Wednesday, April 26, 2006

2 Types of cartoonists-Origin of styles 2 -Rubber Hose animation

If you didn't read the first article on this subject, you might want to start here:

The beginnings of production line cartoons were really spinoffs of the comic strip-in particular, the cartoony style of comics-the balls and tubes style of unrealistic comic strips.

In fact the earliest animated cartoons were drawn by comic strip artists.
In the 1920s Paul Terry was the main developer of this style. Many other young animators looked up to him and his techniques-especially Walt Disney.
I'm not an expert in all the details of the very early period of animated cartoons. Look to Mark Kausler, Steve Worth and Jerry Beck if you are interested in learning more!
Here's how to find Jerry (look on the left side and scroll down to "classic shorts" and click whatever studio you want to learn about:

These early cartoons are even simpler in design than the comic strips that spawned them. There is a good reason for this. A comic strip artist only has to draw 4 panels a day. An animator in those days had to do between 12 and 24 drawings for every second of film!
Animation from the 20s to the early 50s was both very logical -and at the same time the most creative time in animation history. Why? For a very simple reason: Animators and Cartoonists invented it and developed it, and at a time when Western civilization believed that the practicioners of a profession were the ones best suited to create, develop and grow the business. And that they did. This is the complete opposite of how things are done in the modern corporate and mystical west today. Nothing is logical. Common sense is a thing of the past.

During the 20s the style of animated cartoons started to slowly diverge from the style of still cartoons and comics. The mere act of having to move drawings makes you learn things you might never have to even think about when you draw still drawings. As good and creative as many of the comics were, they were generally very stiff. The poses were unnatural and a kind of picture shorthand. Walk poses didn't flow or have weight. Characters were only drawn from 3 angles-front, side and 3/4 and in most comics, the characters didn't even open their mouths to talk! It seems that comic strip artists never even thought to have a character do what seems so obvious to an animator-to open your mouth to speak. The few that did, just barely opened the mouths and the shape of the mouth didn't describe any particular phonetic sound.

In my opinion, the animated cartoon really exploded with creativity in the late 20s and all through the 30s-once sound was added to the moving pictures.

With Steamboat Willie the sound cartoon era officially started. It wasn't the first sound cartoon, but the first to cause a sensation. What was special about it? Not much. Except one really important thing: The whole damn cartoon was synchronized to music!

This simple innovation was so magic and appealing that it caught on and soon everyone was doing it. And doing it better and better.

For some reason it seemed so natural and logical to all the animators at every studio, that moving your cartoon actions to musical beats became not a creative choice but a fundamental axiom in how to make a correct cartoon. And it is one of the things that made cartoons just about the highest artform in history. It combines the two most pleasurable senses-sight and sound and makes it's goal to make your eyes and ears happy.

This is so logical to me that I can't believe that this simple concept is lost today. Most cartoons today punish your eyes and your ears.

What makes cartoons different than other forms of art? They take art which was meant to pleasure your eyes and distill the pleasure-they take out any cumbersome details that don't lead to immediate satisfaction. Cartoons are candy for the eyes. That was the whole philosophy of early cartoons and I guess was also the reason that they never got serious consideration as an art form-not until they started taking the fun out! UPA is about the first cartoon studio to be taken seriously by a lot of critics-and it's mainly because the cartoons removed the element of fun from them.

In the 20s and 30s the animators experimented with their art and would make the cartoons do impossible things that could never happen in real life.
Why? Because they could. And the audiences loved it. We all love magic. Well, all of us except executives.
Strangely, one particular animation studio of the rubber hose period had conservative forces at work.
More tomorrow...

Hey guys, send me the links to your sites that have rubber hose stuff up and I'll send folks there!

Mark Deckter has some great rubber hose posts here!