Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Depressing Studios 3: DiC

DIC?
Do I even need to say anything?

I will anyway. In terms of sheer ugliness, it would be hard to beat this stuff. DiC came out of nowhere in the 1980s and seemed to have no rules or standards as to what made cartoons work. So they just made it up.
The combination of the worst character designs I'd ever seen, with sending all the creative work to the cheapest service studios around the world added up to a style that makes Filmation look like 40s Disney.
When I went to work in-house for DiC, they had not even heard of what a layout was- let alone an animator. They had storyboard artists that had never animated, and believed that any camera angle and any number of characters in a scene was no problem to animate- because they didn't have to do it. They drew storyboards with downshots of characters they couldn't draw themselves even in a straight on pose and then sent the storyboards to some poor nation across the globe. 6 months later, finished cartoons would show up back in LA and everyone here would slap each other on the back for the magic they had achieved- not knowing what miracle made the stuff move- when it actually did once in a blue moon.

A visual style that developed out of poor taste, uncaring business men, ignorance, shoddy design and cheap production values later developed into the style adopted by studios that could afford to make movies that cost 20 times the budget of Pinocchio. Go figure.

The influence of DiC

71 comments:

Brett McCoy said...

There was a Hulk Hogan "cartoon" ... geez, so much they could have done with that but looks like they dropped the bomb... I don't know what's worse, taking old cartoons and making them live action or taking live action and turning them into "cartoons"

GP Animations said...

I'll admit that Ghostbusters wasn't the best drawn cartoon or best animated, but I still really loved it as a kid. Although, judging by a lot of cartoons now, I guess you can pretty much feed any sort of cartoons to kids and they'll accept it.

RooniMan said...

DiC, or as I call it, "The bottom of the shit barrel."

Ryan said...

Yes. You need to say something.

Looking at bad cartoons isn't educational by itself. But insight into why a cartoon turned out as bad as it did might teach me what to avoid.

A.M.Bush said...

aw but i love inspector gadget. (not in that way)

Alberto said...

haha! Oh my gosh, I remember watching Dic cartoons as a kid. I forgot how terrible they were though, the ones I watched were "Inspector Gadget" and "Carmen San Diego." Guess for some reason when i was 8 years old i was reaaallllly into trench-coats.

Isaac said...

Are you talking about the puffy cheek bones and puffy eyes, or the live-action animation, or both? The DiC style is much less offensive than the Filmation style -- they're not pretending to be something they're not. They just wanted to do live-action on the cheap.

Niki said...

They forgot the "K". I remember this company, sadly they are all I say when I last went to Nigeria.

Namowal said...

I'm surprised the cheap 'n' lifeless cartoon hasn't been spoofed more often. That'd be funny to see a live action parody where the actors posed and moved like the Saturday morning automatoons.
Or maybe that'd be scary.

Jeff Read said...

Nostalgia Critic called it "The appropriately named DiC Entertainment".

Ian Jones-Quartey said...

is it true that DiC stands for "Do it Cheaply"

Donnie said...

I used to love The Littles....

Nicol3 said...

DiC was very "anime" in it's production values most the time-- which would explain the way the characters were drawn.

I dunno. Am I crazy for "liking" Ghostbusters? Not for the animation, or the story for that matter-- I just always seemed to like the fact that it was practically a monster-machine with of all sorts of ridiculous designs.

warren said...

Wow, look at all those DiC-heads.

Ebbe said...

The only good thing about DiC cartoons was the little girl who emphatically says "Dick!" during the logo animation.

Mark Skull said...

Eh, I was a sucker for DIC back when I was a kid. It was them, you, and Cartoon Network when I was growing up. On the plus-side, even though I grew up loving Ghostbusters (and still do), it actually influenced me to push myself to do some really creative and expressive work.

Guy said...

Well, you'll probably inspire a lot of rage by making fun of The Real Ghostbusters.

The Real Ghostbusters and A Goofy Movie seem to be somewhere in the middle of the top ten cartoons that make people furious if you say anything negative about them with Animaniacs or maybe Batman:TAS being at number one.

Geneva said...

Hahaha!!!

These posts aren't supposed to be as educational as much as they are little treats for all of us who read this blog regularly, I'd imagine. Yowza, this has been some brutally bad stuff!

If you've been reading the blog you should see why these are bad, but I'll summarize:

CHARACTERS: No appeal, forms not animatable
POSING: No line of action, no sillhouettes, lots of characters just standing around straight up and down
EXPRESSIONS: Traced off of model sheets; they were boring, generic expressions to begin with, to boot
LAYOUT: clutter, lots of characters crammed in with no sense of composition
COLOR: Thoughtless haphazard selections; primaries and secondaries and no use neutrals or resting places for your eyes
IDEAS: Evil cartoon writers want to poop in your Saturday morning cereal.

Cristian AvendaƱo said...

Oh, man.
I used to love the Ghostbusters cartoon as a kid.
I won't ever watch it again. Ever. I don't want to suddenly realize that one of my favourite cartoons was a pile of crap (like it happened last year when I watched a couple of transformers episodes...)

Guy said...

GP Animations: Or, if you give your kids garbage they'll sift through it for their favorite pieces of garbage.

You could try feeding them a variety of dog food, giving them a variety of things you've dug out of a dumopster to play with, and torturing them in a variety of ways to see the same principle in action. "I like waterboarding the best, Mom!"

Marty Fugate said...

When my son Daniel was about 7 years old, he was watching some feckless dreck from DIC. At the end credits, a little girly voice said "DEEEEK" in a French accent. He fell on the floor laughing helplessly for about the next ten minutes.

patrick sevc said...

Gotta admit though, us 80's kids thought it was hilarious how all of their cartoons ended with somebody saying "Dick!"

Mr. Semaj said...

Does it cheer anyone up to know that all three of these Depressing Studios are dead?

Marty Fugate said...

Don't forget Harmony Gold ...

"Working in harmony to make gold for over 25 years."

Jeff M said...

On the Ghostbusters DVD they show some initial production artwork that features early character designs. They were so much better than what they wound up with. Seems like one of those instances where they didn't want people being too creative.

Martin Juneau said...

I can't believe i spending years to watching those cartoons as a kid. At my time, they was everywhere. The only cartoons i loved from this company was Heatchliff (Unaired today) and Inspector Gadget. Despite the lifeless Anime style, they have strong appeals (especially Gadget) which was destroyed years later.

The cartoon Real Ghostbusters was showed for Halloween years ago but i never giving attention to it. I found this as a silly adaptation from a yet so-so summer movie.

"Does it cheer anyone up to know that all three of these Depressing Studios are dead?"

You forgot also DFE (Depatie-Freleng Enterprises), but it was dead at the begin of the era.

Mr. Tat said...

I have a natural video game bias for Captain N and the Legend of Zelda TV series. For more cartoony outlets, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is my cup of tea.

But many other DiC's cartoons are nicely summed up by Geneva. Not enough blinding nostalgia for them.

ca60gregory said...

Mr Tat, You liked Captain N and Zelda because you have a personal bias for video games? I don't even play games and I know those shows must have been insulting to their own source material.

Zoran Taylor said...

@Guy - That may have something to do with "Batman" being largely the product of John's right hand man for layouts on MM.

GoldDarkShadow said...

I used to watch DIC cartoons all the time. Now they are just lifeless pieces of crap created by people who wouldn't draw to destroy children lives. I think I have a different perspective of reasons since I am older and have more knowledge of these things now.

John Pannozzi said...

"Does it cheer anyone up to know that all three of these Depressing Studios are dead?"

Dic is still around, although it's now part of Cookie Jar.

I must say that there were elements of Real Ghostbusters I liked, mostly to the writing of J. Michael Straczynski, who unlike other cartoon writers manage to leave animation altogether and moved on to a successful career in live-action and comic books. He later helmed Babylon Five.

Let's not forget Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters, which was not good, but at tried to be cartoony, and had some of its animation done domestically (and unlike the Filmation stuff, the US work on Slimer! wasn't too bad). And I gotta admit that Janine from Real Ghostbusters is pretty attractive.

I've heard very good things about the Lost Cities of Gold, possibly the best thing Dic ever did.

And Inspector Gadget and Dic's shitty yet oddly entertaining video game adaptions (like Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog which had some great work by Ren & Stimpy veterans and other talented guys like Milton Knigh, and Captain N, which was bad yet had an awesome premise) are definitely guilty pleasures of mine.

Hey, John K., maybe you edit this post and include Milton Knight's Robotnik Design form Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog to show what Dic could have been:

http://www.miltonknight.net/robotnikmodel1.html

AnArchyAl said...

1. ya everyone i knew, back in the day of 198something, snickered that the cartoon was "dic" minus the K
2.I'm another fan of "ghostbusters" but alot of that stems from the movie which i liked more and was always disapointed that the cartoon never quite lived up to the film. but as a young budding cartoonist i always thought that would have to be the better of the series to get stuck on cause it seemed that one would still get to design impossible monsters and ghosts. which some i still remember though i have not seen it in close to 20 years...however...i also remember the ghosts never quite looking like people who had "expired." i can imagine that most character designers were told to draw ghosts that looked nothing like dead people. the system was and sometimes is still extremly stoooopeeeed. lets make a cartoon about a movie that all the kids saw anyway.but then take out the fun stuff cause we dont want to offend the kids who already saw it, liked it and bought enough of the merchendise to make us even consider turning it into a cartoon.

Chip Butty said...

In DiC's defense, how about Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog?

It was one of the cartoonier 90s shows and looking up the credits for the first time, I'm not surprised to see Ken Butterworth directed virtually every episode and Spumco's own Vincent Waller was a storyboard artist. I KNEW there had to be some talent somewhere on that show!

Of course, furry anime conventioneers would be happy to tell you how it was an abomination next to the dark-and-edgy Sonic cartoon.

jdigz said...

John K is always wrong, Ghostbusters was brilliant.

Ryan said...

Geneva: I mean, with negative examples, I learn best from if I can see the underlying mental traps that led to a bad cartoon.

One mental trap is thinking a detailed picture is always better than a less detailed picture. Another is trying to get consistency by making people trace the model sheets.

Pokey said...

Two words come to my mind when hearing that little nkid say "Deek"...rhymes with duck rye.

Mykal said...

John: Third panel from top - all the figures in the doorway. If that don't make coke shoot out your nose, nothing will. -- Mykal

JLG said...

As I went into detail about in a another recent thread, "Real Ghostbusters" was a standout from almost everything surrounding it at the time, because it actually had clever writing and good character chemistry. For that reason, it holds up very well today. Unfortunately the dry humor pretty much went out the window when story editor J. Michael Straczynski walked out in protest when the network suits started to meddle. The tone changed immediately. It's striking to see, sometimes, how much difference one person's presence can make.

On the animation end of things, the Ghostbusters' only syndicated season (1987) is a fascinating study in how different studios and crews can vary wildly in how they draw the same characters. And I do mean wildly. If JohnK wasn't made nauseous by the whole situation to begin with, Ghostbusters' variations would actually make for a good post in the recurring "cute vs. ugly" theme. Yes, most of us here hate the general style, period, but WITHIN that, some artists definitely made the drawings more appealing than others.

This is among the ugliest ones:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qggNonXEAs

And this is one of the best-looking ones:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WtRGi_J2PQ

See how differently those two crews drew the characters' eyes? (everything else, too, but the eyes especially)


Probably DIC's longest-lived success has been "Madeline." I've never seen all of Bobe Cannon's 1952 UPA adaptation, but DIC's original Family Channel special deserves credit for nice oolor design and an attempt to echo Cannon's balletic scene transitions. Madeline as a long-running DIC franchise has been uneven---sometimes it could be a genuinely good show for small girls, but it was never as relatively good looking as the first special or two had been.

By the way, D.I.C. originally stood for "Diffusion, Informacion, et Communicacion."

Guy said...

Zoran: Or, they grew up with it.

Yes, Batman:TAS is better than other TV cartoons of the time, but that's like saying Chef Boyardee raviolis are the best out of all other Chef Boyardee foods. It's still not something you throw a fit over if someone says something mean about it, unless you can't stand the idea that the things you grew up with are bad. (Plus, we don't have any good cartoons around, so everybody's picking through garbage for their favorite garbage. It's hard to grow out of Chef Boyardee-grade animation. I like to use my imagination.)

JLG said...

John Pannozzi:

I don't think "Mysterious Cities of Gold" was produced under DIC. Some people might assume it was because Jean Chapolin was involved, and I think so was Tetsuo Katayama, the animation producer DIC was usually using during that period.

Chip Butty:

Yeah, "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" tried to be zany and cartoony, but the shame of it is that the writing was super lame. Bizarrely paralleling that was the dark and dramatic (and much more popular) "Sonic the Hedgehog", also from DIC. I never thought the exploited that show's premise for all it was worth, but it was a fantastic premise.

Zartok-35 said...

Ah, DiC...The stuff internet Memes are made of!

Can we expect a post about Ruby Spears next?

Guy said...

P.S. you shouldn't be furious when someone criticizes anything.

The only reason for becoming furious at criticism is because it threatens to make you aware that what you like isn't really as good as you make it out to be.

For example, a terrible artist will likely get furious with you if you criticize his work. Because he doesn't want to acknowledge that he is terrible. A good artist will either use your criticism to improve if it is good or be amused if it is bad. He doesn't get angry. Ever. Because he is good.

If you criticize a Looney Tunes cartoon (for example, because the facial expressions could be a lot more human) probably nobody would get angry with you. If you criticize Batman:TAS with anyone who likes the show they'll get furious. Because there are so many flaws that all you can do is pretend they're not there.

Same thing with Disney cartoons, only it's much milder because they're much better. There's tons of flaws (the writing is amateurish, the characters are empty, the main point of the animation is for other animators to see all the skill in it) so Disney defenders rarely engage you in a good argument. They usually either shout "accepted wisdom" or just tell you you're wrong and Disney is great.

And real criticism of professional cartoonists is pretty much not allowed, because everybody knows everybody has big flaws.

Ridiculous business.

Brian said...

funkydic blog?

Tony W. said...

Kids liked the monsters in Ghostbusters link

Jeremiah said...

I remember seeing the Ghostbusters cartoon long before I ever saw the movie, and you can imagine my surprise when I discovered the movie was actually a comedy.

The "Gag Busters" scene in Mighty Mouse was hilarious and true.

Martin Juneau said...

I don't know if anyone sees the original Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog pilot but the Mobius backgrounds from the pilot turned much pretty and more videogame-ish than in the main series but the characters are accurate.

It was one of the last cartoons from Dic i enjoyed. I remember buying 2 years ago the complete Sabrina's Secret Life series on DVD (Not a bootleg) but this cartoon is hideous and looks made by therapists. Now i know why some channels want to remove it by now.

bergsten said...

Jesus Tapdancing Christ, Kricfalusi. Why do you keep on torturing yourself like this?

glamaFez said...

Any of this stuff is like a refreshing warm bath after that 'tude sweatshirt. Please don't ever show that again.

CJ said...

Hey John!

I did a rendition of one of your recent sketches, think you could give it a critique? I mentioned some of the major flaws, but I need your keen eye on the pose and emotion.

Btw, going to give a more in-depth analysis of Dic?

introvert said...

Do you need to say anything? I would think the pictures alone prove that pictures don't tell anyone anything anymore. Maybe a picture used to be worth a thousand words, but people just aren't willing to listen with their eyes anymore.

It's like the animation business is the pet dog of the entertainment industry, that they constantly let get away with horrible behavior. They assume it's cute and endearing of the dog, but the only reason the dog even behaves like that is because it desperately needs someone to tell him just when he's doing something wrong.

It's not like the dog doesn't know right from wrong, it's just that everyone that owns the dog will exclusively encourage the bad behavior, while punishing it anytime it wants to do anything good. (The modern production system acts as the shock collar in this analogy. A very effective tool in the hands of people who care nothing for the wellbeing of the dog itself.)

cartoonretro said...

The comments here are more depressing than the images.
S.

JohnK said...

Yeah Shane,

it's had for me to fathom that people would defend any of this stuff on any level at all.

I mean, I was there. We had to dumb down our work and purposely do everything wrong.

yawn said...

Deeeek did to mario and sonic, what famous studios did to popeye.

yawn said...

deek changed the styles of stuff like mario and sonic,just like famous studios changed the style of popeye

Mars Cabrera said...

After the HB Alex Toth, I never saw much of tv cartoons much, which is a good thing... not too familiar w/ the samples here...could be the same time I was doing some crappy cartoons myself, LOL!

Interesting stuff!

yawn said...

Oh and about that gag busters reference in mighty mouse, giving all the gag busters the same dead pan bill murray voice was brilliant.

JLG said...

One praise of one particular show's writing does not a defense of that miserable old production system make.
The mere description of that working environment gives one stomach cramps.

Shannon said...

What's most bizzare about Shrek characters is they don't even make sense as a singular design, nevermind as a group.

The Farquaad screenshot is a great example. Someone went to great lengths to make his face incredible amounts of 'realistic' ugly... And then his cloths are a red gradient.

Fiona in particular was a great example. In a behind the scenes interview one of the animators was gloating that her face was getting *too* realistic and had to be scaled back to fit the movie. Too bad her dress looks and acts like a piece of plastic.

The issue is probably cost. Making a pretty/ugly face for the audience is probably seen as a better use of money, rather than realistic clothing (which, I imagine, is incredibly hard).

But why would you focus on something to such an extreme that it makes no sense in context of the rest of the design?

JLG said...

yawn:

I don't think that's an accurate comparison, since DIC was the first outfit to animate either Mario or Sonic. The same can't be said of "Famous Studio" and Popeye, if it can be considered a its own entity as opposed to watered down, burned out Fleischer Studio.

HemlockMan said...

The company should have had "Sucma" in front of their name.

Lew said...

Eh, the monsters in Ghostbusters were fantastic.

Chip Butty said...

I'm not seriously trying to defend DiC...just acknowledging when actual cartooniness gets through the system, like that "handcuffs on a snake" take from the "golden age of Filmation" or Bob Camp's ghost designs on the Real Gagbusters.

Zoran Taylor said...

@Guy - For the record, I've never even SEEN B:TAS. I'm just explaining what fans might be carrying on about, not that I even really know.

And if you're bringing in any part of what I said on your blog.....uhh, I hate to break it to you but I stand by my point: It's incredibly stupid and not funny at all. I have no idea what the hell you're trying to accomplish and it strikes me as odd that someone with your attitude would open himself up so brazenly to accusations of talentlessness.

Zoran Taylor said...

"If you criticize a Looney Tunes cartoon (for example, because the facial expressions could be a lot more human) probably nobody would get angry with you. If you criticize Batman:TAS with anyone who likes the show they'll get furious. Because there are so many flaws that all you can do is pretend they're not there."

Yes, BUT the reverse is also true - the better the subject, the more likely a just-averagely intelligent person's criticism will be complete horseshit. What's this about the expressions needing to be more human? In a classic Looney Tune? The idiocy of someone believing that makes me much more irate than someone defending some modern corporate cartoon. I can just laugh at people who do that.

JohnK said...

I'm having trouble following what the argument is about anymore.

dakini kundalini underpants said...

Am I the only person that wonders whether the executives had an obsession with forcing their characters to all look like they've contracted mumps?

Jeffrey said...

"I'm surprised the cheap 'n' lifeless cartoon hasn't been spoofed more often."

You, evidently, have never seen "Adult Swim". That was, easily, 80% of their programming from the late 90's through the mid '00's.

"Am I crazy for "liking" Ghostbusters? Not for the animation..."

As others have noted, the animation was crap, but J. Michael Straczynski's involvement made it slightly more palatable (for 12 year olds) than the other dreck that was out at the time. I think Straczynski telling the stories of his production trouble is more interesting than any of the actual episodes.

Pokey said...

Hey, John Panozzi, you forgot another aspect of J.Michael Strazynci: he wrote Clint Eastwood's 2008 "Changeling"..


To everyone,
I wonder who they paid to do that company ID "DiC", the kid saying it from the window as discussed [by myself in my last post, and by some others]

SparkyMK3 said...

Hey John, are you gonna do more posts on these studios, like say, one about Nelvana and Ruby-Spears?

Guillermo Jaquesono said...

And speaking of pre-60s and 80s cartoons

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wi7LU1iZhLc&feature=related

Felicity Walker said...

The problem with talking about DIC is that it was really several studios under one umbrella. When they could afford good animation studios, you got well-constructed, eye-pleasing characters that ranged from the cartoony (COPS; Inspector Gadget) to the realistic (MASK; first season of DIC GI Joe) and in between (Real Ghostbusters; Beverly Hills Teens). When the animation got farmed out to other, cheaper studios, it not only moved less, it looked worse. And the shows I just mentioned in the “good” list also had their share of episodes animated by the “bad” studios.

After 1990 it was impossible to have good DIC animation. It was always done by the cheap studios. This is why strong, realistic model sheets are so crucial. With a realistic model sheet, the worst that can happen is that the cheap animators will copy from the model sheet and do lots of well-drawn, non-moving standing figures and talking heads. With a cartoony model sheet, you don’t even have that to fall back on, and the whole thing looks gross.