You have a choice to make, bowling alley owner. You can go the easy route and hire a corporate animation studio, with their flashy typography and smiling, family-friendly mascots, to create the score screens that will show every day on your fifteen-year-old, overhead TVs.
Or you can hire me: a guy with a pirated 3D animation software CD-Rom in his jacket pocket and a touch of mescaline coursing through his veins. You didn’t become the proprietor of Tom’s Ten Pin Lanes by playing it safe and trusting the suits, did you?
Ask yourself, what do you want the driving force behind your bowling alley’s score screen animations to be? When someone picks up a spare at your bowling alley do you want them to see a generic “Good Job” screen created by a corporate shill just looking to cash a check? Or are you ready to celebrate the bowler’s triumph while simultaneously acknowledging the chaotic nature of human consciousness by showing your customers this human head splitting in half to reveal a glowing orb emitting, in equal parts, bowling pins and small, dancing horses?
Sure, the smiling, animated bowling ball knocking down the terrified, personified bowling pins the guys at Pixar Lite over there showed you is safe. It plays to Middle America I guess. But is that any way to celebrate a strike? No. A strike is a triumph. A strike means you have laughed in the face of order and you have brought chaos into this alley. You are entropy incarnate. A feeling like that is captured much more accurately by this clip of a frog with long, sexy lady legs that burps up the word “Strike.”
Bowling mimics life: misery, euphoria, the full spectrum of human experience. My animations capture those highs and lows; that’s why sometimes the characters die unexpectedly. Sure, their smiling bowling ball picking up the word “Spare” before turning to the camera and giving a thumbs up is fine, if not a bit “on the nose.” It does that job in the most basic sense. But it does nothing to address the bowler’s looming mortality nor does it acknowledge that time will march on forever whether the bowler lives or dies.
See how the dinosaur in this animation falls away from the pins into nothingness before multiplying into infinity. Doesn’t that really capture the true essence of picking up a 7-10 split?
Tom’s Ten Pin Lanes isn’t just a place people come to hang out. Tom’s is a place people come to breathe in air that somehow still smells of cherry cigars, as they face the darkness within themselves, as well as the darkness of the mysterious area behind the pins. Tom’s is a place where you can unload all of your burdens squarely onto the metaphorical shoulders of an eighteen-pound ball and watch as that ball hooks an inch right or left, determining whether you leave elated or humiliated. Keeping in mind the volatility of bowling as well as the fragile nature of the human psyche, watch this clip of a dragon and several floating, disembodied heads in front of a sunset and tell me that doesn’t better embody bowling’s ongoing battle between id and ego compared to their screen where some confetti pops up with the words “Double Strike.”
If you want an animator who is just going to deliver some surface-level interpretation of a bowling ball knocking down pins to celebrate a strike then, by all means, choose someone else. But I don’t think that’s you. I think you’re looking for more. You’re looking for someone who is willing to delve into humanity’s collective unconscious and emerge with a visual representation of the war bowling creates between the Jungian archetypes within each of us and also this sexy-legged frog.
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