Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Animation School Lesson 5 - Line Of Action, Silhouettes

http://www.animationarchive.org/2006/05/meta-100000-animation-drawing-course_31.html
Click the link to get a nice big hi rez version of the page above.

Hi students. You've been doing great on the construction lessons, so now it's time to learn another important principle: Line of Action.

This principle is different than construction in that it is not based on tangible reality.
Everything in real life has construction.
Line of action is an artistic concept that sometimes by accident happens in real life but not always.

BUT! It is an important tool for artists.

Line of action helps your poses "read". It makes them clear and understandable and gives them a distinct non-ambiguous direction.



Here are some examples of strong line-of-action in the poses from classic cartoons.
Lines of action can be obvious and exaggerated as in this pose above from Kitty Kornered and the one below of Tinkerbell.

Note how the details follow the line of action and don't go in opposite directions.Here above is a more subtle line of action in the body pose of Wart, the character from Sword In The Stone. Look how the artist combines solid construction with a flowing line of action to create a solid and clear easy to read attitude.
When drawing your line of action-use another principle to help the line of action read even more clearly.

SILHOUETTE: See how the frame above combines construction, line of action and clear silhouettes to make an easy to read composition-even without having any details in the drawings.

How do you get a clear silhouette?
By using NEGATIVE SHAPES.
See the empty spaces between the arms and legs and major forms in the drawings above? Those are negative shapes. They are as important to your drawing as the positive shapes. They help make the silhouette read.


All the drawings above-the Preston Blair page, the Clampett frames and the Disney drawings are using the same basic principles. They superficially look different in style but to the trained eye, only slightly different.

The Clampett drawings are looser and more flowing and rounder, while the Disney drawings are more angular-but they all use the eaxct same fundamental principles.

Today, sadly these fundamentals have mostly disappeared.

Most cartoon characters now are rigid, they stand straight up and down, have no clear silhouettes, no construction, no line of action and no design at all. Characters now look like pieces of broken glass that don't fit together and certainly don't flow around the forms and line of action of the characters.



But you can do better.

Copy all the Preston Blair poses-using the same methods you did the construction drawings and then check them in photoshop against the originals to see where you are off.

Then when you are getting close to getting those accurate, try copying the Clampett and Disney drawings.

137 comments:

Gabriel said...

Yay, a new lesson to make us crazy! Why took you so long, John? I was starting to get worried.
I will do my homework as soon as possible.

Spook said...

Reading these various articles really has given me an appreciation for what makes a cartoon (specifically the art and animation) good and bad. Really, I could only barely tell the difference before and couldn't quantify the whys behind it at all.

Thanks for the insights, and keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

We will copy Clampett & Disney but let us not forget to copy Tex Avery.

David Holm said...

Hi there John,

I've noticed that you've been talking a lot about the low quality of modern cartoons, and I was wondering if you could give us an example of some modern cartoons that you actually do like, if there are some?
Just wondering if anyone is doing it right nowadays in your oppinion.

Trevour said...

I really have to laugh. When I see classic Clampett alongside Family Guy McFarland, it's literally comparing apples to oranges in regards to characters' silhouettes. Of course we're talking a red, shiny, cripsy juicy apple compared to brown, mushy, crapped-on orange!

Evan said...

I love how you threw the FG cap in there, the contrast between that and the other images in this post should convince a few naysayers, it looks sooooo bland compared to the others.

Danne8a said...

If only the basic laws of animation were actually allowed in modern cartoons.
They would actually look, I dunno, NIce?

junior said...

Why did you change bad example pic the pic, John? I wonder what was that other show from the first one you posted.

Desiree said...

my fave lesson:D!
I've been animating like mad recently and making sure all my drawings have clear line of action and yes..sillhouettes (which is why i have no time to post my homework, but rest assured, i implement your lessons). Animating really makes it clear why these things are so important. I think modern cartoons only get away with their slackarsiness becuase their characters hardly move.

antikewl said...

Marvellous to see a new lesson, John! And what a superb one it is too! So much great information in such few words. :)

Right, back to my homework...

FD44 said...

John, You like the lakers?

C. A. M. Thompson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

^ THAT is fuckin ugly as hell

Acetate said...

Why has no one else expressed these glaringly obvious points about animation to the people who work on the current cartoon shows? Any time I have brought something like this up on a message post board I am usually bombarded with hate. Are the current artists mere sheep? I can't believe no one at Nickelodeon doesn't raise their hand and say, "Excuse me, but I
think there might be a better way to do this." Whatever happened to Disney's philosophy of "plussing"? Keep spreadin' the good word John.

Anonymous said...

As I was drawing for this lesson, I realized that I draw very slowly and carefully. How long does it take you to draw one of the drawings from these lessons? I realize it probably varies, but I would appreciate if someone could answer my question.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that whenever you point out how horrible animation is today you always compare old theatrical cartoons to modern animated sitcoms like The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy. I think this is an unfair comparison as the two things use animation in a completely different way. A better comparison would be between either old cartoons and modern kids shows like Spongebob or Camp Lazlo (which, I think, is beautifully designed) or between old animated movies and today's cgi movies the best of which are, I think, comparable to classic Disney films.

Andy Seredy said...

Hooray!!!!!!!

Thanks for the next lesson John. I was scared for a moment ;) I'm still cranking away on lesson 4, but I'm stoaked to know there's more info waiting for me when I do finnish.
Thanks a ton.
andy

Dr.Awkward said...

>>> John, You like the lakers? <<<

Delete this irrelevant post, John, PLEASE!

Anonymous said...

Please don't mention Spongebob (world's biggest Ren & Stimpy rip off), Camp Lazlo, or the CGI crap Hollywood shits out ever again. Classic cartoons kick that shit's ass!

antikewl said...

I've noticed that you've been talking a lot about the low quality of modern cartoons, and I was wondering if you could give us an example of some modern cartoons that you actually do like, if there are some?

IMO, Jamie Hewlett's stuff is quite interesting. He's much more of an illustrator than an animator, of course, but it sure seems to beat the pants off a lot of the other stuff out there today.

Check out the video for DARE, to see what I mean.

antikewl said...

Oops. This one's a better version of the video.

Anonymous said...

>>Please don't mention Spongebob (world's biggest Ren & Stimpy rip off), Camp Lazlo, or the CGI crap Hollywood shits out ever again. Classic cartoons kick that shit's ass!

I'm not saying old cartoons aren't alot better than Spongebob and cgi movies (although I do think Spongebob is pretty funny and that The Incredibles is one of the most entertaining films ever made). I'm just saying they're a fairer comparison.
Using Family Guy to illustrate how far cartoons have sunk since the 50s is a little like showing how much stand-up has gone downhill since the 70s by comparing Richard Pryor and George Carlin with Carrot Top and Larry the Cable Guy and completely ingnoring David Cross and Dave Chapelle

Eric C. said...

John,

Why do you consider the book "Cartoon Animation" a mess?

_Eric

Jacob said...

See, looking at that Family Guy picture reminds me of one of the things that drives me nuts about that show and The Simpsons.

Everyone stands rigid, with their arms by their side. Nobody leans, nobody has their weight balanced off-centre, nobody has their arms doing anything but dangling.

I suppose it's just because it's easier just to cycle the mouth animation.

I still like the shows (well, the newer Simpsons episodes are garbage), but there's no dynamicism to anything.


Anyway, I was just looking through my "Groundwork of FLCL" book (production sketches of the Gainax OAV series), and I saw examples of some of those principles you showed in there.

Eric C. said...

John,

Just of curiousity.

Does it say to draw all the drawings or can we draw something simular and still follow the guide lines?

_Eric :)

Anonymous said...

"Please don't mention Spongebob (world's biggest Ren & Stimpy rip off), Camp Lazlo, or the CGI crap Hollywood shits out ever again. Classic cartoons kick that shit's ass!"

It's not that hard to see that Spongebob creators were inspired by Ren and Stimpy. But I suppose if it's good and it's been done before, it's a rip-off.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

If Spongebob is a Ren & Stimpy rip-off then Ren & Stimpy is a Bob Clampett rip-off

Roberto González said...

I knew this lesson already, I'll be copying the drawings soon anyway . I try to use line action and silhouettes in my own work too. Sometimes I forget, but I try. It's ironic, cause I actually learnt the importance of silhouettes from a Matt Groening book (he always says he designed the Simpsons thinking in their silhouettes).

Incidentally which cartoon is that one with the cavewomen? I think you put it as an example of not use line of action (the line on action is a little confusing there) but it also looks much better than FG anyway.

Roberto González said...

And well, my opinion about Spongebob, since everybody is talking about it, it's that is perfectly ok. Even if it's inspired by John k, well, they chose a good inspiration, so you can say they had good taste, and apart from the drawings, the characters have their own personality and character traits, very different from Ren and Stimpy. Other Ren and Stimpy rip-offs didn't have interesting characters and although they eventually had some interesting models or animations the stories and personality traits were boring and they failed. Like that Disney show, Shnookums and Meat.

Aggie said...

I adooore the Preston Blair book. It's really helping me out.

Mcnuggetinator said...

Thanks for all these lessons, they are really helping me especially since I became real serious about cartooning recently.I also bought the Preston Blair book and Im copying a bunch of drawings from that. I do have one concern though, how long does it take the average cartoonist to draw a character Im worried that I draw too slow so Im gonna start timing myself. Check out my blog to see some of those drawings.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you guys think of Samurai Jack, but did anyone see the episode where he fought that ninja in black. Jack was wearing white and when they were in the shadows you could only see the silhouette of Jack, and in the light you could only see the ninja.

That was a cool episode that I thought used silhouettes very well.

I'd also be interested to know what modern cartoons John likes. I asked what he thought about Spongebob in a post before but I think he chose to ignore it.

-Ollie

Desiree said...

someone mentioned Disney's "plussing" philosophy....what exactly is that?? as u might guess i come from one of those "we-dont-teach-u-nuthin-animation courses"; and I'm eager to learn, PLEASE OH PLEAAAAAHSE!

Eric Dotseth said...

How can animators work effectively with negative space? Unlike other two-dimensional media, the characters in animation move across the background.

Pedro Vargas said...

Goddamn I'm super behind! John you're the best, man. I'm so happy you're still doing these lessons. I really can sense you want things to get better. W

Pedro Vargas said...

I also wanted to mention that we really do need a change and we need it now!

JohnK said...

>>I don't know what you guys think of Samurai Jack,<<

I was gonna use an image from that to illustrate the glass shard theory of design.

You can image google for them and see for yourself.

David Germain said...

I prefer streamlined line of action myself. But the regular line of action can look just as good too.

Hey, John, will you do any more Hanna Barbara remakes like the Yogi Bear toons? I have an idea for Yakky Doodle in a brothel.

ncross said...

<< I prefer streamlined line of action myself. But the regular line of action can look just as good too.>>

This makes no sense to me...sorry.

Hey John, great post! Congrats on the show the other day! I'm glad everyone likes the Children's Crusade!! Maybe one day it'll get finished.

Martín Eschoyez said...

Hey John!
I'll join this lessons right now!

I really respect your different opinions, but personally i think that John K. was the man that introduces a new style in cartoons when was needed. And viewing R&S again and again i noticed that there's a new "good-damn old" cartoon. Spongebob, I'm weasel, Powerpuff girls, Cow & Chicken and others there are just consequences of R&S. I like all these cartoons in general, almost all makes me laugh a lot. But i'think the cartoons history has a special place for John K.

Cheers!

PS: i really think that Pink Panther was a great cartoon.

Anonymous said...

I think Rocko's Modern Life and Camp Lazlo are both cool shows. But is it just me or is Camp Lazlo more flat looking then Rocko?

David Germain said...

<< I prefer streamlined line of action myself. But the regular line of action can look just as good too.>>

This makes no sense to me...sorry.


I wish I had visual images to further explain this. But I'll try to make due with just text for now.
Streamlined line of action is where all the typical bumps of someone's anatomy are flattened so that the line reads much stronger. A good example of this can be seen in Nasty Quacks in that pose where Daffy is about to chop that baby duck with an axe. I enjoy that style of line of action more, but like I said the regular kind where all the anatomy bumps are still visible is still just as pliable.

Jacob said...

Pink Panther was wonderful, but they KILLED it when they "re-imagined" him in the '90s and added a voice.

Gabriel said...

>>I don't know what you guys think of Samurai Jack,<<

I was gonna use an image from that to illustrate the glass shard theory of design.


I kinda liked that cartoon, it had cool backgrounds and the weirdest pacing ever. But I must agree with you, the main character design was awful. I never really understood why, most of the other stuff seemed fine, yet Jack himself looked so strange. His eyes were so annoying.

Jacob said...

(I don't know what the attitude towards Japanese animation is here, I imagine it's fairly negative due to current oversaturation of garbage, but I'll go on anyway.)

As I said in a previous post, I'd been looking in the "Groundwork of FLCL" book, which is a collection of pre-production sketches for the OAV series, and I started noticing a few more things after I'd seen today's post here.

So for one example, I wanna get a get a general opinion on this sequence segment (where one of the main characters is sneakily opening a secret letter she's not supposed to be reading) in regards to "line of action":

http://lunarworks.ca/misc/flclprod-haruko-letter.jpg


I've been lurking a bit.

Myself, I don't wanna do animation, but I eventually wanna start drawing a comic (in my own style), which in itself carries some of the same principles as animation. (I've had a story idea in my head for a decade now that I NEED to get on paper before it fades.)

I haven't really drawn in YEARS...

Anonymous said...

Hi Jacob

I like The Pink Panther too. I don't watch it for the artistic style I just love the gags and music. The only cool looking style Pink Panther cartoon was the episode "Pink Phink" (a true classic). Pink Panther is really the only cool cartoon that Friz Freleng ever did. Every time I watch a Pink Panther cartoon the one thing I pay more attention to is the back ground music. I just love the Pink Panther theme.

Jesse

P.S. I hate the 90's Pink Panther too.

J. J. Hunsecker said...

Acetate said...
Why has no one else expressed these glaringly obvious points about animation to the people who work on the current cartoon shows? Any time I have brought something like this up on a message post board I am usually bombarded with hate. Are the current artists mere sheep? I can't believe no one at Nickelodeon doesn't raise their hand and say, "Excuse me, but I
think there might be a better way to do this." Whatever happened to Disney's philosophy of "plussing"? Keep spreadin' the good word John.

Acetate,
The reason no one has pointed out these lessons to modern cartoon creators is that those people have specifically chosen to disregard the principles of good drawing. If one of the lowly animation artists points this out or, God forbid, includes such a drawing for one of those modern shows they would get called to the carpet by the creators, producers, showrunners, and scriptwriters of said modern cartoon show (for the sin of drawing "off model").

There have been many artists who knew how to draw who have worked on The Simpsons. People such as Brad Bird, David Silverman, Rich Moore, etc. However, they didn't run the show and had to take orders from Groening, James L. Brooks, and several Harvard educated scriptwriters -- people who have no knowledge about animation.

Matt Groening regularly refers to the drawing principles posted here as "too cartoony." People like him, Mike Judge and Trey Parker & Matt Stone would rather be working in live action and the animation in their shows reflect this. (Plus they really don't know how to draw.)

Anonymous said...

>>> Spongebob, I'm weasel, Powerpuff girls, Cow & Chicken and others there are just consequences of R&S. <<<

The problem is that these new guys are copying the superficial quirks and surface details without [i]really[/i] understanding what made the original show effective.

The bold outlines are a trivial thing. In fact, the early 90's R&S only had bold outlines in the show intro and the rest was usual skinny old Xeroxed pencil like in the 80s. The flat factor and the distorted character effects only happened in certain freakout scenes where there was a lot of bending of rules.

The most important part of it all - the root, i.e. the goal of making a rebellious, dynamic and sometimes startling cartoon - that part got ignored.

Had these new guys just taken inspiration from that fundamental purpose of R&S and developed their own designs and concepts and quirks from it instead of ripping off the "look" and the "schtick", we'd be surrounded by more original cartoons now.

Anonymous said...

Hey J.J. Hunsecker

Mike Judge is a good cartoonist. It's Trey & Matt who can't draw for shit. The early Beavis & Butthead cartoons were the best. Beavis & Butthead is one cartoon show that evoleved year by year. Go watch the episodes Frog Baseball and Blood Drive, then watch the final episode "Beavis & Butthead Are Dead".

Jesse

Jacob said...

The reason no one has pointed out these lessons to modern cartoon creators is that those people have specifically chosen to disregard the principles of good drawing.

My opinion on this is that the viewing public has grown over-accustomed to consistency, and not just in their animation.

You can see it in the fact that no matter where you go in America you have the same looking Wal-Mart, the same tasing McDonalds, the same stuff on TV, and all the bands on the radio tend to sound the same. In the average subdivision, all the houses look the same.

Changing things up is "scary", and presents a risk. (Until a new trend forms, of course.)

Consitency gives you comfort, but variety is the spice of life.

Evan said...

Unrelated but isn't it about time for another caricature contest?

Gavin Freitas said...

Good forum!! I do agree about how the corperate cartoons look too stiff and have no edge to them. Keep these coming John

:: smo :: said...

what about the concept of the S curve? is the trick to incoporate both the S to establish proper balance and the line of action to accomidate screen direction?

benj said...

thanks for continuing the lessons John!
Ill draw some tonight:)

jorge garrido said...

I better get started on these sweet lessons!

>>Please don't mention Spongebob (world's biggest Ren & Stimpy rip off)

Aaron Springer and Vincent Waller didn't seem to mind. *rolls eyes*

>If Spongebob is a Ren & Stimpy rip-off then Ren & Stimpy is a Bob Clampett rip-off

Exactly.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

>>Matt Groening regularly refers to the drawing principles posted here as "too cartoony."

Here's my theory about the Simpsons' animation.

I think these classic cartoons are based on the idea of caricature. They use exagerated character designs, facial expressions, movements, etc. to intensify a situation. They're also based on the idea that anything can and should happen in a cartoon. Most of the humour comes from either exagerated animation or crazy logic.

The Simpsons' animation, on the other hand, is based on the idea of abscaction. They take after Peanuts in that respect.
The more abstract and simplified you make a face, the more relatable it is. It would be much harder to relate to the South Park kids if they looked like this.
The humour in the Simpsons (in the early days at least) is derived from realistic situations, it wouldn't work if characters started doing Tex Avery takes.
This style could certainly be achieved with a greater sense of design (look at Chris Ware's comics) but I think it's unfair to compare The Simpsons to classic cartoons as it uses animation in a completely different way.

Anonymous said...

That's so stupid, if you only want to compare shit to crap soon you'll be assuming one of them is actually good.

R said...

Words to live by fersure! If a character doesn't have a Slinky for a spine, what's the point.

Anyway, I'd be interested to know if this is anywhere close to whatcha mean-

http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/26437986/


(sorry about the DA link, I don't have the pic on me)

-R

Kevin Langley said...

Here's my first post of lesson 5. I'm learing so much from each lesson. I'm starting to see what you mean when you everything you need is in this book. Thanks again John.

The Masked Gourmand said...

"The Simpsons' animation, on the other hand, is based on the idea of abscaction. They take after Peanuts in that respect.
The more abstract and simplified you make a face, the more relatable it is."

Most animation relies on plenty of abstraction. The very idea we are discussing, Line of Action, is itself an abstraction of motion and the way people move.

You have a good point about relatability but that is not a way in which The Simpsons is different than old WB cartoons. The Simpsons doesn't have more abstraction than say a Private Snafu cartoon. What is has is less nuance. These "realistic situations" would be better served with solid character animation. This is going to mean something different in the world of the Simpsons than is does in a WB cartoon but they can still make good use of: line of action, gesture, silhouette, a greater range of facial expressions. The Simpsons doesn't use the full range of the tools at its disposal to achieve its ends.

Actually, if you look at some older Simpsons cartoons you will see some brief moments, usually just a few seconds, of good animation. I find this happens in the oddest places.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

I'm not saying old cartoons don't use abstraction as well, I'm just saying their humour is based more on caricature while The Simpsons' humour relies on people relating to the characters so the animation is more about abstraction.

I'm not denying that The Simpsons could look alot better but I don't think that effects my enjoyment of the show a whole lot. The animation isn't pretty to look at but it does it's job well.

JohnK said...

>>The Simpsons could look alot better but I don't think that effects my enjoyment of the show a whole lot.<<

That's not something I would proudly admit to anyone.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

Why the hell not? The Simpsons is up there with All in the Family and Larry Sanders as one of the best sitcoms of all time. Sure the animation looks a little shitty but since when does something have to look good to be funny?

cemenTIMental said...

As I said in a previous post, I'd been looking in the "Groundwork of FLCL" book,
Really inspiring book!

bardhol said...

anonymous 2:15,
It took me the better part of an hour to do these few sketches:
http://seed-sower-sowing-seeds.blogspot.com/2006/06/crouching-tom-hidden-jerry.html
I did the Jerry on the left in about 5 minutes, the other ones took longer on account of I would immediately correct mistakes as I drew them.

bardhol said...

html, what the hell? Just copy and paste that there link and it'll work fine.

P.C. Unfunny said...

"Why the hell not? The Simpsons is up there with All in the Family and Larry Sanders as one of the best sitcoms of all time."

The Simpsons was once funny and was a great sitcom,but saying it actually ranks up there with "All in the Family" is foolish.

jorge garrido said...

>The Simpsons doesn't use the full range of the tools at its disposal to achieve its ends

Which is a shame considering their whofully underused budget. If you're gonnna make an aniamted sitcom the chrafcters should be way more expressive than the best sitcom actors. Get great reaction shots and acting from the realistic situations.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

>>The Simpsons was once funny and was a great sitcom,but saying it actually ranks up there with "All in the Family" is foolish.

Are you kidding? The first 8 seasons are as funny as Marx Bros movies. I would rank it higher than All in the Family

Kevin Langley said...

I don't consider the Simpsons and Family Guy anything other than sitcoms. They can't be compared to Golden Age cartoons because they're not even cartoons. It's like comparing Friends to Tom and Jerry.

Kitty said...

you know... you could have used a picture of someone other than JESUS to represent Family Guy's 'flatness'. LOL

I'll TRY to remember this lesson. Most of my characters are well like these modern ones. (I learned how to make characters after drawing MILLIONS of Powerpuff Girls, actually.) All i can do now is add to my modern style and make it good.

Before i knew anything about the differences between good and bad, I always thought a cartoon is a cartoon. just as long as I liked it. That is what ANY typical 10 or 11 year-old would think.

I am thankful for this info. my drawings look better (and Grandma said she didn't think I could DO ANY better. She got pwn'd)

Anonymous said...

FLCL is a really great show.

Another modern anime where I noticed the characters look like they're animated differently in each episode is Samurai Champloo. You can see a difference between the animators.

I know this has nothing to do with silhouettes but i just thought i'd mention it because John was saying before about how everything today is always ''on model'', well, maybe not always.

Ah, i just remembered the opening of the show Cowboy Bebop uses silhouettes really well. And it's an awesome show too (my favorite actually). It's from the same creator as Samurai Champloo, Shinichiro Watanabe.

-Ollie

JohnK said...

>>They can't be compared to Golden Age cartoons because <<

They can't be compared to real sitcoms either. I thought I made that point.

Real sitcoms have acting in them and jokes that come out of the characters-at least the good ones do.

Sitcom cartoons that aren't cartoony and have no acting can never be as good as cartoons or live action, so what's the point?

David Germain said...

you know... you could have used a picture of someone other than JESUS to represent Family Guy's 'flatness'. LOL

Yeah, a better example that would absolutely illustarte you point (no pun intended) would be to a screen shot from a classic Bugs & Elmer toon beside a screen shot of Family Guy's attempt at Bugs & Elmer (where Bugs gets shot). Anyone who can't see the difference between the two after that would indeed be too blind and stupid to have any sort of opinion on animation.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

>>They can't be compared to real sitcoms either. I thought I made that point.

I find the Simpsons funnier than almost every live action sitcom.

>>Sitcom cartoons that aren't cartoony and have no acting can never be as good as cartoons or live action, so what's the point?

The point is the abstraction animation gives makes the characters more relatable than real actors.

JohnK said...

>>The point is the abstraction animation gives makes the characters more relatable than real actors.<<

We need a translator.

The Honeymooners and All In The Family are the same types of sitcoms but have a million more jokes in them and lots of different kinds of jokes and amazing performances.

No comparison at all.

Anonymous said...

Anyone interested I am selling the Cartoon Animation book by Preston Blair. It's 224 pages of information & drawings by Preston Blair bought back in 1996 signed & dated by the man himself. Its in good condition. I paid $55 selling it for $39.99. If you are interested email me at loquat73@gmail.com.

Thanks...

Jacob said...

"Sitcom cartoons that aren't cartoony and have no acting can never be as good as cartoons or live action, so what's the point?"

Sitcom cartoons have an advantage over real life sitcoms in the fact that they can "go anywhere", and have a virtually unlimited cast.

Most sitcoms take place on one main studio set. Anytime they venture off that main set they have to spend a huge amount building a set or filming on-location.

Each person who appears on the show has to be paid too, whereas with animated characters you can just paint-up whoever you need for the situation and have your stock voice actors ham-up some non-unique voice.

Plus, animated actors can take a whole lot more physical punishment than their real life counterparts. Look at all the damage Homer's taken over the years. You're not gonna get some millionaire to risk his pretty face for a laugh.

Jacob said...

Of course, I'm not denying that you can accompish pure comedy genius with just two people and one basic set.

Anonymous said...

John, I have a theory. The reason modern cartoons are so bland is because they're made for television. Classic animation (Looney Tunes, etc.) were made for the cinema. They had better production values and a staff of animators who wanted to experiment and develop their craft. They weren't constricted by network deadlines or made to crank out episode after episode. The problem is, when animation is made this way it loses something that made classic animation great. The Simpsons and Family Guy go for the quick laughs for today's audience instead of trying to be timeless and universal. Looney Tunes is just as funny now as they were during the 1940s or 1950s.
So the reason why South Park and Family Guy look the way they do is because they're basic animation, the artists don't care about complexity and are minimalists, and the writers crank the scripts out and the whole process is rushed and follows a formula.
Anyway, that's what I think.

- Eric A.

JohnK said...

>>Sitcom cartoons have an advantage over real life sitcoms in the fact that they can "go anywhere", and have a virtually unlimited cast.<<

Every animator will want to kill you for saying that.

That is no advantage. Unlimited cast equals nothing except hard labor for the animators. It adds no entertainment value whatsoever. It in fact, subracts from the entertainment value. You spend less time drawing each person in a crowd than you would drawing just one or 2 people-so you have lots of badly drawn characters rather than one or two characters acting.

This is from the experience of someone who has been doing it for 25 years and other animators will tell you the same thing.We all want to kill scriptwriters for their stupid theories about the advantages of cartoons over live action.

You try making a crowd funny yourself and you will quickly be cured of this theory that it is an advantage.

Honestly, with the budgets they have for these prime time cartoons they could easily shoot it all live, with crowds and locations and everything-and it still wouldn't make it funnier than filming funny people doing funny things in one place.

What's funnier, a talentless crowd doing nothing or Archie and Edith playing off each other?

If you want to win this argument, do it yourself and post your hilarious crowd story and maybe you'll convince people who know from direct experience.

Jacob said...

I can imagine how horrible a crowd scene is to put together. I can't draw more than a few people at a time, myself. I didn't mean that at all. I apologise.

I meant that if you need a character or two for a particular situation, you can just create those characters to fit the need without the worry of casting. An unlimited pool of characters to draw from, so to say.

(/not trying to win any argument, just have a habit of getting sucked into debate...)

JohnK said...

>>An unlimited pool of characters to draw from, so to say.

what's the point if you draw them all the same?

SteveLambe said...

"kappappa said...

Yeah, this image is very rigid and it's zigzaggy, like the example of how not to do it that Preston Blair has in his book. It might be interesting to see it redone correctly."



That cavegirls image is actually one of mine. I can't say that I like my work being put up for public scrutiny like that, but I have no problems admitting my faults.

Yes...it lacks a clear line of action, and there's no flow like Preston's drawings. I never claimed it to be correct though. I'm learning the same as everyone else.

j9 said...

hi, i just wanted to make a comment on the whole "someone should speak up within the studios about there being a better way to do this" thing... i recently interviewed with nickelodeon, disney tv, klasky csupo, and a few other big studios at a portfolio review. they actually are seeking people who draw extremely flat and dont have perspective, organic forms or really solid contruction in their drawings. they told me this. they asked me to add more flat "funky" drawings to my portfolio and then send it to them. btw, this is for visual development work, character design specifically. i have been trying to draw flat crap for three days now, and i find it really hard to take out the fundamentals of what i have been taught. it is driving me nuts, but i need a job. so anyhoo, my point is, they want the flat stuff. they want ugly, they want strange, and they dont care if it is well constrcuted at all.

Coral Yoshi said...

It's really sad, but everything you said about today's animation is true. I don't know where it started, but I'm assuming that Hannah Barbara is where the bland animation started. Their early stuff makes me cringe...

The only thing that these popular cartoons today have going for them are their sense of humor. Sure, Family Guy and South Park are funny but damn I would love it if their animators put more emotion and movement into their works as Spumco does.

... haha stay awesome. Your blog is really fun to read.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

>>The Honeymooners and All In The Family are the same types of sitcoms but have a million more jokes in them and lots of different kinds of jokes and amazing performances.

John, have you ever seen The Simpsons? The best episodes literally have a joke every five seconds and about three or four which are funny no matter how many times you hear them. Example: "Don't let Krusty's death get you down, boy. People die all the time. Just like that. Why, you could wake up dead tomorrow. Well, good night."
No TV show has ever come close to how funny The Simpsons was in it's prime.

>>We need a translator.

I explained it better in an earlier post.

P.C. Unfunny said...

"Are you kidding? The first 8 seasons are as funny as Marx Bros movies. I would rank it higher than All in the Family"


"No Iam not kidding, All in The Family was great beause it was extremely funny, had great acting, and it was the most intelligent social commentary of all time. To say the The Simpsons compare on any of those levels is incredibly studid.Also,I can't belive you have the guall say The Simpsons is funny as The Marx Brothers. "

P.C. Unfunny said...

EDIT:No Iam not kidding, All in The Family was great because it was extremely funny, had great acting, and it was the most intelligent social commentary of all time. To say the The Simpsons compare on any of those levels is incredibly stupid.Also,I can't belive you have the guall say The Simpsons is funny as The Marx Brothers.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

Ok, I find The Simpsons as funny as The Marx Brothers and you don't which is fair enough, humour is an objective thing. I just object to the idea that I'm somehow wrong for enjoying The Simpsons as much as I do.
I agree that All in the Family is an incredible show, I just think The Simpsons is on a par with it and I think that the fact that so many intelligent, funny people agree with me (Ricky Gervais calls it the best TV show of all time) invalidates John's point that an animated sitcom can never be as good as a live action one.
I guess this all pointless since I'm not gonna change anyone's mind about anything, I just get a little defensive when people unfairly critisize my favourite show.

Anonymous said...

>> i recently interviewed with nickelodeon, disney tv, klasky csupo, and a few other big studios at a portfolio review. they actually are seeking people who draw extremely flat and dont have perspective, organic forms or really solid contruction in their drawings. <<

The first thing that popped in my mind was "WHAT??" But I think I know what's going on here.

That "we want flat and funky" thing smacks of anti-Disney. (And by Disney I mean Brother Bear and The Little Mermaid, not Kim Possible.)

Volumetric design, sqaush and stretch, rounded organic forms, cute and neotenous characters, all these have been the practice of the least worthy practitioners for years and years: Saturday morning TV, the old Disney kiddie fairy tale machine and all those commercials.

It's no WONDER that studios now are saying "Get this old-school crap out of my face! Disney lost over 100 million on Treasure Planet (really happened)."

Here's the only solution I see: Let this Transformers/Kool-Aid-style CGI and flat-funky artwork run itself into the ground. Won't take long; it's all an eyesore for the most part. Start an underground movement based on the old cartoon principles but with new content, and certainly new technology (anybody hear about the Opus release of Toonboom? It's expensive now but something affordable will come around at some point.) Timing and choice of venues will be cruicial.


BTW, edit of eariler post: >>The most important part of it all - the root, i.e. the goal of making a rebellious, dynamic and sometimes startling cartoon - that part got ignored.<< I meant ignored by the new guys.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

edit of earlier post:
*humour is a subjective thing

JohnK said...

This is a post about Construction, Proportion, line of action, silhouettes and good animation technique.

Why are there people here defending cartoons and art that have utter disregard and ignorance of the most basic and necessary of artistic tools?

Aren't there plenty of blogs where people love primitive drawing and animation?

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

First of all saying The Simpsons has "utter disregard and ignorance of the most basic and necessary of artistic tools" is a huge exageration. And second you keep making statements like "The Honeymooners and All In The Family are the same types of sitcoms but have a million more jokes in them and lots of different kinds of jokes and amazing performances.
No comparison at all." which is just completely false.

I'm sorry but I find it a little upsetting to see someone who I respect and admire as much as you shit all over something I love for no good reason.

cemenTIMental said...

Why are there people here defending
People are defending them simply because you're attacking them! :) And too many people take an attack on the things they like as an attack on them personally.

Thus is the way of the internets.

Cognitive dissonance all round.

:)

JohnK said...

>People are defending them simply because you're attacking them! :)

someone please show me that these shows use the principles I am talking about.

Don't say it; prove it.

As I do, with examples.

This blog is meant to teach people about things that hardly exist anymore. When people begin to be able to see them, they then start missing them themselves.

Senses need to be trained.They have been blunted by decades of blandness, so I understand why people defend the indefensible when they can't perceive higher things that take keener senses.

Try to just understand and apply the concepts I am putting forward. Then later, you will see many things that you don't yet.

That's if you already at least have the sense to know that old art is much richer than new.

I'm explaining why it does.

If you can't already see it, you probably never will be able to - no matter how much information you discover here.

No blind man would choose to stay blind if someone offered him vision.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

I think it's great that you're teaching us this stuff, I just wish you could entertain the possibility that some of these so called indefensible cartoons have some pretty great qualities and that maybe the quality of the animation isn't always the most important thing.

j9 said...

honestly, the disney tv guy told me that disney is moving away from classic disney style and wants to move toward things that people wouldnt recognize as disney. they are trying to compete with nick and cartoon network in the tv animation categories. so basically, they want to take everything that made disney work good, the art of it, and trash that in favor of being hip. argh. but i still want the job, maybe i can get them to change their minds someday!

Kali Fontecchio said...

"If you can't already see it, you probably never will be able to - no matter how much information you discover here."

It's true- and you'll all be arguing with each other until you're blue in the face to understand when the instigators never will.

More pictures to take in- COMPARE freakin' crazies- this is such a wonderful opportunity to hear from the artist directly his opinions and knowledge from years of experience. I feel lucky, yet some people just don't get it. Take advantage of it- not spoil it!


This
...


Versus THIS???


When I went to see his cartoons last weekend- I laughed so hard I choked! And so did everyone else. Simpsons may be funny for a little while, but so is a dead cat that keeps getting run over again and again. Nothing new will happen except its deterioration.

cemenTIMental said...


someone please show me that these shows use the principles I am talking about.


Uhh i totally wasn't disagreeing with you, or saying that these shows do contain such principles! :-S

I was just commenting that the reason people get defensive is because they take critisism of the shows they like as an personal attack on their character... which is pretty silly.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

No one's suggesting that The Simpsons looks as good as John K's cartoons. I'm just saying I personally find it funnier. I'm as big a fan of John K and of classic cartoons as anyone but I can still see past The Simpsons' shitty animation and enjoy the great writing.

jorge garrido said...

>>but everything you said about today's animation is true. I don't know where it started, but I'm assuming that Hannah Barbara is where the bland animation started. Their early stuff makes me cringe...

Actually it was Filmation.

Well, by 1965 HB had gone really bland. The blandness started around 1962, but their early stuff before it was the best there was.

Best HB: 1950's-1962, then a second inferior "golden" age in the 90's, but they made some good cartoons like eddie's The Worm and stuff like that.

Now regarding the lesson: Is it true that you're supposed to follow through in an animation action and go PAST the point of impact, like in a punch or something, and then zip back quickly to where it would get hit?

Anonymous said...

Screw the Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park. We should be talking about this:

>>the disney tv guy told me that disney is moving away from classic disney style and wants to move toward things that people wouldnt recognize as disney.<<

Because the last hand-drawn feature lost over $100 million as mentioned earlier.

That's the real monster to reckon with - the resulting reluctance, stigma and prejudice on behalf of the production studios against solid drawing, action lines, and the 40's Tom and Jerry style of organic curves.

There's a guy I know who does storyboards for Teletoon shows. I talked with him about drawing, about how hard it is to draw Mickey Mouse properly; and he said "Mickey Mouse? That's old school. I'm anti-Disney." (His own work looks like Christopher Hart, or the modern stiff, angular designs we all know)

This is the reason studios want ugly, amateur designs. It's strictly reactionary. According to some, it's also technological and economic, but that's no excuse.

You think no one can draw nowadays? The libraries have books and the internet is loaded with tutorials and that cover the very drawing principles we discuss here and more. The information is out there, and artists all over the world take advantage. But there's a anti-principles movement now.

Anonymous said...

"The Incorrigible Hulk said...
I just wish you could entertain the possibility that some of these so called indefensible cartoons have some pretty great qualities and that maybe the quality of the animation isn't always the most important thing."

EXACTLY, I couldn't agree more with Incorrigible Hulk. I've been browsing this blog for about a week now, and am taken aback at the negative attitude portrayed against anything 'different' or not up to someones version of what animation should be.

Would animation really be in a better place if they all looked like Preston Blair copies?.... not in my opinion.

I for one, think the Simpson's are great... I could care less about how great the lines of motion are followed.... all I care about is getting a few laughs after a hard days work.

Ben Tan said...

With all these comments on one blog post, John ought to start a forum.

John A said...

Nobody's saying you can't WATCH whatever show you enjoy. You're missing the whole point here. John is trying to teach you something that goes beyond this or that superficial design style. He's trying to get you to understand the principles that go into creating classic, full bodied animation (the real ART of animation)

Anonymous said...

>> JohnK said... Why are there people here defending cartoons and art that have utter disregard and ignorance of the most basic and necessary of artistic tools?
Aren't there plenty of blogs where people love primitive drawing and animation?<<

Sheesh, that's a little condescending don't you think?

antikewl said...

Would animation really be in a better place if they all looked like Preston Blair copies?.... not in my opinion.

John isn't suggesting that all animations look like Preston Blair's work. Look at the art and sketches of various Spumco artists... they're all very different!

What he is telling us that in order to produce good animation we need to understand how cartoons work... and Preston Blair's book does a wonderful job of that.

Lord Turbine said...

Dude, this blog is great, and the lessons are not only easy to fallow but fun to do.

Beside that... I talked to a friend of mine this afternoon about this issue. This friend just happens to be a big fan of Family Guy, but not for its writing (I seldom times watch cartoons for the writing [South Park.. sure, the animation style's original, but it looks like crap... though, in all fairness, it's supposed to look like crap, and all the character models start out as hand made, unlike some other shows that are completely cel, such as... oh, I dunno, anything on Disney right now? Danny Phantom (bad animation, BAD ANIMATION)? Catscratch (do they have more than one perspective on that show, or do they live in a Game and Watch)?], but Family Guy's writing isn't anything to look up to.), but for its animation style.

I asked him, "Why do you prefer an animation style in which the characters always stay in the center of the screen and they stay in one plane of view?"

He says, "Because it's easy to watch."

At that point, I just left. That's horrible.

Honestly, I'd get the entire animated sitcom thing, if the entire "go anywhere, do anything" was actually exploited. By that I mean, if animated sitcoms went somewhere else other then some random suburb in the middle of the USA (this is what The Flinstones did right and everything else has done wrong... Flinstones was great, and was the only proof-of-concept for animated sitcoms in my eyes, except if you count Futurama as an animated sitcom, in which case, I guess it could be p-o-c, because it did things a normal sitcom couldn't and it did them well, even if the animation was that Groening-style crapfest that it was), and if they did something other than playing football with celebrities, going on family vacations, or drinking beer (that's pretty much what it amounts to).

Notice: on classic cartoons, the characters often came closer to the screen, or went farther away from it. That doesn't happen in modern cartoons. That's called "dimension", and it's the main thing that seperates modern and classic animation. That means all animation is divided at one critical point. Actually, I think if one looks at animation from the early '70s and compares it to animation from the early '60s, they could come to the conclusion that the decline of animation started with Walt Disney's death. Pre-70s Disney animation had depth, while post-70s Disney animation had little or none. Sure, Disney animation still looks great (Lion King), but it lacks a great amount of depth. Peter Pan is an excellent example of this, take the scene in which they're flying over London: that's incredible use of dimension and depth for you.

I like John Lasseter's view on the state of Disney animation, which is to have the Disney animators stick to 2-D and actually make their animation worthy of the Disney name, and let Pixar do the CGI, because they're the best at it. In terms of CGI, Pixar's actually looks like a new form of animation, instead of just taking techniques used in modern 2-D animation and horribly replicating them into a 3-D setting, making them look like complete and utter diarrhea on a larger scale... for example? SHARK TALE (biggest offender, this is the worst use of CGI in the history of CGI animation, save for the uneeded use of CGI in modern 2-D animation... yeah, Spongebob, I mean you guys), Shrek, Robots (Good Lord, horrible writing and horrible animation in one horrible package.), Chicken Little (Slow-moving sharp-edged blobs on a dark background filled with generic blobs for buildings... that's modern animation for you!) Meet the Robinsons (UGH! Worse then Chicken Little! The characters look like, say, beach balls with pointy edges! It's total lunacy!), etc.)

However, that's not to say ALL modern animation sucks. An example of good modern animation? The Iron Giant. That's GREAT animation, mind you. It looks like classic style animation, and combined with the writing, it turned out to be one of the top animated films of all time in my book.

The Incorrigible Hulk said...

^That's some great parenthesis work^

David Holm said...

"Yay, a new lesson to make us crazy!"

You were pretty right about the crazy part.

Dave_the_Turnip said...

Well i've made some headway into lesson 5. My first shot at it can be found here. I got a long way to go and hopefully things will click during all the other drawings.

Daniel said...

Wow! Just what I have been missing! Thanks a lot, this is definately what I have been missing all these years. I am 17 years old and I am an aspiring animater. I am aware of this line of actions only when inspriration comes to me.
http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/194156
This link takes you to an animation I made and I think I used this technique here. I just didn't think i was aware of it. Thanks again.

-Dan

Anonymous said...

I like FG's style. Don't really like yours.

Have a nice day!

benj said...

Here's my 1st try for "Lesson" 5 and some more of "Lesson 4".

Your BLOG rock John:D!

Anonymous said...

Heh, all Family Guy characters really DO look the same. I didn't even know that was supposed to be Jesus until someone here mentioned it.

Dave_the_Turnip said...

Part two of my crack at lesson 5 can be found here. Ah, learning while being able to draw Tom & Jerry. Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

I choose cartoons based on their humor - not their style of animation. It seems like the more time spent on animation, the less time spent on dialogue. That Final Fantasy movie spent a lot of time an animation but was overall a very boring movie.

Putting effort into creating and adapting style is important but there is another aspect of cartoons that is as important - the content.

JohnK said...

>>It seems like the more time spent on animation, the less time spent on dialogue. <<

That's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

Anonymous said...

>>I like FG's style. Don't really like yours.<<

I like Britney Spears's style. Don't really like Ella Fitzgerald's.

Schmuck.

Jw said...

I just have to say that after reading john k's Animation School Lessons, I've been looking at animation in a totally different way.

95% of my DVD collection is animated, with a mix of Simpsons-style, the Flat New ones, anime, Pixar, Disney, and the "good stuff"- Tom & Jerry, Ren & Stimpy, and other classics.

I'm discerning enough to see differences in focus and style among these comics- but I guess what these superb, detailed lessons are showing me in tremendous clarity is the reasoning and purpose behind solid animation.

Stop debating whether a show's writing is funny or not, because all that matters right here is quality animation, and no one can successfully argue that the animation in The Simpsons or Family Guy is good.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, john k, for this blog.

Jw said...

I should also add that Wallyman is freaking me out.

Dylan Patten said...

Why does the animation in movies like
The sword in the stone look so fluid, smooth, and GOOD? is it because all of the great animators have died?

And...

Any tips for a 15 year old interested in animation? if i cant get help from teachers at school about this maybe you can help, if not ill just stick to becomming a park ranger :\

Kitty said...

http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b80/Seconteen/Untitled-Stitched-02.jpg

you might wanna see this. when I saw this lesson I remembered this book. I drew from it when I was younger.

Lee said...

My favourite lesson so far! Thanks John!

Ryan Christensen said...

Its weird. Cartoons are getting more simple (and more cheap to create in simple format - probably the main reason) with each generation. The 40's to 50's illustrates this and even the original Preston Blair book to the rewrite with his own characters shows some of this. THere seems to be a desire to make it more simple drawings rather than realistic, expecially with the rise of computer gen'd graphics. The big successes use a combination of R&S but then also go flat like Beavis & Butthead, South Park, Simpsons (FOX has the whole simple style like the simpsons -- which is a style, its even evident in King of the Hill). So will there be a resurgance of round cartoons, or is that where 3d is going and 2d is going more angular.

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erin said...

ohh, thank you for posting this. line of action was something i knew about for a long time, but i think i somehow forgot about it a little bit, lately. thanks for reminding me. i feel better now.

Kyle said...

I don't mind using examples of Family Guy vs Disney Classics to illustrate how line of action and animation principles make a drawing better. It does show that point very well.

But all of this talk about "the downfall of modern animation" is a little bit of overkill. There are TONS of examples of fantastic animation that are being done today--while it's certainly true that a lot of TV animation today is limited and not classically designed, in the following of Hanna-Barbara.

Family Guy is simply not meant to be Disney quality. The "story" is all about puns and parody, and so is the animation. The drawings are basically a parody of cartoons themselves. This fits the content of the show, and also fits the budget and production. I agree that it's really not a fair comparison of the so-called downfall of animation design.

And why is everyone so against "corporate" animation? Man, looking at the trailers for Ratatouille should convince anyone that classical animation isn't dead.

PaulW said...

I've made a start on this lesson. My first attempt is here:

http://whippeyskb.blogspot.com/2009/08/animation-school-lesson-5-line-of_27.html

I bet you get loads of screwballs asking for critiques or any pointers, but I would appreciate any of either if you can!

Cheers!

Paul.

PaulW said...

Hi,

I've done more studies since my last post. Here they are:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Thanks!

Paul

TWill said...

Finally got lesson 5 done, and this time I made sure that the drawings were proportional and appealing before I moved on.

Check out Lesson 5 here.

John said...

My first few drawings for lesson 5 are up:

Lesson 5
John

John said...

Ok, I think I'm going to move onto lesson 5a (hands) soon.

My drawings for lessons 1 - 5 are here:

http://paintthemeggs.wordpress.com/

Critique Welcome :¬)

John

islandheroes said...

Hey there, here is my lesson 5: lesson 5. It was a challenge.

islandheroes said...

Hi there,

Here is my lesson 5:

lesson 5

It was a challenge. I am not doing anything perfect yet but feel like I am improving.

Connor Leahy said...

This one was a toughie. You can find my lesson 5 drawings here.