Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Essential Principals VS The Extras - Will Finn

Fancy-ass full-Disney-quality-animator Will Finn just wrote an illuminating article about what animation really boils down to as its basics and illustrated it with a fun clip himself.

I fully intended to inbetween it, but I was surprised to find it didn't look all that awful on its own. I think the color had a lot to do with it, which says a lot for how much color can validate a drawing. I decided to push on forward and see how much I could do without:

No Inbetweens

No Squash & Stretch

No Anticipations

No Follow thru

No Overlap etc...

These are the things that are considered essential,especially in "full animation" obviously. These are the things that took me long hard years to learn. But I kind of realized as I stripped them away, that I had confused them with what "makes" animation, when they are really just things that enhance animation. Maybe all these years I have been confusing the forest with the trees"... - Finn


my 2 cents to add:

With the "enhancements" Will left out, that leaves us with these principles:

...which for some reason Frank and Ollie put at the end of their list of principles. I have been posting all of Frank and Ollie's principles and agree with them in theory, but I changed the order to put what I think are the most important ones at the beginning.

I agree with Will and believe that this is the problem with most animated feature films. Every one who gets the chance to make one says that "Story" is the most important element in a cartoon (which is not on Frank and Ollie's principles list), but then spends hundreds of millions of dollars on layering tons of "enhancements" to distract you away from the fact that nothing interesting, original or clever is happening.

When it comes to "solid drawing", "appeal" and exaggeration, you don't see much of that anymore either. Even timing has been turned into a system of formulaic rules. Hey Will, maybe you could tell us some modern timing tricks that have become commonplace in features.

You should be able to judge the pure entertainment value from a good animatic that has none of the enhancements but has the essentials.

I would add "Funny" to the essential principles. Maybe even "Clever ideas" or "Imagination". How about "Interesting or entertaining characters"?

I think you can find the best examples of what Will is talking about in Fred Crippen's Roger Ramjet cartoons. But maybe Will will disagree, I don't know. Maybe I am completely misinterpreting him. I'm sure he'll tell us and correct me at Lamplighter.




Appealing fun specific characters :


Roger Ramjet cartoons deals in only the essentials - which are much cheaper than the fancy expensive polishing process that goes on in the big studios. In fact Eddie and I often cleanse ourselves with Roger Ramjet cartoons right after watching a spectacular well polished, pore- filled blockbuster. Usually about a group of unlikely companions who get thrust out of their familiar environment (their womb-arena) and into a new harsher one. Through their arbitrary trials and solitary pathos scenes they learn to get along and become sweet friends and kindly democrats, thus teaching us that love, togetherness and character arcs are much more important than the blind corporate greed and abuse that creates these pictures.

Many of the movie clips on my Roger Ramjet posts have vanished into the ether, but there are lots of funny drawings in them. Perhaps world famous duck-scientist Marc Deckter knows the secret of where the clips are. I owe him a pizza so I'll ask him if they exist and will repost the buggers myself if they do.

But you can just go ahead and buy the cartoons if you and your family like to laugh and don't wanna be preached to by moguls who don't believe in their own lessons.


Rodrigo said...

Y'know John, I have to agree with what you have to say about the big corporate machine's template for story. Whenever an expensive cartoon attempts to infuse a populist moral, I cringe. It always strikes me as pretentious & hypocritical, and I feel that as entertainers, we should do just that-entertain.

Sad I couldn't make it tonight, but I'll try my darndest for next time though.

vhpayes said...

Don't know if I can help, but I have a disc with 15 Roger Ramjet episodes and 3 Ub Iwerks cartoons, that I got in Russia.

Niki said...

There are some Roger Ramjet cartoons on Youtube, When I first heard about it on this blog I checked it out. Sa, ya the Rogers have seriously been obliterated, but if you want I may be able to get some, E-mail them to you, and you can post them into the Blogger to finally end all the deletion

I've never heard of Will Finn, but I figured that 'New' Disney isn't anything much good a long long time ago.

David Germain said...

One of my teachers back at animation school had a rule of thumb for us. "If it doesn't work as keys, it won't work when it's inbetweened."

I think that's a good thing to remember when animating. Everything should be there in the line test, not just the clarity of the action but also the impact it will have n the viewer.
That way, whether you have the budget to smooth out the action or you barely have enough time and/or money to get it done, it'll still work.

Will Finn said...

Hey John, I am flattered to be cited here. And you nailed the remaining principals I wound up with.

I am a huge fan of ROGER RAMJET, which i also loved as a kid. Then as now, although a good "full animation" cartoon is something I still relish, any time spent watching RR is usually massively more entertaining than quite a few more expensive efforts.

I will have to think about the current formulas in animation a bit. I mostly storyboard now.

Ian Andersen said...

Wow, I never watched a Roger Ramjet cartoon before, I saw some still images you posted earlier, but that is hilarious. The budgets for Adult Swim cartoons are probably the same as that, too bad they can't find someone who could take advantage of that opportunity.

Timefishblue said...

Roger Ramjet is purity itself. It seems like it would take a handful of change to make an episode, so why isn't there anything like it on TV today?

Thomas said...

Do people know of Captain Pugwash? It's interesting in terms of limited animation; and different from HB style. It's just flat cutout animation, but they use a lot of perspective in the background and foreground painting, and it gives them a surprising amount of dimension. The animation is staged differently than vaudevillian, and stagey HB style. Its a little closer to film.
This is a British show from the 50's and 60's. Its slower than American animation, and its humor is droll.

Niki said...

What order do you like the principals come in?

Rick Roberts said...

I loved that episode of Roger Ramjet when the parrot announcer's hats kept changing when the camera kept cutting back to him.

nktoons said...

Didn't get the chance to meet you in person at Gnomon.......sometime soon please do a post on the advantages of CGI and computer animation.
I loved that Roger Ramjet......first time watching him. Hilarious!

Ahahnah said...

I agree with Mr. Finn on the use of color. The characters rosy nose and cheeks really bring him out. The line weight is varied and interesting rather than painful to look at. It doesn't feel like it was made on a computer.

I'm going to be shot for saying this but when I see characters like Roger Ramjet I wish they had more facial color.

patrick said...

A great reminder of what needs to be at the heart of a cartoon!

Alex I.R., Esq. said...

Well I demand a second opinion.

Alot of TV animation of this 'Ramjet' era featured punny wordplay, HEAVY dialogue, and graphic design. Just like Jay Ward's seminal 'Rocky and Bullwinkle'. Just like 'Illustrated Radio'. Charles M. Jones (for instance) may have been guilty of using limited animation, but it always felt more lavish than this.
Too, I'm not a hater of EVERY animated thing of the last 20 years not created by Spumco or any amount of wacky carrot juice. Persons like Pixar (for example) aren't exactly IDIOTS, you know. The way critics and the like talk, you'd gather that these people think outside the box consistantly.
Can we not have any animations that are dramatic or pathotic? And not just anti-social gags, wiseacres, or non sequiters? How do we innovate EVERY TIME?! It's the 36 dramatic situations, they're not a valuable resource. And if we take from real life, it might seem either too one-panel gaggy, or seemingly creepy.
Also, I have my own story of this 'cleansing away' process. When I first saw 'Looney Toons: Back in Action', I didn't "cleanse" myself with 'Rodger Ramjet', clever as it is. No, I cleared my memory with 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit', the seminal live-action/animation combination.

JohnK said...

"Can we not have any animations that are dramatic or pathotic?"

That's not in question. It seems that's ALL we have (in features anyway)

the question I pose is "Can we not have cartoons that are CARTOONS in our own damn business?" We don't even get to have one per half century.

Alex I.R., Esq. said...

I do concede that the drawings in 'Ramjet' are entertaining. I can only imagine how amazing they would look in full animation, animated by Bill Plympton, or a Bill Plympton-type.

Barx said...

The voice work alone in Ramjet cartoons is funny enough to make me chuckle.
That cartoon represents everything I loved about cartoons as a kid and unfortunately everything that is missing from many cartoons today.
Funny drawings, funny voices, simplicity.......

Michael DiMilo said...

Thanks John for another thoughtful post. I haven't seen Roger Ramjet in years and it illustrates Will Finn's point perfectly— straight up funny drawings with lots of exaggeration.

John A said...

Alex, the film I "cleansed" myself with after "LT:Back in Action" was "The Three Cabelerros",which still has some of the best combination footage as well as good solid character animation, ever.

Alex I.R., Esq. said...

'the film I "cleansed" myself with after "LT:Back in Action" was "The Three Cabelerros",which still has some of the best combination footage as well as good solid character animation, ever'

I agree that 'Three Cabelerros' is one of the greats. But because 'Back in Action' was clearly trying to BE 'Roger Rabbit' (in plot), 'Roger Rabbit' was what came to mind initially.
'Song of the South is pretty amazing, too.

Dan szilagyi said...

Thank you for a good and insightful post once again John, i wish i lived in LA just so i could go to events like the life drawing thing, that kind of thing doesn't happen often up here in Vancouver.

I totally agree with the idea of having a simple cartoon with funny ( and well done ) drawings, good timing and so on, so my question is if it's not so expensive to do a "limited" animation show that would be cartoony and funny, how come it isn't being done? heck at that rate it could be kept inside the country as well.
is corporate greed just that huge?

pappy d said...

The workers have seized the means of production!

It's making your animation style fit the subject matter. Just like if you're telling a story about a priest a rabbi & a duck, you don't want to load it down with adjectives. The priest's eyes don't twinkle. You don't care what kind of duck. It's just a priest, a rabbi & a duck who walk into a bar.

Some of the bizarre sight gags in RR happened when footage came back from Mexico all screwed up & there was no time or money to fix it. Sometimes they'd just cut in extreme close-up footaqe of Roger's eyes darting back & forth.

Brubaker said...

"Some of the bizarre sight gags in RR happened when footage came back from Mexico all screwed up & there was no time or money to fix it."

Maybe John can correct me, but I don't think "Roger Ramjet" was outsourced to Mexico. It was done in the US, I believe.

"Rocky and Bullwinkle", meanwhile, was sent over to Gamma Studios in Mexico. Gamma also did the outsourcing work for Total Television (Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo, etc.)