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Monday, March 21, 2005

The Gherkin in the Background

Being a believer in enhancing the world visually where city planners and society didn't quite get it right, I often spend weekends stuck in the environmental art of the seventies. This weekend however I found myself on the BBC, on 1Xtra to be exact. And I was watching an animation that was the first I've seen to feature London's gorgeous Gherkin. Every city should have one.

Visual Drama

Taggerz is 1Xtra's first animated drama. It follows the lives of a crew of graffiti artists at a point in time where their previous togetherness is falling apart. Or basically a soap, with interesting visuals. Watching it you watch the visuals that are the animation itself, and you also consider the visual impact of graffiti.

Episodic Urban Drama

This week, 1Xtra will is releasing one episode per day. They run about ten minutes long each, and I've watched the first two. Being 1Xtra the music is excellent, and being an urban drama the backgrounds are very watchable - most of them, if not all being seen at night-time only. Visually the main problem I have is the characters.

Serious-silly or Silly-Serious

It's a serious drama so the characters just end up looking silly. I think if you're going to use serious looking characters then you need a preposterous plot, or a very stylized setting, or both. Conversely if you are going the serious route with your subject matter and dialogue, I think it is far more effective to use very stylized characters or over the top silly. Otherwise if you try to render everything relatively straight, and real even, well you end up with an altogether daft package. After all, real life does real life rather well - if animation isn't Animation, well, what's the point? Not that Taggerz is approaching Hyperealism, or even touching Rotoscoping, but it's kinda lacking in taking visual chances.

What If

If the characters looked like those in Homestar Runner, Piki and Poko, Chi Chian, And Yet I Blame Hollywood, Marcus Peblo, Dick Spader, or Monkey Ninjas, we'd be laughing. Better yet if Ruairi Robinson got his hand on the scripts and turned out stuff looking like The House on Dame Street. Robinson's Fifty Percent Grey was nominated for an Oscar but his earlier House on Dame Street is the greater entertainment, and visually delicious in that almost gothic Tim Burton fashion. Mantis, Dronez, Inculta, or even Rocket Pants, all point to directions that might have made Taggerz more striking. Do love that Gherkin though.

My Main Problem

Anyway forgetting the overly serious look - give or take the Captain Pugwash effect - my biggest beef is the decision to create the animation they did not using Flash - which would be perfect for what they have come up with. One only has to compare with the latest episodes the Ninjai gang have come up with, or anything on Cartoon Monsoon. It's hard to beat vector-based scalabiliity for full screen entertainment, as I used to say to my mother as she'd sit down to another episode of Dynasty.


Anyway how could anybody not like an animated show with the main characters called Radikal, Spin, Khan, Solar, and Elizabeth? Me, I'm engrossed, visuals aside.

Well, Could You Do Better Then?

However, as if to head off any smarty pants visual whiners like myself, the BBC has provided the opportunity for you to create you own episodes. They know we've got our own ideas so they've made Animation Maker available to get creative. You can use it to produce one-minute movies that can be saved to the site, with the best ones being published online. Which all kind of shuts me up really, or sends me back to the seventies.

Marking Territory

I met a man walking two blocks from my house yesterday. He pointed at some graffiti and asked me if this area was now a gang territory.
-Do you want to be in my gang? I asked him.

Paul Dorrell says:

The formal surroundings that most museum works now hang in don't change the conditions of their creation, they just change the background, and the background is often deceiving.


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