Thursday, December 04, 2008

Disney Principles 2a - Solid Elmer - McKimson - Head Rotations

Here's a scene animated by Bob McKimson that shows the value of solid drawings. I purposely picked a scene that didn't have a lot of Clampett's direction in it. It looks like Clampett just told him what was was happening in the scene and let him do it, so it's very basic McKimson.
Elmer tilts his head in all kinds of difficult subtle angles and he is animating slowly where you can't cheat anything.
Elmer's body is compact and solid, yet has enough give to feel like it's flesh wrapped in cloth - note that the wrinkles in the clothes don't stick way out! The bulge just enough to feel like clothes, but bulge following the form of his body.
This would be a very hard scene for an animator to do. McKimson's animation relies mostly on the drawings being solid and in perspective and moving cleanly from one pose to the next without losing volume and without have the features crawl around the face.
Titling the head into all these angles is hard enough, but that huge tall hat ads another degree of difficulty to control.
McKimson doesn't use an overload of overlapping action (except when Bob Clampett makes him) or squash and stretch or even drag - except in fast motions. His animation is very direct and to the point. It's all in the drawing.
It doesn't always get the best inking.
The fingers are wrapped solidly around Elmer's face. His other hand around his elbow. Feet in perspective.

Antic into...
Accent.
Look at those great feet!
Here's a real tricky pose to pull off. Elmer is all twisted around, laying on the ground and turned away from us. No problem for McKimson.

This scene, and WB animation is a very different approach to Disney animation, even though it uses the same fundamentals...just in a different ratio. More solidness, less accessories to distract from the main point.

Bob McKimson is the foundation of Warner Bros. animation. Most of the main animators follow McKimson's lead and that's why I think WB animation is a lot more humanized and manly than Disney's. It doesn't use a lot of animation flourishes like floppy arms and non-stop stretch and squash and overlap on everything for its own sake.

Other WB animators had their own styles, and some outright rebelled against McKimson's style, but they did it while standing on his foundation, and the most successful WB cartoons are the ones that don't get overly fancy and effeminate (Disney-esque), the ones that humans can relate to. That is a key ingredient that made WB's cartoons outlast Disney's in popularity. They still seem fresh today.


Rod Scribner in the same cartoon - a much looser approach, more cartoony and appealing, but just a personal variation of McKimson. Scribner, like McKimson and the best WB animators (unlike Disney) didn't compete with the story and voice track for attention - they were more direct in communicating with and entertaining the audience

ANIMATION SHOULD EMPHASIZE THE VOICE TRACK
A good animator will use the voicetrack as the springboard for his animation. McKimson is very literal in this approach. When the voice goes up, Elmer's head tilts up. When there is a big accented syllable, Elmer visually accents it with his head or his hands or both. His expressions match the emotion in the voice track. Watch the clip a couple times and see this in action. Close your eyes and listen to the track and listen where the accents and pauses are for emphasis, then go back and watch McKimson help draw your attention to what's already there in the soundtrack.




http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Clampett/45OldGrayHare/Elmershorter2.mov

The amazing thing to me is that no one followed up on this more populist approach to animation. Most animators want to emulate Disney in all its floppiness - only without the solid foundations and principles.

back later to explain more and to show some great Kahl animation...


Here's a strong accented gesture - some nice "twins" for you. Richard Williams would approve.

These would look even more solid if not for the DVNR and line thinning of the video transfer.

26 comments:

Kali Fontecchio said...

That last pose is hard, but it looks so natural. I'm in awe.

John Young said...

Explain this to me John, how come Mkimson's own cartoons don't have the polish and solid construction that his animation has in the clampett cartoons? When i saw that animation of hitler he did in the new box set i was completely blown away, yet his own cartoons seem really loose and occasionally unappealing to my eye anyway.

Elana Pritchard said...

Do you know any good drawing exercises to get better at perspective?

tobor68 said...

the last pose of elmer is incredible.

he reminds me of my nephew. this may be his next halloween costume.

Caleb said...

Great example. I also love how McKimson animates lummox types, you can feel the weight they throw around.

Larry Levine said...

These would look even more solid if not for the DVNR and line thinning of the video transfer.

The saturation is up WAAAAAY too high, another great cartoon ruined by 'restoration'.

Ian W. said...

Did Scribner do all the "old Elmer" work in this cartoon? I'm especially fond of the reactions of Elmer as he holds the "dying" Bugs later on.

justinflowers said...

This comment is directed towards John Young:

I would assume that the reason you feel that McKimson's cartoons lack solid construction and polish is probably because many of McKimson's cartoons were made much later than clampett's and they did not have as large of a budget. I could be wrong though.

Ryan Cole said...

Woah! When Elmer starts his final sentence (yeah but how long...), he does this totally offbeat upward head tilt with no animation leading into it, it just pops right up and then slowly comes down. What in the world led McKimson to just suddenly nix the previous motion and start a whole new one? Every other motion before it has a follow-through and lasts long enough to make each pose readable, and then out of nowhere this strange thing happens. Was it an aesthetic choice? Did his assistant just decide to not inbetween it? What happened?

shreyas51283 said...

Bob Mckimson is my favorite animator now.
its unbelievable how solid his animation is. i have two questions,
1)why is it that three d animation never has this kind of... manly movement. In comparison cg looks down right womanly...
is it because of too much overlap?

and why were some Mckimson later cartoons not as good his earlier ones.. it seemed that everything was toned down... foghorn leghorn spoke more softly.. the chracters look really sqarish.. as if they all went on diets...

PCUnfunny said...

Ian: That is Mckimson doing the Bugs "death scene".

I must comment on the brillance of this cartoon. Only Clampett would have thought to do both extremes of age in one cartoon.

Christine Gerardi said...

Awesome. Thanks John.

trevor thompson said...

What's wrong with Richard Williams? Twins aside, I mean.

Also, should I be worried about the fact that Scribner's my favorite animator and McKimson's a close second?

- trevor.

HemlockMan said...

No doubt about it. McKimson was certainly the best. Not among the best. The best. (Well...to me, anyway.)

Mike Tucker said...

I've read that McKimson was a guy that could with one pencil line complete a character without picking up the lead once. Not that's solid drawin' right there!
John Buchemia (spelling?), of Marvel comics, was another if I recall.

Whit said...

All the McKimson brothers were taught human anatomy during the Great Depression by their mother. Tom, Bob and Charles built on that solid foundation over time. Tom McKimson's character designs for Clampett are fluid and appealing.

Shawn said...

Great drawings!

But, jeez! What happened to the colors??? Did Elmer go to Candyland?

diego cumplido said...

I've always wanted to know your thoughts on Richard Williams. The guy is such an inspiration to students worldwide (just like you) ... but his approach on animation is kind of different to yours. Do you personally approve him?

Niki said...

I remember this as a kid, he work up in the future. crazy.

Tigeroovy said...

Well I for one certainly strive to better myself based on WB's form as opposed to Disney's form.
When I was younger I just always loved Looney Tunes way more than Mickey Mouse and them. I mean Cinematic Disney is amazing of course, but then if you took the team away from Disney put them somewhere else and it would be equally amazing.
Something about Mickey and his Gang I just found too kiddie.. which is ironic because I was a kid myself.
WB's stuff definitely spoke to me more, and continues to.

SoleilSmile said...

My favorite WB is Ben Washam. I know, off topic. I'll brace for the incoming the tomatoes!


Eek!

Putty CAD said...

Great examples and info. I'm not a proper animator but a games designer. I'm hoping these tips will help improve my cartoon drawing and my art in general.

;) Ric

Adam T said...

That is Mckimson doing the Bugs "death scene".

The acting in that scene is better than a lot of live action death scenes. I love how Elmer gently holds the 'dying' Bugs and looks down at him with these calm, caring eyes, while Bugs is totally hamming it up. It makes the scene 10x funnier. It's so subtle that a lot of people don't know why it's as funny as it is.

Tony said...

Hey John,
thanks for the last posts, these tipps and knowledge are true gold.

Hope you are doing fine,

Toni

John A said...

This is a totally irrelevent comment, but I've always thought it was interesting how old Bugs and Elmer, drawn in the 1940's,looked like Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in the 1990's.

animationthingies said...

I read your blog a lot but I always fail to see what you mean by copious amounts of Squash and Stretch in Disney compared to Warner Brothers. You seem to bitch about it a lot but never cite any references.

Do you mean their feature films or their older Mickey Mouse and Friends shorts?