Theme Tuesday: Adaptations

This week on Theme Tuesday, adaptations is our theme. Finding unusual combinations of fine artists, poets and authors converted to animated shorts was the goal of this week’s search. This is only a scratch of the surface of all that’s out there, of course! Enjoy ten videos after the cut.

The Hangman (1964)- Maurice Ogden and Paul Julian
In 1964 this animated adaptation of Maurice Ogden’s anti-fascist poem won a Silver Sail award at Locarno International Film Festival. Designed to evoke classic Soviet propaganda, the film vividly illustrates the poem’s theme of creeping fear and social decay invoked by abuses of the State. Animator Paul Julian was employed as a background painter by Warner Brothers during the Golden Age, and his voice was used to create the iconic ‘beep beep!’ of the Road Runner! (note: the original video disappeared from Youtube. Have found the best substitute available, but it is unfortunately heavily watermarked)

The Picasso Summer (1969) – Ray Bradbury, Pablo Picasso and unknown animators
The Picasso Summer was adapted from science-fiction author Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same title. In the film, a couple travels to Europe, hoping to meet Pablo Picasso. In this unusual sequence, the couple discovers a series of Picasso paintings in a cave, which become animated and wage a vivid, surreal war.

Destino (2003) – Salvador Dali and Walt Disney
This highly unusual pairing of ‘family friendly’ animation studio Walt Disney and surrealist painter Salvador Dali has an interesting history. Originally beginning production in the mid 1940’s, the film was shelved due to budgetary concerns. It was not completed fully until 2003 when a team of diligent animators deciphered Dali’s cryptic original storyboards and fleshed in the work with some computer animation. It was nominated for an Academy Award in 2003, but lost to The Chubbchubbs. 

Watership Down (1978) – Richard Adams and Martin Rosen
From Richard Adams’ bestselling book about a clutch of rabbits wandering the English countryside in search of a new home, British director Martin Rosen created an animated film in 1978. The film was controversial in some circles due to its dark and graphic nature. However, in 1979 the film was ranked sixth at the box office in England and launched Art Garfunkel’s song “Bright Eyes” into the number one position in the UK charts. Here is a recent Australian trailer cut for the film.

Tell Tale Heart (1953)- Edgar Allen Poe and UPA
UPA was a group of rogue Disney animators who broke away from the studio during the animation strike of 1941.  Best known for the creation of the character Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoingBoing, UPA pioneered the concept of limited animation. Unlike the later uses of this technique on television by studios like Hanna-Barbera, however, the initial intent of the concept was to break away from Disney realism and to explore different styles and methods of animation design. In 1953, this adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem was nominated for an Oscar.

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (1965) – Norton Juster, Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble
Co-directed by visionary Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble, both icons of the Warner Brothers studio, this short adapts the book by Norton Juster. MGM took home an Oscar gold for this classic short.

Geometry of Circles (1979) – Philip Glass and unknown animators, “Sesame Street” 
In the 60’s and 70’s, Sesame Street was famed for its innovative and unusual animated sequences. Although these sequences often ran uncredited during the airing of the show, they were submitted by a wide range of fine art and commercial artists, animators and musicians. Phillip Glass is one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century, with countless art pieces and a number of distinctive film scores. He composed a series of musical pieces called “Geometry of Circles” to accompany shorts for Sesame Street- four in all.

Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase (1991) – Many classical artists and Joan Gratz
This short won an Oscar for its unusual “clay painting” technique, a form of stop-motion animation. Former Will Vinton Studios animator Joan Gratz morphs images of faces from paintings of the 20th century from one style to another smoothly, showcasing a variety of expressions and emotions.

I Met the Walrus (2008) – John Lennon, Jerry Levitan and Josh Raskin
In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and convinced him to do an interview. 38 years later, Levitan, director Josh Raskin and illustrators James Braithwaite and Alex Kurina collaborated to create an animated short film using the original interview recording as the soundtrack. The short won an Emmy in 2009.