Monday, September 17, 2007

Cartoon College Year 1: My Ideal Cartoon School

This course is designed to make the graduates as skilled as possible.

On top of that, they would be trained to be extremely observant and analytic. They would be able to adapt to many drawing styles, because they would know the difference between what is a universal drawing principle and what is a superficial stylistic habit.

It doesn't matter if you plan to be a 2d animator, CG animator or even a Flash animator, these skills will put you at the top of your chosen branch of animation.

It's also designed to inspire the cartoonists to enjoy the immense potential of creativity that is possible when you combine skill, imagination and fun.

1st year

1) 1st Principles of Cartoon Drawing

Basic Construction

Traditional Animated Cartoon construction:

We will learn classic cartoon construction in the same order that classic cartoonists learned it, starting with rubber hose construction and working our way towards sphere and pear construction.

Toy Construction: Drawing cartoon shapes in actual 3 dimensions

Cartoon toys are cartoon shapes (non-anatomical) modeled into actual 3 dimensional objects. How better to learn how cartoony shapes look in different positions than to turn toys in different positions and draw them?

Classic cartoon construction is strictly theoretical. Drawing toys puts the theories to the test and will make you draw more dimensional than you ever thought possible.

Line Of Action

These drawing tools are used for the purpose of clarity. They give the artist control of how the audience perceives their poses.

Drawing Funny

Near the end of the year, once the students have a good grasp of basic cartoon drawing tools, then we will apply them to the task of making people laugh by visuals alone.

I'll have to think about how to actually teach this. It may be more of a case of encouraging it and inspiring people by showing tons of examples from the funniest cartoonists in history.

2) Inbetweening and Cleanup

Historically, the most successful method for learning anything has been the apprenticeship system. In the early days of animation, cartoonists broke into the business by assisting more experienced animators. They cleaned up the animators' rough poses and drew the inbetweens. Being an assistant animator teaches you many important principles of animation. You just absorb what the animator is doing and then when you begin to animate yourself, you have a great head start. I think the first year students should inbetween and cleanup the 3rd and 4th year students' animation.

Cleanup itself is extremely important to good animation. Animation is about more than smooth motion. It is about clear distinct drawings, expressions and poses. Smooth motion of vague or sloppy drawings cannot compete with smooth motion of strong distinct entertaining drawings.

3) 1st Principles of Cartoon Motion

We would learn the basic tools of cartoon motion, step by step starting with rubber hose animation.

rubber hose animation basics

animating to beats,

how to read and write ex sheets.
-walks, double bounce walks, runs, basic movement,
figure 8 motions,
Overlapping Action
basic lip synch,
¾ walks with animating backgrounds
Animating the impossible-using the medium to do what only animation can do.

4) Life Drawing

Studying the general from life

with an emphasis on slow careful drawings, structure, perspective and proportions.

In the first year, we would concentrate on:


Not much detailed anatomy until 2nd year.

Life drawing has not brought many tangible benefits to young animators' cartoon skills. I have seen many student portfolios that have decent life drawings, yet primitive cartoon drawings. Life drawing should be geared to help the student apply general skills from observing life to his cartoon drawings. That would be the aim of this life drawing class. No quick gesture drawings. Scribbling is not a useful animators' tool.

5) Caricature and Observation

Observation over style: Learning to use your eyes and senses to analyze, rather than copying trendy or established styles.

When you sit down to caricature a person, you should try to bury all your preconceived notions of what "caricature style" is.

There is no caricature style. Each person is unique. Every person is a unique style and the person should dictate what you draw.

You should not filter the subject through what you think your style or your favorite caricaturist's style is.

The purpose of caricaturing in this course will be to break your prejudices.
You will be amassing many many new shapes and forms that you can later apply to your animation characters.

You will learn how to see contrasts and how to exaggerate them, thus drawing attention to what makes people and shapes have a distinct clear visual overall statement.

This will help kill any tendencies to genericism that the rest of the business instills in young artists.

6) Applications

This class will be totally devoted to making sure that the students apply what they learn from their other classes to actual cartoon drawings and animation. This is a big hole in most animation schools. We will plug up the hole here.

If you learned foreshortening in life drawing yesterday, you will then do a bunch of drawings of Donald Duck using foreshortening.

If you learned new eye shapes or head shapes in caricature class, you will draw simpler more cartoony characters that use those shapes.

7) ROOTS - History of cartoons

cartoons, comics and animation from 1920 or so till about 1965. (this would be every year and each year I would have the students study aspects of classic cartoons that relate to their exercises.

This course is meant to broaden the cartoonists' horizons and to inspire them.
Disney will merely be one of very many styles we will look at.


If I had my choice in electives, I would design courses that would broaden the interests of cartoonists but at the same time enhance their creativity and ideas.


Dance (every year)

Technical Crap Basic Flash

Great Entertainers from other fields

Gene Krupa
Jack Benny

Fred Astaire
Kirk Douglas
Joan Crawford
Peter Lorre
The Three Stooges
Buster Keaton
Frank Sinatra
Ella Fitzgerald
Cab Calloway

many many more...

I'm curious as to how many people would take a course like this. If you are thinking of going to an animation/cartooning school in the next couple years, read this outline of my year one and tell me in the comments whether you would sign up for something like this. (I will add the other years in posts soon)

If I get enough interest, maybe I can take it to an art school.

I know one thing. If I started a school for cartoons and animation, the graduates would be in great demand throughout the industry.

Many cartoonists who have gone through the rigorous Spumco training have gone on to great success and fame.

This course would be even more focused on the students because there would be no show deadlines complicating the matter.

I bet if I get a hundred or 2 comments from wanna-be students, we'd have a good argument to sell this school to someone.


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Gavin Freitas said...

That's the missing formula from my school. Pitch this to the Academy John. My school is pretty good though but this class would make it perfect!

twbrown said...

I'll dance, sing, wash floors, whatever to study with you. I woold like to ask if ou have considered Otis as a school open to what you propose?

Your blog alone has got me thinking of taking up animation, that and concept art (like Ron Cobb and Sy Mead) as a vocation to keep me drawing and save me from the print production world, where I earn my income. I love my work but I need passion projects. Flash shipping with the latest CS suite has just got me itchy to make some small cartoons and see where it goes...
Please, please, teach. I will come.

billehB said...

I'd move overseas for a few years to take it, it would be a great expirience.

Jeremy Brooks said...

I earned a degree in graphic design a few years back, but graduated feeling like I had learned absolutely nothing. What I had learned was nothing I could apply in the working world and was utterly useless. I've been following your blog for some time and have bought the Preston Blair book. Both sources are packed with USEFULL information that you can actually APPLY to something tangible. I'm positive that I would get my money's worth out your program.

Nathan said...

I would like to sign up YESTURDAY PLEASE.
and dance dance dance dance dance

400 said...

I'd sign up in a heartbeat. I've already attended art school for 4 years and I can't say the teaching was anywhere near as good as what you have in mind.

yoran said...

i would definitely sign up , im a 23 y.o. animation student studying in the u.k., if this course would exist I would sign up immediately, leave my old one cos it stinks compared to this one.

Adrian said...

I would consider leaving my current animation school for something like this. It seems like a lot of work and fun.

David said...

i would honestly and truly drop everything i'm doing right now and quit my job to move to california just to take your class. please make this a reality!

meredith said...

Im about to graduate from california college of the arts and i don't think i've learned half as much as if i was learning under you guys. I wonder if maybe it could be more of an atelier format instead of formal school? id be in like flynn.

atom_smasher_84 said...


My name is John Navarro and I have just graduated from Azusa Pacific University's art department with an emphasis in sculpture. Had they had an animation department I would have jumped on that bandwagon! If only to make Jack Benny Cartoons! I love that MAN !

I am a huge fan of your work as well as the classic era of animation and I would like to say what a treasure trove of info your blog is.

Its time to make cartoons American again, with tommy guns ablazin' insted of hopped up Japanese Hobgoblins in balls infrrnging on peoples personal freedoms!

I am currently in the process of getting an MFA at the same school but would gladly place strategic explosives under the Guggenheim if it ment that I could have cartoons smoke Lucky Strike Ciggeretts openly!

"Oh Rochester!"

Again, I love your blog, I cant wait for the next instalment!

John Navarro

SoleilSmile said...

Hi John. This post of yours is old but I thought I had to respond to it. Cal Arts' 1st and 2nd year curriculum matches the one you just stated sans the inbetweening class and different names for classes ( applications would be character design and story). Disney teaches animation assisting to those who get into the internship--and that's not until 3-4th year.
The students draw the 40's bean and potato sack designs in their first and second year animation class. 3rd and 4th year, the students switch to the feature animation style--that you hate. I'm sorry, but, Cal Arts is Disney's school and that's what Disney wants. Furthermore, Spumco is the practically the only studio around that has a bean and potato sack design base that does animation in house. So, the school stresses story so the students who go to television can become preproduction artists.
John, if you want Cal Arts to adhere to your style---please show up and show the students you exist! Then you would a have a plethora of artists to chose from for your studio! Cal Arts would also love to have you as a guest speaker! You have a lot of fans there. We were all surprised when you hired Aaron Springer in 1996-97. We were like: Wow! Spumco is back! However, no one knew how to apply to Spumco and the consensus was that you hated us, so no one was brave enough to seek you out and apply--save myself and a brave handful of others. So please John, go visit and speak at Cal Arts--or better yet TEACH! I'm sure they would love to have you there and it would give the students who like to draw funny and not princessy some hope of being happy in the animation industry.

perspex said...

i would sign up for this, if there were classes here in Austin i could go to and not be bothered with distractions[ except those i make myself] an online course wouldn't work for me; i can hardly finish my own music without getting interrupted with roommates and their insipid TV shows....

Alex said...

john, if this were to be put into action at a school, I would sit outside the door everyday and beg you to allow me to apply.

This is simply amazing.

At the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, my animation teacher is in talks right now with the art college there to implement a 4 year animation program. I am surely going to direct his attention here. He is very open to suggestions such as this, and I really really think that if this program goes into effect, what you have presented here has a good chance to influence what is looked at.

Tristan Sregor said...

This would be the school to go to. You would have so many students fighting to get in, including me!

stephfunny said...

aw, man, sign me up asap !!
I went to a four year university because they had some animation courses, only to find out that these courses, well, sucked, for a lack of better words.
To make matters worse, my senior year, said school implemented a whole animation track, from the rooter to the tooter. lol- man, was i pissed. Now i don't know if i want to go to back to school and end up wasting more money and time. So far i'm teaching myself. But your animation year one looks awesome. I would sign up yesterday if it was available. lol

stephfunny said...

I have a BFA in Visual Communication and Art Design - and I feel like i have nothing to show for it. I would love to learn from people who enjoy Animation and also KNOW what they're talking about.
Your blog is one of the many blogs about animation that i read feverishly.. Also, your Years 1-3 layout will help me to focus on what really is important. I really hope you are able to get that started somewhere. preferably on the East Coast. lol :)

Gabriele_Gabba said...

The temptation to do this course on my own and then start up a school here that teaches just this is amazing. I'll drop you a line if i ever do it :)

patrick said...

I would love to attend this school. I would have to make one suggestion however: It must be called Funny University, because the school song would have the abbreviation "F" and "U". And the football team could be called whatever John K. wants but I would love to hear the ESPN scores of college football--(ivy league school) vs FU.

Christopher said...

I've already been to school for 4 years for Graphic Design, however, if a curriculum like this existed I would sign up immediately, loans be damned (deferred?). I agree on making animation and cartooning more like the trade it is instead of how art school treat it.

Raven M. Molisee said...

You know.. I would do this. My favorite thing about it is that it sounds like we would be totally immersed in animation. That was the biggest disappointment I had with the college I attended--it boasted itself as a 2D/3D curriculum. Only 2 of these classes had anything to do with cartoons (2D Animation 1 & 2D Animation 2). The Character Design class was taught by a guy who painted anatomical oil paintings--never drew or watched a cartoon in his life. All my life, I've just been searching for a big group of people that loves animation. Haven't really found it yet.

Guy Cx said...

When do classes begin?

Alishea said...

Where do I send my application?

I could also help you throw it up into an online course as well. I've done podcast, iTunes U, Voice Thread & Ning training for online college courses.

You could charge for online courses as well and I could show you how to set up your courses so students could watch lectures online, and engage in online discussions, critiques etc.

Contact info's on my blog :)

Ravenseye said...

Yes, where do I sign up?
I've respected your work forever John, and a class, or series of classes, taught by you would be a catalyst for me.

When I was in school for art back in the early 90's, the professors taught a boatload about technique, and observation, and the techinicals of art, but, never even delved into the business of art. Would there be classes to help in that aspect John?

If there are, I'm gonna work my ass off on a portfolio to get in.

Thank you!

callie! said...

I would definitely sign up for this provided I had the money for it. The dance class would worry me but I would do it if I thought it would help and you are saying it would help so I would take it!

Anonymous said...


Jim said...

Uhhh... People, people people. As Madge said, "You're soaking in it." It's all right here. Go through the lessons yourselves, pay attention, do the work, do the work again, and again, rinse, repeat. You're already in John K. College. No enrollment necessary. Dedication, persistence, and elbow grease is how it's done. There are no short cuts.

MistahB said...

Of Course I'd sign up for it! in a generation were most cartoon I see aren't even funny, I'd surely want to be apart of this!

Steve Middleton said...

I would totally sign up for a curriculum like this! I only wish this was available 20 years ago...well, better late than never.

matthiusmonkey said...

I'd save up and move to America if This course existed I'm currently in my third and final year of a BA animation course in England and I haven't been taught a single thing ! any thing I have learnt I found out on my own or via the Internet and books, I've botherd the hell outta my tutors for stuff and most of the time they don't know , it's possibly the most frustrating thing ever!. In three years and a silly amount of debt I ain't learnt a thing and I don't feel like I've improved or know anything more, so yeah I'd deffo want to apply !

tamil said...

i am very very interested, sign me up

Daisy said...

As I read this article I secretly prayed it was posted a decade ago just in hopes of it having been implemented already. I live in New Zealand and I'd pay those goddamn international fees to get there (Though I'd probably just apply for Greencard lottery). I'd even like to think I could kick a puppy, but I dunno...

Greavesy said...

This should be a real course.

Dukey101 said...

so you teach people over the web to draw ..THats just so uh............AWWEESSSOMMME....i have PLENTY OF PICTUURES i have practiced from your tutorials can i show them too you..? how do I apply for Kricfalusi University. :D

Dukey101 said...

so you teach people over the web to draw ..THats just so uh............AWWEESSSOMMME....i have PLENTY OF PICTUURES i have practiced from your tutorials can i show them too you..? how do I apply for Kricfalusi University. :D

Dukey101 said...

where do i over the web...i wanna draw so badly...i ve drawn for a lot of your tutorials but i just dont know how to send it to do i apply for Kricfalusi University

Dukey101 said...

where do i sign up? is it over the web how do i enroll , how do i send u pictures of my practice from ur tutorials?, How do i apply for John

Anonymous said...

I would enjoy John K reviewing our School Curriculum/student and faculty work. He seems to be an expert in Animation. My Instructors have worked with him apparently. I'm not actively using Blogger right now.

Jono Willis said...

Yes, I too am in Australia and would kill for an opportunity like this. I would be very keen if I could participate online.

Brandon Lorrekovich said...

How can we make this happen?! I would sign up in a heart beat. I have been looking for a long time to find a good animation school. It's ont easy--most students of "good" programs tell me to stay away.

Brandon Lorrekovich said...

This would be an immense dream come true for me.

Lucia said...

i would.. but i think its too late :P

fagbot said...

i am so in.

Daisy L said...

I'm ready!

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