Saturday, February 02, 2008

Jones BGs - Gribbroek - Multiplane Pan Simulation


I always liked the BG pans in the early Roadrunner cartoons. They achieved a sense of depth by painting the BG on separate planes or layers.
The road and cacti are painted on a separate layer from the mountains and the sky. Then they pan the foreground road faster than the background sky/mountain layer.
This creates the illusion of perspective and 3 dimensions.
I think it helps to keep the paintings and design somewhat stylized and cartoony because it is merely a flat illusion and not real depth. If it was really 3d, there would be an infinite amount of planes all moving at different speeds and that is of course impossible.
I think this effect works much better than many Disney multiplane effects. In the Disney fake depth camera moves, they paint the BGs too detailed and "realistic". The more detailed the layers are painted, the more obvious that the layers are flat-that they are paintings. When you truck in on Snow White's cottage and the foreground trees pan apart and go out of focus, it looks like you are watching paintings of trees separate.
Simple cartoony shapes allow you to suspend your disbelief.
I love Robert Gribbroek's BG layouts because they are well designed, but not overly stylized like Maurice Nobel's. Noble's BGs are so extremely designed that they jump forward ahead of the characters and distract from the "reality" of the story. For me anyway.
These are simplified and cartoony, yet inspired by the organic nature of the objects being caricatured.
It gives the cartoons a feeling of open spaces and nature. That makes the cartoon more unique and really makes me feel the coyote's plight better. In the more stylized Roadrunner's I feel like I'm just watching a generic template of Chuck Jones cartoon tricks, rather than a special treatment designed for the characters and situation.


Weirdo said...

Wonderful pictures with an inspiring post. I also like Bob Gribbroek's backgrounds, but I also like Maurice Noble's backgrounds. However, Maurice's backgrounds gets too stylized, you can no longer suspend your disbelief. Is this the first RoadRunner cartoon. The design of the Coyote is cool. He looks like an emaciated carnivore, not the later cutesy Coyote.

Bitter Animator said...

These are great, although I have to admit to being a fan of just about everything Road Runner.

I love it when perspective is actually animated in backgrounds. It's pretty rare but it always amazes me, even if it's sometimes a bit ropey, because it is just so hard to do right.

I've always loved this piece, which was the animated intro to the Sonic CD game -
It has one continuous piece in the middle with animated camera moves that I just love.

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

Jesus! I remember of this first Road Runner short (it was made in 1948)! Seeing this background made by Philip De Guard and the Robert Gibbroek's layout, you tripped along with the backgrounds, at the moment in which Coyote came chasing the brave and smart Road Runner.

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

Gribbroek's backgrounds for the first 2 Road Runner's are really beautiful. They are also a completely supportive non-distraction from the action. The first couple or so by Noble are also pretty good before he gets too abstract.

I like Disney's multiplane effects but not for a funny cartoon. They are so lush that you want to keep looking at them. It's the same problem with cgi. The camera trucks away and your brain goes, "wait! I'm not finished looking at all that detail!" It can beat the hell out of a comedy story's pacing if your eyes and brain are not ready to move forward. This even happens to me in the Popeye stereoptical cartoons, but they are usually only using the effect behind a walk cycle.

Now all the cgi will be in actual 3-d. It's all for the entertainment of gawkers.

For an example in contrast, When Clampett really wants you to focus on the performance action, tbe BG becomes minimal or even just a wall of color. I'm still waiting for cgi to develop that kind of insight, control, and emphasis on performance.

It was telling though, when I went to a SIGGRAPH film show back in the late 80's. Things would get standing ovations like convincing hair (an example --there was no hair yet), or a realistic shadow.
At least for those who write the software, that IS entertainment.

There is a sweet spot for funny cartoon design, somewhere between the purely flat or abstract and photorealism; a place where the laws of nature are at once apparent, yet tweaked or suspended at will, in support of the performers.

If you go too far toward photorealism or abstract flatness, the fun starts to crumble.

pinkboi said...

The Super Mario World game for the Super NES did this multi-plane effect as well and it worked very well, especially in the forest stages.

Anonymous said...

I always liked the quasi-realistic backgrounds, such as the ones from "Beep Beep", more than the stylized stuff that became popular later on. Cartoons like "Wabbit Twouble" are just beautiful to look at.

hayden the wise said...

huzzah for Nathaniel

Remi The Rockstar said...


Shawn said...

I agree! I love this stuff.

Not to sound too sappy or kiss ass, but I wish I knew more people who viewed cartoons with such art and beauty on a regular day basis. This stuff kicks ass!

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

In the later Roadrunner cartoons, I appreciated Maurice's backgrounds, simply because it seemed to make up for the muddy direction Chuck was going with the design of the characters.

"Fast and Furry-ous" ( a title which eluded Eddie Selzer, and therefore delighted Chuck ) is the best they ever looked I think. Plus the animation was more fun.

And for my spastic tastes, if they could've had those character designs along with Maurice's backgrounds, it would've been... mm-MMM!

But then, I like everything to be wacky, like in "Big House Bues", so I'm biased.

Thanks for the insight as always John!

- trevor.

murrayb said...

Thats an interesting observation about the multiplane, It's true now that you mention it.the trees in the opening of bambi are an exception, they a few levels of bark to each tree trunk; they look very round.
Its the ground plane that gives it away, the perpective cues like cobblestone or floorboards.
I still like it; kinda a pop up book look, or stage flats.

Mr. Semaj said...

They mentioned something like this on Toon Heads once. Where early on, the desert was much greener, but as the series progressed, you see more yellows and browns.

Vincent said...

I loved watching Wile E. Coyote and the roadrunner on CN.

You know, John Kricfalusi, you should create a cartoon about this man: - Almost everybody in Nigeria hates this man - I guess the only people that like him are his widow, Maryam, and all of Maryam's kids.

scartoonist said...

Hang on just a second. That looks like the silhouette of downtown Toledo on that mesa!! My disbelief just unsuspended and landed on my foot with a dull thud.

PCUnfunny said...

These are quite lovely back rounds. But I am still a sucker for
Bernyce Polifka's work. I loved his work in THE ARISTO-CAT. When the Cat screams for his butler, it's one the finest examples of how a back round can enhance a character's emotion.

pinkboi: That's interesting about the Mario game. I never noticed that before.

Kristen McCabe said...

These are really nice. I like how clean and smooth they are.