Search form

The Animation Pimp: Table at Fool’s Tooth: Goofy vs Eeyore

Shouting, swearing and outright bitchiness signal another year of festival submission review and selection for The Pimp.

A man must learn he is nothing but a fool.

- Montaigne

All I know is that I know nothing.

- Eeyore

“WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU YOU IMBECILIC PIECE OF SHIT? I SHOULD SUE YOUR MOM FOR SPREADING HER LEGS AND SHITTING YOU OUT. YOUR FATHER (IF HE’S REALLY YOUR FATHER) SHOULD HAVE HIS COCK BURNT OFF AND THE ASHES TOSSED INTO A MARS SHUTTLE THEN SPRAYED INTO A BLACK HOLE WHERE HOPEFULLY IT WILL BE DISPERSED INTO OTHER DIMENSIONS. EVEN THAT WOULD BE RISKY CAUSE THERE’S A CHANCE THAT ALL THOSE PARTS OF YOU MIGHT STILL FIND THERE WAY INTO MULTIPLE EXISTENCES.”

I don’t really think or believe that, when you’re watching a couple of thousand films a year in a short period of time, bitchiness abounds more-than-occasionally, frequently shifting into outright anger and blisteringly blind bouts of Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (not the real one, just the uncontrollable swearing version we define it as). The frequent targets being either the generic scream drenched made-for-TV pile, second hand soulless industry licking student films or those films that are – visually and conceptually – just plain awful to the degree where you wonder why these people are even bothering to live. How dare these Neanderthals hog air and water from their betters? 

I still shout and swear during the screening process (as recently as yesterday, which is not yesterday for you, dearest reader), but the last few years I’ve been more forgiving towards animators (not some studios though. Fuck them and their mindless SCREAMING SHOUTING GRUNTING moralistic materialistic odd couple snail oil salesman pitching an extreme rebellious anarchistic masquerade ball. Fortunately most kids are smarter than the idiots who excrete this tripe on their senses).

Anyway, back to the animators…I mean, so they made this cheese plate. At least they DID… they could have done nothing and just kept staring blankly at Minecraft but they got off their rumps and created something. Sure perhaps the quality of that nothing might surpass the mess of the something – but I dunno I’ve come to kinda respect the good bad and ugly…at least they’re trying…at least they’re doing. Isn’t that something? Is it better to be an Eeyore who just slops across the land moaning groaning and not bothering cause why bother no point thus never mind and no bother or a half wit Goofy who makes a mockery of, say every hobby and sport he attempts but gosh at least he’s out there giving life a whirl?

Besides, who really knows with complete confidence what makes something good, bad or ugly? Just skim through the history of art and you’ll stumble upon endless examples of artists whose movies, books, poems, paintings, music were considered crap initially (or ignored entirely) only to be hailed as masterpieces later – and vice-versa.

In animation, there’s a definite tendency to often blindly lionize animators like, say, Norman McLaren (come on…the guy was brilliant but he made a chunk of snoozers), Yuri Norstein (20 years to make a film? Get fucking real), Chuck Jones (seemed to kinda drink the hype), Tex Avery (who repeated gags far too often) and Bill Plympton (whose work is really not at all that funny, groundbreaking or clever as the anonymous ‘they’ say) without serving up much objective critical backing. This is also true of studios (e.g. Pixar, Disney, Aardman, Ghibli). Too often it seems works by these folks (and others of their ilk) are accepted more because of WHO they are rather than WHAT they’ve made.  And in this Internet age of bias on steroids, may the Gods help you if you dare criticize any of these poster boys (and, yes, it’s generally men who are tossed onto the pedestals).

But, hey, I’m no lamb. Sometimes I’d rather take a failure by an established animator than the ‘not bad’ film by a newcomer (course, that’s also why we have out-of-competition showcase screenings). Other times I fall into crowd-pleasing mood (not often, mind you, and usually only when I’m just not all that excited by the entries). Maybe the last Old British man and his dog film wasn’t that great, but I know people want to see it and the media will want to write about it.  But is that the right approach? Should we be selecting to please a crowd or the media? Sure, it’s a way to lure unsuspecting audiences into a screening and introduce them to other types of animation, but is it not also contributing to a larger misunderstanding/mislabelling if they walk away thinking… well…I’m not sure about that Old British man and his dog film, but it must be good cause it was nominated for an award or competition?

I often doubt and question my programming choices right up until the final decisions. Heck (such a lovely innocence scented word), days, weeks, months, or years later I might question earlier decisions. I might sit down during a screening and think, “why on earth did I select that film? What was I thinking?” Conversely, I’ve gone to other festivals and seen films that I really liked only to later discover that we’d rejected it for our festival. That can be good though. Self-doubt can lead you into metarecognition where you end up thinking about thinking (i.e. Why do i believe this? Where did that belief come from?)

As I enter year 24 in animation, I’ve just (sort of) learned to not take it all too seriously. What does that change of perspective suggest? Is it a sign of growth? Have I overcome or outgrown a period in which the decision was made or was I the fool who couldn’t see he was the fool. And how do we know who is the fool? Why is it assumed that the earlier ‘me’ is the fool and not the later ‘me’?

Maybe we just don’t know any better. The fool is everywhere. The problem is that the fool doesn’t know he’s a fool. It’s easy to spot a fool except when we are the fool. Our brain asskisses us into believing we are objective and rational. When I’m writing or programming, I believe, for the most part, in my choices – whether words or films. We’d be hard pressed to function if we didn’t have some faith in our choices and ourselves.

There’s this Dunning / Kreuger effect that says that incompetent people are not aware they are incompetent. They aren’t denying it, they just don’t know because of gaps in knowledge. If they were aware, they might seek out correction. If you have a deficit in your knowledge it will prevent you from finding the right answer and you won’t even be aware that it’s the wrong answer.

Yipes.

There are no consumer reports for taste. We’re ultimately left to our own devices.  That scary predicament can lead us to cozy up to crowds to either inform or confirm our thinking. The Internet makes it so much easier now because there will also be voices online that confirm your belief no matter how silly it is. But it’s very dangerous because it not only can become an enabler but encourage us to indulge all of our cognitive self-serving biases.

Can we ever really stop being the fool? I’ve referred to Plato’s cave more than a few times in the past, but if, like those dwellers we are only ever partial to the shadows of things and not the things themselves how can we do anything but rely on interpretation? We can only embrace misrecognition and be cognizant of the fact that we are not cognizant of all the facts.

As Don Rickles told the Bosnian guy at the Sands Hotel in 1966, “Hey Dummy, the average brain weighs 3lbs, but questions weigh tons.”

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

randomness