Where Dr. Seuss once penned an ink line to suggest a field of flowers, today his field is projected on a movie screen in high rez with colorful flowers that sway in the breeze:
Similarly, animators have given new life to the simple drawings of Charles Schulz...
...by adding what the studios call "a richness of technique."
In some ways these new tools unleash our imaginations; they free us from practical constraints that imprisoned previous generations. But as G.K. Chesterton warned, "You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes."
It's easier to persuade viewers that they're seeing miracles when you depict miraculous subjects using miraculous tools. But the best artists, and the ones who are truly blessed, are the ones who can recognize the miracles in everyday life. There are miracles in the blades of grass at our feet, and we don't need digital tools to present them.
The great illustrator Richard Thompson lives in a small, ordinary suburban town but through his eyes it becomes a world of mystery. He finds enchantment in the commonplace things that you and I ignore every day. I've previously written about one of my favorite pieces, his Neighborhood of Mystery:
We've all seen plastic shopping bags lying in the gutter or caught in a bush somewhere. We do our best to ignore them. But here’s what Thompson thinks about:
Or, you walk by your neighbor’s house where they’ve left their garbage at the curb. You've trained your mind not to think about it, but Thompson's mind recognizes the potential:
Now that we can animate pixie wings and magic dust so persuasively, we no longer have to work hard to see enchantment. We've certainly stopped looking for it in places like a pile of garbage left at the curb. But so often, what we find depends on what we're looking for.
In Thompson's neighborhood, construction workers mark up the street just like they do in your neighborhood. When did you ever pause to consider the possible ramifications?
Thompson's Neighborhood of Mystery represents a world of mystery and it all begins with his imagination. I admire the way he keeps his eyes open and finds enchantment in the ordinary.
Another wonderful example is Thompson's series on local restaurants that have violated health ordinances. One day Thompson saw a notice in the town newspaper that a diner had been closed by the Board of Health. This spurred a years-long acid trip in which Thompson mused about the kinds of restaurants that might be shut down and the reasons why:
These may seem like humble little jokes because there are no Thunder Gods fighting alien lizards to a Dolby soundtrack. The drawings make no use of the wonderful tools described above. But Thompson's fantasies gain strength and relevance and even truth from the fact that they are rooted in a human nature that we can all recognize. They represent a different kind of miracle than the type found in fabricated digital universes.