Award-winning animator Bruce Bickford, justly celebrated for his amazing claymation, is perhaps best known for his collaborative efforts with Frank Zappa, A Token of His Extreme (1974), Baby Snakes (1979), and The Dub Room Special (1982). However, even the briefest of glances at his filmography reveals an on-going career peppered with painstakingly-crafted animated films, including the critically-lauded Prometheus’ Garden.
His latest release, CAS’L, has recently been issued on DVD (packed with plenty of bonus material) after a years-long period of creation. Billed as “48 minutes of pure clayhem,” CAS’L offers a dizzying array of surrealistic clay animation backed by a suitably psychedelic, wildly inventive original score by Greg McClellan. CAS’L isn’t traditional, narrative-driven storytelling, but rather a free-form phantasmagoria that subtly comments on the violence and decay that runs rampant throughout 21st century society. The jaw-dropping animation includes everything from full-on clay nudity and sexual situations to the gnarly decomposition of clay-created, constantly-morphing human bodies. It’s probably worth noting, if it isn’t already clear—this isn’t Wallace & Gromit territory, CAS’L is a destination intended for mature audiences.
In director Bickford’s own “disclaimer,” a bonus feature on the DVD which serves as an introduction to the visual madness of CAS’L, he openly states, “With this kind of film, technique is the thing I’m concentrating on, not particularly story or style or anything.” Bickford continues, “What we have here is an exploration of things like morphing techniques where you will see one thing turn in to another. In that stuff, you might want an explanation of why things are morphing, but in my story it’s just a loose energy that can get in to things.”
That’s probably about as coherent a “summary” of CAS’L as one can hope for. The far better option is to see the film—now available on DVD through Bickford’s official website. The director provides far more in-depth ruminations on the feature-length audio commentary track. Lots of additional bonus material packs in added value, including “Depleted Scenes,” “Bruce Live Onstage – Seattle Rainbow,” and two trippy line animation short films: “The Comic That Frenches Your Mind” and “Pachuco Cross” (dig the wacked-out saxophone playing on the latter’s Bollywood-on-acid soundtrack; full disclosure—those sax licks arrive courtesy yours truly and it was an honor to participate in some small way).
CAS’L is a one of a kind viewing experience. Whether you’re a fan of clay animation in general or Frank Zappa fan who knows Bickford via those legendary collaboration, visit the official website for ordering information.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B0000JML7G]