Saturday, July 07, 2007

Constructing Bugs Bunny

This Bugs Bunny model sheet uses all the classic principles of good drawings together and is appealing too.
Bugs looks simple but is really pretty tricky.

Do you ever wonder why the modern versions of Bugs don't look like the real Bugs from the classic cartoons? Not only does he have mushy construction now, but there are some subtleties in his face that are just really hard to draw. Not even all the original animators could catch them.

We won't start with the subtleties today. Let's just look at the broad forms, two ways.
Same basic construction, less a couple subtle nuances

1) Generic on model 40s Bugs

I thought at first these scenes were by Bob McKimson, but after looking closely, I' don't think so. It's almost on model, but the features seem to be just slightly out of place. Maybe it's Virgil Ross?

Greg Duffel, help me out here!

Anyway, they're still very good, very conservative and conservative on purpose. Clampett contrasted everything in context to help tell his stories better. Conservative against stylish and wild or specific.

Here's McKimson for sure:
Note how almost perfectly solid his construction is.

Clampett cast his animators according to their natural strengths and personalities. He wanted this scene to be Bugs in control and confident - the Bugs the audience was used to, so that when Bugs started to lose to the turtle, he could show you what would happen to a cool confident character when he's no longer in control. Someone used to winning would obviously lose control in a big way, so those scenes he gave to the funnier animators like Scribner.

Clampett told me he hated formula and every time he and his cohorts would discover a formula that worked, everyone would want to just make the same cartoon over and over again and not screw with the formula. This would make Bob want to make fun of the formula in rebellion, which he did in this and other cartoons.

But to make it work, he couldn't just have Bugs be wild and out of control all through the cartoon. He had to set it up so that the audience would see Bugs as they knew him, and then take them on a wild ride out of the formula.

2) Exaggerated fun Scribner 40s Bugs

This Scribner drawing uses the exact same construction and cartoon drawing principles as the other scene, but it has way more contrasts in the shapes. And more imagination in the shapes and expressions and poses.

Here's a flatter, less contrasted design from another cartoon:Everything is even proportions.

Scribner's Bugs in this scene is actually even more solid than the "on-model" Bugs. Scribner was a wizard! he could draw all the classic principles better than any other animator at Warner's, but he was also the most creative animator there. Maybe he was from space or something.

Here's Kali's first tries at the conservative on-model Bugs and my translations of the construction.

Bugs' head in the left drawing is veering off to the upper right and his cheek doesn't seem quite attached to his head, so I roughed in Bugs' basic construction next to it.

Here I tried breaking down the drawing. I need to tilt the head back more to make it closer to the pose in the frame grab. But note how all the details flow along the the larger forms.

Toes are same direction as feet. Fingers fit in direction of hands. Eyes wrap around head, etc.

Now here's a Scribner frame:Look how solid even the ears are. Everything is solid and complex. And sensible. The smaller forms ride along the bigger forms. They obey the same perspective and physics.

Different directors experimented with Bugs' proportions and details, but used the same principles as the 40s Clampett Bugs.

Compare to this modern Bugs. You can tell the artist is being real careful, but even so, a lot of the lines and forms are just floating and don't follow the larger forms they are riding. Like the wrinkle lines above his nose.

There are perfectly straight lines and parallel lines in the drawing too, which instantly kill the volumes.
This one too is much flatter than the original Bugs:

Want to become a better cartoonist? Learn these classic methods and watch your control and results dramatically improve. Try drawing the other frame grabs.

Want more Scribner stories? Wanna know how he upped his style when he went from Avery to Clampett? He actually asked permission from Bob to let him be more creative!


Tom Dougherty said...

I like the broad, full bridge to the early Bugs' nose, too. That has been abandoned over the years. It's an unusual feature, and hard to draw and animate correctly, I'm sure, but it's really a handsome look overall. I'd love to see Bugs get some life and testosterone going again.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate this blog. Thanks, fella!

Rose said...

i loved the old bugs cartoons along with the chuck jones versions.

i liked you and Kali's versions, i wanted to try it out too :D

Dooley said...

That McKimson model sheet is great. They have that same one currently on display at the Allentown Art Museum's Looney Tunes exhibit.

I attempted a version of Bugs too. I realize now he's not leaning as far back as he should be, but here it is anyway.

Charlie J. said...

I'd love to hear that story, or any story you heard from Bob.

Thanks for all the free info, which will be even more usefull someday when i draw well.

Jenny said...

Few cartoon things as satisfying as looking at a McKimson Bugs Bunny from his prime years, Wowza.

Also, nice breakdown/analysis but wouldn't expect anything less from thou, would I? ; )

Clinton said...

Hey John, I would like get your comment about Scriber's work in 'The Great Piggy Bank Robbery'. How Scribner was able to use the model sheet of Daffy Duck and make those insane gestures.

Dove said...

Oh how I love old bugs. Its a shame what they have done to him. Hell its a shame what they have done to all those cartoons, they white-trashified them so that fat trailer park moms can wear oversized Tweety shirts that have lots of 'tude in em. Ugh. Sad sad sad.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Unbelievable! A truly great post! I don't know where else you could go on the net to get instruction like this. They're certainly not offering it in the art schools!

Great post yesterday too!

Binijuktya Sen said...

To Mr. John Kricfalusi,

I'm an eighteen year old kid, about to go off to college next year, where I'm paying about 50,000 dollars a year to learn how to make movies.

So, the degree costs around 200,000 dollars.

And from the little I've experienced already, I'm in for a rough time. It's like they're training us to make movies that will help Goldie Hawn ressurect her career.

And I'm not an animator. Don't get me wrong, I love older animation, like Ralph Bakshi and Tex Avery, but I'm more into live-action.

I've been reading your blog for a few months, and I've finally summoned up the courage to leave a comment. But someone with your obvious passion, skill, and understanding of the language of the film, would be able to help dumb kids like me actually learn their craft.

So, the point of all this is, as much as you dislike the kind of inane mediocrity that art school tends to encourage, can you please go into teaching? At least part-time? Or I don't know, just give us hopefuls some more tips?

What you've been doing these past few months has been so valuable to my education. Thank you so much.

A loyal fan,
Binijuktya Sen

Looney Moon Cartoons said...

I can't thank you enough for teaching these principles! I hope we will see your influence in the next generation of animated cartoons.

Clinton said...

Hey John,

I drew the Bugs Bunny poses from your lecture on my blog. Check'em out and tell me what I'm doing wrong. Also, you wrote in a Bugs drawing you did to keep the head solid. What do you in the pose with Bugs screaming? I would love to hear about the techinques used to deform cartoon characters; cartoon takes.

Ze [] said...

Hi John

I don't if you already have seen this (Offtopic for this post):

PD. Keep the good job with your blog!


Mr. Semaj said...

I love how you use Bugs' absolute best cartoon as an example of how to draw him.

JohnH said...

My eyes aren't practiced enough to notice all the ways the new-design Bugs differs from the old model, but I did notice the nose wrinkles.

Maybe if you put the new design and old side-by-side in a similar post, and pointed out where they differed?

Anonymous said...

I've posted some Bugs Bunny drawings and a few Roger Ramjet drawings on my blog.

Jake Thomas said...

Bugs is very hard to draw John.

I attempted drawing Bugs Bunny from the model sheet. I need to practice drawing solid characters a lot more, any tips or critique on the drawing of Bugs I uploaded would be very much appreciated and thanks for doing this post John.

Mitch said...

Great lecture again!

I analyzed and tried to look at the design of Bugs Bunny. I learnd alot from it, however he is hard to draw but it is really fun and interesting to do.

I put the drawings on my blog, I hope to know what you'all think about it.

Anonymous said...

I love the bottom left picture on the first model sheet. Bugs looks so evil. And yeah, something is definitely missing on the second one, but it's still better than the sixties Bugs.

I love Chuck Jones' early Bugs cartoons...the timing and sarcasm were perfect, but his later Bugs was awful. Everything was short, his head was big, weird eyes and all the lines were sketchy. I saw some 70's or 80's animation of Bugs directed by Chuck Jones' and it was almost worse than the new "on model" Bugs! He was tiny and "cute" and boring...!

Anonymous said...

My favorite version of Bugs is still the really old one. The cartoons where Elmer Fudd was still just a really stupid fat guy, as opposed to the Elmer we all know now. Bugs just looked extra evil. Sure they weren't as well animated, but evil Bugs is hilarious.

Tony C. said...

These posts keep getting better and better!

It is amazing to see you break down all the subtle intricacies that make Bugs work best. The sketches by you and Kali are very helpful since they remove the distractions of the environment and allow us to focus completely on the character, each individual element of the construction, and how they relate to one another.

It is also very cool to see you sketching in such a tight, controlled fashion. The lines are still packed with expression and life, yet smooth and simple.

Thanks John, more posts like this would be greatly appreciated!

Jeff Read said...

I love the Clampett Bugs. I love his beautiful oval head.

Back when I first saw him on TNT Toons 17 or 18 years ago, I thought, this looks different from the Bugs I know. (The bugs normally seen on WB merchandising, the "on model" Bugs.) But he was more solidly built, more expressive, and most importantly funnier.

John S. said...

Very inspiring. Thank you for such a thoughtful analysis. I'm going to have to change the way I approach construction, and that's good!

PCUnfunny said...

I knwo I said this befor but I am still amazed how you can break down a wonderful drawing. Great Bugs post.I also hate the modern Busg as well, he has no personality in those fugly model sheets.

peldma3 said...

whether you like cartoons alot or not this is still useful stuff... learning to develop an eye... it's a useful tool in an anything goes sort of world as far as art is concerned...

Wolfus said...

I really miss the old Bugs with his big glossy eyes and insane faces. I can't really enjoy the more recent versions as much. :(

Huh. I remember that first model sheet in great detail..
It was printed as tissue wrapping paper of all things, maybe ten years back. Sure sucked the fun out of Christmas, having to carefully untape and store the damn stuff.
I think I still have it somewhere, I feel inclined to dig it up.

Anonymous said...

Modern merch artists, except for Mike Fontanelli, can't seem to capture how Bug Bunny's features converge just below his nose in that McKimson model sheet.

Posts like this one and the last two are my favourite kinds of posts you do. They combine your two greatest blog strengths: classic cartoons and art instruction.

Not that I dislike the clips you put up but alot of the stuff you write about The Three Stooges clips can be inferred.

Roberto González said...

Very interesting topic, but I'm afraid I must confess I don't totally get your explanations.

I can see old Bugs is more appealing than modern one. I can see McKimson's Bugs is extremely solid too.

But I fail to see why Bugs' wrinkle lines above his nose in the modern examples are floating. Maybe cause they shouldn't be so circular in the extremes? It seems that they kind of follow the general shape of the head, don't they? .Straight lines and parallel lines instantly kill the volumes? How so? Is this a general rule? I can see how his eyelashes are a little too straight and perhaps lack some depth...not in a very blatant way, but yeah, maybe a little, but I can't think of other examples.

I generally see he's a little flatter but I fail to understand why. I see the classic style has more charm, expressions and there is a good use of personal styles depending of the guy who was drawing him but I generally think the modern drawings, at least the ones included in this post, are well constructed. I can imagine the sketch and the drawing being made following the "rules", though it's obvious they are following a more rigid model. I see Bugs eyes are perhaps bigger and his legs shorter and he seems less hare-like and more bland, but I think the modern artist understand three dimensions and construction.

Well, if you can explain it a little more for "dummies" like me, I would appreciate. Anyway, I will enjoy any post about this subject.

Perhaps you should make Daffy next. One aspect I don't quite like in his modern design is his giant beak. It's too rigid and big and it doesn't really work for off model expressions. In the old days he could have a large beak sometimes but it seems it was a lot more flexible than it is now.

Adele K Thomas said...

WHERE WAS THIS POST OF INFO WHEN I WAS DOING AN ESSAY ON 'THE EVOLUTION OF BUGS BUNNY' IN 2004!?! man this would of been valuable....very interesting John, thanks for the read :D

peldma3 said...

a stack of old Hanna Barbera warner brothers , Walter Lantz and even some terrytoons books on ebay... The art is the kind you post on this blog... golden book style can find them on ebay by looking up ( tell a tale ) books.. Useful stuff for cartoonists to copy..

JohnK said...

Hi Roberto

if you took the Preston Blair construction lessons, you would easily see that the lines above Bug's nose are not in the right place. They are floating to the right of where they should be.

They are lines that are meant to describe the mound of his nose sticking out from his head.

Therefore they should be in the middle of his face, above the nose, in perspective.

The rest of the modern drawings are full of simple mistakes like that, and I picked the best new drawings I could find.Most modern drawings are much worse.

Jeremy C. said...

Bloody wonderful post as usual.

I too have a very expensive education behind me, but none of this was ever covered. FFS, seriously.

Keep up the amazing work John, I consider you a living legend :D!!

mr.ed said...

I agree to what you say in this post (and I love the line and structure of the bunny and woodywoodpecker of the early years... More if I compare with the 'ugly recent updates')

Roberto González said...

Ok, thanks. Yeah, I see. Though if you draw the line in the middle of the head part of the wrinkle lines would be in the right and part in the left...still the part in the right would be quite larger, hence it's slightly misplaced. I guess it didn't stand out as too bad to me cause it still gives some sensation of depth, though it doesn't really stick out of his head. The way it's drawn his head should be more squashed at that point for the nose to stick out, I guess.

Andy J. Latham said...

I feel like I have made a bit of a break through in reading this post, John.

I have always struggled to see what you mean when you say modern day characters are weaker than their earlier versions.

Seeing those out of place wrinkles on the modern bugs, made the penny drop. Suddenly, I can see all the imperfections.

Also, I loved your break downs of the drawings. It would be great to see some more!
Visit Andy's Animation!

Gabriel said...

the new one's middle finger annoys my eyes. I don't know exactly what it is, but i would erase it and leave just the tip coming from behind the pinky...

Andy J. Latham said...

I meant to add this to my last comment:

Sometimes bugs is drawn with limbs constructed out of two cylinders, but sometimes he has "hosepipe" arms or legs. How do you know which approach to take when drawing a character?
Visit Andy's Animation!

Tibby said...

Your Bugs, the wacky example of the Scribner one looks ... demented. There is a lot of Kricfalusi in that one - even if it is more or less a mirror image, the style is there. So, the artist who draws him can follow the exact same rules to a tooth - but there is still a lot of personailty and style that gets injected into each itteration. Even if it is unintended.

Oh nooooooes! The modern Bugs has so much "Tude" it's embarasing! The earliest Bugs's head top is a lot rounder and fatter. The top of his head shrinks to be more pointed over time.

This is awesome stuff Mr. K. I'm eating it up with lots of enthusiasim. I love model sheets and construction stuff of cartoon characters. I always like to see how they made their rules and construction. I notice there are a lot of side notes on the model sheets of Bugs. Little reminders for the animators. When I got the model sheets for Ed, Edd, and Eddy - it was super hard to mimic them because they have absolutely NO notes on them. Why are modern cartoonists afraid to put notes on there model sheets? It would have helped.

Anyway - love the lessons!

amir avni said...

Hey John, I posted the ol' drawing lessons you sent me. Hope it helps to further support your argument.

I LOVE "Tortoise Wins By A Hare"! I keep showing it to friends at school, the reaction is usually "I've never seen Bugs Bunny with so much life"!

Chipnyu said...

Your blogtastics on Bugs here brings a certain word to my mind: Balance. What a horrid but amazing word. God, like in the first sheet you posted, it evens blabs about keeping proportions. In animation, if you screw up one thing out of balance with a face or something, you basically lose the entire emotion, or the grasp of the character and the situation. EVERY part of the drawing, or should I say Bugs now, has to show the SAME emotion. It's sort of hard really to "mix up emotions" and retain one sometimes. SOMETIMES. And with the modern Bugs, there's just empty unused space floating about. Like a picture with nothing in it, it's a pretty frame, but nothing going on inside.

The Bugs on the record is definately Jones. Jones is more simple shapes but really brought together, but I don't know, I could never really EXPLAIN JONES. Mckimson and Clampett are more all lines curving and in harmony, but Jones has more of a like, straight lines. Then again, I look at his older works. Maybe it's just cuts, that happened a lot during that time.

Modern Bugs is so bland, I can't look at it. It's like the same thing over and over again with no actual meaning to it. I guess that's what happens when something goes commerical like that. It's like a different picture now, but the same frame! No originality! Like H&B's Tom and Jerry (that's getting a little behind the point there.).... also, I forgot about Scribblingner.

You are a truly an amazing artist with a keen eye for animation. Same to Kali. I can't wait for another writing piece on another cartoon.

harpo said...

Just stumbled upon your blogspot and it made my miserable day turn out ok.

constructing Bugs Bunny was a nice read with some strong points. I'm sure I'll get addicted to your blog

Jake Thomas said...

I did more Bugs Bunny drawings. Is the newer edition of Preston Blair's art book good to copy from? (The one where he had to make up designs due to copyrights on characters he used in the original.) Or is it better to just print up the older pages and use those?

K said...

This comment is of no relevance to the ongoing discussion. You must hate posts like this by now, and I don't blame you a bit. But when you don't provide any other apparent means of writing you...

Anyway, in an earlier post of yours, you advocated slow, careful, precise, thoughtful gesture drawings - I assume in contrast to the super-sketchy, super-rushed gesture drawings championed by the Disneyites...? I appreciate more than anyone else the fact that you've provided, already, a wealth of information that could hardly be crammed into a four-year program, but if you could be so gracious as to make one additional effort, to take the time to clarify your appreciation of gesture drawing and compare it against the prevailing attitudes in the animation schools, it would be particularly helpful to me, and much appreciated.

Regardless of whether you've actually read this far into the message: thanks a bunch.

warren said...

Hey JOhn,

Could you follow this one up on drawing with flair? I remember how you did a drawing of Bugs' head to illustrate to me what you meant way back on APC. I still have it! It said exactly what you were getting at, if that makes any sense. It didn't even have any notes on it!

Seeing this stuff was the best part of the job. It's so generous of you to be doing it here! Youse a real mensch sometimes, y'know that?



For those of you who appreciate the construction of the early Bugs, how about the construction of Bugs' Bunny,

Nick said...

I just tried a bunch of these out today. If you could critique them i'd be a happy camper :)
i just created a blog today

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.