Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rocky 2 - what happened?

Well, I watched about 6 more episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle and so far, it seems the really good drawings are only in the first half hour.Compare these to the post from a couple days ago.
Everything has been evened out and stiffened and just plain drawn pretty badly.












My uneducated conclusion is this: Maybe the first half hour was drawn here by top Hollywood layout guys like Pete Burness or Bill Hurtz. Maybe the first episode is the pilot that I've read about.

If these are the episodes that Jay Ward complained about snding to Mexico and coming back looking amateurish, then I understand.



I wouldn't understand it if he said that about the drawings in my last Rocky post.


BTW, I was thinking about breaking down a couple of those good drawings into their principles to show you what I think is great about them. Would that be of any use to anyone?

69 comments:

Gloria Ives said...

I have such good memories of that show! Thanks for reminding me!!

Spectator said...

Found your blog by clicking "next blog", saying hello. Very interesting blog.

Kenny said...

def would be useful

Ryan Cole said...

Please do a breakdown post John. For the life of me, I can't see the differences between this and the last post other than distinct variations from the model. I have no idea what's going on that defines either set as good/bad drawings.

I wanna learn, John! WON'T YOU LET ME LEAAAARN?

Eric Dyck said...

The compositions don't seem nearly as solidly built either...That first post was an eye opener! That 1/2 hour might be worth picking up the DVD...bring on the drawing analysis!

Mattieshoe said...

A few drawing are constructed well, but overall, you're right. I had no idea outscoring went back this early!

i had always thought that that started in the 80's.

I'd love to see those frames broken down. can''t wait till your next post!

Julián höek said...

yeah, do a breakdown!
great theories

David Germain said...

I've been watching my Rocky & Bullwinkle dvd set ever since your previous post on them. I'd like to suggest that you check out the Fractured Fairy Tale Beauty and the Beast. The beast has some rather strange poses whenever he gets knocked around. I don't know if you'll love them or hate them. Either way they should be checked out.

Harley Jones said...

I found your blog because of the previous Bullwinkle post. I would love to hear your thoughts on what principles make great cartoons. I've been digging through your blog, and it appears you've got a great taste in cartoons (ie, similar to mine - hee-hee). I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on Ralph Bakshi and Bob Clampett. (When I was younger, that first Daffy Duck struck a chord with me that I haven't been able to express ... just something about the artwork).

Timefishblue said...

breaking them down would be so awesome
I don't understand why a few of the new pictures are bad (at least parts of them), so it would be nice to see what made the first ones great

litlgrey said...

John, according to the official history of Ward, you've got it 100% backwards.
The initial work was all outsourced to a cheap and inexperienced studio in Mexico - had this not been done, the sponsor (General Mills) and the network would never have green lit the series concept. As you know, in those days, the concept and the execution was a terciary concern in contrast to the production cost. All that was incumbent upon the producer was to fill the damn time slot, and not to rock the boat. The cynicism of networks and sponsors was incredible.

Later on during "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" (as opposed to the original title, "Rocky and His Frends") you'll come across a storyline in which Rocky and Bullwinkle are tied to a stake. Bullwinkle says he doesn't think the network will sign off on showing cute animals being harmed, but Rocky assures him otherwise. Immediately, the wise narrator, Bill Conrad, chimes in and says "As the network-approved flames rose higher and higher, ..." Ward was even allowed to get away with commenting on the cynicism of children's television. As long as the cereal sold (which it did), no one gave a fuck.

The triumph of Ward was clearly not of graphic design but of writing and acting. The writing was absolutely worthy of a Pulitzer.

The first season's stories were written in Hollywood but completed in Mexico, largely without appropriate supervision. This was true of both "Fractured Fairy Tales" and of R&B. You may have observed by now that the first batch of FFT have a very UFA, very stylized graphic look, which later seasons did not maintain. According to the bio, when the original work came back to the Ward Studios from Mexico, Ward and his team were horrified but had no budget to reshoot the material. Ward and his team - if you're interested - animated in Hollywood the intros, bumpers, cereal commercials... oh, and the Bullwinkle puppet segments. When Ward sent members of his team down to Mexico, they were horrified at the unprofessional working conditions they found. They barely checked animation consistency, they had antiquated and barely functioning cameras (without proper vacuums so the footage became filthy)... and so on. In fact, the restoration process of that Mexican footage in the digital age included basically fixing practically ALL the original colors, which had just about washed out. Some of the aspects of Bullwinkle's original design that you said you liked, including the goofy mouth in the middle of his snout (looking just a bit like what mouths look like on "Robot Chicken" now - mouths plastered on top of models), were in fact NOT on-model. After some quick communications to the Mexican studio, the animators down there tried to follow Ward's team's instructions more closely, but were so inept that the results include horrendous and visible pencilling errors, Bullwinkle's mouth floating off his face, color inconsistency between head and neck (okay, what studio back then wasn't guilty of that, right?), and Natasha Fatale's wayward nose as in the screen capture you posted.

You are right that there is a sudden and even jarring transformation of the animation in the MIDDLE of the first two stories (the other one being the Box Top Robbery story). By Season Two, Ward had pulled almost all the R&B animation duties back in-house. Mexico continued to produce the animation for FFT. By the time Dudley Do-Right and Aesop came along, quality controls had been introduced at the Mexican studio, and in fact I think one of Ward's key people stayed in Mexico to supervise ... more like the Rough Draft method and Gregg Vanzo I imagine.

Is that the right name? Gregg Vanzo? I do not, not, not claim to be an expert on stuff like this... only a fan. I just find it exceptionally funny that the characteristics which endear you to the very early R&B episodes, the ones you ascribe to legendary animators like Burness, were actually done by utter incompetents. The work you DON'T like was actually done by the master animators.

By the way, I do not like the Aesop series. I find them boring and 100% identical from start to finish. Dudley Do-Right, however... magnificent. Again, a triumph of writing and acting over graphic design.

Cody Clarke said...

Please break them down, that'd be great!

Hacky Crapper said...

I would love to see it broken down. I can follow you on some of the pictures, but not all of them.

Andrew said...

Oh YES PLEASE! I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Erik Griott said...

hey john, i'd like to see the breakdowns of those drawings! please please please?

Pete Emslie said...

Hokey Smokes, John, you sure are picky! I really quite like these images as well as the first batch, though I can see that they've been drawn in more conventional TV cartoon terms, striving for a more consistent look from scene to scene. I'm not sure however as to why Natasha is doing her best Michael Jackson impression in that scene with the the radio.

Frankly, I'm a sucker for practically any TV cartoon from that era that has the big chunky ink outline. Actually, the only image you've posted so far that I seriously dislike was the one the other day of the thin, xeroxed line Rocky. As Boris Badenov might describe it: "Iss only mess and scribble!"

Bob Harper said...

John - please break them down - since this my style of choice for my personal stuff - If you do I can't see how I ouldn't make another paypal donation.

JohnK said...

Hi Litlgrey

I'm not sure if you read what I said exactly right-or maybe I wrote it badly.

What I was trying to say is the very first half hour of Rocky is well drawn. From the second episode on, it takes a huge nosedive.

Not in the middle of the series, but right away.

I read in an interview with Alex Anderson that there was a pilot that they took to General Mills that was drawn here in America.

I'm guessing the pilot became the first episode because that one looks totally different than the next episodes. It is highly professional, skilled and artistic, unlike what followed.

As far as writing goes, it's pretty dull to me. Mildly wry I suppose, but not very gripping or funny.I find Roger Ramjet to be a lot funnier and more consistently well drawn.

The (real) voices are great. So is the original music. Too bad the DVD dumped some of that. The sound tracks were the best part.

JohnK said...

Oh...and the Fractured Fairy Tales are generally much better drawn and animated.

I heard they were animated here-at least some of them.

PCUnfunny said...

John have you noticed any DVNR on these cartoon ?

litlgrey said...

Thanks for responding, John!

I forget, does Episode 1 have the laugh track? I remember that it did. Terrifying!

JohnK said...

Wow Pete. I'm amazed. The two sets of drawings are polar opposites!

The first are high design and drawing principles, the second are amateurish unrelated shapes stuck together.

I guess I'll have to draw it to demonstrate.

JohnK said...

PC:

Yes they are DVNRed very badly

you can see it whenever anything is shot on 1s.

Camera moves, camera shakes, fast actions of any kind. Terrible crime.

no one seems to care about making good copies of classic film anymore.

Kris said...

I'd love to see the good drawings broken down into principles, John.

Psi said...

as a Mexican Im really ashamed to read what the mexican team did to that show

but animation in mexico was not as well developed as today , we really need to grow as a industry but Im sure we can do some neat work today

(and also it is a shame that I will need to go to argentina to study 2d animation)

pd Excuse me for my broken english sorry!!

Psi said...

and I wish to know what was the name of the studio in mexico and who was in charge, I want to do some research to know the other side of the story

THanks!

stephen rogers said...

John

How much of Rocky and Bullwinkle influenced your taste for the 'variety show' cartoon?

Of course, Hanna-Barbera had their own 'variety show' cartoon airing in 1959, but something about R & B seems closer to your work - I'm thinking of the connection between Bullwinkle as Mr Know-It-All and Stimpy as Dr Stupid.

Which did you like more as a kid?

Conceit Arturo said...

Hey John, this might be a littel off topic, but I thought you'd like to see an explanation of why things like Shrek happen, from an honest and well-intentioned artist from the inside of the production.

http://www.keithlango.com/wordpress/?p=295

JohnK said...

Hi Psi

I worked with an animator who worked on the Jay Ward show in Mexico.

His name was Ernesto Garcia and he was a really good animator.

He also knew Covarrubias when he was growing up and had crazy stories about him!

Ernesto was the animation director on some of The Jetsons episodes I did the layouts for. We had a lot of laughs together.

JohnK said...

Actually I think it was Ernesto Lopez...

Bill Field said...

John, I need to ask Harvey Siegle Williams to put in his words how it all went, since he was there at Gamma, supervising and directing a lot of this work. We have to realize, this was the first network primetime animated series, in many ways this is truly the dawn of limited animation, and folks like Harvey were making it up as they went along- like those days of trying to animate on the infant internet with Macromedia Director... I doubt Roger Ramjet wouldv'e ever come about without red-eyed Boris as his forfather- to me, this is a little messy and choppy, but it's still great cartoonwork, warts n' all!

click said...

By the way From where you Find that>>??

www.funnythread.com

Johnny Mastronardi said...

If I remember right, they get better later on in the season. Not quite as good as the first episode, though. I'm thinking maybe around when they're heading for Washington... I do remember there being some really bad ones toward the beginning.

Gavin Freitas said...

Please keep posting these up John. Even with the later episodes you will still find some good shots. I just think that over all these cartoons were alot of fun with good writing. I even remember Chuck Jones bad mouthing them saying that cartoons like the Simpsons and Rocky & Bullwinkle are "Radio" cartoons, that just by watching the action (and turning off the sound) you can't tell whats going on. Even though I love both of them I think he's right.

Mitch L said...

"BTW, I was thinking ... any use to anyone?"

That would be a big help! Especialy with rocky. I find him hard to draw, I think it is in the angles or im doing something wrong with the construction.

david gemmill said...

the drawings are tighter and a little more solid but bland and symmetrical.

Lily H. said...

this might be the wrong place to ask, but are you a fan of fleischer? and betty boop? i remember reading your really old posts some time ago and seeing mention of betty, but i don't recall it being good or bad. sorry if this comment is really superfluous to the thread i'm posting it on, i wasn't sure how to message you.

Jeremy Brooks said...

I'd love to see a breakdown of the good drawings from Rocky and Bullwinkle. I find those posts extremely helpful.

Rotgut said...

Personally, I don't think there's all that much difference. They all have characters and props with fat outer line weights, which is always a plus as far as I'm concerned. They all have quirky, off-kilter action poses, the backgrounds are all skritchy and awesome too, with funny, abstract elements. I mean, there are some slight differences but not enough to reduce the charm of the cartoons. It all looks funny and kooky to me. To each his own. John, I agree with you almost every time when it comes to your analyzations, but I think this may be a case of splitting hairs...?

Roberto González said...

I find these ones worse than the others, but I don't see there's such a big difference. Yep, there are some mistakes and poor facial expressions and maybe some of them doesn't have a very clear line of action, but there are some nice pics there, I actually like the one with Bullwinkle talking to a frightened Boris Badenov. What's so bad about that one?

Brian said...

I'd really like to see the breakdowns, John!

I can see what you're talking about; there is more of a stiffness in these drawings. They're not near as much fun to look at as the other ones you posted.

Chris said...

Never being a Bullwinkle fan growing up, your first post almost made me order the DVD. Thanks for doing the second post and saving me some dough.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

Are there any Bullwinkle videotapes still for sale? I only ask because, statistically, the videotapes don't go out of their way to fuck up the picture and music. But for DVD, everything's gotta be shiny and new! :::grumble:::moan::::

I gotta side with Pete, John. Sure, the drawings you posted are more evenly spaced and on-model ( and I like the ones you posted earlier more than these ), but for my tastes, there's definitely enough fun to go around.

"BTW, I was thinking about breaking down a couple of those good drawings into their principles to show you what I think is great about them. Would that be of any use to anyone?"

PLEASE! That would be great, to see you break down a much simpler style than the 40's look.

- trevor.

Emmanuel said...

Yes. I want to understand the art of layout! I can definitely see a difference between the drawings of your 2 posts. But beyond that, I'm clueless. It's not the most popular topic in animation books, even if it should be.

Bob said...

If you make a post on the good aspects of R&B drawings I will definitely appreciate that because I am really interested in using humor in drawings by distorting body parts such as a small person with big feet.

Dave MH said...

hi john,
i'd definitely love to see you break down the drawings.
thanks,
dave

f;sladkjf;slkdjfpowiejf said...

Yes a breakdown of the good shots would be really helpful!

littlearse said...

john - super interested in the breakdowns

i'm making it a personal goal to retrain myself so that you don't have to when i join your next project.
winky winky.

but seriously though. lol.

Larry Levine said...

I hate to say it, but I wasn't a big Bullwinkle fan as a kid. I was much more into Underdog & Tennessee Tuxedo. I mainly watched R&B for Fractured Fairytales.

patchwork said...

please do John, I'd be very interested!

Michael Polvani said...

BTW, I was thinking about breaking down a couple of those good drawings into their principles to show you what I think is great about them. Would that be of any use to anyone?

HELL YEAH!!!!
Your blog is awesome!!

JohnK said...

Hey Michael Polvani

how are ya? Haven't seen you in years!

I have a project coming up that I need some good animators.

What are you up to?

John

Michael Polvani said...

Hey John,

Thanks for the kudos. I'm currently working full time until late April/early May, and I'm doing freelance after hours......HOWEVER, count me IN!! All I need are the details!

Thanks,Mike

JohnK said...

How do I find you?

PCUnfunny said...

New project John ? HUZZAH !

Camari Xela said...

John, on another off-shot topic all together, you should try to acquire control of Woodbury University's animation department. Revitalize that place, for many of what I feel, are some good prospects.
1) Relatively close to the industry that many prospective students want to be apart of
2) Private, therefore easier to make executive changes with much bureaucracy.
3)Woodbury now has a more formal relationship with ASiFA Hollywood, as far as hosting events for aspiring animators
4) Because of its closeness to the industry, it would be hard for currently working professionals to say no to guest lecturing.
5) Tuition is cheaper than CalArts (duh)
6)Mandate that students internship at the Animation Archive for history class, and learn about their animation past.
7) Down-size the current faculty from it's current 10-15 "specialty" teachers, to 4-5 hardcore, well-rounded ones, and save the department a bunch of money to spend on something more beneficial for students.

If CalArts is "the Harvard of animation" make Woodbury their Princeton rival. Just my suggestion for da day.Peace

Michael Polvani said...

I'll give my info. to Steve over at the Archives to pass along to you.

I can't wait!

Ryan said...

I like to analyze the hell out of everything, so principles away.

Roberto said...

I'm not sure, John. Many of the framegrabs do not look that bad (except for Natasha. She's horribly drawn in these framegrabs. Borris has simply been toned down.), does it? Plus, the inking has improved in terms of slickness.

Mitch K said...

Yea! Break 'em down!

James N. said...

Yeah, this is the problem with outsourcing when you don't have proper supervision. You can get some episodes that okay and some that look downright awful.

Consistency is very important. Unfortunately, these early Rockys didn't have the budget for consistency let alone retakes.

At least today with outsourcing you have a big enough budget to have slick animation and can afford some retakes if needed.

JN

Mattieshoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JohnK said...

it's there Mattie

you must have missed it

scroll near the top

mindwrecker said...

Well! These posts sure opened up a can'o'beans. Say, JohnK- one other little segment to look at before you retire the seas. one DVD in boredom-- in Show 16, the Dudley Do-Right episode "Stokey The Bear" is pretty amusing, it was banned immediately after broadcast for reasons obvious upon watching. I'm glad someone mentioned the laugh tracks in the early shows--I'd forgotten about those, no wonder the powers-that-be scrubbed those out.
OK, enough about Jay Ward! I surrender. Definitely examine the animation, though, as it seems people are into the idea.

Mattieshoe said...

Oh wait... the top example's from the first episode?

then I take back what I said about the good construction.

JohnK said...

No it's from later episodes from the same season...

JW said...

I wonder if the change in drawing quality during R&B's first season represented turnover at the animation studio. I understand this was a startup studio in a city without much of an animation industry. The artists on the first few episodes may have been the better cartoonists, but weren't able to keep up with the production schedule. They might have been replaced by lesser artists who were able to crank it out. OR, maybe the same animators sacrificed their drawing style for quick production. And they might have been told by their U-S bosses to make the cartoons move a little more, thus making the production pressure even greater. The earliest R&B cartoons have the least actual movement.

John, in relation to your earlier post on this topic, I'd be interested in hearing more about the re-recording of voices for this DVD. I just haven't noticed it myself. But I know that the cast of the show was more subdued in those first episodes, and became more manic later on. Also, one character, Capt. Peachfuzz, changed voices entirely. My guess is he was initially voiced by Bill Scott, but later handed over to Paul Frees.

[Moth] said...

Hi there, john..

sadly, my untrained eye can't actually see which are the differences between the previous episode and this one.

I can't tell why this drawing:

http://bp0.blogger.com/_mJ4lc_Q9Q6k/R9Xc7Od1TJI/AAAAAAAAMqE/yeGyJUVVVQ8/s1600-h/rocky2ndep27.jpg

is best than this one:

http://bp2.blogger.com/_mJ4lc_Q9Q6k/R9nL0ud1UXI/AAAAAAAAM0Q/SWEMvPvl_IY/s1600-h/badBorisNatash3.jpg

If you could break the bad ones in to their pinciples, it will be of GREAT use to me.

Thanks again for that interesting blog.

Carlos

Mark aguilar said...

Breakdowns of Rocky and Bullwinkle would be great. I think Jay Ward studios is one of the many over looked studios of "modern" cartoons. I would definitely get great use from it.