Thursday, September 29, 2005

Corpse Bride

—1. Overview (multimedia)
—2. Overview Basic (dial up speed)
—3. Reviews and Blogs
—4. Cast and Crew
—5. Photo Pages
—6. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—7. Posters
—8. Production Notes (pdf)
—9. Spiritual Connections


CORPSE BRIDEThe most mysterious and top secret project in the animation community has finally arrived after many years….so was it worth the wait? For fans of Tim Burton, most likely a resounding YES. For animation fans, especially the stop-motion lovers, assuredly a resounding YES. For everyone else? We’ll have to see. The box office is certainly promising. The audience for this film is a little bit ambiguous…it’s too grotesque for young children, a perfect date movie for teenagers, too strange for most average adults and ultimately made for animators.

For myself, both an animator and Tim Burton fan, I can say that I had a smile on my face the whole time, and can see myself watching it again, buying the DVD, the whole thing. The only reservation I would have is that it’s for the design, the animation, and especially a few specific sequences that this would be the case, but not necessarily because I found it moving or that I got very involved with the characters, because I felt their development was lacking. It’s absolutely stunning to watch…the character designs are phenomenal and hilarious, and the look of the film just oozes Burton out of its very sprockets. The jokes are actually funny….even the corny ones are clever. The scenes of the Corpse Bride rising from the grave, and the wonderful piano duet are, from a filmmaking perspective, moments that you remember as ‘classic’ sequences up there with the best of them. The masterful work raises the art form to a whole new level. But compared to Nightmare Before Christmas, the only other Burton feature project of its kind, I missed the brilliant and understandable lyrics, and the passion of Jack Skellington and Sally. Perhaps the technique got too overwhelming for the heart to completely shine through.

01.jpg (57 K)I suppose the most perplexing character was Victor, voiced by Johnny Depp. As brilliant as Victor was to watch, I almost missed watching Depp himself. It’s hard to empathize completely with a character who is so confused about what he wants out of life. This is probably why so many early-90s Disney films start with the main character crooning about how alone they are and how they want to be “out there” or “part of your world.” Why else would we bother going to the movies if we didn’t feel the same way? With Victor, he changes his mind so much you never really know where his heart is. First he’s afraid of marriage to his arranged spouse Victoria, then finds solace in music, then falls in love with Victoria, then continues to be afraid of marriage again, then is disgusted by the Corpse Bride, but becomes entranced with her once he finds out that Victoria is no longer available, so he marries her and right afterwards it becomes null and void, as does Victoria’s marriage to Lord Barkis. Sounds so typically HOLLYWOOD! In the wake of seeing this film, I heard that Renee Zellwegger and her husband of 5 months are calling it quits, and Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore are supposedly married, which we all know is nothing more than a publicity stunt. (Have you ever seen these two even LOOK at each other?) Even family-movie-man Eddie Murphy is getting divorced, which I found disappointing. Tim Burton himself is no stranger to the game of musical relationships (his first marriage ended in divorce, his sequential engagement was broken off, and he is newly married, strangely enough, to Helena Bonham Carter, voice of the Corpse Bride herself). Corpse Bride plays with our magical wish-fulfillment of being able to go back and forth in our decisions regarding our relationships, and even between life and death.

03.jpg (114 K)Perhaps there are more people who can relate with Victor after all. Behind the beauty of Corpse Bride is also a commentary about how confused the world is about marriage. Is it something that is expected of us, as it is expected of Victor and Victoria, as simply a business arrangement? Is it something we can willfully turn off and on like a light switch? Can we change the rules? Why not two women? Two men? A man and two women? The living and the dead? What has been largely forgotten is that marriage is not something we invented, but something God invented…it’s his idea. So is sex! So is the world. So are we. Unfortunately, we’ve screwed all of these things up. We’ve treated ourselves, the earth, marriage and sex as something we can re-define and twist around to our own liking, something we can treat like a casual toy. I wish I knew why most Hollywood marriages don’t last…it saddens me to no end. I can certainly sympathize; being married myself I know it’s not easy all the time. What I cannot understand is how people can treat it so casually. I could never imagine taking everything I have invested in my relationship with my wife, all the work that went into our wedding, the people who helped make it happen, in addition to the love we share, and just throwing it away. But on top of all this, the other reason we can’t imagine ending it is because we both see marriage as a sacred thing, a once-in-a-lifetime commitment to only be parted by death, and a responsibility to God, who is at the center of everything, and is the One ultimately betrayed if we ended it.

16.jpg (139 K)So if Corpse Bride serves as a metaphor for society’s confusion about marriage, going back and forth in our decisions and emotions, it seems a surreal paradox that it’s made through the medium of stop-motion animation. Having worked in the technique myself, I see it very much as a metaphor for life, and our relationship to our Creator.

In some instances, a stop-motion puppet is made of clay, just as we are.
Genesis 2:7…the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground.

The puppet is placed onto a stage.
Genesis 2:15…The LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden.

The animator moves the puppet, takes a frame of film, moves it again, takes another frame of film, and repeats the process 24 times per second to the end. When playing the film back, the puppet appears to have a life of its own, given by the mind and hand of the animator.
Genesis 2:7…and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

enlargeAn entire day of animating this way only results in a few seconds of screen time. So there exists a gap between our time in reality and the time of the reality we see on screen. In a matter of seconds, hours of decision-making and planning by the animator flash before our eyes. The animator does not exist in the same time dimension as the puppet, but exists outside of it, controlling it and causing it to exist in the first place.

Such is the case with God and our time, as C.S. Lewis explains in Mere Christianity: “If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn. We come to parts of the line one by one: we have to leave A behind before we get to B, and cannot reach C until we leave B behind. God, from above or outside or all round, contains the whole line, and sees it all.”
In stop-motion animation, each 24th of a second of time moves from one to the next, A to B to C.

With other forms of animation, mainly 2D hand-drawn or 3D computer-generated, the main poses or stages of the intended action are typically drawn or positioned first, at times out of order. So in 2D animation, A and F could possibly be two main positions (key frames) of the action, and frames B,C,D and E can be drawn in later to complete the movement between them (in-betweens). With 3D animation, the computer can automatically create the in-between frames by simply moving the character from one selected key position to the next.

This is why I like to see stop-motion animation as a metaphor for life, in that it can only be executed straight ahead. You can’t create your key frames and then go back to fill in your in-betweens; you can only go from each sequential frame to the next, A,B, C, D and so on, and only at the end when you see the whole sequence play back do you know if you got it right or not. There is no turning back…it’s a one-time performance and what you see is what you get. Returning to the original subject of marriage, this is how God intends it as part of this one-shot deal called life. It’s a journey taken one frame at a time until death do us part.

—1. Overview (multimedia)
—2. Overview Basic (dial up speed)
—3. Reviews and Blogs
—4. Cast and Crew
—5. Photo Pages
—6. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—7. Posters
—8. Production Notes (pdf)
—9. Spiritual Connections