Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Acting tool 4) Body Language: Foghorn Leghorn - Bob McKimson Director - Henery's dad poses

Walky Talky Hawky, 1946

Here is a great "pose to pose" scene from a Bob McKimson cartoon.
You can tell these are drawn by Mckimson himself. They are really solid.

Each pose contrasts from the previous pose and the next one.

This is really good cartoon acting. The poses are over the top, and totally readable. You know exactly what the character is feeling and portraying.

The character himself is acting. He isn't sincere. He is pretending, which adds a level to the cartoon acting. Very funny!

Someone commented that he thought I was suggesting pose to pose being better than straight ahead animation. Not at all. They are just different approaches that you can use and even combine for different purposes.

Pose to pose eventually became limited animation. But in most limited animation, the poses are not really poses. They are just characters standing straight up and down, and there is no excuse for that. Poses should be "posed". It doesn't cost more money to draw a pose, than to draw a non-pose.

Classic cartoon acting tends to put more emphasis on the body than the face.

Drawing specific expressions is hard. It depends on tiny subtle details that all have to be depicted in line, and then turned in volumetric perspective as the character moves his head around. That's why to this day, most cartoon expressions are not even expressions, they are just animation cliches.

Because real expressions are so hard to draw, animators evolved a style that is more stagy than live action, where you can read the characters' emotions through their body language. Their poses.

This applies to all the classic studios: Warner's, Disney, MGM, Fleischer and the rest. Sometimes in closeups, the odd animator would experiment with more subtle, detailed and specific expressions-Rod Scribner, Willard Bowsky, Grim Natwick to name a few.


By the way, McKimson is one of my favorite cartoon directors and one that is extremely important to cartoon history. After Clampett left Warner's in 1946, McKimson's cartoon unit became the backbone of the Warner Bros. team of units.

Jones was the arsty experimenter who would sometimes deliver pure cartoon humor (esp. in 1948). Freleng basically just followed what everyone else was doing-whatever the current trend was, he would conservatively mimic it.

McKimson wasn't as artsy as Jones or as well-rounded and inspired as Clampett, but he knew his audience maybe better than anybody. He aimed at regular folks and you can tell he felt it was his duty as a cartoonist to entertain the masses-especially the masses of Dads.

His cartoons are hilarious and brilliantly timed and animated. He carried on Warner's tradition of full animation longer than any of the other directors. By 1950 Jones and even Freleng were animating more stylized, more limited and less cartoony stuff. Against the pressures of tightening budgets and UPA's influence, McKimson kept making lively fully animated characters for a few more years.

Without McKimson's cartoons, Jones' tendency to make "art" and sweetness might have run wild and the WB studio might not have kept up the reputation that Avery and Clampett bought it. Looney Tunes are remembered today and still beloved for being mass appeal, honest-entertainment cartoons, the antidote to Disney.

I love Jones and am glad he was so arsty and experimental, but the audience needs a balance of down to earth human entertainment and that's what McKimson delivered. Vincent Waller was my McKimson. His down to earth funny world view balanced all my weird ideas.

McKimson cartoons appeal to the same base entertainment needs that The 3 Stooges provide.

I have lots more observations about McKimson. He had a really funny world view, especially how he perceived the behavior of men. His characters behave as though they have a set of Commandments that guides them to be the best assholes they can be.

I'll tell you the commandments in another post.


BTW, these drawings are really well constructed so if you are trying to improve your own construction, copy these.



Aaron T. said...

What do you think of Art Davis?

Aaron T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.E.Daniels said...

Those are great poses.
I guess it was McKimson that came up with that particular hand gesture with the middle finger folded down.
I've always thought that was unique.

PCUnfunny said...

I am glad Mckimson kept Daffy wacky while Jones started turning him into a jerk.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Jerks with short legs, McKimson is great. Those poses are beautiful! I miss these Foghorn Leghorn cartoons!

Thad K said...

I'm guessing that piece of animation was Art Davis. He did the same kind of posing and timing in his animation for Tashlin.


Anonymous said...

AWESOME post. I loved the clip and the Waller analogy.

McKimson: Most underrated DIRECTOR of all time. I'd go as far to say that without McKimson, nobody would even be talking about the Warner Bros Studio at all, only the Leon Schlesinger Studio.

Nobody questions that he was a brilliant ANIMATOR but everyone always gangs up on his drecting, from Leonard Maltin, Milt Gray, Michael Barrier, and Bill Melendez. They're crazy. I'd say that McKimson was a better director in his prime than Friz in his prime and Jones out of his prime. Rebel Rabbit, anyone?

I really wish Warren Foster had stayed with McKimson, when the 1955 strike happened he also lost Scribner (who was WAY better utilized with Clmapett, despite what Fag Komorowskii says) and all the other animators. Jack Warner sure buggered things up for him.

Everyone says McKimson's 50s cartoons blew but these people didn't have AAP packages when they were kids. He kepy Daffy wacky in his early years and kept Bugs mean.

The only sin McKimson commited was making his characters fat (like Sly in Crowing Pains), toning down his best animators, and creating Taz, so it pisses me off that 30 years after his death, after a long live lived for cartoons, he still hasn't gotten the respect he deserves AS A DIRECTOR, just because the powers that be have poor taste and hate entertainment.

Let's fix up this disgusting wikipedia article, gang:


Pat McMicheal said...

JohnK said: McKimson cartoons appeal to the same base entertainment needs that The 3 Stooges provide.
WOAH, I've never heard 3 stooges in such a clinical statement before!!!
You're quite a writer John.

Danne8a said...

I love Bob Mckimsons cartoons!
His cartoons, even if not to a clampetts degree, still had a lot of great moments of broad acting and facial expressions.
The Foghorn cartoons were great, no holds barred slapstick.
My second favorite Warner director after Clampett!
Thanks for the great post!

Clinton said...

I used pose to pose animation in some parts of my first demo reel, because I knew exactly how I wanted my characters to act in a scene. I used straight ahead kind of as a filler to get the character to the point where it was doing pose to pose again.

Mr. Semaj said...

McKimson knew comedy quite well, which is probably why he got the directoral job in the first place. He used a lot of great poses and expressions that I try to incorporate in some of my own sketches.

And yeah, Vince Waller is a great artist. I'd like for him to tell us some of his experiences on some past projects.

PCUnfunny said...

'ebel Rabbit, anyone?"

A peice of crap in my opinion. That wasn't Bugs Bunny, that was Foghorn Leghorn in a Bunny costume.Since when was Bugs a big,dumb,brute ?

William said...

Over the top without being over the top. Wowing.

Anonymous said...

john- i'd like to put in a request for some celebrity charicatures! its been far too long!

Marcelo Souza said...

I've animated a lot but never got this principle of straight ahead animation. The first thing you do when you get the work is to listen to the track a zillion times and as you do it poses and behavior starting popping on your mind naturally, you thumbnail those to start and keep adding or changing them as you go along.

Anonymous said...

>A peice of crap in my opinion. That wasn't Bugs Bunny, that was Foghorn Leghorn in a Bunny costume.Since when was Bugs a big,dumb,brute ?

He was pushed to the edge by the government`s racial discriminaiton against wabbits! And it was funny and brutally animated!

PCUnfunny said...

"He was pushed to the edge by the government`s racial discriminaiton against wabbits! And it was funny and brutally animated!"

That seems dumb for Bugs. He's angry because Rabbit hides don't bring in as much money as other animals ? This feels more like a Foghorn Leghorn action. A big dumb brute fighting for a dumb cause. I did like a few of gags though, my fav being when Bugs interrupted Senator Claghorn.I think McKimson's best Bugs was definetly "Hurdy Gurdy Hare".

Paul B said...

Man, Weekend Pussy Hunt has one of the best performances that I've ever seen!!!!

Ryan Kramer said...

"Boy, I say, Boy!" sweet poses. Even when i was a kid i knew there was something special about the way these characters moved.

David Germain said...

Yes, I find Robert McKimson to be an under-rated director myself. Yes, while his output after the brief shutdown was rather stiff, the period from him first getting the dirctor's chair right up until the pre-shutdown was easily equal to that of Jones, Freleng, Davis, as well as the ones who preceeded him like Tex, Tashlin, and Clampett. It's a shame McKimson's work was only nominated twice (once in 1946 for the toon John's showing us now Walky Talky Hawky and again in 1957 for one of the best Speedy's ever made Tobasco Road.)

What other McKimosn catoons from that period could have been submitted to the Acadamy and have been contenders? Oh well, while you're thinking of that, enjoy some new Censor Monkeys. B)

Thomas said...

Who animated the Senator in "Rebel Rabbit?" Was it Scribner or McKimson? The structure seems like McKimson but the sheer love of motion smacks of Scribner, being forced to draw less loose than in his Clampett days. The scenes with this character are what hack animators call 'over animated', yet they are wonderfully expressive and fully alive.

David Germain said...

Thomas, I do believe that the animator of that scene was Manny Gould. He did alot of the more aggressive action in McKimson's cartoons of that period.

Walter Carzon said...

WOOWW JOHN! this blog is fantastic! congratulations! GREAT! GREAT! GREAT!