Sunday, August 05, 2007

Animation Course Level 1, Lesson 1 - The Beat - Kali Does Bosko

Did you ever wonder how animators got this good in such a short time? This is 1942. only a few years later than rubber hose animation. Who wouldn't love to be able to do this?

Coal Black, Bicycle

Great animators started simple
40s animators were so great because they learned to animate like this below. They started with really simple character designs and animated to musical beats.
Bosko Dance

Early sound cartoons moved to musical beats. Here Bosko is bouncing up and down on a 12X beat.

Every 12 x, he squashes down. The lowest position - with his knees bent- happening on the beats. That means he bounces twice every second. A second is 24 film frames.
This is a 24x cycle. He is waving his arms left and right. Each wave is 12x to go with the beat.

I'm convinced that the quickest way to learn the basics of animation is to start by animating fundamental animation techniques using rubber hose designs. I mean Hell, it worked for all the greatest animators in our history. It could work for you too and you the advantage because you have their stuff to study. They didn't have any reference. They were making it up from scratch through trial and error.

But they were very logical and methodical about it too.

1) Animate Simple Characters - why?

If you are teaching yourself to animate and you start with hard to draw characters, you are obviously going to slow your learning curve.

The more details your characters have the longer it takes to draw them, and the harder it is to control the details in motion.

Tall characters with long legs are much harder to animate than short characters with small proportions.

You want to learn basic motion when you are starting out, so keep your characters very simple (and rounded) and you will learn much faster and better.

2) Animate to beats

Animating to a regular beat teaches you:

Rhythmic timing: it feels better- imagine a song with no beat, it wouldn't be much fun. It would meander.

General timing - you get used to what different amounts of frames feel like - what 12x feels like as opposed to 8x.

Classic animators and directors were like drummers. They automatically thought of their scenes as rhythms and that helped make their timing so crisp.

Kali's First Bosko StudyIf you wanna learn animation fundamentals, you can copy these animated cycles and shoot them, like Kali is doing.
As you copy them, analyze what you are doing, so that you can apply general techniques to other scenes. Count how many frames it takes to do each action.
Note the wave action that the arms are doing. This concept can be used in infinite variety.
Note in these bounces, that there are less drawings going down into the accent, and more coming up. That is what gives the beats a noticeable accent. If the timing was even, it would just seem to float up and down. It would be mushy.

Kali animating:

Compare the Bosko animation to the McKimson animation from Coal Black. The fundamentals are the same.This is animated on an 8x beat-the music is faster than the Bosko scene. The accents are stronger too.
Every second beat is accented stronger. 8,8,8,8 etc.
Her right foot moves down faster than her left foot (the one closest to us). That foot moves at a more evenly spaced timing as it circles the pedals.

This scene is way more layered than the Bosko animation, but it's based on the exact same concepts. Learn your fundamentals and soon you will be able to apply them to more complex scenes.


Learn to animate to beats using simple cycles and simple circular characters. This is a good first step towards understanding motion and rhythms.

Scenes like this are the foundations of the American style of animation. Snow White, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, Gerald McBoingBoing... all these different styles are built upon the same foundations.

There are 3 cycles in the Bosko clip we put up. Copy them all and stick with this free course and you will see yourself advance past your more stubborn peers in no time.

If you post your tests on your sites, I'll link to them in another post.

Once I have 20 people who have copied this Bosko animation, I will post lesson 2. Rubber Hose Walks.

What basic concepts you learned from this lesson:




Wave actions



flashcartoons said...

fabulous john! when i wake up tomorrow morning im going to try your lesson!

:: smo :: said...

this is the best post ever.

i tried to teach myself this stuff for my senior thesis back at college, didn't quite get it. i hated that "tell a story" was far higher priority over "know how to animate." i have a scene at the start with the inside of a dancing house and a character trying to walk down the dancing staircase. the rest of the project was kinda secondary to that shot and i never got it all done. but i'm really glad i did it, if not just for that one shot!

here it is on youtube

but that was a while ago now.

i really want to experiement more with rubber hose stuff, and these posts always seem to kick me into gear! thanks very much sir!!!

Julián höek said...

hi john, should i copy this straigh ahead or doing extreme drawings and then doing the inbetweens?
thanks for this lesson!!

kate yarberry said...

i just did something like this!! Not exactly, but it's first step in this direction. I'm teaching myself Flash CS3 and the first thing I did was this video, I drew Steve McQueen shooting a Panda and singing along to Johnny Cash. I know the timing is off, and the drawings are really rough, but it's having the same effect as what you're talking about here. It's forcing me to think about the timing of the music and how to make things move, and what works and what dosen't. I'm out of class and don't have a job, so these are the kinds of things I do with my free time, since I don't know anyone here yet. I really love making things move, and working with audio. The track restarts its self in the middle, but be kind, it's my first try with flash. It only took me about 18 hours to make this. I'm going to have another go as soon as I teach myself some more about the basics. I want to make smoother transitions, and I want the timing to be dead on. This really taught me the value of timing.
Have a look if your interested in my crap

Paul B said...





William said...

I was thinking about this subject when watching Gross' Jitterbug Follies, which features whole crowds going along to the same beat, but they keep their individuality, their own mannerisms, bespoke construction and personality. It's startling even before you consider the technical side of it like you discuss.
Come to think of it John, why don't you talk about Milt's animation more often?

Emmett said...

Mr. K, I am definitally going to try this.

I have a question. Will starting off like this better my drawing for animation (specifically character designs set to be animated). I always feel myself struggling with that area. And, unfortunately, I started animating with characters that took a while to draw. What is your opinion?

Rogelio T. said...

Is the Coal Black clip link working or is it just a blogger glitch.

JoJo B. said...

Thanks John!

kate yarberry said...

I made a short of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. It's super short, he kind of looks like he's having a seizure? I' going to have a go with the rubber hoses this afternoon. see here:

Clinton said...

I am using preston blair's book to copy from. I've posted walk cycles so far. I still have to get my timing better some. Once I copy those pages, I'll move on to rubber-hose, and then more difficult styles.

Me sketchblog

Darío said...

You fucking rock, John. Sick people love you down here in Argentina!

anime said...

I am new to this blog, and i find it very useful. I've a question to ask the experts that does any of these animation principles are applied to the popular cartoons like Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad. To me they look like cartoons without any of those 12 principles often taught in animation lessons.


lastangelman said...

Gonna' start practicing my rubber hose dancing right now
BTW, your Coal Black, Bicycle link , goes to blogger id page and not .mov file

John said...

I love musical movement in cartoons!I especially love classical music in cartoons most of the time!

Gabriel said...

John, there are people who draw well but can't animate. Do you think there are people who are good animators but can't make good finished drawings? I mean they can draw solidly but their stuff is all sketchy?

Dume3 said...

You're drawings show a lot of talent, but is there any reason why you made them so complicated? Like John said, why not try animating with a simple hose design (Foxy, Bosko, Buddy, etc.) if your a flash beginner?

JohnK said...

>>John, there are people who draw well but can't animate. Do you think there are people who are good animators but can't make good finished drawings?<<

Yeah, lots of them.

That's why I stress good drawing as well as fluid motion.

But start simple when learning to animate.

Learn construction at the same time from the construction lessons.

I'll talk more about this later! Too much to think about...

Bradley said...

Can some of you older, more wiser animators give some lowly newbies good advice on how to make a simple cartoon such as Kali's? Is there any easy way to start learning the basics before breaking the bank?

Dume3 said...

"i hated that "tell a story" was far higher priority over "know how to animate."

This is what the Disney guys always say, yet how many of their movies are actually based off a completely original story? None.

Stories are only the most mechanical an superficial elements in any art. It is isn't what you tell, it's how you tell it. A great artist can make gold out of a seemingly worthless story.

Dume3 said...

"Is there any easy way to start learning the basics before breaking the bank?"

If you feel like you aren't good enough to do a rubber hose character, why not try animating something abstract first--like a bouncing ball to practice timing and squash & stretch.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Wooooooowwww!!!!!!! This may be your best post yet! I have to be away from the computer most of the day but I can't wait to read it thoroughly when I get back! Congratulations!

Mitch said...

Hee John,

This is great! I hope you make some more of this lessons.

It took me some time but I finished my attempt. I still have to learn alot about it, but I learnend alot of doing this and I think the next one will be better.

I have put the study on my blog.

Thanks alot for posting al this great stuff!

Colin said...

Thanks for the free animation lesson John.

I'm trying in out right now, though It's a little difficult using printer paper and a hardwood desk.

Jim Rockford said...

Good advice!

"Coal Black" is one of the best!

the whole cartoon fast paced and set to a great score.
I have loved the music in those old cartoons since I was a kid, I hope one day you'll do a post about Scott Bradley,Carl Stalling,Sharples,etc! they made such a huge contribution to these works or art!
You dont see that level of talent and effort put forth in scoring todays cartoons!

:: smo :: said...

Julián höek:

if you're animating to music like this you might want to set a key at every beat. then break it down in the middle and fill it in.

music is about timing, look into exposure sheets and mark down every frame you'll have a beat on.

if i animate to music in flash i make a symbol that has a frame with an x in the corner every time there would be a beat and set it to loop.

mark mayerson had an amazing post that related beats per miniute to framees per second and how often those beats will hit. like john mentioning his 12 frame beat...which would coincide with a tempot of 120 bpm. it's all simple math...woo!

straight ahead makes it tough to hit those beats and can get out of hand and unorganized. but once you have those beats down and can hit the keys on the beat, i suppose how you get there is up to you.

:: smo ::

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting this, John! I'm getting right on it!

Brad said...

Is Flash the only program to make simple animations from a drawing like this? I want to get in on the John K school of animation but don't have any access to Flash.

Kali Fontecchio said...

"Is Flash the only program to make simple animations from a drawing like this? I want to get in on the John K school of animation but don't have any access to Flash."

You don't need flash- you could just scan your drawings and put them in sequence in After Effects, or Quicktime. Both which you can get free trials of. I used iStipMotion to shoot and capture my animation.

Gabriel said...

you can also use monkeyjam, which is totally free. It's made for pencil tests and stopmotion, I've used it for quite some time. It's simple but amazing, you can even configure the frame duration to choose if you want to work on 1s or on 2s. Google it up!

stiff said...

I love these instructive posts...

Thanks, as always.

Kevin Langley said...

Hans Perk created a great little program for timing to a beat. You can even tap in a tempo and it will give you the beat/frames per second. It really is a great tool. Plus he has a ton of great info too on this very subject.


Will Finn said...

i never thought about this before, but you're right.

a rubber hose figure is basically a glorified armature and once you master that the rest is all technique. this would have saved me a couple of painful years of trying to figure out super-detailed characters!

remember the walter foster 'Volney White' animation book? i think i still have a copy somehwere...

P.S.: please do a post someday on why Swedish is the funniest accent. i've been laughing helplessly at Wally Walrus on DVD (yust like i did ven i vass a baby).

it reminds me that one of my alltime favorite gags in Ren and Stimpy when the Wally-esque zookeeper says "Yokey dokey boys..." the fact that you guys transposed the "Y" without any logical excuse for doing it made it even funnier!

Okapi Figment William said...

Bosko is a great cartoon! I miss it.

Marlo Meekins said...


Matt Greenwood said...

Hey, thanks so much for the lesson!

I've made a few attempts at that first cycle, I'll get working on the others.

Guilherme said...

Hi John.

I did the exercises and tried to explain them in my blog.

It was a good opportunity to analyse 3 different cycles.


Mark aguilar said...

Do you want just to hit the extremes or do you want to in between it also. And if so is the Bosko animation one ones or Twos?

Mark aguilar said...

Do you want just to hit the extremes or do you want to in between it also. And if so is the Bosko animation one ones or Twos?

David Germain said...

Yes. Animating to beats is a very good idea. Two of my fellow animation school chums did just that and their films were that much better because of it.

One timed hers to Frank Sinatra's version of Young at Heart and the other timed his to a Herbie Hancock song (I can't recall the title anymore).

pappy d said...

Great post!

Kids, don't get distracted by drawing while you're trying to animate. You can always add Bosko's eyes, teeth, etc. once the motion is right.

You don't want to spend time on any drawing you may need to toss out later or (if you REALLY love it) mail home to Mom so she can put it up on the fridge.

Anne-arky said...

Hi there--

I tried out one of the dance cycles on the sly at work today. The timing is off, but I'll put up the link anyways.

It's frustrating that that damn elbow-dance looks so simple and yet the timing is impossible to get right. Is he bouncing 2 times every second or 4? Arg.

Larissa_T said...

hi john
my drawings are incredibly shitty, but i know just from reading your blog entries i'm improving and i have a far better understanding of animation
i'm going to try doing this exercise when i get back to my apartment
you're doing a really good thing

Anonymous said...

This is was very informative, especially when the basic principles apply both to Queeny and Bosko. And with cartoon after cartoon, new practices & principles were added, the designs had evolved, skill had increased, but most (if not, all) the basic principles were still there. Fascinating!

'please do a post someday on why Swedish is the funniest accent. I've been laughing helplessly at Wally Walrus on DVD (yust like i did ven i vass a baby)'.

Funny, I always thought Wally's voice was a mixture of Yiddish and German. Oh well.

Oh, and John. It was an honor that you enjoyed my Popeye post, as well goes to your other comrades (Kali, Jim, Edd, Rex, ETC). I have a MSN account, so if you want to discuss anything else, please drop a line. Later.

Mad Taylor said...

Hi John,

I did part 1 of the 3 loops in Bosko's dance. I hope to do the other 2 soon! Check it out on my blog! 't wait for the next post in this course!

Dr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
groo said...

Thanks for a great post John.
Looking forward to lesson 2, so I thought I'd better post my attempt.

Started with a full character and realised I was missing the point, so went back to sticks and balls.

Here it is on Youtube

Treasure said...

I love these kinds of posts!

I also tried animating Bosko's dance:

I only drew the basic shapes instead the details.

I can't imagine how animators today can have animating modern cartoon characters when they don't even have such fun movement like the classics!

Rich said...

Cool thanks John. Keep 'em coming.

Thunderrobot(aka Chet) said... - its a little rough and the animation slopes down.

Mad Taylor said...

The next two parts of the dance are now up on my blog!

Mark aguilar said...

check out my bosko tests

Mark aguilar said...

my tests are at

Captain Buckfish said...

Hi John i had a go at the rubber hose animation. Really love this lesson idea i can pick your brain for animation goodies!


This is my site

Robert said...

Hi John, I don't know if I'm too late to play, but I see you're waiting for 20 people to do this bounce before you go on. Here's mine:

lucas nine said...

I'm Lucas Nine, a cartoonist from Argentina.
I made an attempt to animate into a bosko-fleischeresque way, in a 12 x beat-rubber hose developed characters. It's a little movie, called Les Triolets, posted in a french site (coconino-world). Althought it's very compressed (and music beat stays delayed in relation to the images) here is the link:

moonshine said...

I stumbled upon your blog and animation lesson while trying to configure an old wacon tablet.
Great lesson, thank you!

Anthony C. said...

Thanks for this John-just finished up my 2-d anim. class with flying colors..learned a lot too..following these for my 3 week break now...

The stubborn peers part couldn't be more accurate..with the exception of a few, everyone in my class usually jumped straight to all this detail..and completely ignored the 12 principals (some cared so little for the class they didn't even use punched paper!)

And oh how great it was to have the kid who's done nothing but straight ahead runs in Flash say, "I already know the basics!" and completely bail out before it was even time to turn the bouncing ball in (after asking the teacher if he could use a WACOM instead of paper)...

..advanced 2'd's gonna be a blast..again thanks John-I'm definitely gonna donate (and likely forward these to my partner!).

Nick A said...

Here's my first attempt :)

Nick A said...

All 3 done. What a fun exercise.

ajay said...

Wired man dash Worth Clipart übersetzen, so wired man herausfinden, doss dies auf Deutsch seine Wortbildung aus clip und art IST. Daraus ergibt sich auch gleich die Bedeutung, welche dahin geht, dass früher Clipart Illustrational warren, animationen welche man aus lizenzfreien Weaken odder speziellen Büchern ausgeschnitten hat und dadurch eigene Kreationen entwickelt hat.

sam challis said...

Don't know if you check your old posts but here is my effort.

TWill said...

Hey John,

I did this a couple months ago, and figured I had posted it, but I didn't.

Tell me what you think. I probably just need to do it more often.

Bosko Dances