Richard Knerr, the real Hudsucker Proxy

WhileThe Hudsucker Proxy is not one of the Coen brothers’ most lauded films, but I have always though of it as an amazing movie about the unlikely sources of innovation. It wasn’t until I read about Richard Knerr’s death that I realized the affiliation the movie has with Knerr’s real life, namely the invention of the Hula Hoop, Frisbee, and other circular toys of mass appeal. In fact, the Hula Hoop suffered similar ups faced in the Hudsucker Proxy:

In the first year, Wham-O sold as many as 40 million hoops; by 1960, 100 million, a mark no other toy had ever reached. After too many households had two or three of the hoops, the fad evaporated, leaving Wham-O marooned on a mountain of tubular plastic. Total profit: only $10,000, a result of business inexperience and millions of unsold hoops.

Richard Knerr was certainly an unlikely source of innovation, and I am positive that the world never saw the Frisbee or Hula Hoop coming. I think the Hula Hoop discovery scene is a great interpretation of the process of diffusion, and a fitting homage to Mr. Knerr’s amazing inventions:

Another by Hayao Miyazaki

Last night I was fortunate enough to catch a sneak preview of Hayao Miyazaki’s new animated movie Sprited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi), thanks to James Seo who obtained an original Japanese copy with English subtitles. Miyazaki was propelled into
the spotlight when his last movie, Princess Mononoke, was dubbed in English with a stellar cast; it appears that Disney will be releasing this one in US theaters on September 20th, complete with flashy website to hype it.

The lowdown? Another masterpiece, pushing the envelope on animation, with a slew of new perspectival and 3D effects that are impossible for me to give justice to with words. I was awestruck again by the brilliance of Miyazaki’s stories, which sucked me in within seconds and spit me out only a few minutes before the end (Princess Mononoke suffered from similar cheese-related issues late in the story) Oh, and did I mention that it’s so cute it’ll make you puke? The cast includes (but is not limited to):

  • an adorable 12 year old girl protagonist with spindly little legs and big feet
  • an overweight hamster that has to be flown around by his little mosquito buddy
  • thousands of little jumping balls of fluffy ash with big eyes that eat lucky charms for dinner

Like Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro, something about Miyazaki’s style in Spirited Away clicks with me: he toys with my emotions and makes me beg for more. I’ll definitely be seeing this one again in the theater, but as with every other anime I’ve seen, I’m sure the original Japanese voices will be superior to whoever Disney decides to cast.

Putting words in your mouth

Wow. I’m sure that Conan O’Brian is all over this revolutionary technology, not to mention any number of Disney directors, given that the same methods can be applied to animals. If number of animators is limiting the number of movies with talking animals, I’m sure we can look forward to a never ending stream of these family fantasy comedies. I can’t wait.