Queer bouncy Larban theory balls

This week Steve got us started with bouncy balls – we tried rolling various balls down a slope and watching how the difference in weight and size affected the speed and bounciness of their fall:

Animation school: never a dull moment

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Then we tried animating it. I drew many many many circles; using my x-sheet and a surprising amount of maths to get the pacing and movement right so you could tell a ping pong bounce from a bowling ball one. It was oddly absorbing and before I knew it the day was over!

Tuesday we tried it in 3D. This was my first time ever using 3d animating software and it was a bit of a struggle. I really enjoyed being able to manouvre the scene to see it from different angles and I feel like this might be primarily what I use the software for in the future rather than animating with it. That said I did get very excited when I made a weird bendy gerkin thing:

3D animation is creepy…

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Wednesday we had a Laban movement workshop which was definitely the highlight of my week. I have known about Laban ever since I can remember because my grandmother, Rene Sakula, studied under him and he is her absolute hero. She has been a dancer all her life and after the Second World War she went to Belsen Concentration Camp as part of the relief effort and taught dance classes in the Rundhaus building that had once been the headquarters of the SS officers. She describes these classes in an interview for the Laban Guild (Autumn 1992 Vol. 11 No. 3):

“It was a palacial building and the groups I taught from the camps were able to overcome their feelings about the purpose for which the Rundhaus had been used by almost recreating themselves. Surprisingly they did not dwell on and explore their seemingly hopeless experiences of the past, but presented images of a more hopeful future. Some of them lived to fullfil their dreams, others did not.”

But this is by the by. Back in the movement workshop Lydia Baksh got us moving through games, in which we sometimes used each others bodies as puppets and sometimes moved in conversation with each other. She taught us about Laban’s “palette” of movement – how different types of motion create different feels, actions and characters.


The other fun thing I did this week was get deep into some queer theory in preparation for my presentation next week. One of the essays I read was Judith Halberstam’s Animating Revolt and Revolting Animation  from  The Queer Art of Failure. Halberstam examines a series of children’s animations from Chicken Run to Monsters Inc in order to answer the question: “how do revolutionary themes in animated film connect to queer notions of self?”

Halberstam first looks at representations of utopia in Chicken Run and Toy Story. In both these films, characters seek to eschew the capitalist industrial complex – represented by the battery chicken farm or the massive anonymous corporate toy store – and find a collaborative way of living in which diversity of character and ability is celebrated and where one can take pleasure in the control of one’s own labour. What Halberstam calls:

“Intricate stories of collective action, anticapitalist critique, group bonding, and alternative imaginings of community, space, embodiment and responsibility.”

Then the author moves on to looking at relationships between humans and non humans in these films. They show us how these relationships open us up to different ways of living and thus queers our perception. For example in Monsters Inc the bond between Sully and boo “is queer in its reorganisation  of family and affinity and in the way it interrupts disrupts more conventional romantic bonds in the film.”

Another moment of queerness comes in Robots – where a robot couple has a child delivered and proceeds to put it together from a box. Finally the father says “we did want a boy didn’t we?” and sticks on the phallus, emphasising the interchangeability of gender.

The labour of producing the baby is queer in that it is shared and improvised, of culture rather than nature, an act of construction rather than reproduction.

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