Monday, 30 January 2012

Wilde about cartoons :-)

Why hello you! Been a while hasn't it? I hope you've all been enjoying yourselves since my last post.

So what's going down in our household at the moment?

Well I decided a couple of weeks ago that whilst the autonomous education thang is a pretty good model for our family *generally speaking*, every now and then we seem to drift, and not having lots of ways to mark the day from evening, weekdays from weekends means it all starts to feel a bit samey. For me anyway. Not having a timetable suits us down to the ground for both philosophical and practical reasons, but not having any kind of unifying theme or topic to focus everyone means that people can be doing a bit too much of the same type of thing for long periods, and whilst they are learning all kinds of stuff, it's hard for me to quantify it in a way that any inspectors might recognise as 'tick-boxy' stuff as it's an all-out random way of learning.

So we have introduced the idea of having a theme a week to loosely follow, and you know what? It actually really seems to have revitalised everyone. Instead of the bookshelves in the library just being one mass of books, a small selection of those same books were pulled out and brought to life, seeming relevant and exciting all of a sudden, with one discovery leading to another. Last week we learnt about ROMANS, which was not exactly a starting-from-scratch kind of gig, (the kids already know loads on this topic) but it was a great chance to build on and fortify what we all knew already and explore some new paths. It was a really fun week and the children drew lots of fab pictures and surprised me with their knowledge and enthusiasm. It was great to see everyone enjoying learning and having something family-wide to focus on. Pete started a new blog in my name, called Educating the Clearys - the first post is a pretty useful resource if you are studying Romans, and we will come back to it again and again, since there's a lot of great ideas there. Go and take a look!

This week, our topic is exploring the artistic styles in ANIMATION and CARTOONS. Herb is leading a table on comic-strip making at our local home ed group soon, so I thought it would be fun to study these cartoons properly, and learn some techniques, explore different styles and so on. Learning how to draw faces that convey happiness, sadness, anger, annoyance etc etc. Learning how to draw background and foreground objects. How to use light and dark for effect. Different ways of telling a story. Split screening. Using text boxes/different types of speech bubbles in different ways. So it might sound like an excuse to sit around watching cartoons but I am actually trying to get a little deeper than that, to properly notice the artistry, besides which they are full of other depths, moral questions, and so on.

I would so love to share some delights with you.

First up, and definitely one for the boys, is the stunning, and quite breathtaking Samurai Jack.

No amount of sitting around listening to Elizabeth Mitchell, flower arranging or playing with gentle wooden toys seems to be able to quell the alpha male aspect that my boys seem to need, in their core, to explore, so I am embracing the fact that a little bit of ninja action to balance things up is inevitable, and in fact, healthy. Samurai Jack is a dude. Episode one of series one is absolutely joyous to watch and explains why he needs to do all the robot and spirit slicing in all subsequent episodes and it makes perfect sense as to why he simply MUST rid the world from the evil Aku (based on a traditional ancient spirit from Japanese mythology)! It's too simplistic to think this kind of stuff as just a mindless slash-em-up sword-fest and should be avoided at all costs bla bla bla. It is cinematically stunning, and the artistry is beautiful. Check out this wee vid from youtube which is about how it was created. I've watched it twice now!

Artistically, another beautiful animation that we will be revisiting this week, is this gorgeous film.

Look at the beautiful artwork.

It is ravishing. I love the celtic swirliness throughout the film, the whimsical and dramatic feel, and the sense of magic. Even though the film is about a Christian book, it has a pagan feel, and the forest is alive. I LOVE this film. My advice if you do watch this though is not to get hung up on historical accuracy down to every last detail - it's probably rather romanticised and the Vikings are presented as mindless brutes. But they did pretty much trash the joint so, ya know, it's not exactly a wholly unfair representation of things.

Next up, well what's not to like about Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli?

You must have heard of these so I won't go on about them but Miyazaki is basically a master of moral tales that don't have the Disney schmaltz, with deeper characters who are more complex, lovable and human. We worship and adore pretty much everything that has come out of Studio Ghibli. A giant purple wall-sticker of Totoro beams down at us from the top of our landing upstairs. If you've never watched any, and you want to introduce your very young child to Miyazaki, the film Ponyo is probably the gentlest for the really young. Spirited Away may scare young 'uns a bit as there are Japanese ghosties and fantastical creatures that might be too full on for a young one, but it's a beaut. Apart from all the obvious ones above, Miyazaki's early offering "Sherlock Hound" is a big fave here in our household.... the victorian costumery and buildings etc are really beautifully done too.

Moving on, Oscar Wilde's tales re-imagined in Wilde Stories (Link to 4od, where you can watch now if in the UK) are simply stunning, but don't expect neat and happy feelgood Disney fables. These are bittersweet tales, which I think makes them all the more beautiful, and heartbreakingly gorgeous. The style of animation is really interesting, and Pete Postlethwaite stars. Maybe not one for really young children though.

( The Nightingale, who sacrifices herself in the name of love )

Last up, is this quite rare and amazing collection as seen below. This is region 1 though, so either watch it on your PC if you can, or research and find elsewhere, eg. on youtube/elsewhere online as individual cartoons (full listing on the page for this DVD). These are cartoons from a different era altogether so politically and socially interesting too. These are sophisticated and in no way dumbed down, as so much cartoonery is these days. One of the cartoons was argued to be the best ever among serious animation critics (Whether that still stands now is hard to know as these are quite old)

Wow - there you go. Lots of inspiring animated films in one lil' bloggy post for you. Hope this inspires you to want to explore them a little deeper.

What are your indie favourites dear readers?


  1. Hey Paula
    Been thinking about you, wondering what you all have been up to, and my, what a lot and how interesting! I shall be looking into some of these cartoons, though we do know the ghibli ones, a lot! We are homeschooling again, seetling back in or rather settling into the new, as it isn't just carrying on from where we left. But lovely! Love to you! xx Tine

  2. You've been in my thoughts too funnily enough. So great to hear from you oh Glastonbury queen! Welcome back to home ed :-) Xxx

  3. Hi, We've been operating the weekly themes since the New Year when I decided we needed some focus, structure and routine as well as autonomy and flexibility to suit all my bunch of different little people. Love Miyazaki particularly spirited away. S watched it for the first time several years back and it did make her cry but it's a beautiful film. We take a look at some of your other suggestions - thanks! And, good luck with the themes.

  4. Hey MF
    We like Belleville Rendezvous and in a similar vein The Illusionist and anything Studio Ghibli. Not heard of The Secret of Kells before, it looks fab. We are in need of some focus at the moment so started doing weekly themes again last week, and our first theme was.....the Romans! It's Star Wars this week - Wookiee Cookies anyone?
    Kirsten xx

  5. Ola twinkletoes, welcome! Forgot about Belleville rendezvous, yes, that's a beaut isn't it? The Illusionist rings a bell somewhere in a cobwebby room in my brain. We are big fans of Star Wars here. The phantom menace video where you see the orchestra playing it all is something else. We went through a phase of watching it every day on YouTube. John Williams is genius! Have a fun week :-) xx

  6. We love Studio Ghibli movies too - harder to find at bargain prices than Disney movies but well worth the price.

    We still haven't seen The Secret of Kells - thanks for the reminder to check it out.

  7. Hey Lily, I think TSOK is one of those movies that you just don't really hear about for some reason...I guess because it is produced on a comparatively low budget and doesn't have the marketing machine of Disney/Pixar behind it etc, so you end up finding them by accident. I think the Ghibli stuff is finding it's way into the mainstream now so will probably be played more on tv over the coming years... Ponyo was on at Christmas....

  8. Great post!
    I was just tweaking my own Samurai character for animation when I went online and found this.. gosh SJ is a tough animation to aspire to!

    Our favourites list is a little darker, and more violent, although Ghibli and Samurai Jack are on there.

    Sym-Bionic Titan (Tartakovsky again)
    Stand Alone Complex (production IG)
    Watership Down (1978)
    Trap Door
    Riddick: Dark Fury (Peter Chung)
    Ulysses 31
    Invader Zim (Jhonen Vasquez)
    Bionicle (makes it all seem more doable)

    I've made animation a central thread of our home education for a while now, although my boys want to animate computer games more than cartoons.

    Thanks for The Secret of Kells recomendation, I will have to look out for that.


  9. Since watching SJ one of my boys has spontaneously been doing some really cool artwork, started split screening and using a few other tricks in his comics. It all feeds in, doesn't it? Will check out your other suggestions although the boys are prob a bit young at the mo.