Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Spooky Recap of the Creepy CRL
The Cartoon Research Lab started with a senseless death. In the clumsy morning hours before the lab, in a fit of unrested scrubbing, I broke the beloved and essential coffee cambro, which had survived so much before.
This incident heightened the level of psychic violence behind my eyes. My brain was squatted by a rolling boil of metal splinters, sawdust, and fog that could not part.
Arguably, this was the perfect state in which to experience the SPOOKY EDITION of the CRL!
And the disorientation didn't stop there!
After allowing eager viewers to pile their little paper plates with quiche and partake of the English muffin Face Buffet (viewable on instagram, #cartoonreasearchlab), John Flannelly led us through the first section of our morning's media. His subject was Stupid Idiots Getting Hurt and Covered In Garbage, and it was impressively researched. It began with "Die Fly Die," a Beavis and Butthead short that defined the genre. In an unexpectedly fitting turn of events, this video was only available ripped to youtube on its side; Beavis and Butthead seemed to walk up the wall, tumbling over each other and landing upright as they pursued a fly with blunt objects and toxins, inflicting worlds of harm on one another.
As they wake in a noxious haze, covered in trash, we viewers were plunged headlong into their unbalanced garbagescape. Conceptual stuff!
Flannelly moved on to Pingu, an ambiguously Nordic claymation series starring a baby penguin. In this selection, Pingu refuses to eat a bowl of green slop garnished with a fish skeleton that his parent has prepared. Shocked by her child's obstinance, Pingu is forced to stay at the table til his soup is gone. Antics ensue as Pingu attempts to discretely dispose of his unwanted soup, which gets smellier with the passage of time.
Flannelly's final selection was a midcentury safety animation for the US Navy, warning of looming dangers at home and at sea. It stars an anthropomorphized loudspeaker box who watches in terror as sailor after sailor passes away at the fate of thoughtless acts, ranging from smoking while pouring gasoline to being crushed by falling rigging, before turning into ghosts and going to heaven.
After a break for cigs and swigs--and social media!--I "fired up" The Devil and Daniel Mouse, a 1979 animated special made by Nelvana, the off-kilter Canadaian parallel to Disney. It is a classic cautionary tale about a provincial mouse musician in a wimpy folk duo selling her soul to be a rock star.
Lagging momentum in the third act is largely eclipsed by lots of funky character design including a pervy pink devil in ruffles (B. L. Zebub) and a band with a leatherclad new wave bunny and beaver with a big Afro who plays drums with his tail.
While neither my most academic offering for CRL, nor my spookiest, I believe the subversive power of pleasure is aligned with the pagan undertones of All Hallow's Eve.
Cool genius Lisa Berlin made her CRL debut with a thoughtfully curated set inning on psychological horror--the monsters of the mind--the call coming from inside the house! She showed Salad Fingers episode 8, a selection rendered eerier with added historical context. Berlin noted the references to British WWII child refugees throughout the series, which amplified the bombed out look of Salad Fingers' lonely house and made the static on his transistor full of beans a little grimmer. This was followed by a brief clip from Adventure Time starring the Lemongrabs, a dysfunctional pair of playmates whose violent clash for control over the fate of their doll hit a little close to home.
She rounded this out with a weird Disney short, 1945's "Duck Pimples," wherein Donald is rattled by vivid tableaux of the violent stories he reads. I liked it when a gangster moll climbed into the back of a big tough guy's jacket to make a phone call.
Bethy Squires and Colin Jenkins co-hosted the last portion of our programming with a set called "Don't Think About It," unified by images they found disturbing as children. We watched Nickelodeon's Doug get trapped in a haunted house ride with a troubling glass floor, and we watched Homer Simpson interact with the brittle remains of his neighbors in a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror parody called the Homega Man. Squires explained the theory of abjection as it related to her childhood visit to Disney World. Then Jenkins led us through some bizarre Disney Halloween wraparounds starring comedic improvisation legend John Winters as an incompetent night watchman AND pumpkin head in a crystal ball. He concluded with a Disney short where Pluto is on trial in hell for the crime of chasing cats. This cartoon featured the day's second jury of the damned, this one consisting of an impartial assembly of a dozen black cats.
A call to creatures of the night!!
Still not able to make it to daytime screenings of the CRL?
The Cartoon Research Lab will make a rare late-night appearance at General Public Collective on Thursday, November 5 to accompany 16MM screenings by 3Ton Cinema on tour from everywhere!
see you there!!!!