Category Archives: Elizabeth Gerken

Walt Disney: Master Animator, or Copycat Extraordinaire?

by Elizabeth Gerken – Staff Writer

Walt Disney; just the mere mention of his name conjures vivid and colorful images of the princesses, castles and talking animals we all know and love from our childhood. His influence on the film industry can be seen everywhere, especially in the modern format for western film which essentially copies the format of his earlier works. However, that magical castle Disney rules is built on a foundation of shady marketing and stolen ideas, most of which have flown under the radar of the general public for far too long.

Disney is not a demon for his copycat tendencies, but it should be recognized that he was not very original in his lifetime. For example, only 5 out of the 19 movies he made in his lifetime were original. Everything else was based off of children’s books or old fairytales that he made more appropriate for his young audience. This fact is even more shocking when you realize that almost all of the originals were complete box office flops or were not even released in theaters.

The one success from the original movies was Fantasia, but it was a critical flop directly after its release in 1940 that almost drove the company into bankruptcy and tarnished Disney’s reputation with critics who enjoyed his pre-established mold of unoriginal fairytales. The only other originals with revenue information available are Melody Time which was released in 1948 made 1.85 million us dollars, and Make Mine Music, released in 1946, made 2.25 dollars. These numbers seem small initially but appear even smaller when you realize that these were all off rentals of the movies years after they came out. Now the more popular but unoriginal movies like Snow White made 418 million dollars at the box office from its 1938 release. This massive jump in revenue may be the driving reason for Disney making unoriginal content; everybody knows the story of Snow White and will go see a movie on it but nobody knows the stories of movies like Melody Time because its new and so they wont want to go see it.

Wanting to make money is something that is seen in every facet of life, so Disney wanting to is nothing new and, while him making primarily unoriginal content is not the most respectable thing, it is understandable. The thing that is harder to understand and by far the most unacceptable is one of his major claims to fame: that he was the first to make animation with synchronized sound. This is an outright lie that few people know. The pioneers of sound animation were Max and Dave Fleisher, two brothers from New York running their own animation studio. They are the ones responsible for characters like Betty Boop and Popeye. Although these characters were their big success, their biggest accomplishment was the creation of Song Car-Tunes. Song Car-Tunes were a series of “follow the bouncing ball” style sing-along animations that ran from May 1924 to September 1927. Steamboat Mickey, the supposed original sound animation, was released in November of 1928, over a year after the final Song Car-Tune was released. Disney was able to propel his animation into the spotlight by convincing news outlets to call his the first and not mention the Fleisher’s at all. This shady business worked, leaving Disney with the fame and the Fleisher brothers buried under him in animation history.

Overall, he is not a monster, but he was not a hero either. The combination of unoriginal content and aggressive marketing practices make his good reputation as a filmmaker questionable. He will forever be an icon of animation and a household name across the world but that does not mean that how he became that should be hidden.

Through the Audition Process With Elizabeth Gerken

by Elizabeth Gerken – Cartoonist

It’s the morning of auditions and my heart keeps beating faster every minute as I lay in bed under the mounds of blankets staring at the celling thinking of everything that could go wrong. My alarm beeps and nocks me out of my nervous daze and I lumber out of bed to get ready, trying to calm the anxiety just enough to get through the day. This works until about fourth period when my drama friends and I have class together and we can’t stop talking about what were doing for auditions and trying to weed as much information out of the people who had auditioned the pervious day in the hopes well be slightly more mentally prepared. However, much to my disappointment, none of this “investigating” clams my ever-increasing nerves in the slightest. For the next two periods I sit in uncomfortable chairs, desperately trying to push all my thoughts down for at least a second so I could grasp a bit of information from classes that will prove to be a waste if I can’t find a way to focus.

Finally, the school day is over and a whole new type of anxiety settles in as Mr. Chopyak explains how the auditions will work. We are dismissed to the space outside the PAC to wait to be individually called in to audition. People are pacing everywhere, reciting monologues, singing with their phones speakers up to their ear so their backtracking doesn’t mess anybody else up and the anxiety is palpable. My friends and I decide to practice our auditions in front of each other and offer advice, self-esteem boosters and emotional support before we are next on the chopping block.

After a wait that felt like a century, I was called in to go. My heart dropped and picked itself up again as I entered the doors to the sound of my friends cheering me on with words of luck and support. The room was silent, and Mrs. Wilson was sitting alone, in the middle of the fourth row marking down what I assumed to be notes from the previous person. My shake hands manage to hand her my audition papers and my knees somehow carry me to the stage. Mrs. Wilson is warm and kind trying to make me as comfortable as possible and to some extent it works. I introduce myself and the monologue ill be doing in my awkward try hard professional voice and she gives me the go ahead to start when I’m ready. After Taking a deep breath in a last-ditch attempt to calm myself down, I start and to my surprise it goes fairly well without any major mistakes. A sigh of relief comes out as quiet as I can make it because the first part was over, or at least I thought it was. After I was done, she applauded then asked me who the character was talking to. Taken aback by this new situation, I calmly explain the context and she says to do the beginning again but to think about the words like I was saying them for the first time. I do so, she compliments my choice of monologue and I walk along with Paige, the sound technician who was helping with auditions, to the band room where I would sing for Mr. Chopyak and Mr. Urmenita.

Sinning in front of anybody is horrifying no matter what the situation, but when you know that this could affect your placement in the hierarchy of parts, a whole new level of terror is reached. This was especially true for me since all I wanted was to audition and for once not be told the I was incredibly pitchy and needed to get better overall. So, I was thoroughly intimidated when I walked in to see the two of them sitting there waiting. I introduced myself after Mr. Urmenita asked, “Witch one are you?” then introduced my song and sang. I was a bit shaky out of nerves on some of the high parts but overall, I was proud of myself. This was reinforced when, upon me finishing the final note, Mr. Chopyak just said, “Beautiful.” At this point I was confident with my audition and the last thing that I had to do was have my range checked by Mr. Urmenita. I sang higher than I thought I could and not as low as I knew I could because I was still so scared my chest voice just seemed to not be willing to work.

They thanked me for auditioning and then dismissed me. A wave of relief crashed over me as I walked out of the band room with this huge weight l This was the first audition that I was confident

about and I was so incredibly proud of myself for even getting up and doing it. When I returned to the commons there was an influx of questions from friends about how I did and I was pleased to say it went well by my standards.

Art Talent Found Outside Classroom Walls

by Elizabeth Gerken – Staff Writer

Walking down the halls, student art from the classes offered here are plastered in display cases and pristinely lit. However, there is more student art than just the pieces that are displayed from the kids in art class. Students across the school create art whether they are in the class for a variety of reasons. Art goes beyond just a required subject for these students, “It’s a way for me to escape reality as a kind of calming thing. If I’m drawing I am not listening to reality and I can get away with my own differences and things.” says Sophomore Kendra Lilley on why she is driven to draw. Lilley began drawing in kindergarten without much thought but soon realized that it was something she could improve on and be good at. As she aged it became an escape as well as an improvable talent so she keeps at it to this day. Although this is an escape for many some simply enjoy it. Take for example freshman Fiona Mason who says, “It’s my passion!”

This passion of may seem like an out of reach career but while it is difficult, it is not impossible. There are many careers in art from graphic design to animation to editorial illustration. “Yes, I hope so!” said sophomore Megan Young when asked if she planned to make her talent a career, but what exactly does she plan to go into? “Concept art but that’s a little… it’s a work in progress.” For those who don’t know, concept art is used to develop the visuals for characters, landscapes and anything else that exists in film or on tv. The process of becoming a professional artist is long and arduous but Megan is sure to succeed with her talent.

Despite their abilities, these artists often dislike their own work and struggle to be proud of what they have created. Mason struggled to pick a piece and said, “That’s a hard question. I like my drawings, but I hate them also.” This sentiment is shared among communities of young artists but as people age and improve they gain more confidence about the things they can do. Young explains it by saying, “Being an artist is a vicious cycle, because you get into these ruts where you think you aren’t improving at all. Whenever I feel like my art is at a standstill, it’s really degrading for my morale.” Getting stuck in these ruts is something that all people feel with whatever they choose to do and it is hard to combat but Young does this by, “Making a little chart documenting the progress of my art over the course of a year or two is really motivating because putting my art side by side makes the improvement really obvious. I’m never completely satisfied with my art because I know there is always something that could be improved about it, but I keep working hard and practicing.” These student artists are talented whether or not they are in art class and art is much more than a required subject to them.

Artistically Accurate Display in Loving Vincent

by Elizabeth Gerken – Staff Writer

The worlds first fully painted feature film, Loving Vincent, is a triumph in both story and visuals. Taking place one year after Vincent van Goh’s death, the film depicts the son of Vincent’s postman, Armand Roulin played by Douglass booth, going to deliver the final letter from Vincent to his beloved brother Theo. He learns that Theo had died a few months after Vincent from his old paint supplier Père Tanguy. However, during their discussion Vincent’s old doctor, Dr. Gachet, prompting Armond to travel to Auvers-sur-Oise to visit the doctor and deliver the letter. During his stay he learns more about the mysterious circumstances of Vincent’s supposed suicide and learns what people thought of the mysterious and eccentric painter.

The film works in two distinct styles, a style reminiscent of van Goh’s work to portray the story of Armond and the events that take place in the present, and a black and white realistic style that depicted the life of van Goh leading up to his death and any events that took place near the time of his death. By using these styles, the film creates a stunningly effective divide from what is real and what is rumor, a divide often missed or blurred in live action media. Rumors and first-hand stories are the primary way that we learn about Vincent’s life and death in the film and while this lead to inconsistencies, they feel purposeful seeing as everyone who knew him viewed him differently. Apart from word of mouth, we know little about his personal life or early childhood events that may have lead to his mental decline. The black and white scenes we see and the stories the characters tell also give us insight onto the different aspects of his life such as the friendship he had with Dr. Gachet and his life hanging around with the young rebellious socialites of the era. Loving Vincent isn’t just a film with an incredible story though, the visuals are the shining star of this feature.

As previously stated, Loving Vincent is the worlds first fully oil painted feature film and this is no small feat. Despite having over 100 separate artists working on creating each frame, the style is unbelievably consistent and stays true to the brushwork of van Goh’s work. Environments are sometimes hard to read, and some distant forms are lost but this is all reminiscent of Van Goh’s works witch occasionally lost details in the broad and colorful strokes of paint. All of the characters in the films appearances are based off of Vincent’s paintings and sketches and are often introduced by placing them in the environment of the painting they were featured in creating beautiful callbacks to his work and demonstrating how his life and the people he knew influenced his art. Overall, Loving Vincent is a true labor of love that is visually stunning and hosts a compelling story that will surely go down as one of the greatest technical achievements in modern film.

Kentlake’s Silent Killer: Styrofoam

by Elizabeth Gerken – Staff Writer

If you get lunch here at Kentlake, you probably get a Styrofoam tray with your lunch. This has been the case since middle school, or even earlier for many of us, but should it be? It turns out that, no, it really should not. Styrofoam lunch trays are perhaps the worst option for student’s health, the planet and Kentlake’ s wallet.

Styrofoam as a material is notoriously toxic by nature. It is made from a form of petroleum which is turned in to massive amounts of greenhouse gas during production thus contributing to the global issue of climate change. After production and use the Styrofoam is thrown into the garbage because it cannot be recycled or composted in most cases, and in the landfill, it takes 500 years to decompose at the least according to the Future Center Trust, a nongovernmental environmental education and protection organization in Barbados.

Along with being an environmental hazard, it is also hazardous to our health. Styrofoam, or polystyrene, contains the chemical styrene which is a neurotoxin that, when in contact with warm or greasy food, breaks down and absorbs into the food. Once the styrene is consumed it is absorbed by the fatty tissues in your brain. Styrene has been linked to depression, vision, hearing loss, and even cancer in some animals. Although the amount that is present in cafeteria pizza when people eat it is small, constant exposure can still lead to health issues.

With all these negative effects on the environment and on people you would think it would be cheap but in fact it is the opposite. A pack of 500 lunch trays costs around 33 dollars depending on where you buy it from. This seems like a good deal but if you take into account that you have to buy enough for all 1501 students at Kentlake for all 180 days of the school year, that price jumps to $17,820 dollars a year just on Styrofoam lunch trays.

All these factors are cause for a switch to something a little more sustainable, less toxic and less expensive. Reusable plastic lunch trays. Even though plastic is still not as clean as some other materials, it is the least expensive of all the other options and would require the least amount of modification to the current lunch routine. Plastic trays do not have the negative effects that styrene does on the food and the consumer, and they are reusable and recyclable if need be. Most plastic lunch trays cost around $1.50 a piece, which sounds expensive, but when you consider the fact that they are reusable and only need to be purchased every few years if that, they come in at $2,251.50 for 1501 lunch trays, one for every student. The school could even go out and get an additional 500 and the total price would be $3,000.00.

The one downside to the plastic trays is the fact that they must be washed. Depending on the dishwasher, the price varies but for a industrial door type washing machine it takes 1 hour to wash approximately 1,800 trays using 4 gallons for every 18 trays at $00.16 per gallon witch adds up to about $53.76 a day and $9,000.00 per year. While this is still a pretty large expense, it is still $8,820 less per year, which in the long run would be significantly cheaper than the Styrofoam alternative, and does not have the health hazards cause a decrease in the environmental damage.

Next time you pick up a Styrofoam lunch tray with your cafeteria nachos or pizza, ask yourself, if we could be doing better, why aren’t we?

Are You Too Old to Go Trick Or Treating?

by Elizabeth Gerken – Staff Writer

Trick or treating is a Halloween tradition for children across the country and it should end when we hit adulthood. As children age into teenagers, a lot of people find it hard to let go of things that were enjoyed in childhood like trick or treating, which is fine, so long as you do not do anything stupid or dangerous while surrounded by crowds of young children. However, once you turn 18 or 19 and enter adulthood it is inappropriate to go trick or treating because as you age, the Halloween traditions change. Once they reach young adulthood more people are drinking and partying. Going trick or treating at that point its wrong because no five-year-old wants to see a drunk 20-something in a sexy ladybug costume walking down the street with her equally scandalous friends trying to get candy from other adults.

Even though some people aren’t into going to parties and inappropriate costumes, as they get older their profit from trick or treating decreases. This is because most of society thinks that they are too old for trick or treating and they do not give you candy.

One big reason people use to justify going trick or treating is that they are going with their younger siblings or even children to supervise them. In this scenario, it is perfectly fine to go out and dress up but you do not need to take candy because like I said before, by the time you are around 18 people will not give you candy anymore anyway.

Yes, this may be just a weird societal norm that dictates what is childish and people can try to fight it all they want but not much is going to change. People will always find it odd seeing a group of 19-year-olds dressed up as zombies and ghosts going around asking houses for candy. Some people do go out with their little siblings and its okay if they do but don’t take candy for themselves. If people go out after they turn 18 or 19 by themselves or with friends their age it’s going to be weird regardless of whether they go out drinking or wear sexy ladybug costumes with their girlfriends because people are going to think it’s creepy for an adult to go around asking other adults for free candy. Besides, theyre not going to get anything out of it other than walking around a neighborhood surrounded by kids and maybe a few pieces of candy.