The Odyssey Video Collection of Computer Animation: The Good, The Bad and the Brilliant
Music Is The Critical Component
Peter Bernstein's music only makes Cyberscape worse, I'm afraid - a synthesized attempt dominated by the dreaded sound of a drum machine that directly mirrors the one-dimensionality of the video. I could have sworn I was hearing the same riff over and over. It's tinny and tedious and does very little to illuminate the imagery. Odyssey calls it "mesmerizing." I call it mind-numbing.
The one song in the piece, "A Different World," is embarassingly immature. The lyrics, such as, "A perfect island in the stream, Where life is kind and love is free," would be a proud addition to a seventeen year-old aspiring song writer's repertoire, but has no place in a $15.00 video touted as a "journey into our undiscovered self."
The best animation proffered by these Odyssey tapes weaves seamlessly with the music. In fact in some, such as Beyond The Walls, produced by animusic and the grand finale on the Computer Animation Showcase video, the music becomes the storyteller and the animation an organic outpouring celebrating it. Composed by Wayne Lytle, each note is made stunningly visual through an amalgam of highly personalized drums, horns and laser beams.
The raison d'etre of the final offering on the Computer Animation Classics video is, in fact, the song itself - Mick Jagger's Hard Woman, a ground breaking music video produced in '86. The magic of this animation allows a series of spirals to actually ooze sexuality in the form of a female Mick alter ego, highlighting one of the delights of the more brilliant of these shorts ... that of creating mankind from abstract form.
Storytelling and Laughter, We Want To Be Touched
For all of it's majesty of skill, the characters of Tchaicovsky's Cyberscape elicit no recognition of the human experience. Contrast that with the mere line drawings of Steve Segal's Dance of the Stumblers rendered to music by Rimski Korsakov on Computer Animation Classics. With glorious simplicity, we are allowed to applaud ourselves through the interpretation of these squiggles, recognizing ourselves as adept and graceful, athletic and balletic even as we stumble and trip in the effort. We may hurt ourselves, but we support each other, and turn nonsense into whimsy in the process.
Ultimately, it's the superiority of the storytelling fused with skill that divides the fine from the brilliant in this wonderful medium. The animator that is moved by his or her story and can equally translate the human experience into the artwork triumphs with their work. A great example of this is Tony de Peltrie on the Classics video: a baby grand on a gorgeous hardwood floor with true stage lighting and Tony, a washed up, enormously-chinned lounge player tickling the ivories as he silently reminisces about the good old days. As his voice-over tells the tale, his magnificent face lives it. What a remarkable evocation of deeply felt memory. What great music. Until, in sadness and fatigue, he's turned to stone and wind-chipped away until no part of him is left behind but the piano ... on a gorgeous hardwood stage, beautifully lit, awaiting the next entertainer to sit down to its spell.
Of course, the humorous anecdotes are appreciated in the midst of the contemplative and both the Classics and the Showcase videos have their share. A short, but infinitely sweet example on the Showcase video, is a commercial for a potato chip product called Bluebirds. The ominous introduction of a shark slicing through the water evolves into a funny episode of a penguin showing off on water skis, unexpectedly being launched into a precarious and bumpy ride, while being wildly cheered and applauded with scores of 9's and 10's by a platoon of penguins on a glacier peak. The piece has humor, great storytelling and human characterization all wrapped up in great animation.
Music Is The Critical Component