I’m a huge fan of 3d animation, though like many I think that the cool visual factor can get in the way of the story. The new Tintin film was a good example of clever visual effects and roller-coaster rides concealing weak treatment and a lack of engaging characterisation. In contrast some of the most interesting (and creepiest) animation I’ve seen recently goes right back to the earliest type of visual storytelling – the shadow theatre. I’ve been lucky enough to see this traditional art in Bali. Lit by oil lamps under a clear night sky this theatre form has a power to entrance that puts the most spectacular radiosity, subsurface scattering, nurbs and bullet physics to shame. In no particular order here are three shadow puppet style films that have completely gripped me in recent years:
The Other Gods by H.P. Lovecraft. A ‘lost classic’ from the 1920s. Barzai the wise searches out the Gods in one of Lovecraft’s tributes to Lord Dunsany.
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello. An Australian steampunk adventure with a wonderful graphic design reminiscent of the great Albert Robida. Now on iTunes.
Lake Tahoe by Kate Bush. A really creepy segment from her latest album in which a dog meets the ghost of his dead mistress.
And of course, the greatest shadow puppet animator of all time is the incomparable Lotte Reiniger who began her career with a second hand wing camera from a Messerchmitt. Legend has it that she wanted to be a film maker but as this was the only camera she could find, and it only took one frame at a time, she ended up creating some of the most stunningly beautiful cartoons ever made.