Last week, thanks to Josh Diamond, I saw this fantastic video, called Space Stallions on YouTube:
What’s so great about it is that it feels authentic from a storytelling perspective – at least within the aesthetic of 80’s cartoons. Visually, the characters were a little to obviously 3D with toon shading, but outside that, it was dead on. You could easily have seen this show any day of the week, along side He-Man and the Master of the Universe, Voltron, Mask, or SilverHawks.
The point is, (Other than the 3D stuff) it didn’t feel like a parody. It felt like the real deal. But why? What’s the line between authentic imitation and absurd parody?
I think the answer is love and understanding. I am not trying to get all touchy feelly here. I’m not saying you have to have better relationships with your fellow man to make a good cartoon.
I mean that when you are trying to create something in a particular style, you have to have a love for that genre and an understanding of what made it what it was, if you ever want to re-create it in a way that doesn’t scream parody.
When Seth Worley and I were interviewed about making Plot Device, we were asked about having made fun of the various film genres. But the truth is this: We were absolutely not making fun of anything. We took our favorite ideas and moments from the films we love and we placed someone normal into them. What made the situations funny was not that we exaggerated the way in which these genres were portrayed – In fact Seth took great effort to deliver these scenarios exactly the way they have been served up before now – filming techniques, acting styles…etc.
What made the film funny was seeing the genres viewed through the eyes of the normal guy experiencing the abnormal. He allows us to step back and look at the genre with new eyes. If we had gone over the top, it would not have been funny because it would be about cheep jokes, and not about the truth. Instead, through Ben, our lead character, we get to look at how funny and formulaic genre films can be, especially when someone doesn’t want to play along.
In the same way, what makes the above video so funny is that we’re looking at something from a different era through they eyes of today. Space Stallions is totally true to itself and dead on for the period it represents (don’t believe me, watch THIS). We’re not laughing at it – we’re laughing at ourselves and the entire genre. I took that stuff so seriously as a kid – at that age it felt so serious and dire at every turn. More importantly, every show seemed different, but, in hindsight, was totally the same – and looking at it today, it’s hilarious.