Archive for October 2, 2011

The Sunday Intertitle: Poultry in Motion

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on October 2, 2011 by dcairns

I’d never seen this early (1917!) work by Willis H. O’Brien — a comic short about the ancient ancestor of today’s chicken, the Dinornis, or “great roaring whiffenpoof.”

“The dinornis was the ancestor of our modern chicken. It had long legs and a kind face.”

Crude compared with THE LOST WORLD or KONG, this piece nevertheless has an interesting, slightly creepy design style. Comparing it to Starewicz’s roadkill puppetshows, I wonder if stop motion has an inherently eerie quality, which can only be conquered by careful and tasteful attention to the cuteness factor. There certainly is something a little worrying about the idea of dolls coming to life, which is somehow less disturbing when the animated figures are drawings.

The bolder among you can watch this Nazi-era stop-motion horror, but be warned — it’ll ruin your day. I mean, it actually will make you feel sad and horrible for hours. The ending, where two children are ground into mincemeat, is the most heartwarming moment.

Of course, what’s also shown in PREHISTORIC POULTRY, with its weird, emaciated cave-people figurines, is that “Obie,” unusually for an animator, wasn’t particularly humorous (and his life story would be marked by appalling tragedy) — it’s especially awkward to see him reaching for comedy effects in SON OF KONG. The funny bits of the first KONG — the ape nursing his injured finger, for instance — come naturally out of character, rather than schtick or gags.

Still, if POULTRY isn’t hugely funny, it’s quite charming in spite of its jolting, skeletal effigy stars: the love that’s gone into it transcends the superficially eerie look.

NOT the CITIZEN KANE animated bird!

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