Friday, December 19, 2008

Lumpy and Itchy Animation Designs

Lumpy Out Of Ignorance

In the 40s ,every studio tried to do the Disney/WB construction style of animation drawing. Not everyone understood it though. If you can't already draw well and you see a construction model from the 40s, you will assume that a cartoon character is made up of sausage like forms, but you won't see how they properly connect to each other - as in these models from Dave Hand's Animaland series. Dave Hand came from Disney - he directed Bambi and many other cute well drawn Disney cartoons and then went to England to supervise production on some imitation Disney cartoons.
These cartoons have a lot going for them - great background design and color, beautiful motion and timing, but a lot of the designs are these lumpy looking misunderstandings of the "Preston Blair" style.

These drawings are extremely awkward and therefore unappealing and amateurish looking. The lion's jaw and muzzle are formless shapes that don't attach to the cranium. The lip is confused with the chin (as in Tiny Toons and Animaniacs)It's amazing that such expensive fluid animation can have such sloppy drawings, but that was common in American cartoons at the time too at the B and C studios.
You could even find sloppy misunderstandings of constructed drawings in Disney cartoons here and there.

MGM made great cartoons with excellent design and drawing, yet they couldn't find cartoonists to do their posters who could draw a pear and a sphere that didn't look like it was melting all over the place.

I'm sure these toys are not supposed to be formless, but they are. By the 1970s formlessness in all walks of life became mainstream. Just 5 years earlier you could still find very appealing toys of Hanna Barbera characters or any other studios'. In the quickest decline in skill and culture probably in history you saw everything go to Hell within 5 years. Cartoons joined music, TV, movies and all other forms of popular culture in overnight decay. Pleasuring the senses disappeared from the face of the earth.
These blobs are just blobs and unappealing out of straight ignorance - just plain bad design by amateurs.


As a kid I never liked scratchy looking non-cartoony drawings - especially when they were pretending to be "wacky". There were some Mad artists that were instantly appealing and cartoony -like Don Martin, Bob Clarke, Harvey Kurtzman and more and they were the first articles and comics I would "read" when I picked up the latest Mad Magazine.
Here's George Woodbridge who not only refused to draw appealing big-eyes, he refused to draw eyes at all!
The more realistic itchy artists like George Woodbridge, John Severin and Will Elder seemed to me to be throwbacks to cartoons from the 1800s that were meant to be funny by being uglier than actual life. The little unsure broken crosshatching crawling all over bland shapes with tiny eyes just baffled me as a kid. I guess this style inspired the underground artists of the 60s who took itchiness to whole new levels of unappealingness.
People always ask me if I'm influenced by underground comics and I'm astounded. It's the exact opposite of what I try to do.

To me cartoons are supposed to be skillful and fun to look at, not eye gouging torture.

Adding Itchiness to Lumps On Purpose

Here's a style made up out of the 2 things I hated most as a kid - lumpiness and itchiness.

I can't find any appeal in drawings like this. You can barely even tell what you are looking at except that it's probably made by really serious responsible people who think fun is bad for you. The odd thing is that as an artist, I can tell that some of these are actually good drawings on some technical level and much of the animation was done by actual cartoony artists from the 40s and 50s.

It really and honestly is "ugly on purpose". I can't imagine for a second that anyone working on this could have thought it would appeal to kids - not after they had been weaned on Bugs Bunny, Donald and Goofy, The Flintstones, Mighty Mouse and a slew of cartoons that were purposely designed to give instant pleasure to young eyes.
What the heck are we even looking at here?

This sequence is astounding. The artist can actually draw well, but purposely is abandoning classic Disney principles all over the place. Including just plain logical "readability"! Every pose has no silhouette-the arms are glued to the body with no space inbetween, every pose is perfectly "twinned". Whatever construction exists is buried under wobbly itchy lumps. It looks like she is covered in some medieval disease.

It's as if this stuff is designed just to be hard to do and to rebel against classic principles and just plain fun. But why? What strange goals for people who work so hard.

The same animators who once did simple fun character designs and entertained millions of people around the world are now working ten times as hard surely knowing that no one is going to enjoy it or even be able to tell what they are looking at.

Here, Corny Cole gets a bit of appeal into at least the eyes of the main characters...

But then is corrected by Richard Williams who knows appeal is selling out to the man.