It didn’t turn out so well for Dr. Frankenstein and it doesn’t work so well for animation. There was a recent dog pile of praise for Pixar’s new short, Presto, by some commentators on cartoonbrew. http://www.cartoonbrew.com/shorts/presto-on-itunes#comments
In general, the commentators’ premise is that if something conjures up a Tex Avery-like approach, it must be good, and therefore a good direction for Pixar to explore. I guess their idea is that animation has nothing to say today, so we can only advance by making inferior copies of the styles and techniques of yesterday. I too, noticed that Pixar’s Presto was a love letter to Tex Avery. Yet, this didn’t automatically lead me to believe a Tex Avery influence equals a good film. The film still has to stand on its own two legs (or four paws). The newish Goofy short, How to Hook Up Your Home Theatre, was similarly well received by the animation community. But did we need another Goofy short from the “How to” series which ended in the 1940s? Is the ‘act of imitation’ what we celebrate now-a-days?
There are rare moments where something genuinely new comes along and advances the artform. The above two examples ain’t it. Isn’t it funny that the same people who argue that animation has the potential to be the greatest of all mediums are often the one’s wishing to restrict it to the land of Disney’s 9 Old Men, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery? As brilliant as these founding fathers of our industry were, they offer us a creative straight jacket if we try to follow in their exact footsteps. Thank goodness Bob Balser and George Dunning didn’t hold that belief when they gave us The Yellow Submarine. And lucky for us, Yuri Norstein didn’t get the memo that he too needed to live in the past. Otherwise, how could he have created Tale of Tales? Note: both pictured below:
Is the golden age of animation great? You betcha! Did it provide a foundation for the art and industry of all that followed? Heck, yeah! But do we do honor to these heroes and their innovation by mirroring them, OR, by continuing to blaze a few trails of our own? The greatness of the golden age of animation lives on, not in Pixar’s Presto or in Disney’s new Goofy short, but in the work of animators like Paul Fierlinger whose work has the power to make us laugh, think, and cry with as much power as the best work by The 9 Old Men, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery in their prime. Fierlinger does this, not by mimicking the styles of the past, but by honoring his own artistic vision. Today, animation’s past legacy lives on, but not where most people are looking for it.
Note: still from Fierlinger's Drawn From Memory pictured below: