September sees two Time Warp Drive-Ins. The first, happening this Saturday at the Summer Drive-In, is the Cartoon-A-Palooza.
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We are living in a golden age of animation. Once relegated to the kiddy pool, now animation is accepted as a fully adult medium Most of the great works of animation, such as Chuck Jones 1938-62 work for Warner Brothers, was aimed at both the juvenile and adult audiences, but it was taboo for a grown up to admit they liked cartoons. Nowadays, it’s cool for old and young alike to be Pixar fans, but if you had to point at the moment when the tide turned, it would be 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Between filming Back To The Future and its two sequels, director Robert Zemeckis loosely adapted a 1981 genre mashup novel called Who Censored Roger Rabbit? The amount of negotiation it took to put so many different company’s characters in one film is staggering to contemplate. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, to cite just one example, had to have exactly the same amount of screen time. But it was worth the hassle, because Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Has held up incredibly well. Its seamless blending of animation and live action has proven to be a blueprint for how special effects movies are made in the CGI era. But most importantly, it’s just plain fun for everyone.
On the internet, Space Jam is remembered for its website, which has been online and unchanged for 19 years. It’s a family friendly marraige of live action and animation in the Roger Rabbit vein. It’s notable for being Michael Jordon’s only big screen acting role, and the highest-grossing basketball movie of all time.
Like Space Jam, Heavy Metal was also the brainchild of producer Ivan Reitman. But that’s where the similarities end. Although it came out in 1981, it can be seen as the last gasp of 70s psychedelia. And it’s definitely not made for kids. The anthology of stories adapted from the British comic magazine whose name it shares are a unique blend of sci fi, fantasy, raunch, and drug humor. It’s a little uneven, because each segment was produced by different animators, and the years have applied a layer of cheeseiness. Bit it has survived as a cult classic, and I have to admit I’ll watch it every chance I get.
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The final film of the evening is Fritz The Cat. The legendary counterculture film launched the career of Ralph Bashki, and raised the public profile of cartoonist R. Crumb, on whose work the film is based. It’s raucous and funny, and definitely of its time. One can’t help but think that the biggest reason it was so controversial was because it was ahead of its time in trying to create animation that was aimed at adults, not kids