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Terry Gilliam animation lesson
November 22, 2011 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Monty Python's Terry Gilliam explains his cutout animation technique. The technique itself doesn't really matter -- whatever works is the thing to use. And that's why I use cutout. It's the quickest and easiest form of animation that I know. (SLYT)
posted by swift (23 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite

 
My lack of god! Thank you so much for posting this!
posted by theredpen at 11:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would everyone like to agree that CGI basically ruined Terry Gilliam?
posted by griphus at 11:54 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh man, that first shot of Gilliam is completely channeling Mathesar for me.

Now I have to watch the rest of it ...
posted by maudlin at 12:02 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


griphus: "Would everyone like to agree that CGI basically ruined Terry Gilliam?"

Wut?
posted by Splunge at 12:37 PM on November 22, 2011


I'm not sure what you're linking to, Splunge.
posted by griphus at 12:38 PM on November 22, 2011


Would everyone like to agree that CGI basically ruined Terry Gilliam?

nope. wouldn't agree to that one litle bit. He's a genius in any medium.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:53 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Gilliam is so young and thin and full of energy! Thanks for the post.
posted by Gwynarra at 1:07 PM on November 22, 2011


Cool video. Thanks for posting.
posted by hot_monster at 1:14 PM on November 22, 2011


Gilliam is so young and thin and full of energy!
yea, it's great. I got to see him do a talk before the toronto opening of Tideland, and he was awesome - funny and charming. I wish I could work on one of his films. Thanks for the post!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:17 PM on November 22, 2011


What kind of camera would he have used back then?
posted by book 'em dano at 2:17 PM on November 22, 2011


Would everyone like to agree that CGI basically ruined Terry Gilliam?

I would actually like to agree with this.

The magic of so many Gilliam films is not only that there is a complete different reality being created, but that it's often ACTUALLY HAPPENING for the camera to film. Look at movies like Time Bandits, Brazil, Baron Munchausen, even The Fisher King. There is a genius happening in them where it's obvious that all these effects are practical (sometimes done with miniatures, often done with living actors), and the heightened sense of reality is part of the mystery and wonder they evoke.

I really liked Dr. Parnassus, I thought it was a wonderful movie and that they did a great job covering for the death of one of its central stars in the middle of filming. But one thing that I absolutely did NOT like about it were the CGI scenes. They felt like, well, just like any other CGI movie scene to me. Sure they had all the bizarre and great imagination of Gilliam behind them, but the weightless and "sure anything can happen, because none of this is real" nature of CGI overwhelmed whatever wonder or joy I might have experienced watching them. They lacked the sense of heightened reality, and fell flat compared to all the non-CGI sequences in the movie, which were full of what I want from a Gillian film.

I know practical effects sequences are more expensive to do, I know they're more difficult to pull off well. But dammit, they're what made Gilliam movies so special to begin with. And if he's going to resort to CGI to try to create what he would have had to do with flying rigs and outlandish sets in the past, all the evidence is that it's going to diminish what made so many of us fans of his in the first place.
posted by hippybear at 3:21 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everything I ever wanted in a SLYT. Great find!
posted by Aquaman at 4:30 PM on November 22, 2011


hippybear, your comment has got me thinking - I really liked Parnassus, and particularly loved the real world/imaginary world split, and the way that the deeper people got into the other world the more surreal it became. I wonder if that sort of completely artificial fantasy world is more compelling to some people because of their frame of reference. Because of my work, I spend a lot of time in the digital world - enough that it is real to me, it feels like it occupies a place in my world view. When a film creates an alternate reality, I have no trouble slipping into that, I can picture the space in my head, even if it was created digitally, and doesn't necessarily follow all the same physical conventions that a built set or miniature would. I imagine that this would also be true for a lot of gamers as well. This could affect how different people preceive a film like Parnassus - for me it flowed in and out of areas that my brain already accepts as real, so I continued to be swept along by the story; whereas for you, the digital world doesn't have the same weight in your head, you hit that part of the movie, and poof, there goes your suspension of disbelief, and you feel alienated from the world of the film.

this is just a theory off the top of my head, though
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:18 PM on November 22, 2011


Gilliam remarks on working with technical limitations:

The problem when you're doing cutouts is to be totally aware of the limitations of cutouts. There are definite limitations, but you can use that to an advantage. You do simple story lines.

And he proceeds to demonstrate just that. I think because of, not in spite of, the time and budgetary constraints, he was able to push the envelope artistically (pop art/collage) and in terms of content (fighting the BBC censors). Once there is more freedom and more money, the envelope gets further and further away and harder and harder to push.
posted by swift at 7:02 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


swift, that can apply to other kinds of constraints as well, not just technical ones. What Sid Sheinberg tried to do to Brazil was truly awful, yet I can't help thinking that the film Gillian ended up making as he was fighting this asshole wasn't better than the film he would have made if he'd gotten everything he wanted. From what I've read about his original ambitions for the film, it sounds like it might have been far less disciplined and effective than the one he had to struggle to make, and then to get released intact.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:46 PM on November 22, 2011


(yes, I do know how to spell Gilliam's name. Ow.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:48 PM on November 22, 2011


What Sid Sheinberg tried to do to Brazil was truly awful, yet I can't help thinking that the film Gillian ended up making as he was fighting this asshole wasn't better than the film he would have made if he'd gotten everything he wanted.

I'd like to see your sources about this. My understanding has always been that Brazil was the film Gilliam wanted to make (with the compromises and such along the way a director always has to make during production) and that all the Sid Sheinberg stuff happened completely after the fact as a re-edit of his finished product.

If you have information which shows that Sheinberg had any influence over the actual creation of the movie which was screened for preview audiences (and finally was released after a protracted battle), I'd love to see it.
posted by hippybear at 10:08 PM on November 22, 2011


hippybear, there's an amazing book on the subject, The Battle of Brazil... And I can't find my copy. It's probably in a box. You may be right, it's possible I'm conflating Sheinberg with another studio exec who constrained the production. But Gilliam had for example wanted a lot more effects sequences, and those ambitions were radically trimmed back. Maybe they would have served the film well, we can't really know now. But Munchausen has a far higher ratio of effects and fantasy sequences, and it isn't a better film than Brazil ... if it makes the slightest bit of sense to compare that apple with that orange.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:36 PM on November 22, 2011


Yeah, I think you're mistaken there. There were definitely compromises Gilliam had to make when it came to actually making the movie itself (the unfinished "eyeball scene" is amongst these), but there was no studio exec standing in the way of his making of the movie. The Battle Of Brazil is all about Sheinberg seeking to reedit the film or bury it, and Gilliam's tactics to get the film in front of audiences, win awards, and finally get the film released.
posted by hippybear at 10:43 PM on November 22, 2011


Ha, thanks. Quite enjoyed that. Always wondered a bit.
posted by converge at 4:43 AM on November 23, 2011


That was incredible. Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python have always fascinated me. His eye for detail is amazing. Thanks so much for posting!
posted by h00py at 6:43 AM on November 23, 2011


Terry, what advice have do you have for people out there who want to make film animations?

Well, Bob, DON'T. Keep well away from it, it's dangerous, nasty stuff. Could be catching and most certainly could leave some very nasty scars, especially on those kneecaps of yours.


LISTEN TO HIM. I didn't and now I don't have any knees at all.


I saw a less clean version of this earlier this year, and posted it for my birthday. I hold Terry Gilliam personally responsible for lots of what I happen to be today.

And Bob Godfrey is great.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:06 AM on November 23, 2011


Also, Terry Gilliam turned 71 just yesterday.
posted by _dario at 8:16 PM on November 23, 2011


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