Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Dot and the Line

The Dot and the Line was created by Chuck Jones in 1965, as an adaptation of Norton Juster’s 1963 book.  Originally, watching the first couple seconds of the film, I had no idea what to expect.   It was clearly a cartoon, probably intended for younger audiences, but the animation combined with the music reminded me of the 1940 Disney film, Fantasia.  For the first eighty seconds, for all I knew, the film was going to be entirely dependent on the music and animation, and maybe even without words.  But then the narrator began, and I was proven wrong.

The film is designed in a very clever way to teach audiences the significance and versatility of the classic line.  The film is very dependent on color and contrast to create the child-like atmosphere.  The colorful colors of all the other lines, the bold red chosen for the dot, and even the black used for the “wild and unkempt squiggle.”  The colors all seem to correspond with each of the “characters” in the story.

I liked how Juster/ Jones point out the different significant “roles” that lines play: the “celebrated daredevil” (a tight rope), a “leader in world affairs” (the Equator), the “fearless law enforcement agent” (the lanes on a street), a “potent force in the world of art” (a pole in a celebrated painting), and even an “international sportsman” (a tug of war rope).  All of these examples cleverly show how prevalent the line is in everything we see.

Finally the film ends with both the dot and the audience being impressed by the versatility of the line.  Once it learned to bend and make angles, it realized it was capable of so much more.  Mathematically, it could even make curves, and from that point there was no stopping him.  He could design infinite creations now—and compared to the “wild and unkempt squiggle,” there was really no comparison!  No matter how hard it tried, it could not appear designed.  

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