Monday, October 12, 2009

Early Flash Jetsons

Around 2,000 Spumco was running out of work and the Cartoon Network had a website. They asked me to animate some super low budget Flash cartoons using the HB characters so we agreed to 3 or 4 just so I could keep my main crew on. I was really looking forward to doing new HB stuff because it's one of my favorite obsessions, but sold the Ripping Friends to TV and I had to jump on that too. I went to Canada to supervise the show.
One day Kevin, my producer called and said "Better take some time out and do these HB cartoons!" I didn't even have a story for this one, so I sat down with a stack of animation paper and started laying out an argument between Jane and George about Elroy's school grades.
After I had a big pile of drawings done, but no ending, I shipped them off to LA and gave them to Gabe Swarr to direct the cartoon (and another one).
These first few poses have a crude ink finish-like they were badly optimized in Streamline or Flash, so I apologize for that.
My early idea for Flash was to combine the early Hanna Barbera limited animation style with my own specific poses and acting style. I thought that would be the perfect use of Flash and the future of it. I was wrong, so I give up making predictions.
So this experiment uses very extreme poses, mixed in some calmer ones, and re-uses them all in different orders or arrangements.
What makes it different than most Flash is that there are a lot more poses to re-use. And each pose can be separated into levels (like early HB) and new expressions can be pasted onto earlier head shapes. New arms can be added to old body poses.

Gabe and Matt took my initial stack of layouts and added their own breakdowns and lots of new poses along the way.

It's a bit hard for me to tell exactly who did what; the one above looks like I did Jane and someone else did George, but who knows?





This breakdown of George above looks like maybe Matt?
Looks like something out of a horror film. Ever witness family or office fights like this? This fight is inspired by fights I witnessed in the studio. We had one guy who had wild fits and tantrums and as I watched them, everything went into slow motion as I seared the images of every facial contortion and spit pattern into my memory.




















Right here, it obviously switches away from me. It's either Gabe or Matt drawing George below.

There's that limp finger that has become a cartoon staple ever since Ren and Stimpy. (I think I stole it from Chuck Jones, but can't remember the cartoon.)
my Jane and Matt's George?




I love the Jetsons. The original cartoon is super boring but loaded with potential. It had great character designs, voices, backgrounds and a killer concept.

I love the idea that George thinks his job is hard work, even though he just has to push a button. I love the idea of crazy futuristic gadgets doing all your everyday things for you.

The only problem was that by 1962, the HB artists and writers were getting really bland and unimaginative and they didn't take advantage of the raw material.

I remember in 1985, I used to always try to add futuristic gags into the scenes. There was a dinner scene with the whole family and I didn't draw the characters using forks and knives like the storyboard suggested. Instead, I focused on Elroy being fed by automatic utensils that came down from the ceiling to scoop food into his mouth. I even had a chewing device grab his cheeks and mash them around while he was talking to Mom and and Dad. Another device came out of the table and pushed the food down his throat. The whole time this stuff was happening, they were all carrying on some vacuous writer's conversation and acted like none of this gizmo stuff was at all weird.


Well the fun police at H and B thought it was awful weird. They said I was crazy and ordered the director to change it all to make it boring. I couldn't figure it out. Weren't these the kind of gags the show was designed for?

By the way, it takes a lot of factors to make a cartoon work. It's not as simple as the loud-mouthed internet layman seems to think. You need a lot of things to come together at the same time to make something classic.

A good and lively crew, good characters, decent budget, not too much politics in the studio, an executive that is creative-friendly. Not to be spread too thin with too few talents on too many projects, etc.

The stars don't line up like that enough and the studios and networks are totally opposed to letting it happen.


More poses to come...

33 comments:

Chris said...

Man, I'm glad I saved all the SWF files from those days. They are impossible to find now.

Alishea said...

I really just have to say Thank You.
I have learned loads from your blog and it's priceless. It's rare and beautiful that someone in the professional field takes the time to generously share knowledge these days. I know that the institution I attend teaches nothing like the things I have learned from your blog. So...

Thank you.

David said...

Hey John,

Did you hear about Joe Murray's plans about a new site called KaBoing TV? It's supposed to be “an all cartoon, all animation channel, not only with my (Joe's) content, but bringing in other content providers as well.”

What do you think about that?

JohnK said...

I wish him luck. I hope he gets actual funding for it.

Poppy Robbie said...

Hey John, longtime fan here. I stumbled onto your blog after trying to track down the old Spumco site. Sad to see that it is no more, though happy to have found your home here. Thanks for the years of Grade A entertainment, sir!

Paul John said...

I don't know why - maybe it's the nose - but George reminds me of the spider in Eatin' Off the Cuff in a couple of the frames. Beautiful stuff.

Gad said...

Hey John.
I got a question.

Why is it that in most of your cartoons and most other TV cartoons when you have 2 or 3 characters talking, the characters always seem to stand in a position where they are half looking at each other and half looking at the audience?
The camera hardly moves and is mostly fixed at the same position, unless it is an action sequence, where some thing actually happens and there isn’t just talking.
Yet in movies, In a conversation sequence, you have many camera perspectives and the charters only stand and look at each other at a more realist manner.

JohnK said...

Because cartoon characters have different proportions than real people and when you try to do "over the shoulder" shots with characters who don't have shoulders, it inevitably looks dumb.

Brubaker said...

Hey, that one actually aired on TV! On Adult Swim back when it was new.

Never got to see it, though. I had to leave to Japan the day it aired. But they did actually air commercials for it.

aalong64 said...

I agree completely about the Jetsons' wasted potential. Every time I go for a while without seeing it, I start remembering it as much better than it is, thinking "it's got fun character designs and setting, great voices, and a catchy theme song. I'll probably enjoy it more this time."

Then I watch it and I always just end up getting bored within the first couple of minute or so. The writing is just really mild and lifeless. And full of ancient sitcom cliches with no twist. I really want to like the show, but I can't.

Dan Jhonny Valentine said...

Ahahahahaha,these Jetsons you made are genials,ow maaan can't stop laughing,ahahaha what face expresions,i mean on Ren and Stimpy is kind of diferent,they are animals,but on humans is even crazyest,ow mann,outstanding,wish i can see that cartoon,Thanks Jhon.Show us the path :)

Dan Jhonny Valentine said...

So yeah Flash but the nothing beats the old paper and pencils,what tdo you find easier work in making cartoons,old school or this new milenium tehnology,i think we all gone have flash even on the toilet seat ahahaha

Trevor Thompson said...

Hey John,

you mentioned having sufficient budget. How is that determined? How do you know for certain what you'll be able to achieve when they give you a figure?

I'm especially curious about budgets for [adult swim] shows. Considering the visual quality of those programs, it's a wonder you ever did anything with them.

- trevor.

Trey Brown said...

I love this cartoon! The extreme poses are absolutely gorgeous.

John I have to ask, will flash ever stop being so temperamental about making things snap? So far I love what you've done with it. Youve experimented and shown more interest than ANYbody I know working today. But character movements, no matter how quick, tend to be far to fluid and flow like noodles. Call me crazy but I miss the good old days when ren's face would "fwap" into a frown. Forgive me if this is a dumb question but is there a reason why most flash animators cant take a page from history and drop a few unnecessary frames once in a while?

drawingtherightway said...

In that one image George sorta looks like Ross Perot!

John-Michael Morgan said...

I love those expressions and the cartoon. You, Gabe, and Matt all did a great job with this here early Flash cartoons.

On the subject of the Spumco Flash animations...do you have anything saved from Weekend Pussy Hunt?

Niki said...

I remember that they were going to show one of these on Adult swim, and I wanted to watch it desperately because I'd never seen it before. I missed it though and I'm hoping that someone has copies or Chris may like to share with everyone.

O gato said...

Oh my God, this is the cartoon that aired on Adult Swim that me and my brother always quote! "If you're gonna steal somethin! DON'T GET CAUGHT!!!" Ah, good times. Back when adultswim wasn't just anime and crap.

Landon said...

I remember seeing that flash animation...

By the way, I think you may be right about them not using these ideas to their full potential. Because I CANNOT REMEMBER a single stinkin' episode plot from that series.

Someone should come up with some really good ideas for this series and for gags for this series.

O gato said...

Also, the facial expressions in this are great. You definitely don't see that in cartoons today.

Joe said...

I always loved what a little bastard Elroy looked like in this cartoon. Great teeth in this one, too. Once again, Spumco animates a short conversation and puts more effort and life into it than most modern cartoons do throughout an entire series.

Michael said...

This is great, John. Is there a way we can see the flash all moving and junk? A link or whatever? I'd really like to see what flash can do in the hands of the Spumco people.

Haggis McCrablice said...

I always thought it was a pity you didn't do any cartoons with Judy Jetson in them, Mr. K. She was flirty and a little dippy in the early cartoons, but imagine what a real little trollop she could have been if reimagined by Spumco....

Jessica said...

Great stuff! Reminds me of this video where Daniel Martinico slowly looped William Shatner in Wrath of Khan, so you can see (and enjoy) every little one of his facial twitches and contortions.

http://bit.ly/td2Wx

(sorry for the repeat! deleted previous comment on the wrong post)

Shawn Dickinson said...

I love how you gave Jane a great rack!

JohnK said...

I think she was supposed to have a bare midriff too.

ThomasHjorthaab said...

Hey John, is the cartoon you're talking about the one where Bugs is playing around with an opera singer, where the cartoon is about Bugs "directing" him like crazy?... Can't remember the name of the cartoon... Damn... But it's Chuck Jones:)

cheers!

Shawn Dickinson said...

Good lord, that would have been hot!

Nemo235 said...

The first drawings of George and Jane yelling remind me of Jack Davis pics from old Mad magazines.

john said...

i just love the animation of the jetsons and the flintstones,it was the cream of the crop,cartoons now are bottom of the barrel,minimal talent artists- talent now-a-days is like popcorn- you pay 10 bucks for a bucket but all you get is 5 cents worth of corn. just a little pissed!

Speedy Boris said...

I wasn't a fan of the Yogi shorts you did (which was a similar idea of putting your own spin on a '60s series), but I -did- enjoy these. The shorter running times than Yogi helped, but I also found it amusing that the normally benign Jetson parents were psychotically screaming at each other. The animation was limited but the poses were hilarious and overly exaggerated.

And yes, I too love the line "Elroy, is this true? If I've told you once, I've told you a million times: If you're gonna steal something, DON'T GET CAUGHT!"

TedM said...

Hey John, did you ever get a letter that I wrote to you? I drew a picture of Huckleberry Hound on the envelope. Please let me know. Thanks

Pokey said...

Another excellent post...JK.

Aalong: Couldn't agree with you more on the Jetsons, and also put in Top Cat as they could use a few more seasons and be fleshed out even more. [Only Top Cat might get a bigger gang of alley cats and the half dozen cast of cats [and police Officer Dibble] would multiply like rabbits..

Haggis, I don't think Judy Jetson could have been used as Janet Waldo would have thought it too unbecoming for her....btw I've heard some stories long ago about Joe Barbera despising those late 1990s Yogi/Ranger/Boo Boo episodes.

ThomasH., the Bugs short that you're thinking of is 1949's "Long Haired Hare" [by FAR the funniest of that trilogy-along with 1950's "The Rabbit of Seville" and 1957's "What's Opera Doc"?]

John,, absolutel;y agreed on Flintstones and Jetsons animaiton, specifially the original series..