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July 30, 2007

{     The Search For Animal Chin     }    

chinc12.jpg This one is for all the old dudes out there that rocked zebra-print Jimmy Z shorts and a painter’s hat with the bill flipped up…. and meant that shit. What we have here is a piece of skateboarding history, a testament to when bangs were asymmetrical, Sticks were Psycho, and Gator had yet to kill anybody. “The Search For Animal Chin” was the ultimate skate video in a time when there weren’t any, an anomaly art project from vanguard 80’s skate juggernaut Powell Peralta starring the infamous Bones Brigade (check wikipedia, small-timer). While technically the third video in Powell’s groundbreaking series, "Chin" one-ups the competition by being an actual feature-length film with the pros not only skating, but “acting” as well. Fuck Thrashin’.

Starring a pre-pepperoni roll peddlin’ Tony Hawk, a pre-Quannum Tommy Guerrero, McTwist inventor Mike McGill, my main man Lance Mountain, and the I-thought-he-just-skated-stylish-but-he-actually-had-scholiosis Steve Caballero, the video revolves around the crew gettin’ all Hardy Boys on your ass while investigating the disappearance of 73-year-old skateboard inventor, the mystical Won Ton “Animal” Chin. Alternating between skate montages and tour-de-force “acting” scenes that are probably to blame for Olivier’s death, we follow the Bones Brigade from city-to-city (Honolulu, San Francisco and exotic Bakersfield) in search of clues to Chin’s disappearance. The hot-pink-and-headband-clad crew eventually find themselves in Vegas just in time for a life-changing, deity-assuring two song set from skate-centric lounge singer and hair gel icon Johnny Rad (singer of such timeless hits as “the Skateboard Shuffle” and “McTwist & Shout”). After the panties have dropped and the speakers blown, the Radman delivers a cryptic message backstage involving Chin’s whereabouts at a certain mega-ramp on the outskirts of town. The Brigade get to this ramp in the finale only to find out the storyline has flipped all existential/meta on the crew to reveal that Animal Chin is on some supernatural Ben Kenobi shit by not being an actual person anymore by instead transforming into the true essence of skateboarding and can be found by anyone having fun skateboarding blah blah blah. The ending always sounded like some granola bar / peyote bullshit to me, but by that point, you had all these amazing skaters skating this grape bonkers of a ramp, so nobody really gave a shit. When you got McGill wearing his own model graphic shirt on, but backwards with the sleeves ripped off while Caballero is rocking some short shorts with suspenders, you’re official like a ref with a whistle. Roll the credits.

This double-disc DVD edition coincides with the 20-year anniversary of Chin’s release and is chock full of extras including a commentary where nobody remembers anything (including any reasons why they were wearing some of that shit) as well as a documentary exploring the video’s impact and legacy in skateboarding. As ambitious as “Search” was, its timing could not have been better as the decade’s best skaters were really starting to hit their prime, allowing the film to showcase the Brigade establishing many new tricks that are still done today. Equally as important in the project’s scope are the inventive camerawork and filming techniques that didn’t exist before "Chin" and have gone on to be the foundation of which all skate videos (the driving force of the industry) are shot… kinda like the Citizen Kane of the kickflip crowd. Before he went on to make a bunch of movies describing how awesome he thinks he is (Dogtown and Z-Boys and Lords of Dogtown), Powell co-exec Stacey Peralta took the director’s chair and kept it loose with mostly-improvised dialogue (you can’t write “Dude, you could’ve shackwackled your dillard all over that place!”) along with monkey-shot-into-space abandonment that makes the whole thing enjoyable, infectious and infinitely rewatchable. Despite its age, thespian ineptness and a camp factor that makes Richard Simmons seem like James Dean, its charm that inevitably puts The Search For Animal Chin over.

So while some of the crew are starting to look like used car salesmen and skateboarding today is a completely different animal than it was in the mid-80s, “Chin” represents a picture postcard of a glorious bygone era (not to mention a bankable nostalgia trip for geezers like me). Don’t get it twisted, I saw this and Ralph Bakshi’s “Street Fight” the same day at my friend Dan’s house in the fifth grade over a pound of Lotsa Fizz candy. Never was I more certain in my 10 years of existence that all leading up to that very afternoon amounted to nothing more than a prelude. Armed only with my Vision Street Wear sneakers, a pair of Gotcha shorts and a “Who Farted?” t-shirt, I was about to go on a journey that would have me writing about this goofy-ass movie 20 years later. This changed my whole shit up and I’m glad to see that it still holds its own after all this time.

     » find Animal Chin here


Fuck "Thrashin'" indeed.
As a fat kid who couldn't skate worth a damn, I probably took an inordinate amount of pleasure in sitting on my ass watching skate videos, rocking the "scholarly" tip.
This movie flipped many a wig, mine included, and probably inspired just as many burgeoning filmmakers as it did skaters.
It's got me wondering where the fuck the funny at these days.
Watching any of the classic vids, you can't help but note the constant smartass yucks and schtick that for me were part-and-parcel of skating. Thesedays, you're lucky if you get some Backyard Wrestling-meets-Jackass EXTREME bullshit interludes, much less anything that actually resembles humor.
I guess that's what happens when the jocks take over....

Posted by: Adam at July 31, 2007 8:10 PM

Wait, skating isn't like what it used to be?!?!?

Posted by: GSB at July 31, 2007 8:30 PM

dan f me

Posted by: dj at August 18, 2007 3:50 AM
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