Crimes Against the Internets: Cartoon Brew

The biggest problem with the internet is that you’ve got to wade through so much crap to get to the good stuff. With this whole “web-logging” fad, that means to see funny pictures of talking cats, or copyright-violating YouTube videos, you’ve first got to make it through reams of text with the blogger’s “personality.”

And of course, we’re talking about the “personality” of folks who have nothing better to do than write on the internet about cat pictures and YouTube videos. I had to give up Boing Boing because I got tired of hearing how DRM eviscerates babies. I can’t count how many videogame blogs I’ve had to give up. You’ll be reading along and then hit one post that just makes you say, “Aw man, why couldn’t you just have shut up and give me the links already?” Why can’t more blogs be like this one, without content or personality?

I’ve been reading Cartoon Brew for a while, digging through big, steaming mounds of self-satisfied attitude in order to see cool clips of animation I hadn’t seen before, or the occasional rare piece of concept art or model sheet for works I’d never even heard of. Sure, the tone is insufferably pompous, but hey, neat pictures!

What killed it was this post bitching about some admittedly lame-sounding (the description claims they’re looking for “the dopest animator in the business”) animation contest, which will be judged by Loren Bouchard. The problem isn’t the objection to the contest itself, but the obnoxious rant surrounding it.

Instead of just complaining about the nebulous ownership and rights issues involved with submitting original work to a website for a contest, the blogger instead decided to go off on an internet tirade against Bouchard and, by extension, Adult Swim. (Note that “Adult Swim” is surrounded by quotes of disdain; you can almost hear him sneering and spitting out the words as if it pains him to even admit such a thing exists). He says he’d never heard of Bouchard or of his latest show, “Lucy, Daughter of the Devil” — that’s reasonable enough for most folks, but not for anybody who claims to be an authority on animation. Along with claims that Bouchard’s work is an “embarrassment” to the art form, he puts up a still from “Home Movies” for true animation aficionados to shake their heads and go “tsk, tsk.”

Now, finding an arrogant douchebag on the internet is hardly a notable achievement, so why not just leave a nasty comment after the post and then move on? Why bother writing about it? Because it misses the point to such a colossal degree, and it’s a perfect example of the internet’s creepy underbelly. (Well, the other creepy underbelly; there’s not much we can do about the main one).

The blogger spent months using the blog to shill his book, which celebrates 1950s animation styles. The posts would have examples of stills along with sycophantic descriptions of the artists responsible. Now, a lot of this art (including the example used for the cover) stands out to me as a low point in animation history — the 80s were crass and soulless, sure, but at least the character designs, while bland, were usually appealing on some level. Most of the stuff included in this collection was cheaply-produced and just plain ugly.

But to each his own, right? Just because I don’t see the value in it doesn’t mean there’s no value in it. Isn’t that the whole point of animation, even? I never made it far in my classes in college, but I know that I saw more than a lifetime’s worth of sample films and short films, and by far the bulk of them sucked.

That wasn’t the point; the idea was to have an idea, and to make it come alive. The real beauty of animation isn’t the same beauty as other visual art; technically perfect stuff can come across as the most bland. The true soul of animation is this overriding idea that anything can happen, at any time. It’s the one art from that truly rewards experimentation and innovation more than anything else.

And what should be obvious to anybody who’s not dense, and who’ll take a second to get his head out of his ass and pay attention, is that Bouchard’s innovation is in recognizing how to pool together some of the funniest voice actors available, get spontaneous and naturalistic dialogue out of them, and apply that to animation. That’s huge, and nobody else is doing that.

To take a still frame from “Home Movies” and use that as an indicator of the entire work is so incredibly stupid, it’s hard to imagine a cogent thought process behind it. It’s not even a subjective “well that’s just your opinion, man!” Like it or not, failing to recognize the stylistic achievement of these series is just plain objectively wrong.

But the bigger question is: why does this always happen? Reading the posts on “Cartoon Brew” is like listening to a cross between the most obnoxious comic book store clerk and the most self-important indie rock fan — the artists are all sell-outs, and the “fans” are all fools who don’t appreciate what true art is. Why does obsessive fandom always breed such colossal arrogance and douchebaggery?