Sunday, January 13, 2008

Direction 4: The Kind Of Cartoons Dads Like - Tex Avery's "Voice"

Avery is right up there with McKimson as far as being a Dad-pleaser.This cartoon is interesting because it combines 2 extremes of cartoon philosophy. The story is down to earth yet the styling is very designy. A seeming contradiction.
It's designed and layed out by my old pal and hero, Ed Benedict. This character even looks like him. I don't know if that was intended.
The funny part about this combination of talents is that Ed didn't really like his own cartoons. He loved the pure UPA approach. His favorite cartoon was that Wee Willie thing. He thought adding entertainment and good animation was debasing the whole idea of artistic style. He would get mad at the MGM animators for using timing and squash and stretch and all that "cartoonish action". You should have seen the face he would make whenever he squeezed out the hated word "cartoonish". He would lean real close to me just for the one word to make sure the steam from the disdain would melt my eyebrows.
I think that's the right attitude for him to have too. He's the designer. We need artists and we need cartoonists (but the cartoonists should be in charge, because they're the ones who will bring in the money that funds the artistic growth and pads the executives' pockets).

We need experimental cartoons as well as entertaining cartoons. The experiments seed the growth of the medium, the entertainers find practical uses for the new techniques. Sometimes, but rarely, you can find both those talents in one place. They were in great and precarious balance at Warner Bros. in the 1940s.
This gag really made Ed mad. He said he kept drawing stylized ducks, but every time Tex looked at the scene he said the joke wasn't playing funny. Tex eventually opted to do the scene using old fashioned 40s cartoon ducks because the joke worked better. I think Ed reluctantly agreed that that made sense, but it still outraged his pure artistic temperament.
Ed rolled his eyes at jokes this crass, which delighted me no end.

Silly Symphonies, UPA cartoons, early 40s Chuck Jones cartoons were all experiments in techniques. It's interesting that those cartoons are generally less entertaining than the cartoons made by cartoonists who used techniques they were already used to, but maybe that's the way it works.
How about this realistic dead deer on the hood of a car driven by stylized men? I bet that made Ed real mad.

I think this is what the cartoons studios are missing today. They need to spend some of their profits doing experimental shorts and then letting the entertaining talents find uses for the new techniques.

I think it's possible to achieve both at the same time, but either way we would promote healthy creative growth if we aimed at progress in both technique and entertainment possibilities.

This post was prompted by my Dad sending me this email:

John: Watch this fishing and hunting cartoon, this is what I call funny, especially if you are a fisherman or hunter.