Monday, April 09, 2007

Acting 2 Jackie Gleason - acting - reacting

Here is some stuff from the greatest sitcom of all time.

This is entertainment totally written for performers.

Watch how interesting and fun even the characters who aren't doing the talking are!

The one who isn't talking is still reacting with both body language and expressions.

This all can be helpful to animators. And fun to draw!

I use a lot of this character chemistry in my own cartoons. Characters should always feel like they are alive and thinking. Even Stimpy-as retarded as he is, thinks about each retarded thing he does and I got that not so much from watching cartoons (Warner Bros. excepted), but from watching people, and also from watching old movies and TV shows.



The Honeymooners, "A Woman's Work is Never Done" (1955)


The cartoon sitcom folks always compare their comedy to live action, rather than cartoons. They snub their noses at cartoon stuff. They think they are writing "realistic" situations. They aren't. They write mannequin situations in my opinion. Live action stories need to take the acting and performance into consideration and that takes a lot more skill (and experience performing) than the cartoon writers have. Have you seen any cartoon sitcoms that have scenes of acting and performance anywhere near this? Warm, alive... throbbing with engorged corpuscles?

The cartoon sitcoms to me, fail as cartoons and fail worse as live action. They don't even attempt to do what either medium is capable of.

The Honeymooners, All In The Family, The Beverly Hillbillies, Seinfeld are not only hilarious - they are gripping - because of the great performances and the writing that is geared to character, rather than writerspeak jokes and pop-culture references that could come out of any available open puppet mouth in the cartoon.



















Note how specific each character is in their design and their expressions and gestures. There is nothing generic about them. Note also, how often they go "off-model". Real humans are off model all the time. That's what's funny about us.

Only store dummies and modern cartoons are "on-model" all the time.



The Honeymooners, "Better Living Through TV" (1955)











The strangest phenomena about modern cartoons to me is that they are not even as cartoony as real people are. I'll bet your Dad makes a million funnier expressions than any cartoon Dad you've seen.



31 comments:

Mr. Semaj said...

The cartoon sitcoms to me, fail as cartoons and fail worse as live action. They don't even attempt to do what either medium is capable of.


If this were still the 90's, I'd have to say that that's completely untrue. But today, it's become increasingly hard to say that you're wrong.

The Simpsons - The top of the heap for nearly 20 years, is today suffering from uneven stories and weak jokes, a far cry from where it was only 10 years ago.

King of the Hill - Monotonous writing, annoying main characters, underutilized side characters, and save for one recent addition, a refusal to do anything new or funny at all.

Family Guy - Stiff drawings aside, while the show seemed to be progressing during its original run, the writing today has gotten terribly lazy. The writers seem to think that simply making all the characters wacky jerks and stretching jokes out too long is enough to make the whole show funny.

The Proud Family - Was cancelled a long time ago, but tried to replicate the success of Married...with Children, coming nowhere close. Today, the show merely exists as "the black cartoon" in the Disney Channel's shallow effort to emphasize "multicultural prgramming".

This is exactly why many of us turn to fanart. Especially with many current shows, we utilize a lot of concepts, even plausible ones that would never be allowed on the actual shows.

Tim said...

You're so critical of modern culture, I was afraid you even hated Seinfeld! Glad that's a fear I can put to rest.
It's a shame about cartoon faces, Peter Griffin and Homer really only have three: Happy, sad, and neutral (used for when another character is talking)

I'm not against the cartoon sitcom, although a cartoon shouldn't try to emulate real life, and then do it badly.

Vanoni! said...

I shy away from comments like "this is the absolute worst" or "this is the best ever"

BUT. . .

The Honeymooners is one of the greatest shows ever. Period.
And it ain't the elaborate set design or fancy camera work :)
It's the acting! (and reacting)

Hilarious!

- C

Kali Fontecchio said...

I love this show! It's too funny- and you're right- a trillion expressions.

This makes me want to draw some more Eddie! Eddie is a cartoon gold mine!!!!!!!!!!!!

EDDIE!!!

Jason said...

Haha, those clips were great. I love Ralph's big >=( frown.

I sort of don't understand exactly what you mean when you say real people go "off model" but I guess I sort of do when you put live action sitcom next to the ridiculously stiff cartoons we have today. As for the performances, I find it's only natural for live action actors to have more organic movement and expressions because, obviously, they're real and they become their character. I don't think cartoons necessarily have to emulate or exaggerate the "cartoonyness" of real life to be enjoyable or stimulating, but then again I think I've had my share of sock-puppet, static talking heads taking up the whole screen for 2 minutes at a time. I also guess you have to take the style they're aiming for into context (unless that style is "suck on purpose to make profit for corporate bigwigs"). End Rant.

Oh, and "Classico" was nine kinds of awesome John. I think Ear sex fetishists will praise you for an age. A comment though, I find the egg bouncing in front of Kyle was better timed in the sketch video seen on Marc Deckter's blog. Still amazing though. I hope Jack Black shat himself in disbelief when he saw it. Cheers.

Pat McMicheal said...

Honeymooners.....GREAT reference material...THE greatest sitcom ever!!!
Amazing how entertaining it was with the same boring background every time. Talent!!!!!
And Jackie Gleason didnt even rehearse before the live performance.
John, You have good taste in ALL of your influences.

Stewart said...

Thanks for all the info Mr. K and company. After following this for a while, I am continually inspired, growing as an aspiring artist.

thanks John,and all who replied on this blog. I appreciate the time you spent. Hopefully one day I will be able to repay you by creating some worth while entertainment.

couldn't help but notice some similarity between these two images.

http://bp3.blogger.com/_mJ4lc_Q9Q6k/RhRPTFkZHWI/AAAAAAAADCo/TuRvrEhYJyI/s1600-h/WDPSYB739a.jpg
http://bp3.blogger.com/_mJ4lc_Q9Q6k/RhNwsVkZGzI/AAAAAAAAC-Q/FI4dwgXAtes/s1600-h/Kramden_reaction1_07.png


And I am off to order some honeymooner dvd's.

Marcelo Souza said...

When I lived in New York, for six years, in the late 80's I used to watch this show every day. I'm such a fan that I memorized most of the lines. The best sitcom ever!! The chemistry between Gleason and Carney never to be matched. It is Gleason best work and the other stuff that he did doesn't come close to his Ralph, pure gold. I loved when anything that Norton would do he had to wave his hands in preparation while Ralph watching impatiently would finally lose his temper, shove Norton aside saying"Come on!!!"

queefy said...

I don't know if you ever seen Curb Your Enthusiasm but their is no script for the show. Just a 3 page outline and the actors improvise it. It really makes personalitys of the actors come out, and makes for funny ass tv.

Dennis said...

I'll bet your Dad makes a million funnier expressions than any cartoon Dad you've seen.

It's TRUE!

Joie Simmons said...

Chuck Jones said that even if a character is just sitting there at least his eyelid or lip or something should twist.

If a sitcom was broken down into two different stories in the 30 commercial-interrupted minutes, I think better comedy and acting could evolve.

(I don't even know if what I just said made sense, but it was all there in my head. Just pretend a drunk chicken wearing suspenders to hold up his tightie-whities said it.)

S.G.A said...

Yeah, the Honeymooners, alot of people I know that are not interested much in any of the things I am; old movies ,cartoons etc.. ARE fans of the Honeymooners,even people who weren't even born when it was new. i was suprised a few times to find out people I had know for decades were honeymooner fans.

S.G.A said...

I like some of the cartoon sitcoms,The flinstones of course had all the right stuff the first two seasons..." great easy to see and absorb into staging and backrounds great design and color, and lots of funny stuff etc.. But as teen I would record shows like the simpsons onto audio cassette tapes and listen to them in the car while I drove around, now I do the same thing with muy kid, and we listen to Home movies and mission hill , which aren't pretty to look at but can be funny.

S.G.A said...

I Think maybe it's time to stop sticking up for stuff that's OK , but could be much better,...I am pushing for something better which can be easily done today, with the aid of computers like John mentioned with the old HB stuff.. That's what really excites me...If you watch commentaries on the old flinstones cartoons there is some really simple useful stuff there the second season has some useful stuff for animation people. actually it's probably stuff John has mentioned here already.
PLus man .... those adult party cartoons are just so amzing! that Firedogs 2 cartoon is my most favorite cartoon done decades!!!
I wish they would make the adventures of Ren and Stimpy and Ralph, and you just stick em all in situations together... A show like that would make the adult swim crowd realize they don't know what funny can be in cartoons!!!

Arschblog said...

I love this face expressions! They are hilarious, that's very good material for me to learn!
It's very hard to find expressions like that in magazines today.

You forgot "Drawn Together", mr. Semaj!

S.G.A said...

John,
do you have any plans for a fully loaded Ripping Friends dvd collection?
I would love top see them put out with commentery, and cut out stuff!

S.G.A said...

Has John k done commenteries on any old cartoon collections? somebody told he me has done commentery on some special edition of Flintstones o r something,... is it true.

abwinegar said...

I'll have to get the DVD set and work on my expressions more.

Thanks, John.

Mr. Semaj said...

Plus man .... those adult party cartoons are just so amzing! that Firedogs 2 cartoon is my most favorite cartoon done decades!!!
I wish they would make the adventures of Ren and Stimpy and Ralph, and you just stick em all in situations together... A show like that would make the adult swim crowd realize they don't know what funny can be in cartoons!!!


If we ever get a Ren & Stimpy 3.0, no more fat guys in their undies...please. (No offense to the real Ralph Bakshi.)

You forgot "Drawn Together", mr. Semaj!

Drawn Together is more of a cartoon reality show. The only minor quibble I have against that is how they overplayed some of their characters' stereotypes in the past season.

Arschblog said...

Mr. Semaj, here is a little bit more about Drawn Together:
There is NOTHING good in Drawn Together, they don't adapt the styles and acting from the original characters(a Betty Boop act completely different than a Disney Princess), each character from Drawn Together is flat, stiff and have too many parallel lines, they look completely boring and unnatural! I have a big doubt that they ever watch their original cartoons(like Betty Boop, old Disney movies, Pokemon etc), maybe they had only few pictures from Google that they used to "create" their "new" characters like Tooth, Spanky Ham, Foxy Love etc.
The Backgrounds look very cheap and boring. The timing is bad. The gags are used, unfunny, racistic and disgusting! I don't know what's so funny when someone get killed or raped?
In old cartoons there were violence too, but in a funny way! You know that is not real, just fun, but in cartoons like Drawn Together you see blood, dead and criminality like in real life and that's NOT funny!

Tibby said...

I was listening to Howard Stern one morning and comedian Artie Lang said something along the lines of "You can't TRY to be funny, you just got it or you don't." Too many modern cartoons are not funny anymore because they are trying too hard to be what they think is "funny". Drawn Together was entertaining at first - mainly because it was mocking the different styles. But they tried too hard and just went overboard with the poop jokes. Too many graphic poop jokes makes the audience start to get grossed out and gag and it's not funny anymore. There is a fine line when using toilet humor to get laughs.

Honeymooners and good old 3 Stooges are great studies for acting and examining real life expressions. I like to take the most extreeme pose and stretch it out to super exageration to emphisize an intended emotion. Great exmples there Mr. K. I am deffinatly using all this advice and knowladge keep as I work on my current project. ;)

Jay said...

You've probably seen this movie before. Someone has been kind enough to post it on YouTube. It is the gag reel from the old Warner Bros. studios that they showed at parties.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fI2OJCfWPU
I think it supports a lot of what you write in your journal regarding the atmosphere at the studio at that time, and how funny cartoons must be made by funny people . . .
I read your weblog on a daily basis. Thank you for sharing all of this information with us.

mike f. said...

My acid test for humans: If you don't love The HONEYMOONERS, don't even bother talking to me. You don't exist in my world.

P.S: John, Chika okayed the dreampets...

Nate said...

Jason said..." I don't think cartoons necessarily have to emulate or exaggerate the "cartoonyness" of real life to be enjoyable or stimulating,"

That's just what john means when he talks about taking advantage of the medium. If a cartoon is going to do the exact same thing as live action, why waste the time animating it? If it's going to give you a less than human performance, why do either? If you're going to animate something it ought to do things that live action can't.
Cartoons shouldn't exaggerate for the sake of cartoony exaggeration. When used properly cartooning emphasizes specific characteristics of a person or action to make a point perfectly clear.

Let's take our perennial favorite cartoon to bash, Family Guy as an example of failure. First off, i'm not denying that it's funny, it certainly is. I bust gut to it regularly. The problem is that it doesn't transcend. As amusing as the lines and situations ccan be, does any ever even remotely care about a single one of the main characters? There is no effort to give them soul. They all have slight variations of one cynical shallow personality. Its creators seem content to simply make it the show amusing, stuff cash into their pockets and move on. No viewer is going to look back upon family guy with the same affection we now have for Looney Toons characters. Everyone in some way wishes they could hang out with Bugs, or empathizes with Sylvester when he can't catch a mouse. however, when it's hard to see Peter Griffin as more than a dumb puppet that gets bashed around a bit. Nobody cares about any of the FG characters. Nobody roots for them to Family to come out on top. The whole show is shallow, cynical medium to make fun of things.
I think that's why John says that nobody will care about FG in ten years, because, truly, no one cares about it now.

Mr. Semaj said...

Nobody cares about any of the FG characters. Nobody roots for them to Family to come out on top. The whole show is shallow, cynical medium to make fun of things.
I think that's why John says that nobody will care about FG in ten years, because, truly, no one cares about it now.


Oddly enough, some criticism has picked up in FG communities about what they're doing to some of the characters. Lois went from being a typical housewife with a dark side to an out-and-out annoying slut. Brian isn't as sophisticated as he once was. And they give too much abuse to Meg, when they decide to do anything with her at all.

The Meg abuse came from a combination of the writers' inability to create any real material for her, as Seth even admitted in one interview, and their claim that fans LOVE IT when the world beats up on her. It kinda makes you wonder WHO these writers are when they can't simply hire any female writers (the most obvious solution to their writers' bloc), and when came the days they were quizzed by a growing number of skeptical fans, they now have cold feet when it comes to really developing the character in question.

John Pannozzi said...

"Has John k done commenteries on any old cartoon collections? somebody told he me has done commentery on some special edition of Flintstones o r something,... is it true."

John K. did some commentaries for Looney Tunes cartoons, and he is doing some for the upcoming Popeye set. As for that Flintstones set John K. was involved with, that was a laserdisc set.

And I'm intrigued by the Family Guy comments by Semaj.

And Mike F., okay. I'll buy the Honeymoners DVD set when I have the time and money and no higher priorities.

And personally, I feel that Drawn Together has some pretty good animation (courtesy of Rought Draft Studios, who animated the best-looking episodes of Ren & Stimpy from the Games era), but the only real interesting thing about the show is cartoon references and in-jokes.

Kristen McCabe said...

Yowza! Those are some great stills. Jackie makes the best expressions. Thanks for posting these, they made my day.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Wow! A profound point backed up by irrefutable evidence! What a pleasure to look at the Honeymooners pictures!

Ahahnah said...

While watching and looking at the pictures I couldn't help but think of Wilma and Fred Flintstone. I see the influence of the Honeymooners on the Flintstones. I wish sitcoms didn't have laugh tracks it ruins the experience.

batya said...

Hi. I read this blog with interest. I was hoping one of you could help me. My boyfriend is a big Ralph Kramden enthusiast. I'm trying to get hold of a photograph/poster of Ralph (preferably alone, rather than with Alice. The only ones I found online I didn't like. Any suggestions?

thanks a million,
batya
bbedits@aol.com

batya said...

Hi, everyone. I'm hoping someone can help me out. My boyfriend is a big Honeymooners enthusiast, and especially loves Ralph. I am looking for a photograph/poster of Ralph, preferably alone, rather than with Alice or Norton. I've found only a couple online and I"m not crazy about them. Any advice?

thanks,
batya
bbedits@aol.com