Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

Cidu Bill on Apr 24th 2010

Nothing for the Ewww Files this week — but I have a feeling once this one’s explained, it will more than qualify

Filed in Basketcase Comix, Bill Bickel, CIDU, Ewww, comic strips, comics, humor | 39 responses so far

39 Responses to “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…”

  1. Ted in Fort Lauderdale Apr 24th 2010 at 12:19 am 1

    This is a take-off on the robotics theory of the “uncanny valley” ( which basically says that humans don’t have problems with robots that aren’t very human-like, and would accept completely human robots, but there is are robots that are human-like but not human-like enough that humans find very disturbing - a “valley” in the response curve. This imitation ranch dressing (from Uncanny Valley rather than Hidden Valley) isn’t the real thing, but it is close enough that it falls into the disturbing category.

    Not an Ewww, but pretty esoteric. Do you have a “geeks only” category?

  2. Ted in Fort Lauderdale Apr 24th 2010 at 12:20 am 2

    There is are robots? I really need to proofread better before I hit submit…

  3. src666 Apr 24th 2010 at 12:28 am 3

    The “uncanny valley” is also used in reference to animation. For example, Polar Express was caught squarely in it, in that many people found the character’s faces to be creepy - they were going for life-like, but ended up not quite making it. Avatar is generally recognized the first CGI film to have rendered faces as close to life-like as possible without getting stuck in the valley.

  4. Marshal Apr 24th 2010 at 12:30 am 4

    Cidu Bill if you need a comic for the Eww files
    here is one ->

    As for this one, All the definitions of ranch I could find pretty much
    center around it being a place for raising livestock. So I
    guess it tastes like someplace where you might keep
    a herd of cattle.

    What I want to know is why is Charlie McCarthy’s picture on the bottle?
    Sigh, miss him and Mortimer Snerd.

  5. Rainey Apr 24th 2010 at 12:32 am 5

    I got the impression that this was another version of “I can’t believe it’s not butter.” with ranch dressing. However, if Ted in Fort Lauderdale is correct this would explain the picture of the mechanical face on the bottle.

  6. Cidu Bill Apr 24th 2010 at 12:32 am 6

    Marshal, I saw that one a bit too late, but it’s already included in next week’s Ewww collection.

  7. Marshal Apr 24th 2010 at 12:38 am 7

    So is there no love for “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”?

  8. Jeff S. Apr 24th 2010 at 12:40 am 8

    So Lore is in the deepest part of the valey, but Data is on the leftside peak?

  9. PeterW Apr 24th 2010 at 02:28 am 9

    Hey Geeks! comics

  10. PeterW Apr 24th 2010 at 02:29 am 10

    @ Jeff: it’s normally applied just to the way they look and move, so Data and Lore are almost at the same place on the plot. But Lore is a straight-up sociopath.

  11. furrykef Apr 24th 2010 at 02:33 am 11

    src666 — I saw that film and liked it (at the time; I don’t know if I’d still like it if I saw it again), but its animation is definitely “uncanny valley”.

    I think Gollum in LotR was very well done, but he was a monster to begin with. If he had a human face, animation flaws might have been more obvious.

  12. OMJulie Apr 24th 2010 at 02:52 am 12

    Pretty sure that’s a ventriloquist’s dummy on the bottle, which fits squarely in the uncanny valley as well. Uncanny valley basically applies to any kind of ‘imitation human’.

    This was a LOL for me. Then again, I’m a geek.

  13. mitch4 Apr 24th 2010 at 04:41 am 13

    Marshal, thank you for being apparently even a little further out of the know than I am regarding ranch dressing. FYI (if you weren’t kidding about that), it’s a flavor or style of salad dressing (also used on other dippable foods), maybe made with buttermilk. Originally the full or long name was Hidden Valley Ranch. The part I don’t get is why people like it. But then, I don’t really get Green Goddess either.

  14. Keera Apr 24th 2010 at 06:48 am 14

    Most processed food belongs in the uncanny valley. You know, all those artificial flavors that are strawberry, but not quite strawberry; bacon, but not quite bacon; cheddar cheese, but not quite cheddar cheese, etc.? It’s so hard to say why they’re wrong, but it’s a relief to get the real thing.

  15. Ben Carlsen Apr 24th 2010 at 07:16 am 15

    Keera: As for Imitation bacon flavoring… No “uncanny valley” there for me. I just can’t stand it. More like “trying to be bacon, but not trying very hard.”

  16. Nicole Apr 24th 2010 at 08:07 am 16

  17. mitch4 Apr 24th 2010 at 08:18 am 17

    Nicole — is one of those twins pretending to be a robot??

  18. mkilby Apr 24th 2010 at 09:26 am 18

    @ src666 (3) - As I recall from the DVD commentary to the first “Shrek” movie, they purposely made Fiona’s face (and skin) look a little less lifelike than the system was capable of. The decision was that a slightly “cartoony” feel went better with the rest of the characters.

  19. Richard Apr 24th 2010 at 10:54 am 19

    Marshal, that looks a lot more like Jerry Mahoney than Charlie McCarthy.

  20. James Schend Apr 24th 2010 at 11:35 am 20

    Man I was hoping to explain all this geeky stuff, including the Avatar tidbit, but everybody beat me to it.

  21. James Schend Apr 24th 2010 at 11:37 am 21

    Oh I can add this, about the Shrek thing:

    If only the makers of Beowulf had read that interview and made the characters less real. Man, talk about uncanny valley overload.

  22. hm Apr 24th 2010 at 02:05 pm 22

    so that’s why I find those “chuck” charles schwab animated commercials so disturbing! Glad to have a name for it. I learn so much on this website!

  23. turquoise cow Apr 24th 2010 at 10:17 pm 23

    @hm What I can’t figure out is why those commercials are animated at all. It basically looks like they just color-penciled over some real people. They’re not hiding those people’s identities or anything. They don’t even look like they’re drawings, but just colored over the film. Why bother?? Doesn’t that cost more than just regular film??

  24. mitch4 Apr 24th 2010 at 11:26 pm 24

    That method is being called “rotoscopy” or “rotoscopic technique”, in a transfer of the term from an older application (involving literally drawing on transparencies laid on top of photo frames) to a computer-supported method. It was used at feature length in Richard Linklater’s very strange and interesting 2001 philosophical walking tour “Waking Life” and then again in the 2006 Philip K. Dick adaptation “A Scanner Darkly”. The DVD for “Waking Life” has lots of bonus features on how they used the technique.

  25. Nicole Apr 25th 2010 at 12:37 am 25

    mitch4 #24 and originally developed by Max Fliecher for his ‘Out of the Inkwell’ cartoons featuring Koko the Clown and Betty Boop

    Max rotoscoped some of the musical stars of the day. One of my favorites is Cab Calaway singing Minny the Moocher in the Betty Boop version of sleeping beauty. Cab appears as a ghost and does his famous scat walk

  26. Cidu Bill Apr 25th 2010 at 12:48 am 26

    Oddly enough, I watched that cartoon just this morning:

  27. mitch4 Apr 25th 2010 at 01:09 am 27

    That’s so great!

  28. Nicole Apr 25th 2010 at 01:10 am 28

    Oops …My mistake Cab Calaway does St. James Infirmary in Betty’s version of Snow White.

  29. OMJulie Apr 25th 2010 at 01:31 am 29

    mitch4, I get why they use rotoscoping in Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly - both of those films play with notions and perceptions of reality, and the rotoscoping gives them the freedom to reflect that visually. But why use it in ads for an investment firm? What possible purpose does it serve? Is it just there to make the ads look strange, or what?

  30. Andrew McGrae Apr 25th 2010 at 08:50 am 30

    “Is it just there to make the ads look strange, or what?”

    Pretty much, yes. If an advert stands out then you’re more likely to remember it and hence the product.

  31. mitch4 Apr 25th 2010 at 08:50 am 31

    OMJulie, I’m replying because you addressed me, but I sure don’t have an answer for you!

    There does seem to be a principle that advertisers are pleased to have their ads gain attention, even if for oddity or grammatical violations or pushing a content boundary. And then there are the other voices that say it’s all very well to win Cleos or other awards, or become darlings of the public, or contribute a catch-phrase to popular speech — but really, where’s the beef? (Sorry!) That is, those are good, but should not replace selling product for the client as the real measure of success in advertising.

  32. Steven Hunter Apr 25th 2010 at 03:40 pm 32

    This was an LOL for me…

  33. mkilby Apr 25th 2010 at 06:30 pm 33

    @ 23, 24, 25 - A list of rotoscopic infractions just isn’t complete without mentioning Ralph Bakshi’s (literally) half-assed job on Lord of the Rings.

    Rotoscopy is much cheaper and easier than “real” animation, and even animation is cheaper than filming real people. The film used as basis for the rotoscopy does not have to be good at all (poor lighting and or sound is irrelevant).

  34. Chuck Apr 25th 2010 at 11:42 pm 34

    The Polar Express characters didn’t creep me out, and neither did any Final Fantasy characters. Things that look almost human don’t creep me out nearly as much as things that are shaped like humans but don’t look very much like them at all. Like….

  35. Steven Hunter Apr 26th 2010 at 12:06 am 35

    For a good Uncanny Valley example, check out this creepy Orville Redenbacher commercial from 2007. *shivers*

  36. Chuck Apr 26th 2010 at 12:57 am 36

    My heart was racing and at first I thought it was the video, then I realized it was just my Coke kicking in. (Caffeine is not kind to me.)

  37. Ray Apr 26th 2010 at 08:43 pm 37

    And here I was thinking that that was Pee Wee Herman on the bottle, which would definitely place this squarely in Ewww territory. I’m very relieved to learn about the Uncanny Valley concept.

  38. George P Apr 27th 2010 at 06:40 am 38

    Bakshi did a better job with the rotoscope in American Pop; it’s just a shame the movie wasn’t better. I saw it once in a dollar theater and haven’t seen it since.

    The Fleischer Gulliver’s Travels from 1939 uses rotoscope for the title character, which makes him stand out as “real” amid the rest of the characters. That and the fact that he’s a giant compared to them.

    That A-Ha video was rotoscoped in a way similar to these current commercials.

  39. Kamino Neko Apr 27th 2010 at 08:41 pm 39

    Bakshi also used rotoscoping in Wizards - where it stood out, a lot, yet, like with A Scanner Darkly, it ends up working well - the rotoscoping, and occasional simple colour-filtered live action footage, is always used for the villains, or the tragedy thousands of years before the movie opened, which, combined with the very cartoony, Vaughn Bode-inspired style of the good guys, lends an unsettling strangeness to the enemy (who are mutated monsters, on the whole). The ultimate expression of it is the only live action footage in the thing that isn’t rotoscoped or colour filtered - Nazi propaganda and footage of Hitler speaking, used to rouse the monsters into action.

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