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.


deadman said...

I kinda liked the film. I like those narrator cartoons because I grew up seeing a lot of such things.

Man, that elephant gun was pure ingenuity.

Larry Levine said...

John, Your Dad knows his business, this is a very funny cartoon!

I used to watch a Tex Avery every weekday afternoon sandwiched between two Tom & Jerry cartoons on WPIX Channel 11 (except for when they stuck in an occasional Barney Bear).

jesus chambrot said...

The Mother in Law bit always kills me.

Hey John, recently I was talking to an uncle,whos in his late fifties, that said that the last good cartoons he saw were you're Ren and Stimpy back in '91. It was the only show on Nick that he enjoyed watching with his youngin's when they were still primary school age.

Car2oon said...

My Dad loves King of the Hill, I think for the fact that it doesn't have to go out of it's way to curse, catapult characters into another country, or make a pop-culture reference every five seconds to get a laugh out of him. For all the pressure out there for cartoons to be edgy, I like how KotH has remained itself for such a long time.

Ari said...

hey, a little off topic. i'm a looking for your ol caricature posts. any chance we could get a tab thing for them or something? (unless i'm just retarted and can't find it)

Chris S. said...

I'm with you deadman - that elephant gun was brilliant.

The narrator cartoons are some of the best - I don't think I've ever seen this one before. Hunter/fisher or not, it's a good one.

Dads can be a huge influence - my dad loved the Roadrunner cartoons so for a long time they were my favorite as well. The days my dad would sit and watch cartoons with me were rare and awesome.

PCUnfunny said...

"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"

IMO, the only hope left is going completely independent. Farm out the work to people you trust and put it on the net. You by-pass all the network fiddle faddle.

patchwork said...


in the very top left corner is a search window. Type in caricature (or anything else) and it will bring up all posts containing that word. There will be a lot of posts, so find one that has caricature in the labels and click on caricature

Pete Emslie said...

From this anecdote and what you've previously written about Ed Benedict, that delightful old curmudgeon strikes me as being the cartoon world's version of Artie Shaw. Just like you've described Ed, Artie Shaw also considered himself more of an artist than a generator of populist entertainment. In fact, he really had little but contempt for most of his fans whom he dismissed as philistines for their demanding so little of him. Whereas Artie wanted to create artistically complex compositions, all his fans really wanted was swing music they could jive to. Thankfully for us, just like Artie Shaw, Ed Benedict's attempts at more serious art was thwarted, resulting in the wonderful "cartoonish" cartoons we can still laugh at today.

JohnK said...

Hi Pete

the strange thing is, Ed couldn't help but draw funny. I told him I liked his stuff better than Tom Oreb's because Ed's drawings were humorous.

He looked at me like I was crazy, then threatened to punch me in the nose.

JohnK said...

Hi Larry,

the only Tex Avery cartoons I saw as a kid were his WB films. I loved the Willoughby the Dog cartoons and Egghead too.

I didn't see his MGM cartoons till I was about 20 and then they blew me away!

PCUnfunny said...

Egghead is probably the oddest of all the WB characters. In one cartoon, he is a pathetic bufoon who struggles to impress. In another, he is sort of an almost cool mysterious guy like in Little Red Walking Hood. Or he is a peacemaker setting a fued between two families. He is one of a kind.

Anonymous said...

I love the narrated cartoons as well, I have to say that MGM might be my favorite ones.
Thank you for the video as well.

Eshniner Forest said...

I like this cartoon.

Michelle said...

I laughed pretty hard at the hunting outfit part.

My dad, however, is nearly 60 and really likes Ren and Stimpy. We used to watch it together when I was kid. I think that kind of explains why I'm weird.

Those were such good times.

Beau Tardy said...

I know this is heresy, but Pixar does a lot of experimental shorts.. I just wish they would insert some of the cooler stuff into their animations. 3d suffers from wanting to be realistic. With the capabilities you could really blow the roof off, but I think the 3d guys are nerds and they're just scared of doing crazy stuff.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I've never seen this!

"He would lean real close to me just for the one word to make sure the steam from the disdain would melt my eyebrows."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! You sure can be funny when you try- although you're far more humorous when you think you're being serious!

Anonymous said...

i love your blog!

is very instructive!

John S said...

Hey John,

I began posting some construction drawings. Will you have a look.


Vince M. said...

My Dad introduced me to cartoons. He loved animation. He was my hero.

'nuff said.

Beast said...

I always wondered what you thought of Mckimson's work.

Bazarov said...

I've been visiting your blog for a while now and am curious to see what your thoughts on Japanese animation are. If you've already done a posting on this topic please provide a link:)
I realize there's a wide variety but what do you think about some of the bigger hits like Akira, Ninja Scroll, or even some of the series? The stories tend to make me scratch my chin but as far as the animation goes it seems like I see more dedication in the Japanese feature films than I see in the Disney stuff. Your thoughts please :)

James N. said...

"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"

Many of Pixar's shorts are experimental (and are all extraordinary btw).

Also, Disney is starting up it's shorts program again starting with 'How to Set Up Your Home Theater' which was a Goofy short. It was experimental. They used it to test out doing "paperless" hand drawn animation on Cintiques using Harmony's Toon Boom software. 50% of that short was done paperless.

-James N.