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.