Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Crappy BG paintings-Big House Blues

When we did the pilot for Ren and Stimpy, we couldn't afford extra people to do all the jobs that needed to be done, so Bob Camp and I painted most of the BGs.

He did the real ones, and I did mostly color cards.

I always loved in Clampett's Baby Bottleneck, how there were many scenes with no BGs, just color cards behind the characters. In some scenes the BGs would change color on accents, like when a little hammer hits Daffy on top of his noggin, and his head changes shapes really fast.

Nico put this up:

These quick color changes gave the accents more "oomph" and I thought, maybe I'll do it even weirder and put nutty patterns and blotches on the BGs.

I tried to do some real paintings in the cartoon but couldn't get the brushes or paint to obey.

I wish I had known Art Lozzi was around!
I did the opening pan of the cityscape. It's a real mess and one of my first attempts at painting. I don't have a frame grab of it though....Well Rogello was nice enough to make one!


Anonymous said...

I love when you change the BG colors to accentuate characters actions. That's something I have stolen from you, and more recently discovered in some WB shorts.
Also, I noticed you mentioned Aaron Springer in you last post,
just out of curiousity, what's your opinion on Spongebob
from what I've heard, he is responsible for a lot of the physical humor and exagerated drawings that have become accustome to the show

sean said...

ive noticed that a lot of modern day cartoons have stolen this technique from you. they all seem to over do it though... its a bummer.

Anonymous said...


Did I hear you say once (or read, maybe) that there were only four of you that animated this? What did it take to get the green light on the pilot?

I really like this technique. It sort of emphasizes the cartoon as a whole -- dialog affects action affects background affects reaction, etc. They're not all separate (or shouldn't be).

Peggy said...

god that one was so goddamn surreal. I don't think I knew what the hell to make of that when I saw it amidst a shorts compilation. Seeing these isolated shots brings back how insane some of these gags were, especially against the script-driven cartoons of the time.

Also, I feel somehow ashamed to still be a sucker for a good smear drawing, but I am in love with whoever did these three drawings. That HIDEOUS GRIN. ♥♥♥

Gareth said...

sean.. It would probably be fair to say that Ren & Stimpy is 'responsible' for a very large proportion of TV cartoons for the last 15 years.

Aggie said...

One of my favourite scenes with that technique is the one in Stimpy's Big Day, when Stimpy is watching the opening theme to the Muddy Mudskipper show, and the background changes repeatedly in time with the last few chords. Fun!

Ryan G. said...

Damn John, dont be so hard on yourself. Hell, your so- called "bad paintings" are 10 times better than anything on tv today. Big house blues is great! Its got that rawness to it that attracted me from the beginning. The BG's were awesome in R&S. I can see you really did utilize the backgrounds as emphasis toward the action. That was one of the shows signatures.

Jesse Oliver said...

Hey John

"Big House Blues" is one of my "ALL TIME FAVORITE" Ren & Stimpy cartoons. The style of this episode really stands out from the other episodes. Thats one thing I love about R & S, Each episode looks a little differant from the last episode. You, Jim Smith, Bob Camp and Lynn Naylor did a real great job for this historick animated masterpeice. I really hope to god that you will get to produce the R & S cartoons "Life Sucks" and "The Wilderness Adventure"!

Jesse Oliver

Tim said...

Those paintings are one of the things that I really enjoyed in R&S!

Anonymous said...


You mean THIS scene from Baby Bottleneck??

JohnK said...

Hey Nico

put some on your blog and I'll link to it!


Anonymous said...

I ripped you off in terms of using color cards for my latest cartoon, "Scare-Horn & Belle Jingles." See the scene where the little girl teases the killer by sticking her tongue out at him. I think I sent you the link awhile ago, but if you don't have it let me know and I'll send it to you.

Anonymous said...

John's painting are lovely.
But he thinks they look crap. Haha! I think most artists hate their own work.
If you're satisfied with everything you do, you never strive to improve.
And then you get stuck in a loop. Or something.

Anonymous said...

ahhh, those bg's are hell good!
Killah post!

Anonymous said...

"I wish I had known Art Lozzi was around!"

How saavy were you with cartoon history & techniques (overall) around the time of 'big house blues' ?

I'm just wondering at what period in your life you started doing research, did it start when you were a kid? Is it easier to do cartoon research being in Hollywood?

just wondering!

Anonymous said...

OK, this one of those things that lazy directors see and thinks: "that's so different, it may actually be cool," and uses a pseudo-version to dress up his or her crappy cartoons. It's like broadcasters who steal one or two aspects of the Howard Stern program to punch up their crappy broadcasts and harp on it to death like an annoying infant who plays the same tune on its toy xylophone over and over again. Crappy lazy animators see something vaguely innovative and latch onto one thing that caught their eye and repeat that over and over instead building on it, improving it, making it even better or at least different.

Jorge Garrido said...

WHOAH!! This cartoon looks amazing! I wanna see it!!! Ren looks so cute.

They did that blotchy background flash effect in Games episodes alot, but they overdid it. They were uncalled for in the places they used them. John, those paintings aren't half-bad, by the way.

The Butcher said...

I have no clue why you think that painting with the prehistoric Stimpy battling all the Rens isn't good. Maybe you're too hard on yourself. I've always loved it.

Max Ward said...

I am not really a big fan of Big House Blues, although for a no budget cartoon it looks real good. The characters and the background look really wonky to me, and the whole cartoon has this really late 80s-early 90s feel that I hate.

But all your other cartoons are great!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. K....

Heh, I'm a 9-year old kid from Texas. Of course you don't know me. My brother and I were out of school today (apparently 'cause my mom couldn't start her car on account of ice) and we watched not 2, 3, or 4 hours of classic Ren & Stimpy but 5.... my eyes really hurt.

Shawn said...

I didn't know you painted those yourself. I LIKE the "sloppiness".

Big House Blues has my favorite drawing style of any Ren and Stimpy cartoon ever.

sean said...

"sean.. It would probably be fair to say that Ren & Stimpy is 'responsible' for a very large proportion of TV cartoons for the last 15 years."

i think i would totally agree.

i was just reminded of one scene in it when ren and stimpy go to the house and you see the interior. i always loved that splatter painting on the wall.

great vibe

Anonymous said...

Opening pan of Big House Blues.
Low quality but you get the point.

While I am at it, here's a neat pan from Baby Bottleneck.

Raff said...

Two things I noticed:

- The prominence of the subtly modified OVAL as a recurring shape. It works.

- Certain proportions and especially shapes, like Stimpy's nose in the second-to-last screen grab, it's almost like a cartoon shoe.

I miss those shapes and proportions. John I'd rather see you do them than other people try to rip them off and get them wrong.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the thinking and writing John. My circle of artist friends admire your work and ideas immensly.

CartoonSteve said...

Classic! I miss that original version of Ren - with the big expressive ears The later, smaller eared Ren was too reminiscent of how Bugs Bunny devolved with the bigger head (thanks to Chuck Jones). Well ok, not that bad.

Great screen caps!

The Butcher said...

Agreed. Ren's hude ears are way cooler than the smaller ones, though I suppose the change helps Ren fit into a more humanesque role in the later episodes. Big House Blues is still one of my favorite episodes of all time.

All the Games episodes seem to have Ren with really tiny ears and a big jaw with an underbite. That barly scratches the surface of what's wrong with them though.