Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hanna Barbera Fun

My friend David MacKenzie cleaned up a poorly transfered bumper from the Huckleberry hound DVD set. Thanks David! You're one of the good ones.The HB bumpers usually had more fully animated movement than the cartoons.
I really like the design of these characters when the layout artist and animator have a little time to take advantage of it. That's a cool way to draw closed eyes, isn't it?
Ed Benedict designed the characters. His style is instantly happy and pleasing, which is funny because he was such a loveable curmudgeon! Daws Butler and Don Messick, both wonderful actors, also had the gifts of naturally pleasing vocal timbre. No matter what they said, it sounded pleasant and unique. They were natural born radio and cartoon voices.
Ed's characters are just stylish enough to look "mid-century modern", but not so stylized as to become abstract graphic symbols. I think kids would rather see cartoon characters that seem alive, rather than cartoons that are overly design conscious. Kids aren't art directors. They want to believe in the characters.
These early HB characters still seem like real creatures.
That's a great drawing of Yogi!
This stuff is just so happy.
I think if you don't have a lot of money to make your cartoons with, the least you can do is use pleasing design and great voices. Neither of those things cost a lot of money, and together they make instant living characters. Of course, whoever's in charge has to have enough aesthetic sensory equipment to be able to tell a good designer and voice from mundane ones. We know that's not usually the case.

There is a common belief in animation circles that "It all begins with a good story" and I'd like to challenge that. I personally believe it all starts with a good character. When you have good looking specific characters and dynamite voices, the stories write themselves - well that is, if you take advantage of them, which Hanna Barbera didn't always do. Not when they had to churn out so much product every week.

The animation is pretty good in this bumper too. Wanna see it?

It'll have to be later in the day though....

31 comments:

Kali Fontecchio said...

HUck and Yogi are so cute in this commercial, pinchable cheeks! Thanks Evan guy!

Sphyzex_9 said...

Great stuff. Definietly post the clip.

Lex said...

I'd argue that a good story and good characters can't exist without each other.

Nobody would want to see 10 minutes of a Yogi Bear walk cycle repeating itself over and over without changing. The way Yogi shows off his great character and personality is through the story.

Conversely, if you throw together a bunch of bland characters, you're going to get a bland story no matter what kind of inspirational message you tack onto the end.

- Lex

Bitter Animator said...

I'm such a HB nut right now. I love this. Thanks for the great work, David! I remember your work from your R&S restoration project (no more word on that Ultimate set, Mr.K?). Companies should be coming to people like you, people who care, to help them put these sets together. Always.

Know that your work is appreciated, even by grumpy old bastards like myself.

The expressions in these shots are just fantastic. Reminds me a little of the Roger Ramjet posts in proving that limited animation doesn't mean dead. Though I guess I'm coming at it from the odd point of view of preferring limited animation more of the time.

I think it's because I don't like bendiness, especially around the mouths. I particularly hate the overcooked mouths in those godawful Bluth films. Give Huckleberry any day.

David Gale said...

I love the different line weights in these drawings.

David Germain said...

I believe it was Mark Twain who said "a good novelist is not just someone who comes up with a good plot. It is rather someone who can put two or more characters into a situation and get interesting results."

That's definitely a rule of thumb more writers, directors, and other creative types should employ.

Pat said...

Wow...Yogi's drawn so well! I love this version of him.

Thanks for sharing.

Emmett said...

I love these bumpers (I gotta start placing them on my own blog)! When did HB stop doing them? The appeal and charm in these is outstanding.

And as for the part about good animation beginning with a good story. I am sure it all depends on what comes first for whoever is in charge (artistically that is). It could be vice versa. Unfortunately, the failure of HB's later shows was the reliance on formula and situation, not character.

Larry Levine said...

I love the early HB thick ink-line designs. I shutter with queezy disgust every time I think about the 1970s Yogi's Gang version of the characters.

Anthony P. Rizzo said...

Its true John. That's all I hear about from everyone I work with to every thing you hear from Pixar and all the other "animation studios", to all kinds of discussion groups around the net, etc.

I think Brad Bird really emphasized this a lot unfortunately when he did his interviews for the "Incredibles". He must have said the word "story" 45 times rapid fire. A lot of young aspiring "animators" who look up to him saw that movie and listened to him and it was like an overnight thing. Its all I hear now. "Does is have a good story? Gee I hope the story is good." "Yes, but wheres the story?"

But isnt there really only like 5 different types of story themes out there? Comedy, Drama, mystery, adventrue, etc.

I like how you put it in yr interview for Ren and Stimpy. If you create characters that are interesting and have their own well defined personalities you can put them in any situation and the story will write itself and thats when all the fun and magic happens out of nowhere. Quinten Tarantino said something like that too about his characters when he write a script.

So it would seem that well designed characters with strong and defined personalities will make a good story bc they are alive and moody and deal with the situations that are put in front of them. Add in some drama, comedy, adventure and mystery and there you go!

-Rizzo

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

There's seldom any story to Clampett's cartoons. They're usually just lively fun characters in a setting of some sort. Then gags are strung in according to the character and the setting.

Right? Am I the only one to think there's hardly any story in the best cartoons?

- trevor.

I.D.R.C. said...

...but not so stylized as to become abstract graphic symbols. I think kids would rather see cartoon characters that seem alive, rather than cartoons that are overly design conscious. Kids aren't art directors. They want to believe in the characters.

Not just kids. Almost anybody would, most of the time. Graphic symbols are intellectual. Characters that seem real are visceral.

Larry Levine said...

Charles Schulz used to say people don't remember gags, they remember characters.

pinkboi said...

Even in novels, where the conventional wisdom holds that a good one is so because of the story, it is actually about the characters. Tale of The Genji's stories have no plot. War and Peace is long and has no plot, yet it's very good.

The plot is an art itself, but between it and the characters, the former can be done without.. not ever the latter!

Mitch L said...

"I personally believe it all starts with a good character."

That's why I love Pulp Fiction and the big Lebowski so much!

Great post.

Roberto said...

This bumper is already looking nice and slick, and I haven't even seen the real thing! The nicely inked thick and thins add to the slickness. It would be interesting to see an in-depth post on how David McKenzie does it.

"believe it was Mark Twain who said "a good novelist is not just someone who comes up with a good plot. It is rather someone who can put two or more characters into a situation and get interesting results."

Thanks for sharing that, David. I'm currently reading one of his books, and I find him to be a novelist who can write with great skill and grace.

David Mackenzie said...

Hey Roberto, I didn't do that much to this bumper - it was already good looking. It was just stored on the disc in a weird way (NTSC 3-2 Pulldown) and I re-interleaved the fields to get the original clean jaggy-free film frames out of it.

Marc Deckter said...

Stories are for the Birds...

Jeremy Brooks said...

Everything meshes so well. Pencils, inks, colors and layout. Each aspect seems to compliment the next.

J Lee said...

What's interesting is how fast the folks at H-B lost it when it came to appealing designs on Yogi. The 70s and 80s stuff were bad, but even in the third season of cartoons done for the 1961 debut of his own show there's just something missing from the work during Seasons 1 and 2 (including the Huck bumpers).

By 1961, the layouts weren't as sharp, as if they seemed to think that Yogi's happy/rhyming dialog alone could carry the stories (which also got weaker). The grumpy side of Yogi seen in the 1958-59 cartoons was completely gone, and the "fully developed" personality was a much less interesting character, even if he was probably better for selling kids Kelogg's OKs cerial.

Roberto said...

"Hey Roberto, I didn't do that much to this bumper - it was already good looking. It was just stored on the disc in a weird way (NTSC 3-2 Pulldown) and I re-interleaved the fields to get the original clean jaggy-free film frames out of it."
My humble apologies, David. I am glad you cleared that up, though.

Raff said...

The characters are the reason you care what happens.

The story is the reason you care what happens next.

The sensations are the reward you get for paying attention in the first place.

That's my theory.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Hey! THe name is different than who you thanked earlier! I'm confused! Thanks David then???

JOHNCB said...

Hi johnK im JohnB
weird i know.
Im 17 turning "18" in april 2008.
I was always interested in animation before my time and always will.I dislike the new flash animation not the animators or the program itself but the companys that are behind the whole cheaply done crap for melting kids minds. Anyways im creatig a sketchblog,But am worried people will try and copy my art.my email is john_cb@live.ca
and my sketchblog is johncb1990.blogspot.com
so if you get time email me cause i may have a future career with you.

ted said...

That is the best Yogi bear I have ever seen. If he looked like that all the time, I might watch more of his cartoons!

DonkleDuck said...

I love this blog! Thank you John and all your contributors. I wanted to be an animator since I was like 5 or so, and my first influence was the HB cartoons that aired on "Sheriff John" (you old LA area farts should remember it) and I always loved the simple cheeriness of them. This site is a treasure trove - the Art Lozzi background posts alone are priceless. It's also nice to know that there are so many Clampett fans around.

I've long wondered why modern cartoons don't have the skill and entertainment value of cartoons made 60 years ago; this blog has answered that.

I'm glad now that I was rejected by CalArts so many years ago. If I had to draw Bluth style crap, I would have killed myself long ago.

Keep up the good fight, John, and when I win the lottery I will finance your cartoon studio. Thanks again - A J Hagan

James N. said...

'I think Brad Bird really emphasized this a lot unfortunately when he did his interviews for the "Incredibles". He must have said the word "story" 45 times rapid fire. A lot of young aspiring "animators" who look up to him saw that movie and listened to him and it was like an overnight thing. Its all I hear now. "Does is have a good story? Gee I hope the story is good." "Yes, but wheres the story?"'

Brad Bird is one of my heros and I think it's good to value story AND characters as well... which is what Brad certainly does.

All of his films, aside from being very very well animated, have great stories and great characters.

There's nothing wrong with concentrating on telling a good story AND concentrate on telling it with interesting characters.

deadmanswill said...

I believe you are right in that for animation a good character is a great starting point.

Just yesterday I was trying to drive home the point to a 80 odd animation students whom I was called to address regarding concept development for animation movies.

I was stressing the importance of character for an animated movie. Though a character is important to for live action movie too, but for animation it gains a higher prominence because a character is created from scratch for such content.

As I see there are two kinds of major approaches for content development. One is story through character and the other character through story. And for animation the second seems to work better because once you hit upon a great character, story ideas just seemed to fizz out like bubbles in cola. I had many such personal experiences.

deadmanswill said...

Actually I came to thank you for your valuable inputs. Like I said I was called for a two day seminar on content development for animation at an Animation University here and I was able to share many of the valuable points that I learned from you.

Especially about character development and the potential of a content developer who is an animator too. I was able to drive home the point how many writers produce crap without taking a minute to atleast visualize the character. I told them in detail how the animators of the golden era created characters and time them to rythm. I told them the importance of planning for sound design that included voice, sfx and music before production. And yeah, I gave them an exercise to gain an ear for voice. I told them to take up older movies and animations that they did not watch earlier and hear the movie with the monitor switched off and try to guess the appearance and role of each character.

I also told them the importance of coming up with new poses and expression sets instead of borrowing from stock archives. With a simple example of anticipation for a run, I made them come up with unique poses for that anticipation. I also guided them in choosing one pose of them for a particular character based on the character's attitude, mood and body type. I do hope to gain more insight from you.

Timefishblue said...

James, do you really think brad bird has great characters? They all seem really stock to me. But I haven't seen all of the iron giant, so I don't know about the characters in that movie.

ramapith said...

Great characters still need a well-thought-out story. They can't survive without it.
Look at Fauntleroy Fox and Crawford Crow. I defy you to watch TOLL-BRIDGE TROUBLES or MR MOOCHER, or read the Bob Wickersham or Karp/Davis comics, and not love those characters. But aside from a very few shorts (like the two cited above), the Columbia crew in the 1940s had a generally terrible story sense. The pretentious-but-likeable Fox and crass-but-imaginative Crow seem like great characters trapped in plodding, sometimes nonsensical plots.