Getting Animated!

# "Alright... You go, 'Ooh-eeh, ooh-ah-ah, ting-tang wallah-wallah, bing-bang!' # - The Cartoons

Recently I had the chance (finally) to see the new Hollywood movie version of Tintin after receiving it on Blu-Ray for my birthday and missing it last year at the cinema.  Now, I've made no secret over the years that I'm a huge fan of all FOUR Indiana Jones films and the movie experience I had watching "The Adventures of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn" really captured the original sense of adventure that thrilled me as a wide-eye kid watching The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade... (no surprise that it was also Spielberg who directed Tintin too!)
There was a lot of talk of the phenomenon of the "uncanny valley" when this movie came out, where animation is deemed to have moved that bit closer to mimicking real life actors and even though it's beautifully rendered and conceived, as an audience we're left with a sort of sick feeling because the 'manequins' up on screen are too eerily close to humans...  It's a strange one to get your head around but also an interesting concept for a writer, always striving to use his art to imitate real life...  All I know is, the closeness of the imagery to reality allowed me as a popcorn-loving thrill-seeker to become more immersed in the overall story (well-constructed from a couple of Hergé's original books by, among others, the present Dr. Who and fine-scribe boss Steven Moffat)...

I actually wasn't that into Tintin when I was a kid (although because of a now fast-disappearing "quiff" that I had when I was younger, some friends once dubbed me "Tintin"!).  Instead, going to my local library every Saturday to borrow books at about the age of 12, I discovered what I then saw as Tintin's rival - the Asterix series of books (Tintin and Asterix at first glance were presented in much the same large graphic novel style of thin but colourful glossy book format).  It's ironic that I've grown into the kind of writer with leanings towards "spy-fi" and adventure fiction and probably missed out on the intrigue that Hergé obviously injected into his books by favouring the exploits of Asterix and Obelix (and of course Dogmatix!) but at that time, I just found the idea of living in the Roman Empire a brilliant prospect (I'd been brought up with local ghost stories of the lost "Legion of the Ninth" on the Roman Wall in Northumberland, so was perhaps a bit biased towards that period of history).

There's since been live-action feature films made of Asterix's adventures, but none of those have come close to the thrill of reading those balloon-speech books and filling in the action with your own imagination as a child...  (There was actually one cartoon-version of "Asterix in Britain" though that's well-worth a watch, for all the English-in-jokes - seeing an Englishman's pristine lawn trampled on by Obelix always makes me chortle!)

I've mentioned this here before but it was the brilliant Asterix gamebooks that really caught my imagination (and still do when I dig them out of the dusty box I've got them in in the loft!) Like the other Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston "Fighting Fantasy" or Indy "Find Your Fate" books I used to also make a weekly pilgrimage to the tiny local library in my home village to borrow, you had to put something extra into the book-experience instead of just sitting back in a comfy armchair and snuggling in, reading chronologically (and dare I say lazily?) in the traditional way... You were usually required to also bring a dice, a pencil and a pad of paper to the table along with your book, to help you solve puzzles and to allow you to follow the twists and turns of the intricate plots which of course had more than one (or ten!) outcomes.  The Asterix gamebooks from memory allowed you to be a friend of a cousin of Asterix's called Justforkix who journeyed along with the famous Gaulish heroes, but also sometimes adventuring alone, surviving on your own wit and sense of survival..

Speaking of gamebooks, my long-gestating "Simulacrum" project is still being doodled away on under the radar and behind the scenes by both myself and illustrator Rich Windass, who is making sure my words on the page get well and truly animated.  During 2013, in fact, we've decided to focus on a special prelude graphic adventure to the main online gamebook which sets up the launch of the space adventure aproper, so watch out for news on my Twitter and also here on the blog as the year progresses about The Time Before Time Collapsed!)  - if you can't wait to find out more though, you can go to my Official Writing Homepage right now and use your vulture-like vision to locate a "suitably-spacey" object to click on...

I used to love space-age cartoons when I was a kid - anything from Voltron to Thundercats and Ulysees 31.  But more Earth-bound animation on terrestrial TV also caught my eye, including Mysterious Cities of Gold, Dangermouse and even Knightmare (which was a mix of live-action and the then groundbreaking and magically new "CGI" animiation...)

Talking of children's animated TV shows, after getting a couple of years experience in television production now under my belt with my second job in the broadcast media here in the UK,  I've begun lucky enough to begin to move into this area myself.  My department at ITV, SignPost, produces the fantastic "Signed Stories App" and I've been helping so far in a few small ways to add in video content and film our BSL signers against bluescreen, which are then composited into an animated children's story.  I'm now beginning to get the opportunity to contribute more and more to this brilliant product which really is a team effort to produce.  My present role is to build my experience using Adobe's Creative Suite (version 6.0, for fellow geeks out there!) so that I'm up to speed on my video editing skills (last year I'd dabbled in using AVID Media Composer too).  This month, I even got to journey down to Adobe HQ here in the UK and take part in a Premiere Pro course, which was great fun.  I'm also beginning to experiment with "pan and zoom" editing to help still drawings from the children's books we acquire for the App come more alive and appear more animated.  It's a patient process but one that's really rewarding when you achieve the effects that you're aiming for. 

One final thing I'm trying to "get animated" with during this early part of the year is my voice...  Again, through the day job and needing to edit voice tracks into the Signed Stories App, I'm building my knowledge of sound-editing...  (This doesn't mean I'm voicing many of those tracks myself, mind you!)  This does mean that I can apply what I'm learning to finally get a "soundscapes" project off the ground to add to my Official Writing Homepage...  I've recently discovered "Soundcloud" which is a brilliant hosting site (and, importantly for this amateur scribbler, free!) for music and vocal tracks.  (It first came to my attention when I heard the simply dazzling "Jurassic Park Theme played 1000 times Slower" which a friend linked to a few years back).  Anyway, I've created my own "C.G.Allan" profile on Soundcloud and begun to add tracks there with my short stories and ramblings (the crucial thing is, I can embed a widget onto the pages of my site with ease from Soundcloud, which is exactly what I've been looking for, for so long...)  Anyway, there'll be more "Sound Stories" coming soon, and they'll be collected in one particular crackly-static-looking object on my homepage desk top picture via the "Radio" in the coming months... 

Well, not to get too much off the track (get it? "sound" track!) of this "animated" post, I'll leave you with a reminder that both sound AND vision are most definitely being turned on over at my Main Writing Page during 2013 - here's a video trailer I made not so long ago for a kid's story about a space hamster who gets more than a little animated when he's faced with one galaxy-sized problem:

(to find this story as an e-book on my Official Homepage 
click along some "negative"-looking spaces
on a desk top object that seems like
it could have been pulled out of an old camera...)


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