Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Nice Pencil Work From Assorted Animation Studios

Here are some good animation pencils in various stages of clean up and in assorted styles.
What makes them good is not the quality of each individual line itself, but rather the ability of all the lines to contain the forms within them. All these pencils reveal that the artists understand that the characters are made of forms that all make sense and fit into a plan that adds up to instant recognition of a character and a statement of attitude or emotion.
Too many modern cartoonists think that having a perfectly clean line is the end goal of a good drawing - even if the forms within the clean lines are vague, unbalanced or wobbly.
I like pencil lines that have feeling and understanding like these.
In all these drawings, the first thing we see is the characters themselves, not the line quality.
The lines are subservient to the characters.

In this Jiminy Cricket drawing you can see the rough flowing shapes underneath and the line of action and direction of each of the forms. The clean lines on top follow along those underlying principles and don't fight them.

Even in this very clean and tight Jetsons drawing, you can feel the forms underneath.

These Bickenbach drawings show that the characters, while somewhat stylized, still follow some logic. The shapes are pulled along the line of action and overall pose. Then the lines are stretched around the line of action and forms.

All these skills and concepts go back to the early rounded animation forms.
Even this later complex Chuck Jones style uses all the same principles. The lines on Witch Hazel all describe distinct clear shapes which in turn fit into the larger forms. They all fit together and make an instantly readable character and pose and expression.

Scribbly Pencils
These drawings show me that the artist has trouble understanding and defining forms. This is too vague and scribbly to be of much use to the next artist down the line.
I've seen some modern character designers who draw like this, with lots of squiggly 's' curves that don't add up to any clear forms or overall plan. There are even "how to" books that attempt to explain that drawing sloppy is a good way to become a designer. Why anyone would need a book to teach you how to be sloppy is beyond me but these books definitely exist. I'll give you a tip for free: Step on your fingers for a few minutes before you do your next drawings and you will get some nice vague scribbles when you try to draw something.

Modern Cold PencilsThis style of clean up seems totally divorced from classic cartoon drawing principles. I have to stare at the images for awhile and make them come together in my head to form a vague character image. They don't appear alive or committed to a statement like all the drawings above.
They just seem like random jumbles of lines with no distinct plan underneath. The eye wanders around the puzzle of lines. It doesn't help that the lines are all one skinny even width. There is no construction, no hierarchy and all the angles veer off into contradictory directions. It looks like connect the dots.


SparkyMK3 said...
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coolhand said...

do you dislike everything about disney from the 80s and 90s or do you find any redeeming factors from the movies they produced? most other critics consider them the highest caliber animation, so what would you say about them? i really would love to hear (or rather, see) your thoughts on the "disney revival" movies. this is something that interests me a lot and im sure other people on here wonder about too.

Anonymous said...

I'm astounded at how crude drawings like those even managed to make it into big budget features like Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid (the beast looked like something out of a children's coloring book. I'm serious). Someone really should have noticed and thrown those in the trash as soon as they saw them. I'm sure whoever drew that had way more capability and drawing skill than that. Mind boggling, isn't it? I bet this happened at Filmation and Hanna-Babera all the time too, didn't it?

The rest of these drawings, however, are beautiful. They should all be hanged in a museum as works of great art. Sometimes I feel as if my own lines come out looking sloppy, even though I know that the construction underneath is way more important than a pretty line.

kurtwil said...

More great stuff, JK...thanis!

To these old eyes it seems the good drawings not only have well defined forms, but follow/offer distinct lines of action and character hookup.

The Beast drawing (from the sequence where Belle's treating his arm's wolf wounds) feels very passive by comparison (really hard to make out any line of action there). How might the pose fare if the equivalent Belle drawing were next to him?

Guy Cx said...

That Witch Hazel drawing looks awesome, I'm sure to study it!

Thanks for the post, John!

By the way, how's the cartooning class project going? How many aspiring students?

RooniMan said...

The only thing good about those modern clean-ups are they're good for coloring books (and nothing else).

Isaac said...

Thanks for putting these concepts into words.

GoldDarkShadow said...

Thanks for the tip Mr. K . I can clearly see the forms of the characters in pencil form, compared to the last pics, which look very bland and can not see the construction of the drawings.

Allari Ruiz said...

The coloring book comment is spot on. What i like about the old drawings is how one can feel their movement, how the artist could capture that dinamic energy into their work.

Paul said...

John, guess what!

Now even the looney Tunes have to suffer the 3D apocalypse.

martinus said...

I recently saw the animation on the Little Mermaid before clean up, and I was surprised how good the animation actually was. The clean up people completely messed up a lot of the good subtle stuff in there.
It would be interesting to see those as stills.

I know that's a bit off topic, but I'm just saying that the actual drawings weren't nearly as cold and dead before clean up.

Anonymous said...

gorgeous stuff! love witch hazel's fingers!

Scrawnypumpkinseed said...

Up until about a year and a half ago when i started reading and taking lessons from your blog, I was just like every other dull lifeless animator; drawing straight ahead.

I though Beauty and the beast, Aladdin etc. were the greatest animation feats known to man and was steadily marching to a menial job at pixar or someplace.

But now after after a long period of heavily studying proper cartoons, when I look at the nasty images towards the bottom of this post, they look incredibly flat and lifeless. What did I see in these?

Anonymous said...

Hey John, I was wondering if you had seen this? Looks like Cartoon Network is taking the fun out of their logo now. They've got a slightly new look:

Chris_Garrison said...

Hey, you were talking about that model's backward elbow; in this post, check out Shakespeare's backward leg.

kurtwil said...

Forgot to mention one reason for recent cold cleanup drawings is computer ink-paint systems have real trouble colorizing sketchy line drawings (especially the color fills). The artists had to adapt to the system, not the other way around.

In the "old" days, trained inkers/painters is where the final clean up occurred. Although the hand tracing often caused shapes to shimmer/boil a bit, human intuition made sure that ink and paint went where needed (especially on those early xeroxed Disney cels where, for a while, lines were allowed to be more spontaneous and sketchy).

JohnK said...

The Wile E Coyoye drawing is a finished cleanup and that looks like it could be colorized in the computer like today.

The pencil cleanups in my cartoons had more life than those dead ones at the end. I always want them to be better, but we had a sensible goal in mind.

Iron maiden said...

hey john I found this old disney peanut butter commercial of peter pan but its in a very diffrent style than disneys version I wonder who made this ?

any clue?

Iron maiden said...
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Paul B said...

Awesome art. I love the lines!
When I clean up my drawings I always try to make them look like the drawings in this post. Irv Spence is my hero doing this. I don't know how does he do it, but his finished drawings looks as awesome as his lively sketches.

Pedro Vargas said...

Man, I love this blog!!

EalaDubh said...

Jeez, that thing of Sebastian is a pencil drawing? It looks like the animator drew it with their off-hand in Photoshop with a mouse.

Elana Pritchard said...

Beautiful work! Something to strive for for sure.

Pete Emslie said...

Kurtwil is absolutely correct in his points regarding the way clean-up is done today to satisfy the requirements of the computer's digital ink and paint process. Studios now demand that the outline be completely solid and unbroken so as not to allow colour to leak out of any cracks when the colourist clicks the area. It seems to be universally dictated that clean-up pencil animation now be done using a mechanical pencil that results in a clean line, free of traditional pencil grain. The problem is, that outline is now sterile and of even width, simply delineating a flat area rather than truly "feeling" the solid form it is meant to describe. You can certainly see it in that lumpy, formless drawing of the Beast. (I'd be a bit more generous in my assessment of the Sebastian drawing, although it too suffers from the mechanical pencil outline.) In higher budget productions, there may be an attempt to show thick and thin variation in the line, but it is at best a "contrived" line weight, achieved by going over it with more strokes to build up the thick parts.

How different it was in the glorious age before the computer came along, when clean-up animators could start out with red pencil to refine the solid forms before then doing their final outline on top with a black coloured pencil. Yes, there was soft wood grain in their lines and they often feathered out to nothing at their ends (taboo for the computer's needs), but it was an "organic" outline that showed 3-dimensional quality through a natural thick and thin variation created by the angle and pressure on the pencil as the animator "felt" the form he was describing. You can see this in many of the samples shown, particularly the ones of Porky and Jiminy. These are truly solid, dimensional drawings.

For the record, I don't allow my students to use needle thin mechanical pencils in my class. You can't put any pressure on them, as they'll keep on snapping, and you certainly can't "sculpt" an outline with a natural thick and thin variation under those conditions. I prefer that they use a regular pencil, HB, 2B or softer - nothing in the 2H or harder range. I also try to turn them on to using Ebony pencils for their roughs, as you can really feel the form when you're doing that initial construction.

Kirk said...

Leonardo, Boltraffio, Michaelangelo, Bronzino... scribblers.

Margatron said...

@ Paul & JohnK:

Oh god, the 3D apocalypse is upon us! I just found this atrocity:

I look at the original Yogi Bear drawings above and I look at this poster and just feel sick.

Oisin O'Sullivan said...

Wow,you can really see the difference.
Thanks for the tip!