Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A+ Flintstone BGs - using neutrals and Grays between the colors

All these BGs are from one cartoon: The Tycoon from the first season of the Flintstones.
Take a look at how striking limited palettes and even large amounts of gray can be.

These are some of the most beautiful BGs I've ever seen in cartoons. So cartoony, such unique color choices, stylized textures, yet it all feels so organic and alive. Bedrock is a place I'd love to live in.
I would kill to have this BG pan of Bedrock!This is proof that you don't have to have big budgets to have good looking cartoons. Talent, taste and controlled choices can add up to a lot more than money and lack of controlled decision making:This looks like the painter couldn't make up his mind what colors to use, so he just decided to use every one. Straight from the tubes and shot through a blotchy airbrush. It's definitely hard to make creative decisions, but those who can are to be highly admired!

Using a lot of opposing pure colors just breaks up the image into little pieces and makes the character hard to see. It also makes the cartoon look fake. It doesn't help to not have a composition either.

Compare the texture in these trees to the textures in more cleverly painted BGs. These pine needle textures are not only blunt and sloppily painted. They completely fill the silhouettes of the trees. No creative selection has been made. "I'll just fill up the whole image equally with evenly spaced detail" is the decision that was made.
Well this has a composition and that makes it easy to read, but there are those favorite cartoon colors again!

It's hard believe this image below is from a fully animated big budget feature and not a Saturday Morning cartoon. Money doesn't always buy taste.

I'm willing to bet that many artists don't have much say in the stylings of their cartoons. A lot of the decision making is likely in the hands of execs who think more detail and brighter colors equals quality.Look what happened just 10 years later!


Kali Fontecchio said...

Those rock textures!! Pure eye candy, unlike the vomit underneath haha.

Roo said...

Great point so many backgrounds are so bright and rainbowy its almost nausiating. using complementry colors and balance in a bg seem to be replaced by more more more of every color at once. its not appealing but it gets attention.

i had no idea flinstones bg was so detailed. the color seemed so simplistic when i used to watch it. youve got great observation. thanks again for all youve shown us john.

Will Finn said...

John these posts are great. Lozzi and Monte rule. Thanks for using such accurate reproductions too. FLINTSTONES season one is still as easy on the eye as ever.

Raff said...

My local TV station must have been airing lousy prints of the Flintstones back in the day - I never remembered the colors being this good.

As for what's happening now, each movie must have a team of psychologists telling the producers, "Remember, kids like bright colors." Hence the bright, rainbowy business.

The Japanese laser/space/robot cartoons of the 80s had quite some intense colors but they made it work somehow.

Pete Emslie said...

John enthuses: "Bedrock is a place I'd love to live in."

Actually, I think you already do. Only now it's been re-named L.A. (with skies even more beige than in Fred's time!)

These are indeed simple but elegant backgrounds you've been posting. Also, for the benefit of some of your readers who may not realize as such, the grays you are noting in the backgrounds are all very organic grays, having been mixed from complementary colours (in either warm or cool tones) to look more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, rather than from just mixing black and white which looks sterile and lifeless. Those background painters really did have great colour sense.

Looking at that Bedrock cityscape brings back fun nostalgic memories from when I watched "The Flintstones" as a kid. John, do you remember the old "Towers" department store in Ottawa? I recall buying this set of rubber Flintstones figurines there during a store promotion celebrating the show's 10th anniversary. I then proceeded to watch the show every weekday (as it was in syndication then) so I could build the entire town of Bedrock out of construction paper. Yep, I made Fred's house, Barney's house, the bowling alley, The Quarry where Fred worked, the Water Buffalo Lodge, the Gruesome's haunted house, etc, etc. I filled the basement floor up pretty good with that youthful hobby! Sadly, I got rid of my Flintstones rubber figurines, but if you also had those as a kid, I'll bet you've still got 'em!

Nsixqatsi said...

I love you, John K.

NateBear said...

that Hurcules shot look like it was a developing mistake. It's really hard to believe those colors were used intentionally.

Emmett said...

Mr K, you are unbelievable.

How does one pick out the little details you do. Please come to New York, and give us New Yorkers some lessons.

Anonymous said...

Look at how putrid those colors are in that last Hercules screencap (especially on the clouds. No offense to the BG painter.)! Not even real pink clouds are like that.

John, you sure have a great eye for observation. Thanks for giving out all this knowledge.

Chris S. said...

Yes, the colors and textures in the originals are incredibly beautiful ... but let's get to the serious issue here.
What f***in' jackass thought it would be a great idea to put socks and sneakers on Fred and Barney?!

PCUnfunny said...

Jesus, who the hell declared said that purple and yellow are the only two colors in the sky ? Blech, terrible. I can your point about the FS BGs. Though a limited color palette was used, it was used in a creative manner by a real artist. Give me limited over lifeless any day.

Kristin said...

I never noticed how great the old Flintstones BG's looked! I grew up with all of the cheap 90's crap.

All of the modern cartoon backgrounds hurt my eyes!!

PCUnfunny said...

This is OT John but I would love for you to do a post on the James Bond title sequences. The old ones vs. the new ones.

Robert said...

Yeah, but if I had to choose between "A Man Called Flintstone" and "A Goofy Movie" for the Best Feature, I'd go with Goofy.

SlashHalen said...

Again, Flinstones BG's, beautiful. I wish I was able to notice this kind of stuff when I was younger. But I guess that's what I get for coming into existence in 1989 and being fed stuff like The Lion King and all the other cartoons that were crap.

On that note, why would anyone let there painters just throw in every color for those bottom pics? Did someone actually think that was a good idea? I mean, someone could get quite a headack from Hercules. It just doesn't look normal. This should be considered a crime.

I have a theory. Mabey the execs think that the brighter colors are better because... well those bottom pics are pretty much punching you in the face. They probably think the harder the punch, the bigger the impact the punch will have on your face and the bigger the impact the show will have in ratings....

I'm not choosing my words wisely, am I?

lastangelman said...

What astounds me is that most people who saw The Flinstones when it first aired had black and white televisions and probably never saw it in color until six or ten years later(my family didn't get a color television until 1970)! The show transcended the limits of the technology.
Do you suppose a lot of the decisions about the colors and backgrounds used had to do with the fact most of that original viewing audience would see the show in black and white? As a comparison, quite a few rock and roll music producers from the sixties and seventies have said they made recordings mindful of the fact they would be heard on tinny portable AM radios and cheap home stereo speakers. Today much of these records have to be "remixed" to be "better" appreciated on today's state of the art equipment(too bad it's used to watch and listen to crap!)that sixties kids couldn't even imagine. Thank goodness the people at Warner Brothers didn't ruin The Flintstones box sets by "improving" the colors from the original episodes.
During your commentary on the Popeye short Lost And Foundry I listened to earlier today, you wonder aloud what the Fleischer Brothers would have done if 3-D technology (i.e., House of Wax) had been available. Eddie Fitzgerald commented on the amazing backgrounds created using just shades of gray. Since the patent on the stereo-optic process used by the Fleischers' has long expired, have you thought about producing a cartoon using that long discarded technology or perhaps make an improvement?
(check under Google Patents, enter 2054414 in search engine.)

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

A terrific post, John! Thanks a million!

Bitter Animator said...

Word on the street is Hercules was made by drag queeens for drag queens.

So I guess the colours fit there.

litlgrey said...

...except for one thing, John. It is clear that the early creative promise of The Flintstones was exhausted after its first season. After that it very quickly began to succumb to a cuteness, a Saturday-morning-ization of a kind that also destroyed the George Reeves "Superman" series. In the case of The Flintstones, the series lost its edge both from the standpoint of writing and graphics.

By the time the writers began populating the series with cute babies, and Bea Benaderet was replaced, and Harvey Korman as the terminally annoying and extraneous Great Gazoo (and I adore Harvey Korman as a comedic genius), the original edgy appeal which came exclusively from the tense, Honeymooners-style interaction of the four principal actors was completely lost. The grpahics changed too, so you began seeing Betty and Barney's eyes filled in, and purple mountains and trees seemed to invade every background (as in the last screen capture you posted). Even the original, delightful musical themes began to be replaced by inappropriate Hoyt Curtin cues from HB's adventure series such as Jonny Quest.

At that point (and we're talking by 1964), the series had become a sad self-parody in which the characters were led on "adventures" that took them outside the primary environment of both tension and creativity... and humor.

One thing The Flintstones could boast of at first was maybe the finest cast of voice actors on television at that time: Reed, Blanc, Benederet and Vander Pyl. With added work by HB's regulars including Daws Butler and Don Messick, and with graphics by HB's MGM animation team, and with writers such as Michael Maltese, the series flourished. But it was all ruined by 1962 or so. It became exactly what you rail against, John, and no subsequent Flintstones revival ever regained that early flair and edge.

Taber said...

Totally agree with most of these, but I don't understand why Tarzan is in the "bad" category. Is it because of the mostly monochromatic bright green? I remember thinking that movie was beautiful! But yeah those others, Goofy movie and Hercules? BLEH!

Yosef said...

Ive always loved H-B backgrounds, especially Flintstones and Topcat.

But I quite like the Disney ones that your complaining about also... There's nothing really wrong with it in my opinion... But in saying that, I'm very eclectic with almost everything ;)

In the mean time... *Makes love to John's fantastic blog* :)

Whit said...

One reason why that Goofy forest pan is painted with no negative space in the pine needles is that Disney TV Animation in that day just loved to pencil render the hell out of all of its key layouts. The higher the budget, the heavier the rendering. This was a feature that cost just about 21 million bucks, if it's from 'A Goofy Movie.' That drawing probably was at its best when it was a pencil rendering. The painter just tried, unsuccessfully, to mimic the key layout's clumpy graphic style with color.

Tony C. said...

I certainly enjoy the Art Lozzi posts. I would love to see another round of comments from the man himself.

nick griffith said...

hey john your the best please respond

nick griffith said...

john would you please tell us about the opening and closeing titles on big house blues

smackmonkey said...

Big John K. sed - "Bedrock is a place I'd love to live in."

I wanted to make this comment yesterday when you pointed out how warm and inviting the backgrounds are. I've always loved cartoons that made me want to explore the world the characters live in. Though not so artistically elevated I also loved the first Peanuts specials.

From P. Emslie - "I recall buying this set of rubber Flintstones figurines there during a store promotion celebrating the show's 10th anniversary"

There was a factory in an area of L.A. Called Toad Town that made small (& large) rubber characters especially for HB shows. We used to steal suff off the loading dock all the time. It mysteriously burned down around 1970. We spent days digging through the charred rubble unearthing literally hundreds of Flinstones, Wacky Racers, etc. I traded most of them away within a year or two. Long live the Puppet Factory.

lastanelman sed - "As a comparison, quite a few rock and roll music producers from the sixties and seventies have said they made recordings mindful of the fact they would be heard on tinny portable AM radios and cheap home stereo speakers. Today much of these records have to be "remixed" to be "better" appreciated on today's state of the art equipment"

As an example George Martin spent much more time mixing the monoaural version of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper's album than the stereo version. Technological advancement doesn't always translate into elevated creativity.

Art Lozzi didn't have no undo command.

stevef said...

lastangelman asked, "Do you suppose a lot of the decisions about the colors and backgrounds used had to do with the fact most of that original viewing audience would see the show in black and white?"

As a television engineer I can tell you it definitely played a part. After a few years working on Yogi and Huck and even Ruff and Ready, I'm sure the H&B artists had learned a few things about what worked on television. (And at the same time some of these guys were workig on the Cinemascope Tom and Jerry's. Amazing.)

Making sure the characters registered on crappy B&W TV's with lousy reception was the priority. High contrasts and extreme colors in the BG just didn't work in those days. Fortunately, the principles we see in detail on these posts help the BG's work well in monochrome.

Deep reds turn black in B&W television, and who wants that? On the other hand, pale green turns "whiter than white."

When "The Flinstones" first aired one of the more popular shows on at that time was Disney's "Wonderful World of Color" which featured a good deal of content filmed in glorious Technicolor. So the H&B gang had a pretty high benchmark to hit even for 1960.

Larry Levine said...

These beautiful background colors make me realize how us kids who grew up in the 60s watching B&W TVs got jipped!

pumml said...

Back to back posts about my favorite cartoon subject. Thanks John!

Those Flintstone backgrounds really are stunning. Even though Art plays it down, the design and color choices they made were really amazing. Mix that with flawless technique and rich textures and you have a real winner. I'd love to be able to paint like this. The only bg painters I know of who can come close have already worked with you. Bill Wray, Scott Wills, Bob Camp, Glenn Barr, Jenny Gase-Baker, etc. They all employ styles that are somewhat different from Art's, but I'm sure they could emulate his as well as anyone.

I wonder if Mr. Lozzi has any scans of the originals for us to study up close? Would love to see them.

dibujador said...

Could you say something about the BGs of The inspector Clouseau cartoon?
I love them.

An example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPHhyraUg7Q&mode=related&search=

Justin said...

ha ha I always love the Hercules stills you choose.

Jim Rockford said...

Yuck!,those later backrounds are just plain garish.why would they use such overpowering colors?
the goofy ones are enough to make you nausious.
What a startling contrast to the elegant colors and clean designs of the earlier ones.
They sure degraded into sacharine crap as time went by!

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