Bechdel test for animation

from the "Dykes to Watch Out For" series, Alison Bechdel
It may have been invented as a joke, as well as a comment on contemporary cinema, but the Bechdel test is now a respectable metric of film industry's consistent tendency to default to the male. Briefly, the test - if you don't know it - asks Does the film have at least two women, do they communicate with each other, about something other than a man. It's a small test, and there are other things we could compare female vs male characters - number of speaking (or main) characters, % of screen time, % of dialogue, how well developed and visually differentiated are the characters. Big mainstream animations seem to be following the live action pattern - with some exceptions - of creating characters which are only female if their gender is a key issue. Ho Hum.

People are beginning to notice, to research it, and to publish their analyses, which is good... e.g. www.washingtonpost.com/. But meanwhile, I'm going to do an inventory of male and female roles in my own animations, and apply some of these tests

so, a quick survey of past animations: for comparison
Films with male protagonists 13
Films with female protagonists16
Protagonists with no (apparent) gender3
Films with NO women in8
Films with NO men in10
Total main characters (female)29
Total main characters (male)29
Films that wouldn't pass the bechdel test? if you discount those which have only one character or only characters without identifiable gender15
Films that would pass the bechdel test5
seems there is still work to be done then!



plus they have cracking sheds in Swaledale
(field barns actually, in Gunnerside)
so Henry Miller said that to paint is to love. and  I have just spent two days walking in Swaledale, loving the scenery, the wind, the sound of the sheep calling to the lambs, the extraordinary variation between the desolate, charred moors and the intimacy of tiny becks, with wood anemones under ancient moss-shaggy trees...

but I wouldn't want to paint it (too hard to attempt any improvement on nature? Lots of painters do, and some manage to put the love, the passion, the pride and a sense of enormity into it. I do take photographs...)

and I definitely wouldn't want to animate it (no story?). But this scenery is full of stories! The story of stones, of sheep, of communities...the timelapse story of the life of the land, mountains shrugging human endeavour off their backs and flower meadows washing over the greenfields and away again like waves on the sea...but unfortunately, as much as I love these places,I am doomed to make ludicrous animations of talking sheds and flying grannies. I love them even more.


animation will save the world

The infamous Dr Calamari  - a known squid - is unmasked
And if anyone else had suggested drawing a squid  trying
 to get out of a giant spider suit I would snort in derision
OH! yes, of course life would be easier if I made live action movies. I wouldn't have to knit every frame...
which is why I feel animation has to have something live action doesn't - mermaids, old ladies who can fly, spherical people... (hm. Splash/ Mary Poppins/ Monty Python)
It's not just that doing those things in live action would be expensive, tricky, involve expensive post-production and or stunt players.... Its not just that I like drawing, and prefer both the process and the end product of gesture, painting, splodgyness to those of photography...and not just that I prefer to work alone in what colleagues refer to as my splendid fortress of solitude, author - auteur if you must - of my own stories and characters...
It's more to do with the difference between a recording of reality (however artificially constructed) and the depiction of a dream (however lifelike). Building a dam to stop our imaginations running away down the valley of GrownUp...and eventually running dry.


...but is it art?

Malcolm ponders the nature of art & animation
Just visited my local art gallery (Biscuit Factory, Newcastle), and reflecting on animation as an art practice...(when I was studying Foundation and making choices, they didn't really have animation degrees) Interesting to see where Universities now place this study; within computing, design/illustration, journalism (?) and in Film Schools. Certainly animation covers a wide area, including storytelling/ narrative, drawing/ illustration, movement, sound, technology, communication/design. But so does Fine Art...and artist's film is well recognised as a genre/ even a section in film festival submissions... But what I'm wondering is why do there seem to be so few fine artists working in animation? (aside from the equipment, the time - which usually suggests teamwork, the difficulty of getting it shown, the lack of commercial saleability, the industry system, the un-fashionable-ness of narrative in fine art...hmm)