Thursday, October 22, 2009

Johnny Hart's Cartoon Physics

Johnny Hart's drawings look simple on the surface but they are very clever, I think. He has a great natural sense of cartoon physics or cause and effect - how one event leads logically (or illogically) to another.
It looks like he could have been influenced by Roadrunner cartoons.
His drawings have a lot of tension and feeling in them too. Each drawing contains a lot of complex information. ...and the continuity of the successive drawings is brilliant. He only has a small number of panels to describe a lot of action. Making the decisions of what parts in between the action you can leave out and still get the idea and gag across is very brain-intensive. I have trouble with that. I want to show every tiny fraction of action in my continuity and it tends to drag out the cartoons longer than necessary.
On the other hand, Hart is one of my biggest influences and largely sub-consciously. My storyboard scribble style is much like his finished drawing style. Fast and just what is essential, without worrying about making a perfectly polished drawing.
This is how I see the function of storyboards-to convey the continuity and essential part of the gag, feelings and story.
What's really hard is hanging on to these essentials from department to department in an animation studio, where the successive polishers smooth out the finish, but sand down the guts.

Look how much information and feeling is packed in that middle panel of the Dinosaur smashing into the tree. You see the impact as the main action. The tree is being ripped out by the roots as a secondary action and the roots are dragging in the opposite direction of the tree. On top of that, all the dirt is flying off the roots. The leaves are being smashed against the top of the tree in heavy bunches and a few individual leaves for texture.

Then the tree impact is causing Peter to fly out of the leaves on a raft (why does he have a raft in a tree?)

Hart is conveying pacing in still drawings, without the luxury of animation and real time. Very impressive.

You have to be a very good editor to draw powerful comic strips like this.