Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jinks Is Iconic - a Real Character

A lot of animation fans, particularly of my generation, were mad at Hanna Barbera's limited animation cartoons and blamed them for ruining animation. I admit they sure had a big part in that.
But they also created some iconic characters, which is not an easy thing to do.
When they started limiting their animation, they must have figured they had no choice but to find some new creative aspect of cartoons to focus on. Tom and Jerry depended on lush full animation for its entertainment value and they didn't have to worry too much about personality. All of a sudden they couldn't rely on lots of action, so instead turned to character.
I've been watching a lot of Pixie and Dixie cartoons lately and studying Jinks. He's really an amazing personality and I'm trying to figure out where it's coming from.
It's a pleasant design, but not too far removed from Tom.
The animators - even without full animation, do a good job of conveying his personality, but aren't creating it. They are following a clear, distinct idiot-proof guide.
Is it in the writing? Not so much even there. Lines like "Now to have myself a ball" could be read a thousand different ways. Today it would be read completely generically. The way Daws Butler reads that line is hilarious. It's something you would never expect and rich with color and imagination.
Technically the voice is probably some combination of impressions of popular starts of the time. I think Crazy Guggenheim is the main inspiration for the sound of the voice, but Daws adds a lot more to it. (He said Marlon Brando!)

Crazy Gugghenheim's is basically a retard while Jinks is only partly demented.
He is an idiot who doesn't know it. He thinks he is smarter than everyone else and is cocksure about it. Even that doesn't sound all that original when I just write it out. Written words are a pitiful medium of communication when it comes to describing cartoons.
You gotta hear the words as acted by Daws. He puts so much color into his inflections, that it almost seems as he is writing the story himself. The story is no longer about the events, but rather about the character's reactions to the events.
The gags as written are all standard and the written dialogue is perfunctory for the most part. It's what Daws does with it that gives it interest.
I've been trying to figure out Jinks' voice and his psychology and it's a lot more complex than I had thought.
I've been trying to imitate it and there is more to it than what's on the surface level.
I used to think it was just a funny "trick voice" but now I think Daws must have really examined the psychology of the character.
Voice actors like Daws Butler, Mel Blanc, Bea Benaderet and the other greats of the past were realy worth their weight in gold. They did for sound what cartoonists did for visuals. They thought like cartoonists. They didn't just act well or make pleasant sounding voices like you would expect actors in live action to do. They "cartooned" the voices and acting.
Daws has a great natural sounding speaking voice, even when not doing a character. It's like a wonderfully unique instrument.
But he plays the instrument really well-and in an exaggerated way. His contrasts are clear, controlled and funny.
His enunciation is perfect-even when he is purposely slurring words together for humorous effect.
He understands the personality and the story.
He conveys every bit of emotion along the way of a sentence, as ideas and changes unravel in the character's brain. This is extremely sophisticated and requires a lot of sensitivity and control. Plus, he invents just weird and funny ways to enunciate things that are totally unrealistic. Just for fun.
Well it's very hard for me to analyze everything there is to say about Jinks in words, but when I hear Daws do him, I am getting a lot of insight into the character from not what he is saying, but how he is saying it.

Today we have 2 basic kinds of voice actors:
1) Celebrity voice. These are live action actors or worse - "personalities" who come in for an hour or 2 and read lines with bland nondescript voices and stiff acting. They are reading from imbecilic scripts and basically dumb down their acting to match the dumbed-down writing.

2) Pretend Cartoon Voices - The Saturday Morning cartoon voices- the squeaky nasal voices that pass for what someone in charge must think cartoon characters are supposed to sound like. They have been doing this since the 1970s. I always thought of it as normal people who weren't actors coming into the recording studio and pinching their noses to create an instant "cartoon voice". One that sounds just like everyone else's cartoon voice.
There are some talented voice people in the business today, but too often they are made to do either the "normal voice" or the "cartoon voice" and don't get to work on many characters that offer much of a challenge. And that's putting it nicely.
One of the things that made me love cartoons and want to be a cartoonist and animator was "character". I wanted to draw and animate cartoon characters. I didn't want to just animate funny gags and crazy stuff - althoug that is a big part of it. The cartoons that most inspired me were not just the ones that were animated the most elaborately. The cartoons with the most interesting, believable yet otherwordly characters made the worlds they lived in seem more real than the actual mundane reality that I, as a bag of gooey protoplasm and oozing corpuscles, was stuck in.


David Germain said...

Hmmmm. I'd say Pete Puma is closer to Crazy Gugghenheim than Jinks is. Jinks seems closer to a typical 50's hipster with his voice to me. At any rate, he is still a great character. I read somewhere that Daws considered Jinks to be his absolute favourite voice to do. I think you just wonderfully articulated why that was.

Coincidentally, he was my grandma's favourite character too. She loved it whenever he said "I hate meeces to pieces!!!"

Jay Sabicer said...

I'd have to disagree that Jinks is a soundalike to Crazy Guggenheim. Daws did do a voice that more resembled CG, but he didn't use it very often. A lion character that showed up in a couple Huckleberry Hound cartoons was Daws' interpretation of Frank Fontaine's character (Stan Freberg also had one that sounded uncannily similar as Pete Puma). It's been noted from other sources that Butler took cues from Marlon Brando and other method actors of the time, giving Jinks with a quasi-beatnik delivery.

Daws, Don Messick and the rest of the vocal talent were as much of a part of the H-B's successful formula as their story department and character design.

Pat Lewis said...

I read somewhere that Daws Butler based the voice in large part on Marlon Brando.

cartoonretro said...

I think you're onto something there. My favorite voices of the last 20 years are Beavis & Butt-head and your Ren. You and Mike Judge went beyond just reading the script in a funny voice and actually gave the characters real and distinct personalities. Those characters have a life and spontaneity that you usually can't get in TV animation.

JohnK said...

I've read about Marlon Brando too but don't hear it. I'll take Daws' word for it though.

Whatever the influences are, he sure mixed them up in a unique and rich way.

Thanks Shane

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing such an elaborate, yet thought provoking post. I've always loved Mr. Jinks and the voice Daws Butler provided for that crazy cat.

By the way, I was watching A Streetcar Named Desire last night, and to me, whenever Marlon Brando kept talking, I kept thinking of Daws Butler's voice for Jinks, so maybe there is some validity in that statement, but he also sounds pretty close to Crazy Guggenheim, in terms of the voice inflections. I'm not trying to argue here though.

I do hope that the talented voice actors and actresses out there in animation today will get better opportunities to do good cartoon voices than they usually do.

JohnK said...

I'll have to watch Streetcar again and listen for it. Marlon is definitely a funny actor and impressionists have good reason to love him.

Damiano D said...

Wow! Haven't read a post like this in a while! Loved it! I think you brought up a really interesting point though about the lack of development and fleshing out a voice actor does and it seems like it's just the person's normal voice.

To me I think that's kinda retarded. How can you truly get into a character he/she sounds exactly like you? It's odd.

BTW John, are you aware in Sweden (or some place up there) they're having an animation festival and part of it will be dedicated to a 'Ren & Stimpy' tribute?

manuel said...

I really enjoyed the Crazy Guggenheim bit. But I could not quite understand: die he say "refrigerator" or "frigid air"?

TedM said...

Good post. Mr. Jinks is a great cartoon character. When you worked at HB. Did you ever to got to meet or see Daws Butler or Don Messick?

Eric said...

Manuel, he said "frigid air." I think it was a brand of ice box or refrigerator. It's like how people say "Jet Ski" to mean any personal water craft.

JohnK said...

I think I met Daws once, but didn't get a chance to talk to him. I wish I did.

Petey Esdie said...

you know, i was really impressed with some of the voice acting on Spongebob Squarepants. i recall an episode -- "Doing Time" -- where Mary Jo Catlett (as "Mrs. Puff") does this great "No more SpongeBob" routine that totally breaks out of the usual character's persona. the character isn't even on screen toward the end. it had me in fits of laughter the first time i heard it and still cracks me up. it's when the voice actors really get to play with the voices and "break loose" sometimes that can add so much to the cartoon.

manuel said...

Thanks, Eric.
"frigid air" - fridge - like "Kleenex" when you mean: tissue-paper, to soak ... stuff.

Jorge said...

I completely agree about Jinx and Daws' voice acting! It's possibly the best acted character and voice in HB's history! So subtle, yet so cartoony and alive with colour and shades of character and hilarity.

For years I thought Jinx was Don Messick, although I'm not sure why. Although I always heard it was actually an impression of Stan Freberg's impression of Marlon Brando.

I was listening to some Time For Beany mp3s the other day, and realized that Daws and Stan's voice acting philosophy is the complete opposite of modern animated features.

On Time For Beany, the voices were cartoony but the delivery was "realistic" - it sounded like radio comedy - fast, varied, mannered, subtle, underplayed, nuanced, well timed, and expertly performed (it's actually closer to the style of voice acting in Fantastic Mr. Fox)

The acting on Time For Beany, maybe because it was a live show, was a lot more alive, nuanced and kinetic than on the cartoon.

Nowadays, the voices sound realistic but are performed with no nuance whatsoever (except in Fantastic Mr. Fox.) The only direction seems to be GO BIGGER! MORE OBVIOUS! KIDS RULE!

For proof, just listen to Scarlet Johannson and Jeffrey Tambor's "acting" in The Spongebob Movie.

Martin Juneau said...

Mr. Jinks is a very iconic character when everyone can be identified with. And it's also a very hard character to draw correctly because they have specific shapes who can make wrong if it's badly drawed. Daws do a work of real professionnal to make it fun and sincere. I always tough before that he's have some traits to Freleng's Sam the Cat who appear in one Sylvester and Tweety cartoon.

RooniMan said...

Such a unique voice. Daws truly had a gifted voice, as many other old time voice actors did.

Trevor Thompson said...

I bet I can get the voice down. :)

The color looks really good on these screen grabs. How come they screw with it on some animation DVDs and not others if it's all the same company that puts it out? Has some marketing guru figured out that adults respond better to psychedelic recolorings of earlier toons but want a true representation for their 60s and 70s stuff?

I also love the inside reference to Jackie Gleason in that clip! Very funny!

- trevor.

JohnK said...

What in Heaven's name is a "toon", Trevor?

Oscar Grillo said...

In the rest of the world we saw these cartoons dubbed with terrible anodyne voices. I hated them.

Elana Pritchard said...

When it comes to cartoon voices, I feel as though someone needs to mention Friz Freelings short-lived series "The Ant and the Aardvark". Now there was a cartoon carried by voices.

Well, not entirely. They did have cool bg's and the drawings were pretty funny; but the gags were totally recycled and generic and the scripts were mediocre at best. But the aardvark did sound like an old Jewish man (attn pc people: I am Jewish and can say such things legally) and the ant was some sort of swinging beatnick character. For some reason this made the whole series entertaining (although it did definitely have a shelf life).

David C. Matthews said...

The Ant and the Aardvark were based on (or inspired by) specific performers: comedian Jackie Mason for the Aardvark, and Dean Martin for the Ant.

So, yeah, I guess the descriptions of "old Jewish man" and "swinging beatnik" are't too far off :)

J Lee said...

Jinx's voice (as mentioned earlier in the thread) wasn't Daws' full Crazy Guggenheim -- you can go to Freleng's "Mouse and Garden" to hear that one. Jinxy is more of a slacker than just outright dumb, as if he needed a slower, more laid-back voice to match the limited animation, since Bill and Joe just didn't have the MGM-level budgets to make him aggressively chase the meeses (and if you look at most of the key voices in the first season of the Huckleberry Hound show, for the most part they're all laid-back -- Huck, Yogi, Boo Boo, the Ranger-of-the-day -- they all know budget constraints mean they're not going anywhere in a scene in a hurry, so why be some hyper, fast-talking character. That's part of the charm of the early Hanna-Barbera stuff; they're not as desperate to try and stuff as many gags into the limited animation as possible, at the expense of personality, as conveyed by Daws and Don's voices).

Scrawnycartoons said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin Juneau said...

For respond to Oscar, i have seen first this cartoons dubbed in French in the mid-1990's by our local Family Channel for a Yogi Bear cartoons compilation composed of the 1988 Yogi episodes and the original Huck/Quick Draw/Yogi Bear shorts. The mices have more annoying voices than in the original version but Jinks stays the best, at least the most notable. But i agree that most dubbers makes the voices too forced.

Roberto González said...

Heh, curious that Jinks voice is so different in the original version. I have always watched Pixie and Dixie in the (spanish) mexican version. They didn't dub it again in Spain cause they thought we could already understand the mexican version. Jinks had a crazy sevillian accent there. That what makes him popular too, especially when he shouted "marditoz roedorez".

Here you can watch an example:

kurtwil said...

A very thorough look at an iconic character...thanks!

One thing missing from todays' cartoons is any sense of ensemble acting. The old Fleischer Popeyes were great for that, especially when Jack Mercer and Gus Wickie overlapped their dialog (you got a real sense these actors were interacting and building on each other).
Today it seems dialog is recorded separately, with each actor trying to get whatever they can within the character. Trouble is, it often results in characters speaking at each other, rather than interacting with each other.

When R&S were recorded, were the voice actors an ensemble (i.e, JK and B. Crystal/Eric B. working in unison) ?

Allari Ruiz said...

In Mexico, the only good HB dub in spanish is Top Cat (Don Gato), it´s even better then the english version, at least from a cultural standpoint.

Dr. D. said...

Elana Pritchard said Re: “The Ant and the Aardvark”.

> But the aardvark did sound like an old
> Jewish man [...] and the ant was some
> sort of swinging beatnick character.

Impressionist John Byner did the voices. The aardvark is Rodney Dangerfield, and the ant is Dean Martin.

Trevor Thompson said...

Oh, sorry John! I forgot you're not a hipster!

"Toon" is an abbreviation. For what, I don't know. I just say it because all the rappers are saying it.

JohnK said...

That's about the most unhip term I have ever heard.

I can't imagine Elvis watching "toons", but I bet he loved Foghorn Leghorn cartoons.

Martin Juneau said...

In Quebec, The Flintstones was the only HB show it was dubbed in this Canadian province. And they do it better than the original version despite the great talents of the original cast. Paul Berval in Fred Cailloux (or Flintstone) steals the show by his rough voice talent but was much know for this performance by default. The low point to this dubbing was to the cultural references. Some pop-culture references from the original series was replaced by our local artists. Perhaps it was good at that era but now everyone do it and it's tiresome at long.

The Simpsons is the pantheum of a solid Quebec dubbing who was equal to the english cast. The worsts comes to King of the Hill and Bromwell High which i change the channel each time this show is on.

Trevor Thompson said...

Maybe you need a hip replacement!

Furinax said...

To me, in the Mexican dubbed versions of the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, voice actors kind of renacted some sort of play without sounding to annoying, but doing an impression of the different accents in latinoamerica. Jinks had some sevillian accent from Spain, while Dixie and Pixie had a somewhat cuban accent and a Mexican accent who was popular in the middle region of the Mexico City. The same with Yogi bear and Huckleberry Hound, they didn't sound like a well known sponge with "angular pants".

Anonymous said...

I love how Jackie pretends to be all built up while he's mentioning him in his suit in the movie, like he's starting to feel proud. A two man act. Not one guy telling jokes and the other guy looking sardonic the ENTIRE time.

Yowp said...

All the first season animators are represented in those screen shots, John .. Marshall, Lah, Vinci and Muse. Screen the ood but effective work of Vinci and Lah in 'Cousin Tex' and then lament how pale the movement looked by the time the Meece cartoons were in their third season. Daws-as-Jinks was about all they had going for them by then.

The lineage of Jinks' voice is that Daws grabbed it from Stan Freberg, who had used it in his parody of "Shaboom." He treated "Shaboom" as if it were done by a Method actor like Brando. So we get a Jinks that mumbled. It's damned funny. June Foray's great in it, too.

I was going to link to a piece on the blog about Daws' 'Guggenheim' (né John L.C. Sivoney) voice that he also grabbed from Freberg, except I realised I won't be posting it for about a month (I've banked three months worth of cartoon reviews).

Daws got some lacklustre dialogue from Charlie Shows at times in the first season but screwed around with the syllables so much that he could make it entertaining to listen to. Once Warren Foster arrived, it sounded better. George Nicholas and Ed Love got there about the same time and contributed some great limited animation. Add in those stock music beds that are like old friends and you have an enjoyable 7 minutes and 16 seconds.

Daws had some standard mispronunciations that all his dullard HB characters used ("Once-st" for "once" is an example) but Jinks mangled English more than the rest of them and Daws really sounds like he enjoys using the cat to play with words.


Zoran Taylor said...

I was hearing Chris Walken part of the time!

Chuck said...

This is a great post with terrific comments. I listened to the Jinx voice cuts twice because there was something there that I just couldn't nail down. I just knew he was using something I'd heard before in that voice. Of course, it was the Freberg connection several others mentioned here. Definitely an homage by Dawes to the voice Stan used on Sh-boom.

Jinx was always my favorite HB character, though I could never have told you why as a kid. He was the character that broke the 4th wall and spoke to the viewer the most, so you couldn't help but identify with him, but I think John has gotten to the heart of the matter here.

Isaak said...

Looney Tunes still wins for shher density of characters.

I know you are not fond of South Park, but I believe Cartman is an interesting characters, because many layers of the characters are shown. He is literally rough around the edges, giving justification for the animation.

Also, speaking of iconic, did you feel what Stimpy felt during the episode "Stimpy''s Big Day." Was Bashiki Muddy Mudskipper.

Isaak said...

Sorry for the misspellings

manuel said...

Hey Isaac,
I like your observations on Cartman. In my opinion, he is a prototype single-mother only-child: selfish, mean, controlling.

I am so glad to have my sisters...

And, despite of what John thinks: South Park is so bad on a an eye-appealing point of view, that it is good, not as a cartoon, but as a comedy. And the cultural content is unbeatable.

Mr. Semaj said...

That's about the most unhip term I have ever heard.

"Tude" would beg to differ.

Marty Fugate said...

Hmmm. I definitely hear some Crazy Gugghenheim In Daws' Jinks characterization. But I think it's more of a family resemblance than a steal.

Gonna go out on a limb here, but I think I know the missing ingredient that makes the Jinks character. The missing ingredient is HIPSTER. AKA: Beatnik.

Compare Daws' voice characterization for Jinks to the late Mitch Hedberg. Or -- in the actual time period -- some of Stan Freberg's Beatnik characterizations.

Today, the stoner voice tends to be a one-size-fits-all derivative of Bill and Ted. ("Ow, wow, man. That's like totally heinous.") The hipster characterizations of the early 1960s had a lot of different flavors.

The distinguishing characteristics: the voice indicates a mind that's getting lost in its own train of thought and constantly catching up with itself. (Hence the family resemblance to Crazy G's "Duh, hiya Joe. Hello Mr. Dennehy.") I.e.: a beer-soaked brain vs. a ganga-fumigated brain.

The difference: a drunk (Crazy Guggenheim, Barney) is essentially stupid; a pothead is functionally stupid. Unlike a drunk, a stoner is incredibly self-conscious -- and enraptured with the incredible convolutions of his own stream of consciousness.

A trait which Jinks seems to share.

Isaak said...

I don't want to bother you, but I would love for you to answer my questions. If you don't I will understand and not post those specific questions again unless you write a post that is incredibly close to my questions.

Thank you

Pokey said...

"John K. and B.Crystal/Eric Bauzua"? Hardly! LOL It was B.West [who unceremoniously also replaced JK as Ren. But that is another topic.]

I enjoy Jinks a lot too..and they were best really well before Curtin [and don't get me started on Mike Curb, Ted Nichols, Paul DeKorte or Don Kirshner later though the first started doing a good take-over in the spirit of other successors before the mid 1960s weighed down on him [Mr.Nichols]. Then, of course, the hippie type mod shows, whose styles would turn up in somewhat better Disney college films of the era, took over. I won't tramatise anyone with that.]

Pokey said...

Hmm..The aardvark does seem to almost sound like Rodney Dangerfield, others say Jackie Mason. I would say Sheldon Leonard.

Sam the cat of Tweety and Sy;lvetser was in a few: "Heir Conditioned","Trick or Tweet",and
"Mouse and Garden
, which see,ed to influence that Chuck Jones "Cat and Dupli-Cat" later Tom and Jerry and which was nominated for an Academy Award.

Pokey said...

And David Germain and J.Lee are right about Stan Freberg's Pete Puma and Daws Butler's own Sam in Mouse and Garden,[WB,first with Bugs and second with Sylvester,also in Trick or Tweet with Tweety and Sly]] and Leroy the Lion in "Lion-hearted Huck" and "Somkebody's Lion" [Hanna-Barbera] being more like Frank Fontaine.Jinks is more of a 50s hipster.

Tomcil said...

Because NO modern cartoons have loveable characters over perfect animation. Also, The Simpsons had a similar thing where every idiot in the world thinks what they're doing is smart. Not to mention they have something where every resident is crazy like the old looney tunes.

Tomcil said...

Oh yeah, because no Modern cartoons have loveable characters over perfect animation. Simpsons also had a thing where people are idiots in a world where they and he thinks what he does is smart, as well as everyone being crazy like in the old Looney Tunes.