Monday, July 30, 2007

Live Action Blands

I googled for some live action counterparts to the animation bland lead boy character type.The theory of these characters is probably the same as the theory of normal in animation. They are the "identity characters" we project our personalities onto their blank slates and experience the stories through them. I don't agree with this theory at all, but nonetheless I just want to make a point.

Note that they are actually all a little different.Not only do they look different, if you watch their movies and TV shows they actually do have personalities that differ from each other. They can't help it. They are alive. Actors bring their own natural quirks to their roles.
Each boy has his own set of unique expressions and gestures and timings. It would take a super bland and mean director to beat the human nature out of them.

Many of these boys actually had some considerable talent and showmanship.
Some are just plain weird-even though they are supposed to be "normal".

Opie was actually really funny in the first couple seasons of Andy Griffith. He has all kinds of unique and funny reactions. Lots of natural charm.

So far, all these boys are supposed to be your regular every day average "normal" boy next door, but like I said, they are all quite different despite what the writers and producers might want. It's impossible to be the exact middle of anything in nature.

More Specific Boys

Now these boys are very definitely unique. They also appear in movies as the character we are supposed to "identify with". The fact that they are distinct personalities with unique looks and mannerisms did nothing to dull their considerable popularity.

This kid is still quite an entertaining character! Charisma and personality is not a thing to be avoided. It's GOLD if you are lucky enough to recognize and capture it.

Who doesn't love Alfalfa? Do you see yourself as him? Do you aspire to be Alfalfa? probably not too many do. But most people love him.

Except when he gets "undertured" in animation of course. The bland tradition of animation kills even the most charismatic of iconic characters! Who said animation is caricature and exaggeration? Not the folks who argue for blandness on this blog!

Millions of kids must have aspired to be a fatty at one time.

This little fellow is famous everywhere but America for some reason.

Note that in live action, girls have different features than boys.
Not in cartoons though


It's sort of impossible in live action to find a real live human that's exactly in the middle of all boys in the world - hard though some try... Only animation with its limitless imagination can achieve Plato and Walt's ideal of full averageness.

Add glasses to the stock design of a bland and you get the bookish bland.

A tan bland.

Angular bland
Crotch reveal bland

Weiner? meet candle

Here's what happens when live action "Normal" boys grow up.


Matt said...

What are some "average male" cartoon characters that you would consider... not... bland?

I'll tell you at least two;
Hank and Dean
from Venture Bros.

What do you think of that show? Have you seen it? You probably hate it, but still, it'd be interesting to get your opinion on it.

Ardy said...

Well think about it, in Disney movies they draw a new character based on a writer's description.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

A very interesting post! I absolutely hate bland characters!!! You can't do comedy with them!

If you want comedy in their scenes you have to go to the trouble of inventing a funny character for them to pal around with...and this causes all sorts of problems!

For one thing the funny character is made deliberately one-dimensional so he won't steal the limelight from the bland character. Now the show has TWO cardboard characters instead of one! What a formula for disaster!

It's hard to believe that so-called professional animation writers make this mistake so often! Why can't we have more shows like Ren & Stimpy where nobody's deliberately hamstrung, where both characters have dramatic and comedic weight?

Sean Worsham said...

Now I know where you got the marshmallow and hot dog gag from Powdered Toast Man! XD

JohnK said...

>>A very interesting post! I absolutely hate bland characters!!! <<

You can't do serious with them either.

You can only do no point of view films.

CGsucks said...

You make a very good point john.Do you think in a future post you could teach us some steps to create none bland characters? I seriously would like some advice.

Drifta39 said...

This is when I definately agree with your blog over the blandness of characters and cartoons.

It's amazing the amount of flat and boring characters in the media these days.

Drifta39 said...

This is where I definatly agree with your blog, there are so many bland and boring characters in the media nowadays.

J. J. Hunsecker said...

Wasn't Alfalfa MURDERED? Maybe if he had been a little bit blander that wouldn't have happened.

>>Here's what happens when live action "Normal" boys grow up.<<

They become surfers?

Innisanimate said...

A lot of the examples were right on in your 'bland is bad' post, but Wart from 'The Sword in the Stone' is not bland in my opinion. Compared to Pinnoccio's 'real boy'(apparently real means zzzzzz boring) he is world's apart. I did notice you said 'angular bland' to describe him... at least he had a special category. But he was rail thin & awkward, with huge hands and great hair. Very much a caricature of a 12 year old.

Anyway, love your work and your blog. Thanks for the portal into your head.

Anonymous said...

This is one of your best posts.

Kyle Baker said...

When will Hollywood finally realize the truth; That in real life all young boys are spiky-haired white kids named "Zac", "Zak", or "Zach". They all have a skateboard. They tend to be rule-breaking nonconformists, which is pointed out by the adult characters in early dialogue, since nothing in the boy's appearance or behavior is unique in any way. That's what real people are like.
Every bad person I've ever encountered was a Basil Rathbone type. I've always defeated them because I'm a wisecracking working class American.

Emmett said...

-'ll tell you at least two;
Hank and Dean from Venture Bros.-

Hank and Dean are definitally not bland. I laugh histerically at their antics, and that whole show.

I have always cringed at how bland some boy characters can be. Its more interesting if they have some kind of flaw or biting wit that defines them. Sometimes, an artist just has to think really hard about what would make a character appealing. Appeal isn't always an easy thing, at least as far as I know.

John said...

Not only do bland characters stink but bland people. I cant stand being with boring mainstream losers who have nothing better to talk about than who won American Idol last nightrider way rather hang out with people who make things interesting! They will tell you a million wacky stories and still never run out those are the kinds of people who should be doing things for cartoons not the Stupid morons who do it now!

Tibby said...

Is this bland? Well - to you it probably is.
A Cartoon Work in Prog.

I don't have any chickens slapping dogs in the butt or making dumb gay jokes with a chihuahua and a round cat ... thing.
See, I can animate too you know. I'm not a totally bad artist like you and your friends think of me. I'm just an "armature" like you said. But really, amateurs can be the innovators that you are so desperately looking for. If only you would give them a chance. That bit I did all by myself, I didn't need a team of 5 different ppl to make it. It's got some "amateurish" kinks - but I don't have any money and it's just myself.

But - it's not bland, according to my critics on DA.
The description of the piece is on the DA page.

Dragline said...

Would it be possible to see drawn examples done by you of not bland dramatic human characters for a feature length. As bland as all this Disney shit is,it's not near as bland as it's detractors never ending talk of blandness. Drop the fuckin bomb already!!! Where are these great designs for all the dramatic cartoon characters the world has been missing out on? Whats this shit look like? Ariel is a visual bore, so what should she have looked like? We know the problem, so whats the solution?

Anthony said...

Can you draw & post an unbland Alfalfa for comparison?

JohnK said...

>>We know the problem, so whats the solution?<<

Don't write bland stories?

Barbara said...

You know what, John, I think the big problem facing animators today is much worse than acting problems, though I'm sure you're aware of it. Acting is still a problem though. No, the menace I'm talking about is how things like this and this
are acceptable and even trendy in entertainment now. It's like what happened with UPA, only magnified. The popular 'look' of mainstream animation is literally: bad, terrible animation.

Why would anyone spend money animating rounded characters with weight moving in a convincing manner when they can crank something out with flash in ten seconds, and pass it as something good? I feel like we're entering another era of bad animation trends.

David said...

Crotch reveal: In reality Roddy McDowall had the biggest schlong in Hollywood. He used to get it out at parties.

Tim said...

Eddie, it's not just cartoons that do that. Hollywood flicks do that "bland guy hero with comic relief idiot" routine all the time. That crap sells (I mean, does anyone give a crap about Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean?)

I guess it's just easier to create two separate personalities then it is to create a real character. I wish that would piss more people off. It's not just cartoons that need better characterization, it's the writing in modern films and TV as well. And since what sells in films directly effects what sells in cartoons by the modern logic of the suits... well, there ya go. Bland is tried and true, and I wish people would wise up and quit paying for it.

Mitch said...

I can't stand bland :p characters should be interesting.

You also see it alot in video games, in alot of games the main characters says nothing... How lame is that!

Anonymous said...

What do you think of the young star of my favourite modern sitcom, Smart Guy?

He had both talent and charisma to burn. In the early episods he was just a bland cute kid but as the show progressed he became a really good actor and developed quite a unique personality, a kind of sore loser who always wanted his way and was sort of manipulative, yet still very likable

I get tons of acting idesas from this kid and his comedy partner, Mo, payed by the great Omar Gooding.

Anonymous said...

Character identification has nothing to do with the way a character looks or acts even. This is the most widely spread misunderstanding in character theory. I can't imagine who came up with such a ridiculous idea to begin with? When we speak of Character identification in fiction, it simply means that the characters motivations should be made clear and understandable so as the reader/viewer can identify with the actions of the character. Even if these actions sometimes are things we never ourselves would dream to do, we are made to understand what drove the character to such extremes. By understanding why a character does what he/she does we Begin to feel the torment of Tom Ripely, Or the remorse of the Bad Lieutenant.

Here's What the dictionary says.

Psychology. a. a process by which one ascribes to oneself the qualities or characteristics of another person.
b. (in psychoanalytic theory) the transference or reaction to one person with the feelings or responses relevant to another, as the identification of a teacher with a parent.
c. perception of another as an extension of oneself.

Clinton said...

I think it's easier to find middle-ground with boys than girls. Maybe a girl who regularly post would say different. There are exaggerations on TV, like Steve Urkel, for example.

pinkboi said...

The problem of bland characters and lack of POV probably stems in part from the mistaken notion that appealing to as many people as possible means being compatible/inoffensive to as many people as possible. However, looking around all the popular cartoons, movies, music, whatever, shows that to be truly popular, you have to be okay with shunning people who are offended by your or your character's POV.

harpo said...

Maybe the writers should spend some more time around kids so they can create fully rounded characters. Kids have so much personality!
my 5 year old niece & me

kate yarberry said...

i really hated that kid with glasses from peter pan. when they learned to fly i serisously hope he would fall and just get left in london. Oh and another thing, I noticed in disney films at least, kids dont have accents. Peter Pan is supposed to be set in england in the beginning yet none of the children have english accents. boooring.

Dino said...

John, I'm having a hard time reconciling your disdain for generic characters with your celebration of Harvey characters. You telling us that Harvey characters, each based on the same baby-head template, aren't generic/bland?

PCUnfunny said...

Oh boy,why do people who hate cartoons come on this blog ? They are plenty of websites that are dedicated to boring flat stuff.

Kyle: You definetly have the Hollywood sterotypes down.

JohnK said...

Hi Dino

>>John, I'm having a hard time reconciling your disdain for generic characters with your celebration of Harvey characters. Y<<

If you read the Harvey post it explains that.

MatthewLong said...

Hey John, I love your blog, I learn so much from every post. I'd love to see which if any feature length characters were done right in your opinion, and why.

Innisanimate: I disagree with you, Wart may not have a bland design, but his personality is. Compare him to Madame Mim, Merlin, and Archimedes, he just stared wide eyed throughout the film, hardly a thought in his head.

Also John, this is a bit unrelated to the current post and I know this isn't the place for it, but I work at Cartoon Network part time in recording, and we've reached a dead end in trying to find contact info for Michael Pataki, would it be possible for you to contact the studio and let them know how we can get a hold of him?

Sorry for the off topic request, but please keep these awesome posts coming.

ultrapaul said...

>>Kyle Baker said...

I've always defeated them because I'm a wisecracking working class American.<<

Actually Kyle, you'd have to be the jive-talkin' sidekick. "Yo Drek, ya mind tellin' me where were goin'?" Don't forget to bring the Chinese girl.

Bill Field said...

Gotta case of THE BLANDS? I always liked the way Alex Toth portrayed kids in cartoons. They never seemed bland. John, how weird is it that George Liquor's voice has been a Klingon AND a Commie Boxing Promoter? For years I thought Peter Falk played a Klingon in "Trouble with Tribbles"-- until I realized it was Michael Pataki- he couldn't voice a bland character! It just isn't in him!

Anonymous said...

Bland characters seem to be popular in animation and live action these days. Studios tend to play it safe with their characters. Anything too atypical is shunned by the mainstream audience, which explains why "Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon" was so short.

SpongeBob SquarePants tries to break the mold, but it still falls into the "kiddy" mold that Nick loves to market to.

Anonymous said...

John K is a genius.

Doron Meir said...

What of it?
Art is selection. This is where it's power lies. It's perfectly OK in my book to use a "bland" hero to contrast the craziness of the rest of the cast. It's called "composition": you deliberately bland parts of your creation.
I'd hate to see Wart (for example) get more complex or unique. It would compete with Merlin's character and harm the film.

Anonymous said...

Wow: in the last pic of those two men, they look like they're practically clones with different hair.

Anonymous said...

So, John, if I may ask: would the kids from Malcolm and the Middle be bland? Curious question.

aj said...

hank and dean yannnn sorry there pretty bland

aj said...

It doesn't make sense, i fell like a live in some kind of back words civilization.