Documentaries on geek culture

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the greenman

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Jul 24, 2006
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#1
I'm a huge aficionado on documentaries in general. I've been watching stuff since Behind the Music. I'm also hooked on TV One's Unsung on the same subject matter. I plan on watching "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" on Mister Rogers. However, now I've been into animation and film and looking into artists as I identify as one myself.

What are your favorite documentaries on the cultural arts (cartoonists or animators) artists? A few of mine:

Honorary mentions to American Splendor (biopic/documentary) and History of Image Comics from SyFy.


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Rick Jones

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#2
I used to really like Waking Sleeping Beauty and The Pixar Story, about the Disney Renaissance and the birth of Pixar. I think a lot of the programs I have been a fan of were series such as what History and PBS have done on comics and shows in the past, or the current Toys That Made Us. A movie I was a fan of last year was Batman & Bill, about the fight to recognition for Bill Finger as a creator of Batman. I really enjoyed the presentation of it as well. In contrast, I watched Doomed, about all of what went into making Roger Corman's Fantastic Four, and it offered a lot of perspective but the presentation was severely lacking.

There are also some good (in my humble opinion) video essayists on YouTube that offer a lot of good viewpoints about movies, tv and comics, with presentations along the lines of what I'd like to see in documentaries.

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the greenman

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Jul 24, 2006
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the point of no return
#3
I used to really like Waking Sleeping Beauty and The Pixar Story, about the Disney Renaissance and the birth of Pixar. I think a lot of the programs I have been a fan of were series such as what History and PBS have done on comics and shows in the past, or the current Toys That Made Us. A movie I was a fan of last year was Batman & Bill, about the fight to recognition for Bill Finger as a creator of Batman.

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I need to see that Batman one. I can't remember if I saw that Pixar one, "Waking Sleeping Beauty" was very good. I'm currently seeking out "She Makes Comics" and "The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story". Will report here my thoughts.


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the greenman

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Jul 24, 2006
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the point of no return
#6
She Makes Comics:
It was a good documentary. My only complaint was not enough concentration on the artists themselves; but the focus at least giving Louise Simonson and Gail Simone was definitely worth the watch. It had an overwhelming feminist propaganda bent. I recently talked to a young female coworker about the issues in the doc I deemed propaganda and she very much shut me down. And without me telling her beat by beat what the documentary talked about she literally confirmed it. So I do understand this bent, and even applaud it, but to have it more fleshed out as I'm more accustomed to in documentaries; it misses the mark for me. Honestly, it felt a little rushed IMHO. Now having Wendy Pini was a huge GET. I was an Elf Quest fan from a kid and it in and of itself could use a documentary on its own. Impressed that Little Lulu was brought up breifly.

Missing was the following:
-Cathy was a comic strip drawn by Cathy Guisewite. NO MENTION.
-Benita L. Epstein, cartoonist.
-Shary Flenniken (who was just in a National Lampoon documentary)
-Lynn Varley Frank Miller's ex-wife and colorist on Dark Knight Returns to name a few.

Am watching new season of "Toys tha Made Us". I figured Transformers would come up. Now we need Voltron, My Little Pony, and maybe Cabbage Patch Kids which has a pretty sad backstory.

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Rick Jones

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#7
They say it's an 8 part series in the intro, do it might be completed now. I don't understand the inclusion of Star Trek but I may need to watch that one to find out. I really enjoyed the first batch but of the second batch, I've only seen the Transformers episode so far.

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the greenman

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Jul 24, 2006
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the point of no return
#8
They say it's an 8 part series in the intro, do it might be completed now. I don't understand the inclusion of Star Trek but I may need to watch that one to find out. I really enjoyed the first batch but of the second batch, I've only seen the Transformers episode so far.

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Ohhh yes, that's correct. Star Trek was based on the Star Wars one meaning their fandom would watch. Having said that, yeah the Star Trek one was kinda bleh. I would say Voltron because Netflix has the updated animated series. My Little Pony has a huge resurgence and fandom.

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the greenman

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Jul 24, 2006
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#9
The Ub Iwerks Story:

I really wish I had seen this sooner. I'm pretty certain I have seen this available in the library when I was in college; but never considered to pick it up. I have always heard Ub was the co-creator of Mickey Mouse. However, this documentary goes incredibly deep into all he accomplished, for not only animation, but film as well. Definitely an informative and enjoyable film. Kinda sad to see Lasseter in this. Sad in a way not on the level of Spacey, Cosby, or Weinstein, but how things have changed. Not going to change narrative of this thread. Anyway, for those in the know, are Ub's shorts on DVD?

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the greenman

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#10
Good ol Charles Shulz-

This is part of the American Experience documentary series. Feature length film focusing on Shulz life and upbringing. He seemed to live a humble life for the most part, until his divorce in the 70's. This prompted the creation of the Joe Cool persona and an over-reliance on Snoopy in the strip. This divorce over art vs love was also an issue with Floyd Norman. They were in love with the art more than the wife. I found it interesting he had a fascination with the film "Citizen Kane". I, of course, would've appreciated more into his artristy. Though, having commentators like Lynn Johnston creator of comic strip "For Better or For Worse" and animator Bill Melendez was cool. As well as seeing the real life inspirations for Linus for one was worth it, and correlation between Lucy/Schroeder and Schulz and his ex-wife was enlightening.

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the greenman

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#11
"Simplicity: The Life and Art of Alex Toth"-

I recently started to go through my vintage Hanna-Barbera collection of DVD's (including Jonny Quest) after recently seeing Incredibles 2. I ran into one of my discs, and probably the spark of my exploration of getting into these kind of documentaries.

The 80 minute long documentary called "Simplicity: The Life and Art of Alex Toth" is a benchmark for me. Found on the "Space Ghost and Dino Boy: The Complete Series" boxset; it is simply incredible in how in-depth they give a biography of cartoonist Toth, and the reason why his art is to be celebrated. Much like the fascination of "Citizen Kane" with Charles Shulz, Toth was fascinated with Errol Flynn films. Specifically, "Adventures of Robin Hood" and "Adventures of Don Juan". We get insight into his artistry with commentators stemming from Joe Kubert to Bruce Timm. It is just amazing to see what this artist was capable of; and that all of us geeks recognize the genius, but just not the man. In that regard, the film is a little heartbreaking especially with the adult children sharing. I have watched this film before when I bought it about 10 years ago. I get more from it now, in comparison from some of the recent docs I've seen which pale in comparison.


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the greenman

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#12
"In Search of Steve Ditko"-

I decided to track this documentary down, in light of Mr. Ditko's passing on June 29th. This is an hour long BBC Four television documentary which aired in 2007.

Host Jonathan Ross is trying to track down the mysterious comic artist Steve Ditko. We track his career into the major creations of now classic and infamous characters. We see the biggest bone of contention in comics being the rivalry of Ditko and Stan Lee over the rights of just who created Spider-Man. This has been brought up as of late with Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Basically, Ditko believed he created Spider-Man straight out. Lee argued he came up with the concept, and Ditko came up with certain aspects of the characters.

That is in addition to the creation of Dr. Strange (who Lee confirmed was ALL Ditko), Blue Beetle, The Question, Captain Atom, Hawk & Dove, and even co-created Squirrel Girl. The documentary really explores the mindset of a great artist and his philosophy of Randian objectivism (much like Brad Bird). This has come as an explanation of him being a virtual recluse. Artists and writers like Stan Lee, John Romita, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman appear in the doc to try and make sense of the man's decision to drop out of comics. May he REST IN PEACE.

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the greenman

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#13
Walt Disney: He Made Believe-

American Experience two part episode of feature length films which came out in 2015. The first part explores his background and his joyless childhood. His joining the military during World War 1, returning home to his strict father's family farm in Marceline, Missouri, and finally getting into animation through a commercial Art Studio.

The first film chronicles the creation of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and the betrayal of fellow animator Charles Mintz. We see the struggle of creating Snow White and Disney's chagrin of not getting an Academy Award nomination. Then how juggled Pinocchio, Bambi, and Fantasia all while in the planning stages of construction of what would become Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA. Part of me almost could not help but begin to compare Walt Disney to Willy Wonka.

There's also the issues with Disney and the working environment and the Screen Cartoonist Guild at the Studio (which literally extends to this day). Disney fought a cartoonist strike and blamed it on communists. Kinda surprised he had a war with Goofy creator Art Babbit who defended the Union. He no longer had much control over his studio at this point and delved into live action documentaries and his obsession with railroads; specifically toy trains.

The second part, both Walt and Roy struggled with pushing the field of animation through Snow White. He wanted and deserved a Best Picture nomination. They didn't respect animation; something Hollywood to this day hasn't really responded to. This lead to documentaries on nature. There he got respect. He also delved into something toyed with earlier live action and animation through Mary Poppins. We also get a kind of pyschological answer to why Disney's features seemed to lack maternal figures and his feeling of responsibility of his mother's death. Something I heard before, now I see why.

It was also interesting to learn Disney certainly wasn't much of an artist himself. He was an innovator though, with a child-like imagination; which he thorough constructed with idea of Epcot center. It seems Disney set about a manifest destiny of spirit in Hollywood. Something Fleischer, and other animators failed at. As they say the man, the myth, the legend.

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the greenman

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Jul 24, 2006
14,048
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the point of no return
#14
"Dark Star: H. R. Giger's World"-

Just finished this documentary this week. The film was released in 2014, the year Giger passed away. The film explores the life of the man responsible for many exotic, erotic, and kinda insane artistic works. We get a very intimate portrait of an artist who simply saw the world much differently than others. He speaks no English (or very little) but Swiss and I believe German? However thank God for subtitles and some of his friends who speak about him.

Most of us know this guy for being the prime designer of the titular character in the Ridley Scott film Alien. He has still had other subversive arts in stuff like album covers you may have seen if you listen to some Rock or Death Metal; one simply cannot mistake for anyone else. We see photos of Giger's early muse and model who killed herself and his regret and remorse of her.

My favorite scene in this is when Giger's friend & psychiatrist explores his home. There's a backyard garden full of creepy looking sculptures of infant faces, snakes, and a metallic woman ( I think ) as part of a fountain if I remember correctly. Looks like the lair of a very weird mind with even stranger characteristics. Not sure I would not want my car to breakdown at night and this was the only house around. Which no question, that is Giger; who in this documentary relishes in his fame. At the same time it is very sad in a way. How he has to sign books and even people's body parts. I can't say I was a huge fan of his work as some in this doc. He mostly lent himself to a certain crowd of the 70's and 80's. Not sure if this would be everyone's taste. However, his work deserved to be appreciated for the dark sublime "biomechanical" nature of his designs.

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