Saturday, July 14, 2012
The List: Top 5 Animated Nuclear Explosions (NSFW)
One thing that I like to do is making lists, especially ranked lists. Countdowns are one of the joys in my life. Well, one thing I can do on this blog is make countdowns based on topics in animation. I've already been doing some of this through my rankings of my favorite Oscar nominated films every ten years, and I'll do things on other animation-related topics from time to time. And this first one is something that had been bouncing around in my head since I saw The Big Snit for the first time back in 2007: the top five animated atomic explosions.
And yes, in case you hadn't seen it before, NSFW means Not Safe For Work. Even though these next scenes are animated, there are still images that are quite graphic. You have been warned.
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945 ushered in the terrible new frontier of atomic warfare. The devastation and destruction of those two cities had helped bring World War II to a close, but it also made people aware of the terrifying reality that there are weapons out there that can end not just a war but also the world. This fear came to an apex with the announcement that the Soviet Union had nuclear warheads of their own. Americans began to prepare for the possibility of nuclear attack. The famous 1951 partly animated documentary film Duck and Cover educated citizens about what to do in case of a nuclear explosion, although later atomic tests and tales from Hiroshima showed these efforts to be quite futile. Yet the danger of a real nuclear apocalypse never seemed more real than with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, especially since the Soviet Union tested their 50 megaton Tsar Bomba the year before, over 1,000x stronger than the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, combined. Yet the crisis passed with no atomic explosions. Now it has been over 20 years since the Soviet Union has dissolved, but even today the threat is palatable. Rogue countries like North Korea and Iran are rumored to have nuclear programs, and terrorist groups are always trying to come up with ways to spread their messages of terror. Yet to date Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the only cities to feel the full effect of nuclear warfare. Let us hope that it remains that way.
In the years since the Cuban Missile Crisis, the art industry began focusing on the atomic age. Some artists looked back at the tragedy in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while others looked forward at the possibility of nuclear attack. Films like The Big Snit using nuclear war as a backdrop or a plot device became common. Animation became an invaluable tool for artists, as it allows for a more vivid depiction of a nuclear explosion and its aftermath. These five films have all used the medium to highlight the horrors of a nuclear attack, as all five are anti-war in some elements.
I mean no disrespect with the post. I hope that films like these can reach a larger audience to remind us never to forget the horrors of nuclear warfare.
5. Jumping (1984)
humanism in his work, and also in films like Jumping. What happens to the boy at the end? You'll have to watch the film to find out. The explosion happens around 5:21.
4. When the Wind Blows (1986)
watch the entire film if you want to depress yourself for the next couple of days, but for now here's the climactic nuclear blast scene.
3. Pikadon (1978)
Nico Nico Douga, if you have an account. Otherwise enjoy this lower quality YouTube version where the blast is only 10 seconds and where it cut out the scene with the guy melting to the bone.
2. A Short Vision (1956)
Castle Bravo, detonated in 1954, was the most powerful bomb detonated at the time, and remains the strongest ever detonated by the US. This nuclear arms race led Foldes and his wife Joan to make this film, whose simple animation and storyline belies the profound message that the film carries. The animation is a series of static images that follow one after another. And the story is pretty much what I've posted above, minus the powerful ending that you have to see for yourself. However, the message is pretty clear: when it comes to nuclear warfare there are no winners. You could be aware of it, or you could be hopelessly ignorant, but no matter what when the bombs strike you will be destroyed. Like the rest of the film, the explosion is done in static images that escalate to paint a picture of destruction. It starts out as a fireball in the night sky that spreads out in all directions until the entire landscape below burns up. And then for the next minute it highlights the damage of the blast on living things. The leader, the owl, the deer, and a young lady who couldn't sleep. They all had their face melt away leaving only a skeleton which is destroyed as well. The destruction of the leader was especially graphic. His eyes widen and water, then explode in a splash of blood and aqueous humor. His jaw becomes slack. His skin and muscles disappear, leaving only the skull. The other deaths were not quite as vivid, but the film still left a stark impression on viewers, especially in America. The film gained notoriety and a wide viewership when it aired on the Ed Sullivan Show, the popular variety show, on May 27, 1956. The host warned parents to "tell [their young children] not to be alarmed at this 'cause it's a fantasy, the whole thing is animated," but this warning was quite an understatement, as are still legions of baby boomers who are haunted by the memory. This may very well be the film's lasting legacy.
1. Barefoot Gen (1983)
original manga, Gen and a lady see the B-29. The B-29 drops the bomb. There is a flash and a blast. Buildings are destroyed and a mushroom cloud develops. It is epic, but nothing compared to the anime. Perhaps influenced by the Kinoshita film, the anime adaptation takes it to a whole new level. There are ten seconds worth of 'pika' seen from the vantage point of Gen (shielded by a wall as he bent down to pick up a pebble he dropped while tossing), his family, the Hiroshima Castle, and the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Then come the 'don', and the animators spare no punches. A little girl holding a balloon has her clothes blown right off. Her skin is burned, and her eyeballs fall out. Several more people and a dog undergo this terrible transformation. The Promotion Hall is partially destroyed, leaving behind the iconic dome. The Hiroshima Castle is completely annihilated. Families get impaled by glass or wooden beams. Gen's family is spared from the initial blast but his mother falls from the balcony while the rest of his family is trapped by the collapsing house. Gen himself is blown away. And then comes the mushroom cloud in grotesque colors. The blast is memorable for its protracted length as well as its graphic nature. The rest of the film is pretty good, detailing Gen and his mother's struggle for survival in the aftermath, but whenever people think of Barefoot Gen, this is what they will remember. Nevertheless, here is the full film if you want to watch the message of hope in the end.
Five films. Five grisly reminders of the horrors of nuclear warfare. Five examples of using animation to make a comment. I highly doubt that this will reach any major world leaders, but hopefully it can change minds about the futility of war.