Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"UPA Style" before UPA

I collect old cartoon books. This one's called "Cartoon Cavalcade". It's edited by Thomas Craven, 1943. It traces American cartoons back to its roots and features a wide variety of styles, from comic strips to magazine cartoons and even animation. There was a much greater variety of cartoon styles in the first half of the 20th century than there is today or even that there was in animation in its whole history.
These are just a handful of cartoons from the 20s that influenced the "UPA Style".


Even though cartoons had a huge variety of individual styles, most people agreed they had one thing in common - the thing that made them cartoons, as opposed to illustrations:

More to come...

24 comments:

M. R Darbyshire said...

'Funny drawings'- Where do you come up with stuff? You're out of touch, John. The last thing people have ever wanted is laughter. You know who likes a laugh? The mad!

Kali Fontecchio said...

you wrote this at 3 am? I guess you couldn't sleep :(

JohnK said...

No, I wrote the title at 3 so I wouldn't forget about it.

Achi-L said...

i have this book, it's pretty good although only very few milt gross stuff and too much disney crap,
and it completely disregards the other animation studios.

JohnK said...

Yeah well like I said, animation didn't get a lot of respect - even from cartoon critics and historians at the time.

It's still a pretty good book and covers a lot of artists.

Blue said...

I have that book! Found it at a garage sale. I love the wide variety of styles by all of these cartoonists. Not to mention it hearkens back to an age where Abercrombie and Fitch was a store you would want to go into.

Trevor Thompson said...

It kinda makes me think there's a conspiracy against talent.

Almost as though if the standards are dropped, and no one appreciates funny drawings, it'll be that much easier and cheaper to produce crap. Certainly true of the film industry.

Thank Gawd we have you, John.

- trevor.

Jack said...

I don't agree with your last post at all. Not every cartoon needs to be pessimistic satire. That may have worked for you, but it seems like you're just criticizing Disney for being more succesful than Warner Bros while having a different outlook on life and animation.

Jack said...

Also, you're one to talk about juvenile humor.

Jorge R. Gutierrez said...

Great post! Don't you think the biggest inspiration for the UPA aesthetic was Modern Art? Picasso, Miro, Kandinsky and Matisse? Jules Engel would always say they were never trying to make cartoons, but film art. Animation artists were always looked down upon (to this day) by the art aristocraty and it seems to me that the UPA artistic were reacting to this.

JohnK said...

I think earlier experimenters were inspired by modern art. Oskar Fischinger types

UPA is still cartoon art, not abstract art, though they probably wanted the respect that so-called fine-artists received.

Atherium said...

"though they probably wanted the respect that so-called fine-artists received."

What do you mean by "so called fine artists"? Fine artists get more respect because it's a sophistsicated artfrom.

Jorge R. Gutierrez said...

You think they ever got the respect? It seems the fine art world still looks down on them for their cartoon roots and the animation community resents them for trying be fine artist.

I'm sure there had to be some hurt egos and a desire to make less commercial work and get away from the "cartoony" stuff from many of their pasts, since it was deemed less "sophisticated". Since a lot of the UPA guys went to Chouinard and had degrees in fine art ,you could understand their torn hearts.

As much as I love the color & design of the UPA films, I find them very cold. And not very funny.

Rick Roberts said...

UPA was pretty much this magazine style and also Chuck Jones' early 40's shorts like The Dover Boys.

JM Brown said...

When I read "Cartoon Cavalcade" the images hadn't loaded yet and I thought you were referencing the terrible and not-funny-at-all youtube shorts by Seth "Smartest Man On Tv [according to Entertainment Weekly]" McFarlane.

I'm... I'm terribly sorry.

Elana Pritchard said...

Atherium- I have been trying to teach myself the art of animation for a couple of months now and its very complex, trust me. It has a whole 'nother dimension to deal with, for crying out loud.

"The sophisticated artform of FINE"

Niki said...

Abercrombie and Fitch Sporting goods?! The manliest of man things? When did it so gay?

I was copying shapes from Gerald McBoing Boing today so this is a real coincidence. I really like the scienticy looking tubes in "How Now..." It's really nice to know where it comes from.

Zoran Taylor said...

What the hell is Jack The Surly 'Tudeworm still doing here? Doesn't he realize that NOBODY ever agrees with him???!! Thank God Mr. Whatzit is gone, though.

It's one thing to disagree, it's another to sit there offloading your contempt for everything the blogger stands for. Go. Somewhere. Else. IT'S. THAT. SIMPLE.

Trevor Thompson said...

Hey come on, I like Jack.

But then, I'm a narcissist who voted for McCain purely out of spite to the Americans, so don't take my endorsement.

I like him, but I'm also good friends with Jorge, a guy so mentally unstable that Trent Reznor won't return his calls, so there's no accounting for taste.

- trevor.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Real nice to see this stuff! I'd give anything to see cartoons like that in the Sunday paper. I'd give double anything to see that sort of thing in the daily paper. You'd think some eccentric editor somewhere in the States would have a decent cartoon section, even if he took a loss on it. Everything is so standard and uniform now.

Cap'n Howdy said...

I love to collect these wordless panel strips, and was wondering if anyone else thought that most of them seem to mimic the the great H.M. Bateman?

Ross Irving said...

I like all of the artists' work that you uploaded in this post. Like the couple kissing on the couch. THAT gives us an idea of how totally into it these two are. The other one with the man pointing to his salesmen on the map also has a cool look to it. Not to come out of left field, but it gives me this Otto Messmer vibe.

I wonder what in the heck changed in the past twenty or thirty years for comics being printed in newspapers. Does it cost more now? Did editors think they would make more money to omit comics entirely? I don't know. They're so small. A crazy idea I had not too long ago was "What if editors printed the comics really small while maintaining their quality, and readers just used a magnifying glass to read them?"

Vit said...

Please compare with the words of Hayao Miyazaki.
"...Today, I can't talk about our business without some bitterness. Compared to several works in the 1950s which inspired me, we in the 1980s make animation as if it's an in-flight meal served on a Jumbo Jet. Mass production has changed the situation. The true emotion and feeling that should be carried through have been replaced by a bluff, neurosis, or teasing. The craft that we should put our love into has been worn down in the piecework production system."
"About Japanese animation" Published by Iwanami Shoten; January 28, 1988

His definition of animation is broader. IMVHO the "true emotion and feeling" is better than bare "funny".

pocket said...

I also have this book - my grandmother was a librarian and she had it from the culled books back in the 60's. I also have a collection of J. R. Williams which is classic cartooning....