Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Crazy Cute

I love when Scribner draws cute characters. They are reaaaallly cute - but kind of crazed too. It's like he's making fun of cuteness but at the same time likes it. he's torn - as am I.

This frame is genius!

I have a theory about how Scribner evolved this jittery cluttered style.
The action in much of his work after Clampett happens within very confined spaces.
When he animated for Clampett, he was free to use the whole screen to move his characters in. Gestures could reach all across the wide open spaces. [PDVD_198.jpg][lookaman!001.jpg]
The characters could jump all around within the big movie screen canvas.
When Clampett left, McKimson tried to control Scribner's animation - to "bring the characters back down to earth" as Friz once said to me.
Scribner's work in McKimson cartoons seems very claustrophobic - as if McKimson drew an invisible box around the characters and told Rod :"Don't let your characters stretch beyond the walls of this box." The box can pan across the screen, but the character can never take up more than 40% of the n/s, e/w axis.

FROM MCKIMSON'S "OILY HARE"Scribner's poses never quite make it to the extreme frame in McKimson's cartoons. -like they are not allowed to fully extend their arms.

" No more of this Clampett stuff!"

Scribner's immense creative energy had to express itself somewhere, so now his characters began twitching and pulsating within the invisible conservative closet that McKimson confined them in. The characters' arms could no longer completely straighten out. Characters couldn't make broad distinct silhouettes anymore. Lines of action became crumpled and jagged because the characters could no longer stretch all the way to a final pose.
You can see in this commercial and in the animation Scribner did in McKimson's cartoons the results of the spacial confinement. The characters' eyes keep bugging out in accents, characters begin to move in one direction - but never complete their action, instead they bounce off the edge of a force field and recoil in the other direction. They can't move too far left, right, up or down, so instead they boil and throb with extreme energy and lifeforce within a small area. It's very frustrating!
It's also very funny but in a way that seems to be Scribner's way of rebelling against the post Clampett conservative landslide that eventually smothered the whole animation business.

With each passing year and decade, animation got more and more creatively confining. Other animators went along with it, some crumbling, others making due. Scribner held on to his full animation and cartoony roots the only way he could within the ever tightening straightjacket. His characters wriggled and fought to break through their arbitrary bonds.

This commercial may have been almost his last gasp. I have other Koolaid Bugs commercials like this that look like he worked on them, but that someone else went over and toned down.


Note: the second half of the commercial is animated by a Chuck Jones animator- I'm guessing Benny Washam. It's very handsome, expertly timed and posed. If I had not seen the Scribner stuff next to it I would probably say it was great. I have only one problem with it. Unlike the Scribner animation, it's missing an essential ingredient of cartooning - it's not entertaining.

Very professional and crisp animation, but not very interesting.


HemlockMan said...

Did he animate for McKimson? Those broad crazy gestures seem similar to those in some of McKimson's cartoons.

Rooniman said...

I felt the same way whenever I saw a Scribner scene in one of McKimson's cartoons, the characters are stuck in a bubble they can't get out of, and they're itchin' to get out.

Archie said...

John! Sorry to change the subject. But are you aware of this

I believe there being turned into 3D as well. I feel a bit deflated.

J Lee said...

Whoever handled the direction here (Avery?) understood their animators' strengths, since Scribner is given all the action scenes involving physical contact between Bugs and Elmer, while Washam gets the final scenes with the sponsor's main pitch, which is also where the suits at General Foods were most likely to be paying attention to Bugs looking like modern Bugs when he's standing next to their product. So at least that's a throwback to the Clampett era, where the animators were given the scenes that played to their strengths.

Isaak said...

Here is an interesting article about Clampett. It gives critiques of him, but it has the same air of ecstasy for him that you do.

And here is a tribute by the man Ebert holds as a hero, David Bordwell.

Clampett's time has arrived.

Ross Irving said...

Jesus Christ, I had no idea this commercial even existed. I was always wondering something along the lines of "If Clampett stayed with Warner Bros until the late 50s, what would've happened visually to his cartoons"? This Scribner animation some years after he left WB just makes it that much more awesome, and sort of a clue as to what could have been. Thanks a million for posting this. I haven't been this pleasantly surprised in a long time.

Isaak said...

Actually it is his partner Kriten Thomas, but it seems she has equal renown.

Maybe a Clampett compliation isn't so far off.

JohnK said...

Those are the old theories about Clampett. By people who neither practice the art nor grasp its fundamentals.

"Thus, his work is defined by an openness to situations and ideas, and his cartoons rarely conclude in a dramatically satisfying manner."

What an odd way to judge a cartoon.

Alex said...

The Scribner animation is great. You can see his style best in each drawing, rather than how they move.

Comparative to the Benny Washam stuff at the end, the latter animation has far more frames, resulting in smoother transitions.

But I guess I hoist myself in remindance that it's all in the drawings ability to communicate to the audience, not just move smoothly.

stevef said...

These spots are from an era when creative people ran ad agencies and had fun with it - like Mel Blanc and Stan Freeberg. Graphics had to be vibrant and exciting to cut through the noise and static of the average television reception. Today we have HDTV, so the MBA's give us muddy CGI like the Mini Wheats spot I just saw. Cluttered backgrounds and an equally cluttered message, but it's in HD.

It's interesting that an animator would be told to confine his action to center screen in this era: it's exactly the instructions a television engineer would tell you back in the day. TV screens in those days cut off a good deal of the image at the edges. When these spots aired, Scribner's animation filled the screen.

Pete Emslie said...

I'll be the voice of dissent here, as I much prefer the second part of the commercial. I understand why you would like the first part, John, but for me it feels too hyper and uncontrolled with both characters moving too much at the same time. Additionally, I don't care for the deliberately off-model approach, as it feels like a cheap knock-off of the characters as if farmed out to an outside studio. It's okay - you can call me a philistine now. :)

J C Roberts said...

The second it switches animators the energy changes from entertainment to advertising. I like the sharp look of the second half, but it's mechanical precision compared to the first half, and less lively.

I'd rather see the animation keyed with drawings that made the creator of them at least chuckle while coming up with it, not just stand back and be proud of his draftsmanship.

I just read an interview with Ralph Bakshi today, and was sad to hear how things went when Scribner came to work with him. It gave me the impression he eventually sort of lost it.

Thanks for putting this one up. Clampett & Scribner are my all time favorite pairing in animation. I've seen more of Clampett's post Warners work, and it's nice to see more of Scribner.

Is it just me, or was his name even perfect for an animator of his caliber? It sounds like what you'd call the perfect pen for cartooning - "pass me that scribner, I want to put down some ideas here..."

JohnK said...

Should I be surprised, Pete?

I know you like smooth edges.

Isaak said...

Their hearts are still in the right places.

This is the best Clampett will get until your and Steven's work reaches an even broader audience.
The best medium to do it will be a book to make him popular.

There is one more way. But it involves us learning to embrace Nietzche's ideals of shunning "serious" and favor "joy." That philosophy was tried incorrectly once and we all know how that went.

It is an odd way to approach a cartoon. But would you say it is a step, however rudimentary, in the right direction.

zmerrill said...

I hate to say it but Elmer's voice in this commercial really sucks.

I like the 2nd half of the commercial better in an aesthetic sense, but the 1st half was interesting but uncontrolled. I think both halves of the commercial even each other out well.

Zartok-35 said...

Ben's aniamtion is kind of entertaining. I like the way he makes Bugs' amrs stretch.

Isaak said...

Also, I have corresponded a little with Danks, and he seems to share your belief (of which I agree) that Clampett is underappreciated. Also,from his article, it seems he is praising Clampett for using cartooniness. In any case, his email is on his site if you have any concerns. He seems like a reasonable guy.

Are there any plans to do pitches for George Liquor. I have seen the one about using items for everything but their purpose, and it is time such a virile character get the big screen treatment.

JohnK said...

Clampett was underappreciated 25 years ago because his cartoons were so hard to see and because people who wrote about cartoons couldn't articulate what was happening in them very well. So they wrote about cartoons in terms of other more verbal media.

Now that the cartoons are all available and cartoonists and animators write about animation history and cartoons, he is much better known and loved.

Dubious Duck said...

I don't understand Mckimson's methods of toning down Scribner's animation. Scribner is best left to go nuts with his animation like Clampett allowed. If anything Scribner should have been given his own directing unit, one wonders what a Scribner unit would be like.

Rothello said...

Wow, the Scribner and the Jones-esque are like night and day, almost.

Trey Brown said...

i like scribners take much better than whoever animated the second half, but i wish scribner wouldve landed characters on those interesting inbetweens. the funniest faces are lost in milliseconds.

Isaak said...

Does this mean there is a chance for a larger chunk of Clampett to be released on DVD?

Also, sorry for misinterpreting you, because I read what you wrote about Jones being "favored" over Clampett and thought you meant that was still the case.
P.S. All I know is I want to see Coal Black on DVD with no modifications. Have you tried recently to make that happen after the Golden Collection people disregarded your advice and put the less funny cartoons on.

P.P.S. I love the commercials. Where did you find them?

Alec Dever said...

Elmer's voice in this sounds a little off.Who did his voice in this commercial?

BTW,you should have a look at the animated short "Day and Night" (a Pixar Short).I won't spoil it for you but you should go check it out.

Isaak said...

Related to Looney Tunes, did you ever get the chance to work with anyone who worked for Freleng, Clampett, etc?

Craig said...

Designwise, Scribner's take on the characters looks almost like Jay Ward. I love the vitality.

Darren Iddon said...

Hey John. I've been following the blog for a long while now and have noticed that you're not exactly enamoured by the look of most 3D animations these days and how they've lost a lot of the vibrancy and zest that these old animations had.

I wondered if you might cast your eye over this

On watching it I instantly thought that you might actually enjoy it - but of course I could be wrong.

Alex said...

One wonders how cool the commercial would animate if Scribner's animation moved as smooth as it did in the Clampett heyday. You see those expressions on Bugs in this, and they're totally like the Clampett Bugs shorts.

JohnK said...

>>did you ever get the chance to work with anyone who worked for Freleng, Clampett, etc? <<

Well I worked for Freleng and Clampett both for a little while.

Isaak said...

I looked on IMDB and found what you worked with Clampett on but couldn't find what you did with Freleng. In light of this shortcoming may you say what production it was?

P.S. I hate when IMdB doesn't have full information

Dr. D. said...

Re: the voice of Elmer being "off" in these commercials

Arthur Q. Bryan (the voice of Elmer) died in 1959. These commercials are from 1960+. None of the existing voice talent (Mel Blanc, Daws Butler) was able to do a good Elmer, and I guess they didn't look for a new "nobody" who could do it. There are a few McKimson cartoons (one with a cave-man Elmer) for which Mel does the voice, and it's awful. They must have realized it, because Elmer disappeared from the last batch of WB cartoons before the studio closed in 1962ish. I don't think any of the linker animation from the Bugs Bunny Show on ABC used Elmer as an MC.

By the time of Tiny Toon Adventures (early 1990s), someone was doing an okay Elmer. There is a recent car insurance commercial with Elmer which sounds very good. I don't know who is doing the voice.

Elana Pritchard said...

I wish Clampett were still around so we could learn from him. Did he ever do a book or anything?

J Lee said...

Actually, while Mel did the voice on a couple of episodes of "The Bugs Bunny Show", Elmer in this ad, along with the two McKimson shorts and some of the Post commercials on TBBS was done by Hal Smith (Otis from "The Andy Griffith Show").

Anonymous said...

I love how hilarious and lively Scribner's drawings are, no matter how much he was toned down by the directors that he worked with (Clampett excluded from this). I honestly don't understand what many people have against a cartoon actually being cartoony or off-model in the first place, as it makes it even more interesting and funny, at least for me.

marcushelbling said...

Now I'm super thirsty, and i don't even like kool aid.

Allari Ruiz said...

These are amazing even as stills.
reminfs me a lot of the guys that do Dumm comics.
Do you still stay in touch with them?

Luke said...


The voice of Elmer in that comercial you are thinking of is Billy West.

Zoran Taylor said...

I honestly don't understand what makes Clampett's cartoons so hard to write about. Steve Schneider's descriptions of them in "That's All, Folks!" are as academic as anything else in the book, and they were the very reason I became so interested in seeing them. That gap you describe between the visual prowess and fascination and the capabilities of the written word doesn't do any damage - what of it there is only makes the cartoons sound more interesting. It gives them a certain now-I-have-to-see-it mystique. It really works.

Michael Anderson said...

Coincidently, the background painting for "Oily Hare" is listed on eBay!

Isaak said...

Speaking of Clampett "Cartoon Crazies Go to War" includes

Falling Hare
Bugs Bunny War Rally
Tale of Two Kitties

Isaak said...

John K

Are you ever going to do a post on Any Bonds Today? It verged on umcomfortable the way the animators maneuvered Bugs to do those subtle movements at the beginning. It was literally information overload. He managed to pack in all that entertainment in only 90 seconds!

He also managed to convey Bugs is the quintessential performer, a fact missed when the (dated) Al Jolson routine is excised.

Every cartoon I watch, I love Clampett that much more.

Do you agree?

Rob Mortimer said...

This is fascinating stuff. I sometimes find it hard to watch Clampett animation, but in that way whereby you see so much going on and you struggle to take it all in.

I guess the difficulty with such a big and exaggerated way of movement is keeping the stretched character model feeling as if it still comes from the same character.