Friday, January 25, 2008

Snooper and Blabber sell Rice Krispies with Trace-backs

This cartoon is an example from a transitional period between the era of classic cartoons and the modern era.I would have liked this commercial a lot when I was a kid. Compared to today's cartoon commercials it has some good points:


You can tell what's going on. And you understand why you are supposed to buy the cereal.

Many modern commercials are incomprehensible. They just throw special effects, swishy cartoon acting and quick cuts at the camera, annoying you and leaving you wondering what you are supposed to buy and why.

Appealing Character Designs:

These characters look like real cartoon characters. They are conservative, but professional and cartoony enough to have some inherent kid-appeal. They aren't Ed's best designs, but much better than most designs today. They at least look like real characters.

Good Voices:

Same point again; the voices are professional and unambiguous. They don't sound like average people like in most modern animated cartoons. It's Daws Butler and Don Messick being underused by a weak director, which is still better than the nothing voices we live with today.

Acting: Uninspired but it's not effeminate.
On the other hand, it could be a lot better. It's directed and animated with lackluster. It shows the beginning of the end of the era of great cartoon animation.
The Posing: The "acting" poses are completely unimaginative. Characters just point to what they talk about, and then spread their arms out to emphasize an accent in the dialogue. No real thought or variety or spark of life.
Squash and stretch and overlap and accents are almost gone. It just barely squashes in anticipations, as if the studio atmosphere is so conservative, that the animator feels guilty even squashing an antic this much. I worked in animation studios in the 80s that would completely freak out if I used squash and stretch in what was supposed to be fully-animated scenes. "Get that Tex Avery stuff out of your brain!"
The animation: It's not really animated. It's inbetweened. To get from one pose to the next, they merely trace the heads and arms and place them in the middle of the poses. It makes the animation look like moving cutouts. This is a sign of ultra-conservatism and fear of actual animation.
These poses remind me of when I worked on The Smurfs. People on the crew would speak in awe of the producer Gerard Baldwin's acting skills. Gerard would act out Smurf scenes with these exact arm gestures and in the mid 80s this was considered Shakespearian.
I wish I had a good copy to show you of Ed Love's fully animated Hanna Barbera commercials for contrast. He uses the same raw materials but makes the animation full, varied, well acted and fun.

There are some great Ed Love bumpers and commercials on the Huckleberry Hound DVD, but they are so poorly transferred that they are badly interlaced and impossible to freeze frame or go through slowly. I'll keep hunting till I can find one to show you.

In the meantime, compare it to the Tony The Tiger commercial I put up the other day. That one has a lot more fun and creativity in the animation.

I've been wondering why in the 1960s the animation in high budgeted commercials became so conservative. Just a few years earlier, we had brilliantly designed and animated super creative commercials. You'd think that cartoons would have continued to evolve into even more creative animation styles. Instead it devolved into stiff, conservative lifeless cutouts and that became the style for the next 30 years. By the late 80s, animators had to relearn the lost secrets of what made cartoons loose, lively and magic.

We rediscovered squash, stretch, overlap, line of action and other lost principles but we still use this simplistic posing and acting style - it just just bounces more now. We have some basic tools again, but have forgotten how to use them to support customized and varied human motions and acting.

Fear of creativity is a legacy we inherited from the fall of animation that started in the 50s and completed its decline in the 60s.
Like I said, there is just enough appealing design in this commercial to have a pleasant retro nostalgic feel, but it's a shadow of what animators were capable of just a couple years earlier.
What made a bold and creative industry fear its own hard-won skills and inventiveness in such a short period of time?
At least there's a pile of sugar to cover up the bland lack of nutrition.

Goodbye fun!!


Chris S. said...

Ahhh, the nourishment of sun-ripened rice!

Kali Fontecchio said...

I remember when we watched these they were cute, but boring, haha. I liked the Tony the Tiger one the best out of the lot, oh and the Jolly Green Giant!

The Rice Krispies one isn't Shamus, is it?

Zachary said...

Hey John I like your blog Good stuff, I just wanted to say that after Seeing the AMAZING Animation in Ralph Bakshi's Cool World I wish studios would fund for Big Budget Animation Like that. Maybe you and Ralph Bakshi Could Make some sweet ass animation stuff together if you ever win the lottery right.

Was Cool world the Only Movie where Bakshi used Like Old Warner Bros Style? The Cute Bunny in that Movie was amazing I beleive all the Characters in Cool World represent how all the Animation should look today.. you know more fluid and ALIVE and not looking like a bunch of squares and rectangles standing around and talking right?

Mitch Leeuwe said...

Great post. It really makes me thinking.

Mann... I'm trying to understand why this happend, but still can't get/understand it. Why didn't they make it more funier? The people who made this comercial must have know this right? The people who worked on this could have made it more funier, right? Why wouldn't they?

slowtiger said...

Original instruction from the director of my last project: "Don't act that much. Just hold that pose. Don't move him around that much. Cut that blink." Must I add that the payment was beyond crap?

PowerRangerYELLOW said...

Many modern commercials are incomprehensible. They just throw special effects, swishy cartoon acting and quick cuts at the camera, annoying you and leaving you wondering what you are supposed to buy and why.

They do this because a typical executive makes assumptions about childrens attention span.

They do things like fast cuts, constant music, colors picked by psychologists rather than artists and the whole thing is a mess.

as a kid i was entertained by stuff like that but it would have been nice that they didn't make assumptions about my attention span even if it was short just so that i had enough time to process all the intended information and actually remember it all.

The way i see it. No fancy shit is gonna make the youngsters pay any more attention to something they have no interest in watching anyways.

They'll either pay attention or they'll it skip all together.

There is no inbetween and making rash judgments about your target audience attention span is only gonna screw yourself over.

Making your product entertaining is more important than making your product obnoxious in a pathetic attempt to get the kids to sit still threw something that sucks ass anyways.

and as for the ads themselves.

I would have preferred to watch the tony the tiger ad over the rice krispies as a little youngster.


boootooons ltd. said...

breakfast cereal commercials got a tiny bit better in the late 80's when roger rabbit came out, if memory serves.

i remember the cinnamon toast chefs looking particularly fluid for a few commercials, but then they dropped it down to just wendall, and the animation got bouncier and less fluid.

- trevor.

Emmett said...

Nice post, Mr. K, albeit rather depressing. I guess its nice, because my recent obsession has been the Ed Benedict years of Hanna Barbera.

I usually don't pay attention to commercials, but I will stop for them if they are animated. If you want to see some nice animated commercials today, you won't find them in breakfast cerials. You will find them advertising airline, anit-depressants, insurance, and other adult undertakings. Still, you can find some good animation there. Consider the work of Bill Plympton or Joanna Quinn.

And once again, you are absolutely, positively, dead-on-balls right about the voice overs. Daws Butler and Don Messick knew how to give characters soul. In the 1980's, animation voice-overs were practically the last itsy bit of soul left in animation.

Charlie J. said...

Still, its cooler than any modern cartoon commercial.

Joseph said...

Doing the "square" hand gesture like Crackle did without having a dotted line square left over goes to show how low the budget was on this!

A.M.Bush said...

Many modern commercials are incomprehensible. They just throw special effects, swishy cartoon acting and quick cuts at the camera, annoying you and leaving you wondering what you are supposed to buy and why.

This is what I think when I watch a wacky old cartoon. Not that I think they suck, but I think they would be funnier if so much wasn't going on at once.

But speaking of crap commercials, how about that Charmin one with the red and blue bear in a race. What an abomination, as if I wouldn't notice that the good 2D stuff was replaced with a cheap soulless 3D shell of it's former self.

Car2oon said...

@a.m.bush, Ah man, I was heartbroken to see the Charmin bears replaced with that robotic CG... They ARE still airing the 2d ones, and hopefully it'll stay that way.

Bill Melendez's old Falstaff Beer commercial is personally one of my favorite vintage commercials. I urge you guys to find it on his website, it's great.

Anonymous said...

Even though the animation is simply "limited" pose to pose (with not as much movement as the Tony the Tiger ad you posted a couple of days back), the H-B commercial is still worth watching (mainly for the appeal, and that fun song at the end, even though I despise plain Rice Krispies!). It's kind of the painful to see that much of a decline in a short period of time (especially when the other ad had much more energy and more exciting animation).

"There are some great Ed Love bumpers and commercials on the Huckleberry Hound DVD, but they are so poorly transferred that they are badly interlaced and impossible to freeze frame or go through slowly. I'll keep hunting till I can find one to show you."

Good luck with that, John. It would be interesting to compare this commercial to any Ed Love commercials you may find and post. Speaking of animation, do you know who animated that H-B ad? It looks like it could have been Ken Muse, but I just wanted to make sure of who it was.

C. A. M. Thompson said...

Interesting find. The people who made the worst cartoons in the 60's and 70's won the most Oscars in the 40's and 50's. Animation just always rewarded the professional but non-creative people like Freling and Hanna Barbera who didn't like improving their cartoons or trying new things more than people like Avery, Jones, and Clampett. Was it because they could make their cartoons faster? Anyway. it's really tragic. The only reason early Hanna Barbera was good was because they weren't able to exert as much control over it and hadn't perfected their new TV assembly line process yet. At least this cartoon is boring and sort of pleasing rather than boring and repulsive like a 70's cartoon.

Bitter Animator said...

Commercials in general make me want to tear my eyeballs out and it saddens me that animation would be whored out to the type of clients and agencies who make ads.

But, yeah, the acting on the Snap, Crackle, Pop guys is pretty bad. But did the clients care? Probably not. Even back then, they probably were just asking to make the pack as big as possible and to make sure their logo is everywhere. Possibly not all that different to now really.

I never worked in commercials back in those days but I know now that many clients would not want things like 'acting' or 'character' taking attention away from their all-important pack shot.

It gets even more depressing when you consider that most kids probably don't care either... and that's what makes us bitter I guess...

Bitter Animator said...

Here's what they're using 'animation' for in ads these days -

BadIdeaScot said...

Two points:

1) Rewatching the Sugar Frosted Flakes commercial, I like the animation of Tony the Tiger, but find the situation at the end of the commercial with Tony the Tiger struggling with the trombone a little odd. If I was a kid, I know I would be unable to understand why Tony was fighting with the trombone. On the positive side, it might compel me to watch the commercial more closely the next time.

2) Have you ever given thought to making an Internet comic of your animation industry experiences? If you feel the process would be not worth the effort, perhaps you should encourage your diligent fans to put some of these anecdotes to comic form. It could give you a good venue to evaluate the talent of potential future animators. I would love to see a lively re-creation of Gerard Balwin's "awesome acting" juxtaposed with the underimpressive Smurfs product.

BadIdeaScot said...

Also, I love the garden-spadeful of sugar they film being thrown onto the Rice Krispies.

David Germain said...

When I started animating on Busy Town (I think it was the first day or close to it), the animation director said "No Daffy Duck takes". I went to animation school with him so that was no surprise to me. However, recently he did tell me to push a pose further. He's classically trained so he's definitely not trying to squeeze the fun out of animation, far from it. He just wants it, as he put it, simple and realistic. No matter, any animation I do that's considered too funky or "not appropriate to the show's style, I save and post on my blog which I have done here so it's all good.

Ross Irving said...

There was only one place where I paused the clip. Right after the guys tell Snooper to add milk, the very first frame after it cuts shows Snooper again. He looks goofier here than anywhere else. Also, the music was quite amusing to me, was it stock library music, or did Hanna-Barbera have composers writing the music?

I love how you rip on your old bosses, too. It's unbelievable that people could like stuff like that.

But, I also received a brainwave from all do you avoid making animation or key poses look like inbetweens?

JohnK said...

Hi Ross

I wasn't ripping on anyone. I still kinda like the commercial. I was just pointing things out about it from a technical view.
There are lots of HB commercials that have really good animation in them.

I have trouble finding clean digital copies of them, though.

Ross Irving said...

Ah. I am just not on the ball lately. Ahem. Really though, I do agree that this commercial is more fun and I do like it myself, especially the jingle at the end. It's given me an idea. Thank you.

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

Seeing these Kellogg's commercials involving the Hanna-Barbera classical characters, I'd prefer a bowl of Kellogg's All-Bran (rich in fibers) with skimmed milk and raisins.
God bless you!

Rodinei Campos da Silveira (from São Paulo, Brazil)



rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

Now I'd like to make a stupid question (reminding the Al Jaffee's Snappy Answers for Stupid Questions from Mad magazine): do you remember of a Pepsi commercial from the 70s, with the Hanna-Barbera classical characters on it? I'm refering to the one which begins with Yogi Bear, Boo Boo and Scooby-Doo (this last one, who you hate very much), appearing together on Jellystone Park and drinking cold and refreshing bottles of Pepsi.
Please, send your comments about this Pepsi commercial which involves the Hanna-Barbera characters, OK?
Well, that's it!

Cheers from this faithful friend who always writes 4 U,

Rodinei Campos da Silveira (from São Paulo, Brazil)



Charles Jennings said...

've never scene this commercial before, but the animation stills contained therein appear to me as definitely being more the work of either Jerry Hathcock or Edwin Aardal than Kenneth Muse.