Sunday, September 27, 2009

Does Everybody Want To Be A Character Designer?

A young cartoonist asked me to critique her work:

Hello Mr. Kricfalusi,

now after reading recently your posts from your blog (specially the parts where you comment about how old cartoons turned to what they are now, conservative, bland, etc.) they really called my attention-- it's something I usually don't hear. Therefore, that's why you're perfect for criticisms that I usually won't hear- for my drawings.

So far people are saying to me "Great drawing!" or, when I ask for advice to professionals, they basically tell me "Just draw every day". One example of why I doubt is, that Kristen McCabe added a comment on my blog: "Nice drawings!". Kristen is someone I highly admire. I love her looseness and control. So I couldn't stop myself from being "proud and happy" but.... What did she really mean? She actually liked my drawings because it contained originality and creativity? She had a personal tendency when she saw my stuff? Or am I thinking too much?

What I want is to hear at once is a different opinion, a new perspective about my drawings. If you think they're crap, I want to know why and which techniques/media I shouldn't be using. If you think they are good, I want to know why and which techniques I should keep.
I'd be really grateful if you could take your time to answer this message.

Thank you very much for reading,


(These aren't her drawings, but they illustrate a point I tried to make to her)

So I responded:

I think that you are obviously very talented.

My only criticism is that you are through no fault of your own concentrating more on design and style, than on functionality.

It's the same criticism I have of many young talented cartoonists.
Because there is an overall modern "style", young cartoonists absorb it unwittingly and each thinks they invented it, but to old codgers like me, it all looks the same.

I equate the modern western style with that Canadian TV show (Total Drama Island) where everything is flat, angular and cold. Whatever curves there are look like they were traced from circle templates.

Everything is trying so hard to be a simple flat abstract graphic statement, that the artists who have to move the characters can't custom make an emotion or pose. Instead, they have to force every idea into this restricted set of modern design habits or unconscious rules and never break out into drawing either funny or human. You are forced to be extremely unnatural. With this kind of design sensibility, you are chained to unemotional insincerity.

There is some website that's called "Character Design" or something like that and it's full of what I'm talking about. Very cold, repetitive inbred modern cartoon designs, that aren't meant to be used as living characters that can move and emote and be individuals.

A character design is not a work of art in itself. It's a functional starting point for animators to use to make real personality with - not just more of the same that's all around us. If this makes any sense or not, ask me more questions

Your pal,

John K.
Here's the same flat modern coldness, mixed with Don Bluth and lumpiness.
None of these characters look like they have any life or personality of their own. They are stock symbols with tons of built in restrictions.

I can say this because I drew kind of like this in the 80s, and had a real tough time drawing poses that fit my own story demands.
my embarrassing 80s flat period
I had to learn to draw better and stop thinking about being cool, before I was able to actually create continuity poses that told the stories and expressed the unique personalities of the characters. Drawing layouts for the Jetsons, forced me to learn posing and acting and continuity because I had to put designs into functional practice. Then Mighty Mouse and Ren and Stimpy. With each show I and my fellow cartoonists became more functional - because we had to. We were telling stories with our own drawings, not just designing characters in the abstract and leaving them up to Flash animators to move the pieces around on a flat plane.

I did however make some fake commercials in a flat style as a nostalgic nod to 50s commercials but I never would have guessed it would lead to almost 20 years of stuff getting more and more flat and functionless:

Believe it or not, these images are not all from the same show.


Gavin said...

Blame the Flash revolution for creating this modern style of flat, angled character designs. It helped to make lazy character design popular.

HemlockMan said...

But...I LIKE the demon from Samurai Jack!

JohnK said...

Everybody likes this stuff. They were raised on it.

The Blue Orange said...

There was actually a point where, while I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong with my drawings, I looked to current cartoons for clues.

I thought I had a "Eureka" moment when I thought, "Oh, these cartoons are all using straight lines and angles, that must be what I'm doing wrong".

As such, I have a batch of drawings from that (Thankfully) short period where all my drawings were made almost entirely of straight lines and C curves (As S curves were just way too wacky!)

Interesting post as always, but I gotta admit now I'm a little peeved that whenever I watch Samurai Jack I'm going to think of TDI. It's one of those times where someone points out something to you and now you can't help but notice it all the time.

Matt said...

Genndy Tartokovsky is the only person who not only made that angular style popular, he's the only person who was able to do anything fun and original with it. I think it's unfortunate how everyone else only emulates that look, without knowing how to make use of the design, but that's been a common practice for decades.

Tartokovsky's take on Star Wars: Clone Wars was more fun and entertaining than the damn movies they were based on, by far, not to mention more fun and original than any other cartoons out there at the time. I think you do him and his work a bit of a disservice by lumping them in with obvious rip-offs.

Everyone likes Samurai Jack, because it was a great show that had a great story, with simple but fun designs that only worked because Genndy knows what he's doing.

Rick Roberts said...

Thes best thing about Samurai Jack was the backgrounds.

John A said...

Not everybody wants to be a character designer. I myself never wanted to be anything but an animator, but since they stared sending the work overseas to be handled by foreigners, what is there left to do?

A.M.Bush said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roberto González said...

Fair enough, I agree with what you said but you'd also agree that it's still better than other styles that exist today.

Personally I'm incapable of doing things like those, even when I somewhat tried to do it deliberately. And I think it has something to do with what you said. I'm obsessed with facial expressions, so if I have to choose between a cool and "design-y" look or a funny facial expression I always chose the later.

So I guess I'm more or less in the right way.

"Billy and Mandy" has quite expressive facial expressions but maybe what separates it from Tartakovsky in "Dexter's Lab" is that rigid black shape around their bodies. They do funny things with their faces but they don't squash and stretch too much.

Jeremy said...

It's a fair criticism and many artists working in the Canadian tv industry don't want to draw or animate this way either. You're doing the right thing by starting your cartoon college so you have talent to make cartoons that match your vision. More variety is a good thing for entertainment. Great to see more work from your students that ask honest questions.

Jesse Benjamin said...


Please forgive my ignorance, but I'm trying to figure something out. I've been reading your blog for a while and I'm trying to pin down a few wayward thoughts I've had about the lessons you're teaching.

I definitely understand what you're saying about the cartoons of old and the cartoons of now. The round, the bendable, the expressive vs. the flat, the square, the angular.

I know you mentioned a few posts back that you really enjoyed the Beatles Rock Band promo animation, the same animators who tackled the Gorillaz videos (which you also said you enjoyed, right?)

As a fan of Jamie Hewlett, the Gorillaz illustrator, im trying to figure out why the Gorillaz artwork doesn't fall under this posting about flat, angular "modern" cartoons?*Zls8cKMBkpRFvuVTLIod4mRTBoIFeI-2MIsavuNhXjBDRvUMiBHY1/gorillaz.jpg

Or does it? Is there something about the animation that supercedes the overly "modern" design?

When I freeze frame the Beatles Rock Band trailer, the character designs seems pretty angular.

Am I missing your point completely? I not trying to phrase this question in any kind of "gotcha!" way - I'd really appreciate it you'd explain what I'm not understanding, or if I'm totally off the mark.

Thanks a lot John.

Martin Juneau said...

Oh yeah. The creepy Flash animations used in many Canadians shows who make the character angular, flat and unnatural. That's why today's Canadians shows sucks (Thanks for put J2S picture first because i forced myself to watch that. Very terrible and a bad Billy and Mandy rip-off.) unlike in Norman McClaren times where it was real Art. Now every animated cartoons is made for be hip, cool and completely vague except if the cartoonists really want to break the rules.

Jack G. said...

So John K went through a "crappy flat period"?

Gives me hope to see your drawings from the eighties.

Isaac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coffee is a Girl's Best Friend said...

Everyone who wants to be a character designer should be required to take years of traditional animation classes. Nothing teaches you how crappy and disfunctional your designs are like drawing them over and over and making them move! People think character design is drawing your character in one or two poses, turning it over to the animators and then kicking back. Not so.

Kristina said...

If you want to design characters, you might be better suited to writing comics. There's more room to be off-model.

Also, I have some more exercises up:

Davi Blight said...

When i was growing up, I think i felt exactly what you are saying but didnt realize it. I got out of watching cartoons right about the time the Powerpuff Girls came on. I really did like the show, but i got bored of looking at it really quickly. With so little personality in their faces it felt like i was always watching the same episodes with the same stock facial expressions for angry, happy or sad.

Coffee, I wish i had a job where i could focus more than 1-3 days on a design :P

This industry is so corporate and bullheaded that everything has to be rushed to get the best $ out of it.

de aap said...

Dear John, thank you for your great blog. I think you really have a point with your critique on modern animation. (Although I have to admit that I actually like Samurai Jack, Clone wars and other stuuf you dislike like the Pixar movies)

I am an animation student in the Netherlands and I think that your right about the lack of traditional techniques in modern teaching.

Thank you for posting about the old masters, your cartoon college posts are extremely educational!

cartoonretro said...

Ed Benedict, Kimball and Oreb could do very graphic, angular designs but they were still solid forms drawn with perspective. Shapes had a top, front, sides, and bottom.
That Snooper and Blabber drawing posted a few days ago blew my mind- such a sophisticated arrangement of cool shapes- angular and graphic but all fitting around solid forms. It's my favorite cartoon style, and I can't even imagine being able to draw something so complex.
Clearly if you try to draw that style without understanding solid drawing and perspective you end up with this current style - characters run over by a steamroller.

AShortt said...

You make your point well here. I hate the designer flatness trend. It reminds me of those old cardboard cut out clothes my sis had for mixing and matching in an old barbie type 'cloths designer' kit. She was supposed to punch out the cloths then mix and match on cut out figures. The cloths had little tabs you bent around the character to display them, I hated those and so did she, this reminds me of that.

Steve said...

This bland design style has got to go. Despite the few good how- to books that he has put out, I think Christopher Hart is in part to blame for promoting this crappy style through his books. I've had work turned down for not looking more like this. I really want to thank you John for trying to educate today's cartoonists and your efforts to put an end to this garbage. Please let me know if i may send you some of my work so you can give me a real and constructive critique. Thanks again in advance...

Bitter Animator said...

I notice many of those characters appear to have been scalped, missing the tops of their skulls. That must be rough on them.

As Gavin says, Flash has a large part to play right now.

There's as much effort being put in to actually stop people making their own custom poses and expressions to keep consistency in a show that is being churned out. That is usually seen as more important than anything else so those flat scalped visuals play a big part there.

I would have thought, however, that those 'flat modern coldness mixed with Don Bluth and lumpiness' characters would have been pretty versatile. I don't like their giant faces, but I would have thought they offered some animation opportunities.

JohnK said...

"As a fan of Jamie Hewlett, the Gorillaz illustrator, im trying to figure out why the Gorillaz artwork doesn't fall under this posting about flat, angular "modern" cartoons?"

Read Shane's comment about Tom Oreb, Ed Benedict etc. He explains it very well.

Daniel Poeira said...

The problem is not the angles themselves, but the way the character design is built. These Flashy TV toons are animated like cut-outs, not as masses. The characters are always flat and look and feel like Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Gorillaz characters can easily be drawn in a turn around, while the Total Drama Island characters would need a lot of new cut-outs to do so.

If you want to check if the design works, make the character receive a basketball, turn 180 degrees on his heels, and jump up to throw the ball. Most TV toons would have a hard time doing this, because they no mass. They are basically some random shaped with huge eyes and a mouth that just won't stop flicking as they speak endlessly.

Zoran Taylor said...

"Everybody likes this stuff. They were raised on it."

I hated it even before I had any idea who John K. was. I'm old enough to remember classic cartoons being on TV and I'm only 20.

I.D.R.C. said...

"With this kind of design sensibility, you are chained to unemotional insincerity."

I don't watch most cartoons made after about 1960. Not being a pro I don't analyze it; it takes about 5 seconds to determine that they lack entertainment value, so I move on --but you said it.

Modern "cartoons" don't move, so why would a "designer" need to think about moving them? Just give it a thick outline so the audience can tell the talking piece-of-crap from the piece-of-crap background.

Your point is valid about Samurai Jack's characters, but I do note that Jack attempted some levels of beauty that are typically lacking. Backgrounds, composition, and color are better than in most modern cartoons.

Chip Butty said...

God the Spumco-inspired 90s boom looks like gold compared to this crap

John said...

I like Samurai Jack. The style might not always work, but when it DOES work, it kicks arse.

But the rest can burn in hell. This means you, Billy and Mandy!

Here's my homework for today.

A.M.Bush said...

I'm barely learning about this right now. Drawing other peoples properly drawn characters has really got me second guessing my own crappily drawn ones.

zach said...

ahh, i remember the blocky beauty that was Samurai Jack.

too bad Genndy and his team didn't know much about samurai..

ThomasHjorthaab said...

Hey John, I do not hope, I sounded rued in the last comment I made you...:)

I'm just a huge fan of your work, and your posts, and want the critique from one of best in the industy:)

Would you take a look on this? And maybe tell me in details what I'm doing wrong, since you still think it's flat...

my blog

C said...

I thought the cat DJ was holding was kind of cute, but then realized it was a rabbit. Something's not right here!

Roberto González said...

It's a fair criticism and I agree but still Clone High and Billy and Mandy look slightly better than some of the others examples you give.That Total Drama Island thing is worse than most of the other ones though it's a good example to show the problems of this particular style.

In fact Billy and Mandy does get pretty cartoony in facial expressions but the bodies are indeed pretty rigid and there is not too much squash and stretch, comparing to Tartakovsky's Dexter Lab, for example.

I can't do this style, sometimes I've kind of tried deliberately but I'm obsessed with facial expressions, so to me it's much more important to have expressive faces rather than a design-y look. I sometimes end up with designs that probably don't work together but at least I think they don't look too wooden.

Incidentally, would it be too much to ask you for a little criticism of the character designs in the comics I have in my blog? I mean, like we can do it by writing you by email or something? I also publish this comics in a local magazine and I'm trying to do it a little better each year.

I won't probably change the designs radically but it'd probably help to know about my major flaws.

I guess I'm guilty of the lack of negative space in the faces.

Ben Fried said...

A lot of people seem to think making "original" characters has more merit. They don't realize that you can do creative things with any concept...

Either that or they just want more money because they'd have full property over the new characters.

Mr. Semaj said...

Clone High was co-designed by one of your former associates.

All the same, there does need to be a cap on these cut-out designs. When Wayside came out, I hated that the book's characters had the same designs already seen in a million other cartoons of the day.

Even Dexter's Lab, where it allegedly began fell victim to the overuse of the style. When the show returned in 2001, whatever appeal existed when Genndy Tartakosky was in charge was traded for, among other things, too many squares and sticks.

Mitch K said...

Your embarrassing 80's flat period is some of the coolest stuff around.

Geneva said...

This is a topic I love to hear from you about, because it's something you completely opened my mind up to. Because I was raised on the stuff, everything I did was flat and ugly, because it was "cool." I'm so glad I found this blog.

Also, yes, TONS of people want to be "character designers," both for cartoons and games-- and usually these people are awful at drawing! (Storyboarding is another they all want to be). But none of them have any interest in learning how to animate (sometimes even draw), even basically, before doing so.

Juxtaminute said...

I think that Tartokovsky cuts a million corners in his designs because he's forced to by the industry. The style may look like crap but it's an efficient way to outsource/translate every part of the license through any language/format imaginable. His big ugly flat shapes are bold readable and easy for foreign laborers to copy. That's why the flat style is winning. This will continue aslong as corporations continue to waste money sending everything oversees.

thomas said...

Its kind of amazing how this style has stuck over such a long period of time.

I think it goes back to 80's "New Wave" music which appropriated '50's angular design.

It hasn't really gone away since then.

Along with corporate Reaganism.

:: smo :: said...

"not just designing characters in the abstract and leaving them up to Flash animators to move the pieces around on a flat plane."

i'm glad that at least someone out there is considering this. i've been handed so many designs that only work in one pose it make my eyeballs bleed tears...and blood.

being the "animator" [puppeteer?] on that end of the stick is what's had me toying with quitting "professional" animation and just making stuff on my own. but i work better as part of a team and severing myself from the animation world would be bad so i stick with it, and just push for actual drawing jobs.

until then i'll probably continue to be one of the loudest most outwardly complainy animators on staff about not readily animateable design.

Conny Nordlund (Loathsome) said...

I'm not completely in agreement with John with the flatness. I kinda like -some- of these styles. Like the one from Atlantis, although I do like curvier stuff myself. My own style is somewhere in the middle. But I must say that I hate styles that are unpractical.. like fairly odd parents for an example. A screenshot with a character in proper perspective wins a car. It's like people want to limit themselves with such styles like these...

To answer John K's question in the title: I'm not into the character design thing, I'm more into concept art.

Trevor Thompson said...

I'm so embarrassed. I LOVED your 80's style, John.

Tony W. said...

Well at least there's still Flapjack to watch on TV.

David Martinez said...

This is my new favorite place on the internet.

Gad said...

I realized it 2 weeks ago reading your blog actually
When I was first exposed to that "style" of design, it really amazed me. I wanted to draw like that; all began with a book my friend gave me,” cartoon modern". Every thing looked so polished and fine.
But when I got hold of that "style" I realized there are like millions of "character designers" and all of there designers look the same.
So now I decided to go back to the roots and drown crocked ugly characters.
lucky for me the desire to be a "character designer" was short lived. in fact they should cancel that job, to design a good character you first have to be an exceptional animator! that's my goal מם'

But I have to say about samurai jack, you can’t really compare it to the rest of them.
Genndy Tartokovskyis one of the better animation directors.

Benjamin Anders said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JohnK said...

Hi Ben. My point is that people should be interested in drawing functionally before they get interested in design.

You really can't understand design if you don't already have wide knowledge and skills.

Chris said...

I think more than UPA, (which has grown into a generic term for a style rather than the studio, like q-tips as opposed to cotton swabs) Hanna-Barbera cartoons are also looked at as an inspiration for having a seemingly flat style and reusable poses and sequences.

Both studios and "styles" were developed by cartoonists that had years of skill and knowledge behind them, so they knew how to pear down a character to its simplest elements and still give it weight and volume. It's comparable to the comic artist Alex Toth, whose work spoke volumes with less linework than his contemporaries. Those artists didn't start drawing with "simplicity", they got there after many years of drawing and study.

Today, it seems that cartoonists want to start simple and get even simpler still until they whittle down characters to this.

thomas said...

Just watched a Jules Engel clip on Cartoonbrew.

One of the many differences between UPA and the current flat style is the economy of means.

They took out stuff they thought was unnecessary. It made the production more bare, but also made the production of animation more visible. The drawing looked like drawing.

JohnK said...

Hey Ben

click the label "character design" at the bottom of the post.

I have already done about 27 articles about it.

BLOGGER said...

Hey John,
Have you seen The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack? I think you'd like it if you saw it. Makes me laugh like I did when I was a kid(which were over your cartoons).

I wasn't able to post earlier on your 3D meatballs review, but what I wanted to say is that you should try your hand at directing a 3D short. It doesn't have to be long either, 3-4 minute animation. Get a bunch of 3d students to work for you and you can direct it. I do 3D modeling and texturing, and for fook sake I'd do it for free just to have the honor to work for you. We already know you can design 3D characters(tenacious D toys!). Well hope all is well and keep inspiring us whipper snappers.

- A Friend

Benjamin Anders said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luigi said...

Atlantis had beautiful designs, and it's characters had plenty of emotion.

Ross Irving said...

I would love to be a character designer, however difficult it may seem. The one goal I have as a cartoonist is to make an audience appreciative and perceptive to the idea of how much variety there is within people. Of course, with cartoons, exaggeration is necessary to expose our differences much easier than attempting to ape real life.

tb4000 said...

Atlantis was basically Mike Mignola's art style brought to life, as he was the character designer for that one, so it explains why they have that look. And John, I know you saw Family Guy tonight...the effort they put into the multiple animation styles bumps them up a slight bit in my book now.

Meenx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen K. said...

To Luigi: Atlantis would have had better designs if they hadn't 'Disneyified' them from Chen Yi Chen's designs based off of Mike Mignola's designs. It's this constant watering down of good design that drives me nuts.

Seeing some of the design work that Claire Wendling did on The Quest for Camelot, and then comparing it with the background designs actually seen in the film is disheartening, to say the least.

I think the reason why we have such a watering down of character design is due to the mindset of the artists today. We want it all NOW NOW NOW without learning our trade as well as we should. Just some thoughts.

Meenx said...

I saw "Total Drama Island" a while back and immediately knew you would talk about the character designs in a post eventually. Haha.

Iron maiden said...

hey john when I went to your blog this was on top of the post

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any Idea what this is?

Carmine said...

This is exactly what I have been thinking for the past decade, atleast.

At the risk of sounding dumb and short-sighted, I'll say what my theory is on all this:

I trace it back to "Batman: The Animated Series" and "The New Batman Adventures", when they re-vamped the designs and made them even more angular. Both those shows were amazing, imo, but since then it seems everyone has tried to emulate that style. And its become like a copy, of a copy, of a copy, etc, inbred, as you put it.

Ofcourse, I also trace it back to "Ren and Stimpy", w/ the 50s design style, and its general retro-cartoon apporach. I feel that inspired, to a degree, the original Cartoon Network trinity, being "The PowerPuff Girls", "Dexter's Lab" and "Johnny Bravo" (I love PPG btw). Those show's looks solidified a staple CN "look", and every show since has been emulating that. And once "The New Batman Adventures" came along, everyone got even more angular, and we find ourselves here today.

"Ren and Stimpy" and "BTAS/TNBA", I feel, are like the parents of most that has come after them. The "modern cartoon" is like a wierd, poor-man's mix of things that came directly from those shows, and as a result often look generic and boring.

So that is my theory, and I know its over-simplifying and presumptuous, and I'm not saying its correct, but its just the general feeling I've gotten over the years as a cartoon junkie.

Kristen McCabe said...

To the young cartoonist lass: I'm sorry you doubted my comment. I have the vocabulary of an 11 year old. Nice drawings = GREAT in my book and if JohnK thinks you're talented then you must be.

JohnK: I like your 80's drawings especially the girl with the crossed legs. She has cute proportions. Short waist, long legs, and even longer arms. I love it when cartoonists mess with body proportions it makes the character more appealing and memorable.

JohnK said...

Thank you Kristen.

I love your drawings.

JohnK said...

"To Luigi: Atlantis would have had better designs if they hadn't 'Disneyified' them from Chen Yi Chen's designs based off of Mike Mignola's designs."

I think Mike Mignola's great, but I never would have guessed he had anything to do with Atlantis, and was shocked when I found out what they did to his designs.

Chris said...

To whoever mentioned Jamie Hewlett and Gorillaz: The thing you need to notice is that Jamie actually learned how to draw anatomy back when he was doing Tank Girl before he got into the designy Gorillaz look, so his already developed ability to draw people informed that style. He was one of the artists that taught me that you could develop a comfortable balance of style and technical skill.

Anyway John I'm glad you brought up that Total Drama Island crap, it's one of the ugliest cartoons out there today. How could anybody find those girl drawings appealing or remotely sexy? They barely look human.

Niki said...

When I decided I didn't want to draw anime anymore I started drawing like this. I actually thought I could get better off of it, but I'm glad I stopped that nonsense. Also, I actually check the Character Design blog a lot, it has a few interesting choices once in a while but, for this reason you've explained, all the rest actually looks like it was done by one man alone! I thought it would be a good learning tool at first but I was sorely wrong, thought they did have a Erich Sokol week which I took advantage of, I've decided I have to learn him by July.

Rick Roberts said...

Mike Magonila did the Atlantis designs ? Yeesh. It's really sad how some great names are behind the initial character designs of these films. They are always a victim of their work being put through the saturday morning machine.

BTW, sort of OT but has everyone ever compared the backgrounds between Aladdin and The Small One ? Disney literally just took all The Small One backgrounds and just made them ultra saturated colors.

Dragline said...

Hey John, just out of curiosity, do you ever take bad design and rework it to your liking? Can you make Shrek or South Park characters look good?

S. M. Denman said...

Great post! I couldn't believe how ugly the characters in Total Drama Island are when I first saw them.

I've done some more practices! I'd love to hear any critiques or thoughts you might have. My blog

Kaiser Fate said...

Funnily enough I used the same image from Treasure Planet in my own blog some time ago. I had it next to a bunch of other images that showed that a large number of animated movie protagonists have the exact same very specific 90's hairstyle, and it's not even a popular one. One more nail in the coffin of original character design.

Also I don't blame Flash for this super flat angular business. This began long before Flash came on the scene; we just see it a lot now because it's easier and faster to copy, say, the look of Billy and Mandy using the software than it is to actually animate properly in it.

tilcheff said...

Hi John,

"Does Everybody Want To Be A Character Designer?"
I know it's a rhetorical question, but it somehow provoked me to answer it personally.

I've worked in this industry for 15 years. I've always wanted to become a good animator and work on fun shows with functional flexible characters with personality, characters that can live their own lives, allow exaggeration, expressiveness and nice enjoyable visual invention.

15 years ago (very excited, with huge hopes and decent drawing skills) I entered an industry in decline, and with every year I see things getting worse and worse. Processes (layout, model sheets, even storyboards!) are skipped in the name of efficiency. Newer generations of 'animators' join and they are not even allowed to draw. In a studio I recently worked at, drawing on paper was called a 'privilege' which only very few people had. The others – the factory hand – were only supposed to rotate the Symbols and never 'waste' time to try to learn how to animate.

I have at least had the chance to work for a few years in a traditionally organized environment, watch and talk to some older colleagues, and draw thousands of drawings. I have also thought a lot during all this time, learned to analyze the problems. Practice and certain maturity that came later gave me good flexibility and control as a drawer. Being a professional animator, working an all sorts of (bad) projects, having to mimic all sorts of drawing styles, struggling to move, turn, bend and rotate characters that don't have volume of their own, give you a good sense of what characteristics a functional character design should posses. And, of course, as you have pointed out countless times on the pages of this blog, you realize that people have already discovered and perfected this in the 40-s. The knowledge is all here, but no one wants to even look at it. Yes, those cartoons are timeless and will always be enjoyable to watch, and most of the contemporary ones are so bad, that even a single ep is a torture to see.

Well, I've always wanted to become a good animator. I never got the chance to work on good enough projects to develop the skill. It has always been a race for bulk, no one's ever been concerned about the quality, project planning has always been terrible, people have always been overworked and struggling to survive, budgets have always claimed to be lower, and lower, but even the tiniest producers have always had yachts, new houses and more recently four wheel drives, bigger than an average apartment.

Without deliberately wanting to become a character designer after learning how to analyze the elements in other designer's works I discovered, first for myself that I was actually able to play and design within existing boundaries, creating variations, juggling with elements, playing with shapes. It, of course, was not an event, but a process, and it takes years and years to polish. At first, certain styles felt more comfortable than others. Then I tried to push myself and learn to feel comfortable working in those which I considered more difficult. The more styles and types of other people's work you try, the more powerful you feel, the more options you have to chose from when taking artistic decisions.


tilcheff said...


Character design, as you have said many times, is a task which requires a lot of knowledge and experience. It also requires good taste and the elusive and hard-to-define sense of what is appealing. My dad, who is an architect, keeps saying something which makes more and more sense to me as I get older: There, he says, can be wunderkind musicians, but there can't be a wunderkind-architect, as it is an area which synthesizes many complex branches of human knowledge, science and art, and requires maturity and life experience too.
It's similar to character design. Years of observations, life experience, good visual memory, knowledge of art history, history of costume, human and animal anatomy, perspective, sense of balance, sense of style, sense for the typical, personal preferences, even the personal temperament – they are all reflected in the characters that people design.

I have been designing characters on and off for years now. Mostly extra characters for various projects, or pushing existing ones in a desired by producers direction, or designing from scratch, usually based on some brief or sample that people like and want their project to look like. They have never shown me a single Golden Age character. It is always the edgy stuff.

Two years ago I was hired to be the Character Designer for a Flash show. I was given concept drawings for the main characters, which I was expected to 'polish' and 'stylize'.
When I requested an electric sharpener, B and 2B wooden pencils, and some art erasers, and sat at the only lightbox in the studio (covered with centimeters of dust) and drew turnarounds that could actually be scanned and turned smoothly, this was looked at as some kind of black magic. Then the two week preproduction period finished and that was that. I got a couple of assistants to trace the drawings in Flash and chop them into pieces. The scriptwriters kept introducing new 'characters' with a rate of 5 per episode and I had to 'design' them at a rate of 2-3 per week. Three sketches, then a second pass over one of them, then a five view turnaround and there you go – a new lifeless zombie is there to tween and talk and pollute the screen. Not even a chance to try and draw the 'character' in five different poses. Just the neutral 5-angle turnaround. Bland, bland, bland. When at the beginning of this nonsense I tried to speak with the people in charge of the show, they totally refused to listen. They knew better. They had millions to 'utilize'.
And how bad the animation was! Before that I have often wondered why some of the characters on TV today move in such a weird way. After a while I realized why: most of the Flash animators are kids coming straight from high school, paid peanuts, and there's not even a single person who's ever done animation before in the whole studio. They just don't know what they are doing. It's a bad copy of a bad copy of a bad copy, of something mediocre that they liked on TV two years ago.


tilcheff said...


Needless to say that the show is terrible, but it wasn't that cheap. It's funny and sad at the same time that every single studio I have worked at makes the same mistakes in the name of efficiency. Business arrogance dominates this industry and people with no love for cartoons produce them. The self-censorship and political correctness strangle every fresh idea before it's even born. Young enthusiastic animators are very quickly disillusioned by a system, which treats them as computer operators and has no mechanism to get feedback, ideas or allow them even the slightest creativity to do visual gags, a system which shows no recognition for their work and appreciation of their skill or talent, a system that kicks them out in the street upon a successful completion of the job. Very quickly they become cynical, trapped in the world of stock actions and expressions, knocking frames day after day, quickly learning how to do things in order to avoid problems. They also very quickly learn to lie that they like the crap shows they work on, that they enjoy the terrible work atmosphere in the studios. There is usually a culture of hypocrisy and backstabbing, generated by the mediocrity, contemporary political correctness and 'post-modern' cool-ness which dominates these studios. The values behind contemporary cartoons have nothing to do with those during the Termite Terrace years. Everything seems to be extremely superficial, hollow and lacking internal logic, reasonable values and weight.

Hiring schoolkids on six month contracts can never produce good results. Respect among colleagues is built slowly and only people who are comfortable working together can start inspiring each other and feel they have a common goal.
It seems to me that everything in the system is wrong today. Or if it is right the goal is to output crap, bland, boring, mediocre looking shows.

To answer the question "Does Everybody Want To Be A Character Designer?". Many people do. Most of them are too young to realize what it actually means (or should mean) and how long and steep the path to becoming one is. And unfortunately there doesn't seem to exist an industry today that can give them an opportunity to grow, learn and polish their skill to a level where they can start designing characters, capable of evolution and living long lives of their own.

Thanks for reading all this. As you can tell English is not my first language. Now I'll become a quiet reader of your great blog again.
Thanks for being so persistent in popularizing, explaining and protecting the true values of the real cartoons, the kind that we all hoped to be able to make when we grow up.

Best regards, John

Chloe Cumming said...

Especially since I've been studying cartoons in more depth, the idea of trying to design characters for animation doesn't appeal to me that much. I feel like I'd need several years more experience before I even knew remotely what I was doing. I'm much happier drawing beautiful old characters for the time being. It's still drawing, innit.

RAKninja said...

If there is one thing I despise, it is flash animation on TV. I get bombarded with crappy tweens with "paper puppet" characters (something like this, it's just an image i pulled from google)

I'll admit that flash is more cost effective than traditional animation, but it's always struck me as an amateurish way to do things, like if hot bands were using Windows Movie Maker to make their videos, or national networks were recording shows with camcorders.

There's no life in it, few custom expressions, and even though the "hard parts" of the animation are done by the computer (all the inbetweening) they don't even put the effort to make halfway decent color selections.

What's worse, the kids these days don't even have the good stuff to compare it to. at least when i was growing up, the "golden age" Looney Tunes was still broadcast. Some of the less well animated shows on in the 80's had something else that held my interest - good, dramatic, emotional stories. My favorite show included episodes on the folly of pretending to be a god to lesser civilizations, the death of your hero, and even a decent treatment of "a most dangerous game". Based off of what I see on the videoscope, I doubt even highly watered down versions of these scripts would pass the censors.

Sven Hoek said...

A lot of these boxy, angular, block characters are really NOT easy to read. Just take a look at the silhouettes of these characters and see if you can tell them apart.

IF you take the silhouettes of older characters (ie 40s-50s) you can easily tell who it is what what they are doing. Big difference.

Sven Hoek said...

Yeah the Disney-esque portion of Family Guy last night sort of shocked me. All of the sudden there was life in it.

And then it went away.

Wonder who animated that?

Jeffrey said...

Wow, I guess I'm "old school" because the design on that "Bridgette" character makes me want to punch puppies in the face. What's with the flat head? Does anyone know how to draw attractive women in animation anymore?

It makes me think back to John's posts on "appealing design" and "acting" (link to the acting one at the bottom). Does anyone really want to know these characters?

If they really are popular, I reckon it's only because kids will watch anything when they are plopped in front of the TV while mom cooks dinner. Even if they watch crap over and over again, they'll eventually like it because of familiarity. Hell, when I was a kid you could not get me away from the "G.I.Joe" cartoon.

(one of my favorite John K blogs mentioned above. I'd put a fancy hyperlink, but I don't know how:

Whit said...

Notice they didn't scalp JFK in those designs. It would be redundant.

Amanda H. said...

Is it too late to enroll in your Cartoon College? :)

John A said...

I think its a little unfair to pick Atlantis' character design. That film had so many things wrong with it (just like some other sci-fi cartoons aimed at an older audience,such as Titan AE,Final Fantasy, or Treasure Planet)that went beyond simple bad character design (which was actually pretty good in some areas)One of Atantis' biggest problems, aside from the usual stereotypical characters,was how every character and prop seemed to have wandered in from a different period in time. Once you start throwing basic facts out the window and replace them with superficial copies of old cartoon cliches', your film is doomed.

Bill said...

"Believe it or not, these images are not all from the same show". That was a great way to end that stream of bad pictures, even when I was younger I couldn't stand Star Wars characters in that flat look! By the way funcionality\emotion are the most important factors for me when I design characters unless if they're minor characters (like one shots) so I'm in the minority with young US cartoonists.

Mr. Semaj said...

Here is what I think of every time I see Total Drama Island:

thomas said...

tilcheff - nice reading your post. thanks

David R said...

I like the philosophy of thinking about what your character has to do and then designing the character from that.

It seems to me a problem today might be that this is all that animation studios expect from you. If you go in with a Preston Blair style, wouldn't they call it too old fashioned? I jut wonder if there's a market for it anymore since it's been such a long time since that was the norm.

I'm more interested in illustration than animation, but it seems like even there too there's not much of a market for a classic style anymore.

Dorseytunes said...

The flatness has really taken over. My kids love it though. Bums me out.

wwhhaatt?? said...

The problem with animation art directors borrowing from really good illustration and comic styles is that the translation to animation rarely works. Cases in point would be 'Atlantis' as John mentioned, and also 'Hercules' which is a case study in art direction run amok (its also a case study in the Disney formula run amok). Mike Mignola and Gerald Scarfe drawings are great to fall into because they've mastered their respective techniques and they know how to tell a story through illustration. In animation that is tied to such design, the movements are stiff and the emotions are stock. I would have never guessed that Mignola or Scarfe were involved in either of those two films because their styles were so watered down. If that's always the case, why bother with going in that direction in the first place?

Todd Kauffman said...

Yup, it's me - the guy who designed all the Total Drama Island stuff...or 'crap' as you guys put it.

Sorry. I didn't mean to destroy animation, I was just asked to design a show that resembled Clone I did - you know to pay my bills and junk.

I don't mean to suck as much as I do, I just can't draw I guess.

Anyways...just thought I'd apologize. I'll try to do better next time. (tucking my tail between my legs as I leave)


JohnK said...

Hey we all have to pay the bills and I've had to copy other styles just to get execs to sign off on stuff.

It's frustrating as hell that everything has to look the same for years.

Nothing personal. It's the execs who need the education I think.

There oughta be an executive training blog.

Rick Roberts said...

Old Hollywood used to have a system of discovering it's talent by just plain old rules of promotion. In live action pictures, some of the greatest stars who ever lived started out as stock players that eventually got major contracts. In cartoons, you started off washing cells then someday you'd become a director. The great thing about these systems were you could learn the ropes in the meantime before you get the highest posssible position. Today, everyone is sent to top. It's like constructing a building with no concrete.

Trevor Thompson said...

A character design is not a work of art in itself. It's a functional starting point for animators to use to make real personality with - not just more of the same that's all around us.

Looking at this early Ren drawing, I completely understand why he looks the way he does now. As fun as it is to look at, it would be difficult to move this character around.

Taco Wiz said...

John...I just wanted to say you're a brilliant man. You are THE funniest and most talented cartoonist in the world [I have a shrine dedicated to Jimmy the Idiot Boy, George Liquor, and Ren and Stimpy in my room]. I think you're missing a key element here, though: these cartoons aren't SUPPOSED to look good. They're trying to be "well-written". It seems a bit futile to critique the drawing of someone that's not TRYING to be a good artist [I'm talking about Total Drama Island, and every other cartoon past the 50s]. Cartoons have been dead for decades. These are sitcoms that happen to be animated.

PS: Is that YouTube channel still happening?

drawingtherightway said...

Hey John I know that in many posts (including this one)you compare things to Don Bluth and I was wondering what you think of his drawings on a technical level? I myself have no interest in watching any of his movies and his characters,as you've said before, have the same bland characters and stock expressions, but I think they look well drawn on a technical level. So my question is do you think Don Bluth can draw good strictly on a technical level using the proper techniques such as line of action, clear silhouette, etc. or do you think he's not good at all?

Chris leonido said...

John your blog keeps getting better and better whenever I come on to check things out.

Most designs on today's cartoons to me just completely suck, some of are worst then before. The only designs I can think at the moment that are any good are a few video game character designs, along with some cartoons from the 90's. I have this to say if you want to make good designs be original and be inspired by the legends of animation.

Whoever came up with such dumb designs for TDI and Clone High is beyond me. Other then that I agree with everyone saying that its garbage.

Kyle Marshall said...

I can't let you take all the credit Todd!....being the character designer of Jimmy Two Shoes I must step up and take some of the hit here as well.

I can't even let an exec take the blame, cause I'm proud of my work on Jimmy, just sucks I guess that i have no eye for quality design.....hey, I tried.

I'm just real sorry I let all you down, but don't worry next time, i promise, it will be nuffin' but old school, nuffin' but!!!

Anonymous said...

John K., I agree with you 100%. Most cartoon character development today follows the same Powerpuff Girls/Dexter's Lab style that is becoming very boring and bland. If it's not in that style it's then copying the manga/anime crap that also looks very much the same. I wish cartoonist would focus more on developing their own unique style.

unsummon said...

Hey, Mr. K!

You're very eloquent and extensive in your rebuttal of many recent trends and styles in animation. As a young, inexperienced illustrator myself I agree with most of them - it doesn't take a genius to call out something like Family Guy as the void of artlessness it is, but I'd still take the view that something like Samurai Jack is, if not exactly watchable for plot alone, still a beautifully designed show.

It kinda feels like you're tarring a lot of shows with the same brush, here. You reference Clone High alongside Total Drama Island, when I'd say the former exceeds the latter in both terms of character design and animation. They're both kinda puppet-y in the way they move but Clone High seems to have been much more skillfully made.

And have you seen one of the fight scenes in the Clone Wars animated series episodes? I can't just write that kind of animation off as "...designing characters in the abstract and leaving them up to Flash animators to move the pieces around on a flat plane" - it's stylised, sure, but the characters are charming and the action is solid.

I buy your point that a "style of the times" has developed, and because of the proliferation of stuff like Flash it's led to a lot of so-so shows like Total Drama Island and 6teen (which I won't deny I personally can't watch - no offence to Mr. Kauffman), but isn't every era of animation dominated by a few particular trends? Character design in particular always seems to look generic when compared to other other contemporary examples.

lee artist said...

indeed all cartoons i feel mostly have a flat look mostly but i think to draw them at a flat angle like a pan cake i think doesnt look very nice, like i say they are all flat but i think they should be drawn so they have a 3d or 2d look even if the none shading makes them look flat, i draw all mine like this and although the none-semetrical look can sometimes look fun, i dont use this style

Trevor Thompson said...

Sometimes I think there's a conspiracy to lower the standards so they don't have to hire artists anymore.

If art could be produced by anyone, that means quicker turnaround time and less money spent on making it move or look good. Certainly seemed to be the case at [adult swim] for many years.

Bill said...

At Ray: I've heard of many cartonnists claiming to have their own style or are seeking to make their own, trouble is is that most seem to insist in drawing that manga style too.

Ryan said...

Todd: For what it's worth, I love the hell out of that Puffnstuff icon.

Chris Battle said...

Call me biased, but I think Paul Rudish, Craig Kellman, Lynne Naylor, & Carey Yost are some damn fine character designers...

SoleilSmile said...

When I was at WB, it was determined that the East had a really hard time animating in the 40's style on such a tight schedule. Hence, a simpler style was developed. The domestic artists lamented how the Simpson's turned out so well with every show and only 13 out of 39 eps of Animaniacs and Pinky and Brain came back decent. The 13 faboo eps were animated by TMS is Japan who quit being a service studio in 1998. The remaining eps went to Wang in Korea who produce spongey looking work with no perspective and fluctuating volumes. Everyone was really depressed. Why do your best in pre-prodcution when the animation is going to look like crap anyway?
Thankfully, Dexter's Lab came out and every one of its episodes came back from Korea looking phenomenal. Dexter's Lan used the 50's UPA style, so simplifying seemed to be the solution. Cartoons now come back from overseas without mushy, changing volumes and people are reasonably happy.
The industry had to innovate and work with the talent that was available. Not all directors can attract and wield talent like you can, Mr. K and get the episodes on the air in time :( I'm sure more producers would try your method of animating in the U.S. and sending the inbetweens overseas if it was doable on a large scale John. I was even told there was a lack of talent domestically to do so.

JohnK said...

The style wasn't simplified for practical reasons, Ashanti.

It was just in style to be stylized ever since Ren and Stimpy came out.

And the overseas studio that made everything look so good in the 90s (and probably still) was Rough Draft, who started life on Ren and Stimpy and used my production system.

All that has devolved into even more simplified cartoons that are animated in flash that still imitate Ren and Stimpy and Dexter's Lab, only very dumbed down and without the customized expressions, poses and animation that once made it interesting.

This has all happened through a series of copies of copies of copies. Those of us who were around when it started know what started it. By now, many of the young cartoonists who think they are rebelling against "old school" don't realize they are just carrying on "old-school" in an extremely degraded form.

Chris said...

RAKNinja - I don't find anything wrong with Flash animation being used for TV cartoons. It's just a tool. It's all in how you use it. Remember Babysitting the Idiot or the classic cliffhanger Weekend Pussy Hunt? Those were all done in Flash and superbly. It's not the tool it's the way it's used.

PS - John are we ever gonna see Episode 13?!!!

O gato said...

Thank you so MUCH for posting this John. I've hated this geometric style for so long and FINALLY someone points it out. Last night I watched (I know you hate it but bear with me) Family Guy, and through the episode two characters were going through different universes and some with different animation styles, and one happened to be in a hand drawn "Disney" style. When I saw it I thought to myself, "Fuck, this must have cost a fortune to make." But then I realized Seth is a millionaire and he could afford it, so why can't all of his shows have better animation?

Roberto González said...

I totally agree with unsummon, just wanted to say.

Mattieshoe said...

"Last night I watched (I know you hate it but bear with me) Family Guy, and through the episode two characters were going through different universes and some with different animation styles, and one happened to be in a hand drawn "Disney" style."

Yeah, I caught a bit of that, just to see how badly they could mess up the premise.

It was sort of like Tom Minton's "Don't touch that dial" only without the satire or wit or truth about anything. Just a bunch of hateful and ignorant things written by people without any real understanding or point of view while drunk, Executed painstakingly and wastefully by talented artists.

It's a horrible sin that this is a "break" for every artist who worked on it.

Rick Roberts said...

"it's stylised, sure, but the characters are charming and the action is solid."

The action was never that impressive in Clone Wars. It just had alot more in-betweens then the average action cartoon show.

Rick Roberts said...

"Last night I watched (I know you hate it but bear with me) Family Guy, and through the episode two characters were going through different universes and some with different animation styles, and one happened to be in a hand drawn "Disney" style."

I watched this against my will last night. The premise of the parody actually was pretty good and well executed. Of course it was the only laugh in the horrid thing.

spongebob coloring pages said...

The good thing about samurai jack is the background. We don't need to blame the revolution of flash because flat, angled character designs are appealing to the eye.

murrayb said...

I think it's pretty darn gutsy of Todd to stick his head in the lion's den here, whew!
Art is subjective after all. Will Finn liked Todd's designs:
Will Finn

I think what is good about the Total drama character designs, as Will mentions, is they are "individuals",and you can tell who they are and what they're about instantly.
unfortunately(for me as a viewer) they're reality show archetypes.

sometimes design gigs are like a reality show; I'm here to get the design approved,
I'm not here to make friends.

But the total drama island isn't made for me, or cartoon fans, it's made for "the kids today", whom, make bus rides and theater movie watching unbearable with their zero attention spans and lack of manners.

imagine trying to get a tween to sit thru
Sullivan's travels That would be "torture" even though it's a great movie, which I saw as a kid on TV and thought it was awesome. Shows I want to make won't get made.So lately I've been trying to make shows I think:
execs will like
(love em or hate em, they pull the trigger)
kids will like
(they are the focus group testing)
parents will like
(keep the show on the air)
advertisers will like
(hey ultimately, tv animation is just filler for toy and cereal commercials)
I will like.(by secretly sneaking in something dear to my soul.It will be cut out, but at least I tried)

Hey maybe we should pitch a sullivan's travels type TV show to cartoon network, see if it sticks.Hobos and sexy veronica lake, animated in glorious fully hand drawn black and white.

make the hobo a sassy robot,
make veronica lake a generic freckled tween tom boy with a magic rocket hat,
make black and white bright garish easily tweenable flash, now we're talkin! Don't like it? get outta TV, its a business for WHORES ONLY.

Shoot, guess we can all strive for better quality, and it's good to remember:
"There's a lot to be said about making people laugh. Did you know that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan"-Sullivan's travels

Bill said...

At coloring book: Rarely, VERY rarely are they appealing. To me they usually look like colored scribbles that could not exist in the real world unlike older designs that can be rotated 360 degrees.

RAKninja said...

Chris - Yes I do remember those. To the best of my knowledge, neither were broadcast on TV. On top of that, they used lots of custom drawings - unlike just about any flash animation you come across, both from professionals and from amateurs.

Yes, flash CAN be used to make great cartoons, and probably less expensively and faster than other means of production. But it still takes time to ensure that your product does not look like a flash animation.

It's just my personal view though. I've seen some phenomenal animation in flash on the internet, and the drivel they broadcast nowadays has a hard time measuring up to amateur animations from 2003.

I guess I'm just bitter that when it comes to entertainment, the large publishers axe quality to produce something status-quo to make a marginal profit.

lee artist said...

just to add onto what i said, i believe it is ok to draw flat if the cartoon character is facing the audience but not to offten, take the simpsons for example the artists know to draw the characters at an angle for most of the show and rarely they draw them facing forth and flat which is ok because they rarely do it and its a change from an angle and it wouldnt look gud if they were all drawn at an angle for the full show. but if the character is facing forth i believe it shouldnt have a sort of join the cross's feel, it should look like it could be 3d or 2d but its not because its a cartoon, and theres no shading so it looks flat, which because its facing forth is ok i feel. i sometimes design my cartoons facing forth even though i know they wont look as good as it would drawn to the side, in order so i can get my design down and i know its what it will look like when its looking at the audience so it doesnt bother me.

Lucky said...

Ouch tilcheff just ouch
I was one of the kids that went straight out into the flash workforce out of highschool and you know what? I'm glad I did. I saw people like you. People going 'these kids are ruining our carrers, ruining animation etc etc'
They didnt like me, i didnt understand why, but I moved on. The people that I loved were the people that encouraged me within the studio. There were a select few , which really pushed me and told me to draw my heart out and to never look back at a bad drawing just keep pumping them out . They inspired me so much to be a profesional animator I quit and went back to studying, i explored the world a bit then i went studying on my own and now im trying to get into animation trough years of studying. I love drawing , I love improving. I love everything about animation. And none of this wouldn't have happened if everyone at the studio had your mindset of 'we're all fucked'. Maybe be more positivie towards the new generation? We're not trying to replace you, we're not competing. We just want to animate because we enjoy it and we got a break for the first time of our lifes. Don't be hatefull , be encouraging because one day that kid who does flash but can not animate is going to be at the annies recieving an award and thanking the guy in the studio that enouraged him.

Also with the post i do agree with you , but i'm not sure i would lump in samurai jack with the other examples. The anmation seems so much more fluid and the characters are a lot more apealing to me

David Nethery said...

murrayb said:
"imagine trying to get a tween to sit thru
Sullivan's travels That would be "torture" even though it's a great movie, which I saw as a kid on TV and thought it was awesome."

That's true isn't it, but why were people like you and me different when we were kids , Murray? Why did kids like us see "old" movies such as Sullivan's Travels, or the Marx Brothers, or Looney Tunes, W.C. Fields, etc. and were inspired and entertained by these crazy old movies, not bored ? What changed ?

I.D.R.C. said...

"Why did kids like us see "old" movies such as Sullivan's Travels, or the Marx Brothers, or Looney Tunes, W.C. Fields, etc. and were inspired and entertained by these crazy old movies, not bored ? What changed ?"

Programming. you can't even see a Mark Bros movie unless you have TCM. You can't see anything unless you have TCM. This stuff used to be on local TV.

Rick Roberts said...

TCM is the only thing I watch on TV anymore. Everything else a fruit cake parade.

tilcheff said...

You have completely misinterpreted or misunderstood my post.

lee artist said...

flat is so last year but yours seem cool

atombat said...

It's great to develop your own style, but surely style is nothing without the ability to convey substance, without this everything is cold and dead, I think this is a key point John K is referring to, all these simple angles can't carry the weight and complexity of human emotion, right?

RAWLS said...

Opinions and tastes, that's all this really boils down to. It's as simple as that. Yes, there is the core of functionality vs lame design... but the fact of the matter is, people are diverse and are drawn to different things. Some people like the Mona Lisa, others like paintings done by monkeys using poo.
...some like both.

I.D.R.C. said...

Rawls, I don't know if you'll come back to read this, but it's not quite as simple as that. Awareness factors into both opinion and taste, and most often people like what they have been prepared to like. So you also have the political problem of who gets to decide what people see. Should they get to? Do they demonstrate any ability to make good judgments? What criteria other than entertainment value or aesthetic value, can you use?

I believe firmly that it's a big world and that people I might consider tasteless also have a right to entertainment.

But the major media choice is not as free as it may appear. Overall, people have been guided toward accepting lower standards. Don't kid yourself otherwise.

Something is sick in any system that is designed to retard artists.

Philip Rodrigues said...

YEAH! Jimmy Two Shoes picture is on top, which means it’s the best out of the worst flat cartoons. :)

creaturecorp said...

I stopped watching Teletoon when Loonatics started airing.

JD said...

It's all a matter of perspective when you look at most designs. Now I've been accused more then one time or another of being a snob when it comes down to design and yes most of the characters that I draw are flate, some round, some comic booky and some are curvy it all depends on what I'm designing for to tell you the truth. But I don't really like to attack a particular style as long as it works well. That's what it comes down to honestly is whether or not it works well. If it can be animated and animated well then what the hell right. If the style is great but you can't do anything with it other then use to it solely for one picture then what the hell good is it really. Myself personally I like the flat style I don't have a problem with it honestly. I know a lot of talented artist out there that draw in that style and they make it work. Some of the designs can be just as expressive as any of the other styles out there. Simply put to call any particular style nomatter what it may be junk or garbage or the lazy way of doing design (which to do it flate and make it look good is harder then you think) is pretty much a matter of opinion no matter which way you look at it. Now if we're complainning about the quality of the animation then that's another matter. First most shows have a limited budget and time frame, so you have to try your hardest to make it look good in a short amount of time, unless your rich and your working from your own pockets then sure its fine and dandy but when you have a short amount of time to complet a show and your rent is coming up and your girlfriend's dad is calling you a bum then sometimes it has to be sacraficed (which bothers me too but I'm only the animator). It's been happening since the beginning of time if you don't belive me then look at hanabarbar and tell me that the quality is there cause in most cases it was a constant reuse of everything to run cycles to animation to backgrounds everything was reused in one form or another to cut down on the time (and I'm a big fan of most of their shows I grew up loving them along with anything Chuck Jones and Tex). That's the real problem with most of the shows out there.Is the amount of time and money that is allowed to get it done. It's as simple as that.


milind said...

great designs!

Haroboy said...

Genndy Tartakovsky popularized this style with Dexters lab, Power Puff and Samurai Jack.the charaters are meant to be more of an icon, a symbol, thats why its simplified. but young artist nowadays sort of over do it i think

jim poop said...

@Gavin, you cant blame the flash animators in fact im a flash animator myself and there are great cartoons out there if you just look, look up leo and satan great animation for a flash cartoon,also if i remember John K did some flash cartoons back in 97.

jim poop said...

@Gavin, you cant blame the flash animators in fact im a flash animator myself and there are great cartoons out there if you just look, look up leo and satan great animation for a flash cartoon,also if i remember John K did some flash cartoons back in 97.