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Fred Seibert's Blog

Dreams and cartoons?

January 17th, 2011

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I’m going out on a limb here,  trying to make a connection between the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr’s solemn “I have a dream!” speech, and our art of creating cartoons, but I mean no disrespect. Just the opposite, it’s about my great admiration for MLK’s imagination and its place in the long creative traditions of oral and cultural history.

There’s a fantastic radio piece from NPR’s On The Media, “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Public Imagination,” yesterday about the development of this famous speech. It doesn’t come right out and connect all the dots, but in my listening it tells the story of how the speech was essentially improvised from his well prepared outline, and then he scats it, mashing up using his long observance of black preaching customs. A lot like great black music over the last century, from the blues right up through hip hop, he sampled a variety of sources, including some from a speech by a direct opponent of his principles, spinning it to his own glorious ends.

Why am I citing this piece on a cartoon blog? Simply, maybe tritely, listening to this report reminded me of why I like the classic cartoon creation method. That it, the “writing” of toons directly on storyboards, often from a written outline.Watching a team knock together a great film this way is an inspiring experience. Unfortunately, it’s one I seldom see, given the prejudice towards script writing. To each his/her own, but I love the results from this kind of animated remix. Am I pushing the analogy too much? Maybe. However, when I see what happens on Adventure Time, for instance (not to hype, or ignore others; just my most recent direct board experience), seeing how 100 years of cartoons, movies, music, and videogames come together into the stew… Well, I can only say it’s amazing to behold.

There’s more in the radio piece, of course. Be happy I won’t go into what it says (to my ears, once again) about the limits of current, egregious, abuse of the concept of copyright. But, if you can, open your own ears to what it says about creative process. It’s amazing how we all do what we do, and where it comes from.

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