Archive for November, 2008


Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Alex Consalvo
Narration Across Media Paper Proposal:
Title: From Calvin and Hobbs to Waking Life: How Narrative Functions in Animation
I would like to compare and contrast the story telling mechanisms found in comic strips, animated television shows and cutting edge animated feature films as a means of both drawing parallels as well as highlighting differences. My source texts will be a Calvin and Hobbs book called These Days Are Just Packed, an episode of Family Guy and Richard Linklater’s live action animated film Waking Life. I would like to spend 3-4 pages analyzing how each piece is constructed and how that construction permits or prohibits certain types of story telling.  Within this analysis I would like to spell out how the reader interprets each individual text and why they interpret it as such by spending careful time observing how one reads the specific texts and the author constructed them to be read. Through this breakdown of narrative style I would like to pick out and discuss similarities between each art form and discuss ideas of influence that run across these three separate but similar mediums.  Likewise, through a discussion of differences I would like to point out how each art form carries its own unique style which might be seen as a distancing function from original cartoon comic strips.
Ultimately, the question the paper will seek to answer is “how different are these three narrative standards from one another?” And, “what do the differences and similarities between these three source texts tell us about where the idea of narrative is headed?”
Calvin and Hobbs
a.     How do we read the image and text (left to right…but do we look before we read?)
b.     How does the viewer interpret these images and text (How does style play a part – are there any “cinematic function” at work)
c.     How does the creator control comprehension – (deeper meanings hidden within text)
d.     How does the text cue the reader to comprehend narrative (How does Watterson train us to read his comic and how do we as reader move forward in the story world)
e.     Is Bill Watterson drawing on notions of continuity editing in his construction of a coherent comic strip? When he wants his comics to be more experimental how does his formal construction change… (Does he change the linear construction of his comic “strips” from left to right to something more abstract…Yes! Do these more imaginative comics draw on more indy cinema notions of story telling?
*Identify Fabula, Syuzet and Style – How does the mental activity of reading a comic exist as an active process in the mind? How is this mental activity become shaped and shifted into an authored text…does this narrative voice ever cross the boundaries of story telling into stylized excess? Of so how..
1.     Family Guy
*Besides the obvious similarity that both Calvin and Hobbs and Family guy are animated what specific story telling functions do these two animated works share. (editing ect)
a.     How does Suspension of Disbelief function in this show – ie. How do we as spectators embrace the narrative logic of the show.
b.     Break down a specific instance of how the SENDER => MESSAGE => RECEIVER function works and how we the audience must decode the message with specific reference to the use of extra textual sources… Discuss how the viewer must have access and knowledge to American pop culture to understand the full breath of Family Guy… (what the viewer must bring to the show to understand it )
2.     Waking Life
a.     Discuss this film as an example of a conglomeration of narrative forces including comic strips, animated television and classic Hollywood features
b.     What about the film is different from a classic live action film?
c.     What about the film is different from an animated film?
d.     What does animation over live action cinema do? Does this style of animation allow images to serve up parallel and non-verbal story lines –
e.     Does the animation over live action create a tension that is not found in Calvin and Hobbs and Family Guy because they have no component of live action
Conclusion (the last 3-4 pages)
How does animation function in Waking Life to jerk us out of the real world and set up the viewer to think outside what is a normal and every day pattern?
Does Calvin and Hobbs Challenge us in the same way with its animated style and commentary? Does Bill Watterson want us to think outside of our comfort zone?  How does his animation “jerk” us out of our normal style of processing?
How does Family Guy play with linear streams of consciousness? Do there random asides “jerk” us out of the same linear thinking that Waking Life challenges us to leave behind?
Primary Sources:
Calvin And Hobbs – These Days Are Just Packed by Bill Watterson
Family Guy – Season 2
Waking Life – Directed by Richard Linklater
Secondary Sources:
“Approaching Waking Life “– an essay by Patrick Murphy
“Buddhists, Existentialist and Situationists: Waking Life” – an essay by Doug Mann
David Bordwel – Narration in Fiction Film
–     Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema

art cinema VS. Hollywood

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Referencing our in class discussion of Classic Hollywood narration in comparison to Art Cinema I would agree that most art cinema can be seen as a reaction to more classic narrative lines with some reservation.  What was troubling me during discussion was the idea the art cinema some how sought ambiguity as a reaction to the clear narrative lines drawn in classic narration.  Because the average viewer remains much more familiar with classic Hollywood narration by virtue of the proliferation of these texts within the market anything that strays from this norm would naturally seem more ambiguous simply because the viewer is not acclimated to this style of telling a story. With this vein, I don’t necessarily agree that art cinema narrations have to be obtuse to be certified within the movement.  Alternatively, I believe the best art cinema productions use different styles of telling, that in and of themselves are clear and concise methods of story telling, just not part of the main stream. I would agree that art cinema has a different set of objectives in mind concerned less with entertaining the audience and more with provoking them… and thus the narrative style must change to achieve this.  This change is not concerned with being ambiguous for the sake of confusion, but for the sake of creating mental activity in the mind of the viewer…Something that rarely happens in a Hollywood narrative.  Ultimately I think we can all agree that while good art cinema may be more confusing to the average viewer this confusion may stem from the viewers own library of experience which is, in most cases heavily dominated by  classic Hollywood forms of narration.