Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hanna Barbera's Missed Opportunities


"If only I had my life to live over, I would do what you want, John."



"Did I say "hippopotamus"? I meant a bear!"

Probably a lot of you full animation fans wonder how I can like Bob Clampett and Hanna Barbera at the same time. Clampett made the fullest of the fully animated golden age shorts and Hanna Barbera ushered in a whole era of cartoons with hardly any animation at all! Many think they destroyed animation for all time and I don't have a strong argument against that.

So I'm gonna attempt to explain why I still like and am inspired by their early stuff.

First, there is more to the appeal of animation than animation (the motion) itself.

When Hanna Barbera first started its TV Studio it had some creative elements that even many fully animated cartoons didn't (including their own).

GOOD CHARACTERS
Much has been written about the importance of good character in cartoons, but I haven't found it truly analyzed yet. What are the ingredients that make up good character anyway?

Appealing and Striking Character Design
This is the first thing you notice about a character. Whether he or she has a distinct design. Throughout even the classic period of cartoons, many characters had a generic design. My favorite character of all time is Daffy Duck and he is a pretty generic 40s style duck. He gets his personality from the animators, once he starts moving.

Hanna Barbera characters from 1957 to the mid 60s had not only an overall striking house style, but each character had a somewhat distinct design - an instant visual signature.


In real life some people are very distinct looking, but everyone is distinct enough that you can recognize them and you can instantly make assumptions about their personality just by how they look. (Do you make fun of everyone on the street when you drive around town? And act out their personalities and voices?) You might be wrong about your stereotypes but visual distinction is a powerful conveyer of character and Hanna Barbera had that more than almost any other studio.

Great Voices

Here is another cartoon tradition that has vanished.

Many of the best cartoon characters from the 30s to the 60s had extremely distinct sounding voices and then distinct speech patterns.

http://resources.bravenet.com/audio_clips/comedy_clips/yogi_bear_-_i_repeat_sir_wheres_the_goodies/listen/

http://www.barbneal.com/wav/ltunes/Bugs/Bugs09.wav

http://faultgame.com/images/screwy.wav

The great cartoon voices came mostly from radio. Radio by its very nature cultivates strong and distinct voices. The voice is all you know about the character. You have no visual clues and so the more clear and unique the character of a voice you hear, the stronger the character in your mind.

DOES ANYONE LIKE MOVIE STAR VOICES?

The really good cartoon talents of today complain that animated features won't use them because they are not big movie and television stars and I sympathize with them. Features want "star voices" and i have no idea why.

What makes most stars today is not their voices at all. What does Brad Pitt sound like? He may be an excellent actor with lots of charisma, but most of that is conveyed by his appearance and his expressions and mannerisms.

When I watch an animate feature, I couldn't tell you who was doing the voices. They all sound the same to me. They aren't distinct. They sound like your neighbors.

We watched Larry King interview Seinfeld the other day about Bee Movie and they kept running clips of bland characters with non-descript voices. Then they started talking about how great the voices were. They revealed, for example that Rene Zelwegger did the voice for the cross eyed human girl who makes it with bees. Not in a million years would I ever have guessed who was doing the voice. These hugely expensive movies seem to lack all the raw materials that make up likeable characters. No design, no voice, no dynamic. If Hanna Barbera can afford at least that much, why can't features? What a mystery...



TV voices these days attempt being distinct by having bland actors hold their noses and talk squeaky. This has been going on since the 70s. There are some exceptional talents in the business, like Billy West, Corey Burton, Cheryl Chase, Eric Bauza and others but they are not always taken advantage of by voice directors.

Anyway, the point I am making is that the voices in Hanna Barbera cartoons, as in Warner Bros. classic cartoons are first rate.

Extremely distinct.


If you take a really distinct character design and add a really distinct colorful voice, you instantly have a big head start for your characters.

Good Character DynamicsThe Flinstones dynamics were stolen wholesale from the the Honeymooners, but the combination of Ed Benedict's character design and the great voice talents makes them seem different enough from their inspiration that they really seem like real and distinct characters.

Hanna Barbera continued a longtime trend from classic cartoons. When they needed a voice for a character they sometimes imitated a actor from radio or TV. They would usually change it or exagerrate it enough to distinguish it as Daws Butler did with Art Carney's voice for Yogi Bear.

Ironically the cartoon characters have outlived the fame of many of the live actors who inspired them.


Yogi, Boo Boo and Ranger Smith have a great natural dynamic between them, and unlike the Honeymooners seem to have been created from scratch. (Unless someone knows some earlier show that inspired it)

The Jetsons has good design, great voices but not so much of a character dynamic and that show didn't do as well as The Flintstones, probably for that reason.

Distinct voice and design combined with strong character dynamics are fantastic raw materials for a cartoon series.

Good animation?

Well if you have those other primary ingredients then good animators can really take advantage of them. But will they? Sometimes, depending on the era and circumstances.

http://www.animationarchive.org/2006/09/biography-john-k-on-flintstones.html


In the late 50s when HB was new, the animators were basically undirected and left free to animate the characters according to the voice tracks. Sometimes the animation would be distinct even though limited, and those are the HB cartoons I like. The ones where the animators added to the raw materials of the good characters. The cartoons that each look different from each other, are cartoony and the characters seem alive, unique and motivated.

There are a lot of fully animated cartoons from the 30s and 40s that have no personality or design or unique character dynamics at all, including Hanna Barbera's Tom and Jerry. The animation is beautiful, flowing and full of strong accents. That (along with the extreme painful violence) carries the cartoons.

To this day I can't figure out how after 15 years or so of making the same personalityless cartoons over and over again, all of a sudden Bill and Joe created a whole slew of characters with distinct personalities, voices and designs. Anybody have an answer for that?

It's too bad the 2 approaches didn't coincide. Full animation combined with distinct characters.


Fun Situations and Environments

These ingredients added a lot to the appeal of the early Hanna Barbera cartoons.

Great BG StylingArt Lozzi, Ed Benedict, Montealegre and others created really happy colorful and distinct worlds for the Hanna Barbera characters. They pulled you into the stories.



NO DIRECTION IS THE PROBLEM

Kali and I were watching the Jetsons the other day. I loved the Jetsons when I was a kid, but I was really disappointed with the first 2 or 3 episodes we just watched.

The show has a great concept: a 50s situation comedy family lives in the 60s vision of the future. Man's basic primal instincts haven't changed even though technology is advanced.

I don't know how you can go wrong with the raw materials that went into the Jetsons. I would kill to do a series of them. Voices, designs, great concept, genius background design, funny situation...If you are a talented eager cartoon director, this is a killer foundation for you to work with. The possibilities for humor and invention are limitless.

The animation in the Jetsons is so bland that it shocks me. The same animators who were having fun on Yogi Bear and the Flintstones seem to be animating in their sleep.

The characters merely walk back and forth, say their lines and make the minimum required expressions of happy, sad, mad or dumbfounded. The characters merely do what the script tells them to do, like automatons. (like today's expensive primetime cartoons) There is no life. It's depressing to imagine the animators coming to work and parking their brains and just sitting down to mechanically churn out lifeless things that lift their arm, gesture, nod their head, open and close their lips.

What happened between 1958 and 1962?


ENTERTAINMENT IS LEFT TO THE ARTISTS

I have mentioned before that I think there is a value in having some cartoons be basically undirected. Like Walter Lantz cartoons and Terrytoons. And the earliest Hanna Barbera cartoons.
Carlo Vinci out of the goodness of his heart donates some fun to a cartoon that isn't directed

If they are undirected, but the animators and artists working on the cartoons are free to have some fun and be creative, then you will have a lot of lucky accidents and each cartoon will be unique and distinct from the last one-or at least parts will. A bad director can over-direct his animators by not allowing them to do anything creative ("Don't do that. It looks weird"). Maybe this is the difference between Terrytoons and Famous cartoons.

HOW MANY GOOD CARTOON DIRECTORS ARE THERE ANYWAY?

Undirected cartoons with lively animators doesn't usually produce cartoons as satisfying and complete as cartoons that are precisely directed by visionaries like Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett or Tex Avery - but then, there weren't a lot of great directors in history anyway, so it's better to have some cartoons that don't at least completely squelch the individual artists' contributions to the films.

Clampett is so amazing that he was able to have both these qualities at the same time in his films. His cartoons are uniquely Bob Clampett, but he didn't chain his animators and artists by demanding to OK every single creative atom in the cartoons. He had a way of inspiring his animators to do the best work they ever did. He encouraged them to bring their own unique ideas to the screen and that's why Clampett's cartoons can be watched over and over again, even after you know all the jokes. There are just so many layers of creativity happening all at once.


HANNA BARBERA HAD ALL THE INGREDIENTS AND DIDN'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEM

The early HB cartoons had a unique set of circumstances- great raw ingredients for cartoon series, and top artists and animators, who were allowed (if not encouraged) to have some fun and create in their own styles.

By the 60s this aspect of the cartoons vanished and I don't exactly know why.

It seems that the more successful Bill and Joe became, the more sedate and undirected the cartoons became-and the less interested the animators were in their work.

To me this is an immense tragedy. Someone at HB should have seen the great potential the studio had and taken advantage of it as soon as they were able to afford to.

If they had a couple of creative directors and let them run with the raw material of characters and situations they could have made truly classic films full of fun and most importantly - life.
"What kind of crap is John feeding us?!!"

91 comments:

MikeSnj said...

Very great post John. I agree with you. Saturday morning cartoons pretty much ruined everything.

Kevin Langley said...

I love early HB as much as theatricals for the same reasons you pointed out.

I seems like the more shows they sold the worse the quality was for each one. Was Joe Barbera taking whatever budget was offered to him or was it that a still relatively small crew was taking on more work and tight deadlines being the problem?

PCUnfunny said...

"The really good cartoon talents of today complain that animated features won't use them because they are not big movie and television stars and I sympathize with them. Features want "star voices" and i have no idea why."

Yesterday I listened to an old radio interview with Billy West the other day and he was talking about this same subject. He said studios would hire him just to discover the voices of these characters then hire a celeberities to imitate them poorly. Oh and speaking of West, I think you made him do his best work John. Every were else he is good and even better then average but under you, he was great and then some.

"To this day I can't figure out how after 15 years or so of making the same personalityless cartoons over and over again, all of a sudden Bill and Joe created a whole slew of characters with distinct personalities, voices and designs"

I don't think it's much of a mystery. Bill and Joe were bussiness men and once they found something successful,they would repeat that formula or character over and over again.

Charlie J. said...

Great Post!

"To this day I can't figure out how after 15 years or so of making the same personalityless cartoons over and over again, all of a sudden Bill and Joe created a whole slew of characters with distinct personalities, voices and designs. Anybody have an answer for that?"

well, Tom and Jerry were just a generic cat and mouse pair. Many of the early HB characters were characatures of sitcom stars who already had personallity, and maybe that rubbed off on them.

I don't think Tom and Jerry even talked, and its hard not to have distinct voices when you have young Don Messick and Daws Butler. Also, you said yourself that Barbera thought stylized characters would stand out better on TV, and they had the best designer in the buisness.

Tedtoons said...

Agreed. Daffy is probably my favorite character, too. Especially in early cartoons when he was zanier; before he became a cranky greed-head. Kind of like Woody Woodpecker; he was more interesting when he was weird looking and really looney.

That would be a good pairing: early Daffy -vs- early Woody. Only if they did it now it would be done in CGI and they'd be photo-realistic, helping a kid (from Show X) finally connect with his absentee dad. Sigh...

Mr. Trombley said...

If memory serves me correctly, "The Jetsons" was "Blondie" in the future, going so far as to hire Penny Singleton to play herself.
One of the unfortunate losses from the theatrical cartoons was Scott Bradley's scores. Scott Bradley retired after "Droopy Leprechaun".
What, in the limited avenue of Television Animation, is the role of music and the composer?

Chris Rank said...

wow. great post. very thorough and thought provoking.

An aside: Part of the reason I don't comment on the layout posts is because I don't understand most of what you are talking about based on my lack of experience with animation. I'm not an animator but i'm interested in the processes and thoughts behind it. why no one else does is their issue. :)

Bruce said...

"It seems that the more successful Bill and Joe became, the more sedate and undirected the cartoons became-and the less interested the animators were in their work."

Well, that does explain why we have 20,000 different versions of Scooby Doo, & the proposal of “The Blackstones."

"To me this is an immense tragedy. Someone at HB should have seen the great potential the studio had and taken advantage of it as soon as they were able to afford to."

To these workers, at the time, most of the shows they worked on were 'just assignments,' with having little sentimental value for what they worked on. Ed Benedict probably admitted it at one time or another.

Also, it wasn't until people like you, artists and cartoon fans who had grown up watching Huck, Yogi, Bugs, on television, had tried to hunt down these men and women that had worked on these shorts, TV programs, and films. Why? Because you were inspired with what they worked on, and it was proven that these shows had lasting appeal to the general populace, IF they given it a chance.

Unfortunately, it’s our responsibility, by blogs, & video-uploading sites, to keep showing these cartoons to the younger generation, but never by force.

Thanks for taking the time to post this rather insightful read, John. I certainly learned a thing or two from it.

From an inspiring cartoonist/ artist

Bruce

Kali Fontecchio said...

"y favorite character of all time is Daffy Duck and he is a pretty generic 40s style duck. He gets his personality from the animators, once he starts moving."

ME TOO.

I love all the early Flintstones, Yogi's etc. they make me feel good.

Pete Emslie said...

Great assessment of early Hanna-Barbera, John. I grew up with those cartoons too, and what I related to was the pleasing designs of both characters and background, coupled with those wonderful voices, resulting in cartoons that had a very warm, friendly and inviting appeal about them.

Regarding the voices, I think what makes them work is that guys like Mel Blanc, Daws Butler and Don Messick were allowed to speak at a normal vocal level and really act, as opposed to today's voice actors who are directed by some silly Vocal Director to basically scream out their dialogue in an over the top performance that lacks colour and nuance. When one hears the slow, laid back drawl of Huckleberry Hound, Daws Butler completely defines his character precisely by not reverting to the hyper, histrionic performing that is so widespread in todays cartoons.

Interestingly, whereas the aforementioned voice actors were vocal chameleons capable of a wide range of different voices, Hanna-Barbera also had a knack for picking performers who only really used their own natural voice, but that voice was so distinctive that it had great aural appeal. I'm thinking here of people like Alan Reed as Fred Flintstone, and Janet Waldo, who voiced many a cute girl in the various cartoons. Not long ago, I heard Alan Reed on an old radio episode of "My Friend Irma", where his voice is so distinctive that it completely conjures up the image of the character he's playing in the listener's mind. And I've always loved Janet Waldo's voice for its beautiful melodic quality, just perfect for a pretty girl character like Judy Jetson, or with a Southern accent adopted to vary it for Penelope Pitstop.

Lastly, another factor in the appeal of those cartoons for me is the music, both title tune and score, by Hoyt Curtin. In the early 60's, there was a great jazz influence in cartoons that is sadly missing today. As soon as you heard the opening notes to the themes from "The Flintstones" or (my favourite theme)"Top Cat", it had you hooked. Yes, there was a lot to like in those early Hana-Barbera cartoons. Thanks for summing up your thoughts on that era, John. They sure don't make them like that anymore.

Looney Moon Cartoons said...

Celebrity voices are business moves more than creative decisions. The idea being people will go see the movie if they're favorite star is in it. Unfortunately, This strategy has worked for films since the very beginnings of Hollywood. As long as it keeps making money, big budget films will keep doing it. They have too much money riding on them to take 'risks' on a relatively unknown voice actor, no matter how talented.

Agustin Croxatto said...

Excellent post, this stuff its really interesting... Daffy Duck was always my favourite looney tunes character since childhood, because he was so wacky and paranoid and made crazy stuff.

greggerg said...

"I don't know how you can go wrong with the raw materials that went into the Jetsons. I would kill to do a series of them."

I would kill for you to do a series of them, too!

Roberto said...

"To this day I can't figure out how after 15 years or so of making the same personalityless cartoons over and over again, all of a sudden Bill and Joe created a whole slew of characters with distinct personalities, voices and designs"

I don't think you like Barney Bear, either.

"A bad director can over-direct his animators by not allowing them to do anything creative ("Don't do that. It looks weird"). Maybe this is the difference between Terrytoons and Famous cartoons."

That is actually one of the reasons why Jim Tyer was fired from Famous.

"I don't think Tom and Jerry even talked, and its hard not to have distinct voices when you have young Don Messick and Daws Butler. Also, you said yourself that Barbera thought stylized characters would stand out better on TV, and they had the best designer in the buisness."

Technically, Tom and Jerry did talk. For example, in "Blue Cat Blues" (you can find it on YouTube), Jerry narrates the whole cartoon. And in some of the cartoons (like "The Zoot Cat"), Tom speaks as well (examples: "In me power," "Don't you believe it?") I just wanted to clear that up.

Great post, John. I like it when you try to dissect great cartoons like these!

JohnK said...

>>Celebrity voices are business moves more than creative decisions. The idea being people will go see the movie if they're favorite star is in it.<<

I don't think anyone goes to animated movies because of who does the voices. Certainly not the 5 year olds who the movies are aimed at.

They have to spend way more on star voices than they would have to on actual professional voice actors. That's bad business decisions at work.

We should give the kids real cartoon voices and earn their 10 bucks.

Ben Forbes said...

I hate celebrities doing voice work for cartoons. There is nothing unique about their voice, they emote with their looks and everything else in real life. Just their voices are terrible!

What happened to good voices that have character and are funny?!

PCUnfunny said...

"I don't think anyone goes to animated movies because of who does the voices. Certainly not the 5 year olds who the movies are aimed at."


I am just guessing here but since parents take their kids to these films, the producers must think the adults would like to here a celebrity they know. Again, just a gues.

Barx said...

It's strange that all those unique, dynamic and funny voices are gone from the bulk of todays cartoons.
You've mentioned it before, but the voice work in Roger Ramjet is fantastic as well.
John, do you know any great voice actors in the Toronto area?

smackmonkey said...

Quote from pcunfunny...

"I don't think it's much of a mystery. Bill and Joe were business men and once they found something successful,they would repeat that formula or character over and over again."

Executive see.
Executive do.

Ted said...

A number of celebrities have specific voices; Jerry Seinfeld being the obvious example for Bee Movie (tho I think Chris Rock is pretty distinctive too; then move laterally to another Chris Rock voiced picture, with distinctive David Hyde Pierce in Osmosis Jones). Woody Allen, Christopher Walken and Sylvester Stallone also have distinctive voices, even if Antz wasn't the finest bug movie of its era. Boris Karloff in the Grinch. Jimmy Durante in Frosty. Robin Williams in Aladdin. James Earl Jones in Lion King. Sure, there's plenty of "who cares" examples like Kevin Kline and Demi Moore in Hunchback of Notre Dame, Matthew Broderick in Lion King, etc., but that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of distinctive voices out there. Whether or not they're cast properly is a different question.

Chris S. said...

Great post, John!

Whenever someone asks me to name my favorite cartoon characters I always mention Daffy Duck - but ONLY back when he was actually daffy! That's when he was perfect.

What is stopping WB from going back to these (if not new) characters in the shorts format? Why the (bad) feature length films? With the popularity of Pixar's shorts at the beginning of their movies ... wouldn't people be thrilled to see real Looney Tunes again?

I suggest to those in power that they put you at the helm of WB animation (or at least hand over the rights) and you can bring back the goods. Can't someone make this happen for us? .... and when it does, can I work there?

JohnK said...

I'll give you Boris Karloff Ted, but that was 40 years ago.

The rest of those people sound like my neighbors. They don't have cartoony distinct voices or the ultra clear delivery, emphasis and enunciation of classic radio stars.

They have mildly distinct realistic voices. Robin Williams does his regular wacky schtick, but the timbre of his voice is pretty normal. When you use voices like that you think about Robin Williams as he actually is instead of the character as a unique individual.

The cartoon then can't live up to the real person, let alone surpass him.

Nick said...

nice post
do you think cartoons will ever go back to how they were in the 40s?

Juan Pablo said...

I love Seinfeld but when I hear him playing the bee, I can't stop seeing him standing with a mic, a brick background and a spotlight. It doesn't work, he gets in the way.

The problem is executives are scared to death of losing money, and they know big stars are guaranteed success... right? Not really, but even if the film fails, they have a "reasonable excuse" that investors will accept.

That bee movie sounds a lot like Ratatouille (animal defies rules and wants to interact with humans). And it doesn't look good, even for a 2000's 3d movie.

Seinfeld + animation could make a great movie, but they seemed to have ruined the opportunity. Perhaps they'll have better luck if next time he's not voice acting, but writing.

Matt Greenwood said...

If the animation studios keep spending that much money to get celebrity voices, it must be working. If they're willing to sacrifice having unique or interesting voices, then it must be making them money because they're gambling with too much to want to take any risks on stuff like that.

We all know real cartoon voices would be better, but clearly the parents taking their kids to see the movies see a name they recognize on the poster. Billy West is a great voice actor but he won't bring in people as a name.

It's a shame too because this dumb marketing move has made recent animated features unwatchable and seem amateurish. But really, I don't think the majority of people buying the tickets care.

smackmonkey said...

Just because I recognize your voice on the phone when you call doesn't mean it's *distinct* in the way we're using it here. Woody Allen always sounds like Woody Allen. Likewise with Rock, Pierce, Walken, and Stallone. Christ, Robin Williams idiosyncratic compulsive verbal diarrhea in Alladin made the movie damn near unwatchable (he's not much different in person) and, to my mind, severely handcuffed the animators and the rest of the production team.

True voice performance is specific and distinct to the character being portrayed. I think they call it acting.

Kali Fontecchio said...

"When you use voices like that you think about Robin Williams as he actually is instead of the character as a unique individual.

The cartoon then can't live up to the real person, let alone surpass him."

I agree wholeheartedly- a good example of that would be that awful fish film with Will Smith, Martin Scorsese, Angelina Jolie...blah blah BLAH...

RAAACARTOONS.COM said...

Seinfeld can't act but the worst was Ellen DeGenerate in Nemo!

Roberto González said...

Tom and Jerry have personalities. Yes, they have generic designs and yes, their attitude sometimes changed a little from one cartoon to another. But mostly they were very defined IMO, especially for mute characters. Now my english vocabulary is not that good to come up with a lot of adjectives, but I think it's pretty clear who both Tom and Jerry were.

Also I have to admit it. I watched Bee Movie and I liked it. And I liked Renee Zellweger's voice acting too. Generally I agree that most of these big stars don't have a distinct voice. However I don't see anything but in no noticing she's Renee Zellweger, I think that's a good thing...if it sounds exactly like her then she's not doing "a voice". I liked the voice. The girl character seemed pretty naive at some moments and a little zany. And it was mostly expressed by the voice cause the design and animation were generic as hell, and a little odd at times (the already mentioned cross-eyed expression).But hey, she even looked kinda sexy for a couple of frames.

And Seinfeld's character didn't have a lot of personality but it's a kinda cute character, not so much visually but by the way he act. I'd take him over Shrek any day, for example. And Jerry's voice is not especially funny or great but it's distinct. You can't tell the other character is Renee (but that is not a bad thing per se) but you can clearly tell this one is Jerry Seinfeld.

I liked the dialogues, the story, some of the characters and even the ideas for the visual gags, though they could have been executed in a funnier, more cartoony way. Some designs were pretty generic and weird and some scenes would have worked better with more cartoony animation. But it did have a kinda exaggerated (again for today standards) caricature of Ray Liotta.

I know no one here is going to agree with me if you eventually end watching the movie but I think it's ,in concept, one of the best recent animated movies. Sadly the execution is half assed visually. Most of it's about the jokes. It doesn't have too many pathos or filler. If they had given the animators some freedom to do their job, much -or more- than they gave Jerry to write the script this could have been very good. But it had a lot of puns. I thought they were funny but John is going to hate it, that's for sure.

Anyway, comparing Bee Movie to Hanna Barbera does have a point about the design/animation. Now it's all about moving things in a more fluid way, but the designs are much more weird. I can't understand the logic behind character design these days, especially in some CGI films. Obviously I also think the dynamic and voices of Yogi Bear, Boo Boo and Rager Smith or Fred and Barney are excellent and much better than those in Bee Movie, I'm just saying the last ones weren't so bad per se.

But yeah, there is something very wrong about the designs and animation today, especially in feature movies. There is a filter that makes everything bland. Things are not used to their full potential, and that's even more annoying when you can tell there's some potential. And yes, that probably started with later HB. Except a lot of the later HB shows didn't have too much potential to begin with. I guess it just became a bussinness and that's all.

Incidentally how do you feel about Dastardly and Mutley for example? Or the Wacky Races? I think the later series are a total boredom but D&M in their Flying Machines has a funnier set up, and I liked the characters. There were less character expressions at that point and it was more boring to watch, but I think they were both good characters in concept, voice and design.

PCUnfunny said...

"If they're willing to sacrifice having unique or interesting voices, then it must be making them money because they're gambling with too much to want to take any risks on stuff like that."

They would make more money by making a good animated film and by adapting the old system. People are willing to accept new ideas just as much as crappy ones. The reason is because they don't know what they want.

dave said...

i couldnt agree with you more about using celebrity voices for animated features. its as much of a pet peeve for me as using songs like that "hey now, youre an allstar" by whatever the hell that band's name is.

as much as i like to champion amazing but usually obscure cg shorts like burning safari, its hard not to get pissed at dreamworks and its carpetbombing ad campaigns for piles of S like Bee Movie looks to be. i had an animation teacher, who is now a director at dreamworks. in class, always the ass, i brought up how much i hate that celebrity recognition to sell the film takes priority over a voice that best represents the character in a unique way, suited to animation. he agreed completely, and basically said that it was frustrating as a director to have to comply with things like that.

Ted said...

Your neighbors talk like Jerry Seinfeld? Or Robin Williams? I'd think you'd have had a better chance of someone sounding like Bugs Bunny if you lived in NYC in the '40s than either of those people anywhere now, unless one of your neighbors thinks his Seinfeld impression is delightful and the other does lots of cocaine. Does a voice need something terribly wrong with it to count?

As for thinking of the actor, that's true for the many voice ripoffs of classic cartoons (fake Jimmy Durante in Jerky Turkey, for example, or fake Abbott and Costello in Tale of Two Kitties). Why isn't it an issue for Karloff? Does the narration frame for Grinch excuse it? Do you think a distinctive voiced actor causes a problem for cartoons in making the audience think of the actor in a way that differs from live action?

And why isn't it an issue for Mel Blanc? Wouldn't people at the time have just thought "Hey, these Warner Brothers cartoons all sound like background characters from Jack Benny (etc.). I can't think of Porky Pig without expecting someone to start returning Christmas gifts to him over and over again..."? Many of his voices sounded similar.

JohnK said...

>>As for thinking of the actor, that's true for the many voice ripoffs of classic cartoons (fake Jimmy Durante in Jerky Turkey, for example, or fake Abbott and Costello in Tale of Two Kitties).<<

Those are all cartoony caricatures of the live actors.

Ted you oughta read more closely before you start arguing with things that have already been answered.

I love your collection of cartoon art, by the way.

PCUnfunny said...

"Many of his voices sounded similar."

Sure Blanc had some stock voices and you can hear some simularities but this is all natural.

J Lee said...

Really, the decline at Hanna-Barbera seemed to set in about the time of the final series of Huck and Yogi cartoons in 1961-62. It seemed as if Bill and Joe had hit upon a winning formula with their first two series of shorts in 1958-60, and were just content to go with what worked (or what worked for Kellogg's -- the first dozen or so Yogi cartoons which I absolutely love present a only occasionally happy-go-lucky character who could even get pretty pissed off at times. A far more interesting personality, but not good for pitching Kellogg's OKs cereal to the kiddies).

With the success of The Flintstones, Bill and Joe then seemed set their eyes on prime time projects by finding whatever had worked in the past and modifying it for animation. The problem in part was the source material -- Dagwood's relationship with Mr. Dithers and his family could be problematic at times, and the same was true for the Jetsons. It's just not that much fun to see George have to take it episode after episode with nothing in the animation to make it worth repeated viewing, and the same was true with Top Cat. You've got to either have some pretty good scripts or some memorable animation to make a scam artist vs. patsies worth watching over and over (which shows how great the Bugs Bunny cartoons really are).

With the post-Huck/Quick Draw/Yogi shorts, the 1962 HB syndie series with Wally, Touche and Lippy and the Magilla Gorilla and Peter Potamus shows all started out with a few decent scripts, but the animation by then had been streamlined and blanded out so that nothing visually suprising was really going to happen. Once they started running out of ideas for the characters, the cartoons became just dull repetitions. And anything after those shows, once the studio started having to conform to the likes and dislikes of Fred Silverman and the other Saturday morning executives, aren't even worth mentioning.

Matt Greenwood said...

"They would make more money by making a good animated film and by adapting the old system. People are willing to accept new ideas just as much as crappy ones. The reason is because they don't know what they want."

Why? Where are you getting this from? These are major corporations looking to get the best return on their dollar as possible. You think they don't know how be efficient? This isn't the 40s anymore. People will buy what is marketed to them. And the studios have worked out that people are more likely to spend money on familiar voices than new ideas.

I know there are people who would prefer unique ideas, but they clearly don't make up the majority of people who paid to see Transformers, The Simpsons Movie or Bee Movie.

I know John disagrees with that theory, but I can't look at the amount of money these movies make and think that they're doing something wrong.

JohnK said...

>>You think they don't know how be efficient? <<

Well a lot of people who work there tell me they aren't.

lastangelman said...

One has to blame Pixar for starting all the celebrity voices in big time cartoons, but fortunately Brad Bird is weening them away from that way of thinking and using talented people with distinctive voice talents and inhouse talent who likes making cartoons, i.e Ratatouille. The 3-D animation is getting a little more cartoony and lot less puppet-like, though that Cal-Art 'tude seems inescapable.

Weirdo said...

The early HB's were awesome. I would rather watch those than any of today's stuff. Today's stuff burns my retinas.

PCUnfunny said...

"People will buy what is marketed to them."

You just said the key sentence that invalidates your argument. With good marketing it's possible to make an idea successful, good or bad.There is nothing but bad ideas out being marketed so people have no choice but to go see crap.

Chris S. said...

>>>One has to blame Pixar for starting all the celebrity voices in big time cartoons<<<

No Way! They're hardly to blame ... they're just continuing the dull trend.

SIDE NOTE: If you ever see those books about the making of the Pixar films, the pre-production art and the sketches for the films are waaaay more interesting than the final product. That usually just confirms that I prefer the traditional stuff.

John: What are your favorite/tolerated modern cartoons? Are there any?

R. Banuelos said...

Ohhh voice acting, cool.

If we're talking new series and voice acting I got to hand it to Family Guy, that's probably the best thing Seth took from HB. Mr. Seth Green is bad at it but the other characters are spot on. Absolutely that's the thing that carries that show.

I wish he would have gone to do a kids show. If you get the chance, on frederator they have a short done by Seth and Butch Hartman (unfourtunately) called Zoo Pals and all of what seems to be Seth's style is great and carries from HB.

People continue to compare Family Guy to The Simpsons but I really see a bigger comparison to a show like Wait Till Your Father Gets Home.

At any rate 3D movies stink. We all know it. Madagascar's best parts were the penguin scenes and none of that was celebrity voiced. I think that's proof enough that John's point is certifiable and that the executive don't know what they're doing (They made 2 stupid penguin movies! They thought that the penguins alone were what worked for Madagascar)

Brad Bird's films are good, but they tend to not emphasize cartoony-ness. He does a lot for the 3D storytelling artform but not from a cartoon standpoint. Brad Bird is a great (the best) 3D movie maker, but does not strive to make cartoons. Madagascar has been the closest film to try and be cartoony; and where did the influential artist on that picture come from? Ren and Stimpy.

Mr. Semaj said...

Many think they destroyed animation for all time and I don't have a strong argument against that.

I don't think anyone does. I'm still surprised when I discover that many of greats, Tex Avery, Dick Lundy, Art Davis, Richard Bickenbach, Izzy Ellis, etc. all ended their careers with 70's Hanna-Barbera projects.

Also,

One has to blame Pixar for starting all the celebrity voices in big time cartoons,

Nope.

The all-star casting tradition became canonical for animated features beginning with The Jungle Book, wherein the case of Disney, the producer-director wanted to use the same celebrities, particularly Phil Harris in every subsequent feature. Even today, most studios haven't yet figured out that using celebrities is never a guaranteed success.

smackmonkey said...

"These are major corporations looking to get the best return on their dollar as possible. You think they don't know how be efficient? This isn't the 40s anymore. People will buy what is marketed to them."

Wow! Supply-side animation!

J. J. Hunsecker said...

>>To this day I can't figure out how after 15 years or so of making the same personalityless cartoons over and over again, all of a sudden Bill and Joe created a whole slew of characters with distinct personalities, voices and designs. Anybody have an answer for that?

Maybe because Joe Barbera wrote all the Tom & Jerry cartoons himself, while Warren Foster and Mike Maltese wrote the early H-B tv cartoon like Yogi Bear and The Flintstones.

Larry Levine said...

I have a very warm spot for early Hanna Barbera. As a cartoon obsessed kid back in the 60's, the early thick ink-lined HB characters were always the best models for learning how to draw.

paul etcheverry said...

When did Ed Benedict leave H-B? What other key figures departed by 1962 (when the studio's work began a long downhill slide)?

dirtymouth bass said...

For some reason Mike snj says the notes on his blog are from "a friend"
from Nick.But there really Spumco and Games notes passed onto a studio called Mr Big who worked on crap eps of Ren and Stimpy.Copy and paste the following to see ALL the notes.




http://s208.photobucket.com/albums/bb320/
dirtymouthbass/?start=0

PowerRangerYELLOW said...

speaking of bee movie. I actually would have preferred if jerry seinfeld stuck with doing the movie with actors in bug costumes instead of making another shitty computer animation movie.

that might have actually looked like something fun to watch and i bet the kids it's aimed to would loved that more instead.

Just take how much fun live action Japanese super heroes are to watch for example.

not sure if there are other fans of this genre here.

but the point i'm making is crappy computer animation will never beat hand drawn animation or even campy live action shows in terms of entertainment vaule and fun.

I still watch the old batman tv series from the 60's just because it is indeed a lot of fun to watch.

and totally agreed about using more distinct voices in period.

with the right voice you can actually associate the actors voice with the character and shouldn't this be the goal of anything animated or not that requires a voice performance.

maybe for the future we should all consider having actual humans such as actors that do voice overs instead of famous people that can't do as good of a job but costs more.

thank you for this blog.

just reading this gives me a lot of helpful insights.

I'll have to try some of those drawing exercises later from the beginning.

-PowerRangerYELLOWanuspower

NextGen (Hector) said...

Yeah it is sad that voice actors get turned away for big name celebs. I don't mind celeb voices because they work at times... like Toy Story.

And it is sad that there will never be another Clampett, Jones or Avery.

slowtiger said...

You know where there are good animation voice talents? In Germany. Sounds pretty unbelievable, right?

The traditional habit of dubbing any foreign movie led to a very high level of this technique. Now blockbusters like Pixar or Dreamworks or Disney films get their share of german "celebrity" voices - but the trick is, they do their job pretty good, and the best of them sometimes better than the original voice. My favourites are the voices of some german comedians who, maybe not so much of a surprise, perform very well in a dubbing studio.

But of course no producer in germany would ever start a film putting together all this talent for an original animated movie ... or even an original series. Never.

lastangelman said...

Wait, it wasn't Pixar, you're all right, up to a point - I knew I was talking without thinking - but it wasn't Jungle Book, it was UPA's Gay Puree - Robert Goulet and Judy Garland and Red Buttons!
But the celebrities in those days had distinctive voices and personalities - that many times was bigger than the animation they were vocalizing. Not like today's current crop.

Ted said...

"Those are all cartoony caricatures of the live actors."

Do you mean visually or vocally? Because vocally, I don't think they're caricatured very much past the originals (the Abbott and Costello voices are further off the mark than the Durante, which I could maybe see as being caricature, but I'm more inclined to think of it as just how it came out through cartoon voice actors as opposed to intentionally taking it further; the fact that they're "on" a much higher percentage of the time changes the overall performance, making more of a concentrated kind of Abbott and Costello, but that doesn't effect the vocal performance itself).

Visually, they're obviously caricatures of the celebs. Do you feel it was an error to use the sound of the celebrity voice? I seem to recall you saying cartoons can not live up to the facial acting of live action actors. What makes referencing Abbott and Costello as the main characters ok for you in Tale of Two Kitties, and why is using actual voice actors with easily identifiable voices not ok? Abbott sounded more like my neighbors than any of the celebrity voices I listed. If it's just that you don't like the voices, or think they're wrong for the parts, why not separate that out from the idea that using celebrity voices is just wrong? Actors of today by and large do not have the vocal range of radio voice actors from 60 years ago, but then neither did Jack Mercer. I'm not saying todays actors are anywhere close to Jack Mercer distinctive (Fran Drescher and Yeardley Smith might come closest), but I am putting out there that Seinfeld's voice may be as cartoony and specific as the Bugs Bunny voice (not Mel Blanc, Bugs Bunny). It brings to mind a specific type of character (Seinfeldian), but if the voice is used for that type of character in a cartoon (which it apparently is in Bee Movie), why isn't putting the right voice with the right character an asset for the cartoon?

(Thanks for the praise John; I'll use this opportunity to encourage everyone who has original animation art to go to www.rubberslug.com and open a gallery; it's a great free way to get your collection online in a place where people searching for animation art can easily find it; maybe some of your collection will end up in one of John's posts, as several things I own have done. Don't be intimidated by the anime focus of the site; it's very open to all animation production art.)

Jorge Garrido said...

I agree 100% with this great post. I suspect that you have to have grown up with TV Hanna Barbera and Tom & Jerry cartoons to really appreciate them.

Huckleberry cartoons have lots of fleeting moments of good animation, but critics of HB like Mike Barrier always ignore them. You only have to watch a couple to see that there WAS cool movement, just not constantly.

Also, I think Don Messick's performance of Jinx The Cat is the greatest vocal performance ever. His stuttering and awkward pauses are hilarious all by themselves.

John, I enjoy Games episodes of Ren & Stimpy, but they were also pretty undirected and unfocused and nonsensical. Do you think some of your theories of HB could apply to Games?

PCUnfunny said...

"It brings to mind a specific type of character (Seinfeldian), but if the voice is used for that type of character in a cartoon (which it apparently is in Bee Movie)"

Can you elaborate on this part a bit Ted ?

Ted said...

Whiny mensch that goes through his day at full volume, meeting adversity (arrived at by his inherent disaffection with his surroundings) with aplomb but eventually taking it on the chin while somewhat meeting his goals? I haven't seen Bee Movie, but the impression I get from the 5 minutes of footage I've seen is the character is in keeping with that (hit a windshield, make it your own by using the car for a ride; come into conflict with humans over enslavement for honey, end up sleeping with one of them; etc.).

PCUnfunny said...

Ted: That really isn't specific at all, hell it's not even a characterization. A bland protagonist wanting to see the world or reach some higher goal ? Like that hasn't been done a million times before.

dave said...

"At any rate 3D movies stink. We all know it. Madagascar's best parts were the penguin scenes and none of that was celebrity voiced. I think that's proof enough that John's point is certifiable and that the executive don't know what they're doing (They made 2 stupid penguin movies! They thought that the penguins alone were what worked for Madagascar)"

Id say that nearly 100% of what comes out of Dreamworks is total stink. I wouldnt say that 3D movies stink, because ive seen a few that were pretty clever. The Blue Sky scrat shorts for example.

If you dont take your hyper critical cartoonist sensibilities and help change the way 3D movies are developed, theyre going to stay crap, and youre gonna be a dinosaur without a job.

DONT BE AFRAID OF THE MEDIUM. learn it, and control it. though we're way past the winsor mccay days of 3D, we're still a ways off from what it can and will do. you ought to be a part of it. the people engineering the tools for the artists are fighting the good fight to make things more artist friendly. start now while the learning curve is still manageable, before everything goes full blown 3D and stereoscopic in 2009.

R. Banuelos said...

"And it is sad that there will never be another Clampett, Jones or Avery."

Let's not be too quick to make that assumption. Unless it's

"And it is sad that there will never be another Clampett, Jones or Avery cartoon."

To which I wish there were more.

R. Banuelos said...

"The Blue Sky scrat shorts for example."

Hey man, I agree with you. 3D is just a medium and a lot can be done with it. Sorry for the generalization, I do enjoy a few 3D movies and many, many short films in 3D. I'm a big fan of The Incredibles too. As far as 3D movies go though many of them look like experiments in film making, I know a really great 3D movie's going to come out and knock the socks off of everyone cartoonist or not. But for the time being it's a difficult technology and gets used to (pardon the vulgarity) masturbate out films for studios. Every 3D movie I can see things that are working, all it takes is someone (technically and artistically sound) to take all of this and put it together right.

I don't think most people really have a problem with the medium, even John's pitched a 3D film before. It's more of the process that they need to be made under. Pixar has the most artistic freedom with their movies but the animation has been about the same since Toy Story and they don't seem to experiement a lot. As in, they are happy doing the same films as they have done before with different stories, even charater designs are simular. This very problem happened to Disney! A film maker should always experiment and push everything they do or else you don't learn anything new and people get tired of seeing the same style.

Once John left Ren and Stimpy, they tried just using the same style and ideas for every episode and the episodes became boring and too much alike.

In the 80's when cartoons were poo-poo people could say that cartoons were going to go away and that nothing was good, but it just took someone who knew what they were doing to change all that. Just like how the 80's cartoons stunk, 3D movies (feature films!) stink now.

Ted said...

I'm not saying it isn't kinda bland (the repetition of Jerry Seinfeld in the culture makes it seem more bland than it would otherwise); but I think it's fairly specific. Is the character type any more bland than Bugs Bunny? Porky Pig? Goofy? Tweety? Droopy? Is it any less specific than the mentioned characters?

PCUnfunny said...

"Let's not be too quick to make that assumption."

Why not ? It's the truth. There is only one of one person. You can't be the next "Clampett" because Bob Clampett already was. The only thing you can do is be the best you possibly can be. That is what those men did.

Chris S. said...

Let's just consider 3D another medium like the experimental stuff, stop-motion or claymation, etc. I happen to think Pixar films are the best of the genre and although there are certain technological restrictions ... I think they're trying hardest to bring a little 2D sensibility to the mix. They just need a director to come in and revolutionize - if so desired. Whatever, who cares. It's different.

The only 3D I hate ... deeply, DEEPLY hate ... is that motion capture, photorealistic, dead-eye stuff. Unnecessary and just plain creeepy.

PCUnfunny said...

"but I think it's fairly specific."

That character only has a broad goal, not a personality. Bugs Bunny has a personality.

Ted said...

In what way does Bugs have a personality that the Seinfeld persona does not? Bugs tends to do more cartoony things than Seinfeld, but that doesn't make a personality. Bugs may have more men with guns coming after him than Seinfeld, but that doesn't mean his underlying personality is more (persinality-y?) than the Seinfeld persona. Bugs's base set of reactions is fairly bland; he meets adversity with aplomb and sometimes comes out on top, and sometimes not. He's occasionally frustrated and whiny and yelling. Sounds a hell of a lot like Seinfeld to me. (Keep in mind I'm not a Seinfeld expert; I've never seen an episode of the show all the way through; at this point, that's just stubbornness on my part as opposed to disliking it so much that I wouldn't watch it even if I didn't have a streak to maintain.) I think cartoony conflict may be giving you the impression that Bugs has more personality than Seinfeld.

PCUnfunny said...

Ted: I didn't say Seinfeld himself had no personality. The point I am trying to make is Jerry Seinfeid is just lending his voice to a bland characteer with bland goals. That's case with all these celebrities in big budget cartoons, they don't act. They just lend their voices to lifeless characters.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Haha, I can't believe you guys are arguing about Bugs Bunny and Seinfeld! Holy crap.

Ted said...

OK, I'm not getting what you're getting at then regarding personality. The character's personality should exist regardless of the given goals. Bugs generally didn't have interesting overarching goals; he wanted to get to Pismo Beach, or not get shot, and so on. From what I understand of the plot of Bee Movie, the Seinfeld bee's goals are a lot bigger than the average Bugs goal. But that has nothing to do with the underlying personality, just the situation the personality is reacting to.

Is what you're talking about actually the way the individual personalities end up being expressed in regards to the specific conflicts each character encounters? If so, I can't directly compare them because I've only seen maybe 5 minutes of Bee Movie. Even if that is what you're talking about, I don't think that effects the underlying personality of the characters (or the voices that help define the characters), but instead would mean you're talking about 1) a lack of WB style cartooniness in Bee Movie or 2) limitations of Jerry Seinfeld's ability to act. If what you're talking about is two, it might end up being a personality element, but that doesn't seem to be what you were arguing before, and I'd say it only limits the extremes of the character; Seinfeld's vocals create a personality that is more definite in Bee Movie than what most of Mel Blanc's Bugs Bunny voice defines. That's not a bad thing for Bugs; I think the blandness let the character play more roles, while still having a grounding in the vocal mannerisms. But that's different than saying that he has more personality than Seinfeld; I think the blandness of Bugs, the lack of much personality, made him much more useful. Like a perfected Mickey Mouse (or Porky Pig); he wasn't a milksop, meaning his reaction to adversity was more aggressive (and that he was less blank because he had a firm sense of self), but he was blank enough to walk into Sherwood Forest or a Martian observatory without anyone batting an eye, without collapsing in on himself, and without feeling grafted on the way a more distinct personality might in such a situation.

PCUnfunny said...

Ted: Bottom line, all the Bee movie character has is a goal. Not a personality.

R. Banuelos said...

"Haha, I can't believe you guys are arguing about Bugs Bunny and Seinfeld! Holy crap."

Two comedy icons!

"That's case with all these celebrities in big budget cartoons, they don't act. They just lend their voices to lifeless characters."

Seinfeld co-wrote the script and is a master of line delivery. His best work is going to be at stand-up but any comedy must meet his standards. It was at his suggestion (a pun as well) that a movie like this be made. I cannot defend the animation or any other voice actor in the movie, but to belittle Seinfeld to just a big named celebrity is ignorant. I agree that Bee Movie doesn't seem well (I have not seen it, anyone else?) but Jerry Seinfeld is a true master of comedy, line delivery, and word play. The character is all him, in the very sense of the T.V. show. The story might be bland but to say that the personality is bland is to say that Seinfeld (one of the top greatest comedians of all time) is bland and there are few (very few) who would agree with that statement.

Patton Oswald on the other hand...

wychwood said...

I love early HB stuff, the Yogi's, Flinstones thru to Jonny Quest and on up to early superhero craze, which is where I came in. What happened is by mid/late 60's the big 3 networks were clamoring for content to fill their Saturday morning schedule. Before you know it quantity was sacrificed for quality and redundancy ruled: cartoon shows with similar characters and concepts aped one another.

As far as voice actor thing goes, I believe non-creative, bean counter studio types try to play it safe. They figure if their latest CGI animated movie features voices of today's big-name stars, half the battles won. It's the same rationale they use when they dust off old TV shows and re-package them for this generation. They assume it will be hit because old fans will go see them as well as new fans. What they fail to understand is a good story and interesting characters are basis for any movie whether it live action or animated. Hollywood's biggest names and the best CGI effects will not save a movie with a poor story of uninteresting characters.

Jim Rockford said...

Im really fond of the early Hanna Barbera stuff too,especially their Tom and Jerry theatrical shorts

Robert Gentles backrounds are fantastic.
I love the loud outrageous sound effects,i.e. shotguns sounding when Tom hits butch with a mallet,the no holds barred glass shattering 'AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!,screamed at the top of the lungs when Tom gets smacked with a bat.

Scott Bradleys fantastic scores..my favorite has to be from "Blue Cat Blues"

(I am curious does anyone out there know the name of the instrumental "shug" fisher plays midway through 'pecos pest',its catchier than hell and I'd love to hear the whole tune!)

I also love the wierdness of cartoons like "heavenly puss" where Tom gets a glimpse at hell! the imagery in that cartoon is incredible!
Those cartoons also have some of the best undilluted cartoon violence ever made!
whether Toms taking a croquet mallet to Butch's head over a girl,hitting Spike on the head with a board from his ill fated dog house,or lobbing dynamite at Jerry,theres never a dull moment.
Check out "push button kitty" mechano practically levels the entire house!
I was really dissapointed with the dvds though.aside from the line thinning,etc.some of the cartoons such as "His mouse friday" are edited versions,or badly remastered
on "blue cat blues" the sound effects are drowned out by the music.
It would be nice if they'd leave these cartoons alone!
oh yeah,I also dont need whoopi goldberg to explain racial stereotypes to me!

Ted said...

See, PCU, I think the point was that voice has (or should have) an important contribution to character, and here Seinfeld's voice gives the bee character a personality grounding. That character should come out in how the bee deals with conflict, how he pursues his goals. I haven't seen Bee Movie; is the way the bee acts at odds with the Seinfeld personality or is it in keeping with it?

PCUnfunny said...

"The character is all him, in the very sense of the T.V. show. The story might be bland but to say that the personality is bland is to say that Seinfeld (one of the top greatest comedians of all time) is bland and there are few (very few) who would agree with that statement."


Again, I didn't say Jerry Sienfeild himself is bland. I am saying this character is. And if what you described in fact the preimise of BEE MOVIE, then it's simply the SEINFELD TV show watered down in a crappy animated film. More pointless imitation of live action in animation.


"(one of the top greatest comedians of all time)"

Eh, I don't know about all that now.

PCUnfunny said...

"Seinfeld co-wrote the script and is a master of line delivery"

Oh yeah and writers have no business in cartoons.

PCUnfunny said...

"and here Seinfeld's voice gives the bee character a personality grounding."

No it's Jerry Seinfeld as a character that is an empty shell.


"oh yeah,I also dont need whoopi goldberg to explain racial stereotypes to me!"

They should have a disclaimer for prudes and hippies with no sense of humor and it should have Chris Rock instead.

R. Banuelos said...

"Again, I didn't say Jerry Sienfeild himself is bland. I am saying this character is."

The issue was voice work, and the voice was all Seinfeld which he is very talented at line delivery and timing. What ever designer or goofy, overpaid 3D animator did with it is their fault. All these 3D movies have far more problems in the art department than any voice work. Jerry can't make the whole movie himself, but he can at least make it funny. The character is really him, don't let the bee look foil ya' nor the poor animation, it's all just a slightly highten version of himself. So in effect you are claiming that he's bland, which is all up to opinion, but just an opinion very few share.

"Oh yeah and writers have no business in cartoons"

They shouldn't be asked in the first place (if we're going off the idea that Bee Movie is a cartoon). But if someone must write it it's better to have a comic genius like Seinfeld at least there will be some good jokes in it. Most commedians don't go out fishing for this kind of project. Eddie Murphy stopped doing stand up comedy and he turns out a bunch of poo-poo, Chris Rock turns out a bunch of poo-poo too. They've both done animation work and had no creative control over the project and it all stinks, at least Seinfeld has some control over the project that's why he's not just some "big name" used. He's got some integrity.

Also, most of the artsy-fartsy, egotistical, hate to draw, technical wizards, ugly faced, close-minded, ignorant, self obsessed, masturbatory, "artist" who work on a number of the 3D movies and television shows have no business in cartoons either. I don't mean to come off mean, but it's no use putting blame on writters when every other aspect of the film looks like junk. There's a number of readers of this blog who take something John says and make it somekind of personal life code and keep a closed mind on subjects. I don't believe John's so one dimentional. Every aspect of how cartoons are made is all over the place, the fact there are writters is just one of many problems.

I hate to sound like such an obsesive Jerry Seinfeld defender on an older post of an internet blog ran by a good cartoonist who post pictures of birthday parties and important tips in the field of animation, but dang it Mr. Seinfeld's just got too much of my respect to let comments questioning his integrity and comedic abilities slide. A tip of the hat to Ted as well for contesting the personality comment.

R. Banuelos said...

Sorry about the long post.

Jim Rockford said...

"They should have a disclaimer for prudes and hippies with no sense of humor and it should have Chris Rock instead"


What I wonder is why prudes and hippies who have no sense of humor would buy these cartoons anyway??
Whats next,disclaimers on the Three Stooges?

And by the way,I agree with you,I certainly would'nt call Seinfeld one of the greatest comedians of all time,but then again the people who say that probably have a very limited scope of history.

Most of the stuff that passes for humor today is very amaturish and low brow,its like a bunch of 9 year olds write it.
whats so clever of funny about "yada,yada,yada"? yet it becaome a catch phrase and I used to see Seinfeld shirts with the saying.
Obviouslty Seinfeld was very sucessful,but in my opinion hes vastly overrated.
I personally am sick and tired of celebrity voices being used in cartoons,thank God they didnt adopt this practice back in the 40's,50's and 60's.
And I know Ive said this before regarding Shrek,but why are all the characters so fucking ugly??

Joel Bryan said...

I think with "The Jetsons," they were content to coast on the concept alone. George Jetson isn't nearly as interesting as Fred Flintstone.

Fred Flintstone is a genuinely complex character. Sure, a lot of that complexity is "borrowed" from Jackie Gleason, but his force of personality drives "The Flintstones" in a way the more milquetoast George Jetson never could.

Fred can be an ass, selfish, bombastic, rage-filled, sarcastic, arrogant... then remorseful, kindly, charming. There's never any doubt he's a good father in the way he eventually dotes on Pebbles. There's an innate goodness to him that isn't always apparent because of all his rough-edges.

I saw an episode the other day where Fred's held up by a criminal who tells him to move "nice and slow... nice... and slow." He becomes obsessed that Wilma thinks he's a coward, and eventually he gets to prove himself and earn his redemption. Only to discover it was never necessary except to himself; Wilma was just fine with him as he was, all along.

Really interesting character journey. In a funny cartoon! I don't remember "The Jetsons" ever playing those notes.

PCUnfunny said...

What ever designer or goofy, overpaid 3D animator did with it is their fault. All these 3D movies have far more problems in the art department than any voice work."

So the voice work is totally unaffected by all the other incompitence going on ? That dosen't make any sense. Everything needs to be up to snuff in animated film and done in the RIGHT way. That includes a real artist makeing a character who has personality. An artist has just as much responsiblity to breath life in a character just as much as voice actor. You can't just have one or the other. I don't know about you but I rather not have a half-ass job.

"But if someone must write it it's better to have a comic genius like Seinfeld at least there will be some good jokes in it."

Better yet, no one should be writing scripts in animated films period. And personally, I find don't Seinfeld that funny anyway. I laughed at some of his jokes but a genius ? Hardly. I found his TV show a good stand up joke that ran too long.

"He's got some integrity."

Just because it was his idea ?

"Every aspect of how cartoons are made is all over the place, the fact there are writters is just one of many problems."

I know and WRITERS are one of those problems.

"And I know Ive said this before regarding Shrek,but why are all the characters so fucking ugly??"

They hate us Jim. The evil, pot smoking, hippies hate us. And the reason why they complain about comedy is they have nothing better to do.

Ted said...

"I personally am sick and tired of celebrity voices being used in cartoons,thank God they didnt adopt this practice back in the 40's,50's and 60's."

Quick and likely very incomplete list:

Jack Benny; "The Mouse That Jack Built", 1959

Boris Karloff; "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas", 1966 (and "Mad Monster Party", 1969)

Bud Abbott; "Abbott and Costello Cartoon Show", 1965-67

James Mason; "Telltale Heart", 1953

Jimmy Durante; "Frosty the Snowman", 1969

Danny and Marlo Thomas and Roddy Mcdowell; Cricket on the Hearth, 1967

Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney; "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", 1970

(If you want to count singers, then all those jazz cartoons from the '30s would count, but we probably agree that's a different category)

JohnK said...

Ted

you sure like to argue for argument's sake.

We are so far beyond the point of the post now, it's amazing!

Good job

Ted said...

I dunno, I see "DOES ANYONE LIKE MOVIE STAR VOICES?" right there in the original... Even if it wasn't, what's wrong with correcting JR's impression that putting celebrity voices in cartoons is a modern invention?

JohnK said...

try reading it in context of the whole post, not just in isolation

Ted said...

I'm not reading it in isolation. The point is that movie star voices are neither new nor necessarily bad. Part of your point was that radio produced many of the good cartoon voices. Well, where did that talent pool go when radio was replaced by television as the omni entertainment medium? Some of it went to voice acting, but I think much of it went to stand up/television comedians. They of course lack the specific, constant and sole focus on vocal training of the radio actors or the purely voice actors, but their voices are an integral aspect of (most of) their performances. If the actor's voice is right for the part, why should a director limit himself to the smaller pool of talent that is purely voice actors? If you are willing to choose artists who aren't voice actors for voice acting, why aren't you willing to accept the idea that people who act in other ways might be right for voice acting sometimes?

JohnK said...

Ted

everything you've said has been answered 50 times now.

It's in the post and it's in the other comments

you don't know when to give up!

Summary:

I think we need actors who have distinct voices and delivery.

Most of the actors in modern cartoon movies sound like regular people. Not distinct.

Mel Blanc and Daws Butler have distinct cartoony voices and are good impressionists. They are experts at cartoon voices.

Many Disney voices even from the past are bland and amateurish. It's worse now.

The end.

Steve Carras said...

Hey, I agree.And Roberto, I agree on that Bee Movie actually was excellent and Renee (Vanessa) Zellweger had to be my favorite support character in it.

I don't think Mel was so much an impressiionist unless it was a group of Hollywood caricatures, and then some (Jimmy Durante) were soemhow out ofM el's league.

Steve Carras said...

Hey Pete E>, greatr comment.. BUt Jack Shaindlin, Geordie Hormel, John Seely, Spencer Moore, Roger Roger, Emil Cadkin, Bill Loose- and Phil Green--don't forget those guys! They were the compoosers rotiginally thru Seely's and Sam Fox'ss stock music archives. (Something that the webmaster would KNOW about.)

And hello to the familiar names (pc.unfunny, J.Lee,K.Langley,etc.) from other forums.And an honour to be here with Mr.Spumco! Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy.

The Aardvark said...

"To this day I can't figure out how after 15 years or so of making the same personalityless cartoons over and over again, all of a sudden Bill and Joe created a whole slew of characters with distinct personalities, voices and designs. Anybody have an answer for that?"

Clearly, they back-engineered them from the crashed saucer at Roswell.

Hey, you didn't ask for a good answer....

fandumb said...

Billy is against Celebrity Voices, too, because they put him out of work. I'm kind of with him on that. Also, I think that under you, Bob Camp and Matt Groening, he was his best and his funniest so far (Although the fact that he made Bugs Bunny his own in Space Jam was pretty cool).

What I like about some celebrity actors (Robin Williams, Will Arnett, Isla Fischer, even the distinctive voice of Seth Rogen), is that while only a few of them (notably Williams and Fischer) create a different voice to their own, the aforementioned examples are good at comic timing, they bring their own inflections into a character, make them their own and add their own comic touch to them; kind of what Billy West did when he replaced you as Ren. For another example, in the film Monsters vs. Aliens, Seth Rogen brings his exuberance and his talent at improvisation into the character of B.O.B., even though he can't impersonate other celebrities or voices like Robin Williams can.

Although, haven't you implied that the animation does the acting, as well as the actors?