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...