Sunday, November 23, 2008

L.O. 12: Jetsons 1985 - Trying To Bring Life Back

WHAT ANIMATION POSES LOOKED LIKE IN THE 80SBy the 1980s the whole concept of animated characters having life (let alone being fun or cartoony) was not only gone - it was considered evil and irresponsible.
Now this was considered perfectly acceptable professional work here. When I had to work on stuff like this, I was sick inside and felt horribly guilty for contributing to such a disgraceful decadence. Even on shows like these I would try to draw some lively poses, but would always get beaten down by the producers and supervisors- in some cases, even people who once animated on classic cartoons that did have life! "We don't do that anymore John" I would hear all the time - with no explanation why not.

This would have been a wild take here for Scooby Doo, a show that today seems to have a big fan base. Someone explain why to me!


THANK GOD FOR ASTRO!

Scooby Doo was a blander version of Astro, who was actually funny and had a real character design.
I remember Mark Kausler being really mad at me for going overseas to train people to do layouts. I don't blame him; I was taking away jobs from Americans. Lou Scheimer used to brag that Filmation kept all the jobs in America, which somehow made him a patriotic American. The way he kept all the jobs in America was by only having 3 drawings in each episode and killing the souls and destroying the imaginations of a whole generation of American kids.

In reality, it was the animation union that sent our whole business overseas by jacking up all the salaries of even the simplest non-creative jobs. producers had no choice but to go to Asia. Otherwise, on the crappy budgets the networks gave them, they couldn't afford to make cartoons in America anymore. The union would have completely killed the business off.


The way I looked at it, animation needed to become lively again, and I didn't care where it would happen, as long as someone was doing it. I still feel that way. There are so few people anywhere in world anymore that are even capable of drawing life - or even have the desire to - that I believe we should utilize every one we can, if we ever get the chance to make real cartoons again.

I hoped the example of a cartoony show might inspire other cartoon studios to wake up again. I went to Taipei thinking that this might be the only chance I would have of getting some life back into cartoons. The only department left in America where you could have any control over the final poses in a cartoon was layout, and by the 80s all the layouts were going overseas anyway. The Jetsons seemed to me the last chance to inject some fun and cartooniness into a series. This led in a couple years to me bringing back jobs to America that no one had previously thought were even important to the creative process. We had a lot more artists on staff on Mighty Mouse doing layouts than Filmation or Hanna Barbera or Dic had in on any show. We continued doing layouts on Ren and Stimpy and also brought back real background painting. We even did a lot of the animation in North America.


The most fun character to draw in the Jetsons was Astro. He was naturally more cartoony because he was a funny animal. He talked like a retard which was also good raw material.







I don't remember the actual story of this sequence, but it looks as though Astro thinks his beloved master is going to kick the bucket.






Now here comes the real sick character. Joe and Iwao created "Orbitty", a character that didn't fit at all into the Ed Benedict world of the Jetsons. He was more like the 80s HB greeting card style that they used in shows like the "Monchichis" - whatever the Hell that was all about.
Orbitty was so awful that even the HB writers hated him! They would write in scenes that would abuse Orbitty and I followed along in that tradition wherever I could.






48 comments:

Bobby Vardar said...

Hi John, long time lurker, first time commentator.

I grew up watching golden age cartoon shorts and always felt that animation was getting worse and worse, but your examples show it so starkly, I'm actually shocked. It's like an evil conspiracy! I really hope your blog and the artists it inspires can bring some quality back...

Peggy said...

oh god IF ONLY MORE PEOPLE HAD TREATED ORBITTY'S BRETHREN LIKE YOU DID. Filling the little puffball thing with snot. Wonderful! <3

Mattieshoe said...

I just love seeing unappealing characters get abused.

In fact,I find that the Only epsiodes of Tiny Toons I like are the ones where Elmyra ges run over by a truck (then scraped of the windshild with a squeegie) or crushed by a falling building.

Whit said...

Elmyra should have been gassed.

Jeffrey said...

After reading Saturday and Sunday's blogs, I see why the animation moved to Asia. Especially if it cost $15K to get a new expression/pose approved. Urgh...Animation by committee. Yet another reason I love that Simpsons "Poochie" episode.

To answer your question, John: Kids like myself did watch "Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo", "Plastic Man and Baby Plas", "Captain Caveman and Baby Captain Caveman", "Pac Man and Baby Pac Man", and what ever else was shown to us in the early 80's. The reason for me was that it was Saturday morning and I was eight years old. There were three channels to choose from, and we usually chose the best of the lot.

Many of us even thought we had discriminating tastes. For instance, most of us would take bland HB over choppy Filmation (especially since it seemed like Fimation used the same two voice actors for every character on every show). The kids who liked Filmation were always a little slow. To many of us, 30 year old Warners Bros. re-runs were the best we could do (and we did watch).

Is it any wonder that many of us turned to extended toy commercials (Transformers, GI Joe) over the thousandth showing of HB's "Laff-A-Lympics"? Or that many people in my generation turned to anime in jr. high school? When we saw "Robotech" (Macross/Mospeada) with it's lush backgrounds and actual plot in a cartoon (even though it was filled recycled action animation), it was like gates opening to a new world for us.

Elana Pritchard said...

It looks like George is gonna kick the bucket- Did you mean the buk- buk- buckaaaaaht?

Mr. Semaj said...

I recall one episode where this blue monster tried to eat Orbitty, but after escaping from his mouth, Orbitty got mad and changed black. (The little critter changed colors based on his emotions.)

Paul B said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

what a great bullying for Orbitty!

hey, Jane looks rrreeeaaalllyy sexy in that drawing... mmm.. arrggjjjj....

Kali Fontecchio said...

I remember liking The Jetsons the most out of any other HB cartoon growing up, I also remamber thinking, I want to grow up to be Hanna Barbera." I was so amazed a girl had her own animation studio :/

CartoonSteve said...

they couldn't afford to make cartoons in America anymore. The union would have completely killed the business off.
--
That sounds sadly prohpetic of the US auto industry.

jim said...

I thought the studio was owned by a Ms. Hanna Barbera too, when I was a kid!

I watched the vast piles of steaming junk on Saturday morning TV in the 70s and early 80s for the same reason Jeffrey did: it was what was available. Kids just didn't have the choices then they do now.

But when I show stuff I used to watch to my 9 and 11 year olds, they don't seem to notice how bad it was. My 11-y-o fell in love with "Dungeons and Dragons" -- the stories can be pretty good sometimes, but man, that is the most lifeless animation ever. He watches those DVDs over and over.

Emmett said...

Overseas production. Its a strange situation. I wonder if the situation with executives is as bad here in New York as it is in Los Angeles.

Just for fun, Mr. K, how would you have designed a character like Orbitty? Or if Ed Benedict was given the task of designing the little puffball, how do you think it would have turned out?

Also, a little off topic, but I must know. Where is that image of Magilla Gorilla, Baba Louie, Hokey Wolf and Boo-Boo from? I have a weak spot for all-star animated casts, and would like to know. Thank you.

oppo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Butcher said...

Monchichis is obviously based off the Monkey King depicted in chinese literature and folklore. A lot of Japanese artists were basing stuff off that apparently.

Paul B said...

"I remember liking The Jetsons the most out of any other HB cartoon growing up, I also remamber thinking, I want to grow up to be Hanna Barbera." I was so amazed a girl had her own animation studio :/"

HAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, me too, I thought that Hanna Barbera was one person

Sven Hoek said...

Thank god for reruns of Looney Toons and the three stooges. I can't imagine japanese anime as an alternative, yechhh.

Isaac said...

"The most fun character to draw in the Jetsons was Astro. He was naturally more cartoony because he was a funny animal. He talked like a retard which was also good raw material."

Do you realize how funny that paragraph is?

Bill White said...

Really, what IS the appeal of Scooby Doo?! It can't be that it was the only thing on at the time, it still lives!

The fact they made two, yes, TWO live action movies based on it is even more frightening.

And people paid money to see 'em!!!

Anne-arky said...

These tales from the Jetsons are great. More please!

And Monchichis made me cry inside a little.

bob said...

so the only reason there is no animation done in north america is because people wanted to much money many years ago. when i graduated from animation school i was the only person who didnt care how much money i was going to make.as long as i was animating.

Larry Levine said...

The Astro layouts are awesome!!!

John, What kind of pencil did you use for them?

Niki said...

It was easy to notice the difference in quality of cartoons. I remember watching the Jetsons a lot as a kid, freakin' hated scooby doo, but now it doesn't come on cable and scooby is only ever been good as porn material for internet guys. I'm really sad that they pick up a filmation book but not a Ralph Bakshi or Richard Williams. and if they do they aren't really paying any attention. Honestly, I loved orbitty, but I was 5-7. Eventually it all stopped with Dragon ball Z. but now I don't give most shows the time a day. I think I should make my own studio, make a name for myself, and let it die with me; give the money to charity, kids work for their scratch.

The Butcher said...

Oh, one more thing. The reason people like Scooby-Doo is because they're stupid hippies who like anything "retro", which to them means "from the 70's, 80's, or 90's".

HemlockMan said...

We know what you really meant with that last series. You couldn't very well have gotten away with showing Astro wiping his bum with Orbitty.

Caleb said...

I first noticed overseas production when I could see mistakes like wrong colors (G.I. Joe bites into an apple, bite mark is still red). When a 7 year old can notice the mistakes and laugh at them, that's pretty bad.

I'm hopeful for the future of independent animators, because like Bakshi mentioned in his comic-con interview; computers can help streamline things. Maybe the overseas workers will get a union one day.

I remember Monchichis, and it's a perfect example of a show (and toy) that nobody wanted anything to do with.

Here's a photo of an old WB sketch

Christine Gerardi said...

You're absolutely right about crappy cartoons killing kids imaginations.

SoleilSmile said...

Scooby Doo has a huge following probably because of the autonomy of the teenagers. They got to travel all over the country without parental supervision. That is VERY appealing to me. I like Charlie Brown for the same reason.

Life is more fun without parents telling you what to do.


Another thing, why would you make silly drawings from the action adventure genre, John? If you don't like Josie and the Pussycats ( which I love) why did you work on it? Didn't you have enough power in the industry by then to pick and choose your projects? I don't a fraction of you clout and I don't work on genres I a bad for anymore. For example, I hate the omega male genre that runs rampant on Adult Swim, so you won't see me working on those shows. I suffered enough on Futurama and Dilbert. I never wanna draw a slouchy down in the mouth goober who has the nerve to lust after women without self improvement again!

Don't work on stuff you don't like, desu yo. You'll be miserable, kids. Furthermore, if the industry isn't catering to your genre right now, go into an adjacent profession until the trend comes around again. Graphic Design and Visual Effects are pretty easy to get into for people who can draw.

Getting back to the spirit of Spumco, I would love to see Spumco do independent film for the NFB. Make a knock out film and show up the film makers of the Cat Came Back. Do it, John. You know if you have large enough fan base and close who will work for you for free for NFB honor. I certainly would in my spare time after graduation.

David Nethery said...

" oppo said...
"I remember Mark Kausler being really mad at me for going overseas to train people to do layouts."

------

"Little did Mr. Kausler know that he would soon eat his words with Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi."



Oppo, not sure where you're going with that comment ... I'm pretty sure that "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi" was mostly done in-house at Renegade Animation in Glendale, California. So, what's the connection ? Or was I mistaken about Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi being made in the U.S.A. ?

Nicol3 said...

I always enjoyed seeing George getting wailed on by Astro out of love. I do remember watching that particular episode very well!

Kim F. said...

Yea, I never liked seeing the "stiff" stuff like the work from Scooby Doo. I just can't get a sense of cartooony flesh from them.

smackmonkey said...

I'll disagree with your proclamation that the union caused the overseas runaway of work back in the 1970's. I grew up in a neighborhood where everyone worked at the local Chevrolet plant and I was amazed that all my friends' dumb-ass parents made gobs of money for installing ashtrays and rearview mirrors into Impalas coming down the assembly line. I dreamt of a time when I, too, could punch the clock at each end of a day comprised of torquing bumper bolts. Joy!

When I landed my first job in animation and was making the same money as my loser friends back at the factory I was overjoyed to have escaped the life of an automaton. The pay was good but that was just the economy of the day. Yeah, cel wipers got a living wage but you couldn't get anyone to do the job if you didn't pay 'em enough to show up. They could just get a job at any one of multitudes of big factories in California. Remember - there were only about a thousand people in the union and all job categories still had workers stateside. Couple this with the fact that almost all animation work at that time was seasonal. Only a very few had year round full time employment. Animators brought their own lunch and drove piece-O-shit cars and saved their money for the ever impending layoff ahead. And don't think I didn't work my ass off for that sky high $11.00 per hour!

I'm of the opinion that it was Television (as the throw away medium that it is) and it's minions of greedy corporatists looking for easy money that sent the work overseas. The union, whether misguided or not, was just trying to ensure that being an animator was worth it. That's something it ain't today.

Mr. Semaj said...

Scooby Doo has a huge following probably because of the autonomy of the teenagers. They got to travel all over the country without parental supervision. That is VERY appealing to me. I like Charlie Brown for the same reason.

Life is more fun without parents telling you what to do.


As much as I HATE Scooby-Doo, that is very true.

Another thing, why would you make silly drawings from the action adventure genre, John? If you don't like Josie and the Pussycats ( which I love) why did you work on it? Didn't you have enough power in the industry by then to pick and choose your projects? I don't a fraction of you clout and I don't work on genres I a bad for anymore. For example, I hate the omega male genre that runs rampant on Adult Swim, so you won't see me working on those shows. I suffered enough on Futurama and Dilbert. I never wanna draw a slouchy down in the mouth goober who has the nerve to lust after women without self improvement again!

This is one thing people tend to forget when they're trying to argue that animation is not a genre. It is capable of more than just the comedic aspects, which is what many purists lean towards. But many of Disney's best films had more to it than just the cutesy romance/comedy/fantasy that they're often stereotyped for. I look at Pinocchio as an adventure and Lady and the Tramp as a nostalgic drama.

The point being that animation is and always was a form of ENTERTAINMENT, meaning that it's ripe for many different kinds of storytelling. Naturally, there are some types that may appeal to a particular audience more than others.

Bitter Animator said...

I've been heralding the demise of animation for a while now (did a series of posts about it a while back, basically about how the new animators of today miss out on about 7,000 drawings a year or more and the negative impact on new talent that Flash and its equivalents will have). Could things really be worse than some of your examples? Well, I think so.

But the big huge positive that my argument was countered with was exactly the same as Lou Scheimer's Filmation bragging that you mention. It keeps the jobs at home.

And I don't doubt that being a huge positive - Flash currently keeps me employed and I simply wouldn't be otherwise.

I know you use Flash because it keeps things producable in the current market. And I use it because it pays my bills. And everyone everywhere has their own reasons for going that route, most of them perfectly valid.

But... I have to wonder if we're not just being all 'Lou Scheimer' about it. What is best for animation? For cartoons?

Niki said...

Mr. John, I've been taking your advice about practice with other work I wanted to know if you or someone could check this, http://stripsandstrippers.blogspot.com/2008/11/my-bg-practice.html , I'm trying to work more on the composition and coloring right now so if it's not too much then help me out, I want to know if I actually am right about it. though I never actually tried practicing until now.

and on another note, we teenagers like scooby doo because the majority of us are idiots. Most have never heard of Yogi or Booboo, and it caters directly toward us. so welove it, even if it's trash.

Oliver_A said...

The only variant of Scooby Doo I remotely liked was "A Pup Named Scooby Doo".

As a kid growing up in the 80's, this was the first Scooby Doo show I watched, along with a mixture of the original and new seasons of the Jetsons.

When I saw the original Scooby Doo 2 years later in re-runs, I just thought "Man, shit is this?". Totally unappealing and unfunny (except maybe the title music).

I really can't remember any of the new Jetson episodes though, since I never caugt them in reruns.

pappy d said...

It must be tough being a producer these days. Even if you can find some kid who gives good wrist, he'll try to pick your pocket. It's hard out here for a pimp!

I feel guilty when someone tells me how much they liked Scooby-doo as a kid, knowing I had a small part in eroding his taste & critical faculties.

Canadians were not at all popular here in the 80's, with good reason, too. We were over-enthusiastic & hungry. I don't know the circumstances of your trip to Taiwan, but as soon as our work permits expired, Bill offered us jobs supervising overseas.

Saturday a.m. cartoons were a lot like the auto industry. They still frown on assembly-line workers customising cars. It was sad when the last of the animation jobs went overseas, but if you're willing to do such shitty work that you can be replaced by an out-of-work Asian garment worker for $30/mo. every pay check is a gift.

I would disagree about whether high wages could kill kid's programming. Kid's programming is not a market-driven industry. It's mandated by the federal govt.

pappy d said...

It must be tough being a producer these days. Even if you can find some kid who gives good wrist, he'll try to pick your pocket. It's hard out here for a pimp!

I feel guilty when someone tells me how much they liked Scooby-doo as a kid, knowing I had a small part in eroding his taste & critical faculties.

Canadians were not at all popular here in the 80's, with good reason, too. We were over-enthusiastic & hungry. I don't know the circumstances of your trip to Taiwan, but as soon as our work permits expired, Bill offered us jobs supervising overseas.

Saturday a.m. cartoons were a lot like the auto industry. They still frown on assembly-line workers customising cars. It was sad when the last of the animation jobs went overseas, but if you're willing to do such shitty work that you can be replaced by an out-of-work Asian garment worker for $30/mo. every pay check is a gift.

I would disagree about whether high wages could kill kid's programming. Kid's programming is not a market-driven industry. It's mandated by the federal govt.

Jeff Read said...

They like Scooby Doo because they can read whatever they want into the characters. Like, Shaggy's a dopehead, Velma is a lesbian, etc.

This appears to be a general principle because it seems the worse the animation gets, the larger (and creepier) the fandom gets! That old Sonic the Hedgehog show attracted furries like moths to the flame. And the new, awful Transformers, right on cue, is producing a legion of teenage girls who like to draw robots having sex.

I guess when you draw lifeless characters, people from the internet will imbue them with a "life" of their own... with everything that entails...

oppo said...

David Nethery: Then, my mistake.

pappy d said...

I apologise for the redundancy for which I sincerely apologise.

Steve Carras said...

Soleil Smile.,
you may be correced by John Kircfalusi himself on a major m istake you made regarding his involvement in Josie..though first let me say that JK had no choice, as he keeps telling people. But the crux is the mistake, Soleil, is that John was only a young man and wasn't involved with working on Josie and the Pussycats! Though I see your point.

Jeff Read, right on about horrible shows [btw I stretch the Transformers comment you made as I don't like the show itself as it was a toy animation] attracting the biggest audience. If Scooby-Doo had been done by Hanna-Barbera using its Fractured Fairy Tales Jay Ward type humor of the Pixie and Dixie days maybe it woulda turned out good, but sadly not.

Ironic that the studio that coluld be called Jay Ward :lesser,light, but still a major player' wound up playing it straight, the Charlottes Web and Heidi flicks they did would have been done a la Fractured Faiarey Tales (Jay Ward) in 1959 [though of course never did a anthology cartoon like that back in the fifties without recurring characters.]

PCUnfunny said...

"They would write in scenes that would abuse Orbitty and I followed along in that tradition wherever I could."

LOL ! I remember I listened to radio interview you had John. You were so pissed when the host considered Orbitty a Jetsons character !

Steve C. said...

PS, LOL, that "he [Astro] talked like a retard" was priceless and was right on, and made him good raw material.
Steve aka Pokey
Blog

Pokey said...

SoleilSmile:
"Scooby Doo has a huge following probably because of the autonomy of the teenagers. They got to travel all over the country without parental supervision. That is VERY appealing to me. I like Charlie Brown for the same reason.

Life is more fun without parents telling you what to do."

Good point, because among classic HB the same thing can be said for Pixie and Dixie....THAT's why Mr.Jinks can take more advantage of them...I mean...where's Mrs. and Mr. Pixie and Dixie. And it has an evne bigger case of support..

Steven said...

I agree with Mark and Smackmonkey. Union wages increase incrementally and are an outcome of collective bargaining and negotiation with the industry. It's the networks, (possibly because of growing competition from cable), who decided to equate animation with unskilled factory work, rather than creative work, therefore suitable for export to cheap third world labor. The fact that it also gave you the opportunity to restore some degree quality to the animation was more in the nature of an unplanned happy accident- in the US they would have stopped you to save time and money.

We struck because we saw what they were doing. Their intention was to devalue the work and use foreign production to leverage down their production budgets. That's the situation that we have inherited. That's what happened to all those great layouts, and all the layout departments- more of the same.

You should make the networks read your postings. It may get them off of that assembly line mentality.

Felicity Walker said...

There are a few good things about Scooby Doo that give it its fan base:

1. Semi-realistic art. It’s a light-hearted show, and yet it miraculously doesn’t look like The Impossibles. Hard as it may be for you to believe, people like pretty drawings, and want to spend time with them.

2. A cute dog. Scooby is lovable. Some credit for that goes to Iwao Takamoto and some to Don Messick, who did an adorable voice.

3. The romantic appeal of driving around a foggy, spooky America in a cozy van.

4. A variety of characters to appeal to the audience. I identify with Velma. Someone else might be more of a Fred man or a Daphne-watcher.

Felicity Walker said...

Oh, I remember what else I wanted to say. Astro’s skin creeps me out a little. It seems loose and floppy, like it’s not connected to his muscles and bones.

wileyk209 said...

Uh, I suppose you're aware Iwao Takamoto actually designed Astro in the first place? It's kinda surprising in some ways...