Thursday, October 15, 2009

BG Painting - Jetsons 85 Backgrounds


Believe it or not, but this look was revolutionary in 1985.

Why?
Because before those images above, 80s cartoons looked like this:

Everything was pink, purple and green - and had balloon highlights.It was the oddest color combination imaginable, yet that's just about all anyone did when I came into the business.



I can't even believe this stuff.
So when they sent me to Taipei to supervise the layouts on some new Jetsons, I took it upon myself to also take over the BG and color department.

When I first looked around the BG department, I thought it was weird to see Chinese painters painting all these sick American cartoon color combinations and I asked them to paint more like traditional Chinese and Asian colors.



And to use some neutrals like grays and browns to balance the more primary, secondary colors.
I also wanted her to use more limited palettes.
Or to use related colors rather than having every object in a room be a screaming pink or purple.
I had a bunch of fights with management trying to find somebody who would paint in a style I liked. One day they had an art show of all the Chinese artists' own work, and I found one artist (unfortunately whose name I can't remember) who had beautiful traditional Chinese paintings on display. I went to the head of the studio and asked him to put her on the show. After a fight, he agreed and I started working with her. I showed her Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom, some original Jetsons and some Disney cartoons and Italian fashion magazines and asked her to combine elements of those with her own style and these BGs are the first ones she came up with.I always liked cartoons with mood and here were some first attempts at it.



Purple kept sneaking in there but not so garishly as what I was used to seeing in the 80s.

These were radically different than the other Jetsons being made at the same time in other countries and I stirred up some trouble back in LA because of it. Wanna hear that story? I gave Bill Hanna a great excuse to yell at someone.

38 comments:

thomas said...

Thanks, that's a great story.

Those "screaming eighties" colors were not accidental. but intentional, as a competitive strategy. He who screams the loudest, attracts the most attention, and the most sponsors.

If colors had a taste, those colors would taste like sugary breakfast cereal.

Sam said...

From the decade that bought you the mullet.
This post reminded me of this(which I'm sure most people here have seen):

Saturday Morning Watchmen Cartoon

It does a nice job of picking out all the best elements from 80's Saturday morning cartoons.(The only flaw is that the production values are a little too high)

Jorge Garrido said...

YES! I do wanna hear that story!

Michael said...

The Cartoon School post was not only golden it's internet history. I'm watching vines creep and crack open those infested ivory towers right now. Administrative executives and corporate HR executives the size of cockroaches are scurry out of every crack. OMG! I just saw the registrar jump from the top floor and splat into the the dean's reserved parking spot. The dean backed out in such a whirl he rolled over her head twice. I just ordered the book. I am so ready to dumb down and be miserable.

Michael said...

What's great is you know to connect with people's roots. Cause that's where the passion grew. Then somehow the seedling sprout got covered up with manure made for pork belly futures. Executive domesticated cows can't administer such an idea in their half dead head. What cell on their spreadsheet aligns Chinese history with American cardboard color packaging? Dr. Science and John K. knows how to wrangle Synesthesia.

Bruce said...

These were radically different than the other Jetsons being made at the same time in other countries and I stirred up some trouble back in LA because of it. Wanna hear that story? I gave Bill Hanna a great excuse to yell at someone.

I'm interested, as the 1970's & 1980’s (for animation) are two periods that are seldom talked about. Either some of the animators (such as you) are embarrassed to even mention what they had worked on during those two decades or the subject is only briefly mentioned in the history books that are available.

I hope you go into greater detail in your next post, such as the work environment at the time, the atmosphere, and so forth. Bill must have been a fascinating person to work for, without a doubt.

Also, if it isn’t too much trouble John, I was wondering if I could ask you a personal question that is related to…

Actually, I'll just leave my email adress here and let's see where it can go from there.

ecurbwatkinson@yahoo.ca

Have a good one!

From an aspiring animator/ cartoonist

/\/\ikeB said...

Actually, there's still lots of things that are coloured 80's style.

But please tell use the next part of your story.

John Pannozzi said...

Tell us the story that involves Bill Hanna yelling, please!

:: smo :: said...

i'd love to hear the story about the LA Jetson's shakeup!

i remember a lot of cartoons having the rainbow wash backgrounds and just colors in general. rainbow washes and wonky shifting proportions bugged me when i was watching cartoons. i never knew why i felt weird watching then it was kind of subconscious, but looking back i remember the awkward grossed out feeling seeing those colors again.

Mr. Semaj said...

I had always figured there was a difference between the 1984 episodes and the 1985 episodes.

Bryce Johansen said...

I guess there maybe a situation in the future when you'd need to use some of those colors again...I mean technically there isn't anything wrong with the colors themselves, just how they used.

Trevor Thompson said...

When you talk about these old HB jobs it always shocks me to realize just how little control Bill and Joe actually had.

I can't wait to hear that story, John!

TedM said...

Yeah, Any stories about your days working at Hanna-Barbera are interesting.

Booo Tooons said...

Hey John,

would you ever work on someone else's cartoon again?

HemlockMan said...

I did not watch any cartoons in the 80s from the 80s. The last time I'd sat in front of a TV to try to watch a cartoon for many many years it was with one of my then-very young nieces. She was fond of something called GRAPE APE. I tried to watch it. I was horrified. I wanted to smash the TV screen. I left the room. I left the house. I never went back.

ThomasHjorthaab said...

Nice post John!

Dan Lee said...

how did you manage to just take over on bg and colours?

flashcartoons said...

I have been coming to your blog over the years. You never run out of good posts. Thanks John! It is so awesome learning from you.

Kaiser Fate said...

The garish, primary colours seem to be one of many chunks of evidence of something that has been bothering me a lot lately, and that's how children's programming seems to be 'talking down' to kids.
Children are a lot more intelligent and discerning than people give them credit for; it seems the people in charge of shows for a younger audience think they are just little stupid people.
As a result, it doesn't surprise me they saw fit to pump out gaudy backgrounds that are permeated with conflicting primary and secondary colours.
Because apparently kids aren't going to be entertained by a show with riveting stories like the Jetsons unless it is a sensory assault, right?

Chris_Garrison said...

Yes yes, the rest of the story, please.

Ryan Cecil said...

Thanks, great! These really resonate with your post a while back about color in anime. I recently saw an old anime called "Night on the Galactic RailroadNight on the Galactic Railroad. It's 'just some old anime show' I think but I was amazed by the color sense. Thanks for encouraging us to think about this.

drawingtherightway said...

On that image with the girl walking her dog by the fire hydrant, it doesn't look like she fits into the background somehow... she almost looks like she was just pasted on it. All the other images look like they match up with the characters though. When I was scrolling through these images, that just stuck out like a sore thumb. Maybe its just me but does anyone else think so? And yes I wanna hear the story of Bill Hanna getting an excuse to yell at someone!

Weirdo said...

I do want to hear about Bill Hanna yelling at someone. I would like to hear more stories about Bill and Joe. It sounds fun.

BTW, the backgrounds are pretty good. definitely better than other Saturday Morning cartoons. Those Chinese/Asian paintings are BEAUTIFUL! Very pleasing to the eye. Thanks for that.

Funky Al said...

Y'know, for as much as you complain about producers and stuff, they ARE kind of necessary to the creative process. I mean, if they hadn't demanded all that purple, would you really have been motivated enough to mix up the backgrounds? It's kinda like the time an exec told Mike Maltese and Chuck Jones bullfight weren't funny, and then they made Bully for Bugs, as the exec had never been right yet.

JohnK said...

Actually, the producer had nothing to do with it.

It was the artists that painted everything pink and purple. They just were used to doing it that way and had never questioned it.

Bill Hanna - the producer - actually liked what we did and yelled at his own BG stylist for not wanting me to change things.

talkingtj said...

its really disheartening for me to hear all the problems that people like you and bashki and even hanna barbera had in this industry,the only industry i ever wanted to work in but i'm kinda glad i never did. everything from content to commercial sponsorship to censorship and even arguing over color palettes is ridiculus.its all a symptom of the american mentality over the last thirty years,no originality, no substance, no soul, no fun! i worked at a internet based company doing corporate sales, i had to work under a manager who didnt understand how to use the company software,didnt understand the relationships i had with the clientelle, couldnt figure out how or why clients bought anything from us and failed at every attempt to promote sales. his solution? fire everyone including me, this was a college graduate who is still at this company today basically behaving like a delusional captain of the titanic.you are the cartoonist, the creative one, the experienced professional, why argue over the color palette? if it looks better, is funnier, better written, more people will watch, bigger ratings,more revenue from commercial sponsership,win win. why are so many people in power such jerk offs?

JohnK said...

Excellent questions and points!

I wish there were answers.

They WOULD make a lot more money if they let us make good stuff.

Trevor Thompson said...

Exactly how many dollars are lost every time you make a good drawing?

Luis said...

infinite source of wisdom you are.

The Teraoka Ilustration with the Geisha opening condoms kinda freaks me out.


It's quite obvious the influence of creativity and real knowledge of arts in the Jetsons BG.

sunny kharbanda said...

Hey John,

I just posted a study (tracing, really) of an Eisenberg panel. I hope I'm understanding his hierarchy. Can you take a look?

Eisenberg study #1

Pete Emslie said...

Garish colours are a real pet peeve of mine, too. The pink, purple and green syndrome was also at work in Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", with hot orange added to the mix as well, most notably during the Festival of Fools celebration. I actually find sequences like that hard to look at, with all of those competing colours vibrating against each other.

"Pocahontas" had a similar problem, mostly with the hot burnt sienna flesh tones vibrating against the equally hot veridian green and turquoise of the forest. Although I believe the bigger problem in the case of this film is the use of colour outlines too close in tonal value to the areas of colour they contain, thus making all the surface details hard to read and furthering that "vibration" of adjacent colours.

The problem has gotten worse as the computer makes greater inroads, as all of the computerized colour rendering that has replaced cel paint is also now replacing the real paint on the backgrounds. What you now have is everybody painting with "light" rather than real pigment, thus adding to the garishness of it all.

GoldDarkShadow said...

By looking at the color differences of the Jetsons Pics you posted, the colors were all mixed up to a certain extent. But that was the eighties, and cartoons were bla at the time. I'm just asking, but did you fix the colors for the Jetsons during that time period you for Hanna-Barbera??

pumml said...

Great post, John. I had no idea about this facet of the Jetsons show. Thankfully you stepped in... night and day difference on those paintings.

John said...

80s TV was kind of crap wasn't it? Makes me glad we live in... oh.

I've been drawin' Roger Ramjet!

LETS TALK CARTOONS said...

hi
would very much like to hear the story.
and please make it the long version
cheers

Andrés Sanhueza said...

I think the story was posted in a commentary in the post of Lynne Naylor Jetsons crowds.

Pokey said...

Excellent post as always, John.... It WOULD be excellent to know whyo Bill and Joe got angry at...BTW I was looking at the Judy jetson pictures you posted there, and I must say that I always thought that she was uh.."Hot".

Sven Hoek said...

I actually got pain in my eyes looking at those hideous colors. Yuck.

And very cool to see an early Spumco like style.

These executives are so delusional and drunk with power and money that they only care about being in control and forget what the hell they are supposed to be doing with it.