Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cartooniness and Principles - the 2 greatest tool kits of cartoonists

Milt Gross Count Screwloose

Hi folks, sorry for the delay in new posts. I'm in the middle of a move. But in the meantime there is a ton of great stuff on Steve's Animation Archive:

Marc Deckter has been collecting classic comic strips and Steve has been putting them up.
This series of posts has some of the most cartoony strips ever - by Milt Gross and Otto Messmer.
Otto Messmer Felix

Disney Model Sheet
If you are an aspiring animator/cartoonist and need help with construction, go check out these great old model sheets from Disney - back when they were good.
Disney Model Sheet
The Disney Studio (in its heyday) got so wrapped up in principles and technique that it lost the idea of fun and creativity. They figured, just being excellent technique was enough, but I think think they fell into a dangerous trap. Principles are just your tool kit. By themselves they don't create anything fresh and wonderful. But you still need them in order to give yourself a broad palette to paint from. You can't be creative if your pencil refuses to do what you want it to. So get the basics down and then worry about being creative.

Charlie Thorson

You can't learn the basics faster than by copying the drawings from classic model sheets. Save yourself 4 years of debt piled up at a cheesy animation school that doesn't teach you anything.

If you combine these two broad concepts: 1) strong drawing principles with 2) fun wacky cartooniness and creativity, you get the best kind of cartoons - like the WB and Tex Avery cartoons.

Lots of control, without losing the idea that cartoons are supposed to be magic, ridiculous and fun.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post ill practice on those drawings you posted and save myself 4yrs.
Thanks again
Always appreiciated

Brandon said...

This is great stuff, John. Thanks so much for doing all of this -- you're so generous.

Toole said...

a cheesy animation school :)

kevin said...

How does one start getting work in cartooning/animation before your day job kills you?

Nikita said...

I think I'm crying, thank you very much for this dude.

Caleb said...

cool stuff...another benefit of good cartoons is they can make moving less stressful

Zoran Taylor said...

Well I wish I had the guts, John, but left completely to my own, I don't think I would achieve much. Actually, I would honestly get such a laugh out of what the Director of my soon-to-be College du Fromage would say to that. She'd probably chew on your face. She's a tough cookie.

By the way, thanks for getting back to us! I'm serious, I was worried! I thought you fell into a black hole and came out the other side and then everything got weirder and weirder but actually it was just consistently weird all the way through and you were disappointed and then the network missed a deadline!

Anonymous said...

One more comment
Im starting to learn to ink using te flash program
"Any advice would help me out alot"
Im using an old graphite wacom, I know I need a damn cintiq but I just dont have the cash.
btw if your intereted heres the link.
ill update daily

thanks again JohnK
right now im gonna work on those drawings you posted.

CrazyHarmke said...

great stuff!
I missed those modelsheets in my collection ;)

kris.w said...


any Spumco models layin around?

trevor said...

Where're ya movin' to, John?

- trevor.

HemlockMan said...

"...magic, ridiculous and fun."

Excellent advice!

Looney Moon Cartoons said...

I strongly agree with your method of learning by copying from classic model sheets. I spent months studying this way an saw great improvement. However, I feel you need to place more emphasis on life drawing as well. Copying from model sheets on its own is not enough to get really good at drawing cartoons. You also need to have a strong foundation in fundamental drawing and observation skills that can only be learned from representational drawing. Also, having these fundamentals down makes learning construction much easier. Just my two cents.

Phantom Spitter said...

Great post, but why can't you enlarge the comic scans? How will I be able to appreciate the artistry of Milt Gross if I can't read his work?!

JohnK said...

Click the links

TacoTheSmurf said...

These were in the paper? It's amazing how much room comics got in those days. It really let the artist do what they wanted without worrying about the boundaries.

trevor said...


In the old days, there were not only fewer cartoons in the comics page, they weren't as expensive to print.

Now, because of heightened competition and inflation ( not to mention greed ) the comics are almost an eyesore.

They'd be microscopic had it not been for the demand that Bill Watterson put himself in at the height of his popularity.

- trevor.

SoleilSmile said...

Glad to see you're back John.

Ahem* I may design my films in another person's style such as De Carlo, but that doesn't mean I never apply my own design sensibilities to my films.
My sense of distortion, painting, line of action and acting will indeed be evident my work in my next film. You do the same by cannibalizing Clampett and mixing in your own flavor in Spumco, so you know what I'm talking about here.

As for my personal style? That is evident in my webcomic, Superfcial*. My personal storytelling and loose drawing style is inappropriate for the animation industry, so I have a comic to use as an outlet. An artist can't help but show their influences in their work, but my heart is still apparent in my characters no matter how much one sees elements of anime, Disney Feature, Chuck Jones, Wendy Pini, Degas, Toulouse Lautrec and Patrick Nagel in the pages. I'm still there. Therefore, I do not consider myself a hack.

Zachary said...

You should get with the guy with the biggest cartoon out rite now seth mcfarlane heres how he killed bugs bunny