Monday, June 12, 2006

Subtle Animation Acting-Bugs Bunny by McKimson and Harris

I'm not very conservative myself-in fact I'm the opposite. I usually think the conservative tendency is evil-at least when conservatives are in charge of anything.
I do however have a respect for highly skilled conservative practices, and here are two examples of such from America's Golden Age.


They are both Bugs Bunny scenes from the 1940s, and from Warner Bros.' 2 top directors-Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones and each of their top animators, Bob McKimson and Ken Harris. At first glance you might think there isn't much different about the approaches to both these scenes. I will explain the vast differences in approaches by the directors and the animators. Better pay attention. These are tricky concepts to grasp.

Both these scenes are what you would call 'subtle' animation. "Subtle" is a very misunderstood word today. Most people think it means the lack of anything happening-and they think that's good. It actually means that lots of things are happening but they are happening not blatantly obviously and they are conveying meaning even though each individual subtle move is hard to detect.



This scene is from a Bob Clampett cartoon: Falling Hare. It's animated by Warner Bros.' best animator, Bob McKImson. The combination of the greatest director and the greatest animator is pretty powerful.

First, let me explain how they worked together. Clampett worked differently with McKimson than he did with his other animators. For most of his animators, Bob would draw rough "energy sketches" indicating where he wanted the characters to move within the scenes, what their important expressions and poses would be and how extreme or subtle he wanted them to go.

Clampett more than any other director really cast his animators. He knew what each of their strengths were and really took advantage of them. Unlike Jones, he would not restrict them to animate only what he himself could do.

Every other director had turns using McKimson, and McKimson's strong dynamic and solid style is always recognizable, no matter who he animated for.

But in Clampett's cartoons he would do things no one else ever realized he (let alone anyone else) was capable of.

Not only was McKimson a great solid draftsman, but Clampett quickly realized he had a photographic memory and figured out a way to take advantage of it.

Clampett understood Bugs Bunny more than any other director and realized that the key to his personality and believability was that unlike most cartoon characters, he was like a real down to earth guy - someone you might know and want to hang around with. The way to make Bugs seem so real was to not only write down to earth dialogue but to have him move and act like a human, rather than relying on stock animation moves.

When you draw, you tend to rely on "animation poses" and expressions, but when Clampett directed McKimson, instead of doing that, he just acted out the scenes in real time in front of him. He would act out the scenes like a human, using human gestures and street poses and expressions. McKimson instantly memorized every move and expression Clampett made and then sat down and drew the whole thing out-with no roughs!

Watch the scene again. Look at every head move, every hand gesture. Notice that every single move communicates a meaning of what Bugs is trying to tell you. He isn't relying solely on the dialogue to tell you what he thinks about the gremlin business. "Oh Muuuurder" he says flopping his hand towards camera and rolling his eyes. Look at how he holds his knees and laughs calmly and sarcastically. And all this subtle stuff is drawn completely solidly.

There is no overt exaggerated Disney-esque squash and stretch, no overly floppy blustery hand gestures like Bill Tytla or Freddie Moore would automatically inject into every scene because "that's the way animation is supposed to move". This McKimson-Clampett style of movement and acting is completely unique in cartoon history. It has never been done by anyone else.

McKimson never in his own cartoons had scenes so convincingly natural as this and likewise Clampett never had scenes like this except with McKimson's animation. Every animator at Warner's did his most outstanding work with Clampett and they all animated in their own styles-styles they weren't even aware they were capable of.

Again-look carefully at every head move and gesture Bugs makes-you can describe in words what each one means. It is a visual language-more powerful than the words accompanying them.

I'm going to be posting more McKimson scenes soon. He is one of the all time greatest animators and completely unique. He is strangely underrated by cartoon "historians" and it kind of makes sense why. Most cartoon historians are not artists, let alone animators, so when they write about cartoons they don't write about the drawings and animation, because they don't know what they are looking at. I'm going to try to correct this blatant disregard of one of the most amazing talents in animation history.

There are some talents-like McKimson, Scribner, Jim Smith, Katie Rice and a tiny few others who learn things that aready were discovered by other artists, and can be analyzed and explained to an extent to other artists, but then on top of that they have something else that just can't be explained in any logical sensible way - magic.

Bob McKimson's ability seems just supernatural.I can make you aware of some of the things he is doing, but the rest...well..just look and be dumbstruck by the heights that some humans are able to achieve.




This next scene is from Rabbit Punch - a Chuck Jones cartoon. Jones directed very differently than Clampett-not just in the kind of content that he chose, but in the way he worked with his talent. Basically, Jones was the star of his cartoons. He really only used his animators as glorified inbetweeners. They are there to link the poses that Jones himself draws. In his earlier cartoons-from 1938 to 1940, the animators had more leeway to animate their own ideas-particularly Bobe Cannon and Ben Washam, but Jones soon evolved a style of pose to pose animation which was more creatively comfortable for him.

Jones is a stickler for every pose in a cartoon looking like he drew it himself. It is somewhat possible to tell the different animators apart if you study very closely, but it is harder than picking out Clampett's animators.

Jones is satisfied as long as the action is fairly smooth inbetween getting from one of his drawings to the next. I would imagine this would be frustrating to creative animators, but maybe some animators like having all the creative work spelled out for them, I don't know.

This scene from Rabbit Punch is pure acting. There are no backgrounds, just Bugs standing alone delivering his lines.

Every pose and expression that conveys a meaning was drawn by the director, Chuck Jones.

Now inbetween these main poses, Harris animates subtle movements of Bugs' head rolling around. These extra movements though, unlike McKimsons' scene - convey no meaning. They are just happening to "keep the scene alive". Like smacking a bobblehead.

This is an actual animator's term. Keeping a scene alive is to protect the scene from being labeled as the derogitory terms "limited animation" or "illustrated radio".

To me keeping a sceene alive with random movements isn't any better than limited animation. Any drawing or idea that doesn't have meaning or entertainment value in of itself is a waste of time and money. If it doesn't add anything, why pay for it?

Harris, also unlike McKimson was not a good draftsman. (Everyone, including Jones says so) He couldn't control solid forms moving slightly and slowly through space. If you watch the scene again, see how Bug's eyes and head shape and features warp and float around-now go back to McKimson's scene and look at how solid Bugs looks throughout.

Subtle animation is a very dangerous thing to do if an animator is not a good solid draftsman. That's why there are so many full-animators -especially today- who use tricks to avoid the problem of any of their drawings reading as moving holds. Animation that overly squashes and stretches way past the key poses means no pose is held long enough to establish itself as a non-stock-animation pose or expression. Poses that zip from pose to pose and everything is "snappy timing". This kind of stuff to me is all animation cheats. It's all over modern "full-animation".

It takes brave men like the old Warner Bros. animators to commit to their poses and expressions and not run from them as in modern Disney movies or Cats Don't Dance.

Go to Thad's great site to see more Harris and McKimson and other great old-time animators' scenes and look upon them with new eyes!

http://classicanimation.blogspot.com/

106 comments:

Kevin Langley said...

This is a great post. I see what you mean about cartoons today "zipping" from pose to pose. One of the reasons I always loved Ren and Stimpy and the rest of your work is the strong poses. They convey what the character is experiencing and not with generic expressions for different emotions. Like the Bob McKimson scene, he truly brings Bugs to life. Not just through movement but through subtle changes of expression and gestures.

So now that you talked about subtle animation acting can we expect a post on extreme animation acting?

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know what all the expressions and poses mean!

Chuck Lawson said...

Great stuff!

Although I like them both, I always felt that Jones was a tad bit over-rated, and that McKimson was the true unsung hero of Warner animation.

I went on a Loony Tunes binge (again) a couple of years ago, and I noticed again and again that it was McKimson's work that I was most drawn to.

It's fascinating to see a breakdown of just what the differences are between their styles -- thanks!

J. J. Hunsecker said...

Wow! More posts like these, please.

The animation in the Clampett cartoons always looked better to me than in the other directors' cartoons. I read that Clampett was always behind schedule. Is that because he pushed the animators to do better work (which always takes up more time)?

Why was the animation in McKimson's cartoons so dull? Why were the character designs kind of ugly, too? I find it puzzling because McKimson created such well drawn model sheets for the Clampett unit.

John K,
I know you met Clampett in the 80's. Did he tell you anything critical about the animation in Jones's cartoons? The reason I ask is because Jones has stated publicly that he thought the animation in Clampett's cartoons were too wild and undisciplined.

Anonymous said...

Hi John

Who animated the scene (in Falling Hare) where Bugs gets ready to hit the block buster bomb and then he stops him self and yells "WHAT AM I DOING!!!!!" ? That is my all time favorite scene in that hole cartoon. That was Mel Blanc at his best.

your pal,

Jesse Oliver

Anonymous said...

Great post. I have a couple of questions regarding subtle acting in your cartoons. I want to know if these are subtle examples or not. In Stimpy’s First Fart, after the scene where Ren is trying to cheer Stimpy up and tell him to take a “stinky one” in the litter box, Stimpy bursts into a wail of sadness. Right before he wails though, there is a spot where he looks into nothing, with gleaming sad eyes, and says Stinky to himself. He than builds up a cry where his face slowly changes, showing his teeth, right before he explodes. Is that moment before he bursts out an example of subtle acting?
Another question is about the bedroom scene in Ren Seeks Help. After the scene where Ren points and says “I’ll seek help. I’ll do it for you,” Stimpy stops crying and slowly turns to Ren with a very disgruntled face, like he’s about to kill somebody. When Stimpy says “Don’t do it for me, don’t do it for me, do it for YOURSELF!,” is that an example of subtle acting?
By the way, Ren Seeks Help has some of the most amazing backgrounds and title cards I’ve ever seen. My eyes were in aw when I saw that hallway shot after Ren opens the gate in the elevator.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I've seen both of those cartoons as a kid- and I totally remember responding more to the Clampett one- Chuck's more dialogue driven always bored me a bit. Yay for subtly!

JohnK said...

Hi Jesse,

>>Who animated the scene (in Falling Hare) where Bugs gets ready to hit the block buster bomb and then he stops him self and yells "WHAT AM I DOING!!!!!" ?<<

That was Bob Mckimson too. I'm going to post that scene soon and talk about it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks John!

Jesse Oliver

JohnK said...

>>In Stimpy’s First Fart, after the scene where Ren is trying to cheer Stimpy up and tell him to take a “stinky one” in the litter box, Stimpy bursts into a wail of sadness. Right before he wails though, there is a spot where he looks into nothing, with gleaming sad eyes, and says Stinky to himself.<<

Ren and Stimpy-and all my cartoons- is full of subtle acting. It also has wild stuff and that's generally more noticeable by the average hater of cartoons.

LONG DONG SILVA said...

awesome post man thats a great diference

Anonymous said...

Hey John

When you did the Commentary for the Gruesome Twosome cartoon, Which Jesse did you say hi to?

Jesse Oliver

JohnK said...

>>When you did the Commentary for the Gruesome Twosome cartoon, Which Jesse did you say hi to?<<

Jessica Borutski. I don't say hi to men in public.

Anonymous said...

I was just curious.

Jesse Oliver

Anonymous said...

Hey John

Are the 2 Dirty Pussies based on the Gruesome Twosome cats too? Because we all know that thats how Stimpy came about. You and Bob Clampett know how to make cartoon cats look cool and funny looking.

your pal,

Jesse Oliver

Kali Fontecchio said...

"Jessica Borutski. I don't say hi to men in public."

How come, John?

JohnK said...

>>
How come, John?<<

Cause they are like me, and I've had enough of myself.

JohnK said...

>>Are the 2 Dirty Pussies based on the Gruesome Twosome cats too? <<

They are definitely inspired by them-with some Barney Rubble thrown in.

Wicks for Candlesticks said...

Yeah, I've noticed that Spumco never has throwaway frames. Every frame has something to it. Good to know where you got this.

-David O.

Anonymous said...

"To me keeping a sceene alive with random movements isn't any better than limited animation. Any drawing or idea that doesn't have meaning or entertainment value in of itself is a waste of time and money. If it doesn't add anything, why pay for it?"

Must disagree. He (Harris)is keeping the character alive, not the "scene", and in that example there's nothing wrong at all with small movements that imho probably came right out of the characters and suggested themslves to the animator; it's Bugs Bunny being alive. What would be really inappropriate in such scenes would be the animator moving Bugs' head and body in a way to attract attention to itself, in your words, every twitch having it's own "entertainment value". There's plenty of entertainment in a character's simply seeming alive, too; action only has meaning and impact when there's pauses and quiet around it. It's a different style of animation and it's wasn't just done to avoid "illustrated radio".

Anonymous said...

I can definetly see Barney Rubble and Stimpy in Bugs Pussy. I hope the 2 Dirty Pussies turn in to a TV series. That would be cool.

Jesse Oliver

Anonymous said...

This may be my favorite post of yours so far, John. You do such a great job talking about the artists and their methods in such a clear manner.

I can't wait to read more.

Kali Fontecchio said...

"Cause they are like me, and I've had enough of myself."

Makes sense- well, you're welcome to say hi to me anytime!

Wicks for Candlesticks said...

Thanks, I have your course to thank for that. Not much craziness, just drunken quips and jabs between the Spumco biggies. Verbal not physical. Fun times.

-David O.

JohnK said...

>>What would be really inappropriate in such scenes would be the animator moving Bugs' head and body in a way to attract attention to itself, in your words, every twitch having it's own "entertainment value".<<

Well those aren't my words at all.

You must have missed the McKimson animation. there is no needless animation there and no movements designed to attract attention to themselves.

Everything is in context and nothing is random.

Kenb Harris does a lot of random bobbly head movements that have no meaning and are drawn sloppily to boot.

I've studied a lot of this stuff and that's the pattern I see.

The lip synch is very mushy too and he leaves out a lot of sounds, whereas McKimson's is all there and perfectly in synch.

It's a difference in purpose and control.

Anonymous said...

John K.

When you and Eddie did the audio commentary on the cartoon "Porky's Party" you and Eddie said something that I definitely agree with. It's not enough for a cartoon character to look funny, they have to move funny too. A lesson every animator should remmember.

your pal,

Jesse Oliver

Danne8a said...

Hey john!
Great post!
I was just wondering if the scenes in "The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen" where the yak goes insane was inspired by "Humpy Bumpty" the camel in Bob Clampetts "Porky in Egypt"?

BrianB said...

>>Must disagree. He (Harris)is keeping the character alive, not the "scene", and in that example there's nothing wrong at all with small movements that imho probably came right out of the characters and suggested themslves to the animator; it's Bugs Bunny being alive. What would be really inappropriate in such scenes would be the animator moving Bugs' head and body in a way to attract attention to itself, in your words, every twitch having it's own "entertainment value". There's plenty of entertainment in a character's simply seeming alive, too; action only has meaning and impact when there's pauses and quiet around it. It's a different style of animation and it's wasn't just done to avoid "illustrated radio".<<

Still, John K's point was the looseness of Harris' scene compared to Mckimsons. I personally respect Harris a lot, but check out the legs in his scene. They vibrate. Check out the mouth working with the voice. Not as unified. It takes away from the words and acting.

In Mckimson's scene, the mouth is right in line giving emphasis, nothing vibrates, and much less is wasted. I'd love to see some other Mckimson examples though where he moves the entire scene. I'm positive he keeps form better than Ken's scene did though.

Anyway, these are the posts I really love. I know you can wear out the material, but I can't get enough of this kind of talk. Speaking of uncredited animators, what do you think of Mannie Gould who worked with Clampett and McKimson a lot?

Anonymous said...

how does one improve their draftsmanship?

Harris was probably better than a lot of artists today, but he wasn't as good as McKimson.

Was it just laziness on his part?

Gavin Freitas said...

John, I just listened to all of your commentaries on the Looney Tunes Box Collection #3, and they were great. You talked with Bill Melendez, and those were some funny stories about Termite Terrace. I know I told you I liked Chuck jones, but If I had a choice to work for Clampett or Chuck, Clampett was the man!! Clampett would let the animators do what ever they wanted and give them freedom as long as they followed the story. Good forum-Hey also, did Clampett give freedom to the background artist aswell?

JohnK said...

>>I was just wondering if the scenes in "The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen" where the yak goes insane was inspired by "Humpy Bumpty" the camel in Bob Clampetts "Porky in Egypt"?<<

Yep. It sure was.

JohnK said...

>>Clampett would let the animators do what ever they wanted and give them freedom as long as they followed the story. <<

He didn't exactly give them "freedom". He directed them and inspired them and gave them specific things to do. He just didn't sit on them to draw it exactly the same as every other animator would.

He worked very closely with his background and layout artists too.

JohnK said...

>>Was it just laziness on his part?<<

No, he wasn't given a lot of leeway and was chosen purposely by Jones because he didn't have a strong style of his own. Read Jones' books and he'll tell you that.

Barry Lee said...

hi john,

have you ever considered dirceting a warner brothers animation short Bob Clampett style? Wonderful post!

-Yours Truely,
Barry.

JohnK said...

>>have you ever considered dirceting a warner brothers animation short Bob Clampett style?<<

Is someone offering me one?

Raven M. said...

I know exactly what you're saying.. Awesome post.

Its the 'little stuff' in cartoons that's... so perfect and real that you barely notice it at first--you just feel it. That's what makes a character really come to life.

Thanks for constantly reminding me why I love animation. I need that sometimes.. LOL

-Raven M.

Craig D said...

Must... improve... darftsmanship...

Funny thing is, that prior to this post, I had tried using some mechanical drawing (a/k/a "drafting) techniques here and here with some interesting results.

Good lord, McKimson's mighty animation prowess was spooky!

Craig D said...

Must... improve... spelling!

Spizzerinktum said...

Great stuff. After watching that "Falling Hare" clip a few times and comparing it with the other one, I thought, "Wow, Chuck Jones is crap!" Terrible lip synch, especially, now that I can scrutinize everything little detail on my computer screen. I never noticed it when I was a kid, watching cartoons on TV, and yet I still had a strong preference for Clampett's work that I couldn't articulate at the time. Clampett's Bugs Bunny has much more appealing eye shapes--not only do Bugs' pupils shrink when he's scared, they float, giving him more "whites".

I always held Chuck Jones "responsible" for the Looney Tunes suddenly looking weird and ugly to me. What was the deal with those eye shapes on every single character?? The moment I spotted those eyelid-half-open, "sad" eyes, I knew it was going to be the sort of cartoon I'd merely endure; a tedious jumble of gags, without any real storyline. The Roadrunner cartoons, especially: don't bore me with Wile E. Coyote storming off to regroup every single time his inventions backfire. It adds nothing.

I suppose Chuck Jones was a tad egomaniacal, then?

Anonymous said...

Before you viewed any of the Clampett cartoons, did you have any of the same theories and principles on animation acting, subtlety, poses, and so forth? What were the differences? Also, if I remember correctly from the commentary for A Gruesome Twosome, you said that you didn’t see a Clampett cartoon until you were in college. Why? Was Clampett banned in Canada? Heh.
Love the post by the way.

Anonymous said...

Before you viewed any of the Clampett cartoons, did you have any of the same theories and principles on animation acting, subtlety, poses, and so forth? What were the differences? Also, if I remember correctly from the commentary for A Gruesome Twosome, you said that you didn’t see a Clampett cartoon until you were in college. Why? Was Clampett banned in Canada? Heh.
Love the post by the way.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the double post, connection problems.

Art F. said...

Nice post John! i always loved the "muuurder" expression ever since i was a kid. i see that McKimson's animation is more solid and stronger where harris' is mushier. thanks for a teaching my eyeballs as well as my hands, about great drawing and animation!

Art F.

Anonymous said...

Hey John, here's an interesting observation:

Was it Jones that took Clampett's scenes where the heads of Porky, Elmer and Tweety were stretched out and made those the (ugly) character models?

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David Germain said...

>>have you ever considered dirceting a warner brothers animation short Bob Clampett style?<<

Is someone offering me one?


I mentioned before that I had an idea about Yakky Doodle in a brothel that I could only imagine you pulling off, John. It's not quite a Clampett-esque project but it's something. Of course, a person also needs money for materials and equipment to make it happen as well. Then it'll have to sit on the backburner for now just like the rest of your TV pilots.

I'd also like to interject about what you said about Chuck Jones here. I think you were being a little unfair to him. Sure he drew so many guiding poses that he practically keyed entire cartoons out himself. In fact, he'd make so many key drawings that some of his animators would actually trace over his stuff and make those their keys. Even though he worked hard on getting those poses right, he hated it when his animators did that. Ken Harris and Ben Washam were different. They would take Jones' pose drawings and then add their own touches to them. That's why he preferred these two over others. (I think Abe Levitow was another of his animators who did this as well). Jones may not have made his cartoons as wild as Clampett but he certainly was not a super strict task-master about it as you seem to be implying.

Hyperbole is fun but should not be used when teaching history.

P.C. Unfunny said...

"I always held Chuck Jones "responsible" for the Looney Tunes suddenly looking weird and ugly to me."

Blame McKimson,not Chuck Jones. The ugly designs McKismon used in the mid 1950's on paved the way of the Looney Tunes' stiff and ugly character designs of today.

P.C. Unfunny said...

"I knew it was going to be the sort of cartoon I'd merely endure; a tedious jumble of gags, without any real storyline."

I hope your joking. You think cartoons like "Rabbit Fire!" and "Rabbit of Seville" had tedious gags and no storyline ? The stories quite clear and the sight gags in both those cartoons are legendary.

P.C. Unfunny said...

One last thought, I personally found the Chuck Jones verison of Bugs a bit more appealing then Clampett's.I know Clampett made him a bit more realistic with Bugs losing but,at times, Bugs came off as a straight up jerk like in "Wabbit Twouble" were he needless torture Elmer for no good reason.This all a matter of personal preference though.

Anonymous said...

John, you mentioned Jim Smith in the post. What is he doing these days? He doesn't update his site very often.

Anonymous said...

Jim Smith Iin addition to publishing his sketchbooks and playing out with his band) does feature boards and is working on a super-secret cool movie at the moment. : )

Anonymous said...

Well, judging from his animatic, I bet he plays some mean rockabilly!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Wow! This is one of your best animation posts yet!!!!! Why isn't there more stuff like this on the net? Why must cartoons always be discussed as if the participants were in first grade?

Anyway, the McKimson animation certainly is superior to the Harris. As you said, poor Harris was stuck with too many literal and confining layout drawings from Jones. The only part of the Harris that comes alive is the the nodding, swaying head ay the end of the clip. Evidently this was too complicated a move for Jones to micromanage so the animator had a brief opportunity to shine on his own.

-Eddie

Alicia said...

I feel that one of the comparisons between Clampett's & Jones's work is that I think Chuck needs to have these boundries to work well and make a good product where as Bob doesn't. Clampett seems to me to have a free spirited work style & ethic which translates through his work. He's comfortable leaving it open to others to translate and produce work that he may not have thought of or is comfortable with because that's something he can handle. John, you've know Bob first hand so correct me if I'm wrong but Bob seems to me like he was the goof ball type that everyone liked and he was easy to work with too.

Chuck on the other hand needs to have rules and boundries to feel comfortable in an environment. Numerous people around here seem say that Chuck was a control freak and an ass to work with but, when I read about him he seems to have been brought up in a more reserved environment and maybe that's what makes him feel secure.

I can respect Chuck for this entirely because I can run around like a moron and be a goofball at work one minute but then when I need to get something done, my desk is perfectly organized and I know where everything is. I need these boundries to get things done.

These qualities between Chuck & Bob I feel doesn't make one better than another as far as cartoons go. It gives them their own unique style and it's what makes watching their cartoons interesting and fascinating. How boring would it be it all WB cartoons were all the same style animation, same use of Daffy all the time etc.? It would be like watching cartoons now!

It's too bad though that some people feel that one has to be better than another. They must miss out on a lot.

Alicia said...

"Also, if I remember correctly from the commentary for A Gruesome Twosome, you said that you didn’t see a Clampett cartoon until you were in college. Why? Was Clampett banned in Canada?"

I'm from just north of Toronto and I didn't see a Clampett cartoon until I was in College either. We have Teletoon & Global who provide a majority of our Looney Tunes cartoons and unfortunately neither of them play much before the 1950's. Currently, Global has stopped altogether and Teletoon is sticking to entirely Friz with the occasional screening of the Roadrunner Movie. Quite depressing.

nate said...

Really great post.

Thad K said...

That's because the AAP package is/was extremely rare in Canada. For some reason they only got the syndicated Bugs Bunny package of the later films.

Lucky me, I was able to grow up on everything, always enthralled on all levels by the cartoons that credited "Charles M. Jones" and "Robert Clampett".

- Thad

Eric C. said...

John,

Can you take a look at my comic strips?

Leave me a comment and tell me what I need to work on?

http://muppetpro.tripod.com/ericworksinc/id22.html

Thank You,

_Eric

Spizzerinktum said...

Hi, p.c.

Welllll...I'll cop to my sweeping generalizations. John K isn't the only opinionated and "hyperbolic" cartoon lover around.

Now I'lll get a little more specific: When I think of Chuck Jones I think of late 50's into 60's. I know he was around long before then and is a genius and all that stuff--Rabbit of Seville is in my top ten, for sure--but when I picture his later work I see nothing but cactus-riddled, angular desert backgrounds--and yes I know the desert is where the roadrunners are! That's beside the point!! It made me depressed and thirsty!!--and Bugs' perpetually smug expression. He lost his, not sure how to describe this..I'll try "youthful zeal", when Jones took him over. The Clampett Bugs was, to me, a playful, curious sort of guy who did lots of things just to see what would happen. He didn't smirk then; he just had a really good time watching the results of his antics. He was sweeter, more of a class clown than a delinquent.

Of course, I was maybe 8 years old at the most when I started watching the post-Golden Age stuff, so that's how it seemed to me, and it stuck. The fact that I saw my first Roadrunner cartoon while trapped in a tire store waiting room with my big brother on a boiling hot day in July MAY have left a negative impression...

P.C. Unfunny said...

Spizzerinktum,

I am bit more clear of your opinions of Chuck Jones,you prefer the "Charles M. Jones" 1940's and early 1950's era. Personally I found his late 1950's stuff still funny but that spark Jones had in his early years was gone. I don't what happened to old Chuck in his later years,the 1960's and further on. He became far less funny, made his characters all cute,and added too much dialogue.I guess some artist simply fall off the ball after a while.

Tom Dougherty said...

Wow. This is your best post yet, John. I feel winded.

Thanks.

max ward said...

For more subtle acting, watch Ren in the end of the Ren & Stimpy episode "Sven Hoek."

Susi said...

''Falling Hare'' happens to be in the public domain!, so it can be freely downloaded here http://www.archive.org/details/merry_melodies_falling_hare
Great for studying it.
Clampett's ''A tale of Two Kitties'' is available too http://www.archive.org/details/TaleofTwoKitties.
These posts are amazing, I'm learning a lot, thanks so much John for this amazing blog!
Susi

Anonymous said...

>>No, he wasn't given a lot of leeway and was chosen purposely by Jones because he didn't have a strong style of his own. Read Jones' books and he'll tell you that<<

thanks for the reply, John. But I was unclear, sorry. I meant do you have any theories as to why wasn't Harris as good a draftsman as McKimson? Was it laziness or was it the lack of leeway?

I don't see how lack of style affects the ability to draw solidly and consistently.

Anonymous said...

Hi John! Great posts.

I was wondering that while each drawing in McKimson's has meaning and entertainment value, maybe Jones was going for meaning in the pacing of the movement?

McKimson's Bugs has small subtle movements, but none as slow as Harris's.

Surely there is some meaning to the speed something moves as well as the way it moves, isn't there?

Anonymous said...

what are you talking about? Clampett's Bugs cartoons are HORRIBLE. You can kiss my conservative ass.

Anonymous said...

Hey "Anonymous", do you even know what he MEANS when he says "conservative"?

Anonymous said...

I'm not getting a response to my question; I'm being ignored! So, here it is again...

Hey John, here's an interesting observation:

Was it Jones that took Clampett's scenes where the heads of Porky, Elmer and Tweety were stretched out and made those the (ugly) character models?

Anonymous said...

you are the master of drawing.

i would like to see more soda pop.

i would love to see soda pop with a real personality.

but either way more of her.

p.s. i've never seen her in a nurse outfit. like in animaniacs.

S.G.A said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
S.G.A said...

I love reading what your offering , all things I don't know.

I would also like to read about how you've carried the tourch so to speak.

As in "Ren seeks Help" It's the most incredible to look at funny 'modern cartoon' .

Actually,... the tone of that cartoon.... There's NO other cartoon like that as far as content and tone.

It's not really that funny , I guess, as it is , just,.. I don't know what , but it's really an interesting cartoon.

I like it alot I can't wait to get it on dvd. I taped it and missed the very beginning.

Anonymous said...

Would SOMEBODY, ANYBODY, PLEASE ANSWER MY QUESTION?!? STOP IGNORING ME!!!

Anonymous said...

hey John!

I don't really agree with your statements about "snappy" animation.

Although there is a lot of subtle actinf animation in Ren & Stimpy, there are many parts where the characters will literally snap into the new pose, and I love how that is done just as much as the subtle animation.

So I don't understand why you say you don't like this kind of animating, when your own cartoons do it too.

Ollie said...

Hey John, great post.I would never have noticed stuff like that if you hadn't pointed it out.

-Ollie

Eric C. said...

So, when I copy the drawings (the heads), I keep tracing until it looks the same, right?

Then will I be good enough to go towards lesson 2?

_Eric :)

Eric Dotseth said...

Thank you for this post. I hope this site will warn future animators about the 'horrible, jello' characters...animated figures who appear to have lost all points of articulation whenever they perform any action.

I do not believe in adding extra, unnecessary motion in animation. Extra poses are better for still, non-moving media (books) where you need to occasionally break up the monotony of a scene.

Dr.Awkward said...

Not only do modern cartoons have no line of action, they don't even have "center of gravity"! Their body follows an invisible circle around the body, which is like outer space!

Anonymous said...

So it WAS Jones who stretched out the heads of big-headed LT/ Merry Melodies characters!

max ward said...

Here's a tip I have learned through experience

If you ask John K. a question and he does not answer it

He won't.

Jennifer said...

Hi John,

What a fantastic post! Your posts give me a better understanding on why animation is done a particular way, as well as to see things that I wouldn't see when watching the particular cartoon.

I think you are influencing the next generation of animators with this information. Keep up the great work!

-- J

Julián höek said...

hi john, great post. it has really help me out to understand some concepts and to apreciate better the clampett and jones cartoones in they're own way.
thanks and keep them coming!

S.G.A said...

Did southpark kill Loggy 'the nutty dump'?

Stephen Worth said...

I'm not a big Jones fan, but it's a credit to his directing skills that his films were as great as they were. A controlling style like that limits the quality of the end product to the unique talents of the one man setting the boundries and creating the key layout poses. Clampett's directing style focused the talents of many people, and the end result depended on the overall skills of the group as well as the directoral focus of Clampett himself... two completely different approaches.

See ya
Steve

Charles Brubaker said...

Good analysis on some of the conservative animators in Warners. I'll have to disagree with your statement that anything conservative in charge is "bad" (although our current administration is the worst ever) but let's not get into politics.

Anonymous said...

Hey John

Did Tex Avery direct his animators the same way Bob Clampett did? Because I know Chuck Jones did things differant in the 50's. Also I love at the begining of "Gruesome Twosome" how the red cat is animated by McKimson then when it gets to the scene where the red cat sez "every body wants to get in to the act!" you can clearly tell it was animated by some body else.

Jesse Oliver

Anonymous said...

Aghh, you animators are a bunch of shithead commies!!!

Anonymous said...

And anoter thig; the hel with "crativity" and "talnt", they rubn contrargy to capitlisdm, you fucjkingv pijnkosw! I lov popl musjic!

J. J. Hunsecker said...

P.C. Unfunny said...
Blame McKimson,not Chuck Jones. The ugly designs McKismon used in the mid 1950's on paved the way of the Looney Tunes' stiff and ugly character designs of today.

yeah, I've noticed that,too. I wonder why McKimson's 50's designs looked that way, though. He was such a strong draftsman; the designs he did in the 40's look so good. What happened?

Did you ever see "The Hole Idea"? McKimson animated the entire cartoon by himself. The animation is pretty weak. A far cry from the work he did for Clampett. I know limited budget and time were a factor, but...

Dr.Awkward said...

>Aghh, you animators are a bunch of shithead commies!!! <
>And anoter thig; the hel with "crativity" and "talnt", they rubn contrargy to capitlisdm, you fucjkingv pijnkosw! I lov popl musjic! <

I hope this guy is joking! I, as a right-winger, feel misrepresented!

Per said...

Hey John, what was it like working with Ralph Bakshi? Did he let you be creative?

Sam said...

hey John, before Billy West took over Ren, did you voice him in tv commercials (like for cereal or toys)?

Spencer said...

This is a great post!I see your point.

Anonymous said...

I also have the same question as Sam.

R2K said...

Thats a cool one : )

Larry T said...
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Larry T said...

Nice points about character animation, John.

We know that Bob had formal art training (as the rest of the McKimsons too), did Harris come from the same art background, or was he one of the guys that tended towards being competent with a pencil and then found himself in the animation field?

One small connection I made- it's interesting how you mentioned Jones 'bridled' his unit's creativity to suit his viewpoint.... even though McKimson's animation is so nice in itself, he did the exact same thing to his own unit when he became director in the late 40s. Was that what made Rod finally lose it?

I especially like your comment about how "Most cartoon historians are not artists, let alone animators, so when they write about cartoons they don't write about the drawings and animation, because they don't know what they are looking at. "

I think the same problem applies to those in charge of the really great Hollywood animation holdings. ;)

Tibby said...

I can see the differences. Very informitive! The first bugs has much more individual expression and the 2nd one is pretty - stock.

It is always good for a director to let his team give their 2 cents and possibly add content when needed. But when you are first starting out - it might be best to stick to the stock and get the ropes down. Even if it is incredibly boring at times. Unfortunatly the job of "in-betweener" no longer exists. The computer does it or an overseas house does it. In-betweener used to be the entry level position for many young, green animators. Then when directors and producers got cheap and sent all those "mundane" jobs overseas - a lot of potential individual talent was lost. A sad thing that was. Very sad.

One way to breathe life back into cartoons these days might be to bring back the mundane jobs into the industry localy. Even if its sort of expensive - you get what you pay for. Mass made - bland cartoons animated in Korea or India for cheap. Or better ideas for a higher price.

JohnK said...

>>One way to breathe life back into cartoons these days might be to bring back the mundane jobs into the industry localy.<<

Boy you got that right, Tibby.

I'm trying to figure out a way to do it.

People should learn the craft from the bottom up, like the great animators did.

Nowadays you have people in charge, making retarded decisions, who have no idea how a cartoon is made.

What else could you get but crap that way?

Anonymous said...

Hey John did you see Thad K posted this ?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1yx3ZlypO4

Mart said...

Fantastic work John K. You seem to be single-handedly elevating the public discussion about cartoons past and present to a level far higher than anyone else seems to have ever done.
Couldn't agree with you less though, on the point about conservatives.
Surely your own comment about returning to the old school method of "apprenticeship"-style learning so that perhaps decision-makers might know what they're talking about is a very conservative approach; and indeed, at the same time a bit revolutionary.

Incidentally - I haven't seen you write anything about SpongeBob. Personally I think much of the acting in that is superb, and on a par with your work. Also, the writing is better than most shows for adults.

stiff said...

Surely your own comment about returning to the old school method of "apprenticeship"-style learning so that perhaps decision-makers might know what they're talking about is a very conservative approach; and indeed, at the same time a bit revolutionary.

Ideological spectra run in circles, not lines...often the "backward" thinking reactionary has a lot in common with the "progressive" radical. Within that model I think John could well be considered 180 degrees from the center, and if animation is in the center today, like so much other crap, he's where he should be.

Incidentally, John, if you solve your problem, I would gladly work for peanuts for the opportunity to learn and prove myself.

Dave_the_Turnip said...

seconded there :)

Anonymous said...

I was just impressed with Ken Harris' walk cycle as Bugs comes in from stage left. I'm not used to seeing a walk cycle that smooth. How freakin' sad is THAT!!!

But yeah, the rest of it looks like Nelvana slopness.

It'd be cool to see a comparison of McKimson moving a thing slowly and Harris moving a thing slowly, like Bugs' hand in this case. I saw the lines crawl in Bugs' legs in both clips; it's just easier to see in the second clip because there's nothing to distract you.

john a said...

I think you're being unnecessarily harsh on Ken Harris' animation. Granted, McKimson's clip is superior,but Harris is animating a much smaller figure, and whatever crawliness that appears in his animation seems to be the fault of the cleanup artist in Jones' unit. Clampett either had better cleanup artists working for him, or he and McKimson both stressed very tight, acurate cleanups and inks and made it a higher priority than Jones did.

Johanna Marie said...

Your post was both insightful and wonderfully entertaining. :) I was pleased to see that others look at these sorts of issues when viewing Golden Age stuff. I co-host a radio show about cartoons and we actually brought up a lot of the same points on our show featuring propaganda cartoons.

Well done, sir. It's nice to know I'm not the only one thinking about this michigas.

Kris said...

Hi John,

Looks like YouTube removed those videos. I've seen the cartoons before but I didn't get a chance to do the comparison before they were removed.

Maybe you could upload the clips to DailyMotion instead? They seem to be nicer about allowing WB clips.