The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello

July 24, 2010

Long time ago, I came across an Australian animated film Mysterious Exploration of Jasper Morello on wabisabi’s past blog (now defunct). It’s an incredible fusion of silhouette animation, steam punk and quasi-Victorian setting, which gives it a uniquely modern and industrial look and feel that I just find fascinating. Silhouette animation is a technique that goes way back to the very beginning of animation history, but the seamless blending of shadowed characters and CG textures make it look less like paper-cut figures moving behind stock background, and more like authentic characters in a world that is constantly moving and breathing. Writing is solid as well, as we are treated to an engaging character study of a man who embraces dark intentions in order to save humanity and his sick wife, all in an ample time of half an hour.

The fact that you can’t often make out facial expressions leaves this sense of ambiguity as to what kind of thoughts or emotions are bubbling underneath that enigmatic shadow, and I loved it. I remember a scene lasting few minutes in Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei that is done in silhouette animation, but other than that I don’t recall much, if any, of this technique being used in anime, even in experimental ones. Few more screenshots below.

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11 Responses to “The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello”

  1. coburn Says:

    That’s wonderful. I found the use of visual depth very intriguing. Right at the start they use the cgi to pull of a Star Wars style shot of a passing ship, then the narration starts up with this 2-D figure walking across these 2-D mechanisms, which go on to provide the link between the silhouettes and the cgi, making it all feel complete. In some ways the cgi reminded me of Gankutsuo, but the use of the shadows opened up new possibilities for really mixing up the cast with the graphics without seeming clumsy. Neat.


  2. Well, then let me make you remember love for the shadow puppets of Revolutionary Girl Utena.

  3. gaguri Says:

    @coburn

    glad you liked it đŸ˜€

    @ghostlightning

    O I absolutely loved that part too, but I guess it’s a little different from actual silhouette animation (since in utena they were still cel animation to stay more consistent), where in szs they actually departed from their conventional method of animation.


  4. Tch! Trust me to get technical matters of production wrong!

  5. DrIdiot Says:

    Just watched this. It’s pretty good.

    According to Wikipedia, there are a few others:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasper_Morello

    Have you seen those as well? I can’t seem to find them anywhere.

  6. gaguri Says:

    Nope, and it’s strange that the story section in that wiki only lists the first series and not the rest. Maybe no more was actually produced and only planned, I’m not sure. Anyway that wiki says tons of fascinating stuff on technical merits of Morello, obviously incredibly innovative at the time and executed brilliantly.

  7. ayame Says:

    What can I say! Your blog totally rocks!!! Wish I can reach your level of writing and contemplating!

    Here’s sth of similar style you may like
    http://www.benditomachine.com/web_in/index.php#


  8. Love every bit of your article. Thanks again.


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