Macbeth Summary

Date: 2012
Posted by: benben8it
Cast: Ben Todd (commentary)
Credits: Bed Todd (artwork)
Duration: 3.41

Here’s a gem of a summary of Macbeth from cartoonist Ben Todd. It’s the usual quick run through the play’s highlights, turning tragedy into quickfire comedy, but making the plot clear for anyone struggling with iambic pentameter. It’s mostly done with simple static doodles, which seem artless at first sight but which have a peculiar charm about them. The black and white is occasionally interrupted by splashes of red blood, a cheesy photograph of Scotland, and great use of one of the most renowned of all YouTube videos, the five-second Dramatic Gopher, hilariously brought in as reaction to the news that Macduff was born by C-section. It’s fun to watch, but it also makes you think. Life, it tells us, is just a procession of exits and entrances, stabbings and survivals, in which there are only happy endings because we do not know what happens after those endings.

YouTube page
Ben Todd’s Pencil Poetry Tumblr site

Behind the Stage

Date: 2013
Posted by: Donald Jordan
Cast: None
Credits: Animated by Donald Jordan
Duration: 1.27

A short but inspired work of imagination. Using a mixture of photographs and medieval woodcuts, the filmmaker has imagined a staging of The Tempest, with stormy waves, sinking ships and a whale, all framed by a theatre and shot in black-and-white. It’s a moment’s inspiration made real, where the static comes to life, and the illusory nature of the stage is made apparent through illusion. Brief, but you remember it afterwards.

YouTube page

Shakespeare’s The Tempest Animation

Shakespeare’s The Tempest Animation from matthewkilford on Vimeo.

Date: 2013
Posted by: matthewkilford
Cast: Year 6 pupils from Bloxham Primary School
Credits: Made by Bloxham Primary School; Animation Station: Matt Kilford, Emily Horler. Special thanks to Mrs Verinder, Mrs Way, Mrs Coles, Mrs Ralls, Mr Ingall
Duration: 10.28

This is an absolutely charming animated version of The Tempest made by Year 6 pupils ( ages 10-11) of Bloxham Primary School, Oxfordshire, with help from local arts organisation Animation Station. It tells the essential story, with snatches of the most familiar lines, using children’s drawings animated in a rudimentary but entirely effective manner. What gives the film its power is the use of the children’s voices to tell the story and voice the characters. They tell the story with enthusiasm and conviction. While with some schoolchildren’s online Shakespeare you sense the eagerness of the teacher but wonder about the pupils’ comprehension of what they are being asked to do, here it is clear that they were fully engaged in both play and project. It is a film to persuade anyone, of any age, of the play’s magical qualities. The applause at the end is a delightful idea, and entirely merited.

Vimeo page
Animation Station

The Many Coloured Messenger

Date: 2010
Posted by: Mary Martin
Cast: None
Credits: Animator: Mary Martin
Duration: 3.37

This exquisite animation was made in 2010 by an A-level student. Made up of over 1,000 painterly images, it takes Prospero’s words “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” and illustrates them in abstract fashion, showing a small green figure in an ever-changing landscape of colourful forms, while a clock denotes unstoppable time forever moving on. A remarkable piece of visual imagination, made all the more effective through the rhapsodic musical accompaniment with flute and piano. It’s a work of which an Oskar Fischinger or a Walter Ruttmann would have been proud. Here is how Shakespeare can play upon the creative mind.

YouTube page

Romeo & Juliet, 2553 A.D.

Date: 2007
Posted by: mcdonaldjm
Cast: Meaghan Sloane (Chorus), Richard Jau (Sampson), Mitch Ryan (Gregory), Jeff Heilman (Abram), Jim Raley (Benvolio), Jordan Gebhardt (Tybalt), Fred Tollini, S.J. (The Prince), Bruce McDonald (Montagu), Victoria McDonald (Lady Montagu), Jon McDonald (Romeo), Arbiter (Juliet)
Credits: Directed and edited by Jon McDonald, music from the score to Titus (2000) by Elliot Goldenthal: Philimelagram, Arrows of the Gods, and Tamora’s Pastorale
Duration: 8.53 (part 1), 4.36 (part 2)

There is a whole genre out there of machinima versions of Shakespeare. Machinima are animations usally made using video game software, where fans of games such as Halo, Call of Duty, Second Life, World of Warcraft etc., and repply the figures and backgrounds to their own narratives. An increasing number have chosen to recreate scenes from Shakespeare in this form, frequently emphasising battle sequences, and mostly playing on the comic disparity between Shakespeare’s scenes and the outlandish figures of the fantasy worlds of video games.

This school project adaptation of Romeo & Juliet Act 1 Scene 1 uses imagery from the game Halo 3. It is both typical and distinctive among the genre. Typical, because of the comic effect of bizarre science fiction figures uttering Shakespeare’s words and the time devoted to the battle scene. Distinctive, because so many of Shakespeare’s words are heard. Unike other examples of the genre, which either paraphrase the text or use just a few key lines, here the filmmakers offers us reasonably long stretches of dialogue (albeit with some modern paraphrases) that draw us all the more into this unearthly world where Montagus and Capulets are luridly coloured robots from 500 years hence. The brawl between the two camps is well chosen (the Spartans and the Elites from the original game), though the absence of Juliet herself (beyond a wordless appearance portrayed by the Halo 3 character Arbiter) tends to render the video’s title an irrelevance. There are two parts, taking us not very far into the play, but far enough to recognise that an imaginative work has been realised.

Part 1
Part 2
Wikipedia on Machinima

From Hour to Hour

Date: 2013 (original version 2011)
Posted by: groeneg
Cast: None
Credits: Double G Productions
Duration: 0.57

‘It is ten o’clock:
Thus we may see,’ quoth he, ‘how the world wags:
‘Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more ’twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.’

Jacques’ words on time and mortality are the inspiration for this roughly executed clay animation, which takes the idea that we rot and rot literally with a comically horrific ending. Part of the joke is the nature of stop-animation itself, which speeds up and collapses time into whatever space it eants to, so that a young man may become a corpse in seconds.

The anonymous filmmaker has some pedigree in this field, since as GroeneG he was responsible for 2007’s Hamlet’s Egg, one of the first videos to be posted on BardBox. The animation technique has not moved on greatly in those five years, but the fondness for using Shakespeare as black humour remains.

Originally posted on Vimeo as Hour to Hour in 2011, then reposted on YouTube as From Hour to Hour in 2013.

YouTube page

The Tempest Animation

Date: 2010
Posted by: Jamie McDine
Cast: (voices) Denice Hicks (Ariel/sailor), Amanda Card McCoy (Miranda/sailor), Joseph Robinson (Boatswain/Ferdinand/Stephano), Robert Marigza (Antonio/Alonso/Caliban), Brian Russell (Gonzalo/Prospero/Trinculo)
Credits: Filmed by Jamie McDine; Bill Crosby, sound engineer
Duration: 5.39

It is Shakespeare’s birthday, and let’s celebrate this august event by posting one of the most inventive Shakespeare videos this site has come across, certainly as far as school projects are concerned. It was made Year 7 students at Matravers School in Westbury, Wiltshire UK, with some help from artist in residence Jamie McDine. Its subject is The Tempest, and it looks like no other Shakespeare video you are likely to have seen.

Perhaps inspired by Tom Phillips’ A Humument (the pages of a book individually remade as works of art), McDine has taken the page of The Tempest and treated them with smears and blotches, then overlaid this with drawings produced by the children inspired by scenes from the play. The video takes us through the pages as the narrative progresses, with voices reading out snatches from the play (and not necessarily the usual familiar quotations). The jerkiness of the pseudo-animation can be a little wearing, but what impresses is the sense of invention and discovery, which draws you into thinking about the play afresh. And that is what the best of these online videos do – like the best stage productions, and the best Shakespeare films, they make the play new again. It doesn’t matter if it’s the ‘full’ play, an extract or a condensation, as here. What matters is the sense of discovery, of a new world.

“Is this the best school film ever made?” asks the filmmaker on the accompanying notes. Perhaps not quite (the Hillside Student Community’s interpretation of Hamlet‘s ‘To be or not to be’ still feels like the best to me), but it is well worth experiencing.

The post is a contribution to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Happy Birthday Shakespeare project. Do follow the link and find posts from other bloggers taking part.

Vimeo page
Happy Birthday Shakespeare site