Watch “Alike,” a Poignant Short Animated Film About the Enduring Conflict Between Creativity and Conformity

From Barcelona comes "Alike," a short animated film by Daniel Martínez Lara and Rafa Cano Méndez. Made with Blender, an open-source 3D rendering program, "Alike" has won a heap of awards and clocked an impressive 10 million views on Youtube and Vimeo. A labor of love made over four years, the film revolves around this question: "In a busy life, Copi is a father who tries to teach the right way to his son, Paste. But ... What is the correct path?" To find the answer, they have to let a drama play out. Which will prevail? Creativity? Or conformity? It's an internal conflict we're all familiar with. 

Watch the film when you're not in a rush, when you have seven unburdened minutes to take it in. "Alike" will be added to our list of Free Animations, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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via Design Taxi

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A Touching Animated Documentary About the Rise, Fall & Second Coming of the 60s Psych-Folk Musician Richard Atkins

One wonders what might have become of Richard Atkins’ musical career had he come of age in this millennium, when youngsters suffering from acute stage fright regularly attract stadium-sized followings on Youtube.

This was most definitely not the case in 1968, when Atkins, aged 19, took the stage in a small Hollywood club filled with music industry brass, there specifically to see him.

Unfortunately, talent could only take him so far. Having learned to play guitar only a couple of years earlier in the wake of a disfiguring motorcycle accident, he and partner Richard Manning had recorded an album, Richard Twice, for Mercury Records. The presence on that record of several members of the Wrecking Crew, an informal, but legendary group of LA session musicians, conferred extra pop pedigree. The Acid Archives later called it "a virtually perfect pop album, the kind of thing that would have ruled the charts if the wind had been blowing the right way that month."




Alas, one tiny technical difficulty at the start of the gig caused Manning to flee, leaving the freaked out and frighteningly ill equipped Atkins to deal with the yawning chasm that had opened between him and the audience. The only fix that occurred to him was a Bugs Bunny-inspired soft shoe, a move that apparently went over big with his Mom, prior to the accident, when he had two legs and could balance without a crutch.

As recounted in Matthew Salton’s animated documentary, above, this soul crushing moment is not without humor. Atkins, affably narrating his own story, has had 50 years to mull that night over, and realizes that blown opportunities are probably more universal than successfully snagged brass rings (American Idol, anyone?)

Over the ensuing years, Atkins found fulfillment as a woodworker and family man, but music remained a painful what-if, addressed largely through avoidance.

Salton’s exuberantly scratchy animation comes as Atkins is taking steps to conquer his stage fright, performing out at small cafes, festivals, and potluck suppers near his Pacific Northwest home.

He’s been posting old songs, gently reminding listeners, “before I'm judged too harshly, remember that I was 18 and living in North Hollywood, probably raging hormones and in the music business to boot!”

He’s also writing and sharing new songs, including the touching “Life Is A Rollercoaster,” above.

Performing on Facebook Live in conjunction with Salton’s New York Times Op-Doc essay, he tears up when the interviewer informs him that his daughter has just posted an encouraging comment, and eagerly confirms his availability when another commenter asks if he’d be up for a gig.

It’s only too late when you’re in the grave.

Travel back in time with a couple more psych-folk cuts from Richard Twice, above, or buy the album in digital form on Amazon.

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

Watch Classical Music Come to Life in Artfully Animated Scores: Stravinsky, Debussy, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart & More

Stephen Malinowski has cultivated his own patch of YouTube ground over the years with the Music Animation Machine, slowly scrolling visual representations of classical music. The videos, like the one above, use shape and color to interpret pitch, duration, and more recently dynamics and intervals in a hypnotic style that references both Oskar Fischinger and Guitar Hero.

Personally, I’ve been a fan for years and watched his style evolve from the basics of a “piano roll” scroll to these much more complex animations, just as smalin (his YouTube name) has gone from working with solo piano works to the density of Beethoven’s symphony scores or the chaos of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Many music lovers who are not musicians but understand enough about composition will often follow a printed score when listening to classical music; I would suggest that this is one better than the traditional notation, as smalin’s method makes individual instruments in a quartet easy to follow; or show the interplay between left and right hands in a Debussy piece; or lay out in visual terms the variations on a theme or pattern (especially in Bach). For those who love but “don’t get” classical music, these videos are a step towards clarity.

The Music Animation Machine started long before the Internet. Malinowski (a graduate of my alma maters SBCC and UCSB!) dates the beginning to 1982, and the inspiration came from a "hallucination" he had while listening to Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin.

“As I listened to the music, the notes on the page were dancing to the music -- but at the same time, they were the music. It was so charming and graceful -- the flag of an eighth note extending like a ballet dancer's arm; pairs of notes, moving in parallel thirds and sixths, like dancers stepping hand-in-hand ... I was delighted!”

The idea to animate was suggested by a friend and dovetailed into the technology of the time, especially the birth of MIDI. Too self-critical to be a performer and too forgetful to be a composer, Malinowski turned to computer programming and visualizing scores as the listener, not the performer, understands them. It’s been his life’s work. Explore his big collection of animations and also his animation techniques.

Be wary, though. Watching one isn’t enough--writing this article was a continual struggle between the deadline and animated bliss. You just may find yourself similarly and pleasantly lost.

Note: Here's a list of Malinowski favorite and most popular videos:

Grainger, Children's March
Mozart, Sonata for Two Pianos, K 448, first movement
Bach, "Little" Fugue in G minor, Organ
Debussy, First Arabesque
Rimsky-Korsakov, Flight of the Bumblebee
Debussy, Prelude to 'The Afternoon of a Faun'
Beethoven, Symphony 7, Allegretto, mvt. 2
Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring
Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D minor
Sousa, Semper Fidelis
Debussy, Syrinx
Ligeti, 6 Bagatelles, III. Allegro grazioso
Bach, Brandenburg Concerto 4, 3rd mvt.

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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.

Journey to the Center of a Triangle: Watch the 1977 Digital Animation That Demystifies Geometry

In 1977, Bruce and Katharine Cornwell used a Tektronics 4051 Graphics Terminal to create animated short films that demystify geometry. The films have now reemerged on the Internet Archive. Journey to the Center of a Triangle appears above. You can also watch below Congruent Triangles, which features the memorable 'Bach meets Third Stream Jazz' musical score. Enjoy them both. And find them in the Animation section of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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The Inksect: Award Winning Animation Envisions a Dystopian Future Without Books, Paying Homage to Kafka & Poe

"Where would we be without books?" That question, sung over and over again by Sparks in the theme song of the long-running public-radio show Bookworm, gets a troubling answer in The Inksect, the animated film above by Mexican Filmmaker Pablo Calvillo. In the bookless dystopia it envisions, fossil fuels have run out — one premise it shares with many modern works of its subgenre — but the powers that be found a way to delay the inevitable by burning all of humanity's printed matter for energy instead. "Soon after," announce the opening titles, "we, the human race, devolved into illiterate cockroaches."

But among those cockroaches, a few still remembered books, and not only did they remember them, they "knew that their powers could liberate our minds and help us evolve into human beings once again."




Taking place in a grim, gray, technologically malevolent, and elaborately rendered New York City, the story follows the journey of one such relatively enlightened man-bug's quest for not just a return to his prior form but to the richer, brighter world contained in and made possible by books. He catches a glimpse of Edgar Allan Poe with the raven of his most famous poem perched atop his head, a sight that might look absurd to us but inspires the protagonist to put pen to paper and write a single word: liberty.

The Inksect's literary references don't end with The Raven. Nor do they begin with it: you'll no doubt have already made the connections between the film's notions of a book-burning dystopia or men turning into cockroaches and their probable inspirations. Even apart from the many visually striking qualities on its surface, Calvillo's film illustrates just how deeply works of literature, from Ray Bradbury and Franz Kafka and many other minds besides, lie buried in the foundation of our collective culture. Even a film so expressive of 21st-century anxieties has to understand and incorporate the concerns that humanity has always dealt with — and so often dealt with, in many different areas and many different ways, through books.

The Inksect, named the best experimental film at the Cannes Short Film Festival in 2016, will be added to our list of Animations, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

via The Laughing Squid

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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.

Calm Down & Study with Relaxing Piano, Jazz & Harp Covers of Music from Hayao Miyazaki Films

Calling all pediatric dentists!

Cat Trumpet, aka musician and anime lover Curtis Bonnett, may have inadvertently hit on a genius solution for keeping young patients calm in the chair: relaxing piano covers of familiar tunes from Studio Ghibli’s animated features.

The results fall somewhere between pianist George Winston’s early 80s seasonal solos and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack for the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Let us remember that most of these tunes were fairly easy on the ears to begin with. Composer Joe Hisaishi, who has collaborated with director Hayao Miyazaki on every Studio Ghibli movie save Castle of Cagliostro, isn't exactly a punk rocker.




Many listeners report that the playlist helps them stay focused while studying or doing homework. Others succumb to the emotional riptides of childhood nostalgia.

Tender prenatal and newborn ears might prefer Cat Trumpet’s even gentler harp covers of seven Ghibli tunes, above.

Meawhile, the Japan-based Cafe Music BGM Station provides hours of jazzy, bossa-nova inflected Studio Ghibli covers to hospitals, hair salons, boutiques, and cafes. You can listen to three-and-a-half-hours worth, above. This, too, gets high marks as a homework helper.

 

Cat Trumpet’s Relaxing Piano Studio Ghibli Complete Collection

00:00:03 Spirited Away - Inochi no Namae

00:04:14 Howl's Moving Castle - Merry Go Round of Life

00:07:16 Kiki's Delivery Service - Town With An Ocean View

00:09:31 The Secret World of Arrietty - Arrietty's Song

00:13:29 Laputa Castle In The Sky - Carrying You

00:17:05 Porco Rosso - Theme

00:19:55 Whisper of the Heart - Song of the Baron

00:22:33 Porco Rosso - Marco & Gina's Theme

00:26:19 Only Yesterday - Main Theme

00:29:07 From Up On Poppy Hill - Reminiscence

00:34:12 Spirited Away - Shiroi Ryuu

00:37:06 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - Tori no Hito

00:41:14 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind -  Kaze no Densetsu

00:43:25 My Neighbor Totoro - Kaze no Toori Michi

00:47:48 Castle of Cagliostro - Fire Treasure

00:51:38 Princess Mononoke - Tabidachi nishi e

00:53:07 Tales From Earthsea - Teru's Theme

00:58:17 My Neighbor Totoro - Tonari no Totoro

01:02:35 Whisper of the Heart - Theme

01:06:03 Ponyo - Rondo of the Sunflower House

01:10:34 Howl's Moving Castle - The Promise of the World

 

Cat Trumpet’s Relaxing Harp Studio Ghibli Collection Playlist

00:03 Spirited Away - Inochi no Namae

04:01 Spirited Away - Waltz of Chihiro

06:43 Howls Moving Castle - Merry Go Round of Life

09:45 Howl's Moving Castle - The Promise of the World

13:15 Laputa Castle In The Sky - Main Theme

16:55 Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea - Main Theme

20:15 Tonari no Totoro - Kaze no Toori Michi

 

Cafe Music BGM’s Relaxing Jazz & Bossa Nova Studio Ghibli Cover Playlist (song titles in Japanese)

0:00 海の見える街  〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

4:10 もののけ姫  〜もののけ姫/Princess Mononoke

7:28 君をのせて 〜天空の城ラピュタ/Laputa, the Castle of the Sky

11:09 風の通り道 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

16:26 ひこうき雲 〜風立ちぬ/THE WIND RISES〜

19:48 空とぶ宅急便 〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

25:05 人生のメリーゴーランド

〜ハウルの動く城/Howl's Moving Castle

28:07 いつも何度でも 〜千と千尋の神隠し/Spirited Away

32:08 となりのトトロ 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

36:40 さんぽ 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

38:40 崖の上のポニョ 〜崖の上のポニョ/Ponyo

42:08 ねこバス 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

46:06 旅路 〜風立ちぬ/THE WIND RISES

49:16 アシタカとサン 〜もののけ姫/Princess Mononoke

53:38 おかあさん 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

58:19 旅立ち 〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

1:02:25 風の谷のナウシカ 〜風の谷のナウシカ/Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

1:06:59 やさしさに包まれたなら 〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

 

Tune in to Cat Trumpet’s Spotify channel for his relaxing takes on Disney and anime, as well as Studio Ghibli. They are available for purchase on iTunes and Google Play, or enjoy some free downloads by patronizing his Patreon. He takes requests, too.

Tune in to Cafe Music’s BGM Spotify channel for Studio Ghibli jazz, in addition to some relaxing Hawaiian guitar jazz and a selection of nature-based mellow tunes. They are available for purchase on iTunes.

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

The Art of Hand-Drawn Japanese Anime: A Deep Study of How Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira Uses Light

Animation before the days of modern computer graphics technology may impress today for the very reason that it had no modern computer graphics technology, or CGI, at its disposal. But if we really think about it — and we really watch the animated masterpieces of those days — we'll realize that much of it should impress us on many more levels than it already does. Take, for instance, Katsuhiro Otomo's 1988 cyberpunk vision Akira, one of the most beloved Japanese animated films of all time and the subject of the Nerdwriter video essay above, "How to Animate Light."

Akira, says Nerdwriter Evan Puschak, "is well known for its painstaking animation. Every frame of the film was composed with the closest attention to detail, and that gives it an unmatched richness and soul."




But he points up one quality of the production in particular: "I see the film's many lights, their different qualities and textures, as a powerful motif and symbol, and a vital element of its genius." But animators, especially animators using traditional hand-painted cels, can't just tell their directors of photography to set up a scene's lighting in a certain way; they've got to render all the different types of light in the world they create by hand, manually creating its play on every face, every object, every surface.

"The lines between shadow and light are distinct and evocative in the same way that film noir lighting is," Puschak elaborates, "and like in film noir, light in Akira is intimately connected to the city at night." In the dystopian "Neo-Tokyo" of 2019, elaborately crafted by Otomo and his collaborators, "authority is as much a blinding spotlight as it is a gun or a badge" and neon "is the bitter but beautiful light that signifies both the colorful radiance and the gaudy consumerism of modernity." And then we have Tetsuo, "at once the protagonist and the antagonist of the film, a boy who gains extraordinary psychic power" that "so often produces a disruption in the light around him." When the end comes, it comes in the form of "a giant ball of light, one single uniform white light that erases the countless artificial lights of the city," and Akira makes us believe in it. Could even the most cutting-edge, spectacularly big-budgeted CGI-age picture do the same?

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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.

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