Tuesday, February 19, 2008

BG Painting 5 - Hep Cat - Can Funny Cartoons Be Beautiful?

Well that was a rhetorical question.

This is a post for that rough gang of Clampett fans.When Clampett first got a color cartoon unit, he sure didn't take it for granted.
This is a beloved cartoon among the cartoon intelligentsia, and many of them can't quite figure out why. It just feels so good!
It's not Clampett's funniest cartoon, although it is pretty funny. It doesn't have any star characters in it. What makes it stand out, then?
This cartoon is a mood piece. It's an experiment in atmosphere and emotion.
What's really interesting about the color is how muted and greyed down it is. Yet, it's not at all monochromatic.
If you look closely at the greys, you can see very subtle and beautiful soft variations in hue and value. This keeps it from looking dull.

I think Bob told me these backgrounds were painted by Johnny Johnson. Johnny painted in oils on some Avery and Clampett cartoons - which causes a total mess under the camera platen. The cameraman hated Johnny! The oil would never quite dry, so under the hot lights and under the tightly pressed down glass, the paintings would stick to the cels and smear all over the glass. It took forever to shoot these cartoons.

Clampett though, figured the extra effort was well worth it and most of the fans agree!This cartoon (like most of Bob's) is full of experiments, not just in color. This scene cut above is one of the experiments. In the previous scene we see the dog's eyes inside the doghouse. Then it cuts and the dogs just pops into the scene in the air behind the cat. It's crazy, but works great.
You have to still frame this run to believe it. I'll post it later.

This is Avery's dog, Willoughby, but he is much more designy and cartoony in Bob's cartoon. Look how beautiful and goofy this pose is!
I love the design of this Scribner bird too. Clampett is WB's master of cuteness. I know Jones is the one usually considered the cute guy, but his cuteness sometimes gets too cloying for me, sometimes even cynical. It doesn't have the smooth sincerity of Clampett's natural kid like feeling. That's not a criticism of Jones, I think he's one of the greatest cartoonists ever. I just think he gets full credit for some things that maybe others did even better. He has other traits that are more unique to him and that no one else ever matched. He owns Lummoxes, among other things.
I think the best cartoons revel in goofiness and achieve a kind of gorgeous beauty not attainable in any other medium.
Clampett takes the wacky surrealism natural to cartoons and places it in a lush atmosphere.

Cartoons do things you can't do in real life. Well they used to! Strangely, that obvious fact makes a lot of people mad. I've never been able to figure that out. Someone explain it to us cartoonists!
The Hep Cat is like a pop hit song. The gags are mainly stock Looney Tunes, but presented with happy Jazz music.
The sheer beauty and joy of heartfelt goofiness!

Clampett's cartoons have crazy attention to detail. Even the effects are carefully planned and artistically painted. I always wonder where Bob got the energy to could pay so much attention to every aspect of his films. He wasn't merely concerned with the gags or story. He was attentive to everything, from the broadest strokes down to the minutest detail.

Perversion mixed with cuteness - Clampett's trademark.
He loved doing these shadow scenes.

The happiest poses are in Bob's cartoons.
More cartoon impossible stuff just for the pure fun of it.

Here's another of one of his dynamic cuts. Not only is this an arresting angle, after following stock left and right shots, the animation of the brick is beautiful. He cares about a damn brick!
The way this mere prop animates adds a ton of artful "oomph" to the impact that follows.

Later, I'm going to post the animation of the cat shadow boxing. It's pure beauty in motion and only could happen in a cartoon.

Look how cute all this stuff is! Bob loved to combine cute sweetness with sick jokes. What a great recipe for fun!

How different is this from the flat moodless cartoons in vogue today?
I find it hard to believe that pure flatness is so popular amongst animators today. It's so cold and lifeless. It sure doesn't do anything for the general audience.
I can understand some experimenting with graphic looks now and then, but to only do that? Doesn't anyone want their characters to come to life? To exist in worlds full of warmth, mood, atmosphere and a variety of emotions?
You've heard of eye candy? This is heart candy.

Clampett should have made features. He's got the film chops, the endless supply of ideas, the natrual sense of character, and all the heart, mood and sincerity to bring you a wealth of emotional experiences.
Here's the most beautiful goofy dog I have ever seen. (I'm sure this was inspired by Milt Gross, who Clampett loved)

I have to post more stuff from this cartoon and I will, too!