Sunday, October 17, 2010

Good Direction VS Turning The Furnace On and Off

I had thought that because this was such a frenetic sequence, there must be a lot of scene cuts in it. It turns out there are only 3.

A lot of story information is conveyed in the short sequence, and McKimson uses all the animation and film tools available to him. He doesn't use the same tool to tell each story point. He varies them and coordinates them to make it exciting. A lesser director could have merely conveyed the story information.

Scene 1 - ESCAPE DOG
Accents: McKimson separates the previous gag (beating up the dog unwittingly) from the next sequence with an accent. The accent is this big take showing Foghorn realizing that he was smacking the dog.
Posing and animation. These are the most obvious tools of a cartoon director. He tells much of the story through the drawings and animation. The director draws a lot of the key poses himself and then casts the scenes according to which animator he feels is best suited to a particular scene or sequence. He also gives the animator a good idea of what he wants.
Variety: The animator in this scene varies the amount of exaggeration for each action. The run is less exaggerated than the take that happens just before it.
Camera Pan: Foghorn runs in the opposite direction from where he was in the previous scene.
The camera pans with him and pans in another location-the barn.
Timing/pacing: The action pauses and changes pace. After a fast run (4x per step) Foghorn stops in front of a ladder long enough for the ladder to register with us. He looks around frantically.
The inbetweens are extreme smears and Foghorn's poses are far apart as he looks left and right.



Timing, Pause: McKimson has Foghorn turn around look up and pause again to reinforce the ladder and to tell us that Foghorn sees his method of escape.

LOOK UP, HOLD
STARTS CLIMBING
Cartoon Effects: To reinforce the speed and frenetic escape, Foghorn's feathers trail of in the opposite direction of his climb. This movement in the opposite direction helps propel the action with more force. This is the kind of thing that used to come natural to even conservative directors an animators, but would probably seem radical today. "Too cartoony" would be the note you'd get from the bland police that rule animation.

CUT 2 REVEAL DOG WITH WATERMELON
Cutting, changing P.O.V: This is a strange choice. For some reason, McKimson decided to give away the punch line. He reveals to us that the dog is waiting for Foghorn with a watermelon. This seems to defy normal gag construction but I never really thought about it until I broke the sequence down to look at it. It's only on for 30 x and within the sequence somehow fits the rhythm. Rhythm is a lot more important to the emotional effect of a film sequence than strict narative logic. You can't write rhythm in words or even on a storyboard. It's the director's job.

CUT 3 - Climb Ladder
Camera angle mixed with frenetic animation: This dramatic angle combined with the way the animation flows just fits together perfectly. It is more dramatic than the straight N/S E/W angles before it and makes the sequence of cuts build steadily to a climax.

ACCENT END OF GAG: The building pace comes to an abrupt stop with the topper gag.
Pacing/contrast: Stop action, slow pace, conclude with calm dialogue.
After the fast paced series of scenes and Foghorn is defeated, McKimson eases us out of the scene with a line of dialogue. "Some days it don't pay to get out of bed." The line isn't funny on its own. It's just there to give us a breather and let us laugh at the end of the sequence.

WHAT DOES A CARTOON DIRECTOR DO THEN?

We still use the term director for various jobs in animation today but it doesn't mean what it used to. Many modern directors are merely timers. After an assembly line of writers, designers, executives and production coordinators take swipes at different ingredients of the animation process, then the director is called in to connect everything in order using preset timing formulas.

In the old days, "Director" meant total control of the creative aspects of the cartoon. What was funny about the sequence above was not merely the gags as written, but how all the elements of the performance: the cutting, the voices, the animation are put together to create the emotional and humorous effect of what is happening.

McKimson uses variety in his timing, animation, exaggeration to build the sequence to a big finish, not merely to tell us the events in order.

Compare this to modern cartoons which hang everything on the limited power of the written (or spoken) words alone. These types of shows don't seem to use direction. There is no personal point of view, nor is there any virtuoso performance. The stories just plod along at an even monotonous pace and one bit of information or gag never seems any more important than the next bit of information. I never know when to laugh when I watch modern cartoons because they are so devoid of pacing or feeling. Everything is timed the same way, the animation never varies. It's about as fun as watching a spoon stir soup. You also can't tell one artist from the next so there is no casting of the strengths of the artists. The voices all drone along in their repetitive digital rhythms, adding to the sedative effect of the robotic assembly line generic cartoon product.

EACH CREATIVE ARTIST IS A UNIQUE CUSTOM TOOL
A classic cartoon director is a choreographer. He has a specific set of tools and uses each tool for different purposes. All the creative staff are part of the tool kit. The director needed to understand the special abilities of each artist - including the voice talent, composer, layout artists and sound effects editor. He builds his stories around his specific talents-rather than forcing all the talents into some preconceived rules created for a story bible and production manual.

If each artist has some unique ability that the other artists are not as good at, common sense leads a director to take advantage of all those unique abilities. It makes less sense to me to make each artist lessen his special gifts so that what is left matches each of the other artists. That's what we do in most productions today- sand everyone down into softer blander replicas of each other.

In the 1940s, the directors created their entertainment around the special talents of their crew. If Mel Blanc could do a certain type of delivery, you wrote something to take advantage of it. You used your different animators for different types of scenes. You couldn't have just shipped your storyboard to a foreign land and expected the cartoon to come back with the scenes playing to the strengths of the artists.

Modern animation (meaning animation from the 1960s to now) has an opposite approach to creativity. Rather than using all the tools that are available to whoever is in charge and creating entertainment out of all the ingredients, we have instead made a system that depends on arbitrary preset rules and outright fear of creativity. We have a very limited and blunted toolkit. Modern cartoon makers tend to despise especially the tools that are most natural to cartoonists. The whole process is geared to dehumanizing the medium.

59 comments:

J C Roberts said...

Comparing the virtuosity and intended entertainment value of classic real cartoons to factory made shows like Simpsons and Family Guy is bound to be a losing proposition, since that's not why those shows are animated. With Family Guy's campaign to be nominated for a comedy Emmy rather than animated series you see what their own intentions are.

They just wouldn't work as live action shows, they'd come off too forced and "wacky" with live actors, but they're not trying to express anything through the animated format other than visualizing what's in the script without building sets for it. Matt Groening is known for demanding they tone down "cartoony" actions, watch some of the earliest episode to see how much rubbery movement he put a stop to.

Really good, entertaining cartoons that make full use of animation's pallet require the whole group of specialized talents under a director as you outlined, but what program buyer wants to pay for that many talented specialists when they can staff up like a Burger King with interchangeable drones translating the scripts to the screen?

These shows aren't so much killing animation as they are putting a placeholder pin in it until it becomes a valuable commodity to have that level of invention again. We know it is possible to kick start such a wave when the right creator meets up with the right program director, but Haley's comet comes a little more often it seems...

JohnK said...

Are you assuming those shows are inexpensive?

Zartok-35 said...

The Simpsons is more complex than you think; at least, it was, back in the 1990s when it was still good. Directors like David Silverman, Jeff Lynch, and Jim Reardon were great at using accents for effect, and there were several distinct animators that were cast accordingly, you just need to look very closley.

Then again, that was way back; certainly not what we have today.
I can't deny what you say for Family Guy, though. That's pretty much spot on.

MARK CHRISTIANSEN said...

Note how simply designed the watermelon is without extraneous detail that would only drive the animators and assistants crazy.

Martin Juneau said...

I watching "The Foghorn Leghorn" for the first time in Holidays 1999 and was amazed by the entire thing. All of the characters yelled in each scenes, even Henery Hawk and this Foghorn expressions are eerily funny and varied in a scene to another. It ranks to one of my favorite WB cartoons of all-time. (Something the 100 Greatest WB cartoons books seems to forgotten.)

Another Foghorn cartoon by McKimson ranks to a great entire short, even for a solo one: "A Fractured Leghorn". Robert McKimson was a amazing director when it started, but why he toned down, it stays a mystery.

thomas said...

That giving away the watermelon gag is an interesting topic. It makes the feel of the scene totally different. Rather than provoking a HA laugh out loud response, it a little more of a ha laugh on the inside response, but not any less.

litlgrey said...

This explains everything, John, except what in god's name made McKimson scale back so radically not more than two to four years after this, to the point that late entries in the series are painful to watch.

And that doesn't even take into account the horrific garbage he directed at DePatie-Freleng in 1969, with Larry Storch as the vocal talent and all the music being provided by endlessly running stock cues by Bill Lava.

Roberto Severino said...

Spot on post, John. I honestly never cared for Family Guy either. I tried watching a few episodes of that show several times, and I never really found it funny or groundbreaking (occasionally, in a random part of an episode or something like that, there is something that makes me chuckle, but that's about it for me when it comes to that show).

"Rather than using all the tools that are available to whoever is in charge and creating entertainment out of all the ingredients, we have instead made a system that depends on arbitrary preset rules and fear of creativity"

I honestly don't understand that mindset at all or where it even came from in the first place. People who watch cartoons want to be entertained and have fun in the process. They don't want to look at talking wallpaper for ten or eleven minutes, so why continue to make cartoons that way instead of trying something else?

Isaak said...

Would you say "Porky in Wackyland" could take forever to examine everything?

It is the most cartoony thing I ever saw.

Are there cartoons even more out there?

Isaac said...

Mark, I think the watermelon looks nothing like a watermelon. A line or two to make it look solid would have been appreciated.

JohnK said...

>>except what in god's name made McKimson scale back so radically not more than two to four years after this,<<

the same things that happened to the rest of the business

Aaron Long said...

It makes sense to hold on the watermelon for a second before Foghorn hits it, because we need to register what it is first. If we just followed him up and suddenly he smashed into it, we wouldn't really understand what had happened.

Aaron Long said...

Actually, you're right-- upon re-watching it, it would probably work just as well, if not better, without that extra shot.

It does sort of add a nice moment of anticipation for the audience though. Instead of being surprised by the hit, we're looking forward to it, and Foghorn's reaction.

This post really makes me want to analyze more Looney Tunes in-depth in terms of direction, instead of just watching them for entertainment or freeze-framing the animation. Thanks for inspiring me yet again, John!

Luis María Benítez said...

How can you show the director's P.O.V. today when I even forgot the name of that guy who created the infamous Facebutt. Business is so anonymous today like never before.

Here it's all about making it faster and cheaper. Quality? No, thanks. But I once said that the problem was also that cartoons from the old days were better in the sense that they had this kind of fun you explain here. Physical, speed, accents... Everything exagerated and very well crafted at the same time. But today, you have a bunch of designers, a producer with a fat wallet asking the impossible and then what could come up from these guys?

I'm sure they're all meant to make their cartoons very cheap, but they don't get it, as what comes out is very expensive in comparison to its quality.

A series of feature films wich are supposed "to make you laugh" like some Disney films and shorts don't even get close to what really makes us laugh. I see today jokes are based on the script words. Some guy may laugh because of the wacky eyes of some character or even the way he moved the elbow... something stupid. Something that can be easily made by humans. That's not funny, I want the impossible to take place. So, I see a lot of hard work in animation, but all in vain.

And the worst part, some animation schools (I know of some here) they even ruin you by telling you exactly the opposite you know from good animation such as the importance of the director's role.

EalaDubh said...

Interesting now to see that pose I latched onto earlier as being 'forced' in contrast with those around it. Though the isolated frame looks stiff, its 'weakness' is due to two things - one, from its placement between one extreme pose and an entirely different one in a 180 degree direction, which would be a challenging exercise for any animator, however skilled; and two, that in later cartoons Foghorn Leghorn is so laid back and unflappable and would happily smack the dog around without batting an eyelid - by comparison, even that isolated frame is pretty extreme for his behaviour, when it actually isn't really *supposed* to be.

Rooniman said...

Mckimson knew his stuff, they all did.

Everybody now only knows the "Correct Way" (which is really the "Crappy Formula Way").

ther1 said...

There is a new Cartoon Network Show called Regular Show that is almost entirely reliant on the script.

The colors/designs are bland,characters' takes are mostly generic or ugly and the gags are nothing but regurgitations of '80s nostalgia.

The main characters sound exactly like the dimwit twentysomething potheads the scripts were written by and for.If the way they live is your regular life, do what I tell you to and flush your stash. You will thank me later.

Daniel Og said...

i think all the best work in many areas have been done and people just recycle it at the most.
and improvement became "faster", cheaper. don´t know if we still can argue with that. it´s very hard to convince people quality matters.
i say that cause i only have been well payd to do shit.

Isaak said...

Do you think the "anticipated" gag worked as well in "Stop,Look and Hasten" involving the sliding metal door?

Also, did you interact with Jim Jenkins and Gabor-Csupo during your work on Ren and Stimpy, or did you each do your own thing?

Thank you

Esun said...

Wow very good post!

But i disagree in terms of Simpsons and Family Guy.
Although its popular and refered as "cartoon" you cant compare it to classic cartoons.
Its just a sitcom, they dont want you to look at the animation. They want you to follow the story and listen to the dialogues. Expressive animation would only distract you from that.

still cartoons like the one above vanished completely today which is a shame.

JohnK said...

>>Its just a sitcom, they dont want you to look at the animation. They want you to follow the story and listen to the dialogues. Expressive animation would only distract you from that.<<

Does the expressive acting in live action sitcoms distract from the story ?

Or should the actors in live sitcoms just stand there with blank looks on their faces and read their lines in monotones?

Rothello said...

But couldn't you also say that cartoons like Jay Ward's Rocky and Bullwinkle also heavily relied on their script for the most effect delivery of their gags?

Not saying I disagree with your assessments on cartoons like Family Guy and late Simpsons (I've actually watched director commentary of the earliest episodes of the Simspons, where the creators are ashamed to see how often the characters are off-model and rubbery- they hated the cartoony animation!), but I'm curious for curiosity's sake where one draws a line.

litlgrey said...

Have you SEEN sitcoms lately, John? That is precisely what the actors do!

drawingtherightway said...

Although I do like Family Guy, I can definitely see your point. Many times the characters are standing completely straight up and down with their mouths flapping away. I don't think it could be done in live action though simply because many of the jokes revolve around fantasy characters such as creatures or other cartoon characters. It's a shame that cartoons today don't have the quality that the old ones did.

Esun said...

Maybe the stiff and expressionless animation is just a matter of budget and time constraints? or maybe its just their "style" of doing it that way? im that of an expert though.

but here is an example of the animation beeing way more cartoony:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kfhd8-swEY

JohnK said...

>>But couldn't you also say that cartoons like Jay Ward's Rocky and Bullwinkle also heavily relied on their script for the most effect delivery of their gags?<<

differences:

Rocky and Bullwinkle had appealing professional design, great voice actors and was written by cartoonists.

It also had a tiny budget so was forced to not rely on animation to aid its stories -although the Fractured Fairy Tales were often very well animated.

I'm sure they would have loved to have the kinds of budgets that modern animation has, and they would have animated it all in LA with top animators.

Kid_Jacob said...

Really fantastic stuff, Mr. K. I definitely don't think The Simpsons or Family Guy are the best examples (or worst, I guess) of bad modern cartoons that rely on writing. The reason is that The Simpsons and Family Guy are sitcoms. They use animation to take advantages of situations that would otherwise be completely impossible with a live action show, but they try to have some sort of realistic verisimilitude for a reason. I don't think anyone would list The Simpsons or Family Guy as being outstanding examples of animation--they're not trying to be. They're trying to be outstandingly well written sitcoms, and they most certainly succeed at that.

Now, if you're looking for some truly awful examples of modern animation, turn on Nickelodian or Cartoon Network or, god forbid, Disney Channel. These channels are filled with abysmal cartoons that try to be gag-based, but can't execute any of it because of the preposterous restrictions they place on the animators. The culprit, in addition to hack writers, is this fad of thick, bold outlines and purely geometrical shapes. There's no form, construction, line of action, nothing. Spongebob occasionally pumps out a really well animated episode, but their background artists are trash, and anyway the gags just don't work anymore.

Alex said...

I'm starting to experience the "hor-bibble" truth myself. My animation class isn't working on our own shorts this semester (if not the year): instead we've been commmissioned by the school's HEALTH DEPARTMENT to create a farm safety cartoon.

I won't go into specifics, but at one meeting, one of our clientees told our director to tone down one of the character designs because it was "too appealing".

Looks like those horror stories I hear about peoples who have no eye for cartooniness stepping all over us have some credance.

JohnK said...

>>The reason is that The Simpsons and Family Guy are sitcoms.<<

I'd swear I answered that excuse already...

Scrawnycartoons said...

Great clip there, One of McKimsons finest. Like you said epitomizing his manly characters.

Although I have to give Family Guy a nod for perfecting the art of stiff, stale, boring, on-model animation. Well done!

Elana Pritchard said...

Your directing posts always make me happy. I want to be a director, ya know.

Carmine said...

Great post as usual.

As a few people have stated, early Simpsons, like seasons 1-3, had pretty cartoony animation by today's standards, which I think benefited it in a big way. The show now is total garbage and completely unwatchable (actually, its been that way since 99, but it doesnt stop the creative team from patting themselves on the back every chance they get).

I think everything you said and have said about the corporate way of doing things is spot on, and can be applied to any aspect of American life, not just animation.

But its puzzling, because back in the golden age, Hollywood was still run by corporations, right? So what has changed? Consolidation of corporate power perhaps? Infusion of corporate culture into the greater society??

mr paal said...

this is a fantastic post - great analysis. Thanks!

J C Roberts said...

"Are you assuming those shows are inexpensive?"

Certainly not, the industry has a way of making everything expensive anyway, but these shows might spend the most on their voice casts. They just save on the cost of a creative artistic team, as well as the production time added to make something with "more flavor". Assembly-line animation is all they need to make these shows. I believe they might still use storyboards or animatics, but what's the point? We all know what they'll end up looking like.

Isaak said...

Sorry for asking so many questions, but I am literally jampacked with them and the supply will never end.
I know yhou are very busy, but I would love a reply.

Current question: What do you think of Hubie and Bertie? To me, they are a lot more interesting than Tom and Jerry. It was great seeing the reaction of the dog in "Cheese Chasers."

"It just don't add up!"

kurtwil said...

Great Analysis, JK of an oldie but goodie...thanks!

Many older cartoons, including Disney's best features, weren't afraid to use contrasting elements to make them interesting.

Editorial control comes from the strangest places. Our animation director in Australia absolutely despised old characters he was given, and did some great redesigns. But the client insisted on fussy details and actually liked the ugly originals. The director lost - the resulting shows sucked.

IMHO, Todays' shows are mainly illustrated radio. Boring as hell frozen over - one reason why the oldies and JK's original (rarely the GAMES stuff) get DVD player's time here.

As for Simpsons, my understanding's they spend millions on animating multiple (if bland) takes of a given show's scenes, and let the editors choose which take works best. Reason? "It emulates live action shooting". Why not just get a talented director and a decent, creative layout crew? They'd save a fortune __and__ get a better show to boot!

Mykal said...

Very interesting post - I love when you do these text-ful posts where you really flesh out an idea. Your thoughts on animation are always incredibly clear. I've lost track of the times you've made the bulb blink on. Still, Stewie makes me laugh like hell sometimes, and I think Hank Azaria's work on Simpsons harkens back to the Jay Ward days of great vocal talent.

J C Roberts said...

"Are you assuming those shows are inexpensive?"

Certainly not, but more of the budget probably goes to the voice casts than the animation assembly line. They'd just be even more expensive if they had a team of artists doing the animation, and that's a cut they have no problem making.

Thiago Levy said...

I went to a "Animation" convention this weekend called Animiami and there was a presentation with a Former Director of Development for Disney channel Leah Hoyer. I have been studying your words of wisdom and I could see on her speech all these things you say about modern animation. She explained their writing process and how they don't animate and send everything over seas. I asked her "so you don't use storyboard as scripts? You type it down like a soap opera?" She said that there are two types of show, the board shows and the script shows. I asked "how can you write a cartoon script with no drawings how do you expect the storyboard artist to get it? Some times words don't work on drawings. She said said, "yeah sometimes it doesn't work". She went further and told us that there are very few story artist and sometimes they decide to make a "scripted show" just because they can't find people or they are too expensive. I say that is bull crap. My conclusion from all that is that these people make cartoons just thinking on money. Simple as that!

JohnK said...

It costs more money to do it their way.
They'd make a lot more if they let cartoonists make cartoons again.

Thiago Levy said...

I just want George Liquor American on prime time! Man I am sure you got an internet army to back you up. I sure would Mister!

ralphie p said...

i am still fairly young, but all my influence comes from that of chuck jones, and the rest of the brilliant crew that used to make up termite terrace.

while i don't think mckimson is the best of the directors at the time, i do really like the breakdown provided. and his directing skills are better than i was led to believe. i feel perhaps his story is often lacking. i also have to strongly agree with john on this one. animation directors are not what they used to be. if they put it all back on us, everyone would get better results, better animations, and overall more fun, and hopefully more US animation jobs that aren't run like sweatshops.

the first season of certain shows really gives a great example of what animation directors are capable of without all that goes along with a modern production. look at superjail, samurai jack, ren and stimpy (obviously), even the new show adventure time, which has a sort of superjail -esque feel. these are shows that were spun out of the directors brain, and not created by committee. the brilliance ensues. that's why i love going to film festivals, and like indy animations because those original pre '60s rules still exist.

Ian Lueck said...

I love the early Foghorns, from about 1946 to 1953. The later ones are still amusing thanks to Foghorn's one-liners and some random sight gags, but don't have nearly the energy, creative staging/direction, or the wacky animation in them. Sadly, the upcoming Foghorn Super-Stars DVD will have none of the earlier shorts not on DVD yet.

JohnK said...

>>while i don't think mckimson is the best of the directors at the time... and his directing skills are better than i was led to believe.<<

I think the reason he is treated poorly by historians, is because the historians of 40 years ago judged classic animation by who invented the new techniques or who experimented the most. People continue to regurgitate these worn and simplistic opinions to this day, while they don't judge modern animation in the same terms at all.


That's probably because classic animation evolved so fast from 1927 to 1950. - so they got judged on who evolved them the most and quickest- rather than on their skill and entertainment value.

McKimson was less an innovator than a professional entertainer. I think his cartoons are consistently funnier than the other directors during his best period - late 40s early 50s.

Chuck Jones rightly gets a lot of critical acclaim for his best cartoons, but a large % of his films are unwatchable. His cartoons also get judged by bizarre criteria by historians who have trouble articulating visual skills (which they themselves don't have), so they instead tend to focus on things they can put into words - like "story construction" which is pretty simple in even the most structured cartoons.

Since cartoons don't evolve anymore, we have changed the criteria of judgment. If we were to judge McKimson by modern standards, he would rate higher than just about anyone alive.

Rafa said...

I'm with your view John. To those who are defending Fox's animated sitcoms, I don't think that in 30 yrs The Simpsons and Family Guy are going to be studied and analyzed by aspiring animators. They are sort of the fast food of quality animation.

To prove my point, you can probably get by animating those shows in 3 pixel squares. Look at this http://gizmodo.com/5666584/futurama-and-the-simpsons-in-three-pixels

eric said...

I love how people are telling John K that he's just not watching the Simpsons close enough, as if there's some amazing subtleties he's missing. He made Ren and Stimpy you fools, that show makes the Simpsons look like a pile of garbage. And to commenters defending Family Guy, they have no excuse to have drawings that are worse than a 10-year-old's scribbles with the budget they have. Its absolutely offensive to my eyes.

ralphie p said...

>> If we were to judge McKimson by modern standards, he would rate higher than just about anyone alive. <<

i agree with you on this one. but i mean c'mon look at most the dribble that is being produced.

i can't agree with you on chuck jones' body of work percentage swayed towards unwatchable.

being not a big fan of foghorn leghorn mckimson's body for me diminishes. i'm more on the daffy duck and bugs cartoons. and i don't particularly like the way mckimson drew the two of them.

and me being led to believe he wasn't so good is on my own accord, not by a historian, just a personal view. he was often teamed up with warren foster on story, and i guess i sway towards michael maltese and ted pierce more.

Martin Juneau said...

"they have no excuse to have drawings that are worse than a 10-year-old's scribbles with the budget they have."

Here where i live (In Canada), we make again worse characters looks than the Family Guy peoples when it comes to cartooning. You need to read the retardation this tax-payers made like the bizarro cyclop Leon or the awful Nombrils comics. If you want that your community be respected, do it correctly the job and you will have respect. But today's cartoonists are compromised by their narcissic side, since the medium i worked is agressively corrupted by the mass media.

J C Roberts said...

Didn't mean to post two versions of the same thoughts, it seemed like an error swallowed up the 1st one, so I had to type it up again (I thought).

Very good point about comparing live actors expressiveness. I'm guessing another reason for the stiffness is consistency of design. A fear of allowing any unique expression because it would open up a potential floodgate. If you allow one expression that's out of the usual range, it'll seem out of place. You'd need to keep up the standard, which in this case would mean what's seen by producers as "messy" artistic fiddling. Just pose the puppets and move on to the next pop reference gag.

Neither show has a art style much above a 5th grade mural (that might be unfair to the mural, though). I've never watched either show because they're "cartoon" shows, since they're not. They're "ani-coms".

Is it really more expensive to make these shows than an equal amount of Spumco level cartoons?
They have a bigger stable of writers and voice actors to pay, but the art was essentially finished on day one. Then it's all rote manipulation from there.

kurtwil said...

"Chuck Jones rightly gets a lot of critical acclaim for his best cartoons, but a large % of his films are unwatchable."

I suspect C.J. unwatchables are his WB early efforts (very slow and predictable) and some of the late 50's - 60's work (ridiculously long holds, tired repetition). But hasn't this happened to other animators? Some of Fleschier's Popeye animators went through similar arcs. I knew of a Disney Australian animator who went from good to awful in the space of two years.

Aren't absurd visual humor, unpredictable twists to plot and pacing, and unique takes on characters (all thanks to good direction and talent expressing itself) part of the best animations out there?

Perhaps that will become more obvious after "Hair Nest Babies" (paraphrasing Peter E.) weaves its Tangled way to theaters this fall.
A surprise: the coloring book based on it has some surprisingly strong (if stock-sourced) drawing in it!

JohnK said...

>>But hasn't this happened to other animators? <<

yeah, that's why I can't figure out why some people arbitrarily choose to bash McKimson for his later cartoons.

ralphie p said...

i'm not gonna win this battle since my knowledge on mckimson isn't as extensive as you, but my thoughts aren't arbitrary just observational and i suppose personal taste. i'm also not much of an anime fan.

i thought he was an excellent lead animator. all the films he was on were animated with incredible quality of draftsmanship.

but after hearing everyones points i'm going to take a closer look at his directorial works. i'm just always gonna struggle with enjoying back to back foghorn leghorns.

favorites??

Rob Mortimer said...

I do enjoy Family Guy, but as discussed it's basically watching a sitcom with drawings instead of actors.

I'd love to see a nice halfway house, where there is a solid script that might get the thing made, but where decent animators are given the chance to run free in the same way scriptwriters often are.

As JC says, there is so much love for good animation that I find it hard to believe that it will stay gone forever. It just takes one brave executive or one genius animator to spark the next wave.

Aaron said...

I think they showed the dog with the watermelon at the top because the joke ends up being that we think he's gonna drop the watermelon on foghorn's head, but then foghorn runs into it, which is more of a surprise. If he had just run into the watermelon our mind would have to, first, appreciate the fact that the dog used the watermelon as a wheapon, joke1, and that the dog let the chicken run into the watermelon rather than dropping it, joke2, and these two jokes might end up competing with one another. The way the director pulls it off, he keeps the humor coming at you.

Oliver_A said...

@J C Roberts

>>>they're not trying to express anything through the animated format other than visualizing what's in the script without building sets for it.<<<

Translation: using animation as a vehicle for fixing silly and unimaginative scripts which would never work with real actors in real locations.

The cold, harsh and sad reality is: as long as the audience accepts these low standards, we won't be seeing real human entertainment value in animation again.

The only alternative to corporate and public ignorance is that artists take their fate into their own hands against the machine. But who is willing to take that risk and make sacrifices when one needs food and money for survival?

It's not only concerning animation, but a general downward spiral in western culture. Music, Films, Food, TV, everything is nowadays appealing to the lowest common denominator only. It's rude to show people how stupid and decadent they are, so let's make everything stupid, make it the norm, and the cash flow keeps going.

By the way, I hope your book is going well, John.

Oliver_A said...

And concerning Bob McKimson: when watching the steady decay of the Looney Tunes from the mid-50's to the early 60's, I always had the impression that he was the director who held onto classic "cartooniness" for the longest time. As a result, by the early 60's, his cartoons looked way superior to Freleng's.

I recently watched the Chuck Jones Tom & Jerrys from the 60's, and I sort of have to agree with John that a lot of cartoons Chuck produced in his later career a slow, self-aware, pretentious and nearly unwatcheable. Most people do only remember the dozen really amazing cartoons he did.

J C Roberts said...

"But who is willing to take that risk and make sacrifices when one needs food and money for survival?"

So sadly true, it's one of the main reasons I haven't been able to cut the cord of my job and take a risk like traveling out to where things are actually done like John did in the 80s (and fight against the stasis of the industry at that time). It's a lot of risk against very little if any promise of success to come to the land of failing creative hopefuls for a chance to win the career lottery.

The means to create animation on a computer gives me an edge I didn't have back then, but earning that survival money still wears my time down to a nub. It's slow going, and no promise of it amounting to more than one more YouTube or Vimeo clip in an ocean of clutter, but it lets me get something done I wouldn't be able to otherwise.

For my two cents, I wouldn't blame McKimson for the eroding standards of the final years. He had pretty well proven himself before then and just sort of "went down with the ship".

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Well said! Highlights of this post should appear on bollboards over Sunset Blvd.!

Bill said...

Whats silly is even sitcoms with real actors are more animated them, well, animated sitcoms. Just watch Seinfield, then Family Guy and tell me which ones has better acting.

Then we have Soap Operas like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jEsshy26N4

Modern VAs and writers could learn from over acting like this.