Sunday, November 01, 2009

Animation School 14: Toot Head Construction

Face is kept well to the front, with lots of negative space behind it. Top of face (eye area) is smaller than bottom of face (mouth area) for design contrast, Nose isn't in the middle. It's not symmetrical or evenly proportioned. If it was it would look mechanical.

Here is a common mistake in modern design. CRAMPED AREAS - No Negative Space
Dino's whole face is squashed together at the top of his head. Same with the top of his body where his arms are cramped together with no negative space. These are easy corrections if you are thinking about it.
A vertical line running down the top of the face. Horizontal lines under and at top of eyes. These construction lines follow the form of that part of the head. This is where today a lot of people get it wrong. They have the plane of the eyes contradict the plane of the face they are sitting on. (It came from a mistake in a Ren and Stimpy cartoon, and everyone thought it was on purpose.)
Disney eyes are very specific to them and their followers. You can always tell a Cal Arts animator by certain things they can't break out of - like Disney eyes. Sometimes the eyes have 4 corners. 2 subtle ones at top. But they always are thinner at the top, wider at bottom.Disney eyes and same head construction on all these characters.
From Mark Mayerson's site:
By the time of 101 Dalmations, the handful of stock Disney designs were all morphing into one. Every character in Dalmations has the same construction and eyes. Maybe Cruella has a very slight variation in head proportions, but the exact same eyes and eye expressions. This is the Don Bluth bible, and later in degraded form, the Cal Arts bible. Same character designs, same eyes over and over again.Slightly different jaw. Same eyes, only bigger. New nose! The Goth cartoonist's template.

Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom is on this set. Buy it.

These humans all have the same basic head construction with slight variations in proportions and details. They don't have Disney eyes. They have regular cartoon eyes. Actually Ed draws very unique eyes, but they are so tricky that the rest of us miss it when we try to draw his characters.

Animation is infamous for recycling designs. (And even more for recycling stories-but I'll save that for a rant)
Here's a much funnier variation on the head shape-and with original specific eye shapes. Try to catch all the subtleties. It's hard!



ThomasHjorthaab said...

Can't thank you enough for all this John!
A thing I learned very much from, was the heckling hare construction video you made some time ago!
If you ever wanted to do something like that again I'd be thrilled!
Or Hey! You could make a dvd that you could include in the spumco book, with some lessons!
That way, you get some money out of your lessons too!

Just an idea...
Cheers John!

Jack G. said...

Man after I thought you were packin' it in, you come back and start going crazy with the posts again.

I've I always recognized those Disney eyes, too.

John, you posted part of Ed Benedict's Barney design ages ago.
Do you have the rest of it?
Maybe, use it to teach some kind of lesson? Ed's early designs of Barney & Fred facinate me.

Alex_M said...

A dvd W/ the Spumco book is a good idea- id definitely buy a copy and plan to do so as soon as the book is set for release. This lesson is grand John- Ill keep a mental note every time I sketch out a design from now on.

Ollie said...

Yeah the dvd is a great idea, but I'll be buying the Spumco book either way. With or without the dvd. I can't wait!

Also, a little bit off topic but do you know if there's going to be any more Popeye dvd's? I know all the fleischer cartoons have been released but I'd still love to see the remaining Famous ones.

Niki said...

Dammit, I can see it. Well the few cartoons I draw have this kinda head were it's like a horizontal line on top and a big 'U' for the rest of the head and that used to be my favorite shape but not I've grown out of it. Oh yeah and I've finished the first 10 lessons of the $100,000 dollar animation drawing course! I'll post all my 'hands' soon!

ThomasHjorthaab said...

Hey John!
I've done some porky studies I would like you to look at, if you got the time:)


Cheers pal!

Alex said...

Funny about those CalArts students drawing Disney eyes and head shapes on purpose. Students wanting a career in animation at, say, Disney have to have cartoons with that look in their portfolio to be considered capable of working at the studio.
They don't look out for much in the way of personal style. I know so because I spoke with a Disney recruiter who said that, based on my portfolio, she didn't know where I would end up. So, there is doubt about a Disney-heavy career.

ThomasHjorthaab said...

Hey John!
Thanks for the tips!
I did some studies with more focus on the Line of action...
But I did not understand exactly how I should simplify the ears.

Line of action

Thanks again for the tips!

The Artist Aficionado said...

I'm more of a Fleischer, Warner Bros. kind of person. Though I love when you combine different stylized compositions from various artists that's essential for anyone including me when establishing an art bible.

Thanks for teaching us about the variations of composition. Growing up I knew that certain cartoons bared certain styles and major differences from each other but I never knew that composition was the main reason.

EatTillBurst said...

Great post! I love your didactic essays about the craft of drawing.

I think I understand dividing up a composition into big forms, and then progressively smaller forms that follow the bigger ones underneath, but I'm still a little confused on your theories about character design.

The basics I have gathered are the importance of using a variety of shapes and sizes, and negative-space surrounding ares of interest (like eyes and mouth).

If you could go through a step-by-step process that you would use to create a new character design, with changes made along the way to improve it, I think it would be very useful to me. (Right now most of my drawings are spheres and pears, with cluttered, evenly spaced and sized, features). Also I still have a bit of trouble using line of action, because invariably arms and legs get in the way of clarity.

Thanks again!

nagyaron said...

its all becoming clear now! these posts are extremely insightful.

Trevor Thompson said...

(It came from a mistake in a Ren and Stimpy cartoon, and everyone thought it was on purpose.)

Stimpy's Invention, right?

Why was it a mistake? I remember Stimpy's eyes being wrong when he brings home the Burl Ives record and looks over the door, but it didn't look like a mistake when his eyes turned into horse shoes as he gleefully pushed the remote.

Confused as usual,

- trevor.

Lohen said...

Really interesting post!

I did some construction studies about this. Please, could you give me some tips?


I want to practice in animation, and I think this George Layout is great for it.
I hope you give me your permission to use it as an animation study.


JohnK said...


It's a mistake because of this:

"They have the plane of the eyes contradict the plane of the face they are sitting on."

The cartoon it happened on was "Stimpy's Big Day" I drew a really fast storyboard drawing of Ren and didn't bother to draw his complete closed eyes.
I just drew 2 flat "U"s

When people copied it, thinking it was a good thing, they drew the "U"s on a different angle than the head was at.


Later, when people started imitating my Hanna Barbera caricatures they totally missed the point of the whole thing. They thought caricature meant mistakes. Thus that Barney and Dino drawing in the post.

People turn misunderstandings into whole styles. Yeeesh.

Severin said...

Correct Flat Dino? Why not.

Isaac said...

This was hugely enlightening! I never realized why I think something's wrong with drawings like that one of Dino you showed. Now I know!

Isaac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S. M. Denman said...

Thanks so much for the construction insight! I love it when you break down drawings into the basic bits, it's a great read.

I'd also like to second what Thomas Hjorthaab said, about the construction video! It certainly helped me with starting out on copying the drawings. I hope you can do another one, one day!

Gabriele_Gabba said...

Gosh John, your George Jetson drawings are so much more appealing. I also love the cartoons spoofs you did. Interesting point about cramping character's designs and loosing their strong silhouettes.

You know your fans and readers (unless i'm missing the post) missed hearing how your pitch for george liquor went. I can only assume its in production since we've seen those layouts.

Trevor Thompson said...

Hey John,

I went through my Ren and Stimpy discs and you're right! It looks odd to me now, especially when compared to drawings where it's done right.

I guess people were thrown off by the simplicity of the horseshoe eyes that it made them lazy.

Lohen said...

Ouch! Sorry, the link is wrong.
I don´t know why.
Any way,
here is again

Anonymous said...

This is a great post! Any chance you could go into a little more detail about the subtleties in Ed's design (Field & Scream)?


In Fred's design notes, what do you suppose it means by:

'...keep any anatomical rolly-poly out of face'?


RoyceAquatic said...

Thanks for the construction tips, tried doing some studies and applying to original characters, i'll do a bit more later, let me know what you think

construction study

384Sprites said...

Awesome. I really dig when you analyze art, because you open My eyes, I'd never notice this otherwise. Look forward to more dissections. Now I'm dying to hear what you think about Bruce Timm-ish styles. Also, Cal Arts Bible, I assume you mean the direction the school goes in, as opposed to an actual book that is used there. ?

Mr. Semaj said...

The only mistake I ever noticed with Stimpy's eyes were his gumball eyes in "Stimpy's Breakfast Tips".

Shannon said...

Excellent post, John - as they tend to be. I hadn't ever considered the composition of an individual character before. This leaves me with a lot to think about.

What I really wanted to comment on, however, was the color usage in the backgrounds of those 101 Dalmation stills. I love the subtle, more neutral tones.

Pedro Vargas said...

Really cool information, John! This helps out a lot! I like the pointy at top and round at the bottom type of eyes, not the Disney kind, but the Clampett kind.

You would expect people who work at big studios to be really good pros and know how to make out the difference between function and something that looked "cool" once in a cartoon.

JohnK said...

Yes, I love the Clampett eyes too. So expressive and full of life!

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

I also saw on this topic, an editing that you made, which involving various designs from Ranger Smith, seen on various episodes from the Yogi Bear classical period (1958-62). Here are they:

- Walter Clinton, on the episode Papa Yogi (1959). "I WANNA THAT BEAR!"
- Tony Rivera, on the episodes from the early 60s.
- Dick Bickenbach (the Ranger with that military look), on the episode The Buzzin' Bear (1958). "I WANNA GET DOWN!" (Yogi yelling to him, from the helicopter.)
- Ed Benedict, on the episode Daffy Daddy (1958).
- Dick Bickenbach, on the Yogi's first episode: Yogi Bear's Big Break (1958).
- Tony Rivera, on the episode Rah Rah Bear (1959), when Mr. Ranger discovers that Yogi Bear appears being interviewed to the TV, on the interval from the football match in Chicago.

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

Still on this topic, I've found references of Barney & Dino drawn by Craig Kellman (who was very influenced by Ed Benedict).

JohnK said...

No, he was influenced by me

rodineisilveira said...

You're right, Johnny K.
I fooled myself.

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

You also included the Fred Flintstone "after shave" version that you made. I laughed very much with this version.

Luke said...

Sorry I'm late getting in to this John. I would be very happy if you'd look at this drawing of mine that I applied these principles to.

I drew this almost a month or so ago. Sorry, I hadn't read the hands lesson yet, so they're off. I'd show you some of my lessons, and classic character copies, however, my scanner is on the fritz. I found this scan from a few weeks ago, and it was the only, with the exception of the even EARLIER stuff on the blog, that I scanned.

I'd just like to know if he looks good at a passing glance, and then on an even deeper artistic level.
Tell me what I should do differently, and what you would have done.

Than you so much for these lessons John,they are an amazing contribution to future cartoonists, I greatly appreciate them


Luke said...

I suppose it would help if you had the link

Crimson said...

Regarding the shorthand "u" eyes... I was just going through some old funnybooks and happened to notice in Disney's Goofy Adventures #12 (May, 1991) that artist Maria Luisa Ugetti uses the same shorthand on Goofy (as well as the inverse). Goofy Adventures is a US reprint collection, so these Ugetti entries might date considerably farther back.

If the mistake isn't a matter of pride or anything, maybe you can blame it on her. ;)

I dig her style, nonetheless. It's unusually loose and off-model in cool ways. Only she does seem to use a lot of this expression shorthand.