Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mr. Horse rough to solid

Here are some models created from Ren Seeks Help.
One of the biggest problems creatively I've faced over the years is getting an original idea to survive the assembly line system of making cartoons-especially the Saturday Morning cartoon system I began my career in.

When you do an original drawing (if you are any good) you tend to put a lot of life and action into it when you first think of it. Then it has to be traced, cleaned up, animated and assisted and colored. Each of these steps along the way tends to tone the drawing down.

This happens naturally even if you clean up your own drawing-it loses some of the guts and spontaneity.

Now imagine if your whole production system is geared on top of that to purposely tone everything down!
That was the system in the 70s and 80s and is still the system at most studios today.

In my own studio and the service studios I work with, I have to constantly beg people not to tone down artwork.
The layout artist tones down the storyboard drawing. The animator tones down the layout, then the assistant tones down the animation key and then in Korea the "on model" department erases everything and traces a pose off the model sheet.

This whole process tortures me so I always have to teach people first-to not have an inclination to tone down a drawing I hand them-and then give them some techniques to help them preserve the life of the drawings.
These are some key poses I roughed out for Ren Seeks Help. I then gave them to my most solid artist in Canada to do sample cleanups. Helder Mendonca is a really great cartoonist whose strongest attribute is his ability to construct characters out of solid shapes. He is a natural talent who learned a lot from Jim Smith-another artist whose drawings are really solid.

If you look at the roughs you can see how I try to build up my poses out of simple shapes and then lay the details on top of them. And I attempt to wrap the details around the bigger forms. This is not natural to me. I naturally draw flat and had to teach myself construction, I'm not the best at it at all but I like it when I see it so I try for it.
Helder then tries to preserve the flow of the poses and make the drawings even more solid-these 2 concepts are very hard to balance-they are naturally opposed.
We did these samples and handed them out to the rest of the artists as guides.
Mr. Horse is a particularly hard character to draw-well all horses are! Do you remember when Dreamworks did a press release for "Spirit" and told everyone that no one had ever animated a horse with personality before? They explained that it was because a horse's mouth is too far from its eyes, so you couldn't draw expressions on one. Their solution was to shorten the snout to bring the eyes and mouth closer together. Uhhhh....ok.
Boy, try to draw gestures with hooves!! Yikes. Most artists are terrified to draw Mr. Horse. Helder loved it. He did a lot of his own scenes that are just killer. He drew the great pistol-whipping scene at the end of this cartoon.
He draws a good maimed frog too.
One of my favorite "solid" style animators is Bob McKimson. He animated a lot of stuff for Bob Clampett (as well as other directors) and he could draw really realistic subtle acting. He did the scenes in Falling Hare where Bugs is sitting on the wing of the airplane reading about gremlins and scoffing at the stories "Gremlins, little men..what a fairy tale!"
This - to me - is the best looking Bugs Bunny ever animated.

Clampett told me that McKimson had a photographic memory and when Clampett handed out scenes to McKimson, he would act out the whole scene live and Mckimson would just memorize every human gesture and expression Clampett did and then turn around and animate it just like Bob acted it out.


Hey, Brian Romero posted some Mckimson drawings of the greatest cartoon character in history-Adolph Hitler! Go check 'em out. He has 3 sets of drawings. The first and 3rd are McKimson's animation, and the middle set is Rod Scribner.

Also look at the rest of his blog. He has lots of great stuff there. Make sure you comment and thank his ass.