Monday, March 17, 2014

“Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” on Fox - Visually Arresting

A Journey to New Worlds

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

The mysteries of the universe are captivating American viewers once again in Fox has brought Carl Sagan back to life!

Well, sort of. “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” debuted last week with an episode about Giordano Bruno to good ratings. Producer Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy” and “American Dad”) managed to get the science series a primetime spotlight on Fox. Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan signed off on the series, and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is has taken over the hosting duties that Sagan handled so well.

Bruno, incidentally, was a medieval Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, poet, scientist, and astrologer who correctly (we think) predicted that the sun was just one of many stars, around many of which orbited inhabited planets. The powers that be at the time didn't like that idea, so he was burned at the stake in 1600.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Giordano Bruno - ahead of his time.
MacFarlane turned to his longtime animation producing partner, Kara Vallow, and her team at 6 Point Harness studio to work up the series. The original series started out doing live reenactments, but it got a little corny having actors playing Sir Isaac Newton and Nikolai Tesla. The solution in this modern era? Why, animation, of course.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
The animation is visually arresting.
Those familiar with the video game world know how far animation has gone in portraying ancient times in games such as "Assassins Creed." The animation uses a unique visual style of cut-outs and shadow puppetry, black silhouettes pitched against backgrounds. The transition from live-action locations is handled well by using layered photo images for the backgrounds, with scanned-in textures of real objects and photographs. The style is interesting and exciting, with the combination of reality and illusion helping to hammer home the science concepts.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
The series has a unique style that resembles an impressionistic painting.
The series is 13 one hour episodes and well worth catching. This is part of my continuing effort to integrate some of the different uses of animation into this site beyond fiery dragons and wacky talking dogs.


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