Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nose Balloon/ Ren and Stimpy/ Cartoon Gags

This is part of the plot setup for "Life Sucks".
I'm curious but does anyone do pure cartoon gags anymore? Mighty B maybe?
I know there are still a couple cartoony designed shows, but are they allowed to do some ridiculous impossible stuff just for visual fun?
This is a scene drawn by me and Nick Cross for Life Sucks.
It's from the beginning of the cartoon. Stimpy is in his garden enjoying the beauty of nature and life forms, when Ren wakes up with a hangover and comes over to see what kind of idiocy he is up to.
I can't remember exactly why Stimpy blows his nose up here- maybe it's just a sign of extreme happiness.
Anyway, I like when cartoons are cartoons. Almost all early cartoons did this sort of thing as a matter of course. Why? Because you could. What other reason is needed?
Disney and later generations of animators frowned on this type of cartoon silliness for silliness sake, as if it was beneath them to use the medium in a way that no other medium could imitate.
Personally, I have never been able to follow this logic. My favorite cartoons are probably from the mid 1940s - but even then, outside of Clampett and Avery, most animated cartoons had abandoned pure visual nuttiness.
The 20s and early 30s cartoons might be cruder in execution than the 1940s, but they are full of pure cartoon gags and that makes them rare treasures.It gives them an appeal that you can't get anywhere else. They celebrate the fact that they are cartoons and anything is possible. They took advantage of the creativity of the cartoonists themselves, instead of squashing their natural instincts as has become standard practice.
I wish that there could be cartoons that retain the best elements of all the eras, rather than constantly abandoning good traditions just because something legitimately new or merely trendy has come about. Why not do everything that's fun if you can?

47 comments:

thomas said...

Again...great drawings; especially the roughs.

Lack of gags?

Probably because gags are physical, and all the cartoons that out there now, seriously lack any kind of physicality.

Its part of the flat and design-y problem.. I think.

The Tyler Hayes said...

It's a strange phenomenon indeed. Shows like Archer/Sealab/Frisky Dingo all have such a weird sense of humor that I love them, but at the same time the visual cartoon itself almost doesn't even need to be there, not only for the fact that it's almost not animated at all.

Oh Mighty Boosh, how I love thee.

GoldDarkShadow said...

In my personal opinion, the greatest cartoons have the funniest cartoon gags in them. Take all of those away and you basically have nothing(just like the 80's and the 2000's cartoons). I don't even watch television anymore and I watch cartoons for the gags all the time(especially Tex Avery's). That's how pitiful networking has become.

Roberto González said...

Is there any chance we will ever watch Life Suck completed? I've always been curious about how a movie made by you or someone of your old stuff would be.

In fact what you mention is one of the things why I'm curious about it. Cause most other studios believe that you have to sacrifice cartoon gags like that in order to make the story and the characters believable.

They use what you call "filler", pathos and stuff like that so the audience can feel sympathy for the characters.

I had never watched a cartoon movie with no pathos at all...well, maybe Three Caballeros, and Spongebob Squarepants Movie at least made fun of the pathos. Maybe Beavis and Butthead Do America?

I'm not totally against pathos if it feels somewhat real, problem is they always introduce the same type of moral and conflicts.

Pixar movies had some nice things, but they usually lack this kind of cartoony stuff that I think it would work pretty well in some of their stories. It's like they have to give a reason for every crazy thing they add to the movie, and I think that makes it better for some people, the type of person that always want to know the "why"-s of everything in a plot. But I'm a more emotional fella, of course if there's something really out of place in a plot I would ask why it's there, but if there's something absurd and it works to make me laugh or I find it touching or memorable, I'm all for it.

Carmine said...

So will we ever get to see "Life Sucks"? Has any of it been animated? Wiki lists it as a planned "tv movie" that is supose to be the best Ren and Stimpy 'episode' ever.

With all these dtv animated movies out there, surely Ren and Stimpy or any Spumco property should be in that mix. Maybe an email or letter writing campaign is in order? But who do we lobby?

Eidenbrock said...

"Superjail" IS one big visual gag!

Zartok-35 said...

It all comes down to HOW exactally you want to entertain, I suppose. Cartoon silliness is, in a sense, only one of those ways, and it doesn't suit everyone. Why? I don't know, and I don't like it.

coolhand said...

marvelous misadventures of flapjack has some good cartoony moments in it. i think it is one of the few funny kids cartoons out there right now. it really makes me laugh every time i watch it.

Stevie said...

"I'm curious but does anyone do pure cartoon gags anymore?"

John K, have you ever watched "Ed Edd n Eddy" by Danny Antonucci? It ended its 11-year run last year but during its time on Cartoon Network it was the most cartoony cartoon on that channel, perhaps even on television itself.

I heard that you respect Danny Antonucci's work but I've never seen you comment on anything he's done except for "Lupo the Butcher" one time. Why so?

Mitch K said...

These last few posts are fantastic!

RooniMan said...

Me want cartoons!

(P.S.: Great drawings)

Elana Pritchard said...

Here here! I agree.

I think many people take themselves too seriously these days for cartoon gags, which is a shame.

Especially hipsters!

Timothy Merks said...

like coolhand said, Flapjack is a good example of a show built on cartoon and sight gags.

It's interestingly done to, it seems that the characters change depending on who did the storyboards. Pen Ward (being one of the board artists) delivered some great funny stuff that couldn't have been written.

His new series hopefully will build upon this
http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/promotion_landing_page/adventuretime/index.html

He has definately taken the quality up a notch from the pilot

Cody said...

I agree about "Ed, Edd n Eddy". It was my favorite cartoon, and it wasn't afraid to be as cartoony as it possibly could. There were TONS of cartoony-for -cartoon's sake type gags in it. And the show naturally evolved over time like John's always talking about- Danny even talks about it on the season 2 dvd. (The first 2 seasons look very crude compared to the last couple) I can understand how John might not want to talk about the show here because of how stylish it is- it wouldn't be good for beginning cartoonists to really look at. (Also there's the whole "boiling line" thing which some people can't seem to get past.) Other than that, it had most of the old-fashion cartoon principles, I think. Maybe the colors weren't so great, but gosh darnit, that cartoon was REALLY ANIMATED- as in, it actually MOVED in funny ways, A LOT. All of the characters even had their own walk and run cycles. It was pure fun.

James Sugrue said...

"You're an EEDIOT! Life Sucks!" I love that line.

coolhand said...

timothy merks: i also look foward to adventure time. the pilot is completely nonsensical and hilarious.

coolhand said...

chowder also has some funny gags in it. its interesting the way they use pattern to create clothing and stuff in that show.

Zoran Taylor said...

"I'm curious but does anyone do pure cartoon gags anymore? Mighty B maybe?"

What else would you call this?

I believe the limb-wiggle-spin-hit-the-wall scene was laid out by either David Germain or both him and Katie Rice. I know she did the storyboard, she wrote a post about it on her blog.

In regards to that show, I'm interested in your opinion on famous, influential comedians who do physical stuff for fun themselves being execs. My feeling is that it's win-win: they have business sense, and no one thinks they can be trampled (or wants to be known as the one who tried), so they get their way, which means funny, silly stuff.

Before anyone jumps on that theory purely on the basis that The Mighty B! has been canceled - I'm aware of that. And I want more info. Like how people know. And why it's not on Wikipedia. And why I only know because someone said it here. And just why, why, WHY....*reaches into back of medicine cabinet with a shaking, clammy hand*......

The Tyler Hayes said...

Wait, is Adventure Time actually being developed into something bigger than the pilot? That was the craziest/awesomest blip on my radar back in the '00s.

coolhand said...

yeah adventure time is coming out this april i believe. he has a flikr, at the moment i cant find it. but yeah its signed up for cartoon network

http://www.flickr.com/photos/84568447@N00/4225540719/in/photostream/

Chris said...

Off the top of my head, FLCL and Superjail have pretty cartoony gags, there are actually plenty others but the two I listed are the only ones I like that I can think of. The rest is crap like teen titans and spongebob.

Anyway Life Sucks looks great, I really want to see the finished episode. Especially the part about the children's crusade.

BTW John, I seem to remember you saying that you someday hoped to make animation that looked like one of those Golden books but in motion? Have you still been looking into that? I'm sure with today's technology you could do something like that.

Eric said...

I too would like to know if this project will be completed. It could be a fantastic way to kick off "John K Presents" if Cartoon Network picks the damn show up like they know they should.

Oscar Baechler said...

Pssst...

Hey John!

You should go troll on this directly antithetical op-ed posted at ScribbleJunkies.

http://scribblejunkies.blogspot.com/2010/02/preston-blair-book-causes-problems.html

Beef Witted Klingon said...

Ijust went and read the anti-preston blair book post over at "skibble junkies" it's interesting to note that if you click on Bill Plympton's name on the left notice which books are listed as his favorite....more specifically noted as "my bible"...Tha heck is going on?

Mark Skull said...

LOL! WOW! I love these! These are hilarious and funny, John! :)

Ray said...

You know why we don't see stuff like this anymore? Because the animators today don't know how to draw it. They're lazy and have grown up on cartoons that use "southpark" and "family guy" humor.

JLG said...

"Why not do everything that's fun if you can?"

Because it doesn't necessarily fit the kind of story you're trying to tell or the mood you're trying to create.

As great as musicals can be, would it have done much to help "The Exorcist" if the priests had broken into a big Broadway-style production number during the "The Power of Christ Compels You!!!" scene? XD'

I hear you on principle, though.

JLG said...

Echo what others said about Chowder, Superjail, and Ed Edd n' Eddy. ESPECIALLY the last one. That show had the best of both worlds---funny animation and intelligent dialogue. And since pathos came up somewhere, I really loved the series finale, being a big fan of pathos (not bathos). Cartoony and pathos ain't mutually exclusive by a long shot.

Even Teen Titans had moments of anime-influenced visual outrageousness for its own sake, even when it clashed with a story's overall seriousness. I wasn't a fan of that approach, but the visual gags themselves were pretty damn funny, and there was no justification for them other than your favorite one----"Just because."

JLG said...

Pat Smith's post isn't really antithetical to the point being made here. He happens to find the basic style JohnK builds on (1940s pears/circles-based squash-n-stretch) limiting and overexploited, and a case can be made for that, but JohnK's post was about cartoony for cartooniness's sake, which knows no stylistic allegiances.

John A said...

I have to guess that your question was purely rhetorical. You've laid out in great detail why cartoony gags don't show up on network cartoon shows. Any physical gag, any kind of visual treat that involves more than a couple of poses would require giving the ARTIST control over the scene, and in the management driven, super- compartmentlized factory assembly line production system, that's just too risky for the suits to even contemplate. Original gags mean original drawings and if it can't be cataloged and reused a few thousand times, the suits act like you're stealing from them.

Now some shows do have some physicalcomedy, but in a very limited capacity. Spongebob, for instance features some cartoony animation---for Spongebob, that is, the rest of the characters follow the model sheets religously and use the same assembly line method for the rest of the show.

Also, can you imagine trying to explain the balloon nose gag to some second rate animator in Timbuktu? Animation corporate structure is a modern day Tower of Babel.

JohnK said...

"limiting and overexploited"?

I would say the complete opposite of that

"liberating and we just barely got started exploring the possibilities"

JohnK said...

John A: you'd also have to design your characters more dimensionally so that the gags worked.

It would give you a much broader range of creative and visual possibilities.

John A said...

But wouldn't that require some kind of mutual agreement between the animator and the character designer? That doesn't seem to be a problem at Spumco,but another studio would just take all the life out of the individual drawings in order to keep everything looking "the same".

JLG said...

"I would say the complete opposite of that

'liberating and we just barely got started exploring the possibilitie'"


Like I said, a case can be made for "limiting and overexploited." But that very much depends on what KIND of case you're trying to make. Yes, it IS liberating and the possibilities are endless. But it's also limiting in another sense---for instance when comparing American theatrical cartoons during the 1940s/50s to what National Film Board of Canada was putting out around the same time. A direct parallel like that is good illustration of what Smith is presumably getting at.

Isaac said...

Obviously not all animation has to have visual gags, even though the medium is naturally disposed to it. Visual expressiveness, though, the medium can't do without. Visual expressiveness easily dies when you use characters that lack construction and perspective, or when you narrow the characters' acting to a predefined limited set of poses. When you do that, your characters become paper puppets.

South Park uses paper puppets successfully, because it's designed around it. Family Guy uses paper puppets, but it is not designed around it, so it's visually sedate. Foster's Home uses paper puppets, but pretends it doesn't, so it's downright ugly to look at. Most "action" cartoon shows use paper puppets in a completely oblivious manner.

Visual gags are not for every work of animation - but if you don't have visual expressiveness, it's wasting, and frequently misusing, the medium.

xynphix said...

I think there have been a lot of bright spots in animation in the past few years but instead of seeing them, people would rather complain how everything sucks so it all just blows right by them.
Stuff like FLCL and Dead Leaves, even Flapjack barely gets the credit it deserves here.

The mighty B for example, as mentioned by Zoran Taylor, it's got some great physical cartooniness. I posted a link a few days ago to a clip from "El superbeasto" where a girl blows up her boobs, not as good as John K could have animated it but it was still pure cartooniness. I'm surprised nobody commented on it It seems people would rather pic on the bad aspects of modern cartoons rather than praising something for being the entertainment that they like. Rob Zombie spent $10,000,000 to make it. Why weren't you involved John? I'm sure you could have done more for him for that budget than what was done.

Mad Max Winston said...

Flapjack.

JohnK said...

Hasn't everyone agreed? there's a ton of posts about those shows.

xynphix said...

John,

I have read some of those posts about good recent cartoons, glad you acknowledge them, also glad that you took the time to comment on that plastic man TV pilot that I sent you the link to.

In seeing that Rob Zombie cartoon, I can't believe you weren't asked to be the director, or maybe I'm wrong?? It seems that your type of style was exactly what Rob Zombie wanted? Don't enough people with the big banroll know about your work? Why??????

Eric said...

Since people mentioned "Superjail"... I'm a fan of it too. It's doodle style reminds me of the Sergio Aragones artwork that used to litter the margins of Mad Magazine.

drawingtherightway said...

I just read that article about the Blair book that Oscar Baechler provided a link to and have a few thoughts. I agree that the walk cycle thing is very confusing. I also think Preston could have explained certain things in the book better. However I still think it's a great book for learning the basics. As for the author of the article saying that cartoony design is limiting, I don't understand his reasoning at all. If you use more realistic designs you would be way more limited in what you could do then cartoony designs.

JLG said...

Somehow, Mighty B had completely escaped my notice. I'd never heard of it until reading this thread. Looking at it on Youtube, WOW! I can't believe what I'm seeing. You hardly ever see animation like that on television. And most remarkable of all, it's geared toward and produced by gals! Who says girl kidlings don't love them some nutball slapstick? Now I understand why JohnK seems to be confident about pitching The Heartbreaks.

Benjamin Anders said...

These are some great, funny drawings! It's a shame that there aren't more cartoons with visual gags and the only one that did, is possibly canceled.

thomasecclestone said...

>>antithetical op-ed posted at >>ScribbleJunkies.

I actually agree with the comments at scribble junkies. But I think taking it as criticism is wrong. Mr Blair wrote his book in an age where people understood very well the basic principles of drawing. All the animation studios were stuffed full of people who understood form, composition, negative space, action, force, form, weight, and colour. Mr Blair wrote a book that wasn’t about drawing, as such, but was about taking the skills people already possessed (the ability to draw) and enhancing those with the knowledge necessary to animate. I think simply using the book and copying master artists will give you some understanding of drawing,possibly better than 90% of artist in an age where form has been forgotten by the major art schools, but starting the animation phase of learning before clearly understanding how to make a still drawing is a difficult way to learn.

kurtwil said...

After watching the first 2 Ren and Stimpy DVD collections (and sadly watching the deterioration in hands of Game Studios), looking at the Mighty B! was a very pleasant surprise with some nice poses and cartoony animation!

Wikipedia suggests this series is doing well, so perhaps we're on of cartoony shows' rebirth, and JK will get another series going!

killajloves69 said...

john i love u ur my hero screw nick for firing u this is the work we love please make this movie i love u and the fans need ren and stimpy to live

Selby said...

"Cartoon gags" truly are a dying art. And it really brings me down whenever some old animator acknowledges this. I believe (and it could be just because I was born in this time period) that the 90s saw a brief moment of hope for cartoons. Ren and Stimpy was great, as well as a bunch of other stuff that was on Nick at the time.

Its a shame that the 00s and 10s cartoons dont have the same kind of colorfullness as the 90s cartoons.