Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gandy Goose's Sandwich Trauma

Here's a clip from a story Tom Minton wrote for Bakshi's Mighty Mouse. This scene foreshadowed some of what was to come in Ren and Stimpy.It's one of the first domestic squabbles I ever directed. It takes place in Mighty Mouse's apartment (where Robert Mitchum is praying in the hallway). MM has invited homeless Gandy to stay with him until he can find a job and get his own place.
There's one of those beautiful double frames I love on some modern DVDs.
Gandy is doing his best to be a doting companion to Mighty Mouse. Sound familiar?
Mighty comes home through the trap door. A lot of the visual gags like that were added either in the storyboard and some in the layouts. Jim Smith storyboarded this episode and you can see some of his boards in the supplemental side of the DVD.
MM looks around to see what Gandy has done to his apartment.

This was the first cartoon show in decades where the bosses actually encouraged specific expressions that weren't on the model sheets.
I stole those tit eyes from Chuck Jones. Couldn't resist.

When you watch the animation clips you can see that the execution is pretty crude - kinda like the first few Ren and Stimpy episodes. Part of it is because the layout drawings had to be sent overseas to animate and assist. Those 2 steps tend to lose something in translation.
Partly the crudity just came from the fact that we didn't have much experience drawing functional drawings that told a story visually and we were teaching ourselves. A lot of this scene was drawn by Lynne Naylor and I who at least had some practice on the new Jetsons.
Just for context...here's what was going on in the mainstream animation world around us:
Nothing was allowed to be remotely cartoony, let alone expressive
It was an era of pink and purple, and flesh colored eyes and bobbing heads
believe it or not, these 2 frames (above and below) are 2 different shows
There were a hundred shows with the exact same characters in them
Doesn't this look like fun stuff to animate?
Ralph Bakshi rescued the cartoon world from this stuff.

It took me awhile to get rid of the pink and purple color schemes too...one challenge at a time...
Here's a a little butt slapping action.
We had a lot of fun doing the layouts on MM because we did get to create at least some expressive poses.

An early stab at emotional tension
This kind of scene was not actually inspired by other cartoons as much as by my love for classic sitcoms like The Honeymooners and intense melodramatic live action movies from the 30s and 40s. It doesn't totally come off yet, even though we killed ourselves drawing very specific emotional poses. I realized that you needed more than just story and drawings to make emotion totally work in film. I had to squeeze some extra angst out of the voice actors who were not all used to doing anything but the driest formulaic 80s style Saturday morning cartoon acting. Luckily they all liked trying this new approach and were good sports about doing extra takes and having me act everything out and grab them and yank them around the recording booth to try to get them in the mood.
Here's an idea I'm pretty sure we added in the layout stage. I thought it would be funny to have MM try to restrain himself from beating his companion by rolling the sandwich back and forth on the table, while speaking patiently to him through gritted teeth. This is the kind of thing that would normally prompt executives to say "I didn't see that in the script." But Ralph somehow kept us from ever hearing that.
The other thing the scene needed beside stronger animation and execution was appropriately emotional music. Music that matches the mood of the scene. I didn't get to try anything like that till Ren and Stimpy. The music scores on Mighty Mouse were scored with a lot of purposely off-key parts, I guess to be wacky because everything in a cartoon is supposed to be wacky and grating. It irritated the crap out of me, but that wasn't my department.
Believe it or not, though it might seem mild now, drawings like these were completely radical in 1987.

This was totally my fault. I drew the mouth charts for MM, and for the "L" mouth, I drew the tongue sticking way out. The animators used it and never inbetweened into or out of it, so tongues are always popping and vanishing all through the series. Later, on Ren and Stimpy we added many more mouth positions, but after awhile I just drew lots of them right into the layouts because the whole idea of stock drives me nuts.

Here's a slight irony. Ren and Stimpy lettering on the DVD menu.


Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures - The Complete Series

More Saturday Morning treats:this was what the cartoon world was

the funny thing is that while MM and Ren and Stimpy chased this look away from kids' TV, it soon found a new home in fully animated cartoon features
that's some lively stuff, ain't it?


arecee said...

Thanks for doing these posts about MM. :D

SoleilSmile said...

Jabber Jaw and Speed Buggy were from the 70's. Wouldn't a better comparison be The Transformers, G.I. Joe and Jem?

JohnK said...

There's a difference?

Amanda H. said...

I have a bit of a request:
Can you do an analysis of the Looney Tune "Pigs in a Polka"? Its one of my favorites and I would like to see a breakdown of the animation techniques used in it, especially timing everything to the frenetic music of "Hungarian Dances" by Brahms.

RooniMan said...

"There's one of those beautiful double frames I love on some modern DVDs."

Goddamn those engineers!! *steaming*

"Ren and Stimpy lettering on the DVD menu"

I smell copyright...

"that's some lively stuff, ain't it?"

Oh, yes. It's stunning...(NOT!)

HemlockMan said...

I recall that Mighty Mouse cartoon because it was the first Bakshi/You MM toon that I saw. It amazed me. All I could do was sit there gaping at it and laughing between bouts of utter shock. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. To this day I can't recall where or when I saw it...only that I did. The series was already off the air (I think), so it must have been a rerun of some kind. Not sure what station.

Cristian AvendaƱo said...

Man, I love when you criticize 70's-80's cartoons.
I grew up with that stuff, so I can't be as analytical as you, I'm actually nostalgic about some of those shows.
Whitout you, I couldn't see even the most glaring faults that easily.

SoleilSmile said...

Yes, there is a difference. Sunbow/Claster cartoons used color and values more. They were also pretty heavy on the frenel on Transformers. Floro Dery and Bruce Timmm developed a proto-anime style for their characters. Iwao Takamoto it was not.

Also...no flesh colored eyes:)

I don't have any of the second season transformers screen caps which used the proto-anime style. The first season showed a more Johnny Quest style with values and muted palette. However, the Jem and G.I. Joe screen caps are spot on with my point. Here are few a links to Transformers at al:


G.I. Joe


Mitch K said...

Does your DVD ripping program have a "deinterlace" option? Maybe an option between "interlaced" and "progressive"? (in which you would choose "progressive" instead of "interlaced").

You've got interlaced frames, that's why they're doubled.

Oliver_A said...

It's interesting to see that the cels of Mighty Mouse also seem to be partially hand-inked (mouth shape, ear & eyebrow outlines). Also, some nice dry brush techniques when MM is rejecting, spitting and slamming the bread.

The background design in the last frames also seems to predate what will later be efficiently used in Ren & Stimpy.

It's really only the colour design which dates this as an mid-end 80's series.

Oliver_A said...

Were those colours "ordered" by Bakshi or the network?

GoldDarkShadow said...

Wow, There a real difference between Mighty Mouse and those 80's cartoons. He looks so expressive while the other characters were just lifeless. Was it some law in the 80's to not make expressive and fun characters because its just ridiculous. I really wanted to know who started this lifeless cartoon movement in the first place.

Abdur Olajuwon

Oliver_A said...

Btw, I also love all those nice little details, like Mighty Mouse scribbling a caricature of youself on the phone booth in "Night of the Bat Bat".

JohnK said...

Hi Oliver,

no one ordered the pink and purples. That's just how everyone painted cartoons back then. Some of the MM episodes had some new color schemes.

Ashanti...I was there when all those 80s cartoons were made and worked on too many of them. They were hateful in every way and no fun to work on. I can't see any difference between any of them.

They all had the same rules: No expressions, no poses, no composition, just lots of unnecessary detail and terrible animation. They wanted us to trace the model sheets or xerox them up and down. If there had been computers then, they would not have needed artists at all. And tons of pink and purple.

No fun at all to draw and less fun to watch. Most people I knew were ashamed to be working on Saturday morning cartoons.

I'm always amazed when people tell me how much they love 70s and 80s cartoons, when everyone who did them knew they were solid crap.

Bill Perkins said...

Hi John. Great posts your doing, brings back a lot of memory's, the 80's,Taiwan and all that. FYI but I'm sure you're aware of it, there's a great article in todays Globe and Mail about a student you mentored. Nice to see, drawings not completely a lost art form. The "lessons" you're postings are really insightful and you can explain the principles of drawing very well and very clearly. Keep up the good work.

Oliver_A said...

Hi John,

ah okay, so it's more a case of learning with time how to abandon old habits and trends.

I guess most people defending 70's and 80's cartoons are basically remembering their own youth, and associate it with them.

But even back then, how could a child NOT notice the HUGE difference between the classic shorts and the "modern" shows? Or were those not broadcasted anymore in the 70's and 80's?

We just introduced our very young godchild to classic Disney shorts, and she TOTALLY loves them, even though they are way older than her own grandmother. I've never heard such hearty laughs coming from her when watching TV. Forgotten are all those stupid CGI Barbie and Tinkerbell shows...

The ability to inject life and humanity into drawings is the most direct and efficient way to create a lasting emotional response.

Isaac said...

The floorboard entrance is gold.

Cory said...

Haha, I love how in depth you get, the John K Analysis Method is thorough. I think someone else mentioned it already but the "double frame" you noticed is the result of interlacing on a progressive scan monitor (both fields being visible at the same time). You should be able to find a deinterlace setting on your DVD playback.

JohnK said...


I know what the explanation is (deinterlacing) but that doesn't get rid of the problem.
Not all DVDs have this problem.

The WB (mostly) and the HB and Disney DVDs play fine, without double images as you can see from the many posts I've done about those studios.

Some DVDs just are messed up.

Noel said...

I love that drawing of the Goose with the pea (whatever that is)

SoleilSmile said...

I understand your frustration, John. I don't understand the appeal of omega male cartoons like Futurama, Dilbert and Family Guy that the public can't get enough of. I hate working on those cartoons!

The fact that their appeal is lost on me makes me think I'm too old to make cartoons anymore.

The benefit is, although we hate working on crap, we still learned a lot about filmmaking from working on our Saturday Morning/Adult Swim cartoons. Therefore, we get to make our own stuff and be happy.

Good luck with your projects, Mr. K.

JohnK said...

Dilbert? Is that still being made?

Are you making your own film, Ashanti?

Alberto said...

whoa, that my little pony image... it's just awful. they're legs are just fat cylinders, it looks hideous.

Oliver_A said...

I know what the explanation is (deinterlacing) but that doesn't get rid of the problem.
Not all DVDs have this problem.

Because the DVD mastering people did something totally unnecessary: encoding the video with 30fps.

The DVD standard does allow encoding video files at 24fps, letting the player handle the conversion to 30fps. So when you press the pause button, the player knows where the full frames are, and you always get perfect still pictures.

This mistake has also another bad side effect: compression isn't as efficient in 30fps than 24fps.

The only way to get the full frames back is ripping the DVD (violating copyright law) and perform an inverse telecine processing step with the usual video tools.

K. Nacht said...

In Ice Goose Cometh, the triple-beat ass slap followed by Mighty's little sinking plaisir has been a favorite since i's a kid watching the show when it aired! I figured I was the only kid watching who knew all the Terrytoons references, and the beatnik, Lorre references, etc. And Ralph's provenance...etc.

J C Roberts said...

The "not EVERYbody" face was one of the many revelations for me when MM was first airing. This whole episode was sight for sore '80s eyes. I couldn't stand what TV animation had become but suddenly there was a blast of fresh air coming through. Even though the only name I knew at that time was Ralph's, I knew the second I saw the first publicity still of Ren & Stimpy there was a connection.

I'd love to know the backstory on one of my favorite MM moments. The very end of "Scrappy's Field Day" when Mighty's wink turns into an all-out twitch attack and the laugh track kicks in. I can't imagine the network didn't have an issue with that, but I know I couldn't stop laughing for a while after.

Elana Pritchard said...


John Pannozzi said...

" Most people I knew were ashamed to be working on Saturday morning cartoons."

The funny thing is, Floro Dery, who simply modified the Transformers designs for that show's first season (and then the key designer for later season) seems to be a glory hound who tries to take credit for designing everything Transformers. I'm amazed, I'd imagine he be indifferent to his work on Transfomers.

Gotta give credit to the Wuzzles and Ninja Turtles for even remotely appealing designs, even if they had barely any personality in the drawings. And other Ninja Turtle projects have had great artists, like:

Michael Dooney:








Mark Martin




Mike Kazaleh



Ken Mitchroney


SoleilSmile said...

Yeah, I'm working on my third one since graduating Cal Arts, John. I'm trying to make it as much like a WB/ Pink Panther cartoon as I can. Although, not in the same sensibility as you would though.
However, I am using the technique you taught me years ago, where the film is hand drawn and then cleaned up in Illustrator/Flash.

You wouldn't like it though. There's a Josie and the Pussycats spoof in it. The upside for your taste is that I'm using Fleischer's clean up line.

Thanks for the inspiration. Your blog really keeps me encouraged:)

Daven Evan Xaviour said...

I didn't expect that voice from MM! He sounded so nonchalant. When I was reading the post I had a way more annoyed and pissed off sounding MM in my head.

I grew up watching late 80's and early 90's crap how is it that I never saw MM?

Walter said...

I hated those 80's cartoons even while watching them, because there was no alternative. I always thought Chuck Jones and Tex Avery had it right, and wondered, even as a kid, why had things fallen into such mediocrity? I'm glad I was right! Take back the medium from the shmucks!

Felicity Walker said...

I miss the eighties. We at least had the choice of realistic cartoons. Not like today. Everything is either (a) super-cartoony, (b) anime (Pokemon) or bad imitation anime (Totally Spies), or (c) flat Bruce Timm style. Realistic animation is no longer on the menu. No more three-dimensional-looking, squarely heroic model sheets by Alex Toth and Russ Heath. I mourn the loss of the realistic style of animation we saw in Transformers, G.I. Joe, Jem, Galaxy Rangers, Visionaries, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Robotix, Pryde of the X-Men, Inhumanoids, and to a lesser extent things like C.O.P.S., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the first season), and Super-Friends. The fact that the animation industry has apparently decided those days are never coming back makes me angry and depressed.

I *like* the cartoony style of Ren & Stimpy and Ripping Friends, to name two series by the owner of this blog. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the expressive, cartoony style. In its own way it's pretty. I just miss having the variety of choices, and I despise eighties-bashing.

If you think the fat cylinder legs on the eighties My Little Pony are bad, you should see how they raped my childhood in the new one: bell-bottom legs.

the said...

Cripes, really excited to get the MM DVD's. Haven't seen them since they were on the boob back in the idiomatic day. Marvelling at how Milt Grossy some of these stills are. Something I didn't notice at the time. Absolutely lovely.

Pokey said...

Felicity, I guess you like those Steven Spielberg Warner Bros.cartoons like Babs Bunny, Elmyra, yeah..that and Punky Brewster makes one long for Daphne Blake [and THAT my friends is a TOTAL humiliation fopr thios clay horse, not to mention how Gumby and I had to suffer being underwscored with lame-oh synth music just due to music rights].

The 1940s-60s were the best, Felicity. Any "RACISM", "sexiness"[Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth pinups] was due to WWII, and stuff.
In short no offfense Felicity, but let the blogger tell you about how animators were treated.

Long Live reals cartoons..:)[and classic clay stop motion shows from the 50s-60s]


Pokey said...

And Ashanti [SoleilSmile], what JK says is correct [as I told Felicity above me].

akira said...

i know what you're saying, but the girls in those cartoons are not all the same. the chick in speed buggy is totally HOT, unlike any other 70s 80s cartoon characters... or is it just that she had a better voice and clothes and didn't do as stupid of things?

Felicity Walker said...


I liked the episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs that were animated by TMS. They had all the expressiveness you'd expect from a classic-'toon-inspired show, but were also believably constructed and pretty. When non-TMS studios like Wang, Akom, Kennedy, or Startoons were used, things got really flat. Some of those episodes were saved by things like writing, background painting, and atmosphere.

The same thing happened with Batman: The Animated Series. Bruce Timm's simplified, abstract designs looked OK when handled by studios like Spectrum or TMS. Even the later Dong Yang episodes weren't too bad. But when you get to the studios like Akom, it's very flat. Batman does not look like a three-dimensional entity. He looks like a cardboard cutout of Batman that magically changes shape when seen from different angles.

Good designs go a long way toward mitigating bad or mediocre execution.

One of the things I found with realistic eighties cartoons like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Jem was that because the model sheets were solidly constructed and had that extra level of detail, even the cheap studios tended to do shows that looked OK, even if they didn't move around much or show a lot of expression. There are three episodes of Transformers where I'm pretty sure they just traced the model sheets in places, but ironically, those specific shots don't look bad.

Same thing with Hanna-Barbera superheroes like Birdman (original series) and the Super-Friends. It's far from fluid animation, but the actual drawings on-screen are nice to look at.

Going one step simpler, the character designs for the eighties Pac-Man cartoon were very abstract, but with an almost Sanrio-like elegance that totally captivates me.

It's too bad that the animators were unhappiest working on all the cartoons I treasure the most. I guess it's a case of severe mismatch between artist and assignment. If I ever had the vast personal fortune to produce new cartoons, I'd insist that they be in the style of things like G.I. Joe: The Movie (the 1987 one, of course). But I wouldn't torture artists who wanted to be doing much more expressive work by forcing them to conform to my tastes. I'd look for animators who like the realistic style. If we could all do the eighties over again and use that piece of hindsight, maybe everyone would be OK.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad this scene was addressed because as I watched it on DVD, I noticed the whole tone, writing, and art style felt VERY similar to what we'd be getting in a few years with Ren & Stimpy, and that's a good thing. In particular, it felt a lot like "Space Madness", when Ren gets irritated with Stimpy, snapping at him even though he did nothing wrong.

J.T. Dockery said...

Glad to realize the Mighty Mouse stuff is out there again. Being that I was born in '76, Mighty Mouse had quite an impact on me, one that still lingers, although I barely remember anything about the series. I grew up in the lean years. But the early Ren & Stimpy episodes hit me just right as a teenager, and I would recall that I had seen anything that fun since the slight return of MM. Cheers.

Pokey said...

From Animation Nation, 2003:
on Josie:
I'm going to say something that makes me very unpopular here, I think.
Dan DeCarlo was one of the world's finest "good girl" artists. His drawings teemed with love, life, personality and sexuality,
and the secret of their success came in his perfect understanding of the human face and figure.
The JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS TV cartoon presents approximations of the Josie characters rendered with blank, stupid faces
and poorly proportioned, non-sexy figures and poses. We only know that they're "attractive" because they're relatively better
looking than Winsome Witch. The imagination and wit of the characters' comics adventures, meanwhile, is replaced by
interchangeable, stupid Scoobylike intrigues.
Seeing Dan DeCarlo's characters reduced to these pasteboard imitations is more painful than seeing it happen to the works of
almost any other comics creator. I refuse to believe that it had to be this bad, even in the 1970s.
Does nostalgia render all of us completely blind to the fact that this program was no classic... in fact, completely the opposite?
My apologies for being such a killjoy. But I just don't see the love for such a poor treatment of something originally so clever. "

I agree, and the show wasn't even HB's, despite revisionism--it was an adaption of Archie. Rocky and Bullwinkle and some of HB's earliest shows had much more compelling cartoon advneture than Josie. [apologies for pasting from another unassociated message board.]

The only remotely good thing about it was Don Messick & Janet Waldo [who may have voluntarily opted out of either of the Scooby Doo girls, in which my respect for her is even higher than before.]

One guess as what Gandy is short for [kind of a foul thing to say, but an easy peckin' answer..you may get GOOSE pimples..]

Pokey-just odds and ends about the original version of Gumby from the 50s and 60s

Pokey said...

By the way, two things...Why Gumby and Pokey rubber toys from the late 1960s always sprung their wires so often, and how come [aa a kid back then!] I was always so amused..:)

[And I'm STILL wondering why the usenet gang goes on to spam sale
80s cartoons except for the so-bad that it is good "nostaglia" and the "Robert Smigel/Saturday Night Live TV Funhouse-style irony"of it all. By the way, back when YouTube was just a fledging, I was one of the first to register, and have been a member, and one of those Smigel "Mr.T'"'s was the first that caught my eye.]


kurtwil said...

JK, DVD encoding is a hodgepodge and each authoring house has its own technique. Fortunately, newer BluRay HD specs are progressive format (no more interlace garbage !!) and MMTNA should look great on that since its source will be film, not Videotape.

Also thanks for the details on "The Ice Goose Cometh", one of my favorite MM episodes thanks to MM's character's big expansion from his old Terrytoon orgins.
It's a pity the ridiculous turmoil over "the Littlest Tramp" ended MMTNA early.

Sadly, there are quite a few Gen Y'ers who believe the 80's Transformer 2D korean cheapies are high art in animation.

Fernando Ventura said...

I just finished watching the entire "Mighty Mouse - The New Adventures" DVD collection and this scene is tottally hilarious!

marcushelbling said...

I got the new adventures of mighty mouse the other day and I just want you to know it is absolutely hilarious. I wish they played that on T.V. nonstop when I was a kid, but I was stuck with Games studios' gross cartoons that messed me a up a bit.

MistahB said...

Well I really liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles growing up, But I totally agree that it's animated clumsily and drawn or staged poorly. Frankly it wasn't a bad idea for a show. Theres a lot of shows made from filmation that had good a premises in the story. I just totally despise that cookie-cutter format of cartoon making that totally makes these shows poorly executed. I really love the New Mighty Mouse show by the way, not aminated like Ren and Stimpy but still equally entertaining!

fandumb said...

In fact, in the 1980s, some of the best animation DID come from feature films, in both America and over in Japan, and they were early starts for animators like Hayao Miyazaki or the late Joe Ranft, who both did some lovely animation work.

Waqas Malik said...

Dilbert?? that show wasn't popular XD