Coming to VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, June 11: CARTOON COLLEGE
Josh Melrod and Tara Wray’s look at an art school devoted to sequential art had its premiere at Palm Beach last year. Other fest stops have included Woods Hole, Vancouver, Newport Beach, and San Francisco DocFest, among others. FilmBuff releases the doc on iTunes, Amazon, Movies on Demand, PlayStation, nook, Google Play, Vudu, CinemaNow, and XBOX.
Filmed over the course of three years, the film follows students at the Center for Cartoon Studies, a small two-year art college in smalltown White River Junction VT. Focused more on personal expression and storytelling along the lines of Chris Ware or Art Spiegelman rather than the familiar superhero fare of DC, Marvel, or Image Comics, the CCS is nothing if not rigorous and brutally honest about the uncertain prospects of financial stability in the life of a comic artist. For the students profiled, however, that’s no deterrent – they’re already somewhat outcasts anyway, and most are confident that they’ll find success in the not always respected career they’ve chosen, regardless of the odds. While Melrod and Wray go overboard, featuring too many subjects, a couple manage to pop, most notably Blair, a Mormon who struggles to complete the program with his missionary-inspired thesis project; and Al, the school’s oldest student, an archaeology professor on sabbatical who might have to face the prospect that his technical ability may not match his love of the comic form. Though adding to the glut of characters, notable artists like Lynda Barry, Jules Feiffer, Scott McCloud, and James Sturm, who often serve as faculty or guest lecturers, offer additional insight about the school and the challenges of the profession, valuable not only to get a fuller sense of the experiences of the students but for any aspiring artists viewing the film. While the latter, together with comic fans in general, may be the core audience for the doc, it never feels too insular to be alienating to viewers unfamiliar with comic art – instead it successfully taps into both the enthusiasm and the frustration of pursuing one’s artistic dreams, something that should be relatable to anyone.