Wednesday, December 19, 2007

animation trends 30, 40s, 50s, now

My favorite period of animation was from the 30s to the 50s. That's when the most creative and skilled cartoons were made.

Things changed quite a bit during those 30 years and in a general direction. I picked out a handful of cartoons that typify each period. They follow the major trends of the times.

(I left out New York cartoons for the time being, because for a while Fleischer defied the trends and went its own way.)

These are all west coast cartoons, done by the same basic groups of people using all the same principles only in different proportions and with different focuses.

Late 30s - Building the tools
The Worm Turns 1937
....animated by Ham Luske, Chuck Couch, Bernie Wolf, Al Eugster and Woolie Reitherman
(I don't know who did these scenes)

oh, here you go...This seems to be an amalgamation of Fleischer cartooniness with Disney timing and squash and stretch. It's not animation that advances the personalities. It's fun animation and exaggeration for the sake of itself wrapped around fairly mundane ideas.
I think it looks great and promises great advances to come.
But for some reason, the cartoony magic stuff soon disappeared from Disney's cartoons.

Acting:
http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog//Dis/magmick37/mickDonsml.mov

Magician Mickey 1937
Here's an acting sequence with Disney's top stars. Note that there isn't much acting. It's more like posing - using animation tricks and principles to make the poses read clearly.
Mickey stretches past his key poses to help accent them. The stretches aren't very extreme, they are just enough to draw your attention to the pose.

Disney was never very big on using facial expressions in the acting. They relied more on the gestures and poses to get the message across.
This animation is bouncy and rubbery seemingly for the sake of itself. Nothing in the gags or story points seem to be any more important than anything else. The animators are applying the same principles in the same proportions to almost every event in the cartoon.
The actual poses themselves are not that interesting, certainly not funny or specific, but the principles are strong.
I don't know why Disney never went past this stage of acting. Maybe he thought specific or funny expressions were ugly and not appealing, or maybe even cynical.
These cartoons are written and performed for juveniles and that makes it hard for me to be too entertained by them. As a cartoonist though, I can appreciate all the hard work and expertise in all these elaborate skills being applied to inane ideas.
It's odd that the animation at Disney's in the late 30s was so advanced yet what they applied it to was so outdated. The humor seems to come from the first silent films and 19th century circuses. Really simple slapstick and clownish antics presented with a sissypants veneer.
This is great stuff for young kids. When I watch this stuff I think "Imagine if Christians could do something professional." (If you watch TBN, you'll know what I mean.)
Disney seemed to need excuses in order to do what animation does naturally - like magic. This cartoon is written about magic, yet the actual magic tricks are not very impressive, especially since you know it's a cartoon and in cartoons anything is possible.

But only possible if you have the imagination and the permission to use it.

40s - Applying the tools to creativity

Action ending with acting:
http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Clampett/Cuff/spiderruntalk.mov

It took Warner Bros. cartoons to find controlled ways to apply the new animation techniques. They combined early cartoon humor and magic with animation principles and their own advances in timing. On top of all that, they added something brand new - the idea of a personal point of view. And the audiences went nuts.

The Warner's directors had less money to spend on their cartoons than Disney and maybe that helped force them to have more restraint and control over their animation. Every action and every part of an action could not be equal.

Clampett focused the techniques around crazy stories, great acting, a richer assortment and variety of gags and swinging music (unlike the softer whitebread Disney scores). He gave all this new animation punctuation, but punctuation wrapped around the ideas, not just random punctuation.
Avery, Tashlin and Clampett also took the cartoons away from the juvenile Disney arena and aged them up to merely immature.
They mixed a kid-like optimism and sense of fun with adolescent misbehaviour, rebellion and sex.

These cartoons are much more human-friendly and that's part of why they have outlasted Disney's and are still very popular with all ages today.
More than anyone else, Clampett really upgraded the acting in cartoons. His characters have a much wider and more specific range of expressions than the Disney stable of characters.

For me, having strong characters who really portray human traits and foibles makes the magic and insanity of cartoons even more fantastic. It's like it's real and impossible at the same time. It's better than real.

Action ending with acting:
http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Clampett/Cuff/beefightsmall.mov


Clampett's wild action is not merely wild. It's focused. This scene of the butt battle is hilarious and super fast. It's incredible that you can tell what's happening. The faces and torsos move less than the wildly flailing buttocks and that makes us focus in on the asses.

The Warner's directors, especially Clampett, allowed their animators more stylistic individuality. Here Scribner animates with an approach that I've never seen anyone else do. If you slow frame through the clip try to follow how one drawing animates into the next.

50s - Hiding the tools

Acting:
http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Jones/bonnets/01BugsElmerArmyDialsmall.mov

By the 50s, all the animators that had at one time done lively bouncy animation were now slowly abandoning it in favor of walking talking cartoons. Characters would walk from one scene to the next, say their lines, react and then go on to the next. Jones called it "Illustrated Radio" and he did it best.
There are at least 2 theories as to why the Warner's cartoons went in this direction. The history books explain that the budgets were cut. The directors themselves say they like these cartoons better than their 40s cartoons, so this less animated style is partly by choice.

This animation is expert and could only be done by artists who had learned the 30s and 40 principles. All through Chuck Jones' later cartoons, there are moments of fun animation, but it's usually squeezed in between Jones' own poses.

Action:
http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Jones/bonnets/02bonnetsactionsmall.mov

50s cartoons are more controlled than 30s cartoons and even more controlled than 40s cartoons, but it's a kind of repressive control that to me, really undermines the potential of animation.

A chase scene like this would have been animated with humor and noticeable invention in 1942. Here it's animated almost to hide the fact that it's animated. It's perfectly smooth and clever, but to an audience it's merely running and shooting.


The drawings in this and other 50s (esp. Jones) cartoons are also expert. They have tricky and clever structures, are organic, have a variety in the shapes and forms and are extremely carefully controlled. Yet they don't say anything noticeable. It's just enough cleverness to make the story point, but not much more. There is no joy of the magic of animation. No extreme pleasure of performance.
The UPA cartoons have even less animation and certainly no joy.



So far, all these cartoons use the same basket of skills and principles, but apply them in different proportions and to different purposes. You had to be highly skilled and talented to do any of these styles.



Now here's a style that you don't have to know anything to be able to do.
50 more years of progress
Action or Acting?






A few commenters observed the same things I just wrote about. Noteably Amir, Ardy and Roberto. Good eyes, fellas!

Oh and Will Finn just posted an in-depth analysis. Thanks Will!

51 comments:

Sphyzex_9 said...

and then right down the shitter.

Jay said...

Personally, 30s cartoons are my favorite! Especially Fleischers!

I certainly enjoy 40s cartoons, but am I the only one who thinks 30s cartoons are drawn in a much more appealing way? Maybe it's just personal taste.

Constructing the characters out of pears and sausages, and wrapping it with all those details, and wrinkles, just looks sloppy to me! I realize it's not, but I suppose I just prefer the simpler, somewhat cleaner look of 30s cartoons.

As for 50s cartoons, they're my least favorite of the three. I can't actually think of any off the top of my head that I've actually seen recently. Maybe someone should jog my memory?

John Young said...

that mickey mouse animation is the awesomest thing i've ever seen.

boootooons ltd. said...

it's too bad you can't be in charge of a DVD that specializes in certain principles and trends, regardless of the studio ( disney, fleischer, HB, WB, etc. ). don't even think speilberg could do that ( again ).

incidentally, what are your thoughts about the new roger rabbit? it's said to take place before the original ( the vaudeville circuit in the late thirties ) BUT they're trying to pixar-ify it.

am i the only one who thinks this doesn't make sense?

- trevor.

boootooons ltd. said...

every one of those cartoons has amazing acting and energy in them, all of them unique to the moment.

that's what i think i like the most about those old cartoons, is the acting.

i also think chuck's love of disney is the reason why daffy became an asshole post 1950... he had seen donald jealous of mickey for twenty years previous.

just a theory.

- trevor.

MetzlerInRuin said...

possibly the drugs used or the lack there of? Joking... kind of

Ardy said...

I think that the 30s cartoons had perfected construction and fluid animation but had yet to figure out what to do with it. The cartoons were perfect but bland. In the 40s they had mastered it so well that they were finally able to pull off funnier, more abstract gags. By the 50s it seemed they had become bored with construction and fluid animation and began experimenting and replaced visual gags with sitcom-type gags.

Robert said...

I presume "Magician Mickey" is there because it's typical rather than great. "Brave Little Tailor" or "The Band Concert" would be better examples of Disney doing what they did at a high level.

Ardy said...

Well not entirely replaced, I guess for the fifties. But still less.

JohnK said...

>>I presume "Magician Mickey" is there because it's typical rather than great.<<

Yes.

I could have put Brave Little Tailor, Coal Black and Duck Amuck up but those are so well known and already have emotional biases for and against them because of everything that has already been written about them. They are also cartoons that they probably spent more money on.

I figured showing "typical" cartoons from each period would show the overall trends better.

They also are all cartoons that I like a lot.

James N. said...

Ugh, that Family Guy clip was awful.. . The same poses were uses over and over and over and over and over again... and they don't even try to hide it with really smooth inbetweening like a lot of TV shows now-a-days. It just kinda POPS from one pose to another. There can't be more then 3 or 4 inbetweens in every one of those poses.

I'd say it's "action" rather then "acting".

Weirdo said...

My theory is that the style changed over the years because of their influences. In the 1930s, the style leaned towards a warm cutesy feel feeling like an illustrated childrens' book. In the forties, cartoons began to be cartoony again, cartooniness in its purest form (Clampett, Jones, Woody Woodpecker) kind of based off of older and the modern comedy of the time. In the fifties, modern art and UPA began to influence the cartoon sensibilities of the other studios. Plus, it was cheaper for the studios if they didn't have to pay for luscious painted backgrounds and full animation since TV had come about and could make "illustrated radio" cheaply. That's my understanding of the differences in style.

amir avni said...

Silly Symphonies:

I like the Disney shorts from the 30s becuase the animation is Asymmetrical (I.E, mouse pulling screen left whisker before screen right whisker of cat, and there's accent, stretch/squash on both) It's more cartoony (I.E extended suspense and follow through of forms, such as mickey's hat, and the top of his head when he 'takes') It's not perfectly smooth, There's more accent and punch to it (I.E Donald flapping his sleeves) and there's beautiful 'sculptural quality' to the drawing.
There's even KINETIC ENERGY as Donald throws the lobster! The weight distribution is really convincing.

Looney Tunes:

To be frank, I'm not a fan of Chuck Jones' 50s cartoons. There's good comic rhythm, but to me it feels overly controlled. Mark noted in class that there's no animation where chuck doesn't want you to look, so only a very concentrated area of the screen is moving at a given time. This is an important principle, naturally you wouldn't want to create distraction from the focus, and it saves work and time, However, to my taste, other directors made better use of it.
In Clampett's "Wabbit Twoubble" (1941) Elmer encounters a bear as he's chasing Bugs Bunny, He refers to his manual that tells him to stay ABSOWUTEWY MOTIONWESS, the bear smells him, gets offended and leaves, later bugs comes and impressionates the bear, after elmer realizes, he goes for his refile to hit bugs and ends up hitting the bear.
There's great comic rhythm, nothing in the scene moves in a manner that creates distraction or extra work, it's very focused and controlled, but the timing feels more natural, it feels sponatneous and totally up to the characters. I realize that the budget was higher in the 40s, but I'm sure Clampett could pull it off with less inbetweens had he stayed in theatrical cartoons. The two directors have a different personalty and it shows through.

Chuck's expressions are good, but it always feels like the characters are set up, and he's instructing us where to laugh, and what's gonna happen next, It's more about the anticipation and reactions rather than the actions themselves.
There's plenty of Chuck's cartoons that I like, especially the older ones like "Hold the Lion Please" and "The Dover Boys" when he kept experimenting.
I suspect Bobe cannon is the one to REALLY credit for the success of the dover boys, On Chuck's part it's REALLY well directed, structured, and entertaining, Though more often than not, this cartoon is referred to for it's SMEAR ANIMATION. You can see in other cartoons Cannon animated that the particular charming and funny smearing style was his innovation, Even later in Tex Avery's "Wags to Riches" you can see the smearing style is particularly Cannon. Chuck's strength as a director at the time is that he let his animators show their charisma without overly-controlling them.
I have the same feeling about Chuck's later Tom and Jerry cartoons, The Strength in Hanna and Barbera's Tom and Jerry (Especially the older ones) is th naturalistic timing, action and acting, nothing felt rigged.

Chuck Jones is a good director, but his later work is not particularly to my taste.

PCUnfunny said...

I didn't even bother with the Family guy clip. I really need to some of the 30's cartoons. They weren't only good on principle, they were also entertaining. Azming how Clampett took cartoon acting to such a wild direction. He did so much in so little time. Such Comnplex expressions and movements. Before the 1940's, that very notion was unheard of. 1950-1955 was definetly the conservative 1940's. The specific acting was there but it was toned down a bit. Jones started to become more forumalic but for some reason during that time period, he would occasionally totaly go for the un-conventional cartoon. His most notable examples being The WEARING OF THE GRIN and also 8 BALL BUNNY were he actually stuck closer to the Clampett wabbit.

Ethan said...

I can see what your getting at, but it's not fair to compair full animation with limited TV animation. You could instead compair all those clips with this for the "Now":

http://www.jamesbaxteranimation.com/assets03/recent/enchanted_animation_reel.html

I'm surprised,I know your a big Flin stones fan, and that's a much more fair comparison, and you'd still get your point across. Even the worst Flintstones shots had much better acting then that Family Guy clip.

Emmett said...

Mr. K, this post is very informative, just with the pictures alone. The WORM TURNS pictures are great, and I've never seen that cartoon.

Would you ever consider doing a post on East-Coast cartoons. Styles today in New York are quite schizophrenic. But I mean that in a good way. Please, I would love to hear your opinion of Independent animation.

JohnK said...

Hi Ethan

how is it not fair?

Those shows have plenty of money to afford to be professional.

The Flintstones was done for $20,000 an episode first season and it was way more interesting and imaginative.

That clip of yours is modern feature budget stuff. Old time shorts are more analogous to prime time TV cartoons in that they have modest budgets and their aim is to be funny and entertaining.

Rich said...

Neat. I never noticed that before, how over time motion became more and more segregated within characters' bodies.

Mr. Semaj said...

That Family Guy clip would appear to be acting, but not in the best sense.

The 30's and 50's were both experimental eras: the 30's covered the basics, and the 50's covered the abstract.

The 40's was the best. Once the basics became known and established, the resulting characters became more feasible, while remaining in their own universe.

Roberto said...

Great animation in most of those clips, John (except the FG one). I haven't seen that many Disney cartoons, but that first clip was kind of fun to watch.

Maybe you can give me your theories of what the difference between each of these periods was and I'll add to the theories later today.
I certainly notice differences within the animation (and the motion). This isn't meant to be a theory, but it is just observations.

The animation in the Disney clips looks like the animators have got their principles down, yet it doesn't exactly look like the animation in the 40s (they could still be perfecting the principles). It's like a transition between rubber hose and 40s style (it looks a lot different from those grotesque "cute" 30s cartoons, like those disgusting Oswald cartoons that Walt Lantz was making or some of the H-I shorts). The gestures clearly convey the characters' emotions more than the expressions themselves.

The "Eatin' on the Cuff" clip look streamlined compared to the Disney clips. The animators have clearly gotten more comfortable with the principles. The accents are certainly more noticable. The expressions, as well as the gestures, are conveying the character's emotions clearly. It's the same thing in the "Babybottle Neck" clip, except that the expressions are funnier and even more expressive.

The "Bugs Bonnets" clip has the same principles as the other two clips, topped with a more angular style. The animation is more pose-to-pose (probably had to do with both Chuck Jones himself and the lower budgets). The expressions are held on longer.

Now I comment on that boring FG clip (sorry, FG fans). That scene relies a lot more on the dialogue than anything else (to me at least, since I notice it the most). The characters are pretty boring to look at and are pretty stiff and rigid. The gestures and expressions are hardly noticeable. this is clearly just action (severely watered down action, that is).

Pseudonym said...

One more thing about the clip from "Enchanted": That's a parody of late-Walt or Katzenberg-era self-conscious over-produced Disney. Given that, I don't mind the acting.

The construction, though is atrocious. You can really see the "features sliding around the face" that John has spoken about previously. (Watch the noses in particular. Everyone's nose seems to be broken in a different place in different shots; sometimes different places in the same shot.)

Kris said...

God, that Family Guy clip makes me want to put my fist through the neighbor's cat.

Will Finn said...

Hey John, these are great clips. My head is in the 1940's a lot right now, which of course is the middle of this span of time and I have my own obsessions about it...

I'm just going to focus on the character animation itself (which is what I usually do unless i force myself to do otherwise) and I'm going to stick to the clips from the old shorts for comment:

The "WORM TURNS" clip has some wonderfully organic drawings and there is a kind of "water balloon" feel to the anatomy of the characters. "S"-curves abound, both in the drawings themselves and the patterns of motion. Much of the action seems to have a largely "straight-ahead" feeling to it, though the key expressions are pretty standard (even for the time). The timing is almost too smooth overall and that gives a slight impression of it being somewhat slow or soft, despite the wild actions.

The "Magician Mickey" clip (which I have studied extensively myself) has tidier, less "wiggly" drawings and now much of the distortions are achieved by way of toying with the mass and scale of things, (hands, heads, ears etc) as well as the shapes (although the shapes tend to hold their integrity a lot more than in the previous clip). The acting (poses, expressions etc) is somewhat generic, but they articulated with lots of force and energy. The timing overall is still somewhat "floaty", which may be why they have to accentuate snaps with graphic effects. It's snappier than the previous one though. It feels like a pretty "even" balance of "pose-to-pose" acting and "straight-ahead" animation.

The "EATIN ON THE CUFF" short is so new to me I am still trying to absorb it myself. I loved your post on it. Overall I would say that the actions have a mix of sharp, stoccatto timing and smooth timing so when things snap they really SNAP! Everything may be deliberate, but it not as "even" as the previous clips and so it has a jazzier feel. The acting here is probably even more customized than the action--full of surprises and exaggerated features. It tends be both lively and unpredictable.

The"'BUGS' BONNETS" clip feels like obvious pose to pose acting. Very well done and entertaining, but not terribly adventurous. The most unique and custom thing about the drawings now is the actual styling and design, which of course is something Jones made a hallmark of. The poses and actions and even the acting have all become much more crisp overall in their timing, but it is starting to feel "stock" or formulaic in the approach to articulating them. "S"-curves have all but disappeared from the patterns of motion and angles are starting to creep in to replace them. The expressions are less exaggerated than before and even the use of "multiples" on an inbetween has a familiarity to it.

Sometimes it seems to me that the journey from the 30's to the 50's ended up a place where the pose became the goal. That of course is valid, but what got lost was the sense of fun, surprise and originality in getting from one pose to the next. Because of this, acting overall ended up as a series of formalities and mannerisms that everybody learned to do copy or emulate more or less the same way and for the same purposes (me included). I think the main reason I am obsessed with the 40's right now is that it offered the best of both bracketing decades: established principles and experimental execution for maximum custom effect.

Phew! That's enough outta me for one night!

Will Finn said...

I gotta add one more thing about the actual story content of these clips and then I will shut up, but i think it's important because the content influences the form:

The 30's material is innocent, almost naive. The animation that results is lavish, but also somewhat naive itself. The emotions and attitudes on display in the animation are the emotions of very small children.

The 40's clip embraces the grotesque in a very deliberate and unfiltered way: in behavior, in concept, and in emotions. The effect is caricatured animation that runs the gamut from cute to raunchy to grotesque. It's a mix of adult and children's attitudes. The adult attitudes are pretty id-like though, and accessible to children.

The 50's clip is a story idea that is somewhat cerebral and more "sophisticated." The animation that results is very self-aware, almost self-conscious. To ensure sophistication, the grotesque has been scrubbed away as well, in favor of the attractive. The consciousness on display here is primarily adult. It is funny, but compared to the 40's clip, not particularly outrageous. It is almost sober by comparison.

Mitch K said...

Alright, well, Chuck's later Looney Tunes were extremely well drawn, and his expressions were hilarious! But, I really don't believe that his cartoons would be half as entertaining if there was no music (in fact, I know this by watching then without sound). There's barely any movement -- just smears from one pose to the next -- and then that is accented by a hit of the orchestra. When there is movement, it can be somewhat entertaining, but it's all that engaging.

Shorty said...

At the risk of being shot.. I like the Family Guy, I find it funny. I think the animation is crap, but it's not really about the animation, and I wonder if it was animated properly if it would lose some of the impact.

It seems somewhere between radio play and comic book. You have just enough visual information (albeit bland) to tell you where the characters are and what they are doing, and the rest is dialogue.

I'd love to see something that was animated properly, but I don't know how you would sell it when everyone else is establishing that you don't need to. It seems like you'd have to sneak it in, what motion you get now seems more as a slight courtesy not a delight in entertaining.

-Shorty

Larry Levine said...

I think "The Band Concert" is the most perfect example of 30s Disney animation: beautifully fluid (but still slightly rough around the edges animation), vibrant 3-strip Technicolor & great sight gags. Plus, I love the earlier Donald Duck model sheet.

While other studios were over-polishing their 40s cartoons: giving Mickey Mouse & Popeye eyeballs, making Woody Woodpecker cutier, more solid/no longer rubbery limbs, etc.), Clampett at Warners was doing the opposite & pushing animation to it's wildest limits.

I'm a VERY big Chuck Jones fan and love all his work: 40s stubby Bugs Bunny period, Mid- 50s (and onwards) posed style, 60s Tom & Jerry--the ones he personally directed--not the Abe Levitow ones. That said, I think Bugs Bonnets is a perfect sampling of 50s animation & design at it's best.

Matt said...

Shows like family guy, can hardly even be taken as a token of today's animation. They are sitcoms that merely use animation as another form of 'pushing the envelope.'

It's sad but true, but good animation principles have been left at the door in favor of cheap, stylized design, and the ability to sell toys.

Why do you think Merry Melodies and The Flintstones got pushed off the air? Just so Cartoon Network could squeeze in another rerun of Pokemon.

Fred said...

I agree that the Family Guy clip is horrible. But playing the devil's advocate for a second, isn't that the point? I think the "artists" are actually saying, "hey, let's see how funny I can make this gag with the least amount of animation!"

dan o's said...

please forgive the use of the now-cliched phrase "jumped the shark" (which, i guess, has jumped the shark), but warner animation did that when the animators started drawing breastbones on the characters.

i'm sure someone's pointed out the corollary between the ages of the filmmakers and the poses and actions of their character. in the late thirties and forties, these were relatively young men. at that age we live in our bodies. we move. and they were living in a time of world upheaval. the world was motion.

come the fifties, america calms down -- even embraces calmness. the animators are older and they transition from living in their bodies to living in their heads. their characters seem to follow a similar arc.

i prefer the pre-breastbone warner cartoons.

JohnK said...

>>I think the "artists" are actually saying, "hey, let's see how funny I can make this gag with the least amount of animation!"<<

well that's a gag that an awful lot of shows are saying.

The real gag is that networks spend a fortune doing something that could cost 10 cents and be done by any random group of teenagers from a high school art class.

Matt said...

"The real gag is that networks spend a fortune doing something that could cost 10 cents and be done by any random group of teenagers from a high school art class."

And the bitch of it is, is that those high school art class kids are going to be the next generation of animators. Hell, they're doing it now. All it takes is an internet connection and bit torrent, and you've got your very own copy of flash.

Just check out some of the stuff on Newgrounds.com to see the budding aspirations of our young animators, and it becomes disturbingly clear that the bar has been lowered straight to the ground.

Elliot Cowan said...

"50s cartoons are more controlled than 30s cartoons and even more controlled than 40s cartoons, "

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that they'd been making cartoons for a very long time.
They had families to go home to and very little of a young persons need to prove themselves.
Maybe they didn't feel like they wanted to spend so much energy on their films.
Despite giving them the opportunity to draw for a living, it was still a job and they had the same struggles as anyone else who has to turn up at an office has (presumably they weren't living in paradise).
I don't at all mean to suggest they were being lazy, far from it, but perhaps they had honed a system of getting their job done to their satisfaction as simply and quickly as possible.

Taber said...

What about modern animations like Spongebob or Dexter. At least they have SOME animation in there.

But yeah, I see what you're saying here. I don't know where all the fun and creativity went.

dan o's said...

i'll preface by saying i'm not a huge family guy fan. now: i'm not sure what is being asked of us. if it's about animation technique, why present a clip in which the humor is based on everything in the frame (except stewie) being absolutely still while this long speech goes on?

and could any high schooler with the right equipment have created that scene? yes and no. technically, anyone could have animated it. that does not mean that anyone who can draw can come up with a scene that works, or sustain a long joke (i realize there is disagreement about whether or not it works).

the "fortune" being paid is not for producing little clips that can be argued over. it's for producing 21 minutes per week of this world and these characters, 24 times per year. this requires a skill set that goes far beyond whether or not there is a rich layer of animation in any chosen sequence.

Dume3 said...

Have any of you read the Disney book the Illusion of Life? I checked it out at the library. The book is frustrating because they go on and on about methods of story construction and how great their gags are. In other words, they praise their worst attributes and ignore their best ones--visual and technical polish.

Not only that, they go on and on about how the feature has to go through everyones hands before it is any good, and the drawn out process of creating a story by committee. They even talk about how one man had complained about the 'convention' method and they told him that he was being difficult. They go on to talk about how these methods produced such masterpeices as the Robin Hood, the Jungle book, Aristocats, and the Fox and the Hound.

Most of the greatest fictional stories mankind has produced have been the work of one man. This whole approach is the exact opposite--the idea that the more people who get involved, the better it will be. It's completely wrong at the most basic level.

The effect of the book as a whole is pretty discouraging, seeing the enormous amount of work and man power that goes into producing these abysmal duds. If that is the ultimate form of animation, I want no part of it.

Sadly, this seems to be productional model that continues today, not only at Disney, but at most of major studios.

Jeff Read said...

Bet most of the money they're spending goes right into the pockets of the executives and "idea guys".

Seth MacFarlane makes a fortune from Family Guy including residuals and merch royalties (the comic book store around here stocks Stewie and Brian action figures). The Filipinos or Koreans or Indians who are animating his creation? Not so much.

And anyway, that's what it's all about. Creating a "media sensation" (which Family Guy no doubt is, people eat it up) and fattening your own paycheck. Aesthetics is for aesthetes. Aesthetes are statistical noise in the Nielsens or Rentrak ratings.

I.D.R.C. said...

Family Guy is one of the few cartoons where the caricatures are so non-descript that they HAVE to tell you who they are.

"It's not about the animation," is how you have to look at it to consider it entertaining, and that's okay; I laugh at it too, as much as I can, that way. I just have to turn off the part of my brain that believes it deserves to be visually delighted by clever artists, and turn up the part that has incredibly low expectations.

If it's not about the animation, it's not really fit for discussion here, being beneath the standard of animation. It certainly isn't above it.

The only reason it's fit for discussion here is to illustrate the word, "dreadful."

As a cartoon, it's not whether it's "funny" that it should be measured by, but whether its goals are just too low. Doesn't mean it isn't funny. It's just not a cartoon, not if cartoons have art in them.

...and I wonder if it was animated properly if it would lose some of the impact.

How could it possibly lose impact by being done properly?

Right now, any joke that depends on art is entirely off-limits. You have to settle for evil baby one-liners and farcical set-ups executed by boring diagrams.

PowerRangerYELLOW said...

At the risk of being shot.. I like the Family Guy, I find it funny. I think the animation is crap, but it's not really about the animation, and I wonder if it was animated properly if it would lose some of the impact.

I call bull shit on that. Familyguy for the most part relies on slap stick a lot and proper animation would actually make a better show and perhaps they would still have the fans that just got sick of it after a sea of endless pop culture references.

Just picture peter griffin fighting man in the chicken suit with proper animation.

There is a whole lot of room to just fool around and just have fun with the drawings.

If giving the show good animation would lessen it's impact than why not make it live action instead?

Familyguy has to make a lot of improvements to keep there current fans and bring back old fans that long found it unwatchable since fox uncanceled for the third time.

maybe they could tone it down on the in your face pop culture references and write there scripts to be less dialogue heavy.

Make there references a little more subtle but the gag is still funny another level even if you miss said pop culture reference.

These aren't exactly dramatic changes to familyguy and lot of people may still hate the results but if they hope to keep being successful than making improvements like this over time may actually give kids who grew up on may get actual inspirational thoughts into there skulls and make future cartoons that are even better and that'll influence the future generations as well.

unforuntaly kids today just only have anime to look up to as an influence.

but without other influence these youngsters can only go far.

-PowerRangerYELLOW

PCUnfunny said...

At the risk of being shot.. I like the Family Guy, I find it funny. I think the animation is crap, but it's not really about the animation, and I wonder if it was animated properly if it would lose some of the impact."

I am really geetting tired of excuses for flat cartoons. I really am. None of them make sense and they are all excatly the same. How can someone make a damn animated cartoon and NOT take advanatge of the medium at all ? This is a VISUAL expression of art, ergo, there should some sort of satisfaction for the eyes. Just look at Roger Ramjet or something simular, there was always some funny movement going on. Hell, there was more funny drawings on that show then actual animation.


Secound, better animation dose not hurt an animated show no matter what it is. Animation is suppose to bring characters TO LIFE. So lack of it only hurts, unless you go Ramjet route which obviously dose not apply to Family Guy, South Park,etc. And another thing that dosen't apply to any of those shows are good voice acting. They are all high picthed and annoying. I honestly don't know who acts like the people in those shows. Seriously dose anybody act like anyone on Family Guy ? Nonsensical rambling over and over again ? "I,I,I,I,I,Uh,Uh,Uh,Uh" Christ, that is what passes as humor these days ? And lets not forget the CONSTANT assault of pop-culture references. Every plot on FG is like "Hey Lois remember that time I went Back To The Future ?" Then we cut to the characters from the film and then there is some cursing and rambling. Wow, sheer brillance. Okay, rant over.

Mr. Semaj said...

PowerRangerYellow brings up an excellent point.

When I watch TV today, there seems to be very little incentive to make good programs anymore. The Family Guy writers have backed up their poor-ass writing with the high ratings that come with it (not sky high, but higher on average than the rest of FOX's Sunday-night lineup). And now, they're using the strike as yet another excuse to avoid addressing fans about the show's present-day quality.

These are the same writers who thanked their fans when the show was uncancelled a few years back.

patchwork said...

"It's like it's real and impossible at the same time. It's better than real."

that's great!!!

pappy d said...

Couldn't you draw a line from UPA through Hanna-Barbera in the 60's, Jay Ward in the 70's to Family Guy today?

Raff said...

I'd love to see something that was animated properly, but I don't know how you would sell it when everyone else is establishing that you don't need to.

PUT IT TO GOOD USE. Animation and art principles are only as good as what you use them to say.

Say something with the animation other than "they lived happily ever after" or "OW!!" or "part of this nutritious breakfast".

Nobody watches an animated show for the writing, or the animation, or the voice acting, or any specific thing. They watch it for what the entire experience adds up to. Strengths, shortcomings and all. That goes for Beavis and Butthead, Ren and Stimpy, Cowboy Bebop or anything else.

That said, I think there are three reasons why so many cartoons look ugly now:

1 - The rise of left field do-it-yourselfers as a source of unique programming. The mainstream animation of decades past became so incestuous and hackneyed that the apparant way out was to celebritize outsiders. Raw, untutored outsiders. Anything to avoid association with bouncy grinning characters, tired slaptick and oompa-oompa music.

2 - Computers and their line tools and cheats. No further explaination necessary.

3 - Until very very recently, the knowledge of the old guys just wasn't passed on to the new generation.

RodTramonte said...

I get what you mean, John... for the Family Guy clip, dressing one guy in a baby suit and the other in a dog suit, and sitting them on a couch would have the same effect... and it also would save a lot of ink and paper, which could be used for creating something more eye-catching...

J. P. Splurge said...

I think I see what you mean.

What you're saying is that during the decades, animation has changed when it comes to punctuating on acting. In the 30s, you had animation that was stretchy, exaggerated, or basically expanding the rubber hose era.

In the 40's, the acting shown in animation just got better and had more individuality. It was more focused, but kept up by being wild and fast. Don't forget the human-like facial expressions.

Then, from the 50s to today, you had more "realistic" and boring animation. It went from being fast, fun, bouncy, and, well, animated, to just applying them to different areas. Like in that scene of "Bugs' Bonnets", it's just running and shooting to me. Smooth and clever as it is, there's nothing that really makes it worth watching.

That's why, and we can both agree, John, cartoons have just gone to crap nowadays. Family Guy and the Simpsons are funny to me, albeit the fact I have sick, simple pleasures, have good humor. But the animation is just so..well...just talking and occasionally moving, but it's not what's gonna stand out. The expressions are the same, not funny and boring. I never realized that till right now.

That's why I like your cartoons John. You move your characters around, they ACT instead of just move. You have the principles and you use them. Good job.

John M. P. said...

Hmm...I don't think what I said came out right.

I'm trying to say I agree with you, and that over the decades, trends from animation have changed. I get what you're saying, but I can't type it out.

And I change my mind on that Simpsons thing. They have a lot more acting than action. Family Guy...different story. Dress a midget in a baby suit and another one in a dog suit, you can get the same effect as watching the show. Anyways, some modern animation is good. Most of it's pose-to-pose acting. And what's even worse...that thing about high school students. Any idiot can make a crappy Flash cartoon, and sadly that's another decade of cartooning going down the crapper.

What's even worse, I'm a Family Guy fanatic and I still think the animation is just relying on the manatee jokes. See, I have an idea of what I'm talking about.

Ross Irving said...

It doesn't make much sense to me. The bland stuff always won the Oscars for best short or got the best praise most of the time. The Tom and Jerry series would win seven Oscars, while Bob Clampett didn't get nominated once for his cartoons and the awesome acting. Why?

It always upsets me when I watch the Oscars and the Oscar for best cartoon goes to this dramatic, UPA like short.

I thought most people could analyze a little deeper than that. Right?

Sean said...

Why does everyone today invested in classical full-animation hate Family Guy so much?

Yes, the animation is limited, but it is used to good effect; for example, in the Christmas episode at the end Peter slams the Fox Network and Lois warns him not to.
Peter replies, "What are they gonna do, cut our budget?"
When Peter gets up to get a beer the animation is less than limited, it's him in one pose moving back and forth to the kitchen. I think that's pretty funny and clever.
Also, I don't think the writing is that bad, plot points have usually have logical events lead up to them and often times they just take time to tell a joke or series of jokes leading up to the story.

Although admittedly, I find it really annoying when they take the time to go through 1 joke that they
take five minutes on. (I think, but I'm not sure, like the clip you posted-I didn't bother watching it b/c I think it was one of those type of jokes-where Stewie goes on about the "writing a novel" bit)

But I think Family Guy is breaking ground in creating new humor. Yes most of thier humor is topical humor (already used by classic age Warner Bros. animators) but they use more recent topics and present them in a new way. I personally love Family Guy, and think it's a well writ and funny show.

Ethan said...

Sean, I don't have a problem with limited animation, there's been some great stuff done with limited animation. UPA has some incredible short films, Ren and Stimpy is great limited animation. I do have a problem with any show that pushes script more then the visual. Family Guy has some funny moments but it could be a book and not loose anything.

Huusmann said...

I kind I liked it in the beginning! Mostly for the geeky Movie refs! No doubt that the animation in the show is commonly known as non-existing

But after watching a couple of episodes you feel like looking towards the closet, where I at that moment just wished I had a weapon to shoot my Television!

But well I did what I should have done in the first place.. Took my friends Family Guy DVD out and went fastly toward my prescious Golden collection and watched some good, strong, wacky emotinal animation as it should be..

How wonderful life can be..! ahhhh