Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Go See Grim Natwick Art In Person!

Grim Natwick is one of my favorite animation stylists. He drew in a really personal style that stands out from the studio styles he worked in.

As animation grew more principled in the 30s and 40s, it also had a tendency towards being generic. Disney's powerful influence urged animators to draw in styles that were "animation style" and many artists' submerged their personal styles to fit in with the group. A few charismatic and confident artists resisted. Grim is one of them.

Grim's illustration for a children's book.

A portrait of an ink and paint girl. Grim had a drawing ability beyond many animators. He could have been a successful magazine illustrator. He must have loved animation!

Steve Worth has put together a great exhibit of Grim Natwick's art from Grim's own collection.

This is wonderful on 2 counts:

1) It shows not only great drawings by Grim himself, but also drawings by other animators he worked with. Production drawings, caricatures, gag drawings. It really gives you a sense of what it was like working at Golden Age cartoon studios.

2) It's a compacted history of the entire cartoon Golden Age period-from the 20s to the 60s. Grim was there for all of it and played some big roles. You can see this all arranged in chronological order at the archive and Steve will give you a personal tour and history lesson.

30s - Fleischer
This is my favorite period of Fleischers- the most purely creative. Grim's personal style is most evident in these cartoons. He created Betty Boop and did the best animation of her by far. After he left for the west coast, they began tracing model sheets and she never had the appeal or spontaneity that Grim gave her again.
mid 30s IwerksAt Iwerks' studio, Grim's style was still strong but was starting to be influenced by Disney's cutesy animation style. This picture of Neptune is pure Grim. It's just pouring out style and indiviuality!

mid 30s Disney
Wow. This seems like a complete waste of Grim's talents!

Late 30s FleischerYou can really see the Disney influence in these cute little girls. They are beautiful drawings and still more specific than the general animation style of the late 30s. Steve says these designs were rejected at Fleischer's in the late 30s in favor of more blanded out characters - Disney's great influence on the animation world did not encourage stylistic individuals like Grim.

40s LantzGrim's drawing style is less evident in a lot of his Lantz work, but he did some really funny animation there. That chicken is from my favorite Woody cartoon - Solid Ivory. Grim's animation is hilarious in what could have been a generic cartoon story without him.

He had trouble drawing Woody in the Lantz style and some of his funniest scenes are the ones that are most off model.
He seems to be resisting the generic west coast style.You can see some of Grim in here, but he's struggling to balance the studio style with his own. All his Lantz animation is fantastic and super fun.

50s-60s UPA NY I don't know much about this period, but I think Grim's 30s drawings have much more design and style than this artificial design movement is asking of him.
Anyway if you are in the LA area, get over to the Archive and treat your eyes to some great art and amazing history. And give Steve a massage - preferably with a happy ending! He's earned it.

2114 W Burbank Bl Burbank CA 91506


Kali Fontecchio said...

I recommend it completely!! It was great, I've gone twice so far!!

owen said...

You also can''t forget Natwick did Sonny the Cuckoo Bird for Cocoa Puffs commercials.

Kali Fontecchio said...

If you go, Steve might kiss/hug you.

Weirdo said...

I like Grim's animation for "Snow White". It's less reliant on rotoscope, unlike the earlier scenes with her. However, you are right that it was unfortunate that Grim couldn't give her any personality. These are fantastic drawings. They absolutely floor me. Great post.

PCUnfunny said...

Wow he was very versatile. I wonder why he had so much trouble with drawing Woody.

"If you go, Steve might kiss/hug you."

Make it John instead and I'll even throw in a donation.

Jonathon said...

Hey John, I saw this today and I thought of you...

Which I mean, of course, in the best possible way :)

NextGen (Hector) said...

Amazing work! I should really go to the Archive.... I live nearby... in Panorama City (Next to Van Nuys)...

Nico said...

I recommend EVERYONE who is able to- GO TO THE ARCHIVES AND SEE THIS. It is amazing. Steve is working so hard to bring all these amazing pieces of history into the public's eye, and he was even nice enough to stop the work he was doing and give us the tour.

Thanks Steve, and John! Everyone else- GO SEE THIS!!

Chloe Cumming said...

Damn. I would LOVE to see this stuff in the physical. I love the Fleischer era stuff a lot. There's like oceans and stuff in the way.

Larry Levine said...

Grim was a master! I especially love his Woody drawing from SOLID IVORY.

Anonymous said...

Sigh, I love how the entire freakin' world revolves around the LA area. Sure would be nice if steve could have ALL this stuff online for the rest of the world to see.

JohnK said...

He will Jay

but I am encouraging him to wait a little longer, so that people here will go to the archive and see everything they can in person.

But Steve is super generous on his blog. There is a ton of rare art there. Dig around in all the treasure!

Anonymous said...

I was there for the very creation of the exhibit! I even helped set up the bulletin boards so I know the secret inner workings of this masterpiece!

It's definitely worth seeing in's amazing to see original art from the "teens" that's still in pristine condition. Mind boggling to say the least.

Steve didn't give us any hugs and kisses...but he did play his ukelele for us!

Tony C. said...

Amazing Stuff! Wish I was in CA to see this.

Kali Fontecchio said...

' "If you go, Steve might kiss/hug you."

Make it John instead and I'll even throw in a donation.'


But seriously folks, bask in the glory that is Grim!

Larry Levine said...

Anyone know what Grim's pencil of choice was?

Jim Rockford said...

Great post,I love those early woody drawings! they have much more character than the later watered down versions.
I'll have to fire up my Firebird and check out the archive sometime soon!
Everytime I'm out that way I mean too but forget,and wind up heading back before the traffic gets bad....(or should I say worse.)
what are the hours?

Jim Rockford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Broaddus said...

"Grim's animation is hilarious in what could have been a generic cartoon story without him."

In "Chew-Chew Baby", there are a couple of quick throwaway gags near the end, not really a fitting climax thanks to the mediocre story talents of Ben Hardaway. He was good at producing gags, he just didn't string them up as needed to make a good story. However, back to your post, Grim Natwick's animation on said throwaway gags is hilarious. He uses very cartoony "googly" eyes on Woody and overall the animation is just really fun.
However, Grim's animation and most of the rest of the Lantz animators at that time suffered from poor clean-up work, which would improve once Dick Lundy came to Lantz.