American History’s biggest fibs

lucy worsley- coming soon -THURSDAY bbc4.jpg

 

The first of three episodes begins on Thursday on BBC4 this week. I have completed animated linking sequences and inter-titles throughout the 3 programmes as I did in the previous series (“British History’s biggest fibs”) The imagery this time is drawn from American posters and typography- the title sequence itself should remind people of the currency which is a good start!

Lucy, as ever, is brilliant!

 

american history's biggest fibs.jpg

Advertisements

Lucy Worsley OBE

Congratulations to Lucy Worsley on her award! A new series of “Biggest fibs”, for which I have again done some animation and illustration throughout, is due to screen in January and I think is even better than “British History’s biggest fibs”.

british-historys-biggest-fibs1

british-historys-biggest-fibs-tim-lucy-worsley-stubbins

lucy-worsley-british-historys-biggest-fibs2-timquickie

Meanwhile the last episode of “Inside the tower of London” airs this sunday on Channel 5. Again I did illustrations throughout.

lucy worsley OBE.jpg

 

british-historys-biggest-fibs-episode3-tim-illustrations

episode-2-british-historys-biggest-fibs-tim

Rugby

https://www.rugbyschool.co.uk/news-dates/news-archive/from-bambi-to-frozen-the-deeper-meaning-of-disney-with-prof-tim-wilson/

 

From Bambi to Frozen: The Deeper Meaning of Disney with Prof Tim Wilson

The British animator and politician, Professor Tim Wilson, was the Temple Society’s December guest speaker.

Prof Wilson started his animation career after seeing Richard Williams’ Oscar-winning ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 1972; then, after a year spent goat-herding in Greece, he contacted the director in hope of a job.

His love of animation took foreground for a couple of years when he helped in various animation studios in London. However, Wilson switched back to teaching as a Theology professor, with the occasional animation on the side, winning a best animation award a few years’ ago with a film called ‘How to be Boss’, an animated lecture about Plato.

The Professor’s talk reflected his life in the sense that it left almost no stone untouched: from the historical importance to the moral significance of animation, we finished the lecture with a much-enriched understanding of one of the most complex and labour-intensive entertainment forms.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2Si2JA5zyM  (at the end of this, he showed how an animated Turkey moves his arm)

We heard how animation started, in a way, with the invention of Faraday’s Wheel in the 19th Century: from this came the zoetrope (1834) – the spinning wheel with slots, through which one looks to see a galloping horse or a man on a trapeze. Whilst still, the wheel shows only single images, yet when in motion the pictures pasted inside the wheel flow into one moving scene. This concept was taken (to great effect) to the camera upon its invention – Muybridge was the first, setting up a line of cameras each with their individual tripwires. Upon walking across his tripwires, each camera would photograph that split-second of his walk – when these pictures are all placed in series, a walking scene has been created or a person’s walk minutely examined.

This concept was played with in true artistic fashion by George Méliès, the creator of various silent films featured in Hugo in 1890 – by fiddling with the sequence, Méliès could make a character disappear and re-appear ten steps away, creating the illusion of magic and demonstrating a primitive form of animation. As such, animation is as focused on timing as it is on drawing.

However, it was McCay, from across the pond, who introduced the portrayal of emotion through animation: the task of the animator is to portray characteristics in a purely visual sense, and McCay’s Gertie the Trained Dinosaur was one of the first to achieve this characterisation showing a drawing that seemed to be thinking as well as moving.

It is with these foundations laid down, said the Professor, that we come to Walt Disney who introduced believability and genuine emotion into animation with feature films. Budget was a big deal for Disney, as shown by their first production of Alice, which was a mix of live-action (cheaper) and animation (more expensive).

Continuing on to the famous Steamboat Willie, Disney tied a musical soundtrack directly the animation – the same formula for Fantasia.  The first film to release a soundtrack and related merchandise was Snow White. It also promoted a clear morality: most animation that Disney creates holds a didactic function – though Disney initially denied this “We like to have a point of view, not an obvious moral…” The feature-length Disney films tell stories that reward good behaviour and punish the bad. There are five Disney virtues: the first is Kindness (such as Cinderella’s kindness to the animals), the second is Perseverance (the prince in Cinderella, for example). The third is Faith, or wish-fulfilment with its obvious connotations of religion – the only overtly religious piece of Disney, (overlooking Christian imagery at the end of Fantasia) is Hunchback of Notre Dame, but this pushes kindness combined with faith, and if Disney is interested in Belief, it is belief itself- and not a belief in a specific person or thing. Belief in self is allied to belief in a higher power. The final one is Family: Aristocats and 101 Dalmatians, for instance, display the ethos that the meaning of family can still be extended, and is not just about blood relatives.

There is, moreover, a heavy Protestant work ethic that is present in Disney films, and the most recent Frozen emphasises the dimension of not trusting appearances, first glimpsed in Gaston in Beauty and the Beast but maybe hinted at in the magical witches of both Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, who promote family values and patch together relationships that have gone wrong.

Rhian Kerslake, Secretary of the Temple Society

Tim Wilson in his YouTube video

Why Mary Beard is right

mary Beard by TIM.jpg

Recently, Mary Beard gave a lecture which some of my friends attended. The report I received from them was rapturous – she was controversial and authoritative. Actually, she was more than that. She was right.

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 14.31.28.png

Recently, Professor Beard was attacked by AA Gill. It is part of the same story- that people can be judged today more for whether they conform than whether they have something important to say.

4B4F6C8A00000578-5633569-image-a-9_1524131893454.jpg

The two issues Professor Beard specifically raised in the Listener talk were the abuse she suffered when her presentation in “CIVILIZATIONS” was cut when it was broadcast in the US, and the second was to make a firm stand against re-enactments or recreations in History documentaries. These are all over the internet, and particularly noticeable on PBS.

It would, however, be wrong to suppose that America is only to blame.

I was once engaged by a UK company to play the part of Socrates for one such history documentary, so I know from the other side how silly and absurd such recreations can be. More than that, we were filming not in a genuinely Attic setting but in the 19th Century Zappeion, a bit of the modern Greek parliament complex built specifically to celebrate the first modern Olympic games in 1869. It looked pretty and it might have been appropriate in a hollywood “swords and sandals” epic, but it is not “history” and nor does it actually tell the viewer anything useful. The reason is simple- because it dodges the issue of interpretation. All art is interpretative but because live-action film feels like ‘reality”, that is exactly how the viewer accepts it. The viewer is plunged into a  magic realm and is the passive recipient of the director’s agendum. The viewer is a willing party to deceit.

Fine in a film like “Gladiator”, but not fine in a serious documentary about history. We need to know what is real and what is recreated.

This is frankly where my own work slots in: 2d animation can never masquerade as reality, but it can offer something more than “live-action recreation” to the documentary medium. If supported by the proper research, it can provide an insight into the way history has already interpreted events, much as quoting a specific writer as an authority can do. This is most beautifully illustrated by Richard Williams’ animated sequences in the CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE.

Here, Williams shows us exactly how British newspapers peddled propaganda and half-truths to a gullible public, showing the glory of the empire in contrast to the gore and disaster that unfolded on the battlefield itself. The greatest moment is the Victory sequence which is brought to a sudden close by a canon firing. There was no victory- just a squalid collapse of authority and a chain of misunderstanding.

Williams’ animation tells us something valuable in its own right. And because we can never pretend what we are watching is anything other than a drawing, we cannot be bewitched into thinking that this is “reality”. But it might very well be a way to access Truth.

Because we often associate animation with Disney, we can get confused, but because 2d animation remains ostentatiously artificial, we can be sure we never forget that we are watching an interpretation. The Disney technique means we can do almost anything with animation that we could do with live-action. More maybe! Though it takes time.

Of course, I nurse a desire to bring the stories of Greek mythology to life through the red/ black figure images on greek vases- who would not immediately see the potential in this! But even more interesting would be to animate Flaxman’s illustrations for the Iliad and Odyssey which informed the way we have understood classical texts since the early 19th Century. His work led to the development of the blue and white jasperware that even today is in most of our houses. This is not about recreating or re-enacting events but about making a conscious decision to give us an insight into the way we now view these stories.

I am terribly proud of the work we did in the two Lucy Worsley programmes, the second of which is due to air in January- we used the device of turning the pages of a book, and of capturing images from framed pictures to comment, introduce and develop the ideas that were being presented.

When we forget that we are examining what people have said and recorded in the past, we simply enter a world of make-believe. It might be entertaining but it is not history.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/17/mary-beard-cut-us-version-civilisations-fearing-slightly-creaky/

ttps://rts.org.uk/article/mary-beard-cut-us-version-civilisation

Archbishop Angaelos of London and others

Here are some recent pictures, the first of which is of the cleric who read prayers for Harry and Megan. I rather hope that my former students will have recognised him!

abglrchishop aneaos of London

 

The archbishop was enthroned in November last year. He is the first Coptic Archbishop of London.

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 12.36.28

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 15.18.08