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The Realities of Instagram

On the 6th of October 2010, Instagram was created to solve three simple problems:

  1. Mobile photos always come out looking mediocre. Our awesome looking filters transform your photos into professional-looking snapshots.
  2. Sharing on multiple platforms is a pain – we help you take a picture once, then share it (instantly) on multiple services.
  3. Most uploading experiences are clumsy and take forever – we’ve optimized the experience to be fast and efficient.

Like most social media platforms Instagram has slowly, but surely taken over our lives. To some extent, we are all guilty of browsing, scrolling and generally procrastinating our way through social media timelines. It has become something of a habit…a routine, from the moment we wake up, until we go to sleep we are keen to stay updated with Instagram.

The original essence of Instagram was to capture the moment, there and then, and simply add a filter to enhance the image, giving it that ‘professional’ appearance. But more recently, society as a whole has become fixated on how to accumulate the most likes and followers, what image is most likely to receive attention, and what will get positive feedback.

Of course, we all like to portray the best representation of ourselves through social media. But Instagram, by far, is misleading and distorting the reality of who we are from disguising emotions of sadness, to airbrushing imperfections.

By large, Instagram has not ‘solved’ three simple problems, but has generated many more, potentially being held responsible for damaging our self-esteem, originality and self-expression.

Self-esteem – Whether you are female or male, the majority of us can relate to how Instagram elites (models, personal trainers, and fitness enthusiasts), can give us that “Instagram envy!” feeling. But we often forget how those particular images have been constructed and photo edited to appear ‘flawless’. On the other hand, Instagram can make its users feel attractive, liked and popular through the number of ‘likes’ received on a picture. Interestingly, research by the University of Buffalo suggests that women who base their self-worth on their appearances are more likely to post pictures of themselves on social media to seek validation. Obviously Instagram, is nothing but a vicious cycle of aspiring to be like someone else, or to being accepted by others. One way, or another our self-esteem is damaged.

 Originality – Are we losing sight of our originality? on a daily basis I scroll down my feed to be welcomed by countless ‘throwbacks’, images of peoples ‘brunch’ (now cold, due to the photoshoot) and far too many ‘#OTTD’ (outfit of the day). Déjà Vu is a usual reoccurrence when browsing on Instagram, and it’s becoming a bit of a bore. As Instagram users, are we feeling uninspired? bored? or simply lacking in ideas?

Self-expression – From artistic skills, cultural beliefs, emotions and music, Instagram has the potential for its users to express themselves through visual and moving image. However, there are several drawbacks to transferring these concepts of self-expression into images. The power of an image is a common understanding throughout society, yet Instagram can be seen as restricting users from embracing how they feel and what they believe. But how? Instagram like many social media sites, is home to an abundance of online trolls, who thrive from criticising, judging and harassing other users. Consequently, Instagram users have become more conscious in posting their particular ideas, talents and beliefs.

The realities of Instagram are evidently making us more conscious of what we decide to post, in the fear of: 1.) Being rejected 2.) Viewed as boring and 3). Criticised or judged by other users.

 

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Participatory Marketing

Yello Brick is a successful, creative marketing agency based in Cardiff that creates engaging and participatory experiences for brands and organisations. One example of their work is “Eyespy” – a multiple location street game involving 12 indoor and outdoor locations, performers, telephony technology and excited participants that have two and a half hours in which to emerge themselves in the narrative of the game.

All of this, as exciting and innovative as it sounds, may cause some people to question its success. However, participatory marketing is not quite as new, as you may believe and has proved its efficiency long time ago.

 

History of participatory marketing

The idea of this marketing originated back in 1924 at a factory in Chicago called Howthorne. At the time researchers from Harvard and MIT were using the factory workers to test their productivity under different circumstances. The conditions they were put under would vary – brighter or shorter light, longer or shorter hours and even no light at all – working in complete darkness. No matter what conditions the workers were put under, test results would always come up showing improvement in productivity. Not only that, the workers were becoming advocates to whatever it was that was tested on them. Pretty soon the researchers realised that it was not the tests that were manipulating the results, it was the effect of participating in something – people enjoyed that so much, they would become more productive. Thus the “Howthorne” effect was borne. After 1924 the concept slowly started changing and evolving more and more.

Basic timeline of participatory marketing

1930 – Supermarket co-development

1979 – Customer source of productivity

1989 – Customising consumer

1996 – Customers contribute to quality

2000 – Active role

2007 – DEWmocracy

But what exactly is it?

By definition participatory marketing is “ A collaboration between the consumer and the company, where input from the consumer is just as valuable as that from the company” It is also referred to co-creation, crowd sourcing, consumer-generated content or co-development. The basic idea behind it is that marketing is created with the people, rather than just targeted at them. It has many different forms such as tech challenges, online brainstorming or just word of mouth networks. It has been estimated, by P&G, that participatory marketing is five times more effective than standard marketing and can boost sales up to 10%. The main reason behind it? It stimulates key growth factor- recommendations. It has other benefits as well, such as cost reduction, strengthening of customer relationships by empowering the consumers and revealing unmet market needs. There are a number of risks that should be taken into account, depending on the campaign – secrecy, product feasibility and ownership in intellectual property rights are a few.

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DEWmocracy

In November 2007, PeopsiCo launched a new Mountain Dew marketing campaign called DEWmocracy that was to become a famous example for how extremely successful participatory marketing can be. Designed in three phases, the campaign wanted consumers to create a new, permanent flavour for the drink. The first phase involved a short film, a website and an online role-playing game. The movie would explain the purpose of the campaign and the game, while the actual game would involve people choosing flavours, brand designs and names for the potential new drink. 700 000 individual users spend about 27 minutes on the designated website, which proved a definite success for the brand. Phase two began in January 2008 and three final drinks were selected – Supernova, Revolution and Voltage, that were later released in shops all over North America and people started voting for their favourites, as part of phase three.

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Over 1 Trillion Photos Will Be Taken This Year – So Why is the Photography Industry Dying?

Around 1.2 trillion photographs will be taken worldwide this year. For perspective, if one person was shooting one photo a second continuously, without pausing to sleep, that would take them almost 40,000 years. That’s a lot of selfies. So why is the photography industry in decline? 

Precise UK statistics are muddied by the categorisation system used by the Office of National Statistics, with video, radio, TV and photography grouped together under the same bracket. Freelancers, who dominate the photography sector, are also excluded from ONS Creative Industries data. French government statistics are more nuanced, however, suggesting that over half of ‘photographic businesses’ have folded in the last decade, and the value royalty payments for images has reduced by over 80% since 2005. It’s certainly paints (or rather, shoots) a worrying picture. 

One reason for these gloomy prospects is that while quality professional photography is at risk, photography as a whole certainly isn’t. Every person with a smartphone carries a capable camera in their pocket. Point-and-shoot cameras are the cheapest they’ve ever been. Instagram, VSCO, and other photo apps have put accessible editing controls in the hands of consumers, who can shoot and colour grade a photo in seconds without any professional assistance. Photography is simply not the expensive, exclusive art form it once was – which is great news for the average consumer, but less so for those trying to make a living from it.  

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The iPhone 7 packs a 12 megapixel camera – more than some actual cameras.

The truth is that in such a saturated marketplace, ‘quality’ photography is increasingly becoming a needless luxury. Why pay a rate of thousands for a freelance interior photographer to take shots of your restaurant, when your assistant manager can do an adequate job with his £300 bridge camera? Professional wedding photographers, meanwhile, are finding themselves redundant as the trend for friends and family to take over snapping duties becomes more prevalent. The standard may not be the same, moments may be missed, but sometimes, that’s okay. Not everyone needs perfect wedding photos that cost more than the honeymoon.

The greater consumer interest in photography brought about by Instagram and similar platforms has also lead to a rising subclass of amateur and semi-pro shooters, who are often willing to undercut professional services or even work for free. With entry-level DSLR bodies and bridge cameras available brand new for a fraction of the price of pro kit, the barrier for entry is much lower than even five years ago. Industry photographers are no longer competing simply with each other, but with a new wave of casual enthusiasts who are far more tantalising to budget-savvy businesses.

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DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 1200D can be purchased new for as little as £299. 

It is a problem that is particularly common in the music industry, with the skewed ratio of willing shooters to available press passes at many gigs resulting in publications opting to have voluntary photographers cover the event. The amateur shooter gets a great opportunity, the publication gets a usable image, but the work of the professional concert photographer becomes significantly devalued. Much like businesses using unpaid interns for actual work, the practice will continue so long as the status quo remains unchanged.

The reality is that when the Facebook Wedding Album is viable competition to the pros, and businesses can find cheaper ways to meet their own imaging needs, the industry of mostly independent freelancers must learn to adapt. It is not enough to simply be a photographer; professional shooters in 2017 must also be competent salesmen, effective marketers, and excellent social media strategists in order to remain competitive. Quality professional photography can still rise to the top of the digital jungle – it’s just going to take a lot more work.


All photos taken from Pexels.com, licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. 

 

 

Just another ‘yello brick’ in the Wall: A Meditation on the Future of Creativity

The wild west of contemporary creative marketing has enabled the innovation and collapse of several companies, and nobody has made light of this more than the team at yello brick. Their ethos provides a service to companies and brands who want to reimburse their image, with either digital or physical campaigns.

Established in June 2012, the secret to their success is through the elucidation of campaigns through narrative. There are countless examples, but one worth focusing on is their work on the multi-platform game Reverie. It focuses on the blending of different layers of narrative mediums, such as game, theatre and technology. In fact, Reverie was so successful that it netted yello brick a commendation during the BAFTA Cymru Game Awards for Technical Achievement.

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A brief summary graph of the elements that make up Reverie. Image Source: yello brick

According to Alison John, producer at yello brick, over 250+ street players were involved and 4000 people were engaged online. It involved a mixture of advanced mobile phone interaction and ‘RFID’ technologies over 12 sparse locations in Cardiff Bay. It also utilised social media sites such as Twitter and emails sent by the ‘main character’ to participants She notes that two of the key aspects to the success of Reverie was:

“Our approach is centred around the audience. People want to create connections with what they see, buy and use.”

 

“Unlike traditional theatre where audiences are passive, Reverie encouraged its audience to be active throughout the production.”

 

The teaser trailer of the event also had its own website, which can be viewed below:

 

 

According to the official yello brick website, this level of interactivity and the combination of the digital and physical realms meant that the show itself sold three times as much as previous shows! In this humble blogger’s opinion, this trend of creative marketing is indicative of the future of the industry itself.

In the current economic climate of Brexit, we’ve got to rely on the industries that are currently pulling in the big bucks. Just last month, the BBC published an article on how trade bodies believe that the creative industry is the key to economic success. The Creative Industries Federation themselves stressed the economic benefit, that currently the industry supports 2.9m jobs which is a huge rise of 5.1% between 2014 and 2015!

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An info-graphic depicting the statistics of the UK Creative Industry in 2016. Image Source: thecreativeindustries.co.uk

The federation’s chief executive, John Kampfner, exclaimed that the government will soon need to realise that the creative industry:

 

“”will be as important to future economic success as traditional industries, such as cars or oil and gas”.

 

In the case of Reverie this may seem like a mere pipe dream. But alas, my dear reader, even now similar real-life multi-platform adventure games are seeing there slow and steady rise to the top of the creative industry! Take for example the extremely popular Escape Rooms, which currently has branches all over Britain and has several different themes and puzzles to complete!

 

I think we’ve got to admit something folks. Companies like yello brick and Escape Rooms are the future of the creative industries. In my opinion, it feels like the resurgence of the table-top, a rejection of the over digitisation of communication and entertainment without necessarily removing it altogether. I think we can look forward to seeing more adventurous titles like Reverie in the future! (Still waiting on The Crystal Maze though…)

 

You can visit the official Reverie website here: reveriethegame.co.uk

 

Or you can visit the official yello brick website here: http://yellobrick.co.uk

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Daring adventurers on the hunt, following instructions of Reverie’s main character. Image Source: yello brick

Featured Image Source: yello brick

Cardiff’s Creative Collaboration Through Independent Venue Week

Cardiff has become a hub of creative flair, showcased through a number of different platforms and events. A particularly successful feature of Cardiff’s creative scene has been its involvement with Independent Venue Week.

Independent Venue Week is funded by the Arts Council and celebrates the spirit of independence and culture of live music at small venues around the UK. Lasting 7 days, the event allows artists to experience playing live in cool, funky venues that draw in big audiences. This included 5 venues in Cardiff: Buffalo Bar, Clwb Ifor BachGwdihw, 10 Feet Tall and Undertone. All these venues have a unique vibe and lively atmosphere but most importantly, a forward-thinking music scene.

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Independent Venue Week: Love Buzz take to the stage

A large amount of support for this event has been gained, evidenced by Frank Turner who emphasises the importance of local venues:

“Without small, independent venues, there’d be no small, independent bands, and without them there’d be no big acts either; these places are the lifeblood of any music scene, and any music fan should care about them and support Independent Venue Week.”

Indeed, by working with Independent Venue Week, it brings together Cardiff’s local businesses, creative musicians and music lovers. Additionally, Cardiff is able to network with many other creative cities that are also involved with Independent Venue Week, creating a nationwide creative collaboration.

These collaborative ideas are reinforced by the Creative Cardiff Network, who suggest that by working together “we can make Cardiff the most creative place it can be”. It is this collaboration and sharing of ideas that Creative Cardiff promotes through events which “encourage more innovation and creativity in our city”. Independent Venue Week has certainly achieved this aim, evidenced by the popularity and success of the week-long event. It is these experiences that are driving Cardiff’s creative ambition to turn the city into a “capital of creativity”.

The Welsh Government are also behind Cardiff’s creative aims and focus particularly on the creation of digital creative content to grow alongside industries and businesses. This is especially important for small businesses, like the Cardiff bars that are involved with Independent Venue Week, as it allows them to “compete with the largest and the best” of the companies (Ron Jones, Creative Industries Sector Panel Chair).

These interactive and creative business models can be seen by the independent bars in Cardiff. They all have a strong social media presence to engage with their audiences and post regularly. This interactivity is key for digital creative success, a must in the age of social media. This, of course, is aiding Cardiff’s creative aims and in turn, promotes the various events that symbolise the cities progressive approach.

Alongside Cardiff’s venues supporting its creative ambition online, the Creative Industries team within the Welsh Government are also especially enthusiastic. Keeping Cardiff’s citizens up to date with all things creative, their Twitter feed engages with their followers to get involved through the hashtags  

It is this continued collaborative force of not only Independent Venue Week but also the various events held in Cardiff’s local venues and the Welsh Government that is driving Cardiff to be one of the most creative cities in the UK. We applaud you, Cardiff!

Check out Cardiff’s bustling music venues or see what they’re up to online…

And don’t forget to have a listen to the Independent Venue Week music on Soundcloud!

 

 

Photo credits:

Featured Image – By Independent Venue Week – Copyright © 2011 – gained permission through Laura Bradley (Independent Venue Week Press and PR)

Love Buzz performing – By Paul Hudson (Independent Venue Week: Love Buzz at the Horn [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)%5D, via Flickr

“Split”, splits opinion

In recent years, something of a trend has emerged, where we are seeing producers aiming to grab our attention with depictions of the mentally ill. Productions such as Dexter and Hannibal have drawn us in to bear witness to the disturbing extremes of the human mind. The latest mental disorder to be given the Hollywood treatment is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously known as Split (or Multiple) Personality Disorder. Split sees M. Night Shyamalan return to directing, and it’s more of the same from the director who brought us The Happening and The Visit. Suspense and terror are the name of the game in Split, as we see James McAvoy portray Kevin, who suffers from an extreme case of DID, playing host to 24 distinct personalities.

McAvoy as 9 year-old Hedwig, one of the 24 personalities

DID has made appearances in numerous films, examples include The Incredible Hulk to Psycho and Dressed to Kill. The condition is seemingly appealing to filmmakers, potentially due to the conditions’ ability to lend itself to extreme behaviours, conflict, torment, secrets, and mysteries – all traits that are desired in films of this genre. It is somewhat unfortunate that these tend to be horror movies and psychological thrillers, which paints the patients as violent, which doesn’t help the audience to understand the disorder, instead providing a cartoonish depiction of it. In cinema, having a mental health condition makes you a psychopath, just as having autism makes you a genius (as seen in the film x + y or The Rain Man).

McAvoy’s performance is surprising and superb, moving fluidly between a number of different characters; all being convincing, likeable, and horrifying, in their own, unique way. McAvoy’s range is one of the highlights of the film, and you can tell that he is enjoying getting to show off so many facets of his talent.

Despite its radical subject matter, Split struggles to break away from generic horror components, in terms of its plot. The movie’s antihero, portrayed by McAvoy, plans to sacrifice three scantily-clad teenage girls to realise a supernatural ritual is something that could be taken straight out of an 80s B-movie. But that is not to take anything away from McAvoy’s consummate performance, or Shyamalan’s masterful orchestration of suspense. As a thriller, the movie has it all, and there will be a number of moments where you just will not be able to look away, gripped by McAvoy’s chilling performance. That is precisely the way you need to look at this film, then – as a spectacle and nothing more, nothing serious. Just it does little in the way of reinventing the horror/thriller genre, it merely uses DID as a way of reinventing on an age-old staple – a linear build up to a climactic finale, with a few plot twists to keep us honest.

As it is such a sensitive subject, there is a right way, as well as a wrong way, of handling such a delicate issue and Shyamalan doesn’t quite hit the mark here.

What scares us most about watching the mind of a person unfold is that it reminds us just how delicate our own minds are. Ending the movie with McAvoy’s transformation into the superhuman ‘Horde’ is where Shyamalan gets it wrong. The success of films such as The Silence of the Lambs or American Psycho came from the way in which we came to relate to the film’s villain, but Split’s finale kills any sense of realism that made the earlier stages of the film so creepy and unsettling.

Trivialising mental illness has seemed to work for Shyamalan, however, as the movie grossed over $275 million dollars from a humble budget of $9 million. Sometimes putting an old picture into a new frame works and, luckily for Shyamalan, Split did just that.

The film is now out on DVD, but in the mean time here’s the trailer:

 

Image credits:

Vimeo

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Zootopia changed the animation game (for animals!)

I don’t have to tell you that Zootopia had one of the best animated film in 2016 because the film already has an Oscar to prove that. What I can fascinate you with though, is the creative and technical work behind-the-scenes that might change the way you watch and appreciate Disney or any another animated film for that matter.

Zootopia is your typical mammal metropolis with residents that are 100% clothes-wearing and upright walking and talking animals. Like any world, it is comprised of various neighbourhoods from meadows to snow and to sand which mesh together to form a community where no matter who you are, you can be anything.

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Zootopia (Image Credits: Disney 2016)

Visually, the film is delightfully outstanding and evidently shows how far the animation industry has come since the hand-drawn-frame-by-frame days. Sadly, while the film has been soundly celebrated for its original, well-rounded story and lovable characters, the aesthetics and meticulous effort in detailing have not.

With a thriving inspiration and ambitious goal to push animation technology and innovation, the film brings animal animation to the next level. Featuring over 64 animal species (around 800,000 character builds), each animal species has been extensively researched into to understand their specific movement and characteristics. Luckily for animators, in this day of digital-age, most animations are now computer generated. Still, it doesn’t mean extra time to sit back and watch the tech do the work. For a team of animators and directors, 18 months were spent studying animal behaviour in the Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World and safaris of wild Kenya, in order develop an accurate and realistic representation of each species.

Of course, with so many different animals builds, textures and colours, the team had to find quick and simple technological adjustments even if it did mean taking 550 people and 5 years to bring the film to life. Pre-existing software was continuously built upon to make the talking animals life-like and more realistic. But dreams to push animated technology meant creating new programmes that didn’t already exist.

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Animation. (Image Credit: Disney 2016)
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Final fur & flesh added. (Image Credit Disney 2016)

For Zootopia, fur and hair was its game-changer. Different fur-types were studied under a microscope in various lighting setups to see how different fur-types reacted to light and make the animals look as accurate as possible.  A giraffe from the film had 9 millions strands of hair. And a mouse? 480,000. That beats Elsa’s 400,000 strands of golden locks. To master fur manipulation, each piece of hair had to also be manipulated individually. Animators and engineers created a specialised fur shader program ‘i-Groom’  – a never-before used fur controlling tool which would brush and shape individual hairs after being applied to the design.

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i-Groom Fur Generation (Image Credit: FXGuide)

An imaginary underlayer was added to give the animal ‘plushness’ – the illusion of fur density which made each character that much fuzzier and realistic. Combined with path-tracing, a technique that predicts how light will move between the fur, these techniques are what makes the bunnies so fluffy, otters oily and every animal so cuddly and real.

To develop each character further, flesh simulator PhysGrid was introduced and also extensively developed to mimic muscle and fat movements beneath the skin for each character, giving them a natural build and shape and expanding their life-like and lovable characterisation.

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Visual Development for flesh and muscle simulation of ‘Clawhouser’ the Cheetah (Photo Credit: Disney) (2016)

Between enhancing existing technology and creating new ones, Zootopia establishes new standards in replication real and naturalistic animal characters. However, the film itself is also one to be praised. Hidden beneath layers of innocent humour and cute, cuddly characters, Zootopia is harsh but profound social commentary, that shines light upon the dangers of stereotyping and discrimination in a multicultural society. Bright, inventive and very colourful, Zootopia sparks inspiration towards budding animators and continues to push the already high-bars within the animation industry, while continuously evolving the art of animation.

For more behind-the-scenes animation work, check out Fusion’s documentary ‘Imagining Zootopia’

Header image credits to Disney 2016.

Why transmedia storytelling is so important – as seen through Overwatch.

As it is coming up to the one year anniversary of Overwatch’s initial release (24th May), I thought I’d look back on the game that made a self-proclaimed non-gamer like me spend all of my very limited free time playing this game.

Overwatch is a multiplayer first-person shooter video game for both PC and console created by Blizzard, where you play as one of 24 currently playable characters in competitive 6-person team shooting matches.

overwatch characters.pngThe game encourages us as players to join in the battle, stating ‘the world could use a hero like you’. (Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment 2017)

The addicting FPS has just recently amassed 30 million registered players, but what is more impressive is that even before the game went online, there were already over 10 million people who were on its servers, eagerly awaiting its release. The great interest in Overwatch before and after its official release has been explained by many as due to its engagement with transmedia storytelling, especially through its animated shorts that gave viewers a richer understanding for the Overwatch characters: why they are who they are, and how they tie into the over-arching narrative story within the Overwatch universe.

My personal favourite short without a doubt is ‘Dragons’ that introduced “one of Overwatch’s biggest rivalries” between brothers Hanzo and Genji.

It’s still hard to believe that the short was only just over eight minutes long, yet managed to illustrate the beautiful setting of Hanamura (which is a map playable on the game) and both Hanzo and Genji’s game play styles and abilities in action while simultaneously exploring the complexities of the brothers’ difficult history and relationship.

The short flawlessly packed in all the necessary elements for a feature length film – the internal and external conflicts, the dramatic reveal, and of course the epic fight scene when both characters reach their maximum potential and use their ‘ultimates’, filling the screen with roaring luminous dragons in a great climactic event. It also boasts some unreal graphics and animation, which would give even animated film giant Pixar a run for its money.

(Image Credits: PlayOverwatch/Youtube)

The thing is, Blizzard as primarily a video game developer had no need to create these shorts – players could get to know the characters, at least on a surface level, through the gaming experience itself, through skins, voice-lines and interactions with other characters. But, as James Waugh, director of story development at Blizzard, says “At Blizzard, we don’t just make games – we build worlds”.

With Overwatch, Blizzard wanted to make sure the shorts made the universe feel alive, and that the characters were more than just an avatar; that they were telling their own stories that contributed to a larger living world, giving the game’s players a real reason to fight.

Blizzard has gone above and beyond in telling the story of Overwatch, releasing other transmedia communications such as graphic novels, virtual comics and Easter eggs within the game itself for players to continue discovering and piecing together, providing a deeper connection with game character for players by creating a “realm of imagination that you step into” and further building on and constructing the Overwatch universe and its character’s intricate personalities and life narratives.

Overwatch’s success is well earned, as it has designed and developed itself into more than just merely a game; Overwatch is the result of an incredible feat of creativity and the coming together of multiple creatives from different sectors, accomplishing great transmedia storytelling that immerses its players in their fictional world, giving them reasons to keep coming back for more.

Drax the Destroyer: Marvel’s Poster-boy for Organic Character Progression

 

              “When you’re ugly and someone loves you, it means they love you for who you are”

– Drax the Destroyer

 

That quote, and that name. If you’ve ever wanted to locate the most overt antithesis condensed into a single quote, then look no further than Guardians of the Galaxy 2. This heavenly union of wit and sincerity is what gives the film its wings, and allows it to soar above the cannon fodder Iron Man 12’s and Captain America: Bit of a Squabble.

James Gunn’s sequel to the 2014 hit once again follows the intergalactic adventures of the eponymous heroes as they encounter Ego, the living planet. As a sequel with established characters, the film does not have to spend its two-hour run-time meandering around introductions. Instead, it delves deeper into the intricate motivations and personalities behind the members of the renegade team. Of course, a hearty supply of pop culture references and adorable talking trees always helps, but it’s a welcome change to see a Marvel film interact with its audience on an emotional level.

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The Guardians of the Galaxy, previous roster: Image Source by Flickr

Nowhere can this be seen more prevalent than with the character progression of Drax the Destroyer, portrayed by Dave Bautista. In the first movie, his only defining feature is his unyielding hatred towards Ronan for the murder of his wife and daughter. However, with this subsequent instalment his overall disposition is noticeably mellowed, with an almost insane emphasis on his new-found sense of humour. Speaking of which, the sheer bluntness of his remarks towards Mantis (as portrayed by Pom Klementieff) act as one of the most defining features of the movie. Every scene with these two sent the audience into a hysterical laughing fit! I can’t help but admire the transformation, as most Marvel super-heroes in the cinematic universe are contained within a stalwart, unchanging archetype (Cap’n Murica’s freedom obsession).

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Dave Bautista portrays Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Image Source by Flickr

As well as this, through the character Drax, Marvel has however unintentionally opened a dialogue about mental health previously unseen in the superhero film industry. In an interview with ABC News, Matt Asner – who serves as the vice president of development for the Autism Society of America – details his experience of taking two of his six kids to watch Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Asner had this to say:

 

“I remember seeing it … and just thinking to myself, ‘He’s autistic!’ He has no editor whatsoever and he just says it like it is.”

“It’s something that happens with a couple of my kids a lot, they don’t have that edit button. It’s great for them to see a character like this… Not just for people who have autism, but people who are out there who don’t really know what autism is.”

 

As Asner details, his greatest admiration of the films foray into crafting convincing characters with individual traits, is that they aren’t seen as a statement, but the norm. Neither James Gunn or Marvel have made any official comment on the subject, but regardless, Drax is yet another positive step towards the normalisation of mental health in the creative industry.

Portraying characters in this organic way is the best thing for a Hollywood cavalcade as sprawling as the MCU, because it stops them from becoming stagnant. All you have to do is to look at GoG2’s incredible box office opening for proof. Compare that to the comparably slow crawl of The Wolverine which boasted the same trickle plot and character types as the previous entries in that franchise, and the writing’s on the wall. I and many other hope to see how this industry continues to expand and spin new tales of interesting characters, whilst also providing fair representations and opportunities for all.

 

Feature Image sourced by: Marvel Entertainment Studios

Is There ‘Something There That Wasn’t There Before’?

 A childhood favourite, a kind of messed-up love story, homage to bookworms everywhere — it could only be Beauty and the Beast.

So… was the remake nostalgia filled dream? Or should you blow the dust off your old VHS and stick with the good old classics? Because the true question is, can you really ever out preform anything from the 90’s?

Nostalgia of course, is becoming big business within the film industry, and as successful as it may be – it also lives with an overwhelming amount of criticism. Disney began to capitalize on remaking their own classics in 2010 with ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and has since released, and planned countless others. For the most part, it seems as if Disney is using its economic advantage in order to refuel its best work, and in all honesty… seems a little lazy.

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Emma Watson was critiqued for her auto-tuned voice.

Its truly undeniable that the recreation of this film was not put together in a sloppy way, whilst watching and familiarising yourself with the cast it morphs and develops into a weird game of ‘where’s wally?’ except more; ‘where’s are the plethora of award winning actors?’ (Not as catchy, perhaps). Despite Emma Watson’s questionably auto-tuned rendition of ‘Something There’, the acting and actors within the remake are second to none – as are the CGI effects used throughout the film.
One of the most intercut details and aspects remains to be the talking furniture, the famous characters of Chip, Mrs. Potts, Lumière and Cogsworth amongst others, returned for what could only be described as captivatingly lifelike versions of their previous selves.

 

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That face you make when he won’t leave you alone. 

The transformation that this film was treated with however was not purely based on appearances, and yet looking at the changes that were made to the script, storyline and characters, things start to become…minimalistic. Whole scenes have been replicated, every single frame becoming a more finely tuned version of the original. An undoubted improvement to the original, and yet aren’t there always ways to improve something? The worry is remaining in a constant lapse of ‘remaking classics’ over and over.

Despite the 90’s nostalgia that comes with these remakes, they offer little in the way of originality. Perhaps if Disney were investing their time, energy and resources into new and innovative productions, the appreciation for the rejuvenation of older originals would be welcomed more warmly.

I cant deny, that whilst watching the film that us nineties babies will do anything less than love it, even if you despise Emma Watson, or if its been a while since you even watched a good old ‘Walt’ classic – the remake will re-ignite your passion for all things ‘Beauty and The Beast’ and suddenly you’ll be singing along to the new and improved auto-tuned Belle.

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The original ‘Mr. steal your girl’

All in all, it seems like were in the generation of the remake – and Disney seems to be the leader of the trend. Whilst these productions aren’t thrown together to any degree, Beauty and the Beast seemed ever so similar to the original, that the only thing changed is a bigger and better cast, production and set. There is only so far that ‘generation remake’ can go, and Disney will have no choice but to reinvent themselves and not their films at some point in the future – and it could ultimately be their downfall if they don’t get it right.

Oh and if you fancy yourself a chip mug of your own, you can pay a small fee of £14.99 here.

 

*All images sourced from Flickr.*