by Larry Lehna
Every trip to the DIA is a joy. The visit to Watch Me Move: The Animation Show was no different. The people who created this show have gathered an impressive amount of original material from some of the pioneers of animation. They have digitized the earliest films of this genre so that they are preserved for posterity. There are too many artists to mention each one, but if you have any favorite historical animators, you could expect to see an example of their work at the exhibit. The most notable groundbreakers represented would be: the Lumiére brothers, Etienne-Jules Marey and Georges Méliés.
The show is arranged in chronological order, with the earliest and simplest examples at the beginning, such as the blooming of an animated flower. Although it sounds like pretty tame stuff, try to imagine the wonder in the eyes of the beholders of this miracle when it was first viewed. This was filmmaking in its infancy, and it was looked upon with awe. Even those first attempts created satisfying images. As you proceed through the show you see how the medium progressed.
You are treated to some original cartoons by Ub Iwerks, the famed creator of Mickey Mouse. Disney Studios is well-represented, as it should be. There are headphones available on many of the exhibits along with alcoves with seating for the longer films. There is a nice display of cartoons from television which begins with Betty Boop and proceeds through Rocky and Bullwinkle, the Flintstones, the Jetsons and on to the more modern animations such as South Park and Family Guy. It is a nice trip down memory lane for the older visitor, but just as easily enjoyed by the youngest patrons. There are also several examples of the wonderful works of Warner Brothers. People of all ages know they are in for a treat when the screen lights up with the words, “Looney Tunes.” Who hasn’t heard Porky Pig stutter out his famous line, “That’s all, folks.”
Just as interesting are some of the more avant-garde displays of op-art and even some parental guidance films. These are all in hidden alcoves in a room that is clearly labeled as inappropriate for children. The works are not exceedingly graphic, but the DIA put the signs up so as not to offend anyone’s sensibilities.
This is a family friendly way to spend the day. The price of admission includes a ticket to the historical Detroit Film Theater (DFT), which is showing a variety of animated films in celebration the show. A visit to the DFT is an experience in itself and one that no Detroiter should miss. There is also an impressive array of lectures and workshops available. Many of the workshops are perfect for children, as they are hands-on and allow tots to create their own short animations or flip-books that make images appear to move.
Don’t let a physical handicap ever keep you from attending any event at the DIA. The staff will go out of its way to accommodate anyone with a disability. Feel free to call ahead if you have questions or special needs. This show is one more reason we need to preserve the culture that the DIA provides for our struggling city. Don’t let them talk about selling off our treasures because of the inept financial mismanagement of our elected officials. In the words of Iimani David, “Art is what separates us from the animals."
Runs through Jan. 5, 2014.