Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wally VS UPA 3 - Walt Craves Respect

Does this look like a wacky cartoonist?

Walt’s Bid For Respect

In the 30s, Walt Disney caught the respect bug. He wanted to be up there with the bigshot Hollywood celebrities, not down here with the lowly cartoonists.

That's why Walt Disney kept trying to imitate live action and why he continually toned down the cartoony impossible stuff. The real magic. By the way, I didn't make this up. Lots of people thought that even at the time.

Realistic water is more respectable than cartoon water.
(wouldn't it inevitably follow that a camera is more respectable than a pencil?)

He made Fantasia to try to get high brow critical respect. (Or maybe to convince his low brow audience that he was above them?) He figured if he did classical music in cartoons, real critics would consider him high class and hoity toity.

It backfired. He couldn't stop himself from inserting naked babies’ butts, cutesy pie fish with sexpot girl eyes and hippos in tutus into the classics.

This outraged serious music critics, which is OK with me. But it also bored the general audience who wanted cartoons to be funny - and that's the real shame.

Fantasia's Reviews

Alas, Walt's method of gaining artistic respect didn't really work.

Now, I have to say that I like a lot of stuff in Walt Disney pictures.

I even like Fantasia, despite the extreme kitschiness. I mean I'm as kitschy as can be. I love pop culture and entertainment. I'm a cartoonist with no pretensions of trying to be a serious artist.

But I admit it and am proud of my cheesiness.

The thing that really helps Fantasia - for me - is the great music. I love Stokowski's highly caricatured emotions. I love his rendition of the Nutcracker Suite. Combine that with the Disney artists' design and color styling and I'm completely swept away.

If I actually stop and think about what the ideas are behind the art, it's pretty damn embarrasing...


Mushrooms with Chinese faces, little naked imps that change the seasons, fish with human girl eyes, Russian Cossacks made of weeds...I mean now, that's just brutally DUMB, isn't it - content-wise?

Funny cartoons can be dumb too, but they're not trying to have you take them seriously. Dumb is funny, it's not high-class. It's hard to take low brow stuff seriously.



I DARE YOU TO SAY OUT LOUD WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS CLIP

Can you imagine anyone could possibly take this seriously and call it art? I just like all the techniques and the way everything moves to the fantastic music. It's superficially pretty.

But it's neither a cartoon nor art...and that's the best part of Fantasia.



The rest of the movie is even more kitschy and less appealing at least to me. Like I said I like kitsch- but there are two kinds of low brow taste: Fun, unpretentious kitsch and then there's gay kitsch- the kind of stuff you might see in a man-couple's love nest.
Much of Disney to me is gay kitsch, surely not very highbrow. What a strange style and what fruity content to force straight grown men to animate! I'll never figure it out. It's weird enough that one single cartoonist would want to animate babies' butts turning into hearts and that kind of stuff, but what's unfathomable is how many others copied him!

Whole studios abandoned what they were good at to blindly follow the gay kitsch cartoon parade - just because Walt was doing it!

That's the ungodly power of trend-thinking, which is not thinking for yourself, but rather following what everyone else is doing unquestioningly. (Look at how many animated features today are all the same formula! And still gay-kitsch!)



By contrast, Ub Iwerks' cartoons of the 30s, though influenced by Disney are more imaginative, fun, earthy and cartoony:











Other resources...

http://www.filmreference.com/Films-Ey-Fo/Fantasia.html
... In the Bach Toccata and Fugue portion, for example, Disney artists were encouraged to experiment visually and boldly, in ways never before imagined. This sequence, early in the film, signals its experimentalism, departing from the usual Disney style and moving in abstract directions, imitating the techniques of Oscar Fischinger, who was originally to direct that sequence but left the project before completing it, after discovering the studio had altered his original designs. Other experiments are elsewhere in evidence, as when the sound track is visualized through animation midway through the film, recalling the abstract experiments of Len Lye and anticipating those of Norman McLaren. More conventional Disney whimsy is elsewhere in evidence, however, and there is perhaps the danger of vulgarizing the music through the imposed visual patterns. In fact, the sequences are diverse and uneven.

The film has been criticized for its "ponderous didacticism" (the visualization of the "paleontological cataclysm" in the Stravinsky Rite of Spring sequence, for example, and the simplistic contrasts of the final sequences—Moussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain against Schubert's Ave Maria, with Good triumphing over Evil in a finale of Christian tranquility) and praised for those sequences in which Disney contented himself with being Disney and avoided self-conscious attempts at being "artistic."

...

For the first time, moreover, Disney became his own distributor with Fantasia, since, as Variety reported, the film was so different as to require a different sales approach. It premiered on 13 November 1940, at the Broadway Theatre in New York, and was not an immediate success. Its original running time, with an intermission, was about 130 minutes, later cut to 81 minutes. It was reissued in 1946, but it would only build its audience strength over time. By 1968, for example, it had earned $4.8 million in North American markets, more than doubling its original investment, and finally taking its place among the top 200 grossing films.

In musical terminology, a fantasia is "a free development of a given theme." Disney's achievement, though often impressive and no doubt ahead of its time, has nonetheless had its detractors. Stravinsky was not pleased that his music had been restructured and that the instrumentation had been changed. "I will say nothing about the visual complement," Stravinsky remarked, "as I do not wish to criticize an unresisting imbecility . . . "The film succeeds best when it is at its most playful—the hippopotamus ballerinas in the "Dance of the Hours" sequence, for example, which Richard Schickel has described as "a broad satirical comment on the absurdities of high culture." The visuals for Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony strain contrivedly for a mythic charm in an Arcadian setting populated by fabulous creatures. Far more interesting are the animated dances from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, and the whimsical treatment of Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" or Mickey's struggle with the dancing brooms in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," the conceptual core of the picture. John Tibbetts has written that the results of Mickey's "union with high art were questionable for some, just as Walt's collision with the likes of Stravinsky, Beethoven, and Moussorgsky raised (or lowered) many a brow."

Disney's undertaking Fantasia brings to mind an artisan who has only a superficial knowledge of religion undertaking to sculpt a monumental pieta out of sand as the tide moves in, threatening to erode it. Some passers-by will no doubt pause to watch out of curiosity, but the spectacle will not for most of them constitute a conversion. If anything, Fantasia does not teach a musical lesson, but it often fascinates and delights the eye.

Reviewing Fantasia in 1940, Otis Ferguson called it "a film for everybody to see and enjoy," despite its "main weakness—an absence of story, of motion, of interest." Bosley Crowther was less harsh, remarking that the images often tended to overwhelm the music, but praising the film for its "imaginative excursion" and concluding that it was a milestone in motion picture history. Despite its sometimes elaborate pretensions and its many innovations, the boldness of its concept quite overrides the "disturbing jumble" of its achievement. It is, indeed, a "milestone" in the history of animated film.

—James Michael Welsh


DISCLAIMER: WHAT WALT IS GOOD AT

This post isn't really about Walt Disney. I'm just using him as an example of cartoonists abandoning their roots in search of something higher.

I don't even blame him for doing it. Maybe he sincerely loves his fruity content. That's just fine. If I had to be mad at someone, it would be at the cartoonists who actually liked funny stuff who followed what Walt did just because Walt did it. I wish more artists would follow their natural instincts and be more personally observant, rather than blindly doing what someone else is doing.

Every time a new trend comes along it sweeps away the good things that existed before, rather than absorbing some of the new things and combining them with the best traditions.


OK, just to go off on a tangent, I will tell you that I have seen every Disney feature at least 20 times, studied them all on many levels. I have almost all the short cartoons in my collection. I have watched the shorts in order year by year while watching the films of the other studios during the same years to compare them.

Walt was definitely good at some stuff, a genius at some. He just didn't seem to like cartoons.



MARKETING-PACKAGING

Walt probably invented the whole concept of marketing. He marketed his characters, marketed himself and made everyone think his stuff was better than everyone else's. Everything he did came in a shiny package and promised that it would be the greatest thing ever-his cartoons, his TV Show, Disneyland, they all promised magic. Sometimes they would deliver a bit, but his marketing and packaging was his true creative genius. I don't think anyone was ever better.

HE SOLD US SPACE

His space series from the Disneyland Show in the 50s convinced regular folks that we could actually go to the moon, and explore Mars and beyond. Before these shows appeared, space travel was strictly science fiction. I think his marketing of space travel did more than anything to get us to the moon.

To me, that's his greatest achievement.

DRAMATIC ANIMATION

He had one creative storytelling ability that beat everyone else. The dramatic scenes in his movies- the ones he didn't water down with comedy relief really do approach and sometimes surpass the drama even in the best live action pictures.

The witch in Snow White.

Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. (although they lessened the dramatic effect whenever they surrounded her with the wacky Ward Kimball style demons.)

ORGANIZATION

He built an amazing studio and production system specifically geared to his own very finite tastes. Everyone in the studio was a specific tool to put on film what he couldn't himself.

The system had a lot of waste built in and was extremely expensive, but that's inevitable if you yourself can't put your specific ideas down on paper.

All the animation movie execs copy this system today but have exaggerated all the excesses, having less vision than Walt.

HYPNOSIS

He was able to convince millions of people of anything he felt like convincing them of. Even of things that the evidence did not at all support. That an animator is an actor with a pencil. That his characters had rich personalities. That animation is magic, even conservative animation. That no other studio did anything good.

This is such an interesting topic that I'm going to devote some posts to it: The difference between taking someone's word for something and using your own physical senses to observe and analyze to see if you come to the same conclusion that someone else's words did.

Most people believe words more than physical evidence. Especially words in books. That's why I post so much art and clips to let you decide for yourself what you think and like. My words just offer you another view than the traditional "non-artists writing about art" one.

TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Obviously, his best films have amazing camera moves, fantastic background layouts and paintings. The scene planning and music is intricate. All that flash and intricacy does a lot to convince you that everything about the films is equally as good.

REALISTIC ANIMAL BODIES WITH CARTOON HEADS

The animation Disney's artists do of deer, horses and dogs walking and running is amazing and otherwordly. Is it entertaining? I don't know, but it's impressive that anyone can animate difficult complex problems like that.


Is it a bit weird that they plop cartoon heads on top of realistic anatomically correct hindquarters?
It's kind of on the furry side of life, isn't it?


HEWWWOOOOO!

"MAY I PWEASE HAVE YOUR WESPECT, MR. DISNEY"

This post isn't about whether Walt's Cartoons are good or bad, it's just pointing out the sad need for respect that makes cartoonists ashamed of what their real abilities are.

NEXT: UPA HAS A DIFFERENT WAY TO GET RESPECT

71 comments:

Callum said...

A very interesting post. Ya' know, before I started reading this blog, I'd never realised just how boring animation is these days. After watching classic Disney shorts on "Disney CInemagic" I have to say that they are so much superior than their modern crap that it must be soul-destroying for you.

Keunemeun said...

Hey mr K, this is a very interesting post you got here
because I'm a big Fantasia fan
( My latest animation i did, is a dance to the Dance of the Hours by Ponchielli!)

I must say you have a point: Disney tried to hard accomplishing something higher than a mere cartoon, which is stupid. I think that a cartoon can and never will be an art. although some of the animation of Fantasia is.
Art Babbit's dancing mushrooms for example: indeed the best part of the movie because it's the least pretentious part: it doesn't mean a thing. Just some dancing fungus.

This what I, a humble Belgian animation student thinks: animation should never never try to copy reality, but should try to achieve things that are only possible in this medium. So you and Hirschfeld are 100 % right!
But I also think, and I remain faithfull to that thought, that Walt Disney was an absolute genius!
I maybe wasn't a good cartoonist and yes, he could sell his stuff like nobody, but he's still a master storyteller and visionary.

Keep giving us those wonderfull lessons, mr K! I study animation in Brussels and I can tell you that we don't have mentors like you up here! (Only a bunch of eeediots... :p)

Visit my blog when you have the time. Feel free to give some comment.

http://keunemeun.blogspot.com/

amir avni said...

My favorite quote about Disney: "Walt wasn't too interested in cartoons really, He always wanted to be a live-action producer; That was his secret dream"
--Concept artist Joe Grant, Page 7 of "Paper Dreams" by John Canemaker


Great read, thanks for posting!

Kali Fontecchio said...

I like that Hirschfeld clipping you put up. There's a great line in there about Dopey doing the same kind of gag as Chpalin in City Lights; it being just as funny not funnier (although I don't even think it's as funny, in my opinion).

That's why Lantz's cartoons are so great. They're cartoony for the sake of being cartoony. They don't pretend to be something they're not. Same with the Fleischer's. If you compare all the cartoons playing at the same time in the 30s it's ridiculous.

I'm really glad you're pointing these things out for the masses.

Martyn Drake said...

"Walt probably invented the whole concept of marketing. He marketed his characters, marketed himself and made everyone think his stuff was better than everyone else's. Everything he did came in a shiny package and promised that it would be the greatest thing ever-his cartoons, his TV Show, Disneyland, they all promised magic. Sometimes they would deliver a bit, but his marketing and packaging was his true creative genius. I don't think anyone was ever better"

I can. Richard Branson. An absolute genius at PR and making people think his products are fantastic, but in reality they rarely deliver the full goods and you end up with banana skin. If you've flown Virgin, travelled on Virgin Trains or watched Virgin's TV service you'd know what I mean.

Michael J. Ruocco said...

I have to agree, a very interesting post, John.

Fantasia happens to be my favorite film (animated or not). I have to admit, it is kinda kitschy & aims too high, but I like it anyway. It in fact inspired me to pursue a career in cartooning & animation. It has beauty & ugliness. It's funny & happy, yet sad, boring & even scary at times. It's an all-in-one package, it aims for everybody.

I think Dance of the Hours was probably the closest Disney got to a Warner Bros. style cartoon in any of the features he did during his lifetime, & even so it's not even remotely close to any of Clampett or Avery's animation.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Aaarrgh! I agree with a lot of what you said but not all. I don't think Disney's best work was as bad as you say and I don't think people doing their own thing will result in the improvement you think it will.

Look at the underground comics movement where people could draw anything they wanted. After 40 years it hasn't produced anything of lasting value.

In the post 50s era Disney helped to keep alive the public's respect for full animation. Although Disney dabbled in UPA-type projects he relentlessly hyped the old style and we in the animation industry benefited from that. If UPA had gone unchallenged it would have run the industry into the ground and eroded the public's respect for the medium.

It would take a very long comment to answer to all the specific things you've said here. I could attempt it on my blog but I'd feel a little uncomfortable knocking the guy (you) who's done more than anyone else in the last several decades to invigorate this industry.

antikewl said...

Another wonderfully thought provoking post, John. Thanks... I wonder if Al Hirshfeld felt his caricatures were successfully adapted in the "Rhapsody in Blue" segment of Fantasia 2000...?

keunemeun: I don't think Hirshfeld or John are suggesting that cartoons are not art, rather that they should be an artform unto themselves and not attempt mimic realism: "Mickey Mouse is great art and not a clever novelty, and that Disney should not underestimate the genius of his original invention."

Jesse Oliver said...

Hey John

What do you think about Disney's GOOFY cartoons that were directed by Jack Kinney from the 40's & 50's?

I.D.R.C. said...

I can't tell the difference between fine art and regular everyday art. I think the distinction is arbitrary and I don't even care what it is supposed to be. I like what I like because I like it.

Does "fine art" have any more real meaning than, "what rich snobs prefer and idealize?" I'm not a rich snob so why should I care? I know what I like.

It's that arbitrary yet inescapable division between high and lowbrow that essentially split Walt against himself.

Rennaisance paintings are sometimes a little like Disney. The technique may be groundbreaking, the rendering powerful, the control utterly superior, but the ideas have been imposed by an authority with an agenda. I am underwhelmed by religious iconography and disappointed that it was the only subject you could paint other than potraits and still lifes for a few hundred years. For that reason, to me it qualifies as extremely valuable, irreplaceable, incredibly competent antique kitsch. No amount of breeding, education, or refinement could change that for me, but indoctrination could.

In my museum, Clampett and Fleischer would be fine art, and Disney would be kitsch.

JohnK said...

Hi Eddie,

that was my toned down post after talking to you yesterday.I can't list every single thing I like about Disney in a post about UPA. I already wrote too much off my subject.

It's OK that you like Disney. We just have different tastes there.

But I didn't say some of the stuff you said I did:

>>I don't think people doing their own thing will result in the improvement you think it will.
<<

I've never said that. I say have skill and then be observant and do what you believe in like Clampett, Avery and Jones did.

I hate underground comics as much as you do. They are mostly amateurish. I would never promote amateurism.

>>If UPA had gone unchallenged it would have run the industry into the ground and eroded the public's respect for the medium. <<

They did go unchallenged, didn't they? I thought they did erode the public's respect for cartoons. We talk about that all the time. That's what these posts are about.

Disney himself wasn't that interested in animation in the 50s was he? His films look like shallow imitations of the ones he made from the late 30s to the early 40s. He was off doing Disneyland.

Feel free to challenge any notions at all Eddie. I won't be offended.

I'd like to see people watch the stuff and decide for themselves.

Every book tells me to love Disney and I used to when I was 8, but now the cartoons bore me-especially when I compare them to the other cartoons of the time.

But I don't care if you sincerely love the Goofy cartoons or any others. No arguments can change someone's taste.

I still like Yogi Bear even though your arguments against it are pretty convincing.

JohnH said...

As a viewer instead of producer, I can't say I agree completely with your "gay art" summation, or that animation cannot be art, but I think you're right on the money on everything else, and especially concerning Disney and kitsch.

(My own description of art tends towards "Pop culture two hundred years after the fact.")

JohnK said...

Hi John

I din't say animation couldn't be art.

I think it's more likely to be art if it's sincere and from the heart.

Trying to please critics is the wrong way to make art.

I.D.R.C. said...

Look at the underground comics movement where people could draw anything they wanted. After 40 years it hasn't produced anything of lasting value.

It produced proportionately little of lasting value, but there are some things which would at least belong in my museum.

You yourself have said that R. Crumb, along with John K., are the 2 most influential modern scribblers.

I think you need every important ingredient to get an excellent product. Take any aspect away and the product will show that lack.

In Disney's case what is often lacking is indivduality and strong statements. In underground comix, it is often technique.

Peter Welsiack said...

Hi Eddie!

I agree with what you said. The UPA immitations were usually the studios at their worst (some exceptions though). But Thad was the first one to go online with his open disdain for the UPA output, right here.

I love Kinney/Sibley Goofy too, BTW!

John's #1 Fan,
Peter Welsiack

Jesse Oliver said...

John

I'm not really a fan of Disney's cartoons but I always thought that the GOOFY cartoons beat the hell out of MICKY MOUSE and DONALD DUCK. I mean MICKY is a classic rubber hose like design but the MICKY cartoons never made me laugh. GOOFY however always made me laugh. If you watch the GOOFY cartoons like "The Art Of Skiing" or "How To Swim" you will see some cool animation that you will never see in a GOOFY cartoon made today.

Jorge Garrido said...

This is my new favourite series of posts.

John and Eddie, I would PAY to see you guys debate the merits of Disney and Yogi and everything else animation-related that you disagree on. Battle of philosophies!

PCUnfunny said...

Eddie and John: You hate underground comics ? You both don't
like Robert Crumb ?

Marcelo Souza said...

I'm and always have been a Disney fan. I don't care if is tacky or not, just give me that level of artistic quality! Nothing was more heart warming to me as a kid than to watch " The Wonderful World of Disney" on our black and white TV set. I'm a cartoonist today because of Disney. Bill Tytla's Chernabog is the most amazing and influential piece of animation ever done, immitaded "ad nauseun"till this day. I've read a book on Walt Disney's life written in the sixties where I learned that his studio was on the red till he got into television, that's more than thirty years not making a profit! You've got to respect the man's drive.

Ryan G. said...

Hmmm... Elmer Schwartzenegger. Made me laugh. You may be on to something here..

Roberto González said...

I guess they are talking about more amateurish stuff. You gotta love people like Robert Crumb, Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, Evan Dorkin or Gilbert Shelton! Jamie Hewlett also does underground comics and John K. already said he loves his work. I actually love underground comic books, maybe I have just read only the best part of them. I guess some of the worst stuff has not even been edited in my country.

About the post, well, I think most of skilled animation is art. Art is a word that everyone uses the way he wants, but I tend to use a definition as wide as the one Scott McCloud use in "Understanding Comics".

Apart from that, I also consider that Fantasia is a little boring. Clampett made the same concept in less minutes and with jokes in it in "Corny Concerto". But I think Jones was the one who included the high brow stuff in the most natural way. Something like What's Opera Doc? is based on cultural references, yet it's not very pedantic or boring. I think that's the right way to include intellectual references in cartoons, you should add some funny stuff. Besides, Fantasia didn't really teach us anything except for the mythological creature segment.

Fantasia is ok sometimes, though, and I think the music really matches the images. That other Fantasia 2000 flick...didn't work on the same level. The music and the images won't work together so well, they even include The Sorcerer's Apprentice in it and it was obvious how better that segment was in the combination of music with images.

Finally (I'll shut up soon) I'll add that I agree that Disney was a genius convincing people that he was right in everything and his trend was probably not the best one to follow in cartoons. And it's really sad that animated movies in particular, even today, are so limited by Disney's style. Disney has really good stuff, though, I like Donald Duck's shorts and some Goofy and Mickey. I love Make Mine Music. And I like some modern stuff too. I have the theory that The Great Mouse Detective has one of the best stories ever in an animated feature movie. But this is another story...

Ben Williams said...

Wow, I've never seen that Ub Iwerks cartoon before. The designs are awesome. Really fun stuff.

Mr. Semaj said...

This is pretty good stuff.

Walt had a valid reason for reaching for the high-brow stuff. It sounds like even then, cartoons were considered a lower art compared to live-action. Walt's best achievement was bringing animation to the level of live-action. Many sources will tell how Snow White was the biggest phenomenon of 1937, not unlike Star Wars in 1977 or Titanic in 1997. His best films reach out to everyone - young, old, male, female - and gives a lasting impression on society. That skill was briefly replicated by the studio during the early 90's.

I don't think there's anything seriously wrong in itself with being "high-brow". Lady and the Tramp is a well-loved classic that seems high-brow. Many people today view the earlier Simpsons episodes as high-brow compared to the current episodes. Both are more serious in tone, but speak to the level that people can relate to. It is dangerous to listen to critics, because they don't speak to a level that people are comfortable with.

I'm a life-long Disney fan. I still regret the time I was 12 when I rebelled against Disney cartoons (a possible consequence of the 2-D glut going on at the time). It's a major influence in my own art. But I do understand the importance of individuality, which is why I incorporate some of my Disney-ish art with my own subject matter.

mike f. said...

I hate when cartoonists and other humorists ask to be taken seriously. What fun is that?

Pathos and schmaltz kill humor. So does highbrow respectability - the very antithesis of comedy, (which is why it's lampooned in so many Three Stooges shorts.)
Adding those elements to a cartoon is the animation equivalent of Jerry Lewis singing to the little clown puppet in The ERRAND BOY (a scene that moves Eddie to tears, by the way!)

This process of "medicine-coating the sugar" occurs in live-action comedy all the time, unfortunately.
Dean Martin called it "Chaplin shit". It killed Martin and Lewis, and ruined Woody Allen - and Chaplin too, of course - forever.

I think it originally came from pompous-ass critics - who thought that doing comedy was somehow "slumming".
Suddenly, in the sixties, Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers needed "respectability" to be taken seriously by film historians? To hell with that!

This trend is even more ludicrous when it occurs in cartoons.

Imagine if Pookie the puppet, in the middle of lip-synching to "My Friend the Witchdoctor", suddenly went into a soliloquy about the effects of a nuclear winter! How much fun would that be?

Cartoonists ought to be too busy flinging dead cats into church to waste time being serious or artsy.

Comic strips, on the whole, have been a little more successful at mixing semi-serious elements with cartooning. Walt Kelly and Al Capp, when they wanted to take a break from the slapstick and talk about "issues", added satirical elements to POGO and LI'L ABNER, and it went over great - for a while, at least.
But it's important to remember that even though Kelly and Capp were both masters who knew what they were doing, heavy-handedness eventually swamped both strips.

"Comedy analysis" was a virtual cottage industry for a while a few decades ago - as wrong-headed as that seems now.
Robert Benchley once said that comedy could be dissected like a frog - but the thing will always die in the process, and the results are detrimental and purpose-defeating to everyone concerned, so why bother?

mike f. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
peldma3 said...

What happened that made people start to think that cartoons were just for kids ?

Is it similar to happened to the newspaper strip?

I would love to know.

I can think of a bunch of things that might have caused it, but the truth is I just don't much about it.

lastangelman said...

When Fantasia 2000 arrived, I strongly felt Warner Brothers should have tongue in cheekily struck back with a second Corny Concerto; for example, instead of opening with Beethoven's 5th, like Fantasia 2000 they could have animated a sequence to ELO's version of Roll Over Beethoven. But who would be the directors? It probably would have sucked, if it happened, it would have been in that awful "Space Jam" style. I would have preferred Kent Butterworth or definitely Eddie Fitzgerald.

David DeGrand said...

This was very fascinating to read. Disney has always been tough for me to pin down, I like him but I can't stand him at the same time. I totally agree with everything you're saying about Walt so far, you've really nailed it.

peldma3 said...

personal taste is a big part of it ,,, Walt got what he wanted DONE.. like it or not .

The way I see it is; If you want it done your way, you have gotta have a head for it , and the drive... It doesn't matter what Walt's motivation was, he got talented artists to do what he wanted them to...
I am eager for the return of cartoony cartoons .

I feel pretty lucky to be learning all this stuff, and seeing it begin to influence artists.

NateBear said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPTdK1WC4Xg

J. J. Hunsecker said...

Maybe Disney was a closeted homosexual? That would explain his right wing politics -- similar to closeted righties like J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn.

Jim Rockford said...

`Fantastic post!
You pretty much summed up my exact feelings on Fantasia,even as a kid I saw through its pretentions and thought the imagery was to quote you "fruity" sachrine and cutsey.
I think the whole excercise was pretty shallow and pointless.not to mention dull.
trying to elevate cartoons to art,just for the sake of art and recognition ruined the fun.
Walt (in my opinion) took himself far to seriously.
I agree with a previous poster(martyn drake) in his summation that Walt was a master at marketing himself,he may have been a mediocre cartoonist but he was building himself into an empire,with its own kingdom.
Now he's like some diety that most people have blindly been brought into worshipping,the seem afraid to knock him,even though there is very valid reason too.
John,I was wondering too what your opinion of Robert Crumb was,since you said you didnt care for most underground comics?

Rohan said...

It's funny that Hirschfield pretty much predicted Disney's next move toward "constructed miniature sets" and "four-dimensional puppets." Most of their movies are now all done in 3-d animation, which is close enough to the idea.

Kris said...

Underground comics gave us the only comic book that ever won a Pulitzer Prize. Aside from that, there's still far more fantastic work in the realm of independent comics than in the mainstream.

PCUnfunny said...

"When Fantasia 2000 arrived, I strongly felt Warner Brothers should have tongue in cheekily struck back with a second Corny Concerto"

If it was called Fantasia 1946, I would agree.

Aggie said...

Thanks for your opinion on Fantasia! I LOVED Stokowski's version of Rite of Spring... parts of the Earth scene left me breathless... too bad Stravinsky didn't like the re-orchestration.

I.D.R.C. said...

...Sometimes they would deliver a bit, but his marketing and packaging was his true creative genius. I don't think anyone was ever better.

I read Jones' article from '64. He has persuaded me that when it comes to marketing, UPA was even better than Disney. Look what they accomplished, in convincing nearly everyone they had a superior new modern way of making cartoons, and look what they accomplished it with!

I thought they just made the things. I didn't realize they went around demeaning the past. That was the brilliant part, the way they got the press and the public to buy the mythology that they had created a more thoughtful product that contrasted the simple fuzzy animals of yesteryear.

It worked really well.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

PC: You're right! I forgot about Crumb. His best stuff was great!

Naomi Fearn said...

I agree with all the artistic critique, but find calling it 'gay kitsch'pretty lame. Actually it's 'my aunt Heidi' kitsch. She has as much a monopoly on bad taste as anybody. And "What a strange style and what fruity content to force straight grown men to animate!"? So that means straight grown men can't animate cartoons for girls either? Or is it just the gay thing? Sorry to rag on that, but my mind kept going back to it.
I love your blog and am constantly working on myself to adhere to the quality standard that I so admire about you, even though the fondness for rage and anger in your cartoons sometimes estranges me (myself being an adrenaline lacking girly-girl). I'm thankfull you give out all the information that you do , it's simply amazing, Thanks.

Rafi animates said...

wow, what a post! funnily enough, much of it mirrors the views I've developed lately on the subject.

I've grown up watching Disney movies and shorts, aswell as classic Looney Tunes and H&B stuff . but the more I look back at what that *truly* entertained me as a kid, made me laugh and love the medium enough to stay inspired to this day - it always comes back to the all-out cartoony stuff from Lantz, Clampett, Jones, H&B, Avery etc. The equally cartoony work from the Disney Studios donald duck shorts, goofy and slightly more abstract Melody Time, Toot Punk Whistle Bloat....are all up there with the best cartoons IMHO.

Your blog is full of thought-provoking, inspiring stuff with deep analysis on subjects like this, that re-assures me that my views aren't the product of growing up, but rather a developing well-rounded view of the artform we're all in.

The best thing about your posts, is that they're never preachy, they're well researched, thought-out and written unpretentiously. You tell it like it is, and its up to us to have a look and see what we think and form our own opinions.

Not kissing ass, I'm just really diggin' this blog - best education anyone can get on cartoons and animation. Still can't believe it's all here for free.

Thanks again John.

cheers,
Rafi

Jason Tammemägi said...

John, I'd say if you loved these films when you were eight, then they did their job well. You'll find many other eight year-olds (and families) loved them too.

Are they better or worse than cartoony cartoons? I'm not so sure that matters if these films delivered to their audience. Fantasia aside, they usually did.

Josh "Just What the Doctor Ordered" Heisie said...

Personally, although Disney movies are superficial and cheesy, I'm still entertained by them. No entertained in a laugh out loud, Looney Tunes kind of way, but in a "Holy crap...whoever worked on this movie must be Gods!"

The comic relief and cheesy stories don't thrill me, but the quality of the animation and paintings are enough to keep me entertained.

I can ignore the bad plot and annoying characters to be amazed by the amazing skill required to make the movie. I can just watch them saying "HOW DID THEY MAKE THAT?!?!?" and the crappiness is pushed to the side.

New movies, as you've said many a time, have the same annoying, insipid characters and bad plots, but none of the skills to disguise the fact.

Chloe Cumming said...

This was a very complex post and you said loads of spot on things... if I try to do it justice I'll be here all day, so just one or two thoughts...

Like you said, this isn't really ABOUT Disney, and he's certainly not the villain. He seems too dead to be the villain. There's something else that's being got at here. Or maybe I'm just distracted because I'm thinking about high and lowbrow quite a lot today.

The problem of people looking for respect and arsty validation is worse nowadays than just a high/lowbrow culture issue....

I don't personally feel more at home in lowbrow than highbrow or vice versa. To my way of thinking, there is great pop culture like cartoons that are joyful and life-affirming, and great highbrow culture which actually elevates the spirit like Mozart. Both are virtuous and beautiful, and integral parts of the spectrum of human good stuff. In fact, one of my favourite things about Ren and Stimpy was the use of classical music and genuinely moving little sublime moments amongst the earthy slappings.

But some people seem to want high and low to be at war, or use culture to inflate their own egos and justify their joyless existences. High can be elitist and low can be dumb if you're being an arse about it.

What I meant by things being 'worse nowadays' is that the values in 'artsy art' now aren't even to do with elevation, or snootyness, or perceived classyness, they're to do with a bunch of desperate people saying words like 'transgress' and 'boundaries' and 'innovative' without really even thinking. They're to do with illogic, emporer's new clothesyness and a zillion routes to empty ugliness.

And the problem with trying to make something that's lowbrow and GREAT, or highbrow and GREAT is that it's quite hard to find art-people who beleive in truth or beauty or joy. or, of course, skill and craft and the hard ****ing work it takes to preserve and grow those things.

And you're right, even the people WITH the talent or the skills can take it for granted sometimes if their minds get warped by stinky flock mentalities.

In so many of your posts, say the recent one with the pinchy Clampett dog , the justification for your preferring this stuff is completely self-evident. The joy and the fun in the cartoons is self-justifying. Yet I've learned that there are so many 'creative' people who cannot even think on that level, or get out of their deluded airless little bubble, even though it's the most obvious thing in the world to us. I'm convinced that they have no concept of joy. It's too obvious, they're blind to it, it's not transgressive enough to make them assured of their precious superiority. Who believes in joy now? This is a problem... it's a really fundamental issue of values. Logical sane humanity benefitting values like yours versus a whole heap of yucky ego delusions. Still I think you're making inroads with these blogs, there are some smart cookies around here. Logic will overcome emptiness one day.

Tibby said...

Walt wasn't so much of an artist as he was a savy (sometimes sleezy) business man. He employed artists to work for him. The good thing about that is they learned some of the finest animation techniques and processes out in the field. And Disney still continues to do that - if only they would stop trying so hard to bend to the Moral Majority and FCC and what parents think Disney's content should be. Black Cauldron and Brier Rabbit are the only 2 movies I think Disney produced that wasn't their normal happy, sweet fair - Don Bluth worked on the Cauldron and Tim Burton worked on Fox & Hound. And that is where those directors got their start and learned how to do what they now do independently. Not all Disney artists where always happy with Walt's policies and control. Disney has had several artist strikes and fall-outs in it's history. If Disney wasn't so corporately controlled they might be more like old WB. Walt made it a business and business always has to come first.

The general audience likes "teh gay" art that Disney produces. They expect Disney to produce it. Moms and Dads want something happy, cute, and bouncy and safe in content for their kids. And the PC movement which ruins many good artworks unfortunately has most of the say where Disney is concerned. So they couldn't make anything more edgy if they wanted to. Never forget your audience! They hold the money and support and they will make the final decision on whether a cartoon is considered "acceptable" or not. And in America the mindset is Cartoons are for Kids - so that is what they expect. If you don't like that mindset - go to Japan and produce Anime'. They are much less restrictive in their content expectations.

I find it interesting that a bunch of men who don't have kids or a family are trying to decide what art family types will accept. And you come to the conclusion that it's "Teh gay" and sickeningly sweet. But if you had small children of your own - maybe you would realize that some content is for adults and the sweet cute stuff is really right for small children. If I had small children - they would be watching Happy Feet instead of Heavy Metal. They can watch Heavy Metal when they reach 18 - if they want to. Happy Feet - with it's dancing penguins and "Gay" cuteness is safe for small children. Take some time to think theoretically - if YOU had kids, aged 4-12, what would you as a protective parent want them to be watching? Then maybe you'll get a better feel for why Disney is so uber gay most of the time. Kids don't like psycho-dramas, they like dancing penguins. For the record I don't have kids, and cannot have kids. But as a female artist/cartoonist, I do try to monitor my content and make the distinction between what is "Kid-safe" and what is for Teens and adults.

All artists command respect. Even you Mr. K. It is how we are. Most cartoonists/artists are introverted, shy, quiet types on the outside. But we express ourselves thru our cartoons and art. I crave respect, that's why I post my work on DeviantART for public viewing. Although my respect pool is always empty because I never get a professional opinion about my work. Just once, I would like you or Mr. Antonucci or someone on top to look at my work and tell me what they think. Like - that is ever going to happen. Although I would say you might be surprised, I do have some talents ;). (some of my stuff is posted on this blogger thing. And so far anyone who's come by it has been pleased or surprised my blogspot .) Every artist wants ppl to respect their work. It is our measure of self worth.

peldma3 said...

here's my theory on the future of animation, it's easier to make cartoons now, those guys that make the badly drawn adult swim style stuff, will get money m, and their ambitions will want to evolve to better drawing, and movemnet. hahaha

JohnK said...

Josh,

you hit the nail on the head.

The skill of the original Disney movies is amazing and almost justifies the schmaltz.
People who make features now (including modern Disney) don't imitate the skilled part.

They imatet Disney's faults, the cheesy acting, fake pathos, filler and comedy relief.

The imitate the idea that features shouldn't have entertainment in them.

JohnK said...

Josh,

you hit the nail on the head.

The skill of the original Disney movies is amazing and almost justifies the schmaltz.
People who make features now (including modern Disney) don't imitate the skilled part.

They imatet Disney's faults, the cheesy acting, fake pathos, filler and comedy relief.

The imitate the idea that features shouldn't have entertainment in them.

Sean Worsham said...

John, you are the John Waters of Cartoon Entertainment! (I mean that in a good way!) You should team up with John Waters and make an animated short together. Heck, maybe he can shop you around and get your first cartoon feature off the ground. John Waters and John Kricfalusi, 2 Johns worth looking out for who love their own brand of entertainment to bring you the greatest entertainment of all time! :)

JohnK said...

Sean

I have nothing in common with John Waters, thank you.

Jorge Garrido said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
renata said...

I don't know how much right i have to comment your post, considering i have been just reading them but never actually said anything.Until now.You will call me shallow and i'm not sure if it isn't so.But what is your problem with Disney?I can't understand.You call him comeone who only wanted people to do as he wished..but..isn't that what you are doing?Why did his animation have to fit into your standards?It was his own vision of cartoons.He wanted them to be more or just different.I don't think he would be remembered today if what he did was useless.Both his and other studio's cartoons i remeber from my childhood.And i do remeber Ren&Stimpy too.Just like i remeber Mary Popins and Awakenings.They are different.Why can't cartoons be dramatic if the author wants them to be?It's their right just like it's ours to not like them.Criticising is for lack of quality which i don't think existed during Walt's life.The ones made today at his studio are a different thing.Well, i may ne wrong and i'm really sorry if you will consider it childish or useless; i probably need to understand more.Of course, right now i don't think so.I believe in freedom of choosing how to make what you create, and in the public's decision to watch and like them or not.

renata said...

You say that Disney was a tiran that made everyone create what he wished.But what are you doing?Why does every animation have to fit into your vision of cartoons?Just like there are different types of movies, there are different types of cartoons.You don't have to like them, but there is one thing to say i don't like them and another to plainly say they aren't any good.I may be wrong, i do not have your knowledge, but why do all have to be like the shorts Warner made?They were awesome and unaparalleled even today.But so were many Disney ones.I don't mean this comment as offensive i just don't understand how someone that encourages artistic freedom can't accept other types of cartoons, or just to be sure "moving images", because you think cartoons are something else.I am confused.

I.D.R.C. said...

John, I'd say if you loved these films when you were eight, then they did their job well. You'll find many other eight year-olds (and families) loved them too.

I loved Warner's as a kid, and I still do.

Are they better or worse than cartoony cartoons? I'm not so sure that matters if these films delivered to their audience. Fantasia aside, they usually did.

Aestetics are not immune from critical analysis either because they were popular or profitable. I don't benefit from either of those things.

I usually just ignore stuff I don't like in favor of what I do like. Sometimes, however, it's useful to use what you don't like as a contrast to what you do like, in order to promote what you do like, because you want to see more of that. I would have rather seen Disney's resources committed to less restricted kinds of expression. Had that happened I believe they would've been better, less corny cartoons then and now.

The reason to talk about that is to interrupt the pattern whereby Disney's (or UPA's) values are blindly aped into perpetuity by people who have not thought enough about what they are doing or why.

...i just don't understand how someone that encourages artistic freedom can't accept other types of cartoons...I am confused.

I accept them. They are here. I just don't enjoy them that much.

This post is sort of about which actions and beliefs beget what kinds of results.
The upshot is that there are aspects of the Disney aesthetic to which one who was not well served might reasonably object. He might even be able to persuade those less observant that what they once believed was excellence is actually something less. This does not mean that many people don't like them. We all know they do.

John has a bias which I share with him. We think the best cartoon values are the ones which most exploit the medium's inherent unique expressive strengths, and when creators shy away from that, for whatever reason they use to justify it, they are weakening the product's potential entertainment value.

People can still enjoy that. Some may even enjoy it more. Such people are in no immediate danger of having nothing to watch.

On the other hand, people who most admire the true masters of expressive fun character animation have had good reason to be depressed for over 50 years.

PowerRangerYELLOW said...

like I.D.R.C. said any cartoon that is more lively with not so great drawings is a whole lot better than a stiffly animated cartoon that hardly moves with masterful drawings.

sometimes you can have both well drawn and well animated in the same cartoon but since most of the time you can't have both.

I prefer well animated anyday. it reminds me of the crap that goes on at newgrounds.

There all a buncha graphic whores that over look a movie thats actually good over over a piece of shit that just looks nice.

If only more modern animation had more lively animation instead being well drawn that barely moves.

with the many innovations in todays technology.

There really is no excuse for televison animation to be as limited as it was in the 70's.

hell, even anime can be a little more lively since they have a lotta room to experiment but there always sticking to the same cliches.

Why? maybe because japan has there brainless executives too.

It makes no sense to not allow other animators room to just go nuts and truely experiment with what made anime famous the world over.

-PowerRangerYELLOW

k said...

John, even when I disagree with you, I usually find your posts thought provoking, but not this time. I just thought this post was dishonest and logically bankrupt.

My first problem with your post is that you ignored the most obvious advantage of the realistic style Disney innovated: it worked extremely well for the stories with which it was attached. Disney didn't trade in slapstick and relentless sight gags. Most of the major releases (several of which are considered "art" by most critics) contained elements of humor that supplemented dramatic storylines. These movies weren't competing with other cartoons; they were on par with live-action fantasy epics that could never have been filmed as beautifully OR realistically.

You admit in your post that Disney did drama as well ,or even better than, "real movies". O- and only pure stubbornness would prevent you from acknowledging that drama, not comedy, was the driving force between most Disney productions.

What's more is that Disney DID elevate the medium. Disney's style convinced people to take animation seriously. Most critics- most people- consider a lot of the animated films from Disney period art. So, while "Fantasia" was a misstep (and prolific worker is going to have more than a few), he did achieve the goal of turning cartoons into art. I don't think people ever really took him seriously ,though.

I also thought your aside about cartoon heads on realistic bodies was ridiculous and hypocritical. Ridiculous because the Disney drawings don't depict anything remotely sexual. Hypocritical because you've said of your own very cartoony work that you will alway continue doing "the sexy girl thing."

I.D.R.C. said...

These movies weren't competing with other cartoons; they were on par with live-action fantasy epics that could never have been filmed as beautifully OR realistically.

Disney is realistic?

I think you missed where John wrote about undertures, or where he said that trying to compete with live action is usually a mis-step for a cartoon.

Reasonable people can differ on that point, but it's the rational basis for what he loves about cartoons and therefore seeks to promote. Nothing wrong or dishonest about that.

Fantasia happens to be my favorite Disney feature. The one that nobody liked at first is the one that works best for me. I still see its flaws, as I see the flaws in the rest of them.

Disney unquestionably elevated technical excellence. Not much more. He probably stifled more creativity than he encouraged. What else people will say or believe he did for the medium is another matter.

You admit in your post that Disney did drama as well ,or even better than, "real movies".

I think he was speaking of a few specific performances that stand out from the rest of the film.

only pure stubbornness would prevent you from acknowledging that drama, not comedy, was the driving force between most Disney productions.

I don't believe for a millisecond that people take their 4-year-olds to see serious dramas like Snow White.

The driving force, as I see it, was middle-of-the-road, play-it-safe, hedge-our-bets uncommittedness.

I could be wrong, but it looks a lot like that.

I.D.R.C. said...

John, as an aside I wanna say I hope what I say helps to clarify something for somebody. I hate to see things you say get misconstrued and I imagine that after you have taken the pains to prepare a post, that to respond to each misconception is probably tiresome. So I try to help a little, but it's really difficult. I'm never entirely sure I have said things well enough or on the button. I just hit send when I'm convinced I can't do any better. Feel free not to publish anything I say, especially this, if you don't already.

Maximum Awesome said...

***I also thought your aside about cartoon heads on realistic bodies was ridiculous and hypocritical. Ridiculous because the Disney drawings don't depict anything remotely sexual. Hypocritical because you've said of your own very cartoony work that you will alway continue doing "the sexy girl thing."***

That was my favourite part of this post: I don't think John objects at all, and he just included the sexual innuendo to comically emphasise the incongruity: an incongruity that Disney happens to have in common with furry stuff, which happens to be sexual.

It never occurred to me that Bambi's head doesn't match his body, but now I can't *unsee* it: "cartooniness" can be a quality unevenly distributed on a single character.

I only wish (hint) that John would go into more detail about what "cartooniness" is, beyond "funny" and "non-anatomical".

al doggity said...

"Disney is realistic?"

Of course not. I was referring to the fact that special effects could never have been used to portray Disney effects as convincingly in live action.


"Reasonable people can differ on that point, but it's the rational basis for what he loves about cartoons and therefore seeks to promote. Nothing wrong or dishonest about that."

i.d.r.c. My issue is not that he seeks to promote his preference. I find it dishonest that he dismisses the overwhelming critical viewpoint that DIsney productions frequently reached the level of true art because they don't fit his preference.



"I think he was speaking of a few specific performances that stand out from the rest of the film."

Even if that is true, the realistic style still made these performances more effective.

I also disagree with that notion. Disney frequently had great villians, and even for adults, managed to create real moments of tension in a lot of the early films.


"I don't believe for a millisecond that people take their 4-year-olds to see serious dramas like Snow White."

The driving force, as I see it, was middle-of-the-road, play-it-safe, hedge-our-bets uncommittedness.
"

I completely disagree. And once again, you misinterpreted what I posted. I didn't say they were "serious dramas." I said they were driven by drama moreso than comedy. Most parents are looking for something they can put the kids in front of without worrying about what's gonna pop up, but they generally like those old Disney features because they'll enjoy them, too. Parents clean out the DIsney vault every seven years because of how they feel about the product, and even though marketing does play a part in that, it isn't everything.

Jim Rockford said...

I try never to let "critics" influence how I should feel about something,critics are usually baised,they have their own agenda,why else would that stupid gay cowboy picture have been so well received?
I think people should take the time to use thier own minds to decide what they like and dont like,rather than just parroting someone elses feelings on a given subject.
For some reason people keep thinking that you want all cartoons to be your way,when if they would pay attention that isnt what you are saying.
the problem is that once one way (like Disney) becomes critically lauded,everyone else starts doing the same thing,whether they personally agree with it or not.

I.D.R.C. said...

I find it dishonest that he dismisses the overwhelming critical viewpoint that DIsney productions frequently reached the level of true art because they don't fit his preference.

I reject them as true art, too. Am
I dishonest? There is a lot of good art IN them, though, and a lot of great artists worked ON them, and I admire that aspect greatly.

The overall statements still end up pretty schmaltsy/kitschy.
That's my assessment no matter what ctitcs say. I have seen them and decided for myself.

I said they were driven by drama moreso than comedy.

They appear that way because that's how bland they are. How many other people's dramas have five songs in them?

Even if that is true, the realistic style still made these performances more effective.

I also disagree with that notion. Disney frequently had great villians, and even for adults, managed to create real moments of tension in a lot of the early films.


It sounds like you are disagreeing with yourself but I assume you are not.

Those are the moments I like --the few dramatic heights in otherwise overly tame stories.

The disney villains stand out not for realism but for stronger caricature and bolder personality than the rest. I suppose they are "realistic" compared to Mickey Mouse.

Maleficent has some real power. She has nore angles and height than bugs bunny but she is hardly realistic. She is a purposeful exaggeration of a bony bitch with unresolved control issues.

The king in Sleeping Beauty is a standard Disney pile of happy Jell-o. That's not supposed to be drama, it's just not very funny, nor is it particulrly insightful about anything human.

They are good drawings, though.

al doggity said...

"I reject them as true art, too. Am
I dishonest?"

John made the argument that Disney failed in his attempt to raise animated films to an artform and used reaction to one of his worst received movies to prove it. I didn't take issue with the fact that he's not a fan of Disney. I objected to the fact that he seems to be trying to dismiss the amount of respect Disney films have from both critics, as well as mainstream audiences, to support his point. I'm not referencing critics' opinions of Disney productions because I think it proves they are good. I'm only doing so because it highlights John K's dishonesty in this post.


"They appear that way because that's how bland they are. How many other people's dramas have five songs in them?"

A lot of musicals are dramas.That doesn't mean they are bland or lack drama.It wasn't that unusual during the first half of the century. "The Wizard of Oz" comes to mind as something that could very well be a live action Disney drama. I get the feeling you're trying to suggest that dramas must be as devastating as "Schindler's List" and can never contain any comic relief.

By the way, k and al doggity are the same person, in case it wasn't obvious.

JohnK said...

Um...doggity

there is a review there of Snow White, which is considered Disney's best film,

I didn't single out Fantasia. All his films have that gay kitsch aspect and all of them are chock full of filler and comedy relief.

I said I like the rare dramatic scenes Disney did but none of his movies are "dramas". They are mish-moshes that can't seem to make up their minds what they are trying to be.

That's my honest opinion.

It's fine if you like Disney. Lots of people do.

I was just making a point about some cartoonists being ashamed of making cartoons cartoony, that's all.

I.D.R.C. said...

"The Wizard of Oz" comes to mind as something that could very well be a live action Disney drama. I get the feeling you're trying to suggest that dramas must be as devastating as "Schindler's List" and can never contain any comic relief.

I would never call WIZARD a drama. I don't think anyone in Hollywood would've called it one as they were making it. I think they would be stunned to know that you consider it one. They might've called it a musical, or light entertainment.

But whatever it's called, everybody in it carried their roles. There were no jiggly balls of nondescript Disney meat taking up space for no good reason and with no clear intent.

If you can't tell the difference between a performance by Burt Lahr and one by Stromboli or any dwarf then you are simply not looking very closely.

Watch Dorothy sing "Over the Rainbow". Now watch Snow White sing whatever the hell she sang.

It can't compete. Light entertainment works with interesting people. With cartoons it just lays there.

Huusmann said...

See I'm a animation student who also feels that todays animation is very boring!! And the future looks grim for any cartoon-animator... There are way to many people in suits thinking in numbers rather than thinking in what it's all about. Fun and entertainment for the audiens!

I don't want to work on projects in the future where I know damn this sucks.. But hey I made a S***load of money.

Seriously I really don't understand most of my fellow students who are going into what is known as "3D" animation.. It's so sad to see all these talented draftsmen turn there back to what made them draw in the first place.

When I see most of these 3D movies I understand that it's beautiful animated and wauw that hair looks realistic or something like that!! And sure I really like some of the 3D movies for the acting and the stories!! I'm not against 3D at all..

It's just so sad to see sp many of my peers turn into Computer-tools!! But how can anyone expect anything else when some of the best animation schools around make people feel that cartoon-animat.... No I'll call this 2D animation, because there is no fun in keeping the volumes so tight that you sufficate from all the lack of creativity this way of working makes you feel.. Where is the freedom of Preston Blair!! Honestly I only know John K who makes cartoons in the way today that made me, when I was a little kid want to become an animator..


and what is with the love for the whole world of linetest-programs!!! Gor'ram I always get annoyed when I see all these students sitting and moving around with their keys in these programs!! instead of learning how animation works the old-fashion way

Ohh I could just keep on going about the whole school processing.

their love for pose to pose!! without any straigh-ahead..

Teaching people to animate complicated characters without first teaching them to actually draw!! I'm not talking about classical drawing and understanding volumes, I'm talking about drawing cartoony.

I'm not going to mention any names, because my former teachers are all great animator, who just did what the school, I go to, said!! But it is sad to have teachers how have been in the industri for over 20 years and makes you want to quit animation and, in my case, start thinking about going to the Art academy in Rome..

But I'm going to mention my last teacher, because he gave my joy for animation back.. His name is Greg Duffell!! And he made me feel like I wasn't the only one thinking that todays animation is boring and lacking fun for the animators!

We are draftsmen and not animation-machines.. I don't need any credit other then the audience laughter, tears or smiles, because that's why I'm doing it..

If it's bad english, it's because I'm a silly scandinavian :D

dave-o said...

Fantasia is kitchy as hell, but its also inspiring. Disney certainly deserves its fair share of criticism but the film was innovative. Its misunderstood because of its highbrow scope and its demand to be elevated to high art, but that demand is not totally without merit. Each segment has its own "wow" moments (moments only animation can acheive), most notably Night on Bald Mountain... a segment you don't mention.

The mushroom scene you dismiss so easily is clever and sophisticated. Its a mushroom dance as part of the larger "nature ballet" segment. Your gripe with this segment is not entirely clear.

JohnK said...

Hi Dave

I'm not dismissing the Nutcracker. It's my favorite part.

I just think the incongruity of the great execution and the super dumb ideas is funny.

I still like it anyway.

Kip W said...

I do love Fantasia, and other early Disney product, although I hate Stokowski's hack version of Bach's organ music. But when I was watching the mushrooms dancing, I wanted to see it with Spike Jones's version of the Chinese Dance.

alice said...

I love Disney Beyond Belief!!!!! Bambi is my favorite but I love Fantasia. I used to dance on pointe to the songs in Fantasia when i was a kid. I love it a lot though. it is a wonderful post. i really like it and i know that I will bring it up among the people i know.

spokeshave said...

At least the Disney stuff had a definite begining, middle and end to it, which is more than can be said for some of the Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery shorts. It seems they got to seven minutes and then looked for a convenient place to fade out. We've stretched this gag out to fill the required time now lets fade out and get to the tennis courts.

The Artist Aficionado said...

I want to comment on this but first by saying I really mean no offense with the following comment about Walt.

Walt's demand to get respect was his true yearning to become a live action producer but couldn't find the resources to do so until he started up the animation studio. Walt is a great producer and managing through his yearning to do live action substitute it with animation and make that a household name.

However he sucked out a lot of potential from other animation studios who before Disneys influence had their own potential but than mimicked him for commercial credibility. I'm sorry that you seem offended by my constant bashing on Disney, though I thought you people inside the animation industry knew that he wasn't the saint people paint him to be. My problem is that he one drove many animation companies to television and smaller production houses and budgets one of many reasons that began the death of animation. Two he was a known racist and regularly abused the lower levels of his staff. Third and final he took credit from artists you and me admire and he didn't have much of a part in drawing any of the Disney work.

Its just a theory but Disney had this domineering ego that he wanted to be the only public figure in animation and this meant literally decapitating the competition, and building this larger than life legacy.

My point is not conjecture I gathered this information from books, documentaries, and even have some connections to people who have worked for Disney. I get into these blogs because I am a young artist that has been building up a portfolio, trying to get into the industry.