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Hip-hop Review /Toon Review by Jennifer Narod 
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Toons, Toons and more Animated Toons
Ravishing Raspberry, Adopted by Aliens Review Below by Jennifer Narod!
 

"Adopted By Aliens" is Shawnee and Shawnelle's Gibb's current animation project. It's an original animated web cartoon series that follows the adventures of a 12 year-old adoptee girl Whitney Ward and her new extraterrestrial family is a web cartoon geared for younger audiences. Join Whitney, The Aliens, and a cast of memorable characters as they all try to co-exist in the same unpredictable world!  "Adopted By Aliens"  promises to entertain audience of all ages and tickle your funny bone--unless, of course, you're an alien and you don't have one!

"We became very interested in Flash animation in 2001. I had taken an Interactive Cinema class at San Francisco State which taught me some of the basics of using flash for video. I read books and taught myself how to use Flash for cartoons and not long after, Shawnelle followed suit."  Shawnee Gibbs works collaboratively with her twin sister, Shawnelle Gibbs, on small video and animation projects. They have always loved to draw, ever since they were little ones (they're in their 20s now).

They are pursuing film-making as a career. Although they graduated with degrees in Cinema, their focus was strictly traditional film production. "So, much of what we know about animation, we've taught ourselves," says Shawnee. And if proof was needed of their self-taught 'Tooning skills,' there's a site about their imaginative web series; Adopted By Aliens. Doesn't the cool title just make you want to visit it?

"Our 2003 mixed media animation 'Ravishing Raspberry' has won several awards at film festivals in the U.S.A. The piece uses some of the our original artwork, combined with photos and videos to tell a story about the pitfalls of materialism. "Ravishing Raspberry," is about the adventures of 19-year-old Nyesha, the ultimate hip-hop material girl, who decides her life isn't complete until she gets the latest, hot lipstick shade.
Some text & photos were retrieved fom ToonTalents
Preview Clips of the Gibbs Sisters' work   (Reel Republic: Film & Video Projects)
 

The public is invited to send us your candid comments on "Adopted By Aliens" and  'Ravishing Raspberry'  to bryworld@aol.com



Toons, Toons and more Animated Toons
 
Ravishing Raspberry Toon Review
 Reviewed by Jennifer R. Narod
 

Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs’ character, Nyesha, is a young woman who has fallen victim to a culture of materialism and “bling,” which not only puts women in competition with one another, but also alludes to pressure so great to have all the “right stuff” that some feel they must resort to stealing and belittling others.

The artists do a tremendous job of drawing the viewer in from the opening credits—the hypnotic, catchy music and the lipstick script-- to the images on Nyesha’s wall-- everything from the message “Make Dat Cheddar” to portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.

As we get our first glimpse into Ny’s world, she is preparing herself for a girls’ night out at the Club.  We see and hear several not-too-subtle material messages whirling about simultaneously (e.g., lyrics about reveling in “dreamin’ to schemin’”) as she attempts to emulate the “Make That Cash” music video playing in the background.

The artists include a blood-curdling sound effect as Nyesha discovers an empty lipstick case and releases a “Psycho”-like scream.  Nyesha’s desperate shriek underscores just how vital it is to her that image is everything when going to be seen at the Club.

At this point, we are introduced to the product around which the entire plot revolves:  Material Girl’s Ravishing Raspberry lipstick.  The TV commercial-- the music, the face and the voice—are meant to hypnotize any woman within its reach, and Nyesha is no exception.  When she is later in the store to buy the lipstick, the Ravishing Raspberry ad, quite literally, speaks to her.

The artists allude twice to the idea of obtaining the “look” by any means necessary.  When the friends make a pit stop at the Shop & Spend so that Nyesha can get her lipstick, she mentions that she may or may not have enough money to purchase it, but that she’s “coming back with the fly-est shade.”  We then see Nyesha put the lipstick tube down the front of her dress.  Later, The Woman at Club Chic who confronts her makes reference to the “biggest sensor rips” she’s ever seen on Nyesha’s clothes.

When her friends pick her up in Deja’s “white work van”--rather than the Acura in which Nyesha would prefer to arrive at Club Chic-- and ask her when she took up smoking, the artists cleverly draw the viewer’s focus to an enormous billboard containing a cigarette ad in plain view of Ny’s apartment window, telling her to “Light it up, Baby!”  This is yet another illustration of how impressionable Nyesha is to the advertising around her.

The artists are very thorough in making mention of, or including, every possible artifact associated with the culture of bling:  the cars, the clothes, the hair and make-up, the “right” club, the “right” job.  We even see Nyesha requesting “two cosmos and an apple martini” from the man who wants to by her a drink—mirroring what Sexxy Lexxy orders up in her hip-hop video.  Essentially, we never know who Nyesha really is, as she has become a walking advertisement from head to toe.

 On arrival at Club Chic, Nyesha makes her fatal error when she audibly refers to a woman’s shoes, hair, and entire look as “cheap” and “trifling.”  Later in the evening, in a locked-bathroom encounter, The Woman confronts Nyesha, and points out her hypocrisy by exposing the ways in which Nyesha herself is cheap and trifling. Ultimately, The Woman turns Nyesha’s own Ravishing Raspberry lipstick back on her as a weapon.

 When Nyesha has her “come-uppance” towards the end of the piece and is left “ravished by raspberry” on the floor, the women who pass her by are so excited that the colour might be Ravishing Raspberry that they seem to neglect the fact that there is a person behind the colour in which she is now covered.  In the end, I am left wondering if Nyesha has really learned her lesson at all.

 I love how the artists use real, moving mouths in conjunction with their animation of the characters.  First, this focuses the audience’s attention to the mouth—the anxious recipient of the to-die-for lipstick colour.  It is also Nyesha’s mouth that later gets her into trouble at the club when she insults The Woman.  Furthermore, the use of more than one material to physically build the characters is reflective of how we all use various pieces of our worlds to construct our identities.

 While I feel that Ravishing Raspberry is mostly intelligent and fresh entertainment, I do see some value in an educational setting for older teens.  The Gibbs sisters demonstrate in a fun, witty and thoughtful way how out of control our materialistic values have become.  Ravishing Raspberry could be used as a jumping-off point for discussions on materialism, self-image, the influence of media and advertising, and respecting others.
 


Adopted by Aliens
(Episode 1: “Prime-Time Parents”)
Review by Jennifer R. Narod, Conflict Resolution and Diversity Educator
 

Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs provide an excellent commentary about diverse family situations and how media may influence children to believe that only one type of family environment is desirable.  In this first episode, the Gibbs sisters introduce us to Whitney, a middle-schooler, as she studies with her pals.  The artists do an fine job of capturing a typical age-specific scene-- or, at least, it reminds me of being that age, spending time studying and joking around with a diverse group of friends over at someone’s place, wondering how the homework is going to get done.

This early on in the series, we know very little about Whitney and her friends, but begin to pick up on the fact that something must be missing from Whitney’s world when she runs to watch “The Crosby Show.”

The artists’ animation effects are thoughtfully and humorously constructed.  Whitney’s eyes go swirl-y as she becomes entranced by the scene on the TV screen.  In Whitney’s mind, she envisions herself in the family picture that is playing out.  I particularly love the various associations that the artists make with each family member as Whitney imagines herself bonding with them.  The Mother is magically surrounded by images of birds, bunnies, hearts and butterflies— reflections of innocence, happiness and a feeling of being carefree.  Mom gets motherly with Whitney by explaining “The Secrets of the Universe.”  Dad offers a piggyback ride.  Older brother wants to teach her how to play catch.  Big sis wants to give her make-up tips.  Grandma wants to bake cookies with her.  We sense that the TV family is what Whitney thinks of as perfect, and in complete contrast to her existence.

When Whitney’s big fantasy family love-fest is finally interrupted by her friend’s dog, it’s back to reality.  While her friends tease her about having seen every episode of “The Crosby Show” it is also clear that they feel empathy for whatever her situation is.  Malik tenderly tells her, “Don’t worry, Whit, someday you’ll have a family.”  Thus, by the end of “Prime-Time Parents” the audience is clued in that Whitney does not actually have a family of her own, but longs for one just like The Crosbys'.

I feel that this piece could be used in an educational setting for elementary or middle school-aged children to facilitate discussions about the diversity of families, and about what the word “family” means to each person.  Especially at this age, kids are extremely sensitive about fitting in and not appearing “different” than their peers.  “Prime-Time Parents” may also help children look at their assumptions about what makes a “good” family; or challenge their assumptions about others who come from a different family scenario than they do.  This toon could also be used as a tool for talking about what we see on TV and how that compares with most people’s realities.
Review by Jennifer R. Narod
 
 


Adopted by Aliens
(Episode 2: “The Abduction”)
Review by Jennifer R. Narod, Conflict Resolution and Diversity Educator
 

In this second episode, we get a better glimpse into the characters-- the diversity of their family situations, their interests, and their relationship dynamics with one another.

Sondra's place seems to be where the friends tend to hang out.  It appears that Sondra’s Abuela (grandmother) is raising her, so we know that Whitney is not the only character growing up in a “non-traditional” family setting.  Sondra’s heart-shaped glasses are a clever construct as the audience is clued in to her love of romance novels.  Just as Sondra's glasses reflect her inner-self, the Gibbs sisters give Whitney big, round glasses, connoting a certain innocence, nerdiness, and an openness to what life throws her way.

As the kids are asked to wrap up their evening, Abuela remarks, "We don't want your friends at the group home to worry," thus revealing that Whitney does not have a family to which to return.  At this point in the series, although we do not yet know the reasons why she lives at the group home, we gain some insight into her feeling uncared for and as to why she is so hung-up on "The Crosby Show" in the previous episode.

The Gibbs sisters continue to do a great job of capturing age-specific interactions amongst the characters.  Whitney and Sondra share some giggles when Sondra loans Whitney her cousin's "hot" romance novel.  Pals Whitney and Malik share a moment when he criticizes her for reading "that dime-store trash," and she comes back with a dig about why he'll never find a girlfriend.

Malik wears a head band over one eye, and attempts to act the tough guy in front of the girls.  He is drawn by the artists as being in that precarious place between boy- and manhood, protesting to Whitney, "maybe I don't want a girlfriend!" but we later see him make a "note to self" to buy the romance novel that he makes fun of Whitney for reading, revealing his sensitive side.

 The animation is superb during this scene.  When Whitney takes her verbal jab at Malik, the frame closes in on her eyes-- the only part of her that the audience sees at this time, and presumably Malik's single focus as he decides how to respond.  My favourite moment is when the moonlight, for a split second, shines only on Whitney's and Malik's lips, creating a slightly awkward moment and a subtle possibility of something more.  When Whitney does a hasty about-face, her head swivels so abruptly that it leads the rest of her body with an awesome sound effect like a sword cutting through air.

 As Whitney becomes engrossed in "Tropical Passions" on her way back to the group home, she is oblivious to a stray cat following her, oncoming traffic, and even a street brawl.  Finally, when a ray of light envelops her, she mistakes it for the novel’s "good writing,” and it becomes too late as a space ship abducts her.

 The Abduction could be viewed as a "bridge"- the transition between Whitney's current world and the events leading up to her abduction by aliens.  While this episode further develops the characters and displays some fabulous animation and effects, I am not sure that it could be used in the classroom on its own.  However, I could see the first two episodes being combined into one longer episode for better flow, and to provide a more substantial piece for middle school-aged children to discuss diversity in its various components.

I noticed a quick shot in the intro of a classroom mural that reads, "I know I can be what I want to be."  This message provides the audience with some indication about the type of environment that these kids are growing up in-- perhaps unpredictable, yet connected to others who care about them.

I can't wait to see the next episode and meet Whitney's new alien family!
Review by Jennifer R. Narod


Response to Jennifer R. Narod's Review
by
Shawnelle Gibbs, co-creator
Hi Bob,

Thanks allot, it's awesome! It's great to have you out there supporting artists the way you do.

Please send a big "Thank You" to Jennifer Narod for her thorough dissection of the pieces. You have great people on your team.

I enjoyed the GraffiteVerite' site before we were even featured on it --we are honored to be included and acknowledged by you and your team.

-Shawnelle
 

The public is invited to send us your candid comments on Adopted by Aliens to bryworld@aol.com
 



 
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