Booksmart Drug Trip Animation

Checking out her new doll body in Booksmart animation.

While I was in our living room, my wife put on the live-action movie Booksmart, directed by Olivia Wilde. It is a film about two high school seniors, Amy and Molly, on the night before graduation. They are straight-A good girls, and they desperately want to have a crazy night out before heading to their Ivy League colleges. It was entertaining enough to keep me watching. In the middle of the film, the two young women learn that they had been dosed with an entheogenic drug. This is what happens when the drugs take effect…

This was a sudden change of direction in the movie, and I love it when studios let directors go off this way. Why hadn’t I read anything about this elsewhere? This scene hasn’t gotten much attention in the animation community, and it deserves more. The stop motion animation was done at Shadowmachine, in Portland, Oregon. I found one good behind the scenes article on Vulture.

This is a great entry in the long history of drug trips in movies This scene, in fact, was inspired by the one in The Big Lebowski. Such work demands some kind of effects, and animation is quite well suited. In one of the most memorable episodes of The Simpsons, Homer went on a peyote trip. At the end of season 12 of Trailer Park Boys, all the main characters swallow drugs to hide them from the police and wind up turning into cartoons while in jail.

In this case, though, there is also a relevant cultural message. There have been innumerable commentaries written about the outrageous proportions of Barbie dolls, but this animation may be the last take we ever need. The two actresses are normal women, and their characters are ambitious feminists. This moment of experiencing sudden transformation into an extreme version of female beauty standards gives us a totally new perspective on the discussion. For more from the director on this, including details on the animation that was cut, here is a good article.

Rubbery = Funny

When I saw Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, and also Madagascar 3, I noticed significant advances in how soft and flexible characters had become. They flop and wiggle and swish and squash all over the place. Sid the Sloth was always the most flexible of the characters, and in this film, his grandmother, shaky with age, added in lots of saggy skin jiggling. During one of the Scrat cutaways, he’s deep undersea and gets squeezed by the pressure into the most remarkably skinny and floppy condition ever. The rigs must have some interesting capabilities, but I’m sure some of the effect comes from various simulations added on top. It’s fantastic work.

In Ice Age 4, the pirates who harass the heroes were also quite loose in their movement. The badger could turn himself into a flag, the rabbit was quicksilver fast, the sea elephant was a blob of jelly, and they are led by this ape:

The ape, voiced by Peter Dinklage, had a very mobile face with big lips that could take on extreme shapes. His body could also twist quite beyond what a muscular ape should be able to do. And it bothered me. While I appreciated the effect in most of the other characters, in him I didn’t like it. And I figure it’s because he’s the villain. The title of this post is “Rubbery = funny.” Therefore, the rubbery motion was working at funny, while his lines were working at evil. The animation was working against him. His character isn’t meant to be funny, like the chimps in Madagascar 3.

Consider Diego, the sabertooth. He’s not rubbery, he’s strong and solid, and was originally part of the pack of bad guys. In the trio of stars, he’s the straight man. He’s not supposed to be that funny. It’s good to have that contrast in characters and motion.

So the opposite would be generally true as well: Rigid = scary. Some examples of that.

Rigidity could possibly be funny, but in general, life is soft and flexible.

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