Voice Actor Dee Bradley Baker (Clone Wars,American Dad) Defends Cartoons on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #9

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Are cartoons an inherently juvenile art form? Even animation aimed at adults is still typically considered genre fiction--a guilty pleasure--and the form enables tones and approaches that might simply be considered awful if presented as traditional live action. So what's the appeal?

Dee's voice can be heard in substantial portion of today's cartoons, especially for animal or monster noises, like Boots in the new big-screen adaptation of Dora the Explorer, Momo and Appa in The Last Airbender, Animal in the new Muppet Babies, etc. He's also a deep thinker who proudly defends cartoons as providing primal delights of humor, justice, and narrative meaning.

Mark, Erica, and Brian engage Dee about his experience as a voice actor (e.g. as Klaus German fish in a Seth MacFarlane sit-com, figuring out what Adventure Time was actually about, doing all the similar-but-distinct voices of the various clones in Clone Wars, coming up with a language for The Boxtrolls, and recreating Mel Blanc's voices in Space Jamand other Looney Tunes projects), his role in collaborative creation,  the connection between cartoons and vaudeville, how live-action films can be made "cartoonish," graphic novels, cartoon music, and more. We also touch on Love & Robots, A Scanner Darkly, Larva, the documentary I Know That Voice, and the 1972 film What's Up, Doc? Introduction by Chickie.

We did read a few articles in preparation for this about the phenomenon of adults watching kid cartoons:

There's also a lengthy reddit thread that we mined for perspectives.

This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Lemony Snicket Reveals His Edward Gorey Obsession in an Upcoming Animated Documentary

Had the gloom-haunted Edward Gorey found a way to have a love child with Dorothy Parker, their issue might well have been Lemony Snicket, the pseudonymous author of a multivolume family chronicle brought out under the genteel appellation A Series of Unfortunate Events

- Gregory Maguire, The New York Times

Author Daniel Handleraka Lemony Snicket—was but a child when he fortuitously stumbled onto the curious oeuvre of Edward Gorey.

The little books were illustrated, hand-lettered, and mysterious. They alluded to terrible things befalling innocents in a way that made young Handler laugh and want more, though he shied from making such a request of his parents, lest the books constitute pornography.

(His fear strikes this writer as wholly reasonable—my father kept a copy of The Curious Sofa: A Pornographic Work by Ogdred Wearyaka Edward Gorey—stashed in the bathroom of my childhood home. Its perversions were many, though far from explicit and utterly befuddling to a third grade bookworm. The exceedingly economical text hinted at a multitude of unfamiliar taboos, and Gorey the illustrator understood the value of a well-placed ornamental urn.)




Interviewed above for Christopher Seufert’s upcoming feature-length Gorey documentary, Handler is effusive about the depth of this early influence:

The gothic setting. (Handler always fancied that an in-person meeting with Gorey would resemble the first 20 minutes of a Hammer horror movie.)

The dark, unwinking humor arising from a plot as grim as that of The Hapless Childor The Blue Aspicthe first title young Handler purchased with his own money.

An intentionally murky pseudonym geared to ignite all manner of wildly readerly speculation as to the author’s lifestyle and/or true identity. (Gorey attributed various of his works to Dogear Wryde, Ms. Regera Dowdy, Eduard Blutig, O. Müde and the aforementioned Ogdred Weary, among others.)

Even Lemony Snickett’s website carries a strong whiff of Gorey.

In acknowledgment of this debt, Handler sent copies of the first two Snickett books to the reclusive author, along with a fan letter that apologized for ripping him off. Gorey died in April 2000, a couple of weeks after the package was posted, leaving Handler doubtful that it was even opened.

Handler namechecks other artists who operate in Gorey’s thrall: filmmakers Tim Burton and Michel Gondry, musicians Amanda Palmer and Trent Reznor, and novelist Neil Gaiman.

Perhaps owing to the spectacular popularity of Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events, Gorey has lately become a bit more of an above-ground discovery for young readers. Scholastic has a free Edward Gorey lesson plan, geared to grades 6-12.

More information about Christopher Seufert’s Gorey documentary, with animations by Ben Wickey and the active participation of its subject during his final four years of life, can be found here.

Related Content:

Edward Gorey Talks About His Love Cats & More in the Animated Series, “Goreytelling”

Edward Gorey Illustrates H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds in His Inimitable Gothic Style (1960)

The First American Picture Book, Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats (1928)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Ray Harryhausen’s Creepy War of the Worlds Sketches and Stop-Motion Test Footage

Most of us know The War of the Worlds because of Orson Welles' slightly-too-realistic radio adaptation, first broadcast on Halloween 1938. But its source material, H.G. Wells' 1898 science-fiction novel, still fires up the imagination. Its many adaptations since have taken the form of comic books, video games, television series, and more besides. Several films have used The War of the Worlds as their basis, including a high-profile one in 2005 directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise, and more than half a century before that, George Pal's first 1953 adaptation in all its Technicolor glory.

In recent years materials have surfaced showing us the midcentury War of the Worlds picture that could have been, one featuring the stop-motion creature-creation of Ray Harryhausen.




"Well before CGI technology beamed extraterrestrials onto the big screen, stop-motion animation master Harryhausen brought to life Wells’ vision of a slimy Martian with enormous bulging eyes, a slobbering beaked mouth and 'Gorgon groups of tentacles' in a 16 mm test reel," writes Den of Geek's Elizabeth Rayne.

"The result is something that looks like a twisted mashup of a Muppet and an octopus." Harryhausen had long dreamed of bringing The War of the Worlds to the big screen, and anyone who has seen Harryhausen's work of the 1950s and 60s, as it appears in such films as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts, knows that he was surely the man for this job. He certainly had the right spirit: as his own words put it at the beginning of the test-footage clip, "ANY imaginative creature or thing can be built and animated convincingly."

"I actually built a Martian based on H.G. Wells description," Harryhausen says in the interview clip above. "He described the creature that came from the space ship a sort of an octopus-like type of creature." Harryhausen's also presented his vision with included sketches of the tripod invaders laying waste to America both urban and rural. "I took it all around Hollywood," he says, but alas, it never quite convinced those who kept the gates of the Industry in the 1940s.

"We couldn't raise money. People weren't that interested in science fiction at that time." Times have changed; the public has long since developed an unquenchable appetite for stories of human beings and advanced, hostile space invaders locked in mortal combat. But now such a spectacle would almost certainly be realized with the intensive use of computer-generated imagery, a technology impressive in its own way, but one that may never equal the personality, physicality, and sheer creepiness of the creatures that Ray Harryhausen brought painstakingly to life, one frame at a time, all by hand.

via @41Strange

Related Content:

The Very First Illustrations of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1897)

Horrifying 1906 Illustrations of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: Discover the Art of Henrique Alvim Corrêa

Edward Gorey Illustrates H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds in His Inimitable Gothic Style (1960)

Hear the Prog-Rock Adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: The 1978 Rock Opera That Sold 15 Million Copies Worldwide

Hear Orson Welles’ Iconic War of the Worlds Broadcast (1938)

The Mascot, a Pioneering Stop Animation Film by Wladyslaw Starewicz

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

Why Should You Read Haruki Murakami? An Animated Video on His “Epic Literary Puzzle” Kafka on the Shore Makes the Case

Haruki Murakami's vast international fan base includes people dedicated to literature. It also includes people who have barely cracked any books in their lives — apart, that is, from Murakami's novels with their distinctive mixture of the lighthearted with the grim and the mundane with the uncanny. Since the publication of his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, 40 years ago in his native Japan, Murakami has become both a literary phenomenon and an extra-literary phenomenon, and different readers endorse different paths into his unique textual realm.

The TED-Ed video above makes the case for one fan favorite in particular: 2002's Kafka on the Shore, an "epic literary puzzle filled with time travel, hidden histories, and magical underworlds. Readers delight in discovering how the mind-bending imagery, whimsical characters and eerie coincidences fit together." So says the video's narrator, reading from a lesson written by literary scholar Iseult Gillespie (who has also made cases for Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and Ray Bradbury).




Murakami tells this story, and keeps it fresh through more than 500 pages, by alternating between two point-of-view characters: a teenager "desperate to escape his tyrannical father and the family curse he feels doomed to repeat," who "renames himself Kafka after his favorite author and runs away from home," and an old man with "a mysterious knack for talking to cats."

When the latter is commissioned to use his unusual skill to track down a lost pet, "he’s thrown onto a dangerous path that runs parallel to Kafka’s." Soon, "prophecies come true, portals to different dimensions open up — and fish and leeches begin raining from the sky." But it's all of a piece with Murakami's body of work, with its novels and stories that "often forge fantastic connections between personal experience, supernatural possibilities, and Japanese history." His "references to Western society and Japanese customs tumble over each other, from literature and fashion to food and ghost stories."

All of it comes tied together with threads of music: "As the runaway Kafka wanders the streets of a strange city, Led Zeppelin and Prince keep him company," and he later befriends a librarian who "introduces him to classical music like Schubert." Safe to say that such references put some distance between Murakami's work and that of his character Kafka's favorite writer, to whom Murakami himself has been compared. Kafka on the Shore showcases Murakami's storytelling sensibility, but is it in any sense Kafkaesque? You'll have plenty more questions after taking the plunge into Murakami's reality, but there's another TED-Ed lesson that might at least help you answer that one.

Related Content:

An Introduction to the World of Haruki Murakami Through Documentaries, Stories, Animation, Music Playlists & More

Read 6 Stories By Haruki Murakami Free Online

What Does “Kafkaesque” Really Mean? A Short Animated Video Explains

Why Should We Read Charles Dickens? A TED-Ed Animation Makes the Case

Why Should We Read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451? A New TED-Ed Animation Explains

Why Should We Read Virginia Woolf? A TED-Ed Animation Makes the Case

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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 an Animated Documentary About the Pioneering Journalist & Feminist Icon Nellie Bly

While no longer a household name, the trailblazing journalist Nellie Bly (1864-1922) is definitely an enduring American icon.

Her likeness has graced a postage stamp and a finger puppet.

Her life has been the subject of numerous books and a made-for-TV movie.

Some hundred years after its completion, her record-breaking, 72-day round-the-world trip inspired an episode of The American Experience, a puzzle-cum-boardgame, and a rollicking song by history fans the Deedle Deedle Dees.




And now? Meet Nellie Bly, cartoon action hero. (Heroine? Hard to say which honorific the opinionated and forward-thinking Bly, born in 1864, would prefer...)

Filmmaker Penny Lane's "Nellie Bly Makes the News," above, is not the first to recognize this sort of potential in the pioneering journalist, whose 151st birthday was celebrated with an animated Google Doodle and accompanying song by Karen O, but Lane (no relation to Lois, the fictional reporter modeled on you-know-who) wisely lets Bly speak for herself.

Not only that, she brings her into the studio for a 21st-century interview, in which an eye-rolling Bly describes the resistance she encountered from the male elite, who felt it was not just unseemly but impossible that a young woman should pursue the sort of journalistic career she envisioned for herself.

She also touches on some of her most famous journalistic stunts, such as the undercover stints in a New York City “insane asylum”and box-making factory that led to exposés and eventually, social reform.

Biographer Brooke Kroeger and brief glimpses of archival materials touch on some of the other highlights in Bly’s audacious, self-directed career.

The cartoon Bly’s hairdo and attire are period appropriate, but her vocal inflections, courtesy of broadcast reporter and voiceover artist Sammi Jo Francis, are closer in spirit to that of Broad City’s Ilana Glazer.

(Interesting to note, given Bly’s complaints about how prominently the one dress she took on her round the world trip featured in outside stories about that adventure, that dress is a preoccupation of The Appreciation of Booted Newswomen blog. Respectful as that site is, the focus there is definitely not on journalistic achievement.)

via Aeon

Related Content:

New Augmented Reality App Celebrates Stories of Women Typically Omitted from U.S. History Textbooks

74 Essential Books for Your Personal Library: A List Curated by Female Creatives

New Web Project Immortalizes the Overlooked Women Who Helped Create Rock and Roll in the 1950s

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Simpsons Reimagined as a Russian Art Film

Animator Lenivko Kvadratjić has re-created The Simpsons' famous opening scene. And it's bleak--as in post-Chernobyl bleak. Watch at your own risk.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via Neatorama

Related Content:

When John Waters Appeared on The Simpsons and Changed America’s LGBTQ Views (1997)

The Rise and Fall of The Simpsons: An In-Depth Video Essay Explores What Made the Show Great, and When It All Came to an End

The Simpsons Take on Ayn Rand: See the Show’s Satire of The Fountainhead and Objectivist Philosophy

 

Segregated By Design: An Animated Look at How African-American Enclaves in U.S. Cities Is Hardly an Accident

From historian Richard Rothstein comes a sobering animated video called "Segregated by Design."  Author of the 2017 book The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Rothstein has created a video that's as informative as it is visually captivating. Here's what ground it covers:

Examine the forgotten history of how our federal, state and local governments unconstitutionally segregated every major metropolitan area in America through law and policy.

‘Segregated By Design’ examines the forgotten history of how our federal, state and local governments unconstitutionally segregated every major metropolitan area in America through law and policy.

Prejudice can be birthed from a lack of understanding the historically accurate details of the past. Without being aware of the unconstitutional residential policies the United States government enacted during the middle of the twentieth century, one might have a negative view today of neighborhoods where African Americans live or even of African Americans themselves.

We can compensate for this unlawful segregation through a national political consensus that leads to legislation. And this will only happen if the majority of Americans understand how we got here. Like Jay-Z said in a recent New York Times interview, “you can't have a solution until you start dealing with the problem: What you reveal, you heal.” This is the major challenge at hand: to educate fellow citizens of the unconstitutional inequality that we’ve woven and, on behalf of our government, accept responsibility to fix it.

Learn more about the film at the website, Segregated by Design. And find it added to our list of Free Animations, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via Aeon

Related Content:

How Martin Luther King, Jr. Used Nietzsche, Hegel & Kant to Overturn Segregation in America 

How Zora Neale Hurston & Eleanor Roosevelt Helped Create the First Realistic African American Baby Doll (1951)

The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, the Pre-Civil Rights Guide to Traveling Safely in the U.S. (1936-66)

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