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Today the French are celebrating Bastille Day, when the rebels stormed Bastille prison and it not only resulted in releasing seven inmates but it was also the turning point in the French Revolution. It is the French equivalent of the Fourth of July and there is a lot of partying and fireworks going on right now as you’re reading this.

For this occasion, I’m going to once again show my animation The March of Liberty since it includes an appearance by Marianne (who’s the symbol of France) as she marches to “La Marseillaise” (a.k.a. the French national anthem). This is the same animation that was shown at Light City in Baltimore earlier this year. Enjoy!

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I recently completed my latest animation called The March of Liberty. I’m going to post it here first while posting all the details about the making of this animation underneath the video.

Now here’s the story behind this video. Last summer the local STEM center Makerspace 125 decided to offer a series of free weekly workshops on animation, which would be centered around this new animation program that was released as free open source software known as OpenToonz. It created a lot of buzz, especially in the tech press, because this application is based on the high-end software that was used by the Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli when it made its hit anime films like Spirited Away and Ponyo.

So I went to a few meetups where I played around a bit with OpenToonz on my MacBook until I got annoyed that it kept on frequently crashing. I was stuck for ideas on what my first new animation (since doing the web ad for a new non-profit low-powered radio station) would be about until I was working on a page of my Doll Dreams art book in early July. Since the French holiday Bastille Day was coming on July 14, I decided to do a French-themed character. I did some research on the Wikipedia where I learned about Marianne, who is basically the French equivalent of Uncle Sam. So I did some Marianne art in my Doll Dreams book (which I have since misplaced, which is why I haven’t made any further posts about that book since last July).

As I was researching Marianne I learned that not only was she an inspiration for the Statue of Liberty (which isn’t a major stretch since the statue’s creator, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was French) but Marianne herself was inspired by the ancient Roman goddess Libertas. When I looked up Libertas on the Wikipedia, I learned that she was based on the Greek goddess, Artemis Eleutheria, which was a variant of the Greek goddess Artemis but her worshippers in the Greek city of Myra named her Artemis Eleutheria (with “eleutheria” being the Greek word for “liberty”).

So once I finished my Marianne page for my Doll Dreams book, I decided it would be cool idea to do a short animation tracing the lineage from the Greek Artemis Eleutheria to the Roman Libertas to the French Marianne to, finally, the Statue of Liberty. I drew a storyboard where I had a woman emerge from a privacy screen adorned with the Greek flag with the name “Artemis Eleutheria,” walk past some of the major Athens attractions, then duck behind another privacy screen with the Italian flag and the name “Libertas,” walk past some more attractions, etc. until the Statue of Liberty appears at the end. I even thought about using the national anthems of the countries involved (Greece, Italy, France, and the United States) as the soundtrack.

But then I hit a major snag and it was regarding OpenToonz. First it was the program’s penchant for frequently crashing. New upgrades were being frequently released and I finally found a version that didn’t crash so often. Now for the bad news. Not only was it extremely difficult to quit out of the application once you loaded it (I had to use “Force Quit” if I wanted to exit from the program) but I also found out that the Mac version of OpenToonz did not export the animation as a standalone video file at all. That’s right, an animation program that didn’t export a standalone video file. My only choice was a series of still images and I would need to find a different video program where I would have to manually put those separated files together and export them as a standalone video file.

That was incredibly frustrating, especially since the Windows version of OpenToonz gave users the option of exporting it as an .avi file. Mac users didn’t even have that luxury. I decided to put The March of Liberty on the back burner rather than waste time dealing with the software turkey known as OpenToonz. Instead I made this video called OpenToonz Sucks where I highlighted all the deficiencies of that program.

I also wrote a blog post detailing further my frustration dealing with that program. I basically wanted to warn other people, especially Mac users, to avoid OpenToonz like the plague. Despite the fact that I gave up on OpenToonz I still continued to go to the animation meetup at Makerspace 125 mainly because they also showed classic cartoons during that meetup so I basically watched the cartoons while doing other things with my MacBook besides making cartoons with OpenToonz. Not long after I made my OpenToonz Sucks video, someone in that meetup group encouraged me to download an updated version. I gave it another shot and found that not only did OpenToonz for the Mac was still not capable of exporting any animations as a standalone video file but this upgrade included being able to export the animation as a series of still pictures in this obscure file format that’s only readable by high-end laser machines. (WTF?!?) That prompted me to write this sequel titled OpenToonz Still Sucks Despite Its Recent Upgrade.

So my March of Liberty animation remained on the back burner for a few months. I looked into alternatives to OpenToonz but I was too cash-poor to even consider any paid applications.

But then I came into some money. It wasn’t a lot of money. Basically I had done some work for a startup back in May but I walked off the job after two weeks because I didn’t get paid. (I was paid for the first few days but then the payments stopped.) It was the same startup where the founder convinced me to write a post about it in this blog instead of getting a separate blogging account just for that startup because he couldn’t be bothered with getting one (despite the fact that many major blogging platforms offer free accounts). That startup was such a disaster that I had to make a new policy for this blog where I would no longer write about any work I do for other people in this blog until after the job was done (or there was some other kind of closure).

The startup owner finally paid me for the work I did in November. Even though I’m glad he finally paid up, I still wouldn’t work for him again for a number of reasons. (Basically the way he ran his business—including not even bothering with registering for a vendor booth at the events where he wanted to sell the startup’s products but, instead, just show up at the event without first notifying the event organizers and mingle among the crowd while selling everything out of backpacks in a manner similar to hot dog and beer vendors working the crowd in a sports stadium—screamed “AMATEUR” and “UNPROFESSIONAL”.)

I was able to use the money to buy a low-end animation program. After much research, I decided on Smith Micro’s Anime Studio Debut. It costs only $30 in the App Store. In addition, I also have the option of upgrading to the more robust $99 Anime Studio Pro at a later date. So far I like the debut version but I’ll definitely keep the pro version in mind if I ever feel like I’ve reached my creative limits with the debut and I really want to branch out further.

Compared to OpenToonz, Anime Studio Debut worked like a dream. There are a few glitches in that software but they were nothing compared to the total fuckery of OpenToonz. I did most of the work in Anime Studio Debut, with a few of the images (which were mainly the background images) being initially done in Photoshop (mainly by applying the various filters on some pictures I downloaded from the Internet) before being imported into Anime Studio Debut. Unlike OpenToonz, I was able to export my animations as standalone .mp4 videos in Anime Studio Debut. I assembled the various animated .mp4 videos in iMovie, paired it with some music, exported the animation, and uploaded it online.

As I was working on this animation, my idea as to how to end it evolved. I originally was going to end it with a closeup of the Statue of Liberty until I read in the news about how the U.S. Mint had issued its latest Lady Liberty coin. Unlike the previous Liberty coins, this new coin features an African American woman (or a Lady Liberty with African American features). Of course that coin received racist backlash.

That incident prompted me to create a new ending. After the closeup of the Statue of Liberty, I feature images of three different Liberty coins. The first one is an older coin depicting the Statue of Liberty. (Actually that one is the dollar coin, which usually has the Statue of Liberty on one side and an image of a deceased President of the United States on the other.) The second one is a 2015 Liberty coin featuring a more human looking Lady Liberty with short hair. The third one is the 2017 coin that has all the racists feeling totally butt-hurt over the fact that Lady Liberty now has African American features. Provocative? You bet it is!

Seriously people need to get a grip! Lady Liberty is no different from other mythical figures like Santa Claus, fairies, and elves. While she may have originated in Europe, there’s really no rule that says that she MUST remain white at all times. Look at elves. They originated in Norwegian mythology but they have literally spread all over the world way beyond the Scandinavian peninsula. Don’t believe me? Check out this ball-jointed elf doll that is currently being made by a Chinese company known as Bobobie and you can even order her right here.

As for the music, I used the national anthems of the various nations represented in the animation. Here’s the information about each song.

“Ymnos seis tīn Eleutherían” (Greek national anthem) came from the Public Domain Archive’s YouTube channel. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (reuse allowed).

“Il Canto deli Italiani” (Italian national anthem) was declared to be in the public domain by the Italian Ministry of Defense. This version came from Wikimedia Commons.

“La Marseillaise” (French national anthem) was recorded by the U.S. Marine Band in 1897. This recording came from the Internet Archive.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” (American national anthem) was recorded by the U.S. Marine Band in 1910. This recording is courtesy of the Free Music Archive.

In a way it was a blessing that I had to wait a few months later to finish my animation given the current political climate. The Trump Administration has only been in power for two weeks and there is already a lot of daily drama along with a lot of alienated people. (Yesterday President Trump managed to be totally rude to the Prime Minister of Australia. Australia!!! The same Australia that’s among the U.S.’s closest allies!!!) I uploaded that animation soon after the recent Women’s March on Washington so I think it’s very perfect timing to upload a female-centric animation like The March of Liberty online.

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