Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Grim Natwick - Drawings and Ideas are part of what animation is

Marc Deckter put up a really good post about Grim Natwick.


This is animation from 1930-before there were any "rules" about how to animate. They didn't know much about squash and stretch, overlapping action, maintaining volumes, smeared inbetweens, cushions, secondary actions, etc...It isn't super smooth like Disney became a few years later.

But it has something that much "polished" animation that uses all the principles sometimes neglects.



Drawings and motions that are fun and funny.

In the early days, animators thought in terms of entertainment first. How funny can I make my walks and dances and dialogue?

Grim did his best stuff before he was swayed by the mass hypnosis that Disney cast over the whole industry in the late 30s.

Once animation got "smoother" and had weight and all these other abstract properties, many animators started losing track of what cartoons were all about in the first place.

I personally believe in knowing all the fundamental principles of animation, but I don't think that is enough to make entertainment.

Smooth movement isn't entertaining by itself. It's impressive, but not as impressive to me as fun drawings and actions and ideas moving. The principles of animation should be in service of the drawings and entertainment, it shouldn't be an end in itself.

Here is a clip from Cats Don't Dance. The movement is great for sure, but what is being animated is just standard drawings that we've seen a million times before.

It's a polished version of Tiny Toons designs and poses with some Don Bluth thrown in.

Don't get me wrong, I think these animators are hugely talented and would love to be able to work with a great crew like this and have a similar budget to make a fully animated movie.

I just lament that the business uses such strong talent to do the same stuff over and over again. -and to make each animator basically design, draw and move things the same way.

Here's Betty and Bimbo in an unprincipled highly imaginative and entertaining cartoon:


Anonymous said...

That cartoon was god send. Really it was, for the following reasons:

Everything is timed to the music (or beat)

The jigg that bimbo does when he was going to serve the thug, although floaty, was fun.

Also, I found this paragraph in the 1976 publication of "The Fleischer Story", interesting:

"Considering he was the star of the Talkartoons, it's odd that Bimbo's appearance changed with almost every picture. Sometimes he was a white dog and others, he was a black dog. The animators at the time still held to the precepts of the twenties. Shamus Culhane said, "We didn't want to be tied to a certain way of drawing the characters." That was soon to change as the animation process became divided between many hands."

Again, I cannot thank you enough for your informative blog, John. (If only my scanner wasn't on the fritz...)

Kevin Williams said...

nice. some good thoughts there. makes me think of paul pope's blog, "The cartoonist can do any damn thing he wants."

Rainer said...

What great animation. I love a lot of Looney Toons but Fleischer’s 1930-1934 were just so inventive and funny. Probably the best cartoons ever in fact.

Speaking of working on moves, whatever happened to some you were suppose to work do, John? I read about the ripping friends movie you were tentatively supposed to make with produce Joel Silverman backing. Why did it fall through? Also, wasn’t there a “on the road” movie spumco was going to do with Ralph Bakshi? What happened? More uncreative executive types not understanding?

Sean Worsham said...

Glad to hear you clarify your stance John, Marc did do a really good blog about Grim Natwick (especially how he mentioned how exciting an animtion could be when not try to stay too much too model).

I just borrowed "The Fleischer Story" from my friend and hope to read more in-depth about them.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

I couldn't agree more! You can't entertain with animation all by itself. You always hope for good acting, funny gags and choreography, charismatic characters, imagination, good cartooning and and a point to it all that interests people.

Emmett said...

I like some of the character designs in CATS DON'T DANCE (please don't cane me).
It could have been done better; in my opinion, one of the few animated features that SHOULD HAVE BEEN animated more like a golden age cartoon. I'll bet that would have made it at least a little more tolerable.

I need to see more Fleischer cartoons. I prefer cartoons and animation with less toothpick movement.

diego cumplido said...

yes, I saw that Bakshi's "on the road" doodle, but I didn't know it was going to be a movie by Spumco. So I'll support rainer with his question...

Tool said...

"It could have been done better; in my opinion,"

for one thing they could have cut out a lot of touchy feely crap, the filmmakers obviously felt because it was a feature they needed to shoe horn some sad shit that totally didnt match the rest of the film. and john highlighted in his post the other really stupid part of the movie, which was upbeat but not really fun, at all; cringeworthy, embarassing to watch.

that popy animation style i thought was cool when i first saw that movie on VHS a few years ago, but its really getting overused in 3d as pointed out in an earlier post. i know they definitely could make some sort of computer script to generate that kind of timing and then just clean up any dramatic computer fuck ups. there is nothing impossible about that idea.

billehB said...

When you say that they're drawings we've all seen a million times before I think its a little unfair since you're an animation historian who's seen every cartoon known to man.

So maybe you've seen these things a million times, Joe-Movie-Goer wouldn't have seen them enough times to notice though.

Do you know any of the animators who worked on cats don't dance? Do they actually feel like they wasted their talent on it? I don't mean to sound critical i would just like to know.

:: smo :: said...

one of the things i love about 30's cartoons, is that animation is still young! the entire idea that a character can move across the screen is entertaining in and of itself, and things like lofty character arcs aren't so much the issue as having a silly character dance with a turkey!

totally awesome!

The GagaMan(n) said...

A lot of the time in Tiny Toons they would literally take a scene directly from a Looney Tunes short (like that Clampett Piggy bank one) and just re-animate it. What's the point? If it ain't broke don't fix it? While the series had it's odd moments, a lot of the time it was like a imitation of the original shorts, only they'd replaced the characters with shorter, more brightly colored ones.

JohnK said...

So maybe you've seen these things a million times, Joe-Movie-Goer wouldn't have seen them enough times to notice though. <<

If you saw any cartoons from a few years before or after, then you have.

Dume3 said...

I suppose I'm the odd man out on these Fleischer topics. I think all of the east coast cartoons (Fleischer, Paul Terry, etc.) are just plain ghetto. The fact is that Disney remained 5 to 10 years ahead of anybody until strikes and World War II made him slash his budgets a bit in the early 40s.

Mr. K., you talk of Disney casting a "hypnosis" over the industry. Why don't you have anything negative to say about Max and Dave Fleischer's horrible and blatant use of rotoscoping. Not only did they use it more often than Disney, they made no effort to exagerrate or alter it in there movie, Gulliver's Travels.

It seems to me that you praise almost every golden age studio EXCEPT for Disney, which strikes me as unfair. The Disney cartoons are not perfect, but the East coast cartoons are far less perfect IMO.

Dume3 said...

Cat's Don't Dance wasn't that bad. The references to the golden age were good, kind of like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It was way better than any of Pixar's stuff anyway. Why do they always insist on having the backgrounds out of focus like this:

I can't stand that in live-action movies, much less in a CGI cartoon where having things in focus is a matter of pressing a button.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I love Grim's animation! I feel happier already today!

Looney Moon Cartoons said...

I love the part where bimbo takes the hair and tries to cut it with the knife, but the hair cuts the knife. Its funny because it is the exact opposite of what you expect. Cartoon animation is the only medium where gags like that work. How come you never see visual gags like this anymore.

cemenTIMental said...

I can't stand that in live-action movies, much less in a CGI cartoon where having things in focus is a matter of pressing a button.
It's a combination of a little thing called cinematography and, in live action, the laws of physics.

fandumb said...

Funnily enough, in German dubbing, Cats Don't Dance's main character Danny has the same voice actor as one of your own...