Friday, July 03, 2009

An encyclopedia of animation and cartooning techniques in one scene

Design and Appeal
Design and appeal aren't exactly the same things but they are related. This character was designed in a modernistic style (for 1944-45) by Hank Ketcham. It's very different than the mid 40s WB style. But this cartoon is animated by Bob Clampett's unit of guys and the combination of styles is spectacular.

Hank's design is appealing and the poses drawn by this animator are extremely appealing. You can take a design and draw it in appealing poses - or not - depending on how appealing your own style is.

Line Of Action
The features of the character's design are stretched along clear and strong lines of action.

Construction and Related Features
The construction in most of the drawings is great. Construction, by the way is not merely a solid looking drawing. That's only part of it. The other part is that each of the features fit into the larger forms and weave in and out of the expression and pose. Remind me to do a whole post about that. A house can be solidly constructed, but a creature has to have construction and fleshy parts that stretch and squash, push and pull and all cause each other to react sensibly.

For example - look at his smile line and cheek and the back of his cheek in the profile - they all relate to each other and together create fleshy forms that flow around his head and make his expressions.

When this guy turns his head moves in an arc which helps make the action smooth and pleasant.

Overlapping Action
His hair doesn't get to his poses as fast as his head does.

Note that his expressions and poses aren't perfectly even on both sides.

Funny Expressions
His expressions are not only clear and direct functionally, they are funny and fun to look at. They are beautiful designs in of themselves.

Specific Expressions
A lot of the shapes used to make his expressions are customized to his thoughts. They aren't stock expressions. When you watch this part in the clip, watch his mouth shapes change. You can't find these shapes on any model sheets or in other cartoons. The animator is making them up as he goes along - by feel and instinct. He's acting.

Spontaneity and Looseness
In the animator's rush to make his poses and emotions flow from one to the next, he made a mistake in construction on the odd pose, like the one above. But it's a great pose anyway.

Flow - Organic Feel
To make characters both constructed and flowing is no easy feat. It takes a lot of study, thought, practice and skill.


The faster the action, the more drag you can use. This whole action here is amazing as you'll see when you watch the clip. He does a whole whirly sort of overlapping action as he brings his mop into the scene.

Anticipation and moving holds

In the middle of the clip it cuts to another animator.
The timing of this animation is full of variety, some slow soft parts, some fast wild parts and it moves very naturally, even though it uses all kinds of technical drawing and motion principles. It doesn't come off as a formula.


The first scene was animated by Rod Scribner, who I think is the most talented and versatile animator in history. (take a look at some of his UPA style stuff and see how cleverly he approaches it). Most animators have their basic principles and if they are extra gifted, maybe one or 2 strengths on top of them. Scribner puts together all kinds of skills and makes them flow as if there was no effort involved at all.

The second scene also moves beautifully, but the drawings aren't as fun as Scribner's. They don't have as much appeal. Appeal is a very rare trait and can't be forced without looking contrived - although many do try to contrive it. Some people just have it naturally.
This cartoon is full of great stuff, and I'll post more soon.

This is a great scene to study and copy the drawings if you are a student trying to learn classic skills.


Joel Brinkerhoff said...


Ted said...

Don't forget to promote Cartoon for Victory, with Hook and John K. commentary...

Kali Fontecchio said...

I love that design.... I swear I've sen it somewhere else...

Niki said...

I had been looking for Hook, thank you.

eminkey2003 said...

Thanks for summing up what you've been saying. This post makes it all much easier to understand.

HemlockMan said...

I've never seen nor heard of this character.

The animation looks as good as you say it is. But I don't like the character. The pig-nosed human is just way too unattractive. One major reason is that I used to know a guy who looked like that--a jerk. He got married and I saw his wife one day after not seeing them for a number of years. She was in a grocery store pushing a cart. In the cart was a pig-nosed boy-child. He'd reproduced!

Geneva said...

Wonderful stuff! Thank you so much, John.

CartoonSteve said...

Great animation - great post!

Hey everyone, I just saw Michael Pataki as a vampire in "Grave of the Vampire" 1974 -- Found online here at the: Internet Archive ... or if you're quick, you can catch it on The Its Alive Show

Joseff said...

thanks for the very educative post, for me one of the best.

Gerhard Cruywagen said...

Great post! I was actually pondering the exact same thing the other day. About how a character's appeal relates to it's relationship between good design and being drawn in an appealing pose. And perhaps the only appealing pose is a specific pose - specific to what a character is thinking and how he's feeling (in other words, acting). I did a little Hook construction practice on my blog a while back. I think I'll do more. I love these Scribner poses. Very inspirational stuff!

Anonymous said...

John, could you look at this study I did. I'm having so much trouble drawing Captain Hook's head.

drawingtherightway said...

Hey John you mentioned that the animator made a mistake in construction in that one image and I was wondering what the mistake is?

the plummer said...

That's crazy...I had never heard about this character until this morning when I watched a clip...the one about war bonds. Then I see you have a post on here. Good review of it too. Loved this character and the animation was hilarious for such a short piece.

El Funzo said...

If that model-sheet's blurb is anything to go off, Hook was more or less made to advertise the Navy, right?

It's amazing then that a small propaganda cartoon would be better animated then the majority of mainstream television today.