Sunday, December 23, 2007

Chuck Jones Transylvania 6-5000, 1963 Clever

I love this cartoon. It 's very clever.
It's one of Jones' last WB cartoons.
I wonder how Maurice Noble co-directed this? Did he do rough BG designs and turn them over to Givens to do finals?
This is a cartoon that really uses what cartoons can do that other mediums can't compete with.

I love the BGs in this. Not merely because they are stylized, but because they are also really well drawn, composed and moody.

Bob Givens used to say "You would think Chuck was a Goddamned *#% from the way that he draws, but I've seen him with girls, so I guess he's not."

This cartoon is very stylish, but it's not so much so that it becomes too cloying as some other Jones' cartoons do. Instead, it's very handsomely designed and drawn.

This design of Dracula is really good. It's a combination of animated cartoon forms, human anatomy, Ronald Searle and Chuck Jones all in perfect balance.
This would be really hard to animate, because of all the complex organic forms and stylized angles and curves. But since it is made up of real cartoon principles and the animators have been animating for 20 years or so and learned the classic techniques, they are able to pull it off.
Today, when many cartoonists try to be stylish, they don't have the solid drawing and animation background that Jones did, so it just comes off looking like bad drawings or collections of drawing mistakes.
To do this takes extreme control. And lots of careful decisions.

EXPERIMENTING WITH DESIGN AS YOU GO - Designing by organizing a group of concepts
Here's something that you don't see much of anymore: Chuck designed the character but didn't stick exactly to his first conception of him. Instead of being a model sheet design with every exact incremental shape and size carved in stone, it's a collection of design concepts and ideas, left open to constant tinkering throughout the cartoon.
His proportions and details keep changing, not only from scene to scene, but from pose to pose. Does the audience notice this? Of course not, but today's executives and show runners would seem to think that they do and will get mad if you play with the character designs as you go.
This method of creation opens up the creators' pallete and allows for a much wider assortment of entertainment possibilities.
It isn't uncontrolled ignorance like much of today's stylized stuff. It's highly controlled sophisticated visual concepts. Each character is designed as a combination of general concepts, rather than specific mathematical proportions and shapes.

Aren't these hands great? Inspired by real hands, but just stylized enough to give him a gothic evil flavor.

I know some cartoonists who hate the Chuck Jones patented skin tooth, but I think it works perfectly here.

The animation in 1963 has lost a lot of the 40s punch and dynamics, but what Jones' animators did here is still very skilled and clever and has subtle contrasts in the timing.

The Bill Lava music kind of slows the pace down, but it's so visually stunning that I almost don't notice.

Dracula's Floating Cape
Chuck Jones being clever again.


Bugs changes all through the cartoon too. I loved the way Jones drew Bugs when he was using his "handsome style" rather than his fruity style. I used to always notice the bumpers he did in the original "Bug Bunny Show" from 1960. The Friz and McKimson bumpers looked bland and lifeless by comparison.

Here's a strange design, almost looks like Friz.
Some of the animators are drawing Bugs too tall.
One weird thing about the later Bugs. He has tiny hands.
Here, he has the gift of human arms.

Just to compare with classic 40s Bugs...

There are lots more good things about Transylvania 6-5000 - like the gags, and I'll get to 'em soon.

BTW, this is also one of the rare remastered cartoons that hasn't been significantly altered by engineering wizards. The colors are mostly still subtle and the lines haven't been thinned to where they are all pixellated like in so many other Looney Tunes DVDs.


pinkboi said...

What do you think of the other example of 1963 Chuck Jones cleverness, "Now Hear This?" (my favorite cartoon of all time!)

Larry Levine said...

Great 60s Chuck Jones!

Maurice Noble was listed as co-director in part because Chuck was fired a year before the release for moonlighting on "Gay Purr-ee" & Noble oversaw the completion of the cartoon.

JohnK said...

Wow. Do you know who actually fired him?

Matt said...

I actually just showed this cartoon last month to the 7-year-old for the first time and she lit up (about a week of her running around going "Abraca-pocus!"). It's been one of my favorites since I was about the same age. Such great stuff, and yeah, a great example of knowing the rules so you can effectively break them.
She always points out Chuck Jones in the credits now, too.
So Jones getting fired for moonlighting resulted in the MGM run for the next several years? Those were always my favorite Tom & Jerry cartoons.
I love this blog, it's a constant source of great information.

Ross Irving said...

I saw this cartoon about a year ago and thought it was boring. I guess I wasn't being fair to stylized stuff.

I really do like the colors and backgrounds. Not to suck up, but one thing I thought was strange about your show R&S is that the characters looked organic, but were put on stylized backgrounds, not boring, lush BG's studios like Nelvana did.

I do like how Bugs looks here, and Dracula. I keep getting lost in how stylized he is, there's no way I could even draw a picture of that yet.

I keep wanting to draw backgrounds in Flash, but I never can get the BG's to look like these kind of backgrounds. Really cool.

Speaking of gags John, I loved the gag where Dracula's hand wraps around Bugs' face.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the artistic expertise of the cartoon, but I'm not a huge fan of the cartoon itself entertainment-wise.

The backgrounds are amazing, and the drawing style and animation is definitely enough to keep me interested, but I find the cartoon itself not very funny and pretty bland.

I don't like how Chuck Jones turned Bugs from a lanky streamlined rabbit, into a stubby angular short character. He's just not very cool any more to me.

The skin tooth is pretty darn awesome though, and who wouldn't want to live in that castle.

Larry Levine said...

Wow. Do you know who actually fired him?

David H. DePatie, who was running the studio since 1961 fired Chuck in 1962 for violating his exclusive contract.

DePatie found out Chuck co-wrote (with his wife Dorothy) the UPA feature "Gay Purr-ee" when Warners picked up the distribution rights to it.

jesus chambrot said...

I love the cartoons that jones made that take place in a haunted castle ie transylvania 6-5000, Wearing of the Grin etc.

I think its a fetish. I just had to share.

litlgrey said...

This cartoon was indeed stylistically marvelous at a time when other directors had given up on content and were all about flashy colors (such as Freleng's horrendous "Senorella and the Glass Hurache"). To me the pacing is a bit slower than it could have been, and yes the Lava music just worsened matters.

This is one of the few cartoons produced at that time that credits voice actors in addition to Mel Blanc, which is good to see. But there are two words on the screen that ultimately reduce the pleasure of watching this cartoon: John Dunn. Since by 1963 only Jones' work was even worth watching, it is disappointing to see the dulling effects on a Jones cartoon provided by Dunn scripts on the one hand, and Lava music on the other.

By the way, this is what I don't get about Bill Lava - and yes I know he was just another Disney recommendation by Ward Kimball... in F Troop, Lava was buoyant, ragged, and brilliant at all the right moments, lending a delicious cartoony spirit to the proceedings which was perfectly well in keeping with the production. But Lava's music sinks each and every Warner cartoon it touches like a lead weight.

One thing you notice in this cartoon is something about Jones' vision of Bugs during this time... he's almost childishly gleeful... the oversized feet and ears, the eyes rounder than at any time in Warner's history. This is the "Daddy, you're back from Peru" Bugs - a Bugs well suited for the awesome stylized environments of Maurice Noble; a Bugs who never could have worked during any other period or for any other director. Any resemblance between this Bugs and the one of "Elmer's Candid Camera" is really and truly coincidental.

Nico said...

I've been watching through the Looney Tunes box sets and have REALLY noticed some horrible "restoration" in the first couple box sets, especially Volume 2 (that has some of the worst i've ever seen... just pause the film and you'll see all kinds of digital crap everywhere)

but Volume 5 looks to be the set they seemed to not screw with! they have great prints of nearly everything

PCUnfunny said...

What did you think about the designs for the double-headed vulture and bat John ?

"(about a week of her running around going "Abraca-pocus!")."

I loved when Bugs said "Newport News" and Count Bloodcount changed into Witch Hazel. LOL !

PCUnfunny said...

His proportions and details keep changing, not only from scene to scene, but from pose to pose."

I also noticed that. Those changes just work so well. Oh since I brought him up, I just remembered that part were the stone kept falling on Blood Count. I like how he was slowlly succumbing to fatigue and he starts shaking. That was just genius animation.

Anonymous said...

The more I read this post, the more I realize how I didn't give this cartoon enough of a chance. Maybe I'll watch it again, just for all the good, artistic things you mentioned in this one.

JohnK said...

Hey Nico

there are a lot of horribly tampered with cartoons on box 5.

In particular the color Clampetts. Really skinny jagged lines, strobing and all the colors have been replaced by dayglo colors.

Larry Levine said...

In particular the color Clampetts. Really skinny jagged lines, strobing and all the colors have been replaced by dayglo colors.

The worse color tampering IMO is on Vol. 2's "A Corny Concerto", the satuation is up so high (especially on Porky's hunting hat) it hurts my eyes! I prefer to watch this on the "Bugs Bunny Superstar" bonus feature.

JohnH said...

I'm actually the furthest thing from an animator myself, but there's so many clever bits in Drac's design I can't help but be impressed. How about the little loop in his outline that serves as his nostril? Or how the skin tooth has a matching notch in his upper lip? Or how the hands are gigantic, monster hands, far oversized?

This is an awesome cartoon.

JohnH said...

Oh, and I'd like to echo all the Bill Lava hate. One can tell when it's going to be one of the sucky Roadrunner cartoons when one sees Lava's name on the credit. He always seemed to use the same music loops over and over on those. Bleh!

Dume3 said...

"The worse color tampering IMO is on Vol. 2's "A Corny Concerto", the satuation is up so high (especially on Porky's hunting hat) it hurts my eyes!"

Mine too. They actually show that cartoon being worked on in the special feature where they discuss their 'restoration'. They even show the guy jacking up the colors.

Weirdo said...

My dad and I love this cartoon. It is absolutely beautiful and well-animated for a 1960's cartoon. I would like to see another post on this.

James N. said...

In particular the color Clampetts. Really skinny jagged lines, strobing and all the colors have been replaced by dayglo colors

I noticed this on the Robin Hood Daffy (Volume 3?) toon.

I ADORE the toon but whatever they did to the colors really hurts my eyes. It also looks really pixely in places.

James N. said...

Oh, and btw, you can see Transylvania 6-500 on Youtube here:

litlgrey said...

Not quite, John H. The studio DID compile a library of themes and cues by Lava and then used them ad nauseum throught the entire '65-'67 Road Runner series, with ONE peculiar exception - one with kind of a cloak and daggers approach, in which the music credit went to Walter Greene, the guy who had scored many of the original cues for The Pink Panther series... also, obviously, produced by DFE.

Those cues were also used ad nauseum, but because they were rather low key and vaguely hip, they actually helped rather than hindered the Pink Panther atmosphere, as opposed to Lava's dismal library of cues.

I have tried, by the way, to find a "first" appearance of Lava's cues in that RR series, but I just never could find one. My guess is that Lava scored them all with no particular scenes in mind at all - much in the way that his scores for the utterly repugnant WB cartoons of 1968-9 were so abysmal that it seemed they were scored for something wholly unrelated to cartoons altogether. What a pitiable ending for the studio that boasted Carl Stalling, the father of the "tick" system of scoring, for nearly 25 years.

PCUnfunny said...

"The worse color tampering IMO is on Vol. 2's "A Corny Concerto", the satuation is up so high (especially on Porky's hunting hat) it hurts my eyes!"

It's just as worse with Gruesome Twosome.

lastangelman said...

1.)Count Bloodcount! What a joy it is to watch him ... I keep thinking DePatie-Freleng tried to copy the techniques from this cartoon and "Now Hear This" and failed, failed, failed. You don't suppose someone from Freleng's unit did that version of Bugs - it's jarring seeing a Freleng rabbit in a Jones production.
2.)If you want a good example of where they effed up the color in volume five, try the first cartoon on Disc One, Ali Baba Bunny. I almost cried. Great dialogue, though - "I can't help it, I'm a greedy slob. It's a hobby - SAVE ME!"
3.)My twenty seven old video tape copy off the television of Gay Puree just recently gave up the ghost, so I broke down and ordered the DVD from Amazon - they say it'll take six weeks to get here, I have no idea why but I have bought the last one available. This film is so NOT Mr.Magoo/UPA! Meowrice and his alley cats are great villains. Abe Levitow is the director but Jones is all over it.
4.)If anyone is interested in seeing some of Levitow's other work, check out Phantom Tollbooth and possibly the best animated version of A Christmas Carol, directed by Richard Williams .

Anonymous said...

I must say, Dracula reminds me of Witch Hazel from similar Bugs cartoons - particularly with regards to the skin tooth (although I note in some cartoons she gets a "proper" tooth, but then again, in other cartoons her skin colour is all over the shop - sometimes a dark green, sometimes very light).

But I agree with Ross about the gag of Dracula wrapping his hands around Bugs' head.

Pete Emslie said...

Another impressive aspect of the Count's design is that his cloak and pants are entirely solid black. This requires that his body pose always reads clearly as a silhouette. In the hands of lesser artists, that could have been a mess. But the skill of the Warners animators resulted in dynamic poses where the viewer's eye is always able to imagine the shapes of his arms/legs/cape as they cross in front of his body. Not easy to pull off!

Ross Irving said...

Hey! You put some pictures of the hand gag. Thanks!

Also, I think Bugs' design in "Wacky Wabbit" was my favorite. His eyes were really big in some scenes and his ears were at their longest. He just looked insane, especially the scene where he sees Elmer's girdle.

Maybe I'll try to draw the 60's Jones Bugs Bunny and put the drawings up on my blog.

Taber said...

Skin tooth, HAH! That's hilarious. Chuck Jones is the man.

DTN said...

I'd usually think of myself more of a Jones man than a Clampett guy , but there's no comparison between the great 40's Bugs and that later Bugs.

I love Jones's work overall , but man, those '40's Bugs Bunny's are SO MUCH better than the effeminate 60's version .

Larry Levine said...

Off topic question:

John, I know Chuck's pencil of choice was the late Blackwing 602, what do you & everyone here use? Mine is currently the Tombow 3B.

J Lee said...

The Abra-Kadabra/Hocus Pocus gag was really the last good original one that came out of the Warners' studio (and was reused by Dunn much less effectively in a later "Inspector" cartoon). Having a decent end gag to build up to was rare in WB shorts from 1961 on, so in most cases with Jones from that period you have a lot of impressive stylized designs and graphics bonded to stories going nowhere.

TV viewers actually got a preview of this cartoon, since the storyboard shows up in the "A Star Is Bored" bridging segment from The Bugs Bunny Show that's included on Vol. 1 of the LTGC. That show debuted in July of 1962 (they ran original shows in the summer in 1962? -- what a concept!), about a year before the cartoon made it to theaters and just about the time Chuck was getting suspended and fired for his moonlighting at UPA.

PCUnfunny said...

Hey John ! I drew that image of Bugs pointing his thumb and slapped it on my blog.

carl said...

I like dracula in this. I like when black arms cross over a black torso and the arms aren't outlined in white. I think it shows some real understanding of how the audience will perceive the animation. The animator doesn't need to impose his vision on every elbow. I think the audience will fill in the blanks perfectly based on the action and the surroundings.

Just a theory that I'd like to see put to use more often (I'm looking at you, Daffy Duck).

litlgrey said...

Regarding the outstanding use of black - and the use of amorphic black shapes to represent action - understand what you have here. Not only do you have an amorphic black shape which changes with astonishing fluidity, but it "reads" continuously even when traversing the space as defined by Maurice Noble and executed by Phil DeGuard. Your eye does not lose sight of the black blob as the focal point of action.

The use of pure black had to have been at least somewhat courageous - earlier in the career of all these veteran animators, the use of black would lead to bleeding hazes which would have greatly distorted the effect. This will have been extremely similar to the haze which would have been visible at the time - 1963 - in the use of U-Matic video tape then in use by television studios.

Anonymous said...

The backgrounds in "Transylvania 6-5000" are indeed beautiful. I also like many of the background gags in this cartoon, like all the books on the shelf.

Unfortunately this short doesn't make me laugh outside of a couple moments ("ASLEEP YET?") and the Bill Lava music pales in comparison to anything Stalling or Franklyn would've probably come up with.

Anonymous said...


Not sure if you remember me but several years ago I came down to visit you with Fred Sharples - we were creating these custom animated web browsers...

I wanted to speak to you about a project ( I'm working on - can I email you or is it ok to post here?

mark o'hara

Bobby Wham said...

I love late Chuck Jones design

Pokey said...

The vamp looks like Levitow's "vampire"(voiced by Paul Frees who also was in both "Gay Purree" and Warner Brothers's in-house production, the Don Knotts semi-live vehicle"The Incredible Mr.Limpet", from UPA's 1962 classic "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol" (the one comic part, the "We're Despicable" vaudeville song segment). Ben Frommer is the voice for the vampire, Julie Bennett (Cindy Bear, Ah do declare!) the two heads of the strange girl buzzard!