What do directors do in cartoons, again?
Well, one thing they do is draw energy sketches for the artists they hand out scenes to. That's how we get some of our own style into the pictures.
These are some "energy sketches" - coined by Milt Gray for the kind of quick sketches directors give to their artists. These are from a sequence of Life Sucks called "Ren Cuts Stimpy". Ren is trying to make Stimpy realize that life is full of ugly, not happy, so he keeps flinging hurt words from his evil sharp lips at him. Each time he tosses a word like "famine" or "genocide" at Stimpy, it slices a little piece of blessed innocence out of him.
The better the artist I'm handing out to, the rougher my sketches can be. Below is a Nick Cross drawing more finished after he and I would talk out a scene and each do rough energy sketches. Then he would take them and do tighter versions like this.
I'm gonna put up more of Nick's drawing from this sequence later.
This is the section as written in the premise from "Life Sucks":
Later at home, Stimpy prays to Cat Jesus (a cat crucifix on the bedroom wall). “Dear Cat Jesus, I don’t understand. I thought all the life you created was happy and wonderful, but underneath it all, there’s nothing but pain and suffering!” Cat Jesus speaks: “Well, at least I don’t feel any of it!”
Stimpy mopes around the house, depressed. Ren follows him, talking about history and war, pestilence, famine, genocide and disease. Stimpy refuses to listen any more. He shoves Ren aside and plops down in front of the TV to watch his favorite show: Andy Griffith. He whistles the theme song and starts to cheer up. He especially loves Floyd the Barber and rocks back and forth with glee during all the Floyd scenes.
Stimpy gets Ren back by telling him what his favorite cartoon is, and the word slices his nipple in 2. The detail at the right is where I try to figure out how to draw a convincing nipple split.
You won't find "energy sketches" in the Filmation work flow chart.