Thursday, February 01, 2007

An Introduction or a Mislead?

Over at Cartoon Brew, Amid Amidi and Steve Worth have differing opinions of a recent Family Guy segment that inserted Stewie (the poor man's The Brain) into the Anchors Aweigh sequence with Gene Kelly. Worth doesn't think much of what they did:

How much "thought to animation and choreography" does it take to rotoscope someone else's animation and slap your own character over the top of it? If this was a parody, it would have added some sort of comment through additional humor. If it was a tribute, they would have had the respect not to obliterate the great animation by Ken Muse and Ray Patterson by pasting their own poorly traced drawings over the top of it. To my eyes, this looks like the Family Guy crew took the hard work of these legendary artists and copped it for themselves without adding a single thing to it. They can get away with it, because the viewers probably have never heard of Gene Kelly, much less have seen the clip of him dancing with Jerry Mouse.

You can see the clip for yourself here. As Worth says, it is the original Anchors Aweigh clip, with Stewie simply placed over Jerry.

I'm of two minds about this, and neither of them have anything to do with my feelings about Family Guy (you may not realize this because I've been so reticent about saying it, but I don't like that show). In an age when fewer and fewer young people are being exposed to classic animation and classic movies -- mostly because they're no longer shown on regular broadcast TV and most kids aren't going to be watching Turner Classic Movies -- it's something of a public service for Family Guy to be introducing its predominantly under-30 audience to the classics of both animation and live-action.

On the other hand, Worth is right that by simply re-tracing the original animation, the Family Guy crew is basically ripping off the hard work of Muse and Patterson. Look at the blog posts about the sequence: several of them pay tribute to the beautiful animation, without a real understanding that the animation has nothing to do with anything the Family Guy people did.

I suspect the segment was well-intentioned. But the way they did it, it does seem awfully like taking credit for other people's work. Creating new animation and/or live-action would obviously have not looked as good, but at least it would have been their own work.


Yeldarb86 said...

The whole segment was just lazy(er than usual) writing.

What Family Guy did in the first two "Road to..." episodes was have Brian and Stewie sing an original duet while they were traveling or making a clean getaway. What they did here was just have Stewie dance in an already-stolen sequence, which felt completely out of place.

An original composition would've made Brian and Stewie's argument in support for old-time musicals would've given a creative accolade to the writer(s), and make the whole segment more effective.

Anthony Strand said...

I thought it was nothing but lazy. Just shameless.

The thing that bothered me the most was that Stewie's the one talking about the value of singing and dancing. But then Jerry's early awkwardness and later exclamation of "Look at me! I'm dancing!" are retained. Neither makes any sense in the context of what is supposed to be the point of the scene.

Also, I don't think most kids watching the scene will realize another cartoon character originally. They'll just think Stewie was inserted into some old movie.

Tisher said...

I'm surprised you don't consider this to be in the same category as that dull Sound of Music gag you linked to here and mentioned here. One cartoon character has been replaced with a more obnoxious cartoon character, there's no commentary or inversion, it isn't anything besides a reference. The only "joke" is the only joke Family Guy has - letting something keep happening for too long.

I would cite the The Simpsons as an example of a show that actually rewards you for broadening your cultural horizons in order to get a reference. When they parodied The Music Man they actually wrote a parody of "Trouble" instead just having Homer or Chief Wiggum sing it. Familiarity with Citizen Kane makes Mr. Burns's childhood memories in Rosebud funnier. I'm not so sure this kind of thing really points people towards classic entertainment because I don't see how it enriches this joke to know that it's an exact remake of something Jerry Mouse did.

Anonymous said...

First - I found this blog by a search on feminism (went to 2006 posting). Wanted to write and say I liked that so went to recent post. Coincidentally it was this one on the Family Guy and Anchors Aweigh.
My 2 cents: I enjoy Anchors Aweigh and it was my daughter's first favorite movie (she is now 8). We have enjoyed sharing a number of old movies with our children. (Charlie Chaplin, The Music Man and so on.) Perhaps this clip might lead others to discover the amazing entertainment of yesteryear. And who knows what might eventually lead to a rebirth of popularity for this form of song and dance.
(I can't comment much on the show as I don't watch tv.)

Anonymous said...

Apparently, the reason "So Long, Farewell" was done to the record was because the Rodgers and Hammerstein Foundation wouldn't allow them to change the lyrics. Which is rather strange, seeing as an earlier episode featured "Shall We Dance?" rewritten to make references to "kicking bad guys in the jewels" and Paul Lynde's sexuality.