Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Entertainment Value Of Movement

One thing you see a lot of in cartoons from the 1930s and 40s is movement that is entertaining for its own sake.
You can tell this animator had fun making this cat shadow box.
The still drawings don't really convey the movement.
Clampett encouraged his animators to make every bit of their work move in a fun way. He figured it was "animation" and that was the main thing audience watched cartoons for. It wasn't enough to merely connect the narrative points, which more and more became the trend in later animation - even as the stories themselves got less entertaining.
The magic of animation is largely in the performance. Animated characters at their best move in unrealistic yet beautiful ways.



Rusty Spell said...

I was listening to a recent Simpsons commentary, and show runner Al Jean asked an animator why all of those old Popeye cartoons had all the characters moving and bouncing and wobbling all the time. "Is it because they hadn't mastered control over the drawings and animation yet?" (paraphrase) he asked.

Luis María Benítez said...

The fun with old cartoons is that jokes were very physical and today they're more focused on the story. Also, I think Disney feature films have jokes which seem like taken from real life (not so crazy) thus not as exciting as the jokes from other cartoons in the past.

JohnK said...

I'm not sure I'd agree with that.

The stories in modern animation are pretty predictable and mundane- but even if you disagree with that, the animation doesn't seem to be focused on anything.

The animation in modern features is all formula to me and has no bearing on the story. No matter what the specific story point might be it's animated the same way as it has been for decades.

The animation on TV is just connect the dots - but without any focus.

Anonymous said...

"The Hep Cat" is a great Warner Bros. cartoon for sure, but I'm amazed you've never really covered "The Big Snooze" in depth on your blog before. That's my all-time favorite Bob Clampett cartoon and I've been fond of it ever since I was a child. Just check out the scenes where Elmer Fudd is doing that Russian dance in a drag with Bugs. That scene cracks me up every time.

"The stories in modern animation are pretty predictable and mundane- but even if you disagree with that, the animation doesn't seem to be focused on anything."

For me, I could care less about the stories. The comedy and the funny animation is way more important than almost anything else in a cartoon, at least to me. You don't need an overly complicated plot to have a good cartoon in the first place, and competent directors like Clampett and Tex Avery proved this highly important point all the time in their cartoons. A lot of the live-action comedy teams of that era also seemed to work like this too.

Isaak said...

About the first comment, can these people feel joy? Imagine the presents they give:

Year of therapy

Have you considered what Stimpy would do if he watched Family Guy or Simpsons? It wouldn't be pretty.

I know you believe Freleng is fairy conservative, but was even he half as conservative as that tooll.

Naomi said...

It's interesting to see a few stages of movement caught in one single image (in each of the cells) - to use blurry brush strokes like this is something that wouldn't have occurred to me. Maybe similar to what Bacon did in his paintings?

Not relevant to the post, but I listened to this earlier :
- it's the caricaturist Gerald Scarfe talking about Disney

SunshineFox said...

Just a stab in the dark I guess John, but you mean like how the cat gets overly excited because he thinks hes getting attacked and the animation in turn becomes very fast and excited?? and then when he calms down the animation calms down with it?

JohnK said...

No, I mean it's just fun movement. Very cleverly thought out and executed.

Anonymous said...

That impact is gorgeous! Say, did Clampet's animators (or other Looney Tunes etc) do their own inbetweens?

Or is that a silly question?

SunshineFox said...

Oh, yeah I can see that. Lots of care and effort to make some extra fun, instead of just "cat gets hit"... "cat realizes its a box" ... entertainment for even the mundane parts.

I say that, as I try to imagine what storyboard must have been, and all the different ways different people might try to tackle it, ya know?

Isaak said...

This is about "Specific acting." I am watching Feed the Kitty and love Marc Anthony's reaction. Would you say that is a good example?

Also, Chuck Jones really had a morbid sense of humor. This is certainly not for children.

The Butcher said...

You could dedicate this entire blog to Clampett cartoons and I wouldn't mind one bit.

Naomi said...

One of my favourite cartoon sequences is in "Minnie the Moocher" when Betty and Bimbo end up in the cave (hollow tree?) - the plot either side is pretty basic and acts only as a platform for that amazing sequence. I guess the Fleischers are just on one extreme, where plot is sidelined by comedy/action

JohnK said...

Not many short cartons have plot - for that matter most features don't either.

The Fleischers though combined good story material and great animation technique and entertainment in their Popeye series.

Isaak said...

I am talking about his reaction when he thinks the kitty is now a cookie.

No animated feature I have seen today has characters that could ever become so emotional. It is as if they are automatons.

Rooniman said...

I wish TV and feature animation wouldn't be so formula-strict and talent-depriving.

Juz Capes said...

I like the way he kicks his tail out of the way when he's finished.

Yeah features are just collections of stock reactions that add nothing to characters, stories or jokes. CG stuff students do seems to be full of Woody grimaces and smirks. Although that's a pretty description, I actually mean the character Woody.

They're too scared that if they put something across in a unique/funny way, that it won't be intepreted correctly. So what better way then have dull expressions we've seen before?

If they'd only meet your theories halfway Kricfalusi, it would make things sooo much better.

I thought the whole point in having supposed extreme artists is that the middle ground can still come a bit closer.

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

I love when characters moves with crazy expressions who makes it truly a unique experience to animate. Unfortunately, i agree that most of modern stuffs is concentrated to the writing than to the gags and movement. The same beef with modern Europpean comics which is merely drawing by cheating, misunderstanded what we must do and creating formula.

Isaak said...

I know I am asking a lot of questions, but it is because I am interested in what a professional cartoonist thinks of everything relating to animation.

Do you believe Feed the Kitty is an especially strong cartoon, with the specific acting?

Also, thank you for allowing us to ask you about your experience.

To quote Freaky Friday(2003)

"Mr. Dude, you rock."

Erik B said...

i realy love this cartoon i recently own it on dvd en the movement is awesome and the acting.

you don't need an complex story line if you can entertain people with this crazy movements.its realy fun to watch.

but however, it should not be an excuse so you can have a sloppy story line.

But if you have a good cartoon character then stories should progres out of that character

get it? :P its very late right now..

HemlockMan said...

In the Golden Age of animation, movement was everything! What would a McKimson cartoon have been without those quirky movements and actions of those big-mouthed louts he animated??!! Priceless stuff!

Later, the HB limited animation stuff could squeeze a tad of that by using a few funny walks, but by and large almost everything that came in those 50-60s toons could be "watched" with your eyes closed. Even the best of them. They had more in common with radio shows than with cinema.

Damiano D said...

I love this cartoon. Especially this cat. I absolutely love it when he sings 'Java Jive'! I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Isaak said...

One more thing, do you know why the new Looney Tunes box sets are only doing material after 1948?

Martin Juneau said...

They have a discussion from the new Looney Tunes DVD's series:

Elana Pritchard said...

John, this post makes me so happy!!

My next comic is going to be about a naughty child smashing all of his toys and I want to include a lot of fun movement in it and make it very cartoony. Please more posts like this one, sir!!

kurtwil said...

Thnx for examples, John. Great stuff and what I grew up with!
What was great about 30's and 40's animation was the focus on experimenting with motion and acting - Popeye in particular went through a major evolution.

Sadly, some of my fellow (younger) game testers echoed the Simpson comment..."it moves too much man."

Having just watched the R & S party cartoon and 1-2 year series, and starting again on TheNewAdventuresofMM, I keep wondering...

Who the heck is doing good 2D animation TODAY? I'm sure you could if one of your projects get funded. But are there others aside from Disney (mostly recycling there) that are still trying, or are we doomed to FAMILY GUY spinoffs for the next 10 - 20 years?

Abraham said...

The Hep Cat has been my favourite short for a while.

I love that the movements are not only greatly exaggerated, but build upon the characters so well. The characters are distinct and likable for different reasons.

Additionally, I always thought the colours were really beautiful.