Friday, April 13, 2007

Acting 5 - Ren and Stimpy "realistic" sitcom acting

I don't expect everyone to want to do specific or realistic acting in cartoons.

I sure don't want to have only realistic human acting and expressions in cartoons.

We can't compete with live action by only imitating what live action can do. Real people can act real and make real detailed specific expressions and move with real weight and physics a lot easier than we can draw them.

Our drawings are flat colors bordered by lines. Real people have light, shadow, and lots of facial muscles that can make barely imperceptible shadings and super subtle differences that can convey a lot of nuance that is impossible for pencils to capture and more impossible for CG it seems, which I can't figure out.

Actors can do all this in real time.

By the time it takes us to animate 10 seconds of screen time, an actor can have acted a whole half hour show full of tons of original expressions poses and mannerisms. And if we tried to merely imitate realistic humans, we would fall pitifully flat by comparison.

Cartoons can beat the hell out of live action by doing funny impossible things though:

With all that said though, I still like to add some ideas from other mediums to my cartoon toolbox . I never want to abandon what cartoons can do that nothing else can, but there's no reason to not supplement our magic pencils with amusing things we observe all around us.

I've always thought real people were funny. Real specific people who have their own unique mannerisms and funny ways of doing things. I try to put a lot of that into my cartoons.

I think adding the dimension of reality to the characters makes the unreal impossible world they live in -where anything can happen because it's a cartoon- seem all the more accessible to the audience. It's like "Wow! What if I could live in crazy world like this? How would I react?"

Actually, now and then live action takes cartoon ideas and mixes them in with real people and gets hilarious results-like Monty Python and Green Acres.

So I combine cartoon expressions and poses with human expressions and poses. It's fun to do and more challenging than always relying on the same stock animated acting that is so prevalent. I've been yelled at it many times too! I had to do a lot of convincing to powers above that cartoon characters could make expressions that they had never seen cartoon characters make before.

I would go nuts if I was forced to draw expressionless drawings all day:

Here is Ren with half a cartoon expression and a bit of reality. Stimpy is almost pure cartoon:
Here are some frames from a scene that is an homage to classic live action comedy on purpose. I love the Honeymooners and the 3 Stooges. They depend on many scenes that contrast the relationship between an asshole and an idiot.

Moe is the asshole, Curly is the idiot cartoon character.

Ralph is the asshole, while Norton is the surreal idiot character that drives him nuts.

Ren is the realistic character who is constantly driven nuts by Stimpy's unreal cartoonish antics.

In scenes like these, some of the comedy comes from the clownish character doing his clownish antics, but the silliness is enhanced by the mean character who is enraged by silliness.

This kind of classic comedy happens all the time in the real world. It's like when your Dad explodes at the dinner table because you and your friends are having a laughing fit, while you should be at the serious business of chewing your asparagus into a pasty bolus.

Moe Howard, Ralph Kramden, Oliver Hardy are all masters of the slow burn. It's part of Ren's charm too.
This starts out like many classic comedy shorts with low class characters trying to act polite and debonair, and quickly the scene reveals their true boorish nature.
Ren's expression here is purely realistic. I know because it's my expression when Eddie tells me a theory I disagree with.

Stimpy is making cartoon expressions. Ren is real. I posed in the mirror for all these Ren expressions. Katie drew the final scenes.

Because we are so unused to seeing cartoon characters making realistic faces it makes the cartoons seem extra weird. I think that had a lot to do with Ren and Stimpy's success. People thought they were looking at something weird even when something very real was happening.

Here Stimpy has an expression that is obviously impossible, but it still reads in context.

These Stimpy expressions are based on Eddie's pose in the storyboard. This is how Eddie acts out in high society when we take him to the opera.

Ren and Stimpy decide now that they are part of the "upper crust" they must learn to go around with their zippers up.
How sophisticated!

There are some purely impossible cartoon gags in this scene too, but Eddie asked me if he could post about them, so I deferred to his theory greatness.

The Honeymooners, "Pardon My Glove" (1956)
Here is classic asshole and idiot situation comedy done by two geniuses in real time. I'm so jealous of this aspect of live performance!

Ralph wants a bite of Norton's pizza....