Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Big House Blues - Carbunkle Animation 1

The best animation studio I ever worked with was Carbunkle in Vancouver Canada. BHB was the first thing we did together. At the time the studio consisted basically of Bob Jaques and Kelly Armstrong. (They can correct me if I'm wrong)

BOB JAQUES
I think I probably gave Bob just 2 layouts for this scene. It looks like it was drawn partly by Jim Smith and partly by me. Each character that moved - basically just did the same thing left and right in the layouts, and Bob added overlap and smooth timing and something else that made the scene really come to life.

I liked it so much in fact, that when I saw it I added cuts of close ups of the animation so that the audience could really appreciate it.
I won't presume to try to explain just what he did to smooth it all out and give it such a swingin' feel, because I really don't know. I'm just a big fan of it. He's obviously using classic animation principles, but he's placing the details in beautiful designy motions. They don't just "work". They move gracefully. He combines design principles and motion principles in a unique way. Maybe this comes from Bob's stylish caricatures.
Stimpy has toes!
Somewhere in there I added this shot from a later David Feiss scene just to add a musical accent.

It was all just supposed to be one scene happening on the long shot, but when I saw how well Bob animated the dancing to "Der Screamin' Lederhosen's" "Dog Pound Hop", I dragged the sequence out to enjoy more of the music and animation. When those 2 elements work together, I feel you should milk it. If the animation was crappy and had no punch, I would have cut away as fast as possible to the story.
video

For hi-rez clip:

http://www.cartoonthrills.org/JKE/01MoreBlog/Spumco/BigHouseBlues/BobDanceRSCycle.mov

KELLY ARMSTRONG

Here's a couple layouts I did for a scene that Kelly animated. She has a style all her own, as if she just reinvented the wheel to suit her own purposes.

Yes, I stole Jasper the Pup from Milt Gross back when I was trying to promote him to all my animators and cartoonists - many of whom hated him! I also wanted to animate his mouths all crazy, sort of like Jim Tyer, so I drew a couple mouth positions off to the side of his head, making no sense. Here's one.

Kelly took this idea much further and really exaggerated the heck out it, even adding a "shrink take" - also inspired by Jim Tyer.
My layout for Ren stretching to yawn looked something like this, and again...
...Kelly kept going, taking it further. This was something I just never expected from anybody. I was so used to everyone toning down the drawings that they got from the previous department, that it was really a shock to see someone take my poses and go way further.
She did another amazing thing that you would never expect from a studio that is animating from your layouts. She listened really carefully to the voice track and added her own custom-made poses to match exactly all the subtleties in the track. Usually you would get fired for that. "If it isn't written on the ex-sheets, don't do it."
I probably drew one yawn pose, but when I recorded the yawn, I broke it up into 3 or 4 pieces, without thinking about the animation. "Ahh...ah...ah...ah...
So Kelly made up different faces in sequence that really added a lot of realism to the scene.
Even though a lot of the cartoon is theoretically "limited animation", Carbunkle's additions and nuances made the characters really come to life in a way that people just weren't used to seeing in cartoons from the 1980s.





Ren and Stimpy would not have looked or felt anything like it did had I not completely overturned the whole TV animation system for it to happen. Had I just sent these layouts to Asia - like I was advised to do, they would have come back basically evenly inbetweened and traced horribly. The effect of this is to make the characters just float through the scenes. You never focus on anything important, because all the poses have equal time on the screen. There are no accents. I've had this happen to my cartoons many times, and end up begging for retakes and explaining what "animation" is as opposed to "inbetweening".

What Bob and Kelly did on the Ren and Stimpy pilot (and the later cartoons) was to treat each scene as if it were unique and happening right now, caused by various factors - the story, the personalities, the emotion, etc. There was no obvious formula timing. Everything was accented hierarchically and added drama and punctuation to the cartoon. They added their own poses to punch it up even further.

I'm gonna put up a bunch of scenes from Big House Blues, relatively in order. Another thing that happens naturally among talented artists (if you let it happen) is - they evolve. They get better with each scene and with each cartoon. In Big House Blues, all the animators got better by the end of this very short cartoon, just because there was no one standing in their way feeding them arbitrary rules to hold their development back. No Ranger Smiths!

Carbunkle animated part of this cartoon and we did the other part at Spumco. It was a healthy way to work and we spurred each other on to see who could do the wildest stuff. - but there is a lot of subtlety too; it just gets lost among the wackiness. video

http://www.cartoonthrills.org/JKE/01MoreBlog/Spumco/BigHouseBlues/KellyYawn.mov



See lots of Carbunkle animation on these two box sets.


63 comments:

Sean W. said...

Wow, I gotta watch this one again. I can't believe I watched this for granted without appreciating the effort and creativity that had gone into it! If only I had a frame-by-frame implemented DVD player.

Isaac said...

Brilliant. This is animation.

John said...

This is my favourite Ren & Stimpy!

I'm doing a short right now, and I'm trying to draw as funny as I can - this cartoon has inspired that.

So what was Nick's problem with the kiss scene?

Lluis said...

Yeah this is great stuff John, I also been digging the past posts!! I hope the pitch goes well!

All the best!

J.R. Spumkin said...

Say, John: on one of my blogs, I found a huge list of great screenshots from "Stimpy's First Fart". There's a lot of really good animation in that cartoon, but I don't know who did what.

If you ever need 'em, I'll gladly give you the link.

Rudy Tenebre said...

Big House is something special, methinks it's the only Ren and Stimpy cartoon which delights me frame to frame, scene to scene. Ink and paint, and all.

Bill Wright said...

Ah, that one's a classic! The early '90s were a golden time for cartoons.

Any chance of you doing some new Ren & Stimpy toons in the near future?

R.A. MacNeil said...

I love that Stimpy just slides out when the camera pans to Ren and Jasper. Brillant solution to a composition and continuity problem. I've watched this cartoon many times and I've never noticed it before.

JohnK said...

Nope. But I have lots more characters.
If we could get the same circumstances again, I think you would be happy with the results.

Rick Roberts said...

I am glad to see this up John.

Nico said...

I first saw Big House Blues when I was 6 years old, and 18 years later it's still something that has changed my life. This is one of my favorite cartoon shorts in the history of animation, pure and simple. I would freeze-frame this all through growing up and I'd copy so many drawings. I really can't say enough good things about BHB. Every frame is a masterpiece!!

JohnK said...

"Say, John: on one of my blogs, I found a huge list of great screenshots from "Stimpy's First Fart". "

Sure J.R.

I'd love to see that.


Thanks,

John

JohnK said...

"I am glad to see this up John."

I've said it all before and will again. it'll be in the Spumco book too.

Niki said...

I remember this! Oh, maybe what Ms. Kelly did is something that just happens when everything's done right? I could imagine her probably reviewing her notebook full of stuff she wants to remember about and apply to her cartoons.

I hope they liked your pitch yesterday!

tobor68 said...

i saw this for the first time at the princess cinema in kitchener (i think?). there was an animation festival and my first exposure to the animated short as a medium other than what came before; WB and Disney shorts.

i wish i still had the program as it featured your short on the cover, a picture of the dog catcher (can't remember that character's name).

anyway, i think it was a year of two later when ren & stimpy premiered on MuchMusic. i saw BHB and after about 5 min. i was having the most incredible sense of deja vu. then i remembered the princess cinema.

this is truly one of the modern classic cartoons. it'd be nice to see the industry acknowledge this. considering the amout of money they made emulating, no, ripping off your style.

Oliver_A said...

Big House Blues looks beautiful, much better than the first episode, which is still a breakthrough in TV animation, but seems quite a bit rougher.

I hope the pitch went sensational, as it should have been, looking at the material you have been producing.

Trevor Thompson said...

Katie said she convinced you to do another cartoon that was like BHB ( probably my fave R&S of the original series ) for APC. What happened?

Also, did Nick make you tone down the designs of Ren and Stimpy? Because it's a world of difference from BHB to The Big Shot.

The last question is: would this be the only Ren and Stimpy short that didn't have any Korean involvement?

- trevor.

Vincent Waller said...

I'll never figure out how you find time to do all these posts. Do you never sleep?

JohnK said...

Well I got none last night and doing these posts gets things that are weighing on my mind off them.

Especially when I read people misquoting me and then arguing with the misquotes when I'm not there and getting madder and madder about it. Like not just normal mad. Like getting psychotic threats in my comments.

I must be the single most misquoted human on the planet.

Tell me why, Vincent. I do need some sleep.

It's hard for me to imagine anyone giving other artists more credit than I do and it's never enough.

It's gonna take years to mention everyone I admire and who deserves success and notoriety, and in the meantime people will find things to argue about no matter what I do.

I guess the internet is the safe place to get mad at everything without thinking first.

Nate said...

how did the pitch go?

JohnK said...

It got rescheduled.

For the 2nd time.

But we sure have a lot of art and stories for it.

chadcolby said...

Hey John,

Not sure if you have seen this, but thought you would get a kick out of it.

its a montage of all the disney cookie cutter scenes.

http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1906578

Adam T said...

I guess the internet is the safe place to get mad at everything without thinking first.

Comments and message boards will always cause people to get really pissy because people can read and reread something they disagree with and stew over it.

Plus everybody looks mostly the same in the comments. Everybody has an avatar and a name and it's easy for us to just run our mouths in this little comment box and think our opinions are just as informed as anyone else.

Plus these public forums just encourage people who want attention to make a big stink over nothing just to get it.

But you have to take the good with the bad. People get to see quality cartoons here and that's what matters. People can argue theory all day and it doesn't make any difference. People know in an instant whether somebody is speaking from experience or whether somebody is all talk. We just have to click the persons name in the comments and see if people post good work on their blogs.

Oliver_A said...

Dear John,

Especially when I read people misquoting me and then arguing with the misquotes when I'm not there and getting madder and madder about it. Like not just normal mad. Like getting psychotic threats in my comments.

that's because people in general love to distort everything into simple black/white schemes. Especially if it is something which stands in contrast to their preconcieved opinions, unable to re-evaluate them.

Another factor is that you are a celebrity. Some people might feel better about themselves by putting you down, instead of spending the same amount of time on improving themselves.

The third factor is: people don't like hard truths. Not knowing you personally, you seem to be an honest person with strong convictions and who doesn't shy away from discussion and conflicts. Most people aren't like that, thinking conflicts are generally bad and should be avoided, even if they are necessary and true. "How could you say such rude things about Family Guy???"

That being said: many people working in the entertainment industry seem to appear fake, spoiled and totally detached from reality.

You, on the other hand, come off as a real human being. People around the world highly value your thoughts, so there is absolutely no reason for sleeples nights.

You are going to kick ass this time! :D

Trevor Thompson said...

I must be the single most misquoted human on the planet.

Were Jesus still around, he'd give you a run for your money.

- trevor.

JohnK said...

hi Oliver

thank you, I appreciate it. I bet many people wouldn't agree though.
But I don't expect to be agreed with on everything. I'm happy to have my mind changed by a reasonable argument and some back up.

You should hear the arguments my best friends and I have. But they don't get psychotic.

drawingtherightway said...

Hey John I'm glad that you put that part in your post about part of the cartoon being animated at Carbunkle and the other part at Spumco. I saw in a couple posts you made where you said they sent the scenes out to be animated elsewhere and was wondering if Spumco animated anything in house being that they are a cartoon studio. Now I know the answer! I'm assuming this was done to get the cartoon done faster by splitting the workload.

By the way I was watching some of Chuck Jones's warner brothers shorts when they showed them on TCM a couple weeks ago and the host said that the typical time to create a short was 5 to 6 weeks. This surprised me! I know they are just shorts but I thought it would have taken way longer then that. Is this about the time it took you to create some of your shorts?

JohnK said...

I think it was 5 or 6 weeks PER department, not from beginning to end.


They had to deliver 8 or 10 cartoons a year and overlapped them in production.
We did BHB pretty fast, but I don't remember exactly how fast.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I'm glad that yawn and other bits were in the intro of the show. If I saw Ren and Sitmpy was up next, that means I needed to go grab some cereal to scarf down to fully enjoy the watching experience- I had to run like hell to get it ready in time so I wouldn't miss the intro to the show to see some of my favorite parts- the clips form Big House Blues!

How come cereal and cartoons are sooo good together?

Ted said...

How much do you think the hand inking in Big House Blues affects the final product?

JohnK said...

It made it look extra beautiful. It was done at Bardel with much care.

I don't like xeroxing.

Jay Taylor said...

John,

Hands down, Big House Blues is the best R&S ever. I love the fact that Ren has a tail, and those weird toenails! The animation is so much more cartoony then the series.

Not to mention BRUSH INKING on CELS shot on FILM!

It's really a shame that the series couldn't have been like this. I guess there just wasn't the budget to pull it off?

JohnK said...

It's not only a matter of budget.

We had a small crew of top talent doing one short for BHB.

When we went to series we had to hire 50 people and train most of them. Both Spumco and Carbunkle.

And we had to work on multiple cartoons at once, which is much harder.

And we sent inbetweening to Asia, where they changed lots of stuff.

Trevor Thompson said...

The only other time R&S looked like this was in this bumper that ran on Nick. Who did this one, John?

- trevor.

Shawn said...

Ren & Stimpy's designs in Big House Blues has always been my favorite. They just looked so damn cool in this cartoon! Especially Ren---I like his big ears, eyes, and head spots. I still freeze frame this cartoon all the time just to admire the cartoon beauty! Sure the acting got better in the later (Spumco) cartoons, but the way they were drawn in the pilot still sends me. So does the animation!

>>You should hear the arguments my best friends and I have. But they don't get psychotic.<<

Remember our argument over Betty and Veronica (who's hotter), when I threw beer in your face and stomped on your foot, demanding that you see things MY way?

Oliver_A said...

Hey John,

thank you, I appreciate it. I bet many people wouldn't agree though.

always remember that with every single psychotic post you get, there is a large silent majority behind you who deeply appreciates your thoughts, your knowledge, your work and most important, youself. You know, on the Internet, the most annoying people are much too often the most vocal, and one shouldn't get distracted by that, because in the end, it's like fighting a Lernaean Hydra.

When those spoiled hippies misuse the hard earned privileges of freedom of speech, which were given to them by their forefathers, to behave uncivilized, we need George Liquor to set them straight once and for all!! ;)


But I don't expect to be agreed with on everything. I'm happy to have my mind changed by a reasonable argument and some back up.


I guess that's how it's supposed to work. No logical flaw in that.

You should hear the arguments my best friends and I have. But they don't get psychotic.

Most people who write those messages sit in their comfy chair behind the computer and would instantly fall apart once being confronted in REAL LIFE. ;)

But, now addressing a more important topic, is there anything WE can do to support you in your quest to get that goddamn show on the air? Anything in addition of buying your DVD's like crazy?

Take care,

Oliver

John Young said...

"Remember our argument over Betty and Veronica (who's hotter), when I threw beer in your face and stomped on your foot, demanding that you see things MY way?"

People were having this same argument on the bus one time and got so mad. Anyone who likes veronica over betty is in for a bad life.

Patrick Désilets said...

Is there really a spumco book coming?
I can't wait for it honestly.

Especially after reading a post like this. Amazing drawings with good stories and advice behind them, they're my favourite. Thanks a lot, that stuff is very inspiring!

JohnK said...

Yeah, there is. Should I put up the odd exerpt?

Ben said...

Yeah, there is. Should I put up the odd exerpt?

Yes, please!

Is it going to be in the same vein as Ralph Bakshi's book?

Trevour said...

That's amazing! I never really bothered to analyze this cartoon frame by frame! I've seen it a zillion times yet all these stills showed me stuff I never noticed before. Time to whip out the DVD and prime that pause button!

Jack G. said...

Here's a heads up for you, John K.
A Milt Gross Collection is coming out.

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Milt-Gross-Comic-Stories/dp/1600105467/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239225807&sr=1-7

J.R. Spumkin said...

"'Say, John: on one of my blogs, I found a huge list of great screenshots from "Stimpy's First Fart'. "

Sure J.R.

I'd love to see that.


Thanks,

John."

Here are the links:

http://spum-blog.blogspot.com/2009/01/son-of-stimpy-something-came-out-of-my_19.html

http://spum-blog.blogspot.com/2009/01/son-of-stimpy-something-came-out-of-my.html

http://spum-blog.blogspot.com/2009/01/son-of-stimpy-intro.html

Vincent Waller said...

Ha! The short answer John, is yes. on the internet we pick each other apart over perceived slights, snubs, or insults and fail to keep the big picture in mind. I have a folder labeled Stupid Animation Arguments that I've participated in, and yes I am as guilty of overreacting as anyone.

I also don't know anyone that has run a show that doesn't have a small army (See I'm internet exaggerating again.) of people that harbor some ill will toward them. Over the way they handled running said shows. An army that are willing share their horror stories and views anytime the other peoples names are mentioned. It's lonely at the top.
When will I learn to proofread before I post.....Never.

Thomas said...

I have to admit, I haven't seen many Ren and Stimpy cartoons. I didn't have a tv in the early 90's, much less cable. I caught up recently a few months ago, when I saw an episode, directed by John K, at 3:30 one early Sunday morning. I Wikied Ren and Stimpy, and found this blog, and have been following it ever since.

I have to admit I'm a fan of the blog.

P.S.I'll be ordering my R&S dvd soon when I got me some cabbage.

Great seeing this clip, and Boo Boo Runs Wild, which is on Comicrazys

Vincent Waller said...

Ha! The short answer John, is yes. on the internet we pick each other apart over perceived slights, snubs, or insults and fail to keep the big picture in mind. I have a folder labeled Stupid Animation Arguments that I've participated in, and yes I am as guilty of overreacting as anyone.

I also don't know anyone that has run a show that doesn't have a small army (See I'm internet exaggerating again.) of people that harbor some ill will toward them. Over the way they handled running said shows. An army that are willing share their horror stories and views anytime the other peoples names are mentioned. It's lonely at the top.

Mitch K said...

MAN the designs in this were so cool! The inking really is beautiful, too.

Roberto González said...

I love to know there is going to be a Spumco book.

I've always loved Jasper's expressions and the "shrink" take.

I had never concentrated on how great Ren's arms look in these frames, though.

Love the colors in this cartoon!

Good luck with the pitch, it's about time you get a chance to make a show with those characters. They have certainly been around a lot of years without having a regular show, which is certainly a same with so many mediocre series perpetuating on tv.

Brubaker said...

I loved the pilot episode. Let me mirror others and say that it's a shame that the rest of the series didn't have this kind of animation (not that the show was bad or anything, but still).

I feel the same way about the Rocko pilot vs. the actual series. The pilot was animated entirely in California, with the creator doing 50% of the animation himself.

Michael said...

"I've said it all before and will again. it'll be in the Spumco book too." Great stuff! Can't wait for it!

Dan szilagyi said...

Hi John,

I had the pleasure of having my teachers at Film school be former Carbunkle animators and their work for sure had that " john k " style behind it ( of course they had their own unique styles though )

But thank you for putting this up and showing who did what because i never knew from just watching it, my only regret is not being able to be a part of it all.

I would love to see more posts like this as well, keep it up

Cheers~

-RJ said...

My daughter is 3 years old. A few nights previous I dug up my R&S season one box set and watched all of it.

This morning my daughter asked me for Powdered Toast. When I told her that it's not real, she said "BUT I LOVE POWDERED TOAST!" and then started fake-crying.

Eff you, Kricfalusi. Or, send me some powdered toast. I'm thinking maybe cinnamon toast crunch in a blender will do.

Roberto González said...

I forgot to say I always feel sorry about Phil in this cartoon. He has a brief appearance, but he looks like a swell guy.

There is and odd shot of Ren at the end of the cartoon. He suddenly looks extremely tiny, was that a mistake or it was intentional? I don't mind it, it's just out of curiosity.

Another thing I always think when I watch BHB is that they surely ripped off the girl at the end in Tiny Toons for the annoying Elmyra character.

Michael said...

John, I watched those two scenes in slow motion on the computer and came accross my new favourite Ren expression: http://myfavouritecartoondrawings.blogspot.com/2009/04/ren-pose-kelley-armstrong-big-house.html
I hope to see more drawings like this in the future!

Vincent Waller said...

Robert don't feel too badly for Phil. The last shot in the original board had him burst up out of his grave shout I'm alive, and run off to freedom. I think it was time and money that kept the scene from making it to screen.Boarded but not animated. That was before I started work at Spumco. So I'm not entirely clear on the reasons.

Chip Butty said...

Oh my god, Jasper IS the Milt Gross dog!!

I always love when Jasper dramatically grabs at the air and intones "You don't wake up...from the BIIIIG SLEEP" before zipping back to his knowing, detached pose with Milt Gross tongue-out-the-side!

DANGERUSS said...

Yes, tone it down. That's what the producers told me when they said they wanted 70's Hanna Barbera style for a new show. It seems we can't even copy 70's limited animation and style anymore. It's nice to see that you could do something good in a 'modern' system.

Great episode by the way.

Corey said...

I have a tape of the new Baby Huey show, done here, did you have anything to do with that?

It has Bob J's name on them.

JohnK said...

No, that was completely Carbunkle's work.

Corey said...

Ah I see.

It's an awesome show, dunno what ever happened to it.

Anyways, send more work here please. Tons of talent up here as you know.

Patrick Désilets said...

Yes, please do put up the odd exerpt!

Actually there's so much fine stuff on your blog already I've kind of been expecting a book would come out of it.

When people ask me "dude how you learn animation" I always tell them: Preston's book and John's blog.

Traie said...

I agree Corey, The New baby Huey show had some really great character animation even if it was derived or based on the Spumco style, at that time for syndicated Sunday Morning TV it was really welcome. Met some of the animators in Montreal almost 10 years back and I got to see tons of original pencil roughs and these guys were really good artists (but sadly working on gawd awful terrible cartoons in MTL for Cinar at the time). I´d love to see this show again and if anyone can direct me to a site when I could learn more about the series I´d appreciate it...was it ever released on video or DVD?

Cisco said...

Mr. K. do you still keep in contact with Carbunkle? I'm stuck on wanting to know what's to come of the '94 baby huey show and those episodes that never aired. I was in the Yucatan rain forest those years with nothing but a horse, some seeds and a shuvle. I only remember seeing an intro someone recorded on a BETA I picked up at a flee market; damn episode was recorded over by soap op. crap and at least one good segment that made it more worth saving. Oh, and how's "Life Sucks" coming along?