I’m genuinely curious as to why Criterion has such a poor track record with animation, especially since Image Entertainment, Kino and Zeitgeist have each released several excellent animated DVDs, as have overseas counterparts like the BFI, Masters of Cinema, Chalet Films, PWA and several Japanese labels.
It’s particularly odd given that you’d have thought that Criterion of all labels would have been first off the blocks to champion the notion of animation as a serious art form – and God knows there are dozens of great animators who have yet to receive their proper due on DVD anywhere. Granted, decent animation compilations can be expensive and logistically demanding (I speak from some experience here, having produced two of the BFI’s releases and I’m developing two more in a similar vein), but that’s never stopped Criterion in the past.
So is it a general corporate aversion to the medium, or simply that they’ve never got round to it?
I wouldn’t mind seeing an official release of Heaven and Earth Magic…
Animation still has a long way to go, I think, for it to really be treated seriously. The general consensus seems to be that stop-motion is ok, but everything else seems to be met with indifference or dismissal. It’s a real shame.
I don’t know where you got that consensus, but animation seems to have surpassed live-action film in terms of creativity and innovation. Fear(s) of the Dark is a great example of modern animation and it showcases various styles in a unique anthology, something that shows the experimentalism of talented modern animators. To say that animation has “a long way to go” suggests that live-action film has even further to go since live-action has reached a bit of a stalemate. I would love to see animation released by CC, but the problem is that since CC is a for-profit company they wouldn’t find much to release that would be lucrative outside of some more popular titles like Miyazaki’s films. However, I’m not dismissing such a chance at an animated release, but with the way it has been going such a release seems less and less likely. I suppose Brakhage would count as some type of animation, definitely not in the traditional sense, but it might be the closest we’ll get.
I stick to my previous comment. As far as I know, Heaven and Earth Magic hasn’t had a proper release, and it’s even getting hard to find an original copy (with the original score) on the gray market.
As far as others go, I think Criterion would do well from a profit standpoint if they released some of Svankmajer’s films. Have you seen how much copies of “Scenes from the Surreal” go for on Amazon?
And another thing that people seem to forget is that Criterion released a 3 LD set of Akira. They’re not foreign to animation, they’ve just steered clear of it for the past decade.
Another film that I think would be nice is Belladonna of Sadness, yet another Japanese animation.
No, totally, I’d definitely say that’s true about animation being the most innovative right now. I’m just sort of lamenting the fact that animation doesn’t seem as esteemed as other types of movies.
“To say that animation has “a long way to go” suggests that live-action film has even further to go since live-action has reached a bit of a stalemate. "
“I think Criterion would do well from a profit standpoint if they released some of Svankmajer’s films.”
No need – you can already get a complete survey of Svankmajer’s output on DVD if you buy ALICE (First Run Features), FAUST, CONSPIRATORS OF PLEASURE (both Kino), LITTLE OTIK and LUNACY (both Zeitgeist) and import the BFI shorts compilation (better than Kino’s as it has superior transfers, three more films, an alternative version of THE OSSUARY and a whole disc of extras).
I’m not sure about other animated films, but I know with a lot of the anime—and also some of the other subegenres—out there, Criterion can’t distribute it because other companies have already claimed it- i.e., Studio Ghibli and Disney. I agree with you, though.
Oh yes, of course things like Studio Ghibli, Soyuzmultfilm, Disney and Warner (who currently represent the bulk of the MGM animation catalogue, thus effectively owning virtually everything Tex Avery ever did) are off limits – but there’s still a hell of a lot out there made outside the US, Russian and Japanese mainstream.
Certainly, the BFI seemed to have little problem picking up substantial chunks of the back catalogues of Svankmajer, the Quay Brothers and Lotte Reiniger, and Reiniger’s stuff is presumably still up for grabs to any US distributor who’s adventurous enough to tackle it.
Criterion should release animation. Not just because there are brilliant animated films but mainly because so many of them are foreign and in need of larger appreciation. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s one of Criterion’s main goals to provide releases of film that otherwise may go unnoticed.
HEY! LISTEN UP! Harry Smith is available on DVD at http://www.harrysmitharchives.com/index.html. I have Heaven & Earth Magic and Harry Smith Vol 1. Not inexpensive, HAEM $50 DVD, and the production is pretty basic, but if you love HS, I do, here it is.
ALSO: Belson, Fischinger, and others at http://www.centerforvisualmusic.org/
And don’t forget the readily available Norman McLaren compilation.
Rights (and also existence) are a big problem with a lot of this stuff. There are things I saw in the 1960s I never expect to see again.
good watching, Wally
Rights (and also existence) are a big problem with a lot of this stuff.
This is certainly true. As I said in another thread, it took three-and-a-half years to bring the BFI’s Jan Svankmajer: The Complete Short FIlms to fruition, from initial meeting to final release, and most of that was spent tracking down rightsholders and materials (a dozen rightsholders in six countries, I think) and working out who got what.
And we nearly didn’t make it: the final film was only contractually slotted into place in late March 2007 after some tortuous music rights negotiation, just over two months before the final product was due on the shelves. I’m so glad we did, though, as it would have been truly galling not to be able to put the word ‘Complete’ on the cover – especially as Kino/KimStim’s Svankmajer survey ended up falling three films short.
As for films no longer existing, this is bedevilling my current project – it’s in a very similar vein, compiling work by one of the cinema’s great animators, but the final edition (if it gets that far) won’t be complete because some of his very early work seems to have vanished without trace. We’ve followed up loads of leads, and have rummaged through various archives, but have drawn a complete blank.
(Sorry I can’t identify the animator yet, but contracts need signing!)
Wally- Thank you. I’ll be saving up my pennies!!!