Friday, June 18, 2010

ATTACK OF THE ANIMATION HAIR

I have always been fascinated by "animation hair". (meaning hair styles in animated cartoons from 1980 and likely into the next couple centuries) You probably have too. If you ever met anyone in real life who had animation hair, your first instinct would be to beat the crap out of him.
Characters in these modern animations do not have natural instincts though. They just magically accept the galling hairstyles - and sideways nipples.For a few years in the 1980s teenage suburban boys who hung out at the Galleria actually had a form of animation hair - hair that was half shaved and half long. I used to call it the "2 Barber Style" - as if 2 barbers had fought over what kind of hair style would look best on you and ended up compromising.
The style didn't last long in the real world (probably because of the instinct mentioned above) but it has been reverently preserved in animated features (animated features are a veritable museum of archaic and mummified atrocities). Someone in charge of how to raise your kids believes that regular folks would want to hang out with people who have this hair.


Girls have their own forms of animation hair too. This one above has "Furry Hair" - which is actually not hair at all, but a character from Disney's Robin Hood curled up asleep on top of her head.
Here's a fine example of animation hair below. It's so wacky I can't even find words to describe it.What if your Dad came home one night with this hair style?
ANIMATION EXECUTIVES REVERE SHEMP
As everyone knows, Shemp was the pillar of hipness and animation executives have always liked his hair sense. A lot of them even wore the Shemp cut themselves. Shemp lives on to this day in animated features.To offset the Shemp hair style, some animation executives have devised the "Too far away nose".I had dinner one night with a Disney TV executive to discuss some show ideas. I had trouble concentrating because he had Shemp hair, and it was flopping around in front of his face and flinging his soup at me. One thing he said did sink in though. We were talking about how we got into animation. He said: "You're lucky John. You've always known what you wanted to do and you have the talent for it. Me, I have no talent and I wandered around aimlessly from job to job for years until, by accident I just sort of fell into a job as assistant to a rich guy who had just bought Harvey Comics. He made a deal later to make some cartoons and lo and behold, we were in the cartoon business! So I just fell into it and here we are! But I don't really know anything about cartoons, myself."

Paper fold out hair was big for a while too.
This animation hair style is the natural habitat of the Cardboard crunching Bug.Under those luscious blonde flaps lives a horde of these dung rolling creatures.






Here's another indescribable animation hair style. Even Shemp wouldn't try this.

The low forehead goes well with animation hair and too far away noses.
Animation hair is so hard to keep in order that even the tiniest movement could get it out of place, so animation characters are careful to keep their facial muscles under strict control; any sudden expression might mess up their flaps or even worse - reveal their emotions.


Feel free to print this blog post out and bring it to the barber the next time you want to look as hip as the boys in animated features. - or if you want regular Joes like Moe to tear your tonsils out.
"I refuse to go out of style!" - Shemp Howard, 1952

43 comments:

RooniMan said...

Oh dear. Does that mean Shemp is a bad influence for hair styles or is it just the excutives being stupid again?

Roberto Severino said...

I'll never think of these animated features the same way again. Now I'm seeing Shemp everywhere!

As of recently, by the way, I've been watching a ton of The Three Stooges theatrical shorts on my DVR, and I find the Shemp shorts to be just as funny (some of them even funnier) than the ones with Curly (if Shemp was the king of cool, then Curly must have been the absolute king of morons) in them, but I always wondered about how funny looking his haircut was.

Sorry about the comment I wrote on your other blog post. It was an honest question, so I thought you got offended by it. Either that or Blogger's acting up.

Alberto said...

I've never really been bothered by animation hair in western culture as much as i have by anime hair, all saturated, huge, and glossy.

It is interesting though, i've never really noticed the motifs that go on in modern disney hair.

Roberto Severino said...

Never mind. I see my other comment now. I could have sworn it wasn't there, after checking several times. Blogger's playing tricks on me.

JohnK said...

Hi Roberto. I'm not offended by anything you said. Don't sweat it. Watch some Shemps.

kuskus said...

Tarzan looks like Weird Al Yankovich.

Erik said...

no man you got all wrong
hairs like that are realy rebelious, right against the main stream...

and ofcourse there is always some thing like this...

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/112/251023464_a57f18ef27.jpg

(notice guy or girl pointing at his/her hair, like we supose to go like "holy crap! i've never noticed him/her if he hadn't pointed at his hair!")

drawingtherightway said...

Ever meet any execs with Moe, Larry, or Curly hairstyles? (well for Curly I guess I should say lack of hair!) It would be funny if you would meet 3 execs with all of their hairstyles at the same time!

Martin Juneau said...

I never having a problem with hairs in animation even if in Anime, they are all overattedly huge and totally out of proportions which lose essence to the characters.

That's why i like better natural hairs styles like from the 40's through 60's. It's like executives don't know what they really want. I like this kind of discussion you have with a executives from biggest offices.

Scrawnypumpkinseed said...

Their hair always looks like a graphic symbol, convenient paced on their heads and melts and bulbs all over the place when they need it to actually move.

I wonder what cartoony hair would look like then. I suppose cartoony comics would be the best place to see that.

Lampshade said...

I prefer my pointy anime hair styles.

No, not the ones Erik posted.

Chip Butty said...

The Shemp is probably stolen from Anime - at least that's the only other animation I've seen it in, and in stuff that preceded all these lame movies. At least in Anime guys with hair like that can be openly out of the closet.

Fabricated said...

I couldn't see a place to email this, but guess what property is being dug out of its 80's grave to be CG'd onto a screen in 3D?

http://www.slashfilm.com/2010/06/16/the-smurfs-teaser-trailer/

blargh.

Oliver_A said...

I would have thought that many 90's cartoon characters are more or less loosely based on actors like Hugh Grant.

Hugh Grant

Jonathan Harris said...

John, what about the crazy hairdos the Japanese put on their animated characters?

Do you feel they're a subspecies or an entirely different animal?

Ukulele Moon said...

I came across this story and I thought you might get a kick out of it.

I was a big Muppets fan when I was a kid and now there are some writers and directors out there want to bring them back to the way they remember them. It seems execs are getting in the way by offering vague and ridiculous advice!

Douglas said...

Don't forget about 80s-90s Disney hair for girls! It was so thick that the females would be 8 pounds lighter if they shaved their heads. What do you think are some examples of well rendered hair in animation?

tyranno1 said...

Ack! Get those bad hairdos away from me!

Jorge said...

"For a few years in the 1980s teenage suburban boys who hung out at the Galleria actually had hair that was half shaved and half long. I used to call it the "2 Barber Style" - as if 2 barbers fought over what kind of hair style would look best on you. The style didn't last long in the real world but it has been reverently preserved in animated features."

John, it's called the Hitler Youth and it was one of the most popular cuts for Toronto hipsters a few years ago.

http://img125.imageshack.us/i/1223876318066oa8.jpg/

Mine is a variation.

Jessica said...

@Douglas

Well for starters...

great cartoon hair = "Eatin on the Cuff"

Oliver_A said...

John, it's called the Hitler Youth and it was one of the most popular cuts for Toronto hipsters a few years ago.

You gotta be kidding!

Kelvin said...

Characters from the anime Dragonball Z features the ultimate hairstyles!

Niki said...

15th picture down, That face is loooooong.

Sven Hoek said...

I wore the Shemp hairstyle last year as a rebelious demonstration against my lazy ex-band. I grew the "Shemp" to ruin their pictures. Oh was it funny. I had it all summer.

But that is one of the most irritating hairstyles to wear, its always in your face and must be constantly pushed back behind the ears. And forget eating soup, you'll lose your friends.

I think animation should copy the hair all the kids are wearing these days, what I call the faux-hawk. Its when you spike up the hair on top of your head in a fin shape like a Mohawk but dont commit enough to shave the sides.
Or that awesome girls style from the 90s with the sprayed poof ball in the front. I used to like to pat the puff, it drove those dumb girls crazy.

Pete Emslie said...

What a bunch of goddam metrosexual rockers that have infested our movie screens for the last 20 years! That close-up shot on Jim Hawkins is particularly painful to look at, like his insipid little nose is sliding off his face like Michael Jackson's. Ugh!!

Rusty said...

Why do executives think were so stupid? Its pretty obvious to tell a sincere character design from something that is an imitation of a worn out trend. By the way John I'm sorry about the previous post. I just think that 1,200 is very expensive especially in an economy that sucks.

Trevor Thompson said...

The other amazing thing about Shemp's face are his wrinkles. He's got a totally unique face. I imagine that'd be hard to animate.

Joel said...

Never tell a man who worked on the Smurfs he's "lucky".

kurtwil said...

Hair is so hard to get right, and proved a major challenge for characters I designed some years ago. Styling it's one thing, animating it's a whole 'nother story that perhaps JK might touch on in a future blog.

BTW, CGI hair's an absolute pain to get looking nice and animating outside the various physics systems that try to animate it "for" you.
However, sometimes it's fun for making a parachute's cords or undulating sea plants, etc.

Pete E, you've nailed that Jim Hawkins pose !

JK, I remember that dueling hairstyle being called a "step" cut. If memory serves, it was for a time popular with rappers.

As for Shemp, IMHO catch him early in his career with the Stooges, and in the rarely seen Monogram features just before those days, or in AFRICA SCREAMS with Abbott and Costello.
Many later Shemp Stooge shorts are mostly hacked together collages of older material anyway.

Kathy! said...

Ha ha, Shemp hair sense! This made me laugh and laugh, thank you. I wondered why some of these characters had two-colored hair when I was younger.

Operation GutterBall said...

Weird!Almost all those designs have the mouth and nostrils waaay too low.Caniff and Foster would freak!

Kaiser Fate said...

Would you believe that this was the exact topic I explored in my very first post of my own animation / film blog??

I cited Dimitri from Anastasia, Cale from Titan A.E. and that douche whose name eludes me from Atlantis.

I got into a bit of an argument over a defender of the hairstyle who said that it was the result of a lot of research, and that much thought had gone into how the hair should look in order to appeal to the widest possible audience.

To which my responses were, "that may have been true, in the nineties", as well as the fact that if that were the case there would surely be other hairstyles in existence that children would relate to...?

-jjmm- said...

What happened with the blog design. I loved the old one.

Jay said...

I'm missing the point here. They're all just icons for hair. They're sort of flat and cluttered and not fun to look at...

but they're not less hair-like than cartoon hair in the 40's, they're just different icons standing in for hair.

Timothy said...

Shemp is always going to be on my mind now...

Eric said...

John, you must have realized that all of the movies you featured on this post take place in either the distant future, the distant past, or Hawaii. Of course the characters aren't going to have normal hair!

Shawn Dickinson said...

I prefer some good ol fashioned noodle hair instead.

JohnK said...

"you must have realized that all of the movies you featured on this post take place in either the distant future, the distant past, or Hawaii."

Animation hair must not adapt to other environments. It's impervious to evolution.

Erik said...

look i found the real John Smith!

http://www.casinosnob.com/pictures/hansKlok.jpg

our beloved Dutch ilusionist Hans Klok! :P

What i noticed with these characters is that forehead is realy small, and the thing with small foreheads is that it makes the character realy dumb (maybe retarded even), like it hasn't room for a normal sized brain.

I had to draw a book full of self portraits for art school and it's a classic beginner problem.

Emilie the Eccentric said...

Dude, this is out there, but Demitri and that blonde guy (i don't know his name, i've never seen the movie) are the same design/model but with different hair.
Its also, a Captain Obvious comment but I just wanted to say...

Felicity Walker said...

They've given Peter Parker some Shemp bangs in the upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon.

fandumb said...

Animation Hair, aka every haircut Brendan Fraser has ever worn?

fandumb said...

I think you should look more at 'The Road to El Dorado'. You're always complaining about bland leads, and there's the fact that the funny sidekicks always upstage them. In 'Road'? The funny sidekicks ARE the heroes.