Monday, February 02, 2009

Don Martin - In a Department Store

Continued from....
http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/2009/01/don-martin-in-department-store-4.html

Boy, Don Martin sure was nice to kids. He just knew what we thought was funny.
Women's undergarments are inherently funny and we would have to read gags like these under the bed. We really thought we were getting away with something.
I wonder why so few animated cartoons are this purely entertaining? Maybe Sponge Bob is the last one to try to do crazy stuff that kids naturally crave.

Hot wet fertilizer is good kid's fodder too of course.
If you go back and read this whole story, you'll see that there is no story - not in the way animation execs and "writers" think stories should be - predictable. Do Martin loves to set things up to make you think the story is going to be about something predictable, the takes you into left field.
There's a place for plots and resolutions if you are good at writing them and can make them actually entertaining, but I think most kids would take pure controlled lunacy over formulaic animated cartoon plots any day.





In the classic tradition of the Three Stooges, there is no resolution or happy ending to this great story. The protagonist (Fester Bestertester) just gets shot off into the distance and we don't know what happens to him. We also forgot his best friend Karbunkle.
In an animation studio you'd be made to go back and explain everything. you'd also have to explain Bestertester's and Karbunkle's personal histories and why they have the personalities they do, what traumatic events in their childhoods caused them to be such unbalanced creatures. We'd need some pathos too. By the time you stuff your stories with all this filler, there's no time left for "hot Wet Fertilizer", Fat Lady or lingerie jokes.

And the latest horror that is inflicted on cartoon creators is "aspiration". Execs in the last few years have decided that kids want to watch cartoons about characters they can look up to, rather than laugh at. I can't imagine anything so counter-intuitive. "The Three Aspirational Stooges".

28 comments:

M. R Darbyshire said...

I knew that'd get 'im out!

Toncho said...

Pretty interesting, as usual Mr. K.

By any chance, do you still have R+S footage? You know, storyboards and such. I just love them!

Kudos again K!

M. R Darbyshire said...

Great point. Seems like people have come to think Naturalism is automatically what makes a story good. And of course, they half-ass that, too.

I can't remember what movie I was watching the other day, it was a big one from last year, but it was full of "Why are you" and "Why did you"s so that the retarded audience would know why everything happened the way it did. Other new movies do that too, and they also explain things to death. Anti-Naturalism, I guess you could call it. Whatever it is, it doesn't belong in cartoons.

Caleb said...

Upsettingly: "I didn't know they had ENTERTAINMENT here!"

Isaac said...

Absolutely right.

Elana Pritchard said...

Why is fun such a crime?

John A said...

You made a very insightful conclusion regarding comedy, something that points out what's wrong with most comedy films made today- at the end of a modern comedy the main character learns an important lesson, and then and only then can the funny guy claim his "reward" (usually some chick he's been arguing with for the past hour and a half. HORSESHIT! Did anyone ever care if the Marx Bros. learned a very important lesson? Or Laurel and Hardy? or the Three Stooges? You never even hear the stooges say anything like,"gee, we should be more careful next time." you know why not? Because that would completely DESTROY the concept of the Three Stooges. We don't go to the stooges for life lessons, we go to the stooges to watch them fuck up. This is why men love the stooges and for years most women couldn't stand them.

Men identify with the stooges. Any man that has ever handled a sharp object or any kind of power tool can identify with the concept of imminent disaster. Life is dangerous, and when it happens to someone else, it can be EXTREMELY funny. The stooges are just overgrown inept children, same with Laurel and Hardy and Jerry Lewis. That's why this type of humour was frowned upon by most female moviegoers. Back then women were very uncomfortable with the sight of men acting like little boys. They wanted their men to be like they saw their daddies-perfect at everything. That's the main reason why you'll notice that some of the greatest comedy actors of all time fell by the wayside after making audiences laugh through the 20s, 30s and 40s, only to be replaced by guys like Cary Grant or Clark Gable, someone women accept as funny, ugly little guys like Ben Turpin and W.C. Feilds were out. Characters had to get all sensitive. Again I say HORSESHIT!

Ron said...

Okay John. I admit, this has nothing to do with your post, but I have a KEY question. In addition, I know for a fact that this has been on everyone's mind. So here goes:

In your header graphic (new_donaldbastard.jpg), it's a great pose, but the arms and legs have twinning to a degree. What's your take on this? Why does it work despite that? Is it because one leg and arm are farther back in space?

Thanks on behalf of everyone in advance. Sincerely, Fun.

Hans Flagon said...

Where's the group hug and life lesson? And the prepubescent sidekick? Can we make an Ice Capades show from this?

Kids, Don't do Drugs!

In our colleges Psych department, Cognitive/Developmental Psych probably held the most practical use going foward, compared to the rest of the Freuduans, Jungians, and Skinner Box attendants drawing tenure. But I refused to take any classes from them because their doors were always covered with propaganda about Cartoon Violence. Maybe they weren't serious, but I think they were deathly serious. I sort of agreed with them wanting to keep TV off in their household as their kid grew up, but their wailing on poor Wile E. Coyote marked them as Loonies in my Bin.

MLP said...

Personal history? Pathos? Sounds like movie critics have taken over the animation executive jobs. I'm not at all clear where that aspiration nonsense could have come from, though.

We also forgot his best friend Karbunkle.

Isn't that Karbunkle running down the street after Fester in the final panel?

Rick Roberts said...

The best comedy situations are just that, situations. Like The Three Stooges, you see them on the street looking for a job, they get it, then they beat the crap out of each other for 7 minutes. Today Comedy has to have "a point". I could imagine execs questioning a Three Stooges short:

"Why do they hit each other ?"

"Why can't they get along and instill moral values ?"

"Why do they have to go after women ?" XD

Niki said...

Aspiration? That would be fine with a superhero cartoon. Not with the funny stuff. I'm thinking of an idea Mr. K, I really want to moderate a sort of network website for good cartoons. A site that can link to ASIFA, and have people post their own animated films. I think that would be awesome, then folks would know that it is the place for good shows! totally murder Cartoon Network , Disney and Nick and drag their mutilated corpses through the mud! Forgot all the that, sorry, but you should attend a public speaking class, or if you already have, convince some stranger to give you cash to start an actually decent animation school.

John A said...

The Pathos Rule: No modern animated feature is allowed to leave the studio unless it includes one shot of the main character looking over his shoulder, making a sad face,heaving a heavy sigh,and then turning and walking away, preferably shaking his head. Because if you don't have the main character do that, at least once, the audience will never, ever know that they are supposed to feel sorry for the character at that moment.

Sean Craven said...

's funny. As someone who spend time writing for animation, one of my number one concerns was giving the animators something fun to work with.

They weren't always interested...

My number zero concern was dealing with backstory.

RAKninja said...

I just read part of this article and I wanted to know what you felt about it.

http://news.toonzone.net/article.php?ID=28243

Getting rid of "idiot executives" sounds like the kind of thing you've been dreaming of for some time, yes?

Kerssido said...

I love the tea drinking ladies.

I always hated the straight-A student type that you get thrown at you all the time. Young adult literature, of all things, was filled with that. That's why I loved the Bash Street Kids--they are total bastards, but they're the ones driving the comic. The straight-A student is this soppy teacher's pet character who everyone hates. And yet I was a fairly well-behaved kid, although not a straight-A one.

Zoran Taylor said...

As the creator of the most deeply motivated characters ever created, this is the most ironic point you've ever tried to make.

You guys are gonna hate me if I ever get far enough to make cartoons. The "aspiration" just slips into stuff of mine as if by accident. I just AM that person. Mind you, I hate just about all of the stuff you're implicitly defecating on here, but I must have a skewed idea about sincerity.
Here's something to contemplate - what actually MAKES a character ambitious or moral OTHER than the bullshit the studios love to stick down our throats? I grew up being, I kid you not, deeply inspired by Calvin and Hobbes, absorbing this kind of intelligent morality from it, and it has stayed with me to this day. But what of the comic itself? Calvin is, on the surface, just a nasty little SOB who makes other people's lives a bit worse every day, while he just gets more and more alientated and hopeless. He even seems to enjoy that process. He is sick in the head. He's certainly not innocent - Not in every respect anyhow. But there is some sense of distant hope for him, something much less prosaic than whether he "learned" his "lesson", and it comes purely from the spirit of the strip.

When I think about the cartoons and comedy
I like, I find there's a strange pattern of contradiction. It veers between morality and total anarchy, and not in a predictable or comfortable way either. I like a character who will treat his mother with respect and bring her flowers and kick her in the gut when she's pregnant, and then feel kinda bad about it, and maybe then grab some lunch....Ren is that type personified. Daffy is kind of like that too.

Zoran Taylor said...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think of cartoons as being a great medium for dealing with self-discovery because they're great at being both surprising and surreal. So being a very cynical person with (as far as I can tell) an intolerable sweet side, the thing that hits the spot for me is rarely easy to categorize. I can crave brutal violence and "genuine heart" at virtually the same time. That's why I love Ren & Stimpy! That show can be downright sentimental and I believe every bit of it.

HemlockMan said...

I had totally forgotten about the "Hot Wet Fertilizer Department" page! That was great! A large portion of my brain is still eight years old!

mike f. said...

As someone who spend time writing for animation, one of my number one concerns was giving the animators something fun to work with. They weren't always interested...

Yeah, right.

Cartoon "writers" love to "write" visual gags - you know, the kind that can only be constructed and staged visually with thumbnail sketches by a cartoonist - but those darn old animators insisted on making static cartoons loaded with banal sitcom dialogue "jokes" and tedious crowd scenes.

What a load of horseshit.

Jake Thomas said...

In the third picture, the mannequin head in the bottom left. It's chin is hilarious and inspiring to me.

I finally have time to work on the cartoon lessons you put up. I made a blog and I am going to post my progress each day.

Justin said...

I've always liked the Clampett-(ish) stills that they incorporated into the Spongebob Squarepants episodes.

CartoonSteve said...

This type of pure controlled lunacy reminds me of your classic "Fire Dogs" ladder scene. Makes me laugh every time. Another example is the gag between 5:00 - 5:33 in this Micky football short: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8FUNH8kFCs

What I wouldn't give for a real Don Martin mannequin head.

miss 3awashi thani said...

ahh last time i saw something so delightfully pointless was that ed,edd,n'eddy episode where they spent the whole show chasing a balloon and bumping into things...

Tony said...

What do you think of the shows Chowder and Flapjack on Cartoon Network?
I like that they're trying to bring some personality back into the animation.

freedomschoolrecords said...

Don Martin's art is an American treasure, of course. Nice to see you give him some props, John!

Gabriele_Gabba said...

I'm working on just about the most politically correct and 'aspiring' thing in the world atm. Its supposed to be for kids, but this garbage is worse than giving them all the good old fashioned stories and spontaneous excitement of the past.

I rebel John, at night i read your posts and draw up cartoon characters, soon i hope to start a project of my own.

Thanks a bunch!

P.S Sponge Bob is the only thing i can stomach on T.V atm, jolly good show what!

Mike Kevan said...

I love the fact that a lot of the last few cartoons had a similar composition, it creates a great montage of moments, its interesting that the image 'moves' right to left, which is against the (western) eyes natural movement, but i dont think it would have had the same impact if it was flipped, thanks for post.