Saturday, July 21, 2007

Is it a cartoon? Chapter 1

Here is a picture made by someone who understands the particular secrets of what makes a cartoon have cartoon appeal.

Yogi by Mel Crawford

Now here is a cynical horror made by scum:

That last post about the pretenders sneaking into the cartoon world and bringing their tiny heads and beady eyes with them gave me an idea.

I think I'll start a series of posts to see how many people think there is a distinct difference between what is a cartoon drawing and what is pretend.

The line between cartoons and lies is really obvious to me and has been since I was a small tot with a big head and eyes myself.

I'll start it off with some of my picks.


All these artists are cartoonists. They understand that their pictures are supposed to be fun to look at and instantly appealing. Cartoonists like you.

Now here's...

These pictures are made by inhuman monsters who hate you and your kids.

Warning: don't steal Vicki's one of a kind design. It's copyrighted!

Little tiny snake eyes on fat mammals are so cute!

If it says "'TOON" in front of it, it's a guarantee it's not a cartoon.
It's amazing that Bugs Bunny survived this line-up! Although cut to shreds...

The worst was when it became vogue to make pretend "classic-style" cartoons and they got the same old Saturday Morning cartoon writers who wrote Scooby Doo and Superfriends to watch a couple of old Bugs Bunnies and then try to write like that in script form. The writers didn't understand cartoon jokes, so they would copy the old ones and then explain them to the audience. And the actual cartoonists on the shows that really did love the old cartoons had no say in the making of them.

And then they ship all the art and animation to Korea where they really have no idea what makes American cartoon drawings and animation work...and don't care.

Well these were all easy.

I'll try to find some that are trickier next time and you can vote on them.

Kali just pointed this out to me:
A real sign of fake cartoons. Cartoons that teach you something that the creators themselves don't believe. Like-just because you are crippled, doesn't mean you can't be a great athlete just like all the other kids.
And just because you are retarded and evil, doesn't mean you can't make up cartoons.

Real cartoons can easily do this:


Kali Fontecchio said...

Hahahaha- Josie and the Pussybutts, gross......... and Animaniacs. Somewhere, someplace, Eddie just felt a cold chill run down his spine.

PCUnfunny said...

Who ever drew that one above the TOON TIME ad might have been gayer then Paul Lynde and Liberace combined.

John said...

There is a Giant line that splits our current time of horrid cartoons and the time of great imaginative cartoons and I think you do the job of pointing out that line better than anyone else John!

Emmett said...

I totally agree with the idea of cartoons being fun to look at.

But can animated characters also be compelling to look at? Is it alright if they make you think?

All those examples of inhuman artists you posted are boring, lame, and (for my eyes) very disturbing to look at. I don't mind a couple of funny, cute characters in a group, as long as the other characters look totally different. If they all have the same cute and happy expression, then appeal is lost.

Anonymous said...

corporation cartoons are horrible.Can't the United Nations do something about this?

I think big,cold,heartless corporations think cartoons/animation is just like a commodity like oil,wheat,iron ore etc that should be processed robotically.--shudder--

Anonymous said...

Those inhuman images don't even look lively. By the way, those baby pictures look very funny

Mark Stroud said...

I think I remember watching some of that CBS cartoon line up, bad times.

Kyle said...

are you seriously going to diss animaniacs? I agree with you on most of those examples, but definitely not animanics. sure, the designs borrowed a lot from older stuff, and some of the characters were kind of bland, but I loved the main ones and still do to this day.

Oliver_A said...

I think those "fake" cartoon are those which have "market research" and "focus groups" written all over them. Dishonesty and political correctness.

lastangelman said...

Bad cartoons make Baby Jesus cry ... that's an awful lotta' Kleenex!

Mike said...

Article some people might find interesting from Slate:

Why Bambi II is better than Bambi

What do you think?

The Gubba said...

this is exactly what I'm thinking. in the midst of trying to begin my blog by posting on this very issue, you just make one that is perfect. Its the same thing with poster design and product design and all the great goodies that came out of the Great Eras - it was just better and had more flavor, because people had an actual aesthetic respect for humor and 'cute' and composition all at the same time. Shrek IS a great example of terrible terrible flavor. Its like tasting the dirt flavored Jelly Belly, and the Yogi Bear is like the really good apple flavored one.

Julián höek said...

hey john, what's going on with the new posts? they are up for a while and then you take them down.

anyway the evil homosexual post was super fun. i wanted to point out that jafar was total ripoff from zig zag from the theaf and the cobbler.

Gabriel said...

kyle, you'll outgrow that stuff in time. When I was a kid i watched a lot of the crappy ones john pointed out too (wuzzles, fake ghostbusters, real ghostbusters). And I liked them, god forgive me! Those crying babies must be pretty smart, i would watch almost every show as long as it was animated. My little innocent heart didn't know hatred for lame shows (except for care bears, the evil in it was too obvious).

Like-just because you are crippled, doesn't mean you can't be a great athlete just like all the other kids.

Sorry for the tangential comment, but this fad is alarming. Everyday I see more blind people painting, deaf people playing instruments and people in wheelchairs dancing. TV tells it's supposed to be this touching life lesson, but i think this is awful. Why don't they accept their limits and exchange their hobbies? Why don't the blind guy plays music and the deaf one paints? The wheelchair dude could do both, why pick ballet?

Geritopia said...

Whenever I'm unsure of where the appeal line falls, I look for the "Bozo approved" label and then I know I can proceed with confidence.

Zam3d said...

Hilarious post ever!

Looks like Jhon has been digging on some Furry webcomics.

Mr. Semaj said...

Here's another fake cartoon to look out for:

Excuse me while I go wash my eyes out.

I are da cute one said...

Animaniacs = WIN! :( Never diss Animaniacs. *takes points off*

Rogelio T. said...

I don't know how to correctly explain the idea but fake cartoons try to distract you from the fact that you're watching a crappy cartoon by mentioning stuff you do (or may) like. If the character is getting a car, it has to be a sports car. If they're getting a TV it must be the most state of the art one you could get.(Newer) Fake cartoons often mention computers, video games and "the internet" in a attempt to get kid's attention. This is because those are things kids rather do or talk about than watch a boring cartoon. Sometimes they are based on video games, movies or other TV shows you'd rather be watching or playing. Other fake ones also talk about pizza, cake, surfing, dinosaurs/reptiles/sharks, recess, skating, candy, karate and being cool. Sometimes they even talk about all of these things at the same time.

I compare it to how most people buy TV sets. People usually just end up buying the one with the most buttons because they assume more buttons must equal more features.
Well a lot of fake cartoons are like that, it's like giving people a TV with a crapload of buttons on it because they know that's what people want; the only problem is the TV dosen't work.
That dosen't matter though, the buttons are enought to distract most people for the length of the cartoon. People don't really notice how bad it is because they're too busy thinking about the crap in the cartoons that appeals to them (the buttons).

I have a young nephew who loves cartoons. He really likes Rock a Bye Bear, he'd probably watch it all day long if I let him. I've asked him why he likes it and he acts the whole thing out. He dosen't like it because of the sticks of dynamite or because the dog burps (although that alone would probably be enough) he likes it because everything in the cartoon is funny.
My nephew also likes Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius The Movie. A couple of weeks ago out of curiosity I asked him what he liked about the cartoon and he described Jimmy's space ship and his ray gun. He then told me he wanted to see the cartoon again so he could see the gun some more. He dosen't really like the cartoon he likes the neat accessories in the cartoon.
The biggest problem I had with the "everybody fits in" cartoons is the pouting.

Nobody likes me everybody hates me. They all say "Don't play with Baby Skydancer, she's a klutz". Well I'm going to go cry in the corner until someone feels so bad for me that they change their mind. What nobody cares! Well I'm going to run away.
(or something like that)

That's the basic story to half of those cartoons.

Anonymous said...

Look at how many "writers" have written on Franklin (this is a response to that image with the green turtle and all those other animals).

Also if you'll read the whole article, you'll find "morals" like this: According to the show staff, Franklin himself is a bit older than the members of the show's target audience. Franklin also generally teaches children how to solve problems on their own, although sometimes he does still need help from his parents or friends. The parents on the show are said to be the creators' visions of ideal parents --- they never argue in front of their children and always solve problems patiently and kindly. The creators hope parents also can see the characters on the show as role models for ideal behavior, even though they aren't always perfect. As for Franklin, he exhibits a variety of behaviors that show kids that while there are good ways to behave, it's okay to be sad or mad sometimes, as long as you know good ways to deal with it.

T.E.B. said...

First time poster, long time reader. These posts really are great John!

I noticed the Bozo Approved seals on the good examples you've shown. It appears that he likes fun cartoons too!

Colin said...

Very informative post John.

But I have to ask, what's wrong with Animaniacs?

PCUnfunny said...

I remember watching an animaniacs cartoon recently and now I have come to fully understand how poor it really was. That was clearly a cartoon that was controlled by TV sit-com writers,not artists.

JohnK said...

People who WANT to be sit-coM writers but weren't good enough, so they were stuck writing cartoons and explaining the jokes from the original Looney Tunes

JohnH said...

There are undoubtedly some great moments in Animaniacs, but I believe John K. is correct in his point here. They're not funny the same way classic cartoons are funny. They're hip and self-aware. Pinky and the Brain is better, but is still awash in pop culture references.

Emmett said...

Animated sitcoms should not even be called cartoons. Although I have to admit, I disagree with ANIMANIACS being called fake. It has the potential to be called a cartoon. FAMILY GUY should NOT be called a cartoon.

The word cartoon evokes an image of fun and humor.

Check out the short films at animation festivals. You can still find great cartoons there.

paul etcheverry said...

Your post reminds me of when I used to show movies on the indestructible Bell and Howell for my now grown-up nephews and niece. What did they want to see? It wasn't then-current (1980's) stuff directed at their generation. They asked for silent Felix The Cat cartoons and 1930's Our Gang comedies in glorious black and white!

Savage Manatee said...

HAHA, I watched every one of those god awful cartoons as a kid(I didnt know any better). You sure did pick the worst of the worst.

Barbara said...

I love that picture of the kid with his hands over his face, it's like he's so happy he's got to stop his head from exploding.

You know what I think a fun cartoon is, it's even more basic than fun character designs. It's the flashing images on screen and weird sound effects and just how the thing moves and looks. Little kids watching Franklin don't know what the hell they're listening to, if they're old enough to understand any message then they must be bored out of their minds trying to get to it. I didn't watch Looney Tunes for hours a day, for years of my childhood, to wonder what was going to happen to Bugs, or if Wile E. gets the Road Runner, or what was going to happen to the cat that squeezed under the gate that said "WET PAINT." It was always the same end. I wanted to see how they did it. I loved Looney Tunes for their endless impossible scenarios with equally impossible resolutions.

And I hated Scooby-Doo because it was none of those things. Just the same chase scene for 100 episodes, with the same background music. They had all the same endings with none of the creativity in between.

Kids watch cartoons first and foremost because of how they look. Because they are not the real world, they are drawings.

Kyle said...

"kyle, you'll outgrow that stuff in time."

Somehow I doubt that. I haven't seen the show in several years. watching it now on places like youtube I'm able to get a lot of the jokes that previously went over my head. I don't see my appreciation for it going away.
there was a lot of crap that I used to watch and I now ask myself why it ever appealed to me in the first place. I may only be 19, but I think I'm old/mature enough now to know what I like. its no bugs bunny, but I love it for what it was.

as for the sitcom comparisons I keep reading, I'll agree it has more of a sitcom feel than supposedly "real" cartoons. but I'm fine with that. especially when you consider that there weren't many cartoons at the time doing the sitcom thing. where as today that's pretty much all there is. but back then it was still a new trend as far as I can tell. whenever the comparison is brought up, shows like the simpsons, family guy, and adult swim crap usually comes to mind. not Animaniacs or Tiny Toons, or Pinky and the Brain. at least these are better than most (if not all) the stuff currently airing today.

though I do see where you guys are coming from. these shows are about the writing than being visually entertaining.

but I was under the impression that this post was about character design more than the actual format/writing of these shows. and to me the main characters in animaniacs are very appealing to watch. innovative, maybe not. but still appealing none the less.

hey john, what's going on with the new posts? they are up for a while and then you take them down.

yeah, I was asking myself the same thing.
I was going to say that I never saw a hint of homosexuality in most of his examples. I mean, what exactly makes Jafar gay? but I guess this is a question for another blog post. if he decided to publish it again that is.

oh, and this is kind of random I know, but I have a question for you john: are there any cartoons out there today that you consider passable by your standards? I'm assuming the answer is no, but if there is Id love to hear which ones.

Meg said...

Oh yes, God forbid one goes for something different.

Whatever happened to the freedom of creativity in art? Was art not once criticized for quality, and not content? And yes, I do say that cartooning is art, and that would include Anime.

First off, there are different types of shows. There's a difference between educational children's shows and comedic children's shows. The educational shows are pleasant, leaving the child with a good message. They teach them to accept those that are different no matter what. The comedic children's are meant simply to make the young ones laugh. Thus, the style is going to reflect that purpose. Educational is meant to be calming and pleasant, whilst comedic is meant to be fun and exaggerated.

Not to mention, just as the human race changes, develops and progresses, as do cartoons. Style changes with time, and what comes out as most popular gives most impact to what's next to come. I suppose you could chalk it up to "Survival of the Fittest."

I suppose my point would be:

Who gives a crap if it's different. You have your preferences and others have theirs. There are no "lies." There are no "fakes." It's not "evil." It is simply style and progression. So stop ranting because your favorite shows have been off the air for about 30 years, turn on the TV, and learn to accept what's new.

Tim said...

Argh, I hated that corporate kiddie smiling animal crap when I was a kid. All of it - they all looked the same, boring as hell to look at and listen to. I never thought about it as a little kid, but it's no wonder I could watch hours and hours of Looney Toons at any given time but couldn't watch more than ten minutes of the Smurf or Care Bears VHS's my grandma bought me without feeling really depressed. Seriously, just like the kids in your Google pictures there, bad cartoons honestly brought me down when I was younger.

Chloe Cumming said...

Oh cripes I'm not really a small eye person, not in the light of this, I was being flippant! Nooo! Maybe in the sense of slightly arthritic looking quirky zoo bears, not in the crippled liberal agenda political coercion sport badger sense.

Yes, there was always something about animaniacs and its ilk that was distinctly off and whiffy, but at the time I barely had the words or the sensibility to articulate it. Plus, frankly you've made me care more these days about such things. One's sensibilities have been acutened (?) by John's blog. It's a sneaky cultural trick to try and (fail) to leech quality vampire-like by referencing things that were great instead of striving to actually be great. We all know this, easy words to say. Hmmm.

I guess animaniacs was the most contentious inclusion here, but maybe that doesn't mean there are many more interesting things to say about its lack of the good stuff.

Parroting Puppet said...

i dont get how people would get to that level of at least being able to hold a pencil but be satisfied doing that kind of boring crap. must be monsters.

btw that evil homosexual post was pretty interesting, i just caught it a few moments before it went down. i hope you're just working on it more they're all thought provoking points

Anonymous said...

Ah yes when cartoons were alowed to be racists and have 3 white ghosts and no color'd ghosts, or little girls painting 'tribal warfare markings' on an INJIN, before people realized that HOLY CRAP PARENTS DON'T LIKE WATCHING ROAD RUNNER GET CHASED! Then they made crap like Animaniacs, where there was nothing too over the top, and still silly and just as slapstick as Elmer Fudd shooting himself in the face with a shotgun, except now they used bad word-puns to make parents laugh to you know..oh this might be a stretch, have parents and kids watching the same show! Bonding! I know that shit is crazy to you and your dilluted :( THEY MADE CARTOON CHARACTERS REALISTIC SHAMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE mentality, but enjoy, heaven forbid cartoons have a plot, and character development and show kids that people change, and hell, even grow older, WITH THEM! Amazing concepts. I'm suprized you didn't mention the Flintstones in with all your stone-age references, or...was that because Fred has story-arcs where he's involved with the mob, or that kids eventually are born, and GASP the plot progresses.


K said...

Hey JohnK,

Until reading your post, I'd never heard of "The Wuzzles" - but, looking at that single picture, I've got to admit that I need a little help from you in understanding how it's lacking cartooniness. To me, superficially, it actually looks like that they're consutructing the characters in a not-too-much-unlike-Preston-Blair kind of way. Apart from the fact that their color-schemes look gay-on-acid, what's there to pooh-pooh?

Ash Collins said...

animaniacs is awesome. and maybe ghostbusters wasn't a fantastically conceived cartoon, but it made some people a lot of money and a lot of kids (me) happy

DavidMcG said...

Man, if you attach an intrinsic value of quality to the word "cartoon" you completely ruin the meaning!

A book can be horrible and uninspired below-average crap, but that doesn't make it not a book.

Tasch said...

I'm a huge fan of Animaniacs, but I have to admit that it falls into the "fake cartoon" genre. I recently got the dvds and was appalled at the poor quality of about 99% of the cartoons. I love the writing and I love the show, but it's not a good cartoon. The funny stuff doesn't have anything to do with the cartooney stuff - it's mostly stuff that could be done (and in some cases was done) in other shows and movies - like the Honeymooners and Marx Brothers movies. It seems to me that most of the stuff that makes it a cartoon, the stretch-and-squash cartooney-ness is just wrong. Maybe John could go over in point-by-point detail some aspects of what makes this a bad cartoon? Or maybe I should just shut up and enjoy his posts. Probably the second one.

JohnK said...

"Man, if you attach an intrinsic value of quality to the word "cartoon" you completely ruin the meaning!"

I'm not attaching the concept of "quality" to the definition.

Just whether it looks like cartoonists actually drew it.

The 2nd half of the post is all stuff made by or to please corporate execs and lawyers and they either hire realistic artists and make them draw in what they think of as a "cartoony" style or they make fake imitations of classic cartoons like Animaniacs and don't let the cartoonists have any creative say in them.

The Animaniacs show reminds me of "Christian Rock".

Some of my best friends worked on it and were forced to work under their capabilities.

They hide their heads in shame now as I do for working on the "New Adventures Of Richie Rich" and other similar fake cartoons.

Adam said...

All of the examples of 'bad cartoons' have a common thread. The primary reason for their existence ISN'T to entertain their audience, which is what I think John would require from art to qualify it as a cartoon.

Now the motivation for bringing 'bad cartoons' into the world are varied but from the examples I just saw I can think of 3.

Teach kids to cooperate and accept everybody's shortcomings, quirks, ticks and faults.

Arthur, Franklin

PBS and organizations that represent seat-belt liberals and stressed-out public school teachers.

Make myself lots of money by selling kids crappy merchandise.

Ghost Busters ( and any show licensed from a Hollywood movie or a video game ), Scoobey Doo ( and all other Hanna Barbera-teen gang solving mystery shows ), Care Bears, Smurfs, Rainbow Brite.

Parasitic managers at all levels of corporate hierarchies.

Convince the world I am clever.

Simpsons, Family Guy, Animaniacs, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, South Park

Writers with little talent who were raised on television.

See here's the problem. I wouldn't say these motives are inherently bad. Teaching kids to get along that's fine ( some messages in these cartoons are misguided and do more harm than good in my opinion but that's another rant). Making money selling kids characters they like that's fine to a certain extent ( when I was a kid I got a lot of happiness and inspiration from posters, and stuffed animals of my favorite cartoon characters ). And even convincing the world you are clever / smart is probably the 4th biggest motivator behind food, comfort, and sex for doing anything for most people.

If these were secondary motives behind creating animation that is primarily entertaining this wouldn't be a problem. But they aren't. These motives are at the forefront. We the audience are just another step to overcome. If we could be bypassed we would be.

If the people behind Franklin could beam their moral messages directly into the minds of children using some ray gun they would stop making cartoons. If corporate execs at media companies could legally withdraw money out of our checking accounts and into theirs without having to manufacture cheap plastic toys and cartoons to sell them they would. If mediocre writers could make money selling books with their pictures on the dust cover about their funny observations about popular culture they wouldn't be making cartoons.

Cartoony cartoons and all other honest forms of entertainment respect their audience, because entertainment of the audience is the primary reason for their existence.

'Bad cartoons' are just wolves in sheep's clothing.

GerryD said...

Hey John,

Good to hear from you! It'd be great to get together when you are in town. You should know that I live in Toronto now but I may be in Ottawa on the weekend. I don't have anyway to contact you other then through your comments section so I'll leave you my email, Let me know if people are going to get together this week.


Zwoltopia said... tell me John, tell me why all animated shows have to be cartoony? Tell me why all animated shows have to look like they we're made in the 30's?

I used to find your post interesting.....what happened?

PCUnfunny said...

John:Christian Rock ! LOL! Animaniacs was a wannabe cartoon, hell you can look at there designs at see it.A combination of a half ass thrities look and that ugly 90's look which started on Tiny Toons.

Anne-arky said...

How can that damn badger be on crutches and still play soccer?? How?

I'll never understand...*sob*

Will Finn said...

i am convinced that the people who make fake cartoons were never children to begin with. they were hatched in briefcases on madison avenue by satan himself and sent forth to kill joy everywhere. they're doing a pretty good job too!

the previous post on art seiden was right on target--his painting style would get you primed from a distance and'd deflate when you could see his sucky draftsmanship. my bro had the snagglepuss one. on the yogi one he has made not only yogi's head too small but his legs are sticks and his ass is HUGE.

RodTramonte said...

I also disagree with the inclusion of Animaniacs in the fake toons´ list... a good part of its comedy may be typical pop-culture driven sitcom humour, but its character designs and slapstick gags are some of the closest stuff that has ever been done in the style of 30´s and 40´s WB toons during the 90´s...

Robert said...

Somehow I've sensed modern incarnations of old classics are the result of focus groups. Things like Animaniacs and Star Trek:TNG and almost any sitcom on TV today are the result of a focus group identifying the 2 or 3 things they liked best about the old version and then the producers thinking they just had to repeat those 2 or 3 things to recapture the magic.

C. A. M. Thompson said...

The problem with Animaniacs is, who created the damn things? Nobody's clamoring to take credit for it, except Steven Spielberg. It's just a really focus-tested corporate fake cartoon. The comparison to Christian rock is apt because it had all kinds of moral agendas it had to meet.

Even writer driven cartoons like Family Guy and The Simpsons at least have cartoonist creators who came up with the ideas.

stardust said...


It's great to finally have found you once again on the net.

My peers and I ran into this problem in art school. I went in to hone my traditional skills (my influences include Tex Avery and yourself) but the industry is going in the opposite direction.

There's no more quality in the field because they're too concerned with the new 3D "Realistic" fad. That fails to be a cartoon at all!

The worst part is, for the most part the masses don't seem to recognize the continuing decline of quality.

Thank you for bringing this to the forefront of mass conciousness.

Colin said...

I have to agree with Kyle. Yes, maybe Animaniacs falls into the "sitcom cartoon" category, but it still doesn't change my appreciation of it. It had it's dull moments, but it had some really funny ones. They still make me laugh today.

In fact, there are alot of so-called "fake" cartoons that I still do enjoy. I like Ninja Turtles, I like the Simpsons, I like alot of the stuff on Adult Swim. Do I aspire to be like them, no, I don't draw inspiraton from them, I don't model my cartoons after them, I can recognize they're nowhere near the quality of 30's and 40's cartoons, I just enjoy them.

stardust said...

PS since there is no other way I know of contacting you at the moment.

Are there plans to bring an official SPUMCO site back to the net?

Is there an address to contact you at (say if us masses wanted an autographed drawing or something)

Else you can jes' up n' ignore this comment!


Chris E. said...

I was thinking of asking you about what makes a cartoon a cartoon, and it looks like you have already beaten me to the punch.

I see the differences easily. I see that you hate cartoons that try to teach you some bogus nonsense and no one else believes in either. This really gives some insight on how I should develop the characters for one of my concepts.

Jabberjaw, Josie, and Butch Cassidy--Hanna-Barbera was real good at making knockoffs of their own cartoon, Scooby Doo, weren't they? They all had that phoney laugh track, too. And what the heck is that furry?! I'm wondering how Billy & Mandy didn't wind up in that lineup of pure lies.

Cartoons should be fun to look at. For me, it does kinda kill it when you have to think about the jokes. No one explained the jokes in classic Looney Tunes or Merry Melodies shorts when I was a kid. To get some of the jokes and gags related to rationing and all of that sort in World War II, I had to learn about it. After that, I began to understand and appreciate the gags, and I still do.

CGsucks said...

Hey, did anyone notice something on that pic above toon time? THe little purple guy has a tude expression...hideous!

NineInchNachos said...

funny! The crying children really was a great touch.

Anonymous said...

>The Animaniacs show reminds me of "Christian Rock"

What's Christian Rock? Was Frank Zappa Athiest Rock? Was The Passion Of Joan Of Arc a Christian Film?

I've heard of Rock with Christian Lyrics, but never of this mysterious genre Christian Rock. Do all the bands sound the same? How does the guitar go?

Gabriel said...

you should add animaniacs to that 'things i can't bash without pissing off half the world' list, right below anime.

Jim Rockford said...

Great post!,you quite clearly delineate the sly,cynical B.S. corporate crap from the good stuff honestly made by real cartoonists who care about creating something entertaining and fun for us all to view!
I have always thought that "animaniacs" were too contrived.Just half hearted hollow corporate knock offs of classic cartoons,they had too many pop culture references,and were written more like they were sitcoms... or modern "cartoons".
although they did have some funny moments for the most part they were just an insult to anyone who remembers Warners glory days.
I would relegate it and Pinky and the Brain into the category of "fake cartoons",because in my opinion they were nothing but an attempt to cash in on the past and start a franchise rather than make an honest attempt to return to real animation.
They were too forced and phony,just an attempt to trade on the golden age cartoons.Its the old "glory through association thing".

I never understood the whole "Steven Speilberg presents" thing..What the hell does Speilberg know about cartoons? yet here he slapped his name on Animaniacs,Freakaziod,Pinky and the Brain,etc,etc.
Steven Speilberg should stick to Jaws,E.T.etc.
He didnt win three academy awards for cartoons!

If they truly had their heart into making real cartoons then why dont they put a real cartoonist in charge of the shows?
Look at the Spumco Yogi's like Boo Boo Runs Wild! those were some damn fine cartoons and had the heart and style of the classics...too bad they didnt make more!
Corporate types,when will they ever learn?

Roberto González said...

I had the feeling when watching animaniacs that the people who were behind it actually enjoyed working on it and were proud of their work. Well, I guess some of them did and some of them didn't. Probably the writers had more fun than the animators (but as far as I'm concerned some of the writers could draw). I think Tom Ruegger was one of the guys more related to the style used in Animaniacs.

I agree with everything else in the post. About animaniacs it's not as good as Ren and stimpy, and it is far away from a classic cartoon like the ones that were done in the golden era, but I don't think it would be that much of a sacrilegy to compare it to, say, the original Jetsons.

Granted there are really bad episodes of animaniacs, with bad animation and over-explanatory jokes, but for each one of them there is one that is really entertaining and it has pretty good animation for tv standards. And some concepts were awesome. Tell me what's wrong about Yakko's World Song, for example. It is a wonderful, fun concept. Incidentaly it's educative, but not in a boring, annoying way, the main idea of the segment is having fun.

Seriously, I do understand that it can be some exceptions and the rest of the things should follow good principles. But Animaniacs followed most of the (drawing)principles. Ok, maybe the colors were not in the best of tastes. Maybe the animation was mechanical and tv-like. But the poses were usually well drawn and with a line of action to them. How come Beavis and Butthead can get away with it and not The Simpsons or Animaniacs? It's ok to criticize them, I do think there are valid points to criticize those shows in the view of a cartoonist. They are usually very high praised by people who are not cartoonist. And I do share the idea of criticising some of those aspects cause I consider myself a cartoonist (not animator).

But they are good shows, they are good tv series, maybe not masterpieces, maybe not the best cartoons, but they are entertaining and a hell of a lot better than the rest of the stuff with they are being compared here. The Simpson are not written by people with little talent or people that are not good enough to write for life action sitcoms. Most life action sitcoms today have worst scripts than The Simpsons.

I do agree with the content. I do think that especially animaniacs could have been a hell of a lot better if they had followed some of the advices in this blog. I guess they were sometimes kind of unsincere (I guess thats the one thing Beavis and Butthead does better, they are more sincere). I guess the drawings and animation seemed a little on model and felt short for the type of cartooniness they were supossed to have. I guess some of the jokes were overexplained. But the concepts, designs, characters and some of the jokes were clever and the people behind them weren't untalented and the same thing can be said about the Simpsons. Say they are not the most adequate people to do cartoons or criticize the way those series were produced but don't insult people who are obviously talented to come up with good characters and jokes.

Dear Joshy said...

....So, I openly admit that I personally don't know shit from shit.

But what I do know is this....cartoons of today are amplifications of yesterday's classics.

With each passing generation, the cartoons get considerably and questionably created by attention-deficit-disorder-ridden-shameless-charlatans.

Did any or all of that have to be hyphenated?

Anywhoo, point being, I can find appreciation for Animaniacs and some of the other cartoons of my generation because that's evolution.

Things need to evolve and change.
And granted, maybe Animaniacs isn't the best example of progression, it 's a sign of the times.

The wheel will always be re-invented. But now it's usually got 14 inch rims that contunously spin.

Food for though.

Insincerely Nobody's,
- Josh

Roberto González said...

"I would relegate it and Pinky and the Brain into the category of "fake cartoons",because in my opinion they were nothing but an attempt to cash in on the past and start a franchise rather than make an honest attempt to return to real animation."

I think I agree but at the same time this is kind of their weakest point IMO. They worked to me because the concepts and the characters were funny and interesting, the fact that they were associated to golden era cartoons by contrived plot points is what made them look unsincere. The personality of the characters was entertaining enough and could have been enough for the series to work .Some of the referential stuff didn't work, especially when they over explained visual jokes that were funny in classic cartoons, but some of it did work: when writers made jokes about themselves or about stupid rules introduced by Executives. Those were usually sincere too, they were not included cause they wanted to look "cool", they seemed to have real issues with the executives and they poked fun at them.

And pop culture references can be funny sometimes. Animaniacs made jokes about actors and people that are still famous today and some of them were amusing. The jokes were not as dated or unrelated to the plot as they are in Family Guy.

I hope John will publish those posts, even though I'm late in the topic and I'm obviously advocating for a lost cause in this blog. Sorry, this is the way I feel about things and I won't stop saying what I think. That doesn't mean I am angry or that I don't understand or like the posts, I just feel like discussing things I don't totally agree with, even though I know the topic won't be discussed (or will only be replayed with two or three words).

JohnK said...

You mean devolution.

"Evolution" means to grow and get more sophisticated.

Gabriel said...

actually evolution just means adaptation, even if it means the evolving being will get simpler. In that sense, cartoons have done a great job in evolving. The world got retarded, and they just followed the trend, adapting to that new situation.

Will Finn said...

i worked freelance on some of the TINY TOONS (under an assumed name) and it was only fun because some of the people involved (Art Vitello, Bruce Timm, Doug MaCarthy and others), who were all more talented than the show let on. i thought the show was lame,but ANIMANIACS, which i did one absolutely misery-inducing storyboard for, was worse than any job i've ever undertaken. and that is saying something in a long and varied career. what little of the actual end product i witnessed was, in my humble opinion, excreble thu and thru.

The two saddest things about this post to me are:
1. adults who grew up with these fake cartoons now look back on them fondly.

2. many of the examples of "fake" and "bad" cartooning would be "too broad" and "too cartoony" for the current industry standards...

Anonymous said...

I actually rather enjoyed Pinky 6 the Brain when it was on TV. I read once that it was cancelled because normal people -- average Joes -- didn't like it. Fanboys like me liked it, and as most of us know, fanboys can be pretty stupid sometimes! We have a high tolerance for crap. We have a high tolerance for almost anything, aside from late comics and people who mess with Iron Man's continuity.

I look back a little more cleary, and think of the things which annoyed me about Pinky & the Brain, but my fanboy self forgave.

I hated the music, particularly the endless string cues, which were ripped off old WB cartoons, eg:

BRAIN: Pinky, why is there a vomit stain on my favorite t-shirt?
PINKY: Gee brain, I guess all that baking soda made me narf! NARF!

The background paintings didn't seem to fit, and sometimes they seemed rushed. The colour in them seemed wrong. The main character designs were kind of ugly, too.

That said, there are some funny and interesting moments, for example the 'six sitting sheet slitters' bit. I saw it on youtube recently and I laughed myself silly. Of course, that was just a funny tongue twister, which would have been just as funny had Abbott and Costello done it on the radio. A testament to the skill of Maurice LaMarche, really.

I think fanboys and fangirls need to be more discerning. I think we do worship trash culture, and we know it sets us apart from the rest of society, so we sort of like that. I am more discerning now! But in my 20s I was far more forgiving.

Anonymous said...

I suppose once upon a time people had to produce quality cartoons in order to attract an audience. To persuade them it was worth their while to sit in front of a glowing box. When I was a child in the eighties we didn't need persuading. TV no longer needed to ask for our attention, because we were only dimly aware there were other things to do. The unmotivated apathetic nature of animated shows of the day was contagious.

Say walkies to the average dog and it'll go nuts. Likewise, list off a few cultural references and it-words to the average tv viewer and they'll be yours "to the ad break and beyond".

Devlin Thompson said...

Jorge: "Christian Rock" is an all-too-real phenomenon, not just rock music with Christian content. Here...let Pete Bagge fill you in on the gruesome details:

Roberto González said...

>>1. adults who grew up with these fake cartoons now look back on them fondly.

2. many of the examples of "fake" and "bad" cartooning would be "too broad" and "too cartoony" for the current industry standards...<<

Your comment was interesting (and a little surprising to me).

I totally agree with your second conclussion.

About the first one I'll speak for myself. I grew up with Tiny Toons, Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain (and also with Clampett, Avery, Jones, Tom and Jerry or Popeye), but there's a lot of cartoons I watched as a kid that I found out they were entirely shit whenever I tried to rewatch them as an adult. Whenever I rewatch Animaniacs I still find it pretty entertaining.

I am not a fan of Freakazoid. Animation got a lot uglier during those series and there were huge amounts of dialogue. In fact, some episodes of Pinky and The Brain had the same flaws.

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

it's sad when an animation studio has to make up for a cartoon's visual lacking. usually, if a cartoon is going to be anything but illustrated Radio, it has to be the other way around.

Animaniacs was not just worked on by wang. there were some quality animation studios thrown into the mix. Albit, they both game the cartoons something different. TMS gave Animaniacs a clean, sharp look, and could take whatever visual ideas it was given and turn it into a piece of brilliance. when it didn't have guidance, as was the case during one of the Very last, and shittiest, segments of Animaniacs, they'd turn out what they had to work with: Unexpressive, unimaginative illustrated Radio.

Startoons was a really small, homey animation company that treated every cartoon it got like something precious it had as a one-shot deal.
(it only received about 20 jobs it's lifetime) first off, I didn't particularly like Jon McClenahan's character models. it limited all of the character's models and gave you less opportunities to work with Individual personalities. One thing he had was a much better understanding of What WB was going for (A revival of the quality of The Looney tunes and Merrie Melodies of the 40's and 50's) and overall, had a much better Idea of what a cartoon should look like. Each of the 6 or so animators would try to spice up every writer-dominated cartoon the got by adding there own little Wild takes, and the inclusion of these specific touches were really evident in their cartoons. these individual stylizations among the animators meant that you could tell exactly who was animating what, simply by the model of the character. given that some animators were much better then others, It would have been better if McLeanen were a little more involved as Animation director.

Had you seen an episode of animaniacs which used ether of these studios, you couldn't have Castrated it as a Cartoon as you have before. Yes. it's a writer-dominated cartoon, but the Collaboration between the Writers and The Storyboard artists became very close at times. Under the Direction of Paul Rugg, the Artists were given a very large part of the process. He understood that The storyboards had to be, If not the key aspect of the show, then a very large part that would have to be worked with simultaneously with the written aspect of the show.
On animaniacs, writing came first. I'm not saying it's fair, because it's not. writing and Storyboarding should be a boundless process that can't be worked on one after another. but in it's talkiness, animaniacs managed to have quite strong visuals (So long as it was animated by startoons or, with a stronger need for direction TMS.

I refuse to watch an episode of Animaniacs done by Akom or Freelance.

nether company could make up for Animaniac's lack of visual input, and had Animaniacs had STRONG visuals they would be wasted on these companies. just not enough talent in the mix they wouldn't be able t animate even an all-visual cartoon with tons of Art direction such as Ren and Stimpy.

I'm just curious; what episode of Animaniacs have you seen to judge it's overall quality in this way?

The show's quality varies greatly from Director and Writer. some give the artists a very large amount of control, and some just see them as tools.

Still, some just aren't good writers or directors)

Matthew said...

It's really not fair to think of a cartoon as "Corrupt" or "Impure" if's it IS network-driven.

yes. the Existence of Animaniacs was for Monetary purposes,but do you honestly think that that doesn't mean the staff cared about creating a good show? At it's greatest, Animaniacs was doing very little to deliberately appeal it's network. they had there show, it was a hit, why Create something that's mediocre when you have all you need to make something great at your disposal?

Animaniacs was never targeted at anyone. The writers knew that if they were going to try and Recreate the quality of the Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies, they couldn't dum it down for the kiddies. the creators of Animaniacs WANTED to put together a good show. they wanted to be happy with their work, just like the creators of Independant projects want their cartoon to be good.

at it's prime, animaniacs wasn't an evil corporate vacuum trying to get more and more money for future evil corporate vacuums, it was a show. and a damn good one, in my opinion. and isn't that all that really matters?

If not, as far as the first 65 episodes go, most of it's criticisms are either unfounded or easily overlooked to anyone who has seen more then a handful of the first season.

go to
for an animation-lovers story on why animaniacs was not just a great cartoon, but a great show.

Mattieshoe said...

"You mean devolution.

"Evolution" means to grow and get more sophisticated."

I believe that evolution was used in a proper context here.

Tiny toons was a complete and utter abomination in it's first season.
But after a while, they realized the show had to change and Got writers who understood what was trying to be achieved and gave the Storyboarders more power.

animaniacs took this further: even MORE cartoony-thinking writers and much more visual imagination.

Had the WB not Fucked with the development and let the series decay, the next step could've been Giving the Storyboarders full control, and the show might have transformed into something even greater.

Comparing Tiny toons to Animaniacs, how can you say that the production got WORSE?

Pokey said...

PCUnfunny..Paul Lynde was such a STA-HAYHLE-PLE [to use his locutions] if not of Fugmation, then of Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the 70s. Voice wise..