Saturday, April 18, 2009

Big House Blues Spumco 2 - Why Ren no longer Has a Tail

I had to explain that ring around the toilet in an executive meeting. Maybe they had never seen one.
Some people have asked me why Ren had a tail in the pilot and not in the series.
This scene is the reason why. I was always trying to combine limited animation techniques with bits of smooth animation. This was one of those scenes that kinda failed.
I got this dialogue theory from Bob.
Before hitting a big vowel mouth, anticipate it with a tight lipped consonant that is trying to hold back the energy of the loud vowel building up.
then explode into the open mouthed vowel

Insect Ren
This was part of Ren's character from the beginning. He would have moments of lucidity and emotion, but then would revert to insect instinct as he ventured dutifully to his next emotion.
Ren turns his body all the way while leaving his Mantid head in the same position.

This walk was a bugger to animate. I wanted him to be all floppy in the feet and to have his insect head bob up and down as he walked off stage without emotion.
The tail drove me nuts. I was trying to do an old style rubber hose wave cycle on it, and it just kept popping and jerking on me.
Wave cycles are supposed to be simple, but it baffled me this time.
I got so frustrated with this walk that I swore to never animate another tail again.

And that's why Ren had no tail in most of the series - even though I had always drawn him with one in presentations and story pitches.


Kelly Toon said...

is it because it looks kind of rude, or just because it is a complicated bit to animate? I couldn't take my eyes off of it @_@

Niki said...


R.A. MacNeil said...

I love these posts. Thanks so much for posting all these great quicktimes and analysis, very informative.

Thanks for taking the time to put them up.

Anonymous said...

I love Ren's tail. I find it funny that it's a gigantic pube. If I worked for you I would draw the tail, without any or all regard to the consequences or repercussions.

Trevor Thompson said...

So, is this also why BHB looks so stunningly different from anything else in the series?

Because there are a lot of elements of BHB, not just the tail, that always seemed to me to be abandoned for the series to make things easier.

The thick outlines, the extremely caricatured style ( characters and background ) the timing of the gags, etc. I was always amazed by how much it stood out, and as a kid I couldn't figure out why the rest of the series didn't look like the pilot.

Now it just adds to my contempt for executive decision making and the lack of know-how in the industry. Thank God we have ya, John.

"Television is a medium, because nothing on it is ever rare or well-done". Truer words have never been uttered on a Saturday morning.

- trevor.

Jonathan Harris said...

Didn't he have one to be docked by George in the Dog Show episode?

Shawn said...

I always wondered about that!

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Shawn said...

And now I wonder WHY you have to explain a ring in a toilet to an executive. You must have more patience than I do. If I had to deal with that ignorant crap all the time, I would have choked at least a few hundred executives in my lifetime.

Kali Fontecchio said...

That's a good reason, haha.

David Germain said...

Ha. I had a similar situation back in animation school. For one of my assignments, I had a rat doing a sneak cycle. I had to do his tail movement over and over and over again. Finally, I found a cartoon with Sylvester doing a sneak cycle and just copied what his tail was doing.

Yeah, tails can not be effectively done in limited animation. It has to be absoluely fluid or (like you did) it has to go away.

Brubaker said...

I just noticed something. When Ren walks past the toilet, water splashes.

At first, I thought it was a film (or cel) scratch, and didn't realize they were water drops until I freeze framed it.

Whit said...

Unlike pose-to-pose character layouts, tails should be animated straight ahead, to get follow through. Not only is that time-consuming, it would vary from animator to animator, revealing varying skill levels, adding unwanted distraction. You were right to chop Ren's basal spinal appendage.

RobochaoXX said...

I always liked this part because Ren does some really crazy things with his body.

Kerssido said...

I was wondering if he had a tail or not. I've wondered the same thing about Pogo, who sometimes seems to have no tail.

freqazoidiac said...

Wave cycles can be daunting, especially when you take something like the expressive tail of an animal. The disappearing tail, just fits into that surreal portal many animated scenes have fallen into. It's perfect. Have you received this as a question, or did it bug you all this time?? .... ON ANOTHER NOTE.. jeesh, I was listening with the AM radio on, in the background this morning, April 19 2009.. and Billy West was on the programme "coast to coast" with some host some call Ian "the punk" punnit. Well, I see this Ian dude is a "punk". He basically agreed with Billy, when West, commented on some of the fallout from the Nickleodeon deal, and he flatly calls John "yella" (yellow?) on air, for trying to keep the original animation unit integral. That's sad he would say this on a show like this, without John on air too. Did anyone else catch this, this morning?

HC said...

thanks john for give us free animation classes, This blog is my school

Roberto González said...

Insect Ren, as you call it, wasn't very present in APC as long as I remember, and I think it's one of the greatest parts of his character. Well, I am unsure which attitudes describe "insect Ren" and which not, but I especially like when he make that face, the dead eyes and the large mouth, with its multiple variations.

So that part at the begining of "Dog Show" was sort of a meta-reference to this, I guess.

I'm not a fan of the tail cause it looks like a mouse tail more than a chihuahua tail.

CartoonSteve said...

I like that walk. The tail was ok - but what about the ears?? Whats the inside story of why they were clipped?

Ross Irving said...

I have to admit John, the part where Ren walks away from the toilet kind of makes me shudder. It scares me. The walk cycle is fun and suggests warmth and approachability to him, yet his face is just so...dead. In a good way, that is. The music also added to the strange effect the clip had on me.

I didn't know how difficult it was to animate a tail in limited animation, though.