Friday, February 12, 2010

Life At Cartoon Retro

Here's some relief from all the dead 80s cartoon posts.

"Dead" is about the best way to describe the 80s. No matter whether a cartoon was in a "realistic" style or a cartoon style, what they all had in common was deadness. Something well beyond conservatism or even lack of skill.
Just compare the wide variety of lively cartoon styles that existed decades earlier.
All these look like humans with souls and life and individual personalities drew them.
Some cartoons like Jack Cole's were super wacky, some were stylish but still lively, like Chuck Jones below.
Nobody drew characters standing straight up and down in symmetrical poses with no expression -unless they had no talent or imagination. That was almost unheard of until the mid sixties and Saturday morning cartoons came along to make stiffness and lack of sincerity a requirement of cartooning.
All these old styles also had a feeling of fun, which was totally lacking and illegal in the 1970s and 80s.

Here's Owen Fitzgerald drawing in Hank Ketcham's style. This is conservative but elegant and sophisticated cartooning. The poses are full of attitude and subtle bends and angles. The result is stylish but very natural and organic.
Frank Frazetta is basically a "realistic" artist, but his poses are anything but stiff.
I got all these images just by surfing through one of Shane Glines' great sites.
You can see tons of great stuff at Cartoon Retro, including Shane's own stylish and appealing work.

I forgot about this artist until I found him at CR. Man, he's just great!

And of course, everyone's favorite Playboy cartoonist, Erich Sokol.
There is so much great cartoon art now available on blogs that it's amazing to me that I still hear people defending 80s cartoons, which the artists themselves will tell you stink in every way.

All the ingredients exist today for a truly Golden Age of cartooning. The business is full of talent (we have to unlearn some bad habits of drawing flat, stiff, formulaic and trying to be cool), the internet is an encyclopedia of fantastic and varied cartoon art from the early to mid 20th century - and there are some cartoonists who are willing to share their experiences and knowledge with everybody.

Now if there were only a studio that would take advantage of the situation and shed all the bad habits developed in the last 35 years or so.

Take a look through Shane's site and see if you're not inspired to shake off stiff deadness.

http://cartoonretro.blogspot.com/

29 comments:

Elana Pritchard said...

Now that's a happy post!

Lew said...

I think the stiffness was more a side effect of corporate mentality and crappy budget than being inherent in the designs. Look what an amazing artist can do when riffing on those designs: http://traditionaldanimatio.deviantart.com/

JohnK said...

Budget had zero to do with it. Look how much more lively the comics were - and they were super cheap to make. Or...look at Roger Ramjet, which cost a fraction of what a Filmation budget would have been.

Blandness is a conscious choice made out of fear and distrust of creativity.

The Butcher said...

Don't you think Captain America's foreshortened fist looks a little too big in the first picture? Is that Jack Kirby? If so, that's probably the funkiest Jack Kirby drawing I've ever seen. It's still a great drawing despite the flaw.

If you want examples of how super hero comics dwindled in the 80's and 90's, you needn't look any further than Alex Lifeson. Google him. My god.

Mykal said...

John: Nice to see Cartoon Retro getting a nice nod. It is a wonderful blog - a true gold mine for the lover of great drawing, cartooning, and animation. Great post. -- Mykal

RooniMan said...

Ahhhhh..... Now I feel relieved.

Jack Cole? Hmmm... never heard of him, but his work looks very intersing, I must look at more of his stuff.

Herman G said...

Blandness is a conscious choice made out of fear and distrust of creativity.

Good Quote"

Its much easier to be in the comfort zone. I'd rather be pushing the bar.

Kit H said...

yeah I have the New Funnies comics and the howdy doody. The comics were so lively and colorful

Various said...

The Butcher said...
Don't you think Captain America's foreshortened fist looks a little too big in the first picture? Is that Jack Kirby? If so, that's probably the funkiest Jack Kirby drawing I've ever seen. It's still a great drawing despite the flaw.

Yes, Manwithoutfear.com confirms it's by Jack Kirby. I agree, it's some of the most exaggerated foreshortening I can remember seeing in a Kirby drawing.

Brett McCoy said...

If you want examples of how super hero comics dwindled in the 80's and 90's, you needn't look any further than Alex Lifeson. Google him. My god.

Alex Lifeson? The guitarist for Rush?

martinus said...

There's a lady totally dedicated to post every golden book ever at this blog: http://goldengems.blogspot.com/

Plus her profile pic used to be of her with a Jimmy the Idiot boy doll.

mike f. said...

Whoa - Dennis' Mom was quite the MILF, huh? (Someday you oughta do a post just on famous cartoon MILFs, if only to counterbalance all the HeMan and Fat Albert posts of late...)

Eric Fleck said...

I always like that painting of Ringo Starr Frank Frazetta did for Mad Magazine... best painting of Ringo ever!

Andy said...

"All these old styles also had a feeling of fun, which was totally lacking and illegal in the 1970s and 80s."

So true. Makes me sad to think of it all.

Jeff Overturf said...

It feels so cleansing to see good art.

Especially after your great posts on the dead stuff.

But even without...we should all take time each day to look at the good stuff...like you said...it's all out there!

wolfboy said...

I gotta tell ya; it's heartbreaking to watch more and more shows developed that are watered down versions of previous, rejected attempts by very talented--and here's the kicker, highly skilled and "experienced" creators. The current trends are to skew "weird for weirdness sake", versus any methodology. Executives and networks seem to be under the impression that only a complete outsider unfamiliar to the basic foundations of ainimationand cartooning can deliver something irreverant and in your face. Well...it's in your face alright. I'm all for outsider art, underground cartooning and the like, but to continuosly watch veterans like Aaron Springer be ripped off show after show, pilot after pilot by watered down, easier to "control" Springer-lites is the real shame. Creators like him should be raped, but mutually--and actually utilized for their wealth of experience. Instead, we get third generation knock offs of "weeeeeird" characters screaming or drooling on screen.

Shawn Dickinson said...

"Whoa - Dennis' Mom was quite the MILF, huh? (Someday you oughta do a post just on famous cartoon MILFs, if only to counterbalance all the HeMan and Fat Albert posts of late...)"

Mike took the words right out of my mouth!

John Atkinson said...

Say, is it worth paying for access to the full website? $5 a month seems like a bargain.

More drawings o' mine!

Jeff Read said...

It's quite a world when cute and fun cartoons are considered "retro", and modern is dull lifeless crap.

I saw a girl on the T with a Stimpy iron-on on her jacket. I commented on it, and pointed her to this blog.

The Butcher said...

"Alex Lifeson? The guitarist for Rush?"

Hahahahahaha. Man, what a brain fart. For some reason I was thinking of Alex Ross (who is actually good in my opinion) and Rob Liefield, their names and my love of Rush molded together and produced a deformed brainfart baby. My apologies.

The Butcher said...

So yeah, Rob Liefeld.

Marty Fugate said...

Dennis' Mom is kinda hot.

Mykal said...

I believe that one panel of Woody, Andy Panda, Charlie Chicken, and Oswald the Rabbit playing basketball is the work of Dan Gormley.

HemlockMan said...

They don't call it the "Golden Age" of comics for nothin'.

I appreciate the way you bring up Jack Cole. I don't think anyone has ever drawn like him. Not before he came along and not since he killt himself. Not even Will Eisner could lay out a panel like Jack Cole.

Trevor Thompson said...

How much would a studio like that cost to get started?

xynphix said...

I'm in a position right now where I've got networks interested in my cartoon ideas but I'm already foreseeing the same old corporate crap that applies to anything else that makes it to TV and already am preparing to face the embarrassment of having my ideas basterdized.

I think it's time that like minded individuals to start a new independant animation movement. I could go on and on about why it's getting easier and easier in this day and age to have an independant studio..........

but Ralph explains it the best,
Everyone who wants to bring back real animation needs to watch this youtube clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WApcUBcVMos

So, why aren't people who have the passion already organising and making cartoons like what they want to see????????

If I come into a lot of money in the next few years, you better believe that I'm going to start an independant creator driven studio.

Demetre said...

You know when I first saw Ren and Stimpy I was ten years old. I don't know how or why but I knew I was watching a real cartoon something that was totally new. Ren and stimpy only represents 1 percent of actual real modern cartoons and to most young people Ren and Stimpy is retro. I think its rare to get a creative show like Ren and Stimpy created. The only show that comes close is SpongeBob(you might disagree with me John).
I really don't think the mass audience wants creativity, I think they want crass. Oh sure maybe not the people who read this blog but that vast majority of people love mediocrity. Hell we are fed it everyday.We are told to follow the rules and be like everyone else. What you want is a utopia for cartoonists that had only existed at the turn of the twentieth century when most artists were incredible draftsmen who were paid to push the limits of their imagination and competed with one another to push the medium in ways never thought of.
It used to be that comic timing was a art and now its starting to become an oddity, now we get characters who just ramble on about nothing and people clap and demand more. Honestly I think if people wanted better cartoons they would said so by know.

Guy said...

Honestly I think if people wanted better cartoons they would said so by know.

Go out into a busy street and tell people you like cartoons. How many people would you get past before someone laughed at you?

To the average person, cartoons are that horrible garbage that they sit their kids in front of that they can barely stand to listen to.

Why do people trot this out every time we have one of these posts? People HATE CARTOONS. Where do you get the idea that they don't? Because they sit in front of Family Guy and listen to the references? Because some of them go to see Pixar movies that don't even feel like cartoons to them, just movies? Because little kids sit there and stand them until they reach the age of about 10 and figure out they have better things to do? Cartoons are so bad to the average person that they LAUGH at you if you like them.

kurtwil said...

Guy said it: I was actually demoted and hassled as an EE because I liked well drawn and animated cartoons. But even within visual effects I was surprised how much bias there is against good animation. Sadly, video game artists, some of which who WANT to animate like JohnK and others, can't do it because of software and time constraints.

After watching Mighty Mouse the new adventures, it's sad to see how far a lot of today's animation has fallen. Illustrated radio and gross satire seems to be the main animated product now.

If JohnK hasn't done it already, why not mention what companies __are__ trying to do really cool classical animation? Some of us (including this one) might want to contribute something towards it!

BTW, don't blame the software: it's quality is usually based on its users. Toon Boom can either let animators draw as they wish, or use digital enhancements (properly, or badly).