "Spheres." Here, you can watch "spheres of translucent pearl float weightlessly in the unlimited panorama of the sky, grouping, regrouping or colliding like the stylized burst of some atomic chain reaction." All the while, "the dance is set to the musical cadences of Bach, played by pianist Glenn Gould." A perfect combination.

This film participates in a long tradition of animations exploring geometry, some of which you can find in the Relateds right below.

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The Movements of a Symphony Conductor Get Artistically Visualized in an Avant-Garde Motion Capture Animation

Some classical music enthusiasts are purists with regard to visual effects, listening with eyes firmly fixed on liner notes or the ceilings of grand concert halls.

Those open to a more avant-garde ocular experience may enjoy the short motion capture animation above.

Motivated by the London Symphony Orchestra’s desire for a hipper identity, the project hinged on recently appointed Musical Director Sir Simon Rattle’s willingness to conduct Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations with a specially modified baton, while 12 top-of-the-range Vicon Vantage cameras noted his every move at 120 frames per second.




Digital designer Tobias Gremmler, who’s previously used motion-capture animation as a lens through which to consider kung fu and Chinese Opera, stuck with musical metaphors in animating Sir Simon’s data with Cinema 4D software. The movements of conductor and baton morph into a “vortex of wood, brass, smoke and strings” and “wires reminiscent of the strings of the instruments themselves.” Elsewhere, he draws on the atmosphere and architecture of classic concert halls.

(The uninitiated may find themselves flashing on less rarified sources of inspiration, from lava lamps and fire dancing to the 80’s-era digital universe of Tron.)

via Atlas Obscura

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Where Are They Now? An Animated Mockumentary Reveals What Happened to Your Favorite 1980s Cartoon Characters After Their Heyday

It's a cautionary tale about what happens when the world you prepared yourself for changes and leaves you behind. Coldly, and sometimes without warning.

Above, watch Steve Cutts' 2014 animated mockumentary, "Where Are They Now?". Starring Roger and Jessica Rabbit, and featuring cameos by Garfield and The Smurfs, the short film revisits cartoon characters who had it all in the 1980s. Then hit the skids in the early 90s. Hard. "We had done our jobs," says an aged Jessica Rabbit. "Now we were forgotten about. Obsolete." It's a bleak picture that Cutts paints. But, it's not all bad. He-Man became a wealthy lingerie designer. We could all use a well-thought-out Plan B.

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