Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ranger's Retreat - Trusting Class

I think Ranger Smith is one of the deepest cartoon personalities ever created. In fact the whole chemistry between him, Yogi and Boo Boo is inspired.

I also think that the Hanna Barbera style itself is absolute raw material for experimentation and eventual greatness. The limited animation techniques they pioneered to try and hide the fact that the cartoons are cheap could have been exploited by less conservative minds and turned into part of the entertainment itself. It's perfect for Flash, but no one has taken advantage of it yet.

Hey the picture above and the one below were drawn by that magic imp of the animation world - Aaron Springer. Boy do I love his talent.
The solutions the HB animators came up with to create limited walks made me laugh even when I was a kid, and I always wanted to make fun of them and draw attention to them. Me and my friends actually used to walk to school in limited animaton walk cycles. I perfected the Perry Gunite walk - to the great amusement of the Italian bullies that always wanted to kill me, but couldn't because they were laughing too hard.
HB was absolutely chock full of creative raw material and could have spawned a truly imaginative well respected school of animation techniques, had it been taken advantage of.
I love to experiment, and when I got the chance to do a couple HB cartoons myself, I went at it. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to continue developing the style. Part of the problem of experimenting is you have to get the rest of the artists (and executives) to go along with you and its very hard for them to break habits that the animation business has instilled into them, so it takes time to get the cartoons fully developed into a whole new thing. I'd bet you 75% of my directing time is spent just trying to get my crew to actually believe I want them to draw what I said to draw - or even drew myself! Especially when jumping from one style to another.
That's why I hate the whole notion of "style". It really should be renamed "blind habit". People should just learn to draw well and forget trying to have a style. I saw this film the other day that was an unbelievable symphony in formula. It was "The Little Match Girl" done in a completely Cal Arts "style". Every single part of it was drawn and animated by formula and you had seen it all a million times before. I mean it was all smooth and airbrushed and everything, but ye Gods I'd go nuts if I had to just draw the same poses and expressions for a lifetime - especially in such a cold style. The funny part is, many Ren and Stimpy people animated on the cartoon and I guess had to learn the Cal Arts style (or maybe revert to it). Of course Disney has tons of time and money to wait for you to learn to do everything the same way.

Here's another section from "Ranger's Retreat" where Ranger Smith is learning how to trust everyone without question. I think Politicians take this course on their retreats. Shouldn't they really be teaching "Suspicion" lessons?
Note the difference between storyboard scribbles and the final drawings in the colored frames.
We draw continuity really fast, because we are trying to aim for spontaneity of emotion. Then we polish up the poses in layout.
In animation, with the right mindset, you can add a lot of entertainment that neither the script or the storyboards came up with. I'll put up a clip later of funny HB walks.
This was how I ate breakfast every morning when I was 8 and 9 years old. With my Yogi Mug and Huck Bowl.

Here's part 1 if you missed it:

more later...


Alberto said...

An illustrator, Dr. Alderete said in an interview:
"style is a virtue but it's also the incapability to create something new"

smirkstudios said...

I like you're idea of "style is ignorance." I understand it well. I mean, I'm pretty rough as far as my work goes, and even though I get better everyday, construction is not a regular use of mine, but I am changing that.

Picasso started with realism and then worked to a style, and I do believe Escher was the same way. These "abstract artists" that you hear about are abstract because there is pretty well no skill involved!

Style can be important, but generally only AFTER the skills are well excercised and visibley well used. GREAT POST, Mr. Kricfalusi!!!

twothousandsixer said...

You hit the nail right on the head about "Little Match Girl". What garbage. Sad thing is, it *could* have been something really great and original especially with access to great music like that, and especially since themes like poverty and childhood starvation don't make it into animation very often. The style is CGI meets airbrush meets stiff Russians. Lavish meets garish.

Elana Pritchard said...

Awesome John! I can't wait to see it! Ranger Smith never looked so funny...

Owen said...

Haha, I'm cracking up at that image of Ranger Smith with the flashlight!
I love these insightful posts, thanks John!

Trevor Thompson said...

In regards to your comment about the layout poses vs. the storyboard drawings, I've looked at the storyboards for 'Big House Blues' a million times, and I noticed that some of the drawings ended up being used as layouts.

How often does that happen in your cartoons and under what circumstances? When do you decide to make a drawing good enough to be a layout pose for a storyboard drawing?

- trevor.

oppo said...

How did you come by to watch The Little Matchgirl, John? More to the point, why did you even bother to watch it?

JohnK said...

>>In regards to your comment about the layout poses vs. the storyboard drawings, I've looked at the storyboards for 'Big House Blues' a million times, and I noticed that some of the drawings ended up being used as layouts.<<

I don't remember that happening, but it might be possible.

Once in a blue moon I'll use a storyboard drawing intact because of time constraints.

They also tend to get toned down at the layout and animation stages and I have to keep checking it and pushing it so it retains the guts of the SB.

Trevor Thompson said...

Once in a blue moon I'll use a storyboard drawing intact because of time constraints.

The one that immediately sprung to mind was this one. One of my favorite drawings of Ren, by the way.

In fact, weren't all three of these used as layouts too?

- trevor.

Elekid 64 said...

Any chance we'll actually see the complete 'Ranger Retreat' cartoon Flash...that I though you and Spumco mastered the Flash animation technique of with your earlier Jetsons and (especially) George Liquoir cartoons?
It's a great idea.

Caleb said...

Great info. I still haven't been able to see your Yogi cartoons, but I'm sure I'll see them someday.

Phreak said...

Hooray for Spumcult.

Niki said...

Wouldn't what people consider style toady actually just be the drawing's look? Cause now, after coming here so much, I keep hearing folks saying they love my style and I absolutely don't care at all.

Niki said...

Caleb, go to youtube and look up "Booboo Runs Wild"

Freakin' insane.

Rick Roberts said...

"I think Ranger Smith is one of the deepest cartoon personalities ever created. In fact the whole chemistry between him, Yogi and Boo Boo is inspired."

I wish you, would explain this John because I really can't see it. I found them all really sit-com generic characters despite the creative animation techniques. The same goes for the rest of Hanna Barbera's characters.

Isaac said...

Phreak, I admit, I'm a cult follower, an undeniable certifiable SpĆ¼mcase.

Anonymous said...

Smirk-- While you're right about most abstract artists lacking any skill, don't make the mistake of lumping Picasso and Escher in with them. I'm not a fan of either, but they, and other, certainly did have skill (from their more disciplined background).

Thank you for this post John. Really helpful!

Niki said...

Dennis the Menace

Here it is boss, I did it as hard as I could. I hope others can learn from it too, or I can learn that I did it completely with the wrong method.

If you want I can post all the ones I did first, before I decided not to use the PC for measuring.

patrick said...

Wow, way to caricature an old fridge with left-over cereal & a carton of old milk, Aaron!

Thomas said...

The Ranger Smith finished frames are quite beautiful, and dynamic. I especially like the one with Smith looking in the refrigerator. Lots of nice small details; mucky cereal bowl, chipped fridge rack, and very nicely composed. Maybe a good example of hierarchy?

Hope to see Ranger's Retreat someday; really great premise.

I always wondered if Ranger Smith had a previous career before becoming a park ranger. Like he may have given up a corporate job that was driving him crazy to go "green".

Rodrigo said...

Agreed about the "Match Girl". It all felt contrived and a bit visually mushy.

I wish Steven would have perhaps shown some CG examples that at least employed strong cartoon acting. "Horton Hears a Who" has some really strong scenes, though I can't say the entire movie was very successful.

Gerhard Cruywagen said...

Hi John. Quick question (hope it's not too dumb a question): Do use construction when drawing poses for these Ranger Smith cartoons? To me it seems as though there is a certain level of construction, and then there is also a certain element of 'flat' stylisation. How did you merge these two approaches to achieve this great visual feast?

Hamronial said...

Hi John! My name's Andrew and I'm an illustration student from Canada.

I've been a huge fan of yours since i was just a little punk!

On the topipc of style vs actual ability, you couldn't be more right,

Bruce Lee said

"The man who is really serious, with the urge to find out what truth is, has no style at all. He lives only in what is."


"Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water."

Trevor Thompson said...


Unless I miss my guess, the folks at Spumco are all trained in construction. When they draw the storyboards, they draw them quickly, which means they draw superficial versions of what will come later.

What I'm learning about construction is that once you get good at it you start to see the dimensions before you even draw them. I would assume that once you get to that level, when you draw something quick and don't do the steps of construction, that you are at least envisioning them there and doing the best you can in a short amount of time.

Also, John gives a great video tutorial here. At one point he draws Bugs without any construction and comments that it's only coming out okay because he understands the layers of construction, and doesn't have to 'hope' that a good drawing will emerge.

The levels of construction are indicated and in mind, just not drawn. That's my guess anyway.

- trevor.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Haw! What a treat!

smirkstudios said...

M.R. Darbyshire -

I apologize for the mix up, for I created a misunderstanding. Allow me to clear up what I meant.

I meant Escher and Picasso were AWESOME because of the fact that they studied REAL technique FIRST, and THEN they became abstract and post modern artists.

It is the OTHER abstract artists that say "Picasso did it, I can do it," without thinking about the fact that he EARNED it. I never meant to slander the names of M.C. Escher or Pablo Picasso. Sorry about the mix up friend! I hope this helps!

Elekid 64 said...

"'Horton Hears a Who' has some really strong scenes, though I can't say the entire movie was very successful."

Agreed there, boss. 'Horton' did indeed have animation that made the Dr. Suess designs feel alive in CGI, and with personality to boot. Just watch the delightful bridge-crossing sequence. It makes wonderful use of physics, character acting, and timing.
However, the thing I don't like about 'Horton' was the script. It's not the storytelling that's iffy, it's alot of the dialogue. Why couldn't Jim Carry be more mellow and understated as Horton? Instead of a mugger and vocal imitator? That's what the positive reviews of the film implied to me (before I saw it on opening day.)
Speaking of CGI adaptions of children's books, I'm not confident about Sony Animation's take on 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' all. To be candid.

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

When I saw this initial scene from A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith (directed by you in 1999) - this one, in which Ranger Smith appears with a sleepy face, going to have his breakfast -, I thought: "Mr. Ranger is looking like Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor (1963)!"

Walter Anderson said...

You like Aaron Springer's work? Watch his work in SpongeBob.