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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Short Story: The Rogue Re-Animator

This story is set in my invented world of the "Toonworld", where cartoons are real and live among mainstream humanity. The concept I came up with here is a sort of tweaked take on H.P. Lovecraft's "Herbert West: Reanimator", but this story is much more uplifting. It is the tale of a "mad artist" who takes the role of mad scientist, trying to resurrect Walt Disney as a living cartoon so that he can meet him, (and get permission to animate Disney's characters in living form as well). Here it is:

The Rogue Re-Animator
A “Penny Dreadful” Tale of the Toonworld
By Jacob Martin

“So we begin, our dark work in the night, but with vision and genius will bring light” said a man in an artist’s smock. It was unusual for mad scientists to wear artist’s smocks. Usually the animation of life was considered to involve a dead body and nasty, sharp tools, unholy liquids, and if they were lucky enough with the weather, a thunderstorm to complete the madman’s sinister plan. Not so with Mr. Curwen. He did not work with dead bodies at all. Simply drawings, cartoons of people long dead. For he was an Animator of a different sort. He did not give the illusion of life and motion to static drawn images. He gave them true life.

“Are you sure Walt Disney would want us to be bringing him back from the dead in cartoon form, Mr. Curwen?” said an assistant, surprisingly without a hunchback and unusually in an assistant of this line of work, handsome enough to be considered “date material”. Sure, he couldn’t exactly tell potential girlfriends what his job was entirely in the realms of truth, as “I bring dead people to life in cartoon form” is rarely a good pickup line. Unless the girl you’re trying to impress is a Goth girl, in which case, it might be an asset to the relationship.

“Sure he would, do you have any idea how much money his company is raking in? He’d be a fool not to agree!” said Mr. Curwen. “Don’t you see Igor… I mean Reggie, this is a historic moment in science!”

“It’s a historic moment in how to spend a Wednesday night, that’s what it is” said Reggie. “Beats watching TV I suppose. However I should be earning overtime for this”

“Fine, you can have your overtime pay, just get the machine ready”

“What machine?” said Reggie, “I never knew anything about a machine, unless you mean this digital art computer package that’s in a box over in the corner”

“I don’t know how to install it, ok?” said Mr. Curwen. “I’m an artistic genius, not a computer wizard”

“You say you can create cartoon characters in living, breathing form, yet you don’t know how to use a digital art computer program?”

“Oh shut up, before I outsource your job to India!” snapped Mr. Curwen.

Reggie unpacked the box, and started putting together the computer. It was a Mac.

After he installed the scanner and the life sized printer, he came across an accessory that looked like a helmet with electrodes on it.

“What might this be?” said Reggie.

“That,” said Mr. Curwen, “Is what’s going to make this process work. The machine that makes living cartoon characters is powered by the imagination. And it takes a heck of a lot of imagination to make this work, let me tell you. I’ve got such an imagination, however this model of machine is designed in a way that requires little distraction in the animation process”

“So you want me to put this obvious deathtrap on my head?”

“Heavens no, it’s not a deathtrap, I’ve worked with machinery like this before. You simply stick it on your head and imagine things, and your cartoon person becomes a living, breathing, animated work of art. So far the tests I’ve done allowed me to create various stick figure people. I was able to do this because no copyright exists on most stick figure cartoon characters, whereas nobody has the rights to animate characters like Mickey Mouse in living form yet”

“So that’s why you want to bring Disney back to life?”

“Partly” said Mr. Curwen. “Mostly I just wanted to meet the man”

“If I’m not going to wear this helmet, who will?”

“My niece”

“You wouldn’t…”

“She won’t be hurt by it, and besides, I’m babysitting her for my sister, I have to keep her occupied somehow”

“Fair enough, but will she cooperate?”

A small girl appeared at the doorway.

“Uncle Abner, what’s this about you trying to make a cartoon? If you’re trying to do something questionable down here, my Mummy will not be pleased” she said.

“Quinn, just get that helmet on and start imagining things!” boomed Mr. Curwen.

“Are you sure bringing back Disney is a good idea?” said the girl. “From the looks of this drawing, and the machinery you’re using, you’re either trying to bring him back from the dead or you’re trying to make counterfeit money”

“What a large vocabulary the girl has” said Reggie. “What’s her name?”

“She gets those big words from her mother” grumbled Mr. Curwen. “Her name is Twyla”
“Hello there Twyla, be a good girl and put the nice helmet on” said Reggie, trying to make himself seem less threatening than Twyla’s uncle.

“Fine, I’ll put it on, but if you don’t have a tea party with me and my stuffed animals later, I’m telling Mummy what you’re doing down here” said Twyla.

“You wouldn’t…” said Mr. Curwen, “She’d never let me see you again…”

“See, he does care about me” said Twyla to Reggie.

Twyla put the helmet on, and Mr. Curwen instructed her.

“Now start imagining things” said Mr. Curwen.

“Mummy says I shouldn’t do that”

“I don’t care what your Mummy says, you’re going to imagine things, unicorns, dragons, fairies, anything!”

Twyla started imagining she was a princess in a castle, and Mr. Curwen put the drawing of Walt Disney in the scanner. He then got Reggie to work with the Flash Animator Deluxe program, and results were being achieved. A pair of feet were printing out of the giant printer, and the legs were kicking in an erratic manner.

But Twyla got distracted. At this point the paper jammed. The feet went back to their 2D form.

“I’m not blaming you for this Twyla” said Mr. Curwen. “I should have worn the helmet myself. It takes a lot of concentration to do something like this, when you’re a bit older I might show you how to do it properly”

Twyla went over to the printer and pressed a button. The rest of Walt Disney’s body printed out, in flat form.

“One day I’ll get this to work, Twyla. Then we’ll have Old Walt back again” said Mr. Curwen, as he walked off with her, to attend a tea party with stuffed teddy bears as the guests of honour.

As Twyla, Reggie, and Mr. Curwen walked away, they failed to notice the life sized print out of Disney was stirring. The cartoon person stood up, and yawned.

He looked around, and remarked: “Wait a minute, this isn’t California!”


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