Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Barnacle Bill (1930) Grim Natwick, Cartooniness



Here's one of my favorite cartoon scenes ever.

While Disney was spending his artists' time trying to figure out what lightning really looked like, Grim just made it up and to me, it's a heck of a lot more fun. If I want to see realistic lightning, I can look outside the window during a storm.

But I have to watch cartoons to get this kind of thing.

This is pure creativity, a concept of the distant past.

16 comments:

Jeremy Bernstein said...

Wow, you're up early John! 6:30 am!
Thanks for sharing..can't wait for more cartoony goodness.

Charlie J. said...

great post and great cartoon.
Are you going to post on the singing scene from dizzy dishes?

-. gabito .- said...

The voices are very funny too.
This kind of cartoon is a real work of imagination. I love how they move.

lastangelman said...

Yeah, Nat got it right, it was all about being fun and entertaining, not making a documentary and not making people go, "Wow! How did they do that?"
The lightning bolt turning into a palooka who gives the captain a hook to the jaw is fantastic, it even has a smile when it does that! Smiling lightning, you can't get more cartoony than that - or can ya'?

Ryan G. said...

I like the Popeye-esqe mumblings going on..

Patrick said...

It's pretty remarkable work concidering the technology of that time...all you needed was TALENT and ceativity ( things that are not required much these days).
This is a VERY educational (and entertaining) Blog!

Chloe Cumming said...

The creativity in this clip is quite childlike in its in-its-own-world ness, but obviously with a kind of adult wit/ self-awareness that allows it to enjoy itself even more intensely.

On the idea of creativity of this purity being a thing of the distant past…

People are so uptight now! Maybe this isn’t relevant to cartoons, I don’t know, but I notice in a lot of fields, say in pop music… that there’s an insane tendency to work backwards starting with the production values, where the ‘details’ and the painfully deliberate pop culture references are perceived as the most important decision and the first priority, whereas pure vital creativity (and manual skill, which to my mind sort of goes hand in hand with it) are secondary concerns at best. Usually neglected altogether in the quest for the optimum sample or the optimum type of gloss.

That kind of approach is also fuelled by the tendency of uncreative ego-fuelled posers to work in creative fields instead of actual artists.

The simplest thing that’s missing is the idea that music starts with musicians, who have a love of music and take joy in the form-specific abstract sensual aspects of it, or that cartoons start with cartoonists who have a love of cartoons and the form-specific abstract sensual aspects of them. Instead everything seems to start with a self-conscious, stifling idea about marketing, and not just one that’s imposed by executives; it’s an idea that ‘creative’ people seem to impose on themselves.

It’s not so much post-modernism itself that’s the problem, but people’s perverse interpretations of it. There’s a perception of the weight of the ‘canon’ of pop culture bearing down on us and preventing us from being creative. Then there’s another idea that nothing now can be original or pure, the best we can hope to be is ‘clever’ in kind of a deadpan post-everything kind of way, which of course is wrong, and logically extremely flimsy if poked.

So going back to the Natwick clip… I realise that the reason you post these things is not just to lament the loss of this type of creativity, or to be nostalgic, it’s to question why it needs to be lost… and the answer is that it doesn’t, and we’re all kind of responsible for taking on board what that means.

The way I see it there are just things obscuring that pure natural state of creativity, it’s still potentially there underneath if we can devise ways to dispense with all the crap that makes people uptight.

It’s a shame in a way that something so simple and silly and fun should cause me to write so many analytical words, it should primarily be enjoyed, of course. But I guess there’s a need for the undoing of the bad ideas that have largely stopped people making cartoons that are fundamentally about generating joy for both the audience and the creator.

Joel Bryan said...

Wow... I think if I'd seen that as a child, I'd have been permanently demented!

Ted said...

I dunno. I think the lightning is the weakest visual in that clip, other than shorty's drippy melting and reformation. Even if snakes are supposed to look like lightning on film in the same way they use potato flakes to represent snow, it's not working here...
Except the lightning as a guy; that looked good.

JohnK said...

Hi Ted,

you're not really seeing all the animation. The frame rate is really low so it's not as smooth and cool as what it actually looks like.

Get the Betty Boop tapes and check it out. It's awesome!

Kali Fontecchio said...

Lightning should punch people in the face- what a funny world it would be! But it can be in cartoons, as this piece proves.

I want to go back and re-watch all the good betty boop's now- glee!

Ted said...

I do have the tapes, so I just watched the cartoon on volume 1. I think the lightning is actually less striking (honestly, that wasn't an intentional pun) on the tape than in the clip (altho it's possible that's due to me watching the entire cartoon, and thus becoming more acclimated to cartoon visuals before the lightning shows up), but it does look much better on the tape. My relative aesthetic opinion within the segment at issue remains unchanged tho; the lightning is one of the weakest visuals for me in that segment. And the lightning still doesn't look very appealing to me (too hosey, I think; the things I dislike are much more evident in the clip than on tape, tho, except in the static bolt used as stairs where it's actually not hosey but still aesthetically displeasing to me in both versions in more or less equal measures).

JohnK said...

It took me awhile to get used to Grim's style because it was so different than everything else my eyes were used to. But I was fascinated and quickly loved it.

Now it's pure eye candy to me. Funny how the senses have to be trained (or retrained!) to accept pleasure.

NARTHAX said...

Lightning taking bodily form totally explains the conception of Reddy Kilowatt.

Dr. Strange-Q said...

I've really been enjoying all the great posts on your blog. It reinforces my opinion on what I like about cartoons. Funny, impossible, entertaining. A lot of the younger animation artists I work with don't like "cartoons". I think your work is helping tremendously to turn this around. Thanks!

jujuquisp said...

I buy John K and Spumco stuff on ebay all the time. AWESOME!!!