Friday, July 20, 2007

Animation School 7 - When Generic is a Good Thing

Remember when I talked about the two different types of cartoonists?
One conservative, the other wild and crazy?
http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/2006/04/2-types-of-cartoonists-origin-of.html
These two types worked together all through the 30s and came up with a blended style-the 40s style of pears and spheres and sausages style which is my favorite type of animation.

If you are a young cartoonist (or a geezer who wants to improve his skills) who wants to learn the best way to draw and animate, you should study this approach in its most generic form.

GENERIC 40S CARTOONS


When is "generic" good?
When it is highly skilled as in these Tom and Jerry model sheets below.Generic is good for study.
If you are trying to teach yourself the principles of good cartoon drawing for example, it's best to study bland cartoons that don't have individual style. Strong style will distract your attention away from the underlying principles that are more important.

Disney helped popularize a style in the late 30s that most other studios adopted-the pear shaped, squash and stretch style.


It's not really a "style" though.

It's a drawing method that makes animation fluid and sensible.

It's a collection of principles that everyone in animation used in the 1940s.
It developed out of the rubber-hose style but added some techniques to help smooth out the animation and give it weight.


3-dimensional but cartoony construction:
The characters are rounded and turn in space like real objects.
But unlike real anatomy, the characters are built out of simple shapes-mostly pear-shaped bodies and round or oval heads with sausages for limbs.
In a strange way, they are real because they are 3-dimensional, but they are also cartoony, because they are made up of forms that aren't anatomical.
All the details of the characters wrap around the major forms that the characters are built from.
The eyes obey the perspective and direction of the position of the head, etc. They don't exist on their own planes.


Squash and Stretch:
These 40s characters bend and stretch and squash like soft rubber.


Line of Action:
The poses are usually strong and simple and all the details of the characters flow along the line of action.

Clear Silhouettes:
The poses usually have strong silhouettes-which helps them read, especially when the actions can be so fast.

Organic Forms:
Unlike rubber-hose cartoons which have very simple curves that have the bends right in the middle of the curve, these 40s style characters have more complex flowing curves which makes them feel more organic like skin and guts-although no bones.

The 7 Dwarfs are perfect examples of this style of animation. They are completely generic designs-meaning they really have no design at all-but they do have all the principles that make up the classic cartoon style.


Here's a frame from Chuck Jones' Barbary Coast Bunny, one of my favorite cartoons. The design and style is a more modern 50s approach, yet it still retains all the principles of 40s style cartoons. This type of cartoon is not good for beginning cartoonists and animators to study from, because the shapes are more specific, and they have angles and more complex design elements.

This is much harder to study and grasp than a Tom and Jerry or earlier Disney or Warner Bros. cartoon. It's more interesting graphically for sure, but the more complex design elements will distract you from learning the principles underneath.

Here are some frames from Bob Clampett's Gruesome Twosome. This is a scene by Rod Scribner. It's much more exaggerated than a Tom and Jerry cartoon and has slightly more complex design elements in it.

It's still based on all the same principles though, so once you understand the principles you will be able to then start exploring your own style and variations of designs.

I always recommend to animation students to draw Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig and Tom and Jerry when learning.

Why?
They are fairly simple and very rounded.
When you are animating you have to turn out a lot of drawings.
The more complicated the drawing, the longer it will take you to make the animation work.
NEVER use your own character designs when you are learning to animate.
It will slow your progress.

Use characters that were designed by top Hollywood professionals that already work in 3 dimensions and are simple. You will progress much faster that way.

This frame is from Chuck Jones' Elmers' Candid Camera. Jones hasn't developed his strong personal style yet and is just trying to make the characters look solid and move well. This cartoon is a great one to study for rounded smoothly moving characters.

This is from a later Chuck Jones cartoon and is much more complex, but again it still is based on the same principles. It has angles and more complex forms-but the angles are all in sensible places - unlike today's angular cartoons that have arbitrary and inconsistent designs that don't work well for animation. -think MULAN.

That's why the best cartoons to study are the cartoons from the early to mid forties.
They are all very rounded and do not have really distracting angular styles. Study Jones, Clampett, Avery, Disney, Tom and Jerry.
Avoid Freleng and other 40s styles. They are all trying to imitate what the stars were doing but the drawings and animation are much sloppier in the rest of the cartoons being done at the time.

(By "avoid" them I mean, avoid copying them if you are trying to learn to draw good principles. Watch them, because they are all fun, but study from the best!)

Beware of 50s cartoons!
I'm not saying I don't like 50s cartoons-I do, but in order to do those styles well, you need to understand how they came to be.
If you start by drawing angular characters before you understand your principles, you will put the angles all in the wrong places and not have any control over your designs and animation-like most modern cartoons.

Principles are the most important thing!

67 comments:

Jeremy said...

F'n awesome john! thanks again for everything your doing!

benj said...

Thanks for sharing all those "things" with us!!

I add corners/angles in the wrong places...:/

Brett W. Thompson said...

Once again John, thanks for all the great advice!! :D I've been trying to copy the Preston Blair book and haven't made it too far, but I'm on my way and find the stills you post fascinating (as well as the advice of course!).

And I always want to say something really intelligent here or ask a great question, but honestly I'm just thankful for some guidance by a master about how to get better :)

Art F. said...

Great advice as always John! Thank you!

Evan said...

its weird but i think i understand how you say this "style" feels real as in they feel like they have weight, and it's such a distinct feel that other cartoons don't have. its hard to put into words, but you do a lot better job than i can. great post, im learning very much.

Ryan Kramer said...

another gem to stick in my head..good advice!

A clear sillohuette makes even the quickest action read without a second guess, super important!

Danne8a said...

God I love old cartoons!
I have been studying the Preston Blair book and freeze framing clampett cartoons since I was 13 and all of your advice is awesome!
I love what your doing for the world of animation John!
Thanks!

Gavin Freitas said...

Sounds good John. I need to get better with this! You were kind of knocking Freleng but however I think your right. Freleng was a little stiff compared to Clampett, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery. Keep these coming. I think I'll learn more from you than school!

Pedro Vargas said...

I'll second to that! I've learned alot of stuff here than in my art school. John! You've just solved a a problem of mine. How these 2d characters are all drawn out in 3d shapes and forms and how their "3d" forms are drawn out to make 'em seem real. But I've seen stuff in old cartoons and in your cartoons where you'd take 2d as this advantage to make characters have style. And not just style, but just all these expressions as well. Even though we work with these made-up "3d" shapes I think it's best that we don't forget that we're working on a 2d plane as well. Kinda like making sure people are watching cartoons and not this real thing, but they can feel the realness out of it as well. Do you know where I'm getting at? I think I heard somewhere that Avery thought the same way

LONG DONG SILVA said...

great lessssson Johny boy !!

Anonymous said...

Hi John

It's me Jesse. I would like to let ya know that I am finaly buying myself a computer and scaner to do animation. I also have to order an animation disc from cartooncolor.com. Heres a question for ya. What kind of paper should I get for the disc and would I have to punch the peg holes in myself? I also noticed that you suggested to animate classic cartoon characters before you start animateing your own characters. Would this mean that I would have to do an animation test with a Tex Avery or Bob Clampett character? I've been drawing my own cartoon characters for years since 1994. But I want learn the best tips and the right princibles so I can make the coolest looking cartoon films ever. I'm 20 years old and I will turn 21 on July 7'th. The Preston Blair book and your blog is giving us more information then an animation school! I'm thinking of doing the layout drawings by hand and scan each drawing on the computer. I can't wait to start makeing my own animated films. You are the reason why I want to learn animation, and of coures Tex Avery. I would love to get more animation advise from you, THE MASTER.

your pal and biggest fan,

Jesse Oliver

P.S. What is your theory on the Woody Woodpecker cartoon "Pantry Panic"?

David Germain said...

If you are a young cartoonist (or a geezer who wants to improve his skills) who wants to learn the best way to draw and animate, you should study this approach in its most generic form.


GENERIC 40S CARTOONS


Can I add to this?

Another good thing for all young artists to study are the old silent movies done by Chaplain, Keaton, Lloyd,.......... whatever you can get your hands on. This will help with both posing and writing for animation. The silent movie makers had it down to an artform really. They knew how to tell a story and express emotions without relying on dialogue.
That right there is something that many artists need to learn how to do with their drawings (myself included of course). Most, if not all, of the artists who made the '40's cartoons as great as they were grew up watching as many silent movies as they could. If it was good enough for them then it's certainly good enough for you.

Or was this going to be a post further down the road, John?

fluffy said...

Dear John,

Thank you very much for continuing to post these lessons. I'm doing my best to follow them (and the ancillary material) even though I'm an impatient almost-28-year-old who never learned how to draw properly and who already has a quite time-consuming day job which I do a lot of half-assed doodling at. :)

(I'd also like to make my comic experiments a lot better. But I know I totally won't be able to handle animation, as much as I'd like to pretend I might be able to get into it in the future.)

Love,
fluffy

Anonymous said...

Kai Pindal talks about you in lectures at Sheridan constantly John. I know it's not your favourite place, but you've got to come speak here. Give a lecture. Just let us watch you draw for a few hours. haha. Something. You don't nessisarily have to be an advocate of the school, but there's no denying your passion would really speak to the aspiring animators at the school, myself included just as it has on this Bolg. I've learned so much from your posts. It's absolutely Kickass. Those of us at Sheridan, although stupid enough to fork over 6 grand a year, are there cause we love the art form. We know it's a rip off, but we mean well haha. It's just one of many paths to get our stupid drawings on a screen somewhere to entertain someone. No matter how any of us get there I think it's important that all resources are taken advantage of. haha. So let us take advantage of YOUR insane amount of knowledge. Any chance you could come speak at the school one day in the near future? Pretty please with powdered toast on top?

anyone feel free to email me if you wanna talk about animation, whatever. YOU especially John.

Thanks Bud

franker12@hotmail.com

Frank Macchia
Oakville, ON

Anonymous said...

I dont think John has time to email you.


:P

queefbizzle said...

I don't think John has time to email you. He's to busy helping everyone at once.


:P

antikewl said...

Another superb lesson, possibly the best yet in terms of justifying the need to learn to walk (again) before we can run. A whole bunch of stuff clicked together in my head as I read this one.

I've been working through the lessons (I'll post more up soon when my scanner's back) in the Preston Blair book and something suddenly hit me -- When I was a kid I used to sometimes go to my dad's studio and look at the huge array of books and sometimes draw from them. I now remember my favourites -- the two big format Preston Blair "How to Draw" ones!

Drawing from these books now is like taking myself back to my childhood and remembering why I wanted to become an animator all those years ago.

tim denee said...

Yeah, brilliant one. Thanks!

Robert Hume said...

Wow, Thanks for that John! That was all extreamly helpful! I've been drawing from Tom and Jerry, Mickey Mouse, Porky Pig, and the like for weeks now so it's good to know I'm studying from the right 40's designs.

Duck Dodgers said...

Pardon me for the off-topic post :

John ,

I sent you a very important email about Looney Tunes,
Please do reply as soon as you can.
Thanks in advance!

Ryan G. said...

again, great post John.. These posts are priceless

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 $29.99. If you are interested email me at loquat73@gmail.com.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot, dear John!!!!

fabiopower said...

Hello Mr. Kricfalusi, would enchant to me that You could give your opinion me about sketches of a project that I am preparing. He can see them in my blog.

Anonymous said...

Where can I get the Preston Blair book? Is it still in print? I think Itried looking for it on Amazon, but couldn't find the one John K mentioned specifically.

hiyahosel said...

Where can I get the Preston Blair book? Is it still in print? I think Itried looking for it on Amazon, but couldn't find the one John K mentioned specifically.

hiyahosel said...

Damn. It "published" twice that damn message.

The Butcher said...

Dear Mr K.

I have not yet gotten around to the lesson you have posted. Will they all still be up for a while so I can learn from them later? I was planning on doing some serious studying this summer. I've been too busy lately, but I'd like to learn when I'm freed up a bit.

Also, why haven't you opened a school of your own? It could mean some serious cash flow for you. And with all the new animators you train, you could use that money to fund more cartoons and produce them at a higher rate.

Martín Eschoyez said...

Simply incredible. Just a big place in cartoon history for Mr. Kricfalusi.
Inspiration and dedicaton.
THANKS!

Anonymous said...

>>> I always recommend to animation students to draw Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig and Tom and Jerry when learning. <<

My choice for messing around with poses has been Mickey Mouse; very simple yet tough to get the right look and likeness. You can end up with a bear cub if you get it wrong.

Anybody understand how those ears work? They slide around when he turns his head.

antikewl said...

Anybody understand how those ears work? They slide around when he turns his head.

Mickey's ears always face forward. Probably why John didn't suggest him. Mickey's a bit of an oddball. :)

Craig D said...

Where is the line of action on that wonderful bugs bunny "ballet" pose?

That is, does it follow the arch of the back or does it run from his right toe, up the leg and shoot out through the other leg? Or what?

Very inspirational post, BTW

my Blair Page

David Germain said...

Craig, there's an 'S'-curve going from Bugs' ears right to his lifted leg. The other leg is somewhat of a tributary 'C'-curve coming off the line of his back and onto the planted foot on the ground. His arms are doing two things at once inthat the closer arm is following the contour of the back but at the same time both arms create a 'C'-curve all their own receeding into space that dramatically cuts across the main line of action.

Truly an amazing drawing. It was done by Virgil Ross I believe. He had the best 'S'-curve at that studio or anywhere.

David Germain said...

I just took another look at that drawing. Forget the 'C'-curve in the arms.

It's still an amazing drawing though.

Franfou said...

Thanks for sharing your knowledges and for these very hot analysis !

The Masked Gourmand said...

"Where can I get the Preston Blair book? Is it still in print? I think Itried looking for it on Amazon, but couldn't find the one John K mentioned specifically."

It is now called Animation 1 by Preston Blair. It has that yellow cover inside the new cover.

fabiopower said...

It forgot some questions Mr. John K.: I understand that to a great extent of Latin America the series of TV “Ren and Stimpy” was to listened with the Mexican voices. Personally I think that this point is very important, since in the DVD “Incut”, they were not considered nor the subtitles, there is no option of languages, and I believe that we are many who we remembered the voices in Mexican version, that were very well-known and popular - You know something on Mexican translations of the voices of “Ren and Stimpy”? - What do you think about this? - You will see my drawings sometimes? My greetings, Power

fabiopower said...

It forgot some questions Mr. John K.: I understand that to a great extent of Latin America the series of TV “Ren and Stimpy” was to listened with the Mexican voices. Personally I think that this point is very important, since in the DVD “Incut”, they were not considered nor the subtitles, there is no option of languages, and I believe that we are many who we remembered the voices in Mexican version, that were very well-known and popular - You know something on Mexican translations of the voices of “Ren and Stimpy”? - What do you think about this? - You will see my drawings sometimes?
http://fabiopower.blogspot.com
My greetings, Power

S.G.A said...

Thank you,
another great thoughtful post.

Vanoni! said...

. . .(or a geezer who wants to improve his skills). . .

WOW! It's like John K's talking right to me!

Great advice, once again.
But everyone knew that already, right?

– Corbett

Charlie said...

hey John,
should we study jim tyer?

jorge garrido said...

another best.post.ever. notice john has more of these than msot bloggers?

when i finish i'll start these lessons. one day i'm gonna animate for spumco... or better yet, i'll start another animationc company that'll rival spumco...competition breeds execellence, after all. it'll be like marvel comics to John's DC comcics...

JohnK said...

>>

hey John,
should we study jim tyer? <<

No.

But laugh at his wacky stuff.

Kitty said...

i have been practicing when I can. It is hard though when school is almost out. Every time though, my Tom and Jerry drawings turn out like crap. And also coming from my sister (who is turning 9 on the 14th) she says my characters look better when I'm drawing them than my drawings of the classics. I need to be above that.

Emmy said...

I'm enjoying these lessons SO MUCH.

Question: What is a good age to be to get your first job involving art and animation?
I panic alot that i'm not good enough for my age :|

Also, what are some of YOUR favorite animated movies? Not shows, but movies. And you can't just pick the old stuff :P
Did you like Cat's Don't Dance? I have to know!

Aphid said...

jeez, you would think John K thinks he's the only one who's ever seen cartoons judging by these posts.

Anonymous said...

Hey John, do you like Hayao Miyazaki movies?

-Ollie

max ward said...

John,

Thanks so much for this. Thanks for everything.

David Germain said...

hey John,
should we study jim tyer? <<

No.

But laugh at his wacky stuff.


By that he means "not right away". Like he said throughout the body of this post, study the simple stuff first before advancing the more complex.
Jim Tyer is quite an anomoly. He breaks a lot of the rules that young upstarts should be learning. That's why John doesn't want you studying him. But, feel free to appreciate him though.

Anonymous said...

Emmy said: >> I'm enjoying these lessons SO MUCH.

Which I find strange; a glance through your deviantart gallery clearly shows that you know all this stuff already. I recommend scoffing and heckling John instead. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey, John:

Please elaborate on this:

"...today's angular cartoons that have arbitrary and inconsistent designs that don't work well for animation. -think MULAN."

Sandytastic said...

this entry is a little while back but I must thank you for this! Wonderful Lesson, I'll wake up a bit earlier so I can watch these cartoons again :)

Clinton said...

After reading Lesson 7, I realized that at AIFL, ALL the students learning to animate used their own characters to do walk cycles, lip synching, every animation assignment was done using created characters. They never taught us anything close to what you have said here, John. Some students tried to animate simple characters but the vast majority were trying to animate the most complex character you ever seen; japanimation. These animation lessons are worth every penny, I'm trying to get my AI buddies into it.

pappy d said...

This is a balls-out EXCELLENT post! I only want to add that you'll learn even more from Tom & Jerry if you animate these characters. They're an example of sound industrial design without the distraction of creativity or style.

They are designed to be quick to draw & slippery to the eye when they're in motion, (i.e. they accommodate the viewer's persistence of vision & won't strobe like more angular designs).

Simple lines conform to the force of the action & suggest the stretchy-squashy, fatty cartoon protoplasm beloved by old animators.

John's post is for 3D artists as well since it's more important than ever to use simple forms which resolve themselves into simple shapes. You can't cheat it any more.

There are 53 comments above mine & a lot of them don't address this post. I just hope to hell you read it. This is gold! And I'm a geezer among geezers. I got piles older than some of you sorry punks.

craig clark said...

Some good words to live by, let’s hope that the financial theatrical model returns
to actually do good animation again.

Everyday Mommy said...

Preston Blair's book can be found here:

http://www.animationarchive.org/2006/05/media-preston-blairs-animation-1st.html

It can also be bought on Amazon

John said...

Im not a cartoonist yet but I do hope to eventually become one in the very near future.And I gotta say this stuff is really great and probably saved me from making horrible cartoons in the future!

Chris Hodapp said...

John,
Just discovered your blog and I have done something that would make you proud. I have pissed away the better part of a whole night reading it instead of doing my paying job.

I'm really glad you brought up Barbary Coast Bunny as one of your personal favorites, because it has been mine for nearly 25 years. It is the closest thing to being the perfect cartoon. It has absolutely everything going on in it - great writing with some of the best gags put on film (along with being endlessly quotable in my day to day life); truly classic "acting" with both characters; drop-dead hilarious facial expressions; just plain funny compositions... Every frame is classic.

Thanks for the blog.

Angela said...

Thanks a load for this post and many others! This is a great thing to hear because I love the 1940s overall, and I love those particular animations. What a joy it will be learning from what I consider to be the best :D

Brad said...

you just explained to me what i have been trying to figure out for years!
thanks for everything you are doing i really appreciate it

Ryan Golden said...

Your blog IS my school.

Zoran Taylor said...

AH! Yes John, I do have another question regarding this basic stuff:

In these old T&J and Disney model sheets and some of the Blair construction exercises where he lets you tease out the LOA by yourself, I see a lot of poses that LOOK, perhaps deceptively, like very bold and very strict C-CURVES as opposed to S-CURVES. The torso part of the pose whacks you in the face with an almost impossibly frictionless-looking curve with no extra turns in it. The head, meanwhile, doesn't look confused or disconnected - the whole pose flows elegantly and looks perfect. But the head -or at least the FACE- is technically ON AN ANGLE which is not the same angle as the torso.

This brings up a point which might otherwise be glossed over: How pertinent is it that the LOA connect to the very north pole of the cranium? I mean, is it ever correct for the LOA to just PLACE the head, but for the head to be tilted at a different angle, as indicated by the pair of perpendicular ellipses we've all seen? Or does that definitively BREAK THE NECK in all cases?

I'm finding that when I draw poses like the one of Jerry bent waaaaaaaayyy back, apparently looking up at Tom about to land right on top of him, the extra swerve that I put in to make his head "make sense", more than just obviously being the work of a rookie, (though not an absolute beginner per se) looks like it MIGHT be going the wrong route altogether, dampening the W-H-O-O-O-A-A-A-H-H factor that brings the pose to life for the sake of making unnecessary provisions for the logic of his "looking".

But of course, Jerry's head, like so many other classic cartoon heads, is HUUUGE in proportion to his body, making its behavior even more vital and potentially fallible than that of a realistic model. That's why I've been stubborn about my reasoning on this for so long.

Any insights? Thank you kindly.

John said...

Hey John,

One again thanks for the lesson.

I've completed this lesson and done a bunch of copies from a Jerry model sheet, at the URL below:

http://paintthemeggs.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/lesson-7-when-generic-is-good/

Would love a little feedback, But if I'm way too late for that no prob, I'll carry on regardless.

John

TWill said...

Here's lesson 7, that I started way back in the beginning of February

Lesson 7

Finally, because I know all of you have been dying to see this.

fandumb said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention 'A Gruesome Twosome' more; the characters in that inspired Stimpy! That and Larry Fine.

Connor Leahy said...

Here's my attempt.

Anders Hansen said...

Very useful post I say.