Saturday, December 22, 2007

Acting tool 3) Gestures - McKimson examples

http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/McKimson/UpstandingSitter/McKimsonChickenGestures.mov
That last post I did on acting

http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/2007/12/acting-head-motion-to-punctuate.html


got me to thinking about acting through gestures, which is something many animators do. McKimson was really into gesture acting (as opposed to acting through facial expressions)

This chicken scene is funny acting. The actual gestures themselves are pure McKimson and there isn't a lot of variety to the held poses. What makes it more interesting is the variety of ways the animator comes up with to anticipate each of the held arm poses.
This looks like McKimson animated it himself, but Greg Duffel told me that the scenes that look the most like McKimson's own work were actually animated by his brother Charles McKimson - who would take Bob's layout poses and translate them exactly in great family loyalty.
The McKimson dynasty were chicken masters.








Here's a famous McKimson Daffy Duck scene that really defines his style. I think Mark Kausler told me this was animated by Manny Gould.
http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/McKimson/UpstandingSitter/DaffyHipHopClip.mov

This is similar to and different than the chicken scene at the same time.
Here, Daffy uses broad arm gestures, but there aren't many holds. You don't see the final poses, because the arms keep swinging.
Bill Melendez told me that he and Rod Scribner used to make fun of McKimson's acting style and then he acted it out for me, swinging his arms and pointing in the air and at me and shoving me around his office.
He said all of McKimson's gestures were literal. If someone said "you" in a sentence, the character would point to the you he was talking to.



Here's a funny "scoop" gesture that you see in a lot of McKimson scenes. Maybe it's a Manny Gould trademark?
Daffy is amazingly ugly in McKimson's cartoons. I wonder what his theory was behind that?

SCOOOOP!

I find this acting style totally hilarious because it's so ignorant. It's such a man's way to view the world. Pushy and shovey. It's like Daffy is manhandling the air to get his points across. I know real people like this.
It's the opposite of today's full animation style which is completely gay. That's ignorant in a wrong way.

Here Daffy says "slapping my head", so in McKimson's world of course the gesture has to be literally slapping.




If you say "rattle my brains" you better show it.This is man animation at its most blatant.

35 comments:

Dume3 said...

Daffy's eyes seem so lifeless in McKimson's shorts. The gestures are great though.

Chupa said...

OK that was one of the funniest blogs I've read anywhere in a long time. Funniest explanation of the McKimson brothers ever. BTW I love their cartoons, I don't mean any disrespect to them but that was SO funny.

Roberto said...

"Daffy is amazingly ugly in McKimson's cartoons. I wonder what his theory was behind that?"

Strangely enough, he appears to be appealing in "Daffy Doodles.". If you type that cartoon (or you can just go to Dave Mackey's website and try to find "Acrobatty Bunny." It's mostly the same animators.) onto Wikipedia and compare the credits for that short and "The Upstanding Sitter", you can see that the animators credited differ (I'm guessing that the Daffy Doodles animators previously animated for Frank Tashlin, since McKimson took his unit. In Tashlin's Daffy Duck cartoons, you can also find a Daffy that appears to be appealing.) Just a thought...

Both of these clips seem so alive with those exagerrated gestures, yet at the same time, it's very funny, sincere, and believable.

Larry Levine said...

I never liked McKimson's gestures & designs as a director, especially chubby Bugs. IMO his broad acting worked well with a loudmouth ham like Foghorn Leghorn, but not with Daffy, Bugs & Porky.

Bill Melendez told me McKimson was VERY rigid with his layouts and refused the animators any ability to deviate from them--as opposed to Bill's freedom in the Clampett & Davis units. McKimson actually made Scribner tone down his wild animation!

Nico said...

McKimson's cartoons are weird! I love 'em, but it's like every character HAS to be a lumbering, jowly lummox. There are some characters that are just fine to have those characteristics (Foghorn etc), but it kinda rubs me wrong to see Bugs and Daffy being fat and ugly.

litlgrey said...

John, I know you like poiting to the remarkable character work of Robert McKimson, especially during the all-important 1940s, which began in effect with him designing the definitive Bugs model sheet, and more or less ended with him suddenly picking up the Art Davis sense of anarchy and using the ill-tempered "fat" Bugs of 1947-8.

Left behind or unspoken is that McKimson also helmed some of the 1950s and 1960s hack work that nearly trashed the mighty animation studio's reputation once and for all.

Myself, I can not reconcile the 1940s McKimson with the pathetic work which bore his name 20 years later... you know, Bunny & Claude and all of that garbage so witless that it even made HB's work of the time look good in comparison.

You've spoken to enough of the legendary animators, John, to have a sense of what could have led these master animators and directors to trash their own works and reputations so irreparably... what have any of them said to you about this disasterous period which bore the Warner name?

gerry said...

John I love your work and agree with everything you say but please, stop using the word "gay" in a derogatory way. I know that what you mean to say is "wimpy", which does not equate to all gays. But genuine thanks for your energy on this site.

PCUnfunny said...

I always love the gestures in McKimson cartoons. The most distinctive thing about them. Notice how a character will remain in a gesture for a few secounds after he finished his sentence.

Laura said...

Dume3: I was just about to say the same thing about Daffy's eyes.

Oh, and thanks for all wonderful great cartoon references, it really warms my heart.

::sets heart on fire::

see?

PCUnfunny said...

"Daffy is amazingly ugly in McKimson's cartoons. I wonder what his theory was behind that?"


I am just going to assume it was Mckimson's outlook on life. That all people were loud, pushy, and boorish.

Mr. Semaj said...

Eh, Daffy doesn't get ugly until his feet got flabby, around the late 1950's.

These early McKimson poses are second to none. If only he used that material later in his career.

Emmett said...

Just curious. Was McKimson actually aware of his own trademarks, or were they how he naturally saw the characters moving. This is an acting style I can actually recognize, particularlu the "slapping my hands" part. But only a handful of McKimson's cartoons are appealing to me. I don't enjoy the way he drew Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. They looked like they were going to bite your nose off.

Weirdo said...

Would you kill me if I said that I liked the design of Daffy in those early McKimson shorts.

Anyway, I come from a family that talks with their hands, so I understand using gestures to get your point across. Daffy could be many of my relatives in that moment. Great post.

litlgrey said...

I think McKimson mre than anyone else was responsible for sucking all of the delicious unpredictability and anarchy out of Daffy's character and replacing it with a one-note, angry-selfish-greedy guy.

For contrast, watch Chuck Jones' "Ali Baba Bunny" again to see how Jones subtly weaves the interaction between greed and anarchy. One thing you notice is that with better material and better direction, Mel Blanc's acting improves - and here I am thinking specifically of his reading of Daffy's sarcastic and deadpan line "opp squeak ah ah."

McKimson so pared down and so eviscerated the spirit of Tex Avery's Duck that there was nothing either appealing or memorable about Daffy by the 1960s.

Friz Freleng also clearly lost his taste for the Director's chair at this time, preferring instead to add some tired gags and "to play Produce-er" as Stimpy once said. But it's clear than McKimson's reductionism made the WB and DFE-Warner shorts absolutely, and to a one, unwatchable.

C. A. M. Thompson said...

The pushy shovy observation is hilarious. That kind of acting is great though, who doesn't want to see the characters beating eachother up as they talk to eachother?

When I think of McKimson I think of Daffy with the super fat bulbous bill. It's a duckbill with some meat to it.

Even though he was the king of jerk characters McKimson actually didn't make that many of those awful evil Daffy cartoons as the character got worse and worse over the years. In fact I felt like he reverted a little in Aqua Duck (he even says WOOHOO WOOHOO again). Freling made the absolute worst ones, IMO.

Larry Levine said...

McKimson is someone whose cartoons I tried to like, but if you need to 'try' to like something, you're not. It's not that he gets a bum's rap being compared to Jones, Clampett & Freleng--the reality is a great number of his cartoons stink, especially mid-50s onwards.

The fact that he had some good output in his early period was more due to completing cartoons started by Tashlin (e.g.: Daffy Doodles), Warren Foster's writing & great (but frustrated) animators. Being a great animator didn't ensure being a good director, I think it actually hurt him. As noted in my earlier post, he was so rigid in what he expected from his animators there was so sense of timing or creativity. Art Davis is his later years was bitter towards McKimson feeling that his own unit was the one shut down because McKimson, unlike Chuck or Friz, didn't buck Eddie Seltzer's interference.

Yes, his early Foghorn cartoons ARE excellent, but the big question is, are his early chubby/obnoxious Bugs Bunny & Daffy cartoons good because or despite McKimson?

/\/\ikeB said...

Yeah I think his ugliness is mainly due to his small head.

Was McKimson the first dude to use hook-ups? They're really accurate - but I remember some directors from WB saying they're not necessary.

JohnK said...

>>It's not that he gets a bum's rap being compared to Jones, Clampett & Freleng--the reality is a great number of his cartoons stink, especially mid-50s onwards.
<<

I think you are being extra hard on him.

Everyone's cartoons from the mid 50s (Hell, early 50s)onward toned down. McKimson's cartoons were funnier and more active for longer than the others for me.

Friz took Warren Foster from him and I think he and Chuck ganged up on him and made him tone down and get more "modern". McKimson didn't understand the modern angular stuff and this just handicapped him.

But everyone's cartoons everywhere got less animated and funny in the 50s. It was in the air.

Dume3 said...

"Yeah I think his ugliness is mainly due to his small head."

That is a factor, but I think the thing that detracts the most from the appeal is the small pupils. It makes the eyes look mean. Look at how beady they are:

http://bp2.blogger.com/_mJ4lc_Q9Q6k/R21pXzSQpOI/AAAAAAAAKkA/h3LFqgn3KZA/s1600-h/daffygesture18rattle.jpg

Then look at the tremendously appealing Daffy in clampetts cartoons--his pupils are huge.

litlgrey said...

As I understood it, McKimson was perhaps the only Warner's animator (of the later period) who made his animators work entirely from a shooting script, and this hamstrung their creativity. Both Freleng ang McKimson were known to restrain the wild, Clampett-era tendencies of animators like Scribner, but McKimson really throttled visual creativity and all of his later work suffers dearly from that.

Larry Levine said...

John, I agree that Friz fizzed badly in the 50's, but disagree about Chuck Jones. Yes, Chuck's cartoons slowed in paced & became more cerebral, but as part of his artistic evolution. McKimson & Freleng on the other hand became unispired hacks turning out a tired product.

Friz did raid Warren Foster, but as with most of McKimson's unit, he wanted to jump ship. With McKimson's noted refusal to give his crew artistic freedom it's no surprise after the six month shutdown NO ONE returned to his unit.

Ross Irving said...

I love McKimson's cartoons from 1946-1950! The way Bugs, Daffy and others look are definitely different, but it's a good kind of different.

I always loved how McKimson would have a character open their mouths in this big "O" shape. Their jowls would form around the O and it really made me giggle when I first saw it. The scooping gesture is great, too.

It's just McKimson's cartoons from 1951 onward that looked kind of ugly to me. Bugs' ears look very short, and Daffy and others just didn't look as manly, just weird.

Also, a lot of modern cartoons and movies seem to use a lot of gestures that try to be specific towards the situation or subject, but seem out of place, especially the up-facing palm. Is this McKimson's subliminal effect on people to make very literal gestures?

Mr. Semaj said...

What got McKimson's directorial skills during the 50's was his unassertive demeanor.

When McKimson lost Foster to Freleng, he didn't fight for it, and it's not like Freleng needed Foster beforehand.

Then there was the temporary shutdown, that caused McKimson to lose all of his animators.

And then McKimson had to conform his Daffy with the new angry persona molded by Jones and Freleng. Jones gave the duck his money-hungry edge in the late 40's, and then Freleng gave us the bitter actor that stuck for the next decade or so.

I tend to think Freleng was a more conservative director, at least visually than McKimson. But McKimson's conservatism would've had more mileage if he fought for what he had.

Jósel said...

Why are Daffy's legs cut up from the shot in the last picture? I know I've seen that done in other cartoons from that period: is there anything significant to that composition?

I always thought it was just clipping from the movie-to-TV conversion

JohnK said...

>>Friz did raid Warren Foster, but as with most of McKimson's unit, he wanted to jump ship. <<
Hey Larry, how do you know this?

Foster sure didn't make anything very inspired with Friz-and neither did his animators. They just kept churning out formula cartoons with really bland designs and animation. No one would want to join Friz' crew for the chance to be more creatively free.

Larry Levine said...

Hey Larry, how do you know this?

I've read almost every book & interview that has ever been written on WB over the past 20 years, plus first hand accounts by Bill Melendez on working for both Clampett & McKimson.

By the 50s no one other than maybe Maltese could have save Friz's storyboards. Maltese jumping to Chuck Jones hurt the Freleng cartoons severely.

I think Hawley Platt was the main cause for Freleng's visual blandness. A good draftsman but IMO didn't draw funny. I hate that small mouth design he gave Bugs!

litlgrey said...

I'm still waiting for John to post his take on the animated work of Frank Tashlin. Right up there with the best of Clampett and Avery - and in a sense or two surpassing both - I find Tashlin to be a monster iconoclast who adored breakneck speed, overlapping dialogue, rapid cutting, unusual POV angles, and harsh - even surrealistic - distortions of his characters. An absolute auteur.

Ross Irving said...

Something else I remembered I wanted to say. Though McKimson's characters all have that manly sense, at points in McKimson's cartoons they look like intellectuals from an Ivy League university. Like when the little yellow chicken is talking.

It's weird, but it works.

Going off topic, another thing I like about McKimson's cartoons are the sudden, LOUD sound effects and crashes.

PCUnfunny said...

"I'm still waiting for John to post his take on the animated work of Frank Tashlin."

So am I. I can't belive you have never said anything about PORKY PIG's FEAT,SCRAP HAPPY DAFFY, or PUSS N' BOOTY John. And also the work of Art Davis. Surely you have something to say about the ippecable WHAT MAKES A DAFFY DUCK or DOUGH RAY ME-OW ?

JohnK said...

>>
So am I. I can't belive you have never said anything about PORKY PIG's FEAT,SCRAP HAPPY DAFFY, or PUSS N' BOOTY John. And also the work of Art Davis.<<

I'm not a big fan of Tashlin. I like Plane Daffy,Porky's Poultry Plant, Porky's Romance. There are parts of all his cartoons that I like, but not too many seem to work as films from beginning to end.

For Davis I like Catch As Cats Can, The Goofy Gophers and Nothing But The Tooth a lot.

litlgrey said...

Not a big fan of Tashlin? Here you have disclosed SHOCKING information!

There is likely more than a few of us who read you here who think you are the most likely inheritor of the mantle of Most Anarchistic Animation Director once co-held by Clampett, Tashlin and Avery.

PCUnfunny said...

"I'm not a big fan of Tashlin. I like Plane Daffy,Porky's Poultry Plant, Porky's Romance. There are parts of all his cartoons that I like, but not too many seem to work as films from beginning to end.

For Davis I like Catch As Cats Can, The Goofy Gophers and Nothing But The Tooth a lot."

Fair enough. Though I am still surprised you don't care for Tashlin. I think he had the Clampett edge but he prefered slightly more stylized character designs. Also Art was worthy of the Clampett mantle. What Makes A Daffy Duck was,IMO, the third best Daffy cartoon ever made. One and two and being The Great Piggy Bank Robbery and Book Revue.

litlgrey said...

Now on the other hand, if I wanted to name someone as WORST WB animation director of all time, I can think of... well... David Detiege.

I wonder if his ghastly abortions against WB character animation might be worth a cautionary post... hmm...

Ross Irving said...

I like Tashlin because he brings this weird element to the Looney Tunes, like Clampett did. A little different, by which I mean even faster-paced. But not as many visual surprises as Clampett might put in.

I would love to see the whole "Unruly Hare" short from 1945, but my favorite short from him is "Hare Remover" (1946). It was neat that Elmer had these buck teeth, like Bugs, but not exactly like Bugs' teeth.

Whoever animated Elmer when he said "He wuvs it. Heheheheheheh!" Did an awesome job. His mouth movements and all the detail on his face in that one shot, just awesome.

My favorite cartoon from Art Davis so far is "What Makes Daffy Duck".

Sean said...

"I love your work and agree with everything you say but please, stop using the word "gay" in a derogatory way. I know that what you mean to say is "wimpy", which does not equate to all gays."

Gerry, your generosity does you credit, but judging by what John has said here and elsewhere, he does seem to have a genuine homophobic streak. It's one of the uglier sides to his public persona.

But then, we're not here to talk about his personality.