Sunday, September 11, 2005


SPECIAL ARTICLE: A post so long, it makes War and Peace seem shorter than a Planned Parenthood Pamphlet

Installment #2 of the Suite 101 series. This one’s gonna be long. You have been forewarned.

Once again, in case if you haven’t read Installment #1, here is another warning of my writing proficiency. All articles are posted here “unabridged”. These articles were “published” in 2002, and are in no way reflective of my present writing skills, or even of the level of my vocabulary. Both have grown exponentially since.

E-mail me at (if you dare!). Mwhahahahahaha! Or, something like that.

The Substance of Czech Animation

Author: Enoch Allen
Published on: August 3, 2002

Page 1

By Enoch Allen

A big ‘toonhead friend of mine, who shall go nameless, said that almost anything (animated, or otherwise) produced outside of America merits a viewing.

“Why is that?” I asked him.

“Because, this is the only country in the world that would settle for producing movies like “Freddy Got Fingered” and “Kung Pow! Enter the Fist", whereas the standards for quality are higher in other countries,” he replied.

Well, the guy does have a point. Czech animators hate dumbing down their material. Michaela Pavlatova, to use an obscure example, was nominated for an Oscar for her intelligent and insightful animated short, “Words, Words, Words”. But it was so . . . complicated!

“Words, Words, Words” is a refreshingly high-quality animated film that centers on the structure and nature of human relationships, from fantasy weddings to harsh reality. I believe that this is the only animated film created (including Japanese imports) that represents a wide, diverse range of subject matters. “Words, Words, Words” is representative of the kind of material that Czech animators cover.

Alluding to my earlier example, Prague (generally regarded as second-best to Hollywood, in terms of presenting quality films) doesn’t show just anything. They do not let their animators settle for mediocrity, unlike Hollywood. Czech animators--while somewhat forced to adhere to business logistics--always concentrate on the artistic quality of the project, and less attention is paid to such things like cost or materials.

Some Czech animators have learned to produce magnificent material on a nonexistent budget and little time. When the materials used to produce a film wears thin, these savvy animators increase the “substance” value of it. Case in point: Zdenek Miler’s “Krtek” (or, “little mole”) is so widely beloved in Europe (notably among Czech and Slovak children) that they affectionately--and nostalgically--refer to it as their version of “Mickey Mouse”. And it is--yet, these series of animated shorts featuring the red-nosed mole were made at very little cost to the studio. But it was the substance of these little films that attracted their audience. Miler was able to produce these shorts without sacrificing much style or substance.

Czech artists play an important role in global animation, being that animation directors from the U.S., Iraq, and even Japan (!) seek either their services or their expertise. Keep in mind, reader, that all this is happening as funding for Czech animation is on the decline, and Czech animators have resorted to developing minimalist projects that look as shallow as the budget they’re produced on. But amazingly, as was highlighted in the previous paragraph (utilizing Zdenek Miler’s “Krtek” as an example), even cheap Czech animation is high quality, because your attention is focused towards the narrative, and not on the style.

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(Thanks to, and for the invaluable information.)

The Situation vs. The Plot

Author: Enoch Allen
Published on: August 4, 2002

By Enoch Allen

Have you ever watched a movie that never seemed to end? And then, when it ended, you sorta felt that it ended too soon. That might prompt you to think:

“Wow. That was a pretty short movie.”

In actuality the film was, most likely, the right length for a feature. Perhaps the filmmakers didn’t go far enough with the plot.

You see, this is the way that I feel with most animated films of today. Not enough potential is being milked out of a meaty subject. It’s almost as if the filmmakers decided beforehand that the story just has to be a certain length, else it won’t get distributed/aired. Then, that could be the fault of the writers, who focus too much on developing a situation instead of an actual, active plot for the characters. This happens way too many times in today’s animation.

Like, in the seven-minute short cartoons. The characters get a situation. The characters devise plans to get out of it. The characters have either triumphantly succeeded or triumphantly failed. The End.

This leads to redundancy in motion. Too many times have we seen the story set up that way. It is almost getting as repetitive as the Three-Act Structure of stories. This has me saying, “Thank God for the ‘Net!” It is, perhaps, only on the Internet that we can experience tales told in a fiercely diverse style.

Being that I am an armchair deconstructionist, let me analyze for a paragraph or two, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke”. (I know that referencing “Princess Mononoke” endlessly doesn’t serve to convey my point effectively--it only serves to contrast it, and label my stance “hypocritical”. I can’t help that.)

“Princess Mononoke” is a 135-minute film. Okay, so that would amount up to about two hours and fifteen minutes. We know that most (if not, all) of Disney or Dreamworks or Warner Bros. animated films are under two hours. Half are under ninety minutes. What animator can tell an epic story, under ninety minutes? And that assumes that each character is fleshed out, and the maximum dramatic value of the story has been used to its potential.

Truth is, I don’t think that any animator can--tell a story under ninety minutes and retain the above qualities--without sacrificing its potential. So what you end up with, is a movie that “coulda been a contendah” but wasn’t, due to restrictions of various sorts (budget, upper management complaints, etc.). Hayao Miyazaki was interested in telling a compelling tale, with multi-dimensional characters. I haven’t heard of a tale involving a compelling “situation”. I suppose that an argument can be made for keeping the story short and the characters appealing, but unless if we’re talking to two-year-olds there is no excuse for simplifying the material. We’d only be supporting the maxim that “animation is for kids”. Which, as I have argued in articles past, is not true.

For storytellers, implementing a situation seems to serve the story better. After all, a situation really does allow for possibilities to enter the viewer’s mind. In a plot-driven story, the viewer is often left entangled in unresolved, unexplained occurrences (loose ends), and it would take a “deus ex machina” to conclude the story coherently.

Or, not coherently. A plot-driven story is still, unless proven otherwise, the most effective means of communicating with the audience, without losing the trajectory of the narrative. The “trajectory”, meaning the pace, speed, and order of the occurrences. In a situation-propelled story, all that the audience has to do, in order to disconnect themselves from the proceedings, is ignore the situation that the characters are in. And the story ceases to matter to them. In a plot-propelled story, it would be more difficult for the audience to disconnect themselves from the movie--there are several aspects of the narrative that may hold their attention. You ever see Adam Sandler’s earlier movies, where a barrage of gags and jokes are thrown at you, and you feel like the filmmakers have the perception that their core audiences consist of ADD-inflicted individuals? That’s how you can tell whether a film is propelled by plot or situation.

In a plot-driven animated film, the sum of the circumstances adds up to a more rounded, fulfilling film. In films propelled by situation, only one circumstance is needed to fulfill the objective. I like plot-driven animated films better. How 'bout you?

(Thanks to, as always.)

What If We Were Studio Executives?

Author: Enoch Allen
Published on: August 4, 2002

By Enoch Allen

Let’s picture ourselves in their shoes. An interesting concept for a new animated series has been left on our desk, unread and neglected. Now, we’re expected to be team players--I mean, just because we work in different divisions doesn’t mean that we can’t be cohesive. In this case, we are walking in the moccasins of an executive in some children’s division of a network.

Let’s go back to the vision that we had just originally left. We pick up the neglected treatment off of our desk. We brush the thick layer of dust off of the cover, and turn the page . . .

. . . and ten pages later, we’re still not hooked. (Actually, you have to hook some executives by the first paragraph. It has to do with their short attention spans, or their schedule--some easy-does-it letdown bull like that.) There is however, a little voice inside of us that is saying, “Buy it! Hire the bastard! You’d be making a big mistake if you turn this concept down.”

We argue with ourselves. “Look, it’s not “Pokemon” or anything like that. How can I trust an unproven property?”

The little voice retorts, “Whaddya in this business for, if you can’t take chances?”

We, the heartless exec, begin to soften up a little. “I’m not being a team player, if I play on the team of the artists. I’m supposed to care more for the best interests of the company that I work for.”

We hear the little voice smack himself in frustration. “The artist/writer IS the best interest of your company. Without the talent to propel you, the business would fold and you would not have a job.”

We harden. “Someone with a unique vision doesn’t care about my company, and how financially stable we are. The only thing that they care about is their vision.”

The voice understands. “Yes. But they need to care about their vision--the condition of their entire career hinges on that first swing, you know?”

We return to our former, rigidly militant stance. “The artists should have enough reasoning skills to determine that Hollywood doesn’t thrive on original, creative visions. IT thrives on proven property. I’m sorry, but this synopsis--that of a homeless man becoming a plasma superhero--no one’s known this.”

We hear the voice again. “Ever hear of ‘Monsters, Inc.’?” And we, the reconditioned heartless exec, laugh. “Those fools at Pixar! I’d never risk $115 million on an untested project! That’s friggin’ nuts!”

The wise little voice sets us straight. Again. “But it made $252 million, now didn’t it?”

We shut up. Sadly though, we fiercely adhere to what our professor taught us in some Business Management class, in some nameless, preppy Ivy League school, and toss the twenty-page treatment aside. The economy is not in the best of shape. Corporations are laying off whole groups of loyal employees. Operations are being reduced to 50% efficiency. And this is the time to fund someone else’s masterful, creative vision? Please. We could do better for ourselves, like greenlighting another “Pokemon” spinoff, and making ourselves filthy rich, right? I mean, it’d only cost us $25,000--if that--to purchase a whole season’s worth of episodes. That’s marquee value.

Is this your thinking? Are we going to let business logistics triumph over original, innovative vision? Your call.

(Thanks to, for providing news on studio executives.)

What's Up With The Running Time?

Author: Enoch Allen
Published on: August 4, 2002

by Enoch Allen

Do all animated movies have to be ninety minutes and under? At a suicidal risk to my readers’ attention span, and my online popularity, I want to explore the running time of animated movies. I do realize that the exploration of running time would make this article stultifying stiff, so I shall subsequently lace it with potty humor, if only to keep you awake.

Animators are told to get their point across, real fast. Get the story over in ninety minutes and under, get it in theaters, and make us a lot of money. That’s why “The Great Mouse Detective” was barely feature length at 77 minutes; “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest” was 80 minutes; “The Lion King” was 88 minutes; its direct-to-video sequel was much shorter, at 75 minutes; “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” was 76 minutes; “Tarzan” was a tad longer, at 91 minutes; “The Jungle Book” was just over 70 minutes; “The Aristocats” was, maybe, 85 minutes; “Batman: SubZero” was not even feature length, at 67 minutes; “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” was 80 minutes; “The Powerpuff Girls” was Gone in Sixty Minutes--literally (well, it was a bit longer than that, at 72 minutes) and “Hey! Arnold” had, I believe, the same running length as the “The Powerpuff Girls”.

There were only a handful of animated films that were over ninety minutes, like for example “The Prince of Egypt”, at 100 minutes; “Princess Mononoke”, at 135 minutes; Miyazaki’s upcoming “Spirited Away”, at 110 minutes; Ralph Bakashi’s “The Lord of the Rings”, at 131 minutes; “Titan A.E.” at 95 minutes; and “Lilo & Stitch”, perhaps the only Disney movie over ninety minutes, at 95 minutes. These were usually the better animated films, partly because the animators were given time to flesh out the story. The shortest animated films are labeled by critics as “charming diversions“, because they’re not long enough to merit our full attention. These films are reduced to the status of animated shorts, in that we wait--patiently or impatiently--for these diversions to conclude so that we can get to the main attraction.

But, animated films SHOULD be the main attraction. It is my belief that they will continue to be viewed as diversions until longer animated films are produced.

(Thanks to,, and for invaluable information. By the way, I didn’t come through on the potty humor. Mwahahahahahahahaha!)

Have any questions/comments? Write me at

Male Characters vs. Female Characters

Author: Enoch Allen
Published on: August 5, 2002

Page 1

by Enoch Allen

In animation, we artists and writers believe that there are no restrictions, besides those that are placed upon us by the Broadcast Standards & Practices. Many of the male artists’ fantasies revolve around the female shape/form. The poor female audience is subjected to seeing their fellow gender sexually exploited on television. The male animated characters are outrageously buffed to extreme proportions, so that they represent an image we wish to attain to. John K. spoofed this brilliantly in “The Ripping Friends”, about superheroes that are obnoxiously muscular.

It doesn’t help that the types of animated shows that feature these enhanced creatures are the shows that are rated highest on television. But, animated imagery, be they fake or otherwise, can imprint messages into the brains of our young audiences. What image do we want them to have of us?

Ever heard of this show that used to air on the USA Sunday morning Action Block, “Skysurfer Strike Force”? The team had a lone female fighter on it, and I believe that (doing this entirely from my untrustworthy memory) her name was Slice Nice. Or was it Slice Dice? Well, anyway, assuming that her name began with Slice her figure--aside from that wacked-up hairstyle--was envious. She had a bust size that commanded attention, and an inch-and-a-half wide waist. Not to mention other seductive curves. What if the audience for “Strike Force” was 50% female? Would they get the impression that all females who have that shape are superheroes? Or would they think, “It’s just a comic-book cartoon designed to entertain us”?

Those are some of the issues that should make us question the composition of our creativity. Why do we create these characters? What motive do we have for maximizing the female form? Or maximizing the male form?

Those are questions, also, that we as creators must ask ourselves. Are we cheapening the human image, so that we may increase profit margins? Because sex sells, you know. Is there a legitimate reason why we can’t have OBESE male and female superheroes/superheroines? After all, Wonder Woman doesn’t look obese, and neither does Superman.

Dean DeBlois and Chris Saunders (Directors, “Lilo & Stitch”) recently addressed the “image” subject, by making Nani (Lilo’s older sister) a bit rounded. You know, so that it appears that she has meat on her bones. In addition, they also made her strong and forceful--human qualities that for the most part have been largely absent from Disney’s female characters. And what about the male Disney characters? They were reduced to having a supporting role in “Stitch”. Males are usually at the forefront of Disney stories, always either the victorious or the vanquished.

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Male characters vs. female characters. I guess this article is inappropriately titled, since there is no versus when it comes to male animated characters working with female animated characters. You usually see them working together, or occasionally falling in love. They are less likely to fight each other. My intention, exactly, was to explore our perceptions of what constitutes an appropriate appearance (as to animation) for both genders.

(Thanks to and for the important information.)


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