Everything old is new again, again. You see, those pocket-able supercomputer phones with the very-decent optics and imaging can bring back a love of photography, and photography can bring back a love of cel animation. Thank the smartphone’s portability and convenience, perfectly-suited to repetitive tasks like capturing impromptu cels on the go. And that can open itself to a sort of creativity that returns people to some of the simple pleasures of animating.
Hombre McSteez does some wonderful stuff with this in the film at top. (Follow him on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter.) The iPhone becomes a sort of animation sketchbook, capturing ideas in the real world as cels and photos mix. These are to me first sketches rather than fully-developed ideas, but the ability to improvise with animation is something special. Seems someone will do an app for animating directly on the screen, too.
In the meanwhile, I was reminded of this Sesame Street clip from when I was growing up. (Teeny Little Super Guy seemed fitting both for the phone and the animation likely to inspire would-be iPhone users.) Thanks to my generation, of course, this humble short has its own Wikipedia article.
But the story is extraordinary, given how rarely childrens’ television aspires to this kind of genius outside the world of programs like Sesame Street. Academy Award-nominated Czech-American immigrant filmmaker Paul Fierlinger led a team of animators into the kitchen and other common locations to produce the animation, never short of ingenious ways of combining the animated with the real.
If the writing seems like comic gold – at once innocent and direct enough for children, but sure to make their parents laugh out loud – it’s because the writer had the experience to pull it off. Jim Thurman had stints on Bob Hope, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby, and Dean Martin. He also voices the Super Guy and so lends the comic timing the part needs. (His voice is familiar to folks my age, because he was a Children’s Television Workshop regular, somehow dry, comforting, and self-deprecating in a friendly way.
And actually, while this was supposed to be about the iPhone, maybe our latest gadgets are just an added reminder to always be making, always be capturing, and always be inventing and imagining.
You know, like kids.
Now, keep practicing.