I'm embarrassed to show these now, but at the time they were fun to do and were considered pretty radical.
The perspective and construction is off in a few places.
This model is too cluttered in the face and too pointy in general.
Lynne Naylor's models had a nicer overall feel to them. She too used angles, but softened the corners and made them flow into the curves. This made the characters seem more organic and real.
All model designs tend to be stiff when created out of thin air. The best models come from the layouts, after you have taken your designs and moved them around and made them do things in context of the story. All these same characters came to life in the actual stories.
It was lucky for me that Bob Singer didn't hire me to just do model sheets. Instead Bill and Joe sent me to Taipei to do layouts - and as a bonus, told me to throw out the HB models and do my own.
Having to draw layouts from my own designs was the best thing to happen to me. When you draw character designs in the abstract you are just drawing pictures of characters that exist floating on a page - like a sketchbook doodle. Even if I'm thinking about the character's personality (which I always do) I can't be sure if the design will actually work for animation. It might not be functional.
When you take these same drawings and all of a sudden have to move them around, bend, grab things, walk, talk and come to life you start to see problems in the design - which we did while doing Jetsons layouts.
Luckily, we had the freedom to take liberties with the designs as we posed the cartoons and we could improve the functionality as we went. This liberty doesn't exist at most studios that demand you never veer of-model - even to correct mistakes or eliminate stiffness.
You can't be a good designer if you have never inbetweened, animated or done layouts. You will just be pasting on your own drawing problems to the next department - who in most studios is not allowed to interpret your designs to make them work.
A cartoon designer needs some basic talents:
1) an instinctive design sense-
He/she needs to have what all designers in any craft have - a natural sense of balance, organization and appeal.
Not all cartoonists and animators have this ability (as you could see from my post yesterday)
Designers need this natural gift. It can't be learned; it has to be innate. But it's still not enough.
2) Experience in animation, assisting, layout
This should come first before you ever design anything. You should have a good idea of what makes things work functionally. When you have these skills, then you can apply them to your designs.
Ed Benedict, Tom Oreb, Tom McKimson, Chuck Jones, all the admired designers of the past had learned their craft from the ground floor up. They started as assistants, animated for awhile or did layout and then began designing their own characters.
We haven't had this logical production system in decades. When I started, each department existed by itself in the abstract and didn't communicate with the other departments. Bob Singer at HB would hire students from his model design classes and plop them cold into the model department with no experience ever doing production work first. I'm not picking on Bob; this happened at every studio. There was also a crazy theory that you should be able to design in any style. Cartoonists should also be able to do superhero shows. This is utterly crackpot thinking. There is the odd person like Jim Smith who can do both, but he is rare indeed.
Lots of great classic designers couldn't transition from 40s style to 50s style, but tried anyhow. Designers are individuals with their own specialties and tastes and should be cast according to the tone of the shows they work on. What they all should have in common is experience doing the real work of animation first.
I know Alex Toth has a huge fan base and his model sheets for HB's superhero shows are very handsome indeed. But look at the shows!
No one could animate those designs. They didn't work for animation and the whole 70s decade is considered the dregs of animation history because of it.
And there were other "realistic" designers that didn't have Toth's talent. Those shows are even worse.
This Saturday Morning cartoon design style has since even seeped into feature animation:Why would anyone spend a couple hundred million dollars on something that looks like a low-budget Saturday Morning cartoon? Anyone have an answer for that? Will?
I've heard that Disney 2d films let the animators design their own characters (I could be wrong) which might sound sensible on the surface - but not all animators have a sense of design. Plus the executives get in and monkey with everything to make sure there is no appeal sneaking into the designs. They like everything to be "realistic" which doesn't mean looking like real people; it means having small heads, long legs and tiny features. Sometimes the more rebellious animators fight the execs and demand that they at least get to paste Bambi eyes at the top of their Filmation/ Saturday Morning TV character designs....as long as the animators promise to fill their scenes with visual metaphors aimed at the family audience
Many of the modern features are filled with characters that don't go together; they look like they are from different design schools and this makes your involvement in the stories suffer when it is so obvious.
Today's TV execs hire kids out of college who can't draw at all, let alone have any design sense and absolutely don't have any experience - and they not only let them design shows, sometimes they even let them create shows and boss around artists with actual experience! This has to be the most illogical inefficient period of animation history yet.
The Jetsons wasn't any great achievement, but it opened the door to a short period of cartoons returning to some measure of common sense.