Thursday, February 14, 2008

2nd anniversary

thanks to David Germain for this great link below!

Holy cow! Aggie (tomorrow's Franz Waxman) told me yesterday marked 2 years of my blog already. I always figured I'd have run out of stuff to talk about long ago.

Maybe I could collect my thoughts and try to explain why I'm doing it.

1) I have a big mouth:

I'm always thinking about what makes stuff work and how to try new ideas. I talk to my equally theoretical friends all the time about cartoons. Writing my latest obsessions and thoughts out makes me zero in on them in more detail. So I learn a lot myself by trying to articulate clearly what began as vague observances and notions in my muddled brain.

2) To help widen other cartoonists' tastes and horizons:

Not everyone has access to a lot of our cartoon history and legacy. I've been collecting cartoons, toys, comics and illustrations for decades. I had a big library at spumco and always encouraged the artists to take advantage of it.
Like these guys at Dic who didn't really appreciate it.

I think today, more than ever, it's hard to see the heights that cartoon art has reached if you are only getting your influences from modern animation and comic strips. They don't run many classic cartoons on TV anymore. Modern comic strips are very primitively drawn (and written) compared to comics of 50 to 90 years ago.I think that the more influences you have, the more you can avoid being trapped in a current "style". Having a style (the way some people today think of style) is an extremely creatively limiting handicap. I think being aware of a huge assortment of individual styles (as opposed to group styles) and being able to draw well without having to rely on simple stylistic tricks allows you to think up many more ideas and execute a much wider range of characters, stories and technical challenges.

I sure don't expect everyone to agree with me on this point, but for those who do have eclectic tastes and want to know more about what's done, I'm more than happy to share whatever I've discovered in search for great cartoon art and ideas.

The cartoonists today who have the most unique styles and the widest range of functional abilities also have a lot of influences. They don't just imitate a group style.
Jim Smith, Katie Rice, Nick Cross, Mike Kazaleh, Bob Camp, Dave Feiss, Chuck Gammage, Eddie Fitzgerald and others don't imitate, yet they all have their imitators.

There are quite a few younger cartoonists appearing that have a wide range of influences, which is highly encouraging to me. Combine this with functionality and you will be the next leaders of the business!

Kali, Rex, Mitch and lots more!

Also, there are so many great helpful blogs out there. Kevin Langley, The Animation Archive, Temple Of The Seven Camels, Bob Jaques' Popeye blog, Theory Corner, Michael Sporn, Hans Bacher and more.
The passing on of wisdom to the next generation

These generous folks all share their knowledge and lots of history. I will soon do a post about some of my favorites. Too many to list today!

This is a renaissance in archival cartoon archaeology!

3) To inspire a return to cartoon roots:

Since hardly any modern cartoons really embrace what distinguishes cartoons from other media, I want to try to find others like me who like cartoons to be cartoony.
like Spaz Williams' grandparents

Eddie and I talked about this while shoving greasy pizza into our faces yesterday. Eddie told me about some recent critiques of classic cartoons we loved. The critiques consisted partly of complaining about gags that just couldn't be done in any other medium.

We came up with a new theory about how to critique the great cartoons. To me (and others) the heights of cartoon art are more like music than they are like literal stories. Music has its own special language to describe its structure and melodies and we need a language like that. Otherwise, we are stuck trying to describe cartoons in terms of other media like live-action film, or novels. While there is some overlap between what cartoons do and what other artistic media does, there are also blatant difference. Those differences are what define us, what set us apart from other forms of entertainment.

I'm going to contact Daniel Goldmark -who studies classic cartoon music, and see if I can get him to sit down with me and Eddie to watch cartoons and try to find useful terms and structural concepts from the movements and patterns in music. It may give us a jumping off point to help us describe our favorite cartoons.

These cartoons below could not be critiqued in terms of plot structure or logic, yet they are among the most moving and creatively inspired of all cartoons.

Swing You Sinners
Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs
Baby Bottleneck
You Belong To My Heart
Bad Luck Blackie

4) To Teach Principles and Techniques To The Next Generation Of Cartoonists:

Not every cartoonist is interested in the classic artistic and cartoon drawing tools, but for those who love old cartoons and would like to have those skills, there is no place I know of today where you can learn them.

I know this from experience, because I have hired so many cartoonists straight out of college and have had to personally teach what used to be basic skills to them.

You really can't afford to do this while actually on a project. Networks expect you to start drawing functional drawings the day you begin a project. They can't tell the difference between a truly descriptive controlled drawing and a flat uncontrolled drawing. They don't know that one makes a cartoon much more effective in telling a story and they don't care.

I've spent so much of my own money training people and have decided I can't afford it anymore. So I figured when I started this blog, I'd just put up my old manuals and then people could teach themselves. That way, next time I start a major project, I could just find the people who really wanted to do the same sorts of cartoons I like and who already have the tools I know I need.

5) To encourage Analysis:

If anyone is to bring back some of what we like about classic cartoons, we need to be able to break down what we like into its separate elements and then start applying those elements to our own work.

This can be a difficult process and it hurts to break down our prejudices, but it's the only way to begin to understand why we like certain cartoons. Then it is important to apply what we learn to our own work and that is even harder!

But you really can't understand an artistic concept fully, until you can do it yourself. First, discover a concept, then do it a few times until it sinks in.

I hope I have unveiled some elements of what makes cartoons work, but only each individual can make themselves learn it by doing it.

6) Blind Habit:
It's become a habit to do this stuff. I really don't expect everyone to agree with everything I say, or which cartoons I like. The danger of publishing your own opinions publicly is that those who disagree with you sometimes take it too seriously - especially online!

I think most people who come here are probably in 80-90% agreement with my overall view.
Basically that classic cartoons are mostly of a much higher quality than modern cartoons. We may disagree on whether Chuck is better than Bob, or whether Disney is more artistic than Avery, but in the broad scheme of things those are really minor differences.

I'm amazed at how those small differences sometimes explode into huge flame wars! Really, what we all agree on is what I hope will someday come back into fashion in the animation world. There are many forces against us, so I hope a few of us will find a way to collaborate on what we agree on and take back a place for ourselves in the business that those like us created and made so successful and unique in the first place.

So thanks to everyone who has encouraged my incessant rambling and striving for ways to make more cartoon fun!

7) Crass Capitalism

Oh yeah! It doesn't hurt to have people contribute! Thanks to all the latest pals who know the sincerest form of appreciation.

Mitch Lodolt
Mitch Leewe
Dan Mozgai
John Guy
David de Rooij


Freckled Derelict said...

Wow 2 years? It has just flown by. Your blog is such an amazing resource for all artists please keep it going and help save the future of animation!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this blog John. I've learned a lot from it and try to put the principles posted here into practice in my own work. Keep up the great work!

Jessie said...

I'm curious John - have you ever spoken/lectured at an art school before?

Jessie said...

(Oh - also, congrats on the 2 years! I hope for many more! :) )

Chris S. said...

I can't think of a post you've made that didn't inspire, teach or entertain me. I am midway through school (part time) for character animation - yet, as I'm sure it's no surprise to you, there's been little "cartoony" animating so far. I have yet to have a class that comes close to your blog.

Anyway ... keep it up! There's nothing like this blog for fans like us.

Mr. Sean said...

happy anniversary & all that. your blog has really upped my enjoyment of watching cartoons & drawing them also, as well as giving me pride in saying i'm a cartoonist, instead of an artist. also, your commentaries on ren & stimpy & popeye & stuff have been really fun to listen to/watch, i'm eagerly waiting a the kricfalusi/bakshi team up on maybe a mighty mouse set? anyhow, thanks for your work!

Bitter Animator said...

Congratulations on your 2 years of great blogging! I've certainly seen a lot of things I otheriwse wouldn't have.

And, in ways, I often love it when you write something I don't agree with because it challenges my views and forces me to analyse what I love or hate about cartoons (yay) and this poxy business we're in (boo).

More than anything, I hope you inspire new generations of animators.


Mr. Semaj said...

I'm glad you cleared up some things in #6. Now more than ever, animation needs an environment where artists work towards a common goal, regardless of what their political affirmations or predilections may be.

Happy Anniversary (and Valentines' Day!) to your blog.

David said...

You're welcome!

Luke said...

I've enjoyed reading and learning from your blog since I first stumbled upon it a little over a year ago. I can't wait to see how you'll continue . I can't believe it's taken me this long to post, but I just couldn't hold my appreciation any more. Thank you Thank You Thank You!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

This is a truly great blog! I honestly believe that a hundred years from now, when our grandkids are immersed in virtual reality and holographic media, that artists will still be drawing inspiration from the archives of this blog.

Congratulations on two wonderful years!

jim said...

I'm not sure how I found your blog, because I don't draw. But I do love cartoons, even at age 40. But because of your blog, I have learned what I like in cartoons and why. I have also learned what is crapola and why. Your blog has opened my eyes to this art and made me enjoy cartoons even more. I'm grateful to you for it, and hope you will keep opening your big mouth here for a long time to come!

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

"This can be a difficult process and it hurts to break down our prejudices, but it's the only way to begin to understand why we like certain cartoons. Then it is important to apply what we learn to our own work and that is even harder!"

You said it, Brother! This is the main reason I keep coming back, as much of a fan as I am.

I had a friend growing up who had a unique style I liked, and he told me to stop copying other cartoons. He said ( at age 9 ) that I wouldn't be able to be original if I did that.

I met him again recently, and he still maintains that... but his drawings haven't improved at all. It's nice to know I was right, and you helped me realize it.

ESPECIALLY the construction lessons and the manuals! I hope you one day know how much you mean to all of us, John!

That Annie Award doesn't do enough to put it in words. Thanks for a great two years, and many more to come!

- trevor.

Eshniner Forest said...

I think its rather nice that someone of certain amount of fame, communicates to anyone more then his or her small group of friends. I think its nice of you to be open about something you love.

Mitch said...


Im now following youre blog for 1 year and it helped me finding the principles I wanna learn. I hope I can one day really understand and use the principles. But I think I have a long way before reaching that. So I hope you will make allot more posts ;)

It also helping me thinking about what kind of stuf I like and why I like it. And because of that I can tell others about cartoons and stuf.

Mitch said...

Boooo toons
"I had a friend growing up who had a unique style I liked, and he told me to stop copying other cartoons. He said ( at age 9 ) that I wouldn't be able to be original if I did that."

That's excactly what I whas thinking before I whas reading and know about this blog! When I whas a kid I copied allot of looney toons, but people around me told me I should be original and create my own stuff. I am now copying and studying cartoons and I really learn more and faster than ever before.

Larry Levine said...


John, You're right up there with Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett & Milt Gross.

Aggie said...

You're the sweetest, John! Keep on bloggin'! :)

Lee said...

Congratulations on two years!

Though I don't have the time I did a year and a half back to work on the lessons, I do try and apply what I've learned any any creative project I tackle. I love reading your opinions and those of your readers.

Thanks for all of your hard work!

(And hopefully I'll be back at the model sheets soon!)

Kyle said...

Only two years eh? I didn't start reading your blog when you first started it. I figured this has been around for more. it feels longer.

Bitter Animator said...

Interesting discussion, Mitch and Booo Toons.

I've seen many artists whose styles I admire and they are people who didn't really study other peoples drawings - they just took what they could do and work it and work it until they got really good at one thing. Loads of illustrators with a character all of their own.

Animation college can beat the style out of people. But then, when you're an animator you have to be able to adapt to any style and that requires skills. Skills to understand how people are drawing what you have to match and yet still retain life.

Depends on the person and what they want to do, I guess.

jesus chambrot said...

The best things in life are free.

Why go out for milk when you got the cow at home.

Thanks John for the free cow milk!

Nico said...

happy 2 yearsssss!

Timefishblue said...

The Best Blog

Shawn said...

Your blog is my favorite place on the internet!

David Germain said...

According to this list, the proper gift to commemorate 2 years is either cotton or china. Maybe you could celebrate by either making a T-shirt or a mug with Spumco characters on it.

Oh yeah, Happy Anniversary!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks John! I think it's all beginning to pay off...there's alot of people improving bit by bit thanks to this blog...including myself.

You're doing a great deed for humanity.

Lluis said...

Man !!! John!!! congratulations on the two years!! I love this Blog!! been reading it for about a year or more. It makes me feel good about being a nerd..hehe and also that there is a lot of work to be done!!to find pleasure in learning!!! and I learn every time I visit!!
thanks a million!!!
you are great!!!

Dave_the_Turnip said...

Man 2 years already. I discovered the blog just a couple months after you started it, and have been reading ever since.

I love reading your analysis and breakdowns of old cartoons, and the animators behind them.

Also, my drawing skills have improved quite considerably since you started the animation course. I'm like over a year behind, but i'll catch up one day. ^^

Keep it going John. This place is an amazing and invaluable resource.

Anonymous said...

Before your blog (I actually found it by looking for info on you at Wikipedia), I hardly had any interest in classical animation (I had vague knowledge of the Looney Tunes, Popeye, and a few others, though). I also used to watch that now dreaded Cartoon Nothing quite a bit (term curtuesy of Jerry Beck) Now, thanks to your blog, I know much more about Golden Age cartoons than I ever did. I discovered ones that I never knew I liked (Woody Woodpecker, for instance), and I rediscovered classical animation as a whole. I also have discovered many other great animation blogs, and even gained in interest in Golden Age films in general.

Plus, my drawing "skills" (If you could call it that. Maybe I shouldn't be so harsh.) have improved greatly.

Thank you for creating one of my favorite daily stops, John.

Tony C. said...

Thanks for sharing your knowledge with the world John. I don't think I've missed reading a post in two years and I have learned a ton.

I would love to see you post MP3 audio commentaries for classic cartoons. We can download the MP3 to our ipod, press play on the dvd, press play on the ipod...Instant Audio Commentary!

You could create a whole bunch of them in an evening and release them with your posts.

Jadthe said...

Congratulations, John!

JohnK said...

thanks loads everyone!

Weirdo said...

Keep up this good blog. I hope for many more years of information to improve the state of cartoons.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

You are inspiring many (including me!) to make real, fun, interesting cartoony stuff. I just signed up as a blogger and what not and I'd love it if you'd give me some feedback on a picture I put on my first post. Much appreciated and thanks for all the continuing inspiration

Juan Pablo said...

You've been my greatest influence since last year.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

JoJo said...

Thanks for everything John! I've applied all the principles I've learned through your blog to my own work, and it has improved tremendously! I've also been been analyzing what I like about a specific cartoon, comic, or illustration, etc. and applying the same principles that made those original works so great. Thanks to you the future of animation is getting brighter everyday. I mean it too, even if I can be somewhat of a young curmudgeon some of the time.

John Young said...

you're the best!

Rodrigo said...

Keep on keeping on John.

JohnK said...

Hi a.m.

I didn't post your comments cause i didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

Everyone is trying get better at their own speed!

But thanks for the other comments.

LeoBro said...

Happy anniversary, John! I've learned more about drawing from this blog than any other single resource. I'm hooked.

Ryan Dunlavey said...

Thanks for this incredible blog Mr. K - please don't ever stop!

Ryan G. said...

Thanks John. The past couple of years have been great. You've opened my eyes to many different ideas and theories. You are a huge inspiration. Keep up the phenomenal work!

BrianMORANTE said...

I've not only learned a lot here but its changed the way I think about a lot of things. I'm mostly self taught and this blog came right as I was getting in the biggest rut of learning, ever.

Anonymous said...

interesting read

slick said...

thanks mister, you're swell!

Jesse Haller said...

Hello John. I love the blog. I agree with you on many points. It is sad that not everyone can see the old cartoons on tv anymore, even though I grew up in the 90's I was still able to watch old Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera on network tv. Which I know was rare at the time, but is unheard of today.

Today's comic strips are horrible, I'ld rather read old Gasoline Ally or Krazy Kat strips, then what passes for comic strips today.

Having gone to art school, I'll say that the parts about style are dead on, in all areas of art. Nothing bugged me more then having other students refusing to look at more then one or two artist, and pick a "style" with out learning to really draw.

I'm getting long winded, so I'll stop now. Again, love the blog.

Tom said...

Hey John,

I never comment here because I have to use my friend's account to do so, but I just thought I should let you know how much I love this blog. I've been reading it for about a year now, and I have been exposed to many things that I never even considered before. I have really been striving to apply your teachings to my cartoons. When I look back on the stuff I did several years ago, I see all sorts of things wrong that I would have never noticed without your help. Thanks!

-Tom Smith

Catfish Rushdie Catroons said...

There is plenty to comment on, many good, valid points, but the one that jumps out and bites my brain is the word MUSIC. What separates the toons that bore me from the ones that I watch over and over and never tire of is the superior MUSICALITY of the great ones.

Oliver_A said...

Thanks again for this blog. Keep in mind that even as a non-artist, your blog really helped me to articulate what I personally like about animation. Before your blog, this was just all about: I like this, I don't like that, gee, that looks smooth,ow that looks crude... But now I analyze animation much more carefully and differenciated, and can actually put into specific words what I like about it and what I don't. I was never fully aware of advanced concepts like for example specific acting before your blog (that was REALLY an eye opener), you helped me to become much more literate in this field. Again, thank you very much for this.

The problem of flame wars is probably: this is text only communication. People who don't know you (well, that includes myself) will therefore sometimes see your comments as much harsher as they are probably mean to be. People do not seem to realize, as you said, the big picture behind all this: it's all about raising the overall quality to save this art form from extinction.

The only thing which is REALLY frustrating is that YOU haven't done any big project since Ren & Stimpy APC. Why is that so? You get critically acclaimed, you are practically a hero amongst all artists here, yet, no one from the outside seems to be interested in you. People not knowing this blog describe you as a bitter has been, which makes me really angry, because when reading your blog, I realize what YOU could do with a good budget and a selected army of gifted artists.

I hope I didn't insult you, you are my favourite modern cartoonists, and you really did extraordinary things in your career. Thank you.

mark kennedy said...

Congrats on two years...keep the good stuff coming!

patchwork said...

your blog is a godsend

Raff said...

Shoot, it only seems like last week that you were thanking us for ONE year! (And it was right after you sulkingly threatened to quit the whole blog - tisk, tisk.)

I have to say this:

From what I've noticed, many of the biggest, freshest innovators and articulate nutters are the one who paid a lot of attention to the past. Frank Zappa, Jim Henson & Joe Raposo, the Beatles, you sir...

If the past is theoretically "old and done with", why is it so healthy to examine it? Because it's different.

In past eras, the percieved paths to fame, fortune and amusement of boredom were different because the world was different, and thus the motivations, approaches and results were different from what they are now. And things that are different and good demand our attention. We laugh at their flaws (they're the result of circumstances that aren't our problem anymore), and we obsessively attend to the details of their strengths, trying to find those elusive secrets.

And creatively, let's face it, every artist steals. Whether it be from other artists, from nature itself or from one's own observations from trial and error (which, in a way, is part of nature itself), everyone steals. Every artist seeks to harness what appeals to him/her and use it to communicate or entertain. Might as well have a bigger selection to steal from than this year's trinkets, right?

Thanks for it all and keep it up.

Chloe Cumming said...

Congratulations John! K!

Thank you for continuing with the blog... it does become like therapy for a crowded brain I think, yanking the the thoughts out one by one like spindly magical silver mucous in the penseive scenes in Harry Potter.

All those years I knew I loved your cartoons, and old cartoons, and I only knew a tiny fragment of WHY. This blog has made me see how much more there is, how much richer things can be, how much there is still to learn... and on a more serious sombre note, how many of us have been cheated out of a decent education. For shame! But we are making up for a it a little bit now.

And I always feel like I want to be in your gang, then go all ambivalent cos I'm not really a cartoonist by nature; but I think the point is that a lot of the stuff you say about cartoons and cartoonyness (as illustrated really eloquently in that last pictorial Yogi post) applies to broader patterns in our culture... it's a great antidote to apathy and relativism. I feel I've learned a tangible lesson simply from the fact of your disdain for floppy beanie babies. You present things with humour and passion, but the logic in your thinking is also obvious. Logic kicks the ass of postmodernism!

And thank you for making me understand about Clampett. So much profound shit! You may be philosophically important.

scartoonist said...

Hey, did you notice the face on the bat-winged head looks A HELLUVA LOT like Eddie's face in the picture (with Kallie) directly above it?

Juxtapose them!


Jack Ruttan said...

I can only agree. Great post, brilliant blog. Tres inspiring.

carlo guillot said...

Happy 2nd year!!!
I guess now that u have teeth, u r gonna start making post with even more BITES ;)
Well, I'm still curious if you had seen my short film. I've applied on it many things you have posted.
Please, PRETTY PLEASE, tell me any comment about it, it will help a lot. (BTW, Eddie like it and ask me to show it to you).
It's right here
EVERYONE can comment, it will help a lot.

carlo guillot said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog, John.
It has a lot of work, as you said.
I'm gonna put more things about the process, I'll keep you noticed.

Jim, Son of Silver said...

Man o' man, The fact you exist is Kool, but then you Go & do This blog? - & for 2 years
Thankz a Million, Man
"Happy Anniverary, Happy Anniversary Happ..."

Moro Rogers said...

I disagree all the time...but I can't stop reading.
Good blog.^^

N3drid said...

Congratulations and i wish you goodluck with continuing the blog and with achieving your goals.

I have always been intersted in cartoons and comics but this blog has really made me inspired to try learning the basics of animation. I got the "Animation 1" book with preston blair about a week ago and is doing the lessons one at a time.
It was highly recomended and i understand why.

I will continue training and hope i can be one of hopefully many to help your dream come true, while folowing your blog.

Tim said...

I'm late, but man, thanks so much for this. I've mentioned before that I'm not an animator (or even an artist) myself, but I'm fascinated by the process - not to mention what makes a cartoon funny and entertaining. Keep up the good work and keep fighting the good fight man.

Cookie said...

I'm a little late but I still want to drop down a comment:

I'm a freshman in high school and I feel really grateful of myself that I have stumbled across your blog.

It has heightened my thinking and makes me eagerly study old cartoons. (Or maybe everything.) I watch little to no TV nowadays but I was rather active with it back when I was young in the 90's; I've been always mesmerized with the animation that brings Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck alive especially, and I had a lot of fun watching what used to be on back then.

Of course, I don't agree with everything with your blog since it's mostly based on your opinions, but I can still stretch things around to make it fit into my liking. So I've been enjoying reading what you have written most of the time.

I'm dreaming to become an animator/cartoonist/something of the similar--and your knowledge and analysis has helped me immensely to walk towards that goal... Heh, at least, to understand and appreciate in a different level. I hope I can someday mark a good contribution in the field.

Apologies if what I just babbled was inappropriate. Happy anniversary!

FarmerGeorge said...

You are right. Im 20 years old and I live in Cambridge, England, but unlike most of the brainwashed youth I seek out the older stuff. Classic cartoons / comics / animations are so much better. I strive to make my own drawings better every day when I think about the time and effort that went into the older cartoons. Im happy to find a likeminded person, and to know there are many others.
keep doing what you do.
George G