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A long-lost version of The Hobbit by animation legend Gene Deitch has resurfaced online in the past few days. Why did Gene produce this 12-minute “animatic” version instead of the feature-length version he’d originally planned with Jiří Trnka? Why did he have just one month to produce it? Why has nobody ever seen it? The crazy circumstances that led to the production are revealed in this piece that Gene wrote on his website. In short, the film was a financial ploy by Deitch’s producer William L. Snyder to earn himself a nice chunk of change. Deitch writes:

The Tolkien estate had now been offered a fabulous sum for the rights, and [William] Snyder’s rights would expire in one month. They were already rubbing their hands together. But Snyder played his ace: to fulfill just the letter of the contract – to deliver a “full-color film” of THE HOBBIT by June 30th. All he had to do was to order me to destroy my own screenplay – all my previous year’s work, and hoke up a super-condensed scenario on the order of a movie preview, (but still tell the entire basic story from beginning to end), and all within 12 minutes running time – one 35mm reel of film. Cheap. I had to get the artwork done, record voice and music, shoot it, edit it, and get it to a New York projection room on or before June 30th, 1966! I should have told him to shove it, but I was basically his slave at the time. It suddenly became an insane challenge.

The rest of the story can be read on Gene’s website. And just for the record, the delightful illustrations in the film were created by Czech illustrator Adolf Born.

(Thanks, Stephen Persing, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook page)

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The raven sends a warning: Many spoilers follow for A Song of Ice and Fire, but none for A Dance With Dragons.
——

At its heart, George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice And Fire — the inspiration for HBO’s excellent Game of Thrones — is a war story. Armies clash endlessly on Westeros, Martin’s continent of Seven Kingdoms. Legions of fans await the battles in Book Five, A Dance With Dragons, published on Tuesday.

The military strategy behind the gambits for the Iron Throne, though, is often MIA. Sure, you can marvel at cool swords named Ice or Oathkeeper, and read elegant descriptions of the destriers beneath their knights’ saddles. But it’s easier to understand which warriors will win in a duel than why Westerosi generals succeed or fail.

So the ASOIAF obsessives at Danger Room present the seven (natch) military lessons of Westeros. (Seriously, read no further if you’re not past “Game of Thrones.”) To understand who will win the Game of Thrones — and who will die — we need to identify what makes a great Westerosi commander. Spoiler: It has a lot in common with what makes a great commander back here in this boring, dragon-less world. Call the banners.

Secure Your Retreat.

Jaime reliably informs us that the deceased Prince Rhaegar Targaryen was a kick-ass knight. But he demonstrates how good soldiers can make bad generals. Rhaegar’s death at the Trident is an unforced error.

Check out the map of the Trident at Tower of the Hand.

Rhaegar marches north up the Kingsroad from King’s Landing to meet the rebel Robert Baratheon at the Trident, fingers of land sliced by rivers. But even though Rhae-Rhae has a clear path of retreat behind him, he either lets Robert’s forces flank him or he decides — with a dynasty on his shoulders! — to make a final stand. Either mistake is inexplicable.

But in Westeros, retreat is often a necessity. Ask Tywin Lannister or Stannis Baratheon. Maybe the Targaryen dynasty was doomed. But Rhaegar’s incompetence ensured it.

Lesson: Always retreat when you’re outmatched.

Robert Baratheon, Coalition-Builder.

As king, Robert is a drunken lout. Guys like that don’t tend to win wars. But while Martin emphasizes Robert’s inability to rule, hiding in plain sight is the reason he had a chance: Robert picks his allies well.

Look at the forces Robert aligned against the Targaryens when the rebellion gets underway: his main dude Ned Stark from the North. His mentor Jon Arryn and the knights of the Vale. His own Storm’s End crew, including his intense brother Stannis. To the center-west, the riverlands of House Tully. Before the war starts, House Targaryen loses everything but the south. Robert sews the whole deal up with the Lannisters by marrying Cersei, which ultimately doesn’t work out for him. But that’s how you set up a dynasty.

Lesson: Coalition warfare works.

Dragons: Westerosi Drones.

When you hear about new dragons, do whatever it takes to get them under your power. Euron “Crow’s Eye” Greyjoy, the psycho pirate, promises the Iron Islands he’ll use a magic horn to wrest control of Rhaegal, Drogon and Viserion from their mommy, Danerys Targaryen. As an insurance policy, he sends his brother Victarion to find Dany and form a (sexual) alliance between the dragon and the kraken.

Smart gamble. No one’s had any close air support since the last Targaryen dragons died, and it was the dragons that turned Aegon Targaryen into the Conqueror of Westeros. If either the horn or Viserion fail, Euron’s toast, but the weak Ironborn have no better option.

Lesson: Audacity in pursuing gamechanging military tech is no vice.

Doran Martell’s Strategic Patience.

Everyone dismisses gouty Prince Doran as a weakling. But no one wins more than Doran. He knows that there aren’t enough Dornishmen for a war with the Lannisters — who murdered his sister, niece and nephew — and if they fight, they’ll lose the awe of being an unconquered kingdom, the source of their deterrent. So while his brother the Red Viper dies in a vendetta, Doran locks up his bellicose nieces and thwarts his daughter’s reckless plan for war.

But Doran’s not backing down — he’s just not fighting the Lannisters until his son Quentyn hooks up with Danerys and her dragons. The Dornish are like the Iraqi Kurds of Westeros, ready for revenge once they sew up their big patron.

Lesson: Only an idiot launches a premature attack.

Thrones Aren’t Won By Navies.

The Navy vets here just spit out their coffee. In Westeros, though, woe to the sailors. Danerys becomes “Stormborn” when the storm accompanying her birth destroys the Targaryen fleet before it can cross the Narrow Sea. The Ironborn? Stannis out-admirals them and Robert proves they can’t fight on land once he lands on Pyke. Years later, Stannis sails through Blackwater Bay with a powerful navy — soon to be a flaming wreck thanks to a concealed chain Tyrion Lannister runs through the mouth of the bay, followed by a bath of wildfire.

Lesson: Ain’t nothing in the sea but the Drowned God.

Clear, Hold, Build.

Robb Stark is the Tommy Franks of Westeros. His army of Northmen feint and maneuver down the neck and into the riverlands, winning every single battle against the Lannisters. And then he loses everything. Why? Because he doesn’t ever consolidate his victories. The empty North is an easy target for the Ironborn. Robb’s honor leads him to break his alliance with the untrustworthy Walder Frey, which is his ruin. He can’t control his mother, who frees his main bargaining chip, Jaime. Robb’s death at the Red Wedding is the ultimate counterinsurgency parable.

Lesson: If you don’t hold territory and pair your military strategy with your political one, you lose.

Outside of Westeros, Anything Goes.

North of the Wall, only magic obsidian beats the White Walkers. Across the Narrow Sea, Danerys uses saboteurs and battering rams to win Mereen, a repudiation of dumb-ass Viserys’ belief that Dothraki horselords should act like Westerosi cavalry. This ain’t Westeros, so how will Westerosi commanders deal with the coming ice and fire? (Get it?)

We may learn in ”A Dance With Dragons,” which mostly takes place outside Westeros. But when in doubt, stick ‘em with the pointy end.

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It's Dwarves Vs. Heights in the ultimate crossover battle!

What makes Matul Remrit the Dwarf Fortress diary you should be reading? So many things. The fact that it’s a collaboration between a writer, editor, artist and musician. The bleak and deeply weird tone of it that could not be more true to the game (as opposed to Tim Denee’s stuff, which makes the game comparatively accessible). The glimmering quality of it.

I meant to post about it forever ago and evidently forgot, but I’ve just been jolted into action by their posting an update containing a 36,000 pixel tall comic depicting the fortress’ most epic battle yet. All that bizarre, abstract text? That’s taken from the game’s combat logs. Go read. And then use the links to the left of it to jump back to the beginning. This one’s worth your time.

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Trailers this week include the re-release of classic black and white Ice Cold in Alex, Dominic Cooper and Ludivine Sagnier in The Devil's Double, more cult movie making from Norway with Troll Hunter, and another rerelease from Park Circus with a newly cleaned up West Side Story. Enjoy!

Ice Cold in Alex - Released 17th June
Directed by J.Lee Thompson

The Devil's Double Released 12th August
Directed by Lee Tamahori

Troll Hunter - Released 9th September
Directed by Andre Ovredal

West Side Story - Released 12th September
Directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise


Previous Trailer Tuesdays.

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Trailers this week include Mel Gibson in Jodie Foster’s Beaver (that’s The Beaver) which also stars bright young things Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence, another classic in the making from Soda Pictures with The First Grader, Congolese gangster flick Viva Riva and the Arnie-less remake of Conan The Barbarian. Enjoy!

The Beaver - Released 17th June
Directed by Jodie Foster

The First Grader Released 24th June
Directed by Justin Chadwick

Viva Riva - Released 24th June
Directed by Djo Munga

Conan The Barbarian - Released 26th August
Directed by Marcus Nispel


Previous Trailer Tuesdays.

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Anton Hammerl, a 41-year-old South African photographer who has been missing in Libya more than a month, was killed in early April.

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