The Animation Pimp: Leftovers, B-Sides and Outtakes

The Pimp just doesn't even care about the war anymorehe's had it with two-faced rhetoric and the independent animation film community's failure to be relevant.

Insignificant and occasionally interesting contributions to the cognition of reality

It takes a shallow grasp of history to believe that solutions exist to most international problems. Often there are no solutions, only confusion and unsatisfactory choices. Robert Kaplan, Warrior Politics

Between grief and nothing, Ill take grief. William Faulkner, The Wild Palms

Everybody's hoppin' just a boppin' just a boppin'. Jerry Lee Lewis, High School Confidential

Illustration by Andreas Hykade. Courtesy of Chris Robinson.

Illustration by Andreas Hykade. Courtesy of Chris Robinson.

I dont care. There I said it. I dont feel a damn bit of shame either. The U.S. has done what it said it would do and I dont care anymore. Same goes for animation, the part of my life that earns cash. These days Im more concerned with my dogs limp, my book deadline, what were going to do for a new venue for Ottawa 2004, the endless e-mails I keep getting about penis size (I dont know 'bout youbut I got over that whole thing when I was about 14. I mean are there really any women out there who believe that a BIG PENIS is everything? If soplease write c/o address below), and the NHL playoffs. I know, I know. What a petulant, self-righteous spoiled s.o.b. Well hey la dee da. At least Im not a self-styled polygamist. (Sorry I just really wanted to say that phrase.) Maybe youre right but what do you want me to do? Maybe it comes with tossing the bottle or having a kid or hitting that Dante age. You step back, slow down and actually think things through. All I know is that I find myself sitting atop a couple of fences at this moment.

We Are All Puppets!

Up 'til about December, I was pretty much lefty. It was easyjust quote Nader or Chomsky, wave your fist, go to a few protests, visit alternet or common dreams, go see Bowling for Columbine, forward a few emails and youre done. Barely a sweat, but man do u feel good about yourself. WellI got called to the mat by my friend Hayden. He lives in Toronto. Big deal. (That reminds me: it was Hayden and I who actually wrote that opening night speech for Ottawa 2002. I lied about buying it off a speech writing Website. Sorry.) During the month of January he and I started discussing the war. Id just finished (almost) this book called The War on Freedom. The book argued that the U.S. government basically knew and allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen. This had left me thoroughly depressed because how do you fight something so complex and jamesbondingly evil? WellanywayHayden and I started gabbing about Iraq. He took the centre of right. I took the left. By the end of it I realized how daft Id been. All the lefty stuff I was spouting: 9/11 was a conspiracy, Bush is an idiot. Its all about oil. Killing people is wrong. It was all empty rhetoric. It wasnt that I became an anti-abortionist Negro hating redneckno it was that I came to understand that the left could generate the same impotent verbal crap that also drips from the mouths of Bush, Fleischer, Rumsfeld and the rest of the boys' club. This really wasnt newI was always annoyed by those drum beating Communist hippies. They always struck me as so bloody intolerant of difference. They were morally superior, above it all and ironically almost sort of fascistic to a degree (Youre either with us or against us! Hmm). They could all quote Chomsky, Biafra, Rollins and assorted lefty pop stars. Worst of all, like Newt Gingrich, they had NO SENSE OF HUMOUR. ManI once wore this T-shirt I got from Bust Magazine that said, Feminist chicks dig me, and you should have seen the scowls. (Kinda like the reaction Borak [the Kazakhstan TV host on Da Ali G Show] got when he went to an animal rights protest and talked about how he used to hunt dogs for fun.) Anyway, all these gals pushing strollers and wearing those hatssort of circularkinda thing a lame ass jazz musician might wear (my friend Andrea calls them NGO hats -- non-governmental association)anywaythese broads confronted me and said they were offended by my shirt. I told them it was obviously a jokebut ummthey werent laffing. Can u imagine what theyd do if I wore my T-shirt with Bin Laden wearing an "I Love NY" T-shirt? Shiver me timbers. And heyjust look at their poster boy, the self-righteous tattle taler, Noam Chomsky: Well...the U.S. did this and this and then they did this and thisohand that too. That was really badand I think they should be spanked." Chomsky apparently lives in an error free, perfectly knitted (like his sweaters) world. I was part of some lefty e-mail groups and theyd always annoy me but now they did so more than ever. Again they seemed humourless, ignorant and downright childish -- like the hippies in Beavis and Buttheads Animation Sucks. (Youre purple! Youre green! Yeahbut were both red inside.)

Now okayIm picking on the extreme left here. Not all of the left are this cartoonybut heyya know what? Thats true of the right as well despite what television tells you. Its easy to mock Bush. Hes not an articulate man. Hes a recovering alcoholic. He believes in God. His daughters like to tie one on. Hellhe wasnt even elected to office. But really come ondo you really believe hes a Jerry Lewisesque moron? What is being served by reducing Bush and his administration to cartoon characters? (YesI realize that Rumsfeld is doing a cartoony Clint Eastwood of late.) These people are not morons and the sooner you come to grips with that, the closer you come back to reality. And please protestersstop forcing your not-yet-hippie children to carry "War Kills Kids" banners. War kills men too ya know.

In the end, Im stranded in a hailstorm of confusion spewed forth by the rhetoric of left and right. The task of discovering the cold hard truth becomes that much more difficult. Meantimeoh yeahwellHayden recommended that I read the writings of Robert Kaplan. Chomsky calls him a right wing jingo, but dont believe the hype. Kaplan is a foreign policy writer for the Atlantic Monthly. Two of his recent books are The Coming Anarchy and Warrior Politics. Its dark stuff, but contrary to what Chomsky says, Kaplan seems to me to be more of a realist. He sees the world as it is and not some ideal that may in fact never be. In short, Kaplan argues that foreign policy and the rest of our social world do not play by the same rules and never have. He points all the way back to the Roman Empire to show endless examples of how foreign policy has always been about shaking ends with one of two evils (ideally the lesser one) and acting out of self-interest. The U.S. is an empire. Naturally, its going to act in its own self-interest and do what it must do to protect its assets. Find me a country from the past that hasnt lived this way? So why all the fuss now? Wellmaybe its because we (North Americans) are living a very, very comfortable and isolated spectator existence. We think that the peace (9/11 aside) we have was gained by hugs and kisses and diplomacy. Ummwrongo boyos. Remember them injuns we done slaughtered? Ohgeeremember dem blacks we enslavedor maybe you remember World War I or II or the Civil War or how 'bout the American Revolution (an idea inspired by another conflict, the French Revolution)? Any of that ring a bell? Hellto win sporting events even involves conflict muchacos. From harmony comes discord and discord harmony. Thats the way of the world. Im not saying its how it should be, but rather how it has ALWAYS BEEN.

And This Relates to Animation How?

Still with me? I bet youre wondering how all this ties in with animation. Wellits like thisanimation, for my money, continually falls short as a meaningful social art form. Like politics, animation seems dominated by extremes: the ballcap wearing guns ablazin bodies a tollin kill everyone world of video game animation or the just short of it world of Powerpuff Girls, Justice League and all those violence without effect films I brattled on about last year or any number of phoney baloney films like Spirit, Trumpet of the Swan, Treasure Planet OR (huff huff) on the other side we get the trite preachy wishy-washy let's hug and forget our troubles with a nice cup of Ovaltine (oops...sorrycan't do thatthey employ 14 year-old retarded midget giraffes from Kokomo), visions of geepick a card any card: Jacques Drouin, Bratislav Pojar, Stormin Norman McLaren, Raoul Servais, Paul Driessen, Karen Aqua, Joyce Borenstein, Ishu Patel (Divine Fate ugh)and assorted do-gooders (heyif we can have evildoers, we can sure as hell have Adam West like do-gooders) - Speaking of whichanyone notice that at least three former Soviet colonies are in the coalition (including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) I dont know if its just the nature of animation, the fact that it takes so damn long to do (although thats increasingly false) or that its always been a more personal orientated form of expression.but animation just seems more and more out of touch with the surrounding world. Norstein, Back, Dumala, The Quays, Tilby, Kovalyov, Kuciathe list goes onare among the leading animatorsthe voices that, apparently matter, and yet sometimes I think theyre just speaking to themselves. And before you start calling me a fascistthis isn't about the denial or repression of individual expression. Its about urgency, passion, communication. Where are the outraged animators either left or right? These be some pretty fucked up times kids...with terrorism fears, Iraq, Korea...and who can even begin to tell what the attack on Iraq is going to lead toward. In these timeshellmost of the timewe turn to culture for some guidance, some suggestions, even comfortand I can find relevant (past and present) voices in writing, music, live-action, painting (and all those new fangled media arts), but what about animation? I was originally planning to have a look at protest films in animation but ya know what? There arent that many and those that do exist are so bloody cloyingly naïve. Where are the voices (past or present not including propaganda films)? Aside from the ASIFA-East 9/11 project (most of which, unfortunately, included many smug and spoiled "how could this happen to us" responses)there seems to be nothing out there beyond Flash animations and even then most of these animators succumb to limitations of caricature.

Who cares, you ask? Exactly. This comes back to what I wrote about in February: No one gives a damn about animation outside of this little community. Aside from newspaper articles focused squarely on new technologies and jobs and all that industry stuffno one talks about what animation is saying. Why? Okayyou can fall back on that old pegleg, lack of exposurebut ya know what? Animation gets as much exposure as short experimental film/videos and yet they seem to get talked about. Maybe the answer is simple: animation says nothing interesting or relevant about the world. In Priit Pärns film, 1895, there were lots of jokes about what useful careers people might have had had they not become filmmakers.and you have to wonder about animators in general. Its almost like weve got too many Ingmar Bergmans and not enough Godards. Too many self-enclosed artists isolated from society. What would have happened if McLaren hadnt hid in his room playing with abstract musings all that time? Imagine what Norstein might be doing if he hadn't wasted the last 10-20 years with this bloody Overcoat project? Same with Dumala and his romantic school boy obsession with the existentialists or Kovalyov and his land of selfish paranoias. And whatever happened to George Griffin? What about Priestly? Aqua? Borenstein? Leaf? The list goes on. Priit Pärn is one of the few animators (a slight nod to Pierre Hebert and Phil Mulloy as well) to really try and grapple with the complexities of history, politics, technologies and identity. Maybe the fact that he is so unique is what makes him so problematic for many animation artists. Animation needs to undo the noose and live a little. Stop treating the world as some precious jewel to be cloistered away behind a glass shelf. We need trash. Trash is life. Trash has been eaten, chewed, swallowed, shitted, wiped, jerked off into, dropped, embraced, beaten, broken. Animation, odd as it is to say, needs more realists and less idealists. Animation has no Hubert Selby, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, Nick Tosches, let alone a Jerry Lee Lewis, Robert Pollard, or a Jackson Pollack. Animation has lots of Wayne Gretzkys, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordansbut you need grinders to win, those guys who give 110% game in/game out, who play with raw intensity, embracing every shift as if it were the last. Animation seems to lack that rawness, the reactionary, GOTTA SAY IT OR IM GONNA BUST nature that others have. Even the improvised scratch animators like Barbel Neubauer and Richard Reeves are often missing that fire that every artist MUST have. Martha Colburn and to a lesser extent, Andreas Hykade, are about the only ones whose work can really excite me. Everyone else seems to go about a nice leisurely pace, taking 4-5-10-20 years to make a film. Thats something I really cant understand (aside from the technical excuses) or respect. If its not burning to come out, then maybe it dont need to come out. And maybe thats just a problem inherent in animation. Maybe thats why animation will forever be seen by some as the pottery of the art world.

Just a small dose of pragmatic realism would give us some balance and, ironically, take us beyond the limits of our current imaginings. Yoda was rightits about balance, kids. Just like that German toon tells uswe need balance to have a level perspective of things. Without balance, well end up like Duck Dodgers and that Martian, clinging to a small piece of nothing in the middle of nowhere.

Chris Robinson is but a man. His hobbies include squirrel taunting, goat thumping, meat dancing and elderly peeping. You can find the results at http://asifa.net/robinson

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