Tuesday, January 23, 2007

BGs and Style 7 - Inki and the Minah Bird (1943) - backgrounds

That Chuck Jones sure was an experimental rascal.All through the early to mid forties, Jones tried all kinds of different background styles, from cartoon to cartoon, sometimes radically different.

I find it interesting that his character design style slowly evolved but his BG style changed in creative spurts.
His characters were very stylish and you see a constant progression from cartoon to cartoon with slight variations and experiments, but the style is still firmly based on the pears and spheres-Preston Blair-standard 40s cartoon style.

The one big experiment he did in character styling was The Dover Boys-1942. But I heard Leon Schlesinger hated the cartoon and told him never to do anything like that again. John Hubley at Columbia cartoons saw it and was hugely influenced by it and copied the characters and styling for his own cartoons, Professer Tall and Mr. Small. He later carried the idea of experimental design even further and helped found UPA.

Maybe Chuck's way of staying experimental was by trying different, more graphic BG styles.

He might have thought thatLeon didn't pay attention to the BGs and so wouldn't notice how radical the changes and experiments were. I don't really know, but it is odd to see graphic BGs behind rounded flowing characters.
I was always fascinated by these early Jones cartoons and hugely impressed at how many ideas were created so fast, whereas today it takes a whole decade at least to notice any discernible changes in cartoon styling and it's usually accidental and for the worse.

People ask me about the Ren and Stimpy or the Spumco "style" and I always say there isn't one. Jones and others instilled in me the idea to constantly try new things and experiment and always be restless and never satisfied with anything. I might be the last person on earth who remembers the concept of "progress" as a positive thing, a concept that just a few decades ago was the American philosophy that made the country the greatest, most influential and fastest moving nation in history.

What is known as the "Spumco style" is really the style of my imitators who carry on all the mistakes in my cartoons and turn them into cliches.

The real John K/ Spumco style is the combination of whichever artists worked on which cartoon and what we were thinking about at the time. Almost every Ren and Stimpy is a different style -until Nickelodeon took it over and even then it took awhile to become a formula. The barreling momentum of constant change started on Bakshi's Mighty Mouse and carried on in Ren and Stimpy took awhile to brake.

It finally did and now has gone quite a bit in reverse in the cable cartoon network studios.