Monday, 26 April 2010

Party political propaganda: 1931 and now

The Right Spirit is a propaganda film released in 1931, in the middle of the lengthy scuffle between Labour's Ramsay MacDonald and the Conservative Stanley Baldwin. Produced by the Conservative & Unionist Films Association, the short is very much on the side of Baldwin.

The protagonist of the film is John Bull, a personification of Britain, who takes his car to a seedy garage run by MacDonald. His car is wrecked as a result and he takes his business to Liberal leader David Lloyd George, who proves to be equally incompetent. Finally, John Bull arrives at Baldwin's garage, and his car is filled with the right spirit.

The film is discussed on the BFI's Screenonline site, which compares it with a 1929 film entitled The Socialist Car of State. 1931 also saw the release of Red Tape Farm, an anti-Labour cartoon put out by the Conservative Central Office; this and The Right Spirit are the only 1931 films listed in Denis Gifford's British animation filmography.

The Right Spirit comes across as very old-fashioned, even for a 1931 film. It's a silent film, for one thing; sound films had become firmly entrenched in America by this time, but took longer to take root in other parts of the world. It also begins with the live-action hand of the cartoonist setting the scene - a technique associated with early novelty films such as Humorous Phases of Funny Faces and Little Nemo.

Apologies for the dubious quality of these stills; this is the only print of the film that I have access to.

Animated party political films are still used in Britain. Here are two animated election broadcasts endorsing the Green Party, one for the 2008 local elections and one for the 2010 general election. The 2008 film was animated by Shroom Studio - I can't find details on who made the second one.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Early Shynola videos

Shynola in 2000: Chris Harding, Gideon Baws, Richard Kenworthy and Jason Groves. Gideon Baws sadly died in 2008, aged 33.

A collective formed by four animators who met each other at art school, Shynola are best known for their music videos, although they have also worked in adverts and film graphics (they provided animation for the 2005 version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). Their name, incidentally, comes from the expression "don't know shit from Shinola" - an American variation of "don't know your arse from your elbow", Shinola being a now-defunct brand of shoe polish.

Early on in their career Shynola were profiled in a 2000 episode of the Channel 4 series Mirrorball, from which most of the information in this post is taken.

After reading about the musical outfit UNKLE in a magazine, the animators wrote to band member James Lavelle offering to lend their talents. Lavelle responded by putting them in charge of the music video for the track Blazing Guns; I'm unable to find the year in which the video was released, but the song appeared on the 1998 album Psyence Fiction.

Following Blazing Guns, Lavelle's record label Mo' Wax entrusted Shynola with another music video, this time for Quannum's I Changed my Mind. The video was released in 2000.

Also in 2000 Shynola provided a video for Grooverider's On the Double. "The Grooverider project was really fulfilling all our sixteen year old dreams of robots and explosions and bang and boom", said Shynola. "We wanted to make it really over the top; we wanted to make it so that young boys would love it, you know, and big kids like us would love it."

Another of Shynola's projects from 2000 was the video for Morgan's Flying High - a total change of pace from the Grooverider promo.