The CalArts Thing

In the wake of the new Thundercats show, CalArts is taking a beating for being producing an ugly, simplistic, and homogenized art style in animation that has become linked to SocJus.

thunder cat

It’s long been the subject of several memes.calarts meme

There was a good thread recently about why “CalArts” has become linked with SocJus that can be read here.

But what is “CalArts” really like, and is it really to blame? Is it ugly and homogeneous? I’ll let you be the judge.

I found a page that has the 2018 films of CalArts animation students.

Here is something from a 4th year CalArts student:

Squiggly words and keyframes aren’t what comes to mind when most folks think of animation.

This animation from a 4th year would’ve been nuked from orbit had it been posted on NewGrounds:

On the other hand, 13 pages in, I did find this gem by a 1st year.

Here’s a first year that, while the art is kind of ugly, shows mastery of the concepts of animation.

CalArts needs Jeongho Lee and Katie Billions more than they need CalArts.

The few good ones are so out of the league of much of what’s coming out that being associated with CalArts may be to their detriment in the future, because the person who made Gumball Machine will now be inextricably linked with the person who made this:

Because the CalArts short films are listed by the number of plays they’ve received, fewer and fewer people will see Gumball Machine because it’s behind a dozen pages of stuff like that.

I don’t think that it’s fair to say that CalArts it turning out a homogenized style of design, but much of the design coming out of it IS rather ugly, and many of the student animations range from poor to mediocre in quality. Of course, some of that can be chalked up to student effort; you’ll always have your A, B, C, and D students turning in a varying quality of work.

Adventure Time and Portrayal of Female Friendship in Fiction

I’m now regretting giving up on Adventure Time for so long after season 4.  It really did rebound a good bit with season 5, even though some of ‘morals’ struck me as strange and inappropriate (such as children not needing their father).  It’s still fairly clear that it has given up on being a kids’ show, but the storytelling was a good bit better, and, going into it as an underground comics style gonzo horror fantasy instead of a weird wacky kids show, it’s pretty good for what it is.

What miffs me, though – and this position is one that may court controversy (shocking, I know!) – is the direction that the comics have taken with Princess Bubblegum and Marceline.  There’s always been fanon and shippers who see these characters as OTP, but I found the heavy implication that they get together as a couple somewhat annoying.  No, I don’t hate gays or lesbians, real or fictional; what I hate is the tendency for whenever you see a deep friendship between two female characters people want to make them a couple. There’s always the Peter Griffin slowly popping up from behind the bush going “C’mon… start makin’ out… that’s it…”

Throwing Flame Princess into the mix along with repeatedly showing that PB is a romantic dead end for Finn and flash-forwards showing Finn and FP married pretty much leaves both PB and Marceline single and without suitor.  There’s a desire in fandoms that all characters be paired off romantically; unfortunately that leaves characters like PB and Marcie, who’ve been shown to have a complex friendship with ups and downs, to have their friendship turned into “oh, they’re an item”.

So, I guess what I’m getting at is when nuanced portrayals of female friendships are uncommon in works with as wide a demographic an appeal as Adventure Time, it seems kind of obnoxiously reductive to say ‘it’s cuz they’re a couple and they’re in love’.  It’s like girls in fiction can’t have best friends without people wanting them to get it on, and the Adventure Time comics seem to want to cater to those who fantasize about best girlfriends doing it, cuz that’s secretly what they do, right?

I will note that the implication is significantly less in the show than in the comics; the implication itself smacks of retroactive continuity, as it was something not present at all in earlier seasons.  As it is, the whole thing comes off as being shaped by a fandom that wants to see Peebs xxx Marcie.  Also, yeah, I know I’m like a year and a half late on this controversy.  Whateves.

I saw a Monster High Mini-Movie and it Kind of Blew My Mind; Also, L’Empereur is Harder than I Remember

I confess, I kind of like the idea behind the Monster High dolls and think they’re neat. I can vicariously enjoy them through my girlfriend who has a small collection of them.

Anyway, just for shits & giggles, my girlfriend put on Monster High: Fright On! on netflix for background while we read. First of all, wow, Draculaura is short. Like, even with platform shoes, she’s a head shorter than everyone else. I also liked that she had a pretty decent Romanian accent (just like Veemonro’s!), even if it was fake. But that’s not what blew my mind.

What blew my mind was that instead of some weird vapid nonsense story, Monster High: Fright On! was a stern warning against the dangers of using ethnic studies as a pretense for fomenting hostile race relations within the education system. WHOAWHAT?!

See, the Vampires and Werewolves go to separate schools because they have a “history”, but they’re about to be integrated into Monster High. The villain changes the school history curriculum to focus on past ethnic friction and encourages the formation of Werewolf and Vampire heritage/pride clubs (Vampowerment and Were Pride), which simply become fronts for hate groups. The tensions even threaten to break up Draculaura from her werewolf boyfriend!

In the end, Frankie and the Abominable Snowgirl (who has a Russian Accent and reminds me of a female version of that one kid from Psychonauts) manage to out the villain and what he was doing, and everyone realised that what’s importance is not past racial grievances but the opportunities for reconcilliation going forward.

How the hell did this get made in 2011?!

Anyway, because I am the worst kind of nerd, instead of finishing reading my biography of Talleyrand over the weekend, I installed L’Empereur and tried to conquor Europe with very little success. For those who do not know, L’Empereur was (I think, I’ve only seen a few screenshots of the latter) what Koei came up with when they retrofitted their Three Kingdoms engine to accommodate the Napoleonic Wars.

Replicating Napoleon’s early historical victories in Italy is nearly impossible, given the constant shortage of manpower early on. You can only recruit soldiers in March (once every 12 turns), and victories can be hella costly in terms of men. Or worse, leaders (“Murat has died in battle” is about the worst thing you can see during your first campaign). Typically, if you win, before you can consolidate yourself in your new city, a foreign power comes in and kicks your significantly weakened ass. After about a dozen restarts, I managed take Venice within the historically accurate time frame, and actually held on.

From that start, I finally managed to take the rest of Italy, but now I’m in a standoff against the Bavarians, Holland and the Prussians behind them. Sure, I can take Holland. I can even force the Bavarians out of their stupid forests. But the moment I do, I’m overwhelmed by a gianormous army of Prussians who just steamroll me. So, I wait. Everyone in Europe hates me except for the Spanish, who are on the verge of hating me, so no one will trade with me. I’m also at the juncture in the game where the problem is no longer troops but competent men to lead them. If your ranks get shuffled too badly, you’re stuck with idiot politicians leading large infantry corps simply because there’s no one else to assign them to.

It is not a great game. It is maybe not even a fun game. But it’s definitely the only game I have at the moment to scratch my Napoleonic Wars itch.