When thinking about art, it is easy to default to the world of galleries, exhibitions and frames on walls - however, at D’Stassi Art we want to explore the artform in all of its expressions. In this article we will be diving into the world of film. More specifically, the relationship between five filmmakers and illustration - from the gothic fantasticality of Tim Burton to the otherworldly escapism of Hayao Miyazaki.
Tim Burton - Untitled (Edward Scissorhands), 1990.
Tim Burton’s filmmaking is built on contradictions, the push and pull of darkness and colour, light and dark, gothic and joyful. It is a visual style that arrests the viewer immediately - transporting them to another world entirely. Burton has regularly cited his love of drawing, from which many of his films are born. Strange characters come to life on the page, pulled from Burton’s imagination through a pencil. His start in the industry came via Disney, where he worked in animation - however, he quickly found himself artistically constrained. Burton’s ideas were dismissed as too idiosyncratic; built on bizarre imagery that didn’t fit the studio’s target demographic. It was once he stepped out on his own, as a director, that his concepts were finally fully explored. Johnny Depp once noted, “All I had the first time I went to work with Tim on Edward Scissorhands aside from the images arriving in my mind, was a tiny drawing that Tim had made. One look at that drawing was all I needed to understand what Edward was about. It has been exactly the same ever since.” It is clear when watching one of Burton’s films that you are bearing witness to one man’s artistic vision, a clearly defined aesthetic crafted over time.
Mac Fleisher - Betty Boop & Bimbo.
Max Fleischer is perhaps best known for the creation of Betty Boop, Popeye and the Rotoscope. Born in the 1880’s in Krakow, his family emigrated to New York - where Fleischer’s father became a successful tailor. His professional foray into the art world was drawing satirical strip cartoons for The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. By the early 1910’s, animation cartoons began to be shown in movies - however the technology of the time didn’t allow for smooth movement between frames. In order to combat this problem Fleischer invented the Rotoscope, a combination of an easel and a projector. It wasn’t until two decades later that Fleischer founded Fleischer Studios Inc. - the creative force behind Betty Boop and Popeye The Sailor. The characters were beautifully designed, combining up to date animation standards and emotive, beguiling character illustration. When combined with the studio’s unique use of music - Popeye became one of the most successful cartoon characters of the time; with a survey indicating that Popeye had become more popular than Mickey Mouse in the 1930’s. His enduring legacy is the persistence of his character design, with both Popeye and Betty Boop retaining pop culture relevance many decades later.
Chuck Jones sketching Bugs Bunny.
Chuck Jones was an American filmmaker and cartoonist whose work with Warner Bros. Cartoons (Looney Tunes) gained critical acclaim and commercial success. His characters were so beloved that he took 10 of the spots in Jerry Beck’s ‘The 50 Greatest Cartoons’ - with four of the top five entries belonging to Jones including first place. In 1935, Jones was promoted within Warner Bros. Cartoons as a fully fledged animator, working alongside director Tex Avery. In a particularly prolific period from the 1930s to the 1950s Jones had a hand in creating Bugs Bunny, Charlie Dog, Marvin the Martian, Wile E. Coyote and the road runner. These characters, and the Looney Tunes more broadly, have had a profound impact on popular culture ever since. It’s difficult to imagine a set of cartoons that have had such an enduring influence - they still appear on TV, film and across various commercial products to this day.
Tex Avery - Bums Away.
Tex Avery was an American animator and director who rose to prominence during Warner Bros. Cartoons’ heyday. Alongside a team of talented animators and cartoonists, Avery was crucial to the creation of some of the world’s most recognisable characters including: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Droopy and Porky Pig. Much of Avery’s success has been attributed to his willingness to explore concepts and ideas that hadn’t been approached before within the animation industry. Gary Morris noted, “Avery endeared himself to intellectuals by constantly breaking through the artifice of the cartoon, having characters leap out of the end credits, loudly object to the plot of the cartoon they were starring in, or speak directly to the audience”. This unique approach to the medium set Avery apart from his peers - and some attribute it to a rather gnarly accident. In the 1930s, whilst messing around in the studio, a stray thumbtack caught Avery’s eye - leading to sight loss. Many have proposed that his subsequent lack of depth perception led to his characteristic, trailblazing style. Avery, and his peers at Warner Bros. Cartoons were responsible for one of the most impressive feats within animation at the time - challenging Disney’s monopoly on successful animated cartoons.
Miyazaki story board sketch.
Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese manga artist, director, producer, author and animator. He is cited as one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of animation. Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli, a pioneering animation house that is home to some of Japan’s most beautiful cartoons. Titles such as Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo and The Wind Rises achieved unrivaled critical acclaim and considerable commercial success. His work is masterfully expressive, exploring the relationship between the natural world, technology, human beings, art and tradition. Complex storytelling meets robust character creation in Miyazaki’s films - with many strong girls and women taking the protagonist role. His willingness to defy the audience’s expectations, cultural norms and binary moral themes allow Studio Ghibli’s films to push visual boundaries. "We never know where the story will go”, Miyazake described, “but we just keep working on the film as it develops,". Miyazaki employed cutting edge technology such as 3D rendering alongside traditional hand drawing and manga aesthetics to give his work an otherworldly feel. Getting this blend right is key to Miyazaki who noted that it is important to "retain the right ratio between working by hand and computer ... and still be able to call my films 2D". His commitment to the craft of illustration and animation is almost unrivalled, cementing his reputation as an icon within the field.
The D'Stassi Art team.