Friday, June 08, 2007

BGs and Style 11 more BG layouts to reference and be inspired

Boy, people sure could draw 70 years ago. In lots of different styles, and all with the same principles.

Look at the clarity and great organizing of all the design elements.

If you go back to the first few posts on BG Layouts and the composition posts too and read about the principles of good composition and layout, then


Interestingly, some of the scenes are cluttered and others are brilliantly organized. Look at the street scenes and neighborhoods. Great! Maybe it's 2 different layout artists.

But, this this isn't good because it is "flat" or "UPA" style. It's good because the scenes are really well organized...or composed. These artists are thinking artists who plan their scenes to make everything that is important stand out. They don't clutter the scenes with arbitrary details and visual noise.

This image is well organized. The characters make a circle shape and each character fits well within the shape.
Here are the same organizing principles applied on a much more complex level. A picture with this much detail in it could easily be a mess of clutter if attempted by a less thoughtful artist. It would be extremely hard to put all this complexity together and still make it clear and striking-and still compose to focus on the character! Amazing.

Unlike this.
This scene is not organized. All the design elements are cluttered and just thrown in haphazardly. (I know Hunsucker or someone will jump in and say "It's purposely cluttered! That's the point of the scene!" Is it purposely ugly too?

Here's more clutter. Some composition and thought could have made the individual shapes read better. Of course the shapes themselves aren't that thrilling. Isn't there a point when things just get too primitive?Here's a real Jim Dandy.

You can have good compositions and design in any style. Bambi has it, Chuck Jones cartoons have it. Tex Avery, Clampett, John Hubley, they all have good organization of visual elements in their films. Even many Terrytoons do. Some don't.Clear compositions in more traditional styles. Organized to make what's important in the scene to be emphasized.

Yeah the surface styles are different, but style is the last step good artists apply to the product. In all the important artistic principles they are all in agreement. The first step in any work of art or cartoon entertainment is spending years learning to draw correctly and logically so that you can have control over your creations.

Go see all these principles working on an extreme superhuman level:Tenggren is even better than UPA at composition and design


kali fontecchio said...

Thanks a lot!

Darrell said...

Thanks for continuing on with this series of handouts, John.

I've been making my way through your earlier 'BGs and Style' notes via the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. Unfortunately, the section titled 'Form Over Detail' is missing (pgs. 17 - 20)...

Any chance you could please repost those notes?

pumml said...

Great post, Jon! Although it's cluttered, I do like that Old McDonald bg as a standalone painting. Reminds me of Blair or Sasek.

Btw, if you're interested, I've been posting lots of Scott Wills and Bill Wray backgrounds from Samurai Jack. Feel free to use them as examples if you like!

JohnK said...

Form Over Detail:

Joe Henderson said...

These Handouts are priceless

Keunemeun said...

Very interesting post, John.

Some animator friends of mine are going to make a short animated movie in the 'cartoon modern' style. But as you pointed out: it's very easy to create bad layouts and crappy limited animation. a quick visit to your site may save their sorry asses!

I've finished a dance animation movie starring a fat ballerina named madame Tronson. If you guys are interested, come take look at:

J. J. Hunsecker said...

>>(I know Hunsucker or someone will jump in and say "It's purposely cluttered! That's the point of the scene!" Is it purposely ugly too?<<

I know you won't post this comment, (I must be on some ignore list of yours) but here goes anyway...

It's always nice to be recognized but I think you're confusing me with someone else. I never defended UPA on these boards. I like most of the same cartoons as you do. Our disagreements in the past were over the late 30's Disney vs. Terrytoons, Hanna-Barbera, and Bird's The Incredibles.

But maybe you were refering to someone else, since you wrote Hunsucker and not Hunsecker.

JohnK said...

No, you're the fellow that repeats other people's opinions from the art books written by non-artists.

Come up with some original ones and back 'em up and I'll be glad to post them.

Gavin Freitas said...

Awesome post John. Those backgrounds on the "Broomstick Bunny" is one of my favorites. Through out that cartoon pay attention to the long stairs when Witch Hazel runs down them. I think it was Philip De Guard on those but I could be wrong. Mind boggling what artist did 60 years ago. Too bad I dont see too much of it these days.....

SteveLambe said...

Who's the artist behind the Old MacDonald image? You're spot on about the bad composition. Interesting color choices though.

Keunemeun said...'re pretty hard on a fellow who's got a blog named: John K is my god.
Pretty weird, but then again, there are people who are being worshipped for less. :p

litlgrey said...

I am not in the animation business, nor even a visual artist (which means I'm likely unqualified to have an opnion about things) but I think I KIND of see the point of view ... that neither formalism nor its post-modernist antithesis should detract from the overall purpose of getting characters to "read" within a scene. For example, a character team I don't think you mentioned which suffered horribly at the hands of shock-of-the-new oversimplification was Tom and Jerry.
I think most of the resistance you're getting from readers here is from people who think that the Mister Magoo series, taken as the kiddie fodder it eventually became, struck enough of a balance between its various artistic elements that the main focus of the series, Magoo, retained the character's star quality (thanks in no small measure to Jim Backus).
I think one can draw a distinction between the pioneering work of the Hubleys away from Disney formalism, and on the other hand, the full-tilt exploitation which came to signify the 1950s approach to American animation by everyone including Disney. What the animators and what the studios liked was that it saved time, saved costs, produced some kind of on-screen immediacy, and potentially - potentially mind you - allowed writers and animators to focus on plot and character development.
What they missed, of course, what that those qualities had begun severely to wane in the age of television, and its bottom-line exegensies.
So for every Maurice Noble - one of the most brilliant artists in the history of the industry - there were many others who either misunderstood the example set by the masters of artistic simplification, or else understood it all too well and had no problem exploting it.
I think that's to be expected. I don't necessarily believe that at this remove, a heck of a lot is going to be gained by posing an argument that divides the fan base of an old family (though cookie-cutter) favorite like Mister Magoo.
I also believe that even master animators had really, really bad days - once the 1950s rolled around, that is. I do include both Tex Avery and Friz Freleng in that group. Much of Freleng's last work with Warner, after 1960, is humorless, ghastly, and full of animation errors (like, Sylvester's previously white neck suddenly turning black about 1962).
Tex Avery's "Billy Boy" is in my opinion graphically over-simplified to the point where the viewer is constantly aware one is watching a cartoon with meager visuals and thick character outlines. Similar efforts by Avery of that period, "Deputy Droopy" and "Cellbound" retain Avery's frenetic pacing and godhead-outrageous character poses without such a sacrifice. In fact, in these two shorts - "Cellbound" in particular - the overall angularity of the characters and the backgrounds heightens the cartoon's tension and works brilliantly.
John, you're maybe one of the most meticulous students of animation history I've ever seen, but it truly is to be expected that sometimes people are going to disagree with you. History is history, but the interpretations of it should legitimately be expected to be endless.
And like I said, I'm not an animator, not a visual artist, not anything other than someone who grew up watching the same studio cartoons on TV that you did. Don't expect me to be brimming over with informed points of view or anything!

Jim Rockford said...

Nice post!
Whats that jungle scene from?,its a real mess,the colors are ugly get kind of dark too.

Anonymous said...

>No, you're the fellow that repeats other people's opinions from the art books written by non-artists

But Hunsecker is actually an artist.

Anonymous said...

BTW, The Gene Hazelton pictures you posted pale in comparison to the Angel Face comics I posted I my blog. They have great framing!

stiff said...

I looked at a lot of that Tenngren stuff a couple days ago--absolutely amazing. I love the way he balances the broad forms with the painstaking details. It's interesting the way he localizes a lot of detail into just a few areas of the composition. In my science-geek brain, it reminds me of fractals, but obviously more beautiful because of the conscious effort involved. I also like the balance of realism and stylized forms.

JohnK said...

Then he has no excuse, Jorge.

Adele K Thomas said...

great john, again good work on keeping us informed. Also, thanks for putting that Bugs Bunny bg up (with the witch), I was watching it on cable the other day and my boyfriend and I were commenting on the nice bgs and the simplicity and style...I never get to see those cartoons was refreshing...and inspiring.

Jeffrey said...

Great post, but I think you failed to point out the worst aspect of that cluttered Magoo BG: the composition draws your eyes straight to the door on the right and away from the characters. It looks like the characters' heads and the bottom of the spotlight are creating converging lines pointing at the door. Poorly done.