...preference of actual physical books over e-books, letters over emails, photo albums on a shelf over digitalized photo albums on Facebook. There is something unique about the physicality of them all, something that will always be absent from their digital replacements.
The smell of a book as you turn a soft page, or the excitement of checking the mailbox for snail mail is something many of us will always prefer over clicking a ‘Next Page’ icon in an e-book or checking an inbox full of emails.
He goes on to make the point that movies that used physicial props to create their special effects appear to be dating better than ones that employed the more modern CGI. And the models, maquettes and puppets also have more dramatic impact: their physicality, even when viewed through a screen, makes them feel more real:
The full model mechanical shark in ‘Jaws’ will always be scarier than the CGI sharks in ‘Deep Blue Sea’.
But the prime example is the cult sci-fi film 'Silent Running', which...
...looks great twenty-eight years after its making simply because of the physicality of every prop and set featured in the film. Everything from giant interiors to miniatures, to large models, to suits and props looks and feels real. After doing some research, I learned that the main freighter in the film aka the Valley Forge Space Freighter was 28 feet long (8 meters) and took six months to build from close to 800 aircraft and tank kits. The three little drones (Huey, Dewey, and Louie) also known as the three cutest robots in film history (up till ‘Wall-E’ came along) are actually suits worn by double-amputees. The little CGI used back in those days was to enhance scenes not replace them. Duncan Jones recently revisited this vintage sci-fi world with his directional debut, ‘Moon‘. In a year with CGI infested movies (’Avatar‘, ‘District 9‘, ‘Star Trek‘, ‘Transformers 2‘), ‘Moon‘, the film with the least effects and most miniatures was without doubt the most impressive.
A good observation, I think, but one that's only really hit home with me since I started thinking a bit more about why the magnificent productions of Smallfilms still exert such an emotional pull (why I've been watching them again and some observations on their sounds can be found here).
I'm appreciating now that the affection I feel for these classic animations - Ivor the Engine, The Clangers, Noggin the Nog - must arise in good part from their being so obviously hand made. On one level this is obvious. But why exactly is this quality in the work so affecting?
Even without knowing about the particular hands that made them and the very particular enthusiasm of Postgate and Firmin - it's probably not too much to talk about love - you still sense how much went into their creation. It's somehow entirely manifest when you watch the films: the materials carry the mark of the hands, and thereby communicate the efforts and emotions of the makers. And then when you learn about Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin - working in their garden shed, imagining, fiddling, improvising, sticking, painting, twiddling, putting on funny voices, all born from an almost obsessive desire to create and communicate their personal and quirky visions - you begin to understand. We somehow perceive this individual and distinctive warmth in the creation of their hands and it moves us. I'm not sure digital can ever do this.