Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chuck Jones, Style and The Future - Bugs Bonnets










I remember when I first saw "Bugs Bonnets". It was in the mid 60s in a movie theater. They still ran shorts at some theaters then and they would run cartoons from a few years earlier. The big screen really is the best way to see classic shorts of any kind!
(a Bob McKimson animated title)


My Dad would take me to the cartoons and then I would talk his ear off about them after. I was about 10 years old and Bugs Bonnets really made an impression on me. There was something different about it.


So happy in anticipation of the future that George Lucas and Neal Diamond would steal from me

I didn't know the word "style" yet. I thought of everything in terms of "old fashioned" and "futuristic". This looked like future cartoons to me (even though it was from 1955- I thought it was new). I didn't analyze it or anything, because I didn't know what that was yet. I did notice that everything was angular. All the rounded edges of the characters now had corners. Yet the drawings were still great. They weren't flat.

I imagined advanced cartoonists with big angular brains, tiny limbs from the far future of 1976 creating highly skilled 3 dimensional cartoons filled with hilarity and futuristic style and then transporting themselves back to 1965 to share their sensory delights with us primitive rounded creatures.

I think from then on, I was really aware of style and modernity. These terms have since come to mean different things than what they meant in the 60s (and earlier). Just as I was becoming aware of the futureness of style, the 70s descended and everything slipped into the dark ages Style and the future disappeared from the planet. Videotaped TV programs, Saturday Morning cartoons, soft rock and Star Wars cloaked the earth with a yellow ochre haze of blandness and the future died. Skill also vanished along with style.

I had to keep digging through the past from then on, to see what the future could (and I thought should) be.I was too young yet to recognize the danger of creeping gayness that can threaten too much application of style

Bugs Bonnets is on Looney Tunes 5.

Buy this set for everyone this Christmas!


Or get all 5 sets...



32 comments:

Franky said...

Hey John, How did Star Wars ruin things for you? Do you consider it to be bland? I know that like everything that George Lucas does, it's derivative, but it's still quite entertaining...at least the first one is.
I really enjoy Bugs Bonnets - it's a really fun cartoon and it looks unique. It's definitely a reined in style as compared to what had come before it. You're not seeing as much madcap craziness, but it's fun to watch.

I hope that Chow Hound shows up on the next Golden Collection.

boootooons ltd. said...

what's wrong with creeping gayness?

Taber said...

Man, I want the fun to come back so badly...

Crumpled Up John! said...

I think Star Wars ruined the strive for 'quality' entertainment by showing studios how big a money maker merchandizing is. Now studios focus more on how marketable a product is, and how many toys or 3-d cups at 711 they can sell from it instead of how good it really is.

Jim Rockford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Semaj said...

I love how the sky in this cartoon is bluish-green. I always imagined that's how forests can be colored effectively, where the green you'd expect from the trees instead shows up in the canopy, giving the environment a different feel from the areas around it.

Go to your nearest Olmsted park and see what I mean.

lastangelman said...

Franky said... Hey John, How did Star Wars ruin things for you?

I am probably wrong but I'll take a crack at it for you:
George Lucas begat Industrial Light and Magic, which had The Computer Division which a third was The Graphics group which invented Motion Doctor. It hired one animator from Disney to work with the geeks to create animated shorts to show off at SIGGRAPH, one John Lasseter. Later, Steve Jobs bought this subdivision from Lucas, renamed it Pixar and said company developed from Motion Doctor to the now popular Renderman. It originally was a hardware company but the animation department outshone the less profitable machines they were supposed to be selling. So Pixar became exclusively animation.Lassetter's tastes and biases has colored almost all its releases and influenced an entire generation of the public's tastes.
Yeah, that's probably wrong.

PCUnfunny said...

I actually saw Bonnets for the first time this year. It's a very weird but funny cartoon. It's always interesting to see characters acting out of character in character. If that makes any sense.

Blammo said...

Pre lucas = amazing characters in compelling stories.

Post Lucas = focus on worlds and SFX with cardboard cut out archetypes.

Watch a John Ford ,Billy Wilder,Syney Lumet,or Hal Ashby film and you will see craft.

Watch Star Wars and you will see a an War plane movie serial from the 40'S updated with mattes.

Chupa said...

Curse you, Neil Diamond!

Kali Fontecchio said...

What an adorable little devil you were!

Jim Rockford said...

John,this post really hits home with me.
I had a similar awakening when I was a kid and saw shows and products made in the 50's and early 60's.
I loved the Jetsons and wanted the future to look exactly like that.
I used to look for old magazines and records in thrift stores as a kid just to see all the amazing ads showing cars with fins and push button transmissions,predicta tv's with screens that floated in space and futuristic appliances designed to make life easier.
I was amazed there was actually a time when we lived in future.space and jet imagery was everywhere.we were obsessed with it.
back then the future was exciting and wonderful and optimistic,unlike now.
To me everything since has been a let down.it all went downhill when the cars lost their fins and in the mid sixties it was pretty much all over.
science fiction movies used to be wildly imagintative and fun,to me futuristic is "the forbidden planet" and robby the robot.
I hated Star wars because everything was ugly and looked thrown together,space ships all had nuts and bolts and looked grimey and rickety.the ships and robots seemed very crude looking,rather than being advanced and futuristic.
The actors costumes and set backrounds are dark and dismal and just look like stuff from some mystical type movie,rather than space age and futuristic.
I liked it when we actually used our imagination and thought up incredibly sleek futuristic designs that didnt look like crap that might actually exist.
now everything is half assed and boring,instead of jetsons looking.
Rather than doing something that takes imagination,we get hell planets and hell fututres with "cyborg" robots that look like humans in the movies.(I guess thats another great cost saving feature)
Now instead of seeing incredibly futuristic dream cars of tommorow on the road we see ugly looking jellybean cars for ugly jellybean people who dont shave,wear ironic t-shirts and have hoops jamed through their lips and tattoos covering every square inch of their damned bodys.
thats our real life future! (I cant help but think how let down the 40's and 50's generation must feel.)
Anyway all these years later Robby the Robot is still the best robot ever made,and at least to me the 50's was the zenith of our culture and design.
todays technology is just boring and geeky,not cool and amazing like in the 50's.
not only did the things made then have fantastic designs,but they were built to last!...My 1953 Philco V handle refrigerator works flawlessly after 54 years of service.Lets see China top that!

Jim Rockford said...

I never could stand Neil Diamond or Barry Manilow for that matter.

owen said...

john,
i'm trying to determine what dvd set of looney tunes to get my three year old cousin. he's obsessed with ren and stimpy so I thought you could come up w/ something. I was thinking about some old Clampett stuff, but what do you think? Thanks.

JohnK said...

Hi Owen

Looney Tunes 5 has a lot of Clampett. The color cartoons have all been turned into My Little Pony colors, but you could try turning them down on your TV to make them look heterosexual again.

SlashHalen said...

"Videotaped TV programs, Saturday Morning cartoons, soft rock and Star Wars cloaked the earth with a yellow ochre haze of blandness and the future died. Skill also vanished along with style."

Damn, that sounds depressing. What worse is that it's true.
On the plus side, I now have 1 more iteam to put on my chistmas wish list (golden collection 5 of course)

And completly unrelated (and I don't think anyone cares... but still) Led Zeppelin's back!!! They might not be doing more shows, but still! I'm happy.

Weirdo said...

This Bugs Bunny looks a bit like the early Hanna-Barbera. Really cool post. How do you adjust the olors on your TV set and what do you set them to to watch these cartoons on DVD? I just want to see the true colors. If you could tell me that would be fantastic.

Dume3 said...

"Looney Tunes 5 has a lot of Clampett. The color cartoons have all been turned into My Little Pony colors, but you could try turning them down on your TV to make them look heterosexual again."

Yep, I would say that sets five and three are the best. Four is probably the worst since it devotes an entire disc to Speedy Gonzales. Sets one and two are great if you like Chuck Jones.

"And completly unrelated (and I don't think anyone cares... but still) Led Zeppelin's back!!! They might not be doing more shows, but still! I'm happy."

Indeed.

Merky Waters said...

Great film! I saw it a couple of years ago and was totally blown away by the backgrounds!
another jones film which I only saw recently for the first time was "The Bear That Wasn't", it was done in the 60's at MGM I think. Have you seen it, do you know if there are any dvd's that include it?

Roberto said...

"Bugs Bonnets" doesn't look so saturated when I watch it on my computer (I don't even turn down the color manually). Click on the links to the framegrabs and you can shall see my point.
Opening

McKimson animation

Pirate

Bugs laying down

Bugs smoking (great expression on this one, BTW)

Phew! That took a while to upload those.

Anyways, I really liked this cartoon. A great example of funny clowning and burlesque. Why did cartoons have to devolve from there? The Richard H. Thomas BGs are also fun to look at. They are so rich and lush. I like how Thomas makes use of the primaries (especially with the greens). It reminds me of some of his work at Hanna-Barbera.

Garchiers said...

Bugs Bonnets, best short cartoon ever. That Warner style is much better than "every-character-comes from-the-same-mould" Hanna Barbera (really rough) style, that's for sure.

Dume3 said...

"another jones film which I only saw recently for the first time was "The Bear That Wasn't", it was done in the 60's at MGM I think. Have you seen it, do you know if there are any dvd's that include it?"

It's on volume 3 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection. Unfortunately, it was DVNR'ed.

smackmonkey said...

"Videotaped TV programs, Saturday Morning cartoons, soft rock and Star Wars cloaked the earth with a yellow ochre haze of blandness and the future died."

I must say that, while seeing Star Wars opening night at Grauman's Chinese was pretty spectacular, it did propel the marketing end of Hollywood to the forefront. A year or so later, while walking down Hollywood Blvd. a copy of the Lord of the Rings (Bakshi) press packet fell into my hands. About two thirds of the phone book sized binder was info on who had been licensed to sell what. Flashlights, pajamas, lunch boxes, school supplies, jock straps, spittle cups, crap, crap, CRAP.

All I could think was " Oh, this isn't about art, it's purely about sales". When I ended up working on the film I was surprised at how much direct studio time was spent creating stuff to sell. Just a few years earlier it would have been unheard of for an independent production to allot so much time to the creation of merchandise BEFORE the film was completed.

Thrty years later it's now nearly impossible to get a property off the ground without providing a breakdown of all the potential licenses and such. Some studios damn near require the inclusion of some kind of complex transportation related bit that could theoretically be made into a theme park ride. Sheesh!

pinkboi said...

What's wrong w/ creeping gayness? Rikki Tikki Tavi is Chuck Jones' best work and Fooley Cooley is the best cartoon ever! (except Miyazaki's effeminate nature-worship works, of course)

:├×

Roberto González said...

Yep, I also found this cartoon pretty "modern" when I finally watched it. I think these LT dvds should be in chronological order, but well, I'm happy they are including this cartoon. Actually some times I like the way they do the compilations, like one that was fully about musical cartoons, but most of the time it seems like an odd mixture of very different cartoons in each set.

Anyway, it's surprising how perfect some of the old stuff seems. That has happened to me quite often. Like when I first saw a Floyd Gottfredson comic book I found the drawings of Mickey were so perfect that I thought of it as a modern artist redrawing the characters in the old style. It also happened to me when watching some old Felix the cat or Betty Boop, it actually seems more contemporary and modern in therms of humor too. Old stuff should look more "primitive" than modern stuff but most of the time it's quite the opposite.

I don't know if we should blame Star Wars, though. Even if it could have something to do with it, those movies actually had stories.

Jorge "Jay" Garcia said...

This concerns me as a student, especially one headed towards CG. Right now I'm still learning the ropes and trying to get the principles to be second nature, and while I don't really feel I have a particular style going on I hope one day I can... This may come as a very stupid, amateur question, but what would you recommend students do? How can we raise the bar once more? Is the problem rooted in the artists or the producers who hinder a product depending on how marketable it is?

And in defense of Star Wars (from Jim Rockford's comment), the movie wasn't our future. It was a galaxy far far away, a long, long time ago. I personally didn't mind the "uglyness". It is a war torn galaxy with oppressed people... And I found X-Wings and Storm troopers to be very sleek...And lightsabers? Mm.

I do see what you mean though. I am thankful I grew up with the good old cartoons like these, and even older ones (yay, I guess Colombian tv stations couldn't afford the newers 80's cartoons so all we got was popeye, looney tunes, and silly symphonies!) and I do find a lack of..something today. I could never pin it down but John nailed it.

But I am ranting now. :) It's disappointing to see how bland my work is in comparison to Bugs.. not that I'll ever reach that level, but it's something to aim for! Good wake up call... Once again, thanks for the post. :)

On the bright side, I finally have time to do your animation school exercises over winter break!

patchwork said...

I really enjoy these breakdowns

Chris Rank said...

Gah! those backgrounds are amazing!

Larry Levine said...

Very atypical by still distinctively Chuck Jones greatness. What hits me most unusual is Chuck's layout design for Elmer. Along with the longer legs (which were back to normal for Chuck's "What's Opera, Doc?") Elmer at times looks very McKimson Unit'ish, especially in the closing image of Bugs carrying his 'bride' off.

Ross Irving said...

Yeah, I sort of don't like Star Wars, either. I only like "The Empire Strikes Back".

As for the Bugs Bunny cartoon, I've never seen this one, but it looks really funny. I need to buy Volume 5.

Soos said...

Hey, I've been thinking. We all know the gays are responsible for the death of American culture, but do you think they had help?

Maybe they had help from the Jews.

Kristen McCabe said...

I made some crappy screencaps from that cartoon a few months ago:

http://www.drawingboard.org/viewtopic.php?t=35308