Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tom and Jerry Layouts - functional and elegant

I found these beautiful layouts from a Tom and Jerry cartoon. They are probably drawn by Dick Bickenbach. Dick was an animator before he became a layout artist so he knew how to make his poses functional for the animators.

These drawings have everything I always talk about in my lessons.

They not only have all the principles of good cartoon drawings, they do the job they are supposed to. They don't merely work as individual drawings. They work functionally as layouts.

The function of layouts is:

to tell the story in continuity
to show each important change in expression, pose, story, event

To be staged clearly, so that you can easily see what is happening
negative shapes, strong lines of action
with all the details of the characters flowing along the lines of action and construction

to leave enough room in the frame for the characters to move

Poses that compose well together

Now Tom and Jerry is a very conservative cartoon series compared to Clampett's, Avery's and even Jones' cartoons. Bickenbach was a very conservative cartoonist and animator working on very conservative cartoons.But, these drawings and cartoons use the exact same principles, tools and functionality that the more creative cartoons do.

On top of that they are very handsome, stylish in a manly conservative fashion and that is completely admirable and awe inspiring from a standpoint of skill and professionalism.

Ed Benedict made fun of Dick's work sometimes, just on the grounds that it wasn't very imaginative and that shocked me. To someone of my generation who worked in an environment where almost nobody had real drawing skill, or functionality, let alone style, Dick stood out as a giant cartoonist.
I would kill to have artists of this caliber work on my cartoons.

A talented animator that worked for me once has his own series now and he complained to me the other day about how the youngest artists on his team had no drawing chops whatsoever. To say nothing of functionality.

I assume that that is because people in their early 20s grew up accepting the primitive execution of South Park, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Dora and other TV cartoons that have no discernible artistic values or storytelling skills at all.

People of my generation also worked on crap and had no good training either, but we at least grew up watching the great cartoons, so the standards we aimed at were much higher.

Today we have no standards to shoot for. Complete amateurism is considered perfectly acceptable by studios, networks and worst of all, the audience.

Dick here worked in an age of supremely high standards, and among the great cartoonists of the day, he was in the upper echelon.

His drawings are not only functional and expert, he has a real charming and elegant subtle style.

You can buy these drawings by the way here:

Here are some modern cartoon drawings to compare.Symmetrical cluttered frames, no composition, stiffness, no thought or planning involved.
I'm not picking on this particular show. It's no worse or better than a million other modern cartoons out there.

It's a good example of no skill whatsoever.

No principles
No Composition, no poses, let alone opposing poses
not functional



Dead on every level

It's not the artists' fault that:

Networks don't run classic cartoons on TV anymore

The audience's senses have been dulled by uncreative sensory-absent entertainment

schools don't teach anything concrete

Executives don't know what they are looking at

Cartoonists have to follow bad scripts

No, it's not the artists' fault, but it sure is a damn shame to be entering a dark age so shortly after the brightest time in human history.