Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Assorted Liquors and the cartoon production system

To satisfy popular demand, I have posted more sneak peeks at the new George Liquor Show...

Thought you might like to see the stages of art production that happen before animation and what the difference in drawing approaches are.
Storyboards are rough. Their purpose is to tell the story, make the characters seem spontaneous and have a lot of guts.
A storyboard artist doesn't need to draw "on model" but does need to know how the characters look and act. He has to feel the story as if it is happening right in front of him at the very moment he is drawing them.

He has to be able to change personalities and fit himself into the souls of the characters. He should not rely on stock animation poses and expressions. He needs to FEEL the right characters and their proper distinct emotions within the context of a story and make it all seem like the characters are creating the story as they go along, just by being themselves in the situation they are in.

This has happened very rarely in the whole history of animation. Most cartoons - even in the classic age - feel contrived or controlled by their creators. Chuck Jones and Tex Avery characters are frequent victims of their directors' whims, but not compared to cartoons today where everything is completely contrived and controlled by super conservative committees or even individuals with too many rules holding back any chance of spontaneity and invention.

Clampett's characters always seem self motivated; the story follows them, not the other way around. Fleischer Popeye cartoons are self motivated even though their cartoons are highly structured. This is an amazing achievement.
For me, the storyboard artists I like are ones who can fit themselves instantly into diferent characters and spontaneously play out their dramas. You have to be very observant of life, not just of other cartoons to draw stories that aren't mere illustrated scripts with rubber stamp acting.
Layout drawings are tighter and more finished. They have to have construction, more details and flip well from pose to pose so they can be animated. This is a more anal job than storyboarding. The layout artist has to do his damnedest to not lose the guts of the storyboards by toning down the poses, expressions and humor in the storyboards.

He still has to understand the story and the context of every pose and expression, but he is preparing the scenes to be functional and clear.

Inkers pretty up the finish of the layouts and give the drawings weight and a hierarchy of forms. They need to understand the order of importance of the elements that make up the total form and use line technique to enhance the visual ideas inherent in the drawings. A knowledge of construction is very helpful to good line artists. It's not just having smooth lines.
I'm lucky to have found inkers who did many of the lessons and exercises on my blog and now have a clear understanding of how to get the best out of the layout drawings.

more layouts...
No matter what artistic job you are doing on the assembly line of cartoon production, your work will be much better if you know the whole story, get the jokes, understand the characters and constantly refer to your storyboard. ....and know how to draw.The natural progression of a non-supervised ignorant assembly line (modern cartoon production) is for each creative step of the way to decay and stray further away from the original intent. Like when you dupe things multiple times-each dupe loses more information than the previous one.

This is a very hard natural tendency to fight, but fight it you must if you are to have finished cartoons be as exciting and spontaneous as the original ideas they sprang from.

Having a studio system geared to prevent the natural decay of copying copies is a huge factor in whose cartoons end up with the strongest, most believable characters.

I envy the Looney Tunes system most of all.


Ben Forbes said...

These are amazing! I really like the quick story scribbles. Lots of energy.

Can't wait to see some animation!

Question, is there a way to get out of an art block?

chrisallison said...

YES! thanks john. that is a truly great alligator design! all those layout drawings look so solid. my eyes are so starved for such material.

the story drawings look like they're brewing up some pretty funny stuff.

Andy said...

John, Sody's shirt is too tight. I suggest changing it as it is highly offensive towards my sensitive eyeballs.

Just kidding... duh. I love reading this blog. This show seems so nostalgic for some reason. I guess thanks to The Ren and Stimpy Show....... maybe.

Or maybe because the show seems pretty "peaceful"... like how life used to be. It's all about George's life at home, and the chaos he get into. I kind of contradicted myself there, but I mean as opposed to, say, George Liquor going into space to fight martians.

MasterK said...

By the way, what is this "New George Show" gonna be called anyway?

Aaron said...

I like that aligator

k.dubb said...

so glad i enrolled into the school of John K! thanks for the boarding lessons... just what i happened to be lookin for!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty certain it's going to be "The Goddamn George Liquor Program"

I always love to see the initial drawings that spawned the whole cartoon. Very inspiring to me.

And John, were those Layout drawings whited out or were they just touched up on the computer..
I guess the computer since I'm guessing the show will be done in flash, am I right?

Roberto González said...

Hey, John

Is there some way of exercising in storyboard?

I draw comic strips and I enjoy feeling on character but I am not very good at backgrounds. I can't draw a proper storyboard with good backgrounds cause I should look to a reference to draw the bgs right and that kinda ruins the fluidity. But maybe I could do storyboards like those you show in the first scribbles, or at least try.

I know you don't like scripts, but the notes in the pitch blog are perhaps a little too vague in therms of what happens in each scene. Could you descript some scenes so we could try?

I mean, if you are still looking for storyboarders at all...

lastangelman said...

Oh wow, it's Anthony's Dad with George. That guy is a great character. I wouldn't mind seeing a comic strip featuring him drawn by Bill Wray.

Larry Levine said...

John, In the great Milt Gross tradition your brillance shines in these drawings--the alligator layout is especially awesome!!!

david gemmill said...

who did the george + gator layout? it looks pretty solid.

David Germain said...

When is this show going to be on? What day? What time? In what time zone? I don't want to miss it's debut.

Gabriele_Gabba said...

Oh man this is my first glimpse into your pipeline! Its quite interesting to see the storyboards are so rough! ( thank God! )

I love the alligator/croc drawing!

I've always wondered how you get such great soundtracks for your animation, is it done in house?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

A great post! I love the line about story following the character and not the other way around!

Sven Hoek said...

That drawing of the croc and george really pops the eye, very nice. And you're right again John, we DID want to see the drawings from the early stages of the process.

Thanks again, and oh yeeah,

Your dad is still hilarious. Wasn't that Randy Quaid who did the voice of your dad in Visit to Anthony? Is he gonna do it again?

crazyharmke said...

Hi John,

I posted 2 Sodies on my blog:
They're not cleaned up yet, I'll do that if you think they're okay.


Michael Turek said...

the one with the lipstick cracks me up

Maloni said...

You do realize the Looney Tunes shorts had a 6 week turnover right? Can you imagine being the rough assistant and clean up artist for Ben Washam? He churned out the loosest drawings in the industry! Yikes! I wouldn't wanna be a newbie under him. Pulling those characters on model woulda required a well seasoned animation assistant who had been drawing the Looney Tunes for a least 5 years.
So John, can you show us the rough assistant's work so we can see the tied down drawing that comes before the clean pencil line that leads to the ink?

dibujador said...

I like that aligator too.
thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I don't think you guys realize how clean John draws off-the-cuff, and not just that, the fastest drawing I have ever witnessed. You really don't believe it until you see it.

By the time you scratch your head and sharpen your pencil, John has a clean, funny, well drawn layout done, and you're left scared shitless.

SoleilSmile said...

Ohh! I had so much trouble cleaning up that second Sody drawing, Harmke! Congratulations on your solution. I didn't even post my attempt, it was such a disaster. Here's a question John: Can we tie down your looser drawings so long as we keep them on model?
To show you what I can do, I'll post the rough clean up on my blog later on tonight along with the disaster clean up first attempt on that second pose. I would really love your most scathing feedback. Go to town. I'm ready for it.
I'll post it around 10pm pst, ok?

Thanks in advance!

Animatress blog

pappy d said...

I love that 'gator, too! More drawings!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for putting this up John. It's good to see more layouts (which are my favorite part of the drawing proceses).

And John, am I right to say that the inking and finishing stages take some of the meat and fullness of a drawing (well, at least a bad inking)?


P.S. Neat story, Kali. Honestly, at school, a lot of my friends say I draw great. Many are envious. But, to see John draw George in seconds flat would scare me
s#!tless as well. It'd also make me burn my pencils in frustration.

trevor said...

By the time you scratch your head and sharpen your pencil, John has a clean, funny, well drawn layout done, and you're left scared shitless.

Adding that to the ever-growing list of things to be jealous of.

Curse you, Kricfalusi, you magnificent draftsman!

- trevor.

Lisa_mynx said...

You never cease to amaze me-- so much thought goes into everything you do and say...

mike f. said...

Greatest cartoon alligator - ever!

the plummer said...

i liked your comment about inkers having good knowledge of construction - not just good line work. it's too true; i see way too much line work that flattens out a good drawing (or makes an ok one horrible).