Thursday, November 04, 2010

The First Realistic TV cartoons

It's funny that the very first so-called "realistic" cartoons were drawn better than everything that came after.
I mean, they're still stiff as hell, but at least they had some solidity and a bit of design.

Probably because they used actual comic artists to draw them and didn't try to animate them.



In the production process that came later, they would just design the realistic characters on model sheets, then get artists who couldn't draw well to lay them out. Then animators who couldn't draw in this style either had a hell of a time trying to not only move them, but even pose them naturally. Then assistants would trace the already awkward poses and stiff animation and they'd lose another generation.

I did like Jonny Quest when it came out - for the same reason: Doug Wildey was a realistic comic artist and he did most of the layouts, and they inked them in comic book style. I think they found out that this wasn't a very efficient or cost effective way to make cartoons, so all the HB realistic cartoons that followed weren't even as good as Quest.

http://www.cartoonbrew.com/classic/tv-guide-on-clutch-cargo.html

34 comments:

SunshineFox said...

speaking of realistic cartoons, even in a comic bookish fashion... I'm curious of your thoughts on the guys who do the Venture Bros cartoon? Its limited animation sure, but they do a lot with it it seems.

Forbidden Hippo said...

I'm curious what your thoughts are on the Fleischer and Famous Studio Superman shorts. I didn't even know they existed until I saw the included short The Mechanical Monsters on the Popeye DVD.

I thought each shot was pretty stunning. I loved most of the poses and was surprised to see relatively stiff characters look so good. Maybe it was the world they were inhabiting that made it come alive, I don't know but there is one shot I love of the evil scientist pushing a lever forward and the whole machine behind him reacts. Really stylish stuff.

JohnK said...

Well the layouts and camera mechanics are great in those.

The characters kind of melt all over the screen though. I do like some of the animation of Lois Lane. At least one animator is able to make her cute and can control her forms.

SoleilSmile said...

I always thought Johnny Quest was gorgeous. I love the BG's. It's has that 60's travel poster style that is so attractive to me. There aren't too many art schools that teach that style anymore, so it isn't evident in contemporary cartoons or illustration. There is one teacher I know who at least teaches color rendering in the 60's style and he is Bill Sanchez of the Academy of Art University.
I'll ask him if he has a website. If so, I'll pass on a link to you.

EalaDubh said...

How much of those old Superman shorts would have been rotoscoped?

Rooniman said...

I never did like Johnny Quest, but I guess campared to everything else, I should probably reconsider...

George said...

Ahhh...good ol' Space Angel and Clutch Cargo! We used to watch those episodes with baited breath while growing up. Nothing could be finer than Spinner and Paddlefoot, not to mention the live-action mouths!

SandraRivas said...

I watched one episode of Jonny Quest. It's very good looking with the lighting, the composition, and even the colors. Even the drawings look extremely handsome. It's like seeing a comic book come straight to life.

Though it must have been extremely difficult to animate the characters, even tilting the faces, while getting all the proportions right.

HemlockMan said...

I adored JONNY QUEST when I was a kid. I still like the original cartoons. But even when I was a kid I absolutely LOATHED the CLUTCH CARGO cartoons. Still do.

kurtwil said...

Disney also produced some limited animation stylistic realism cartoons for their mid 50's outer space TV series (Ward Kimbell was the series director). All 3 shows are on DVD: Walt Disney Treasures; Tomorrowland, Disney in Ppace and Beyond.
Any comments on those?

drawingtherightway said...

Hey John I was just curious what your thoughts are on the book How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema. I haven't read it but many people online seem to think it's a good book for learning comic book drawing.

pappy d said...

Jonny Quest had machine guns, too!

I'd almost forgotten Scott McCloud: SPACE-ace-ce ANGEL-gel-el-l!

mike f. said...

When did the Froot Loops bird turn evil?

Stephen Worth said...

On the Animation Archive site we have the pilot for Dick Brown's Sky Eagles.. A follow up to Clutch Cargo that was never made. It's fascinating because it includes multilane shots that were created on sliding glass patio doors!

http://www.animationarchive.org/?p=121

bergsten said...

Somewhat off topic, sorry...

First thing this morning, I was accosted by the tude-raised-eyebrows of Megamind (which, charitably got a D+) and Toy Story whatever-number-they-are-up to.

And the thought occurred -- remember when you tried to be cross-eyed and your mother told you that if you didn't stop, your eyes would get stuck that way?

Well, what about a story where the characters adopt this eyebrow thing and it gets stuck?

Comedy then ensues...

Amir Avni said...

Another classic,
This blog has such good criticism,
why doesn't this mentality become mainstream?

James N. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pete Emslie said...

Ol' Fontanelli inquired: "When did the Froot Loops bird turn evil?"

I guess at some point he followed his nose to the dark side, Mike.

Steve Hogan said...

John's probably already seen this, but there's a great documentary on the web about Johnny Quest that highlights it's innovations and many, many production problems:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=AF3BF9A910570004

kurtwil said...

Thanks for post, Steven...very interesting clip!

Fix for earlier post (mispelled space):
Walt Disney Treasures; Tomorrowland, Disney in Space and Beyond.

Elana Pritchard said...

What do you think of The Venture Bros. (out now)

Andrés Sanhueza said...

Seems that the reason of the creation of Scooby-Doo was that the parent councils complained too much about the violence present in Jonny Quest and other HB "action" shows that ended with the cancellation of those and the creation of Filmation's Archie, which was deemed "safe". Then HB copied Filmation's Archie.

Zoran Taylor said...

@bergsten - That is a fantastic idea, so good I might just have to steal it. But for once I actually want someone more skilled to beat me to the punch, because in this case I'm primarily concerned with how well it's done. It just needs to be pointed out in actual cartoon form soooo desperately....

Dubious Duck said...

Didn't Fleischer prove with Superman that realistic cartoons could work. As we know no one has done as good as they did with it since.

I'd argue that there are ways to make good realistic characters, just don't make use crappy production systems like Filmation or other companies that give it a bad name.

Rothello said...

So why don't cartoons have people boxing gigantic toucans with straw legs brandishing icicles anymore?

Oh, what we've lost!

Zoran Taylor said...

Oh, wait - so THIS is the show with the live action mouths?

Anyone else remember how it pops up in Pulp Fiction RIGHT BEFORE Chris Walken does his "I kept this watch up my ass all through the war and now I'm giving it to you" speech? Call me insane if you must, but to my mind the former is by FAR the more disturbing of the two vignettes.

Funny how it was never as terrifying when Conan did it. I guess 'cause his suppressed impish grin and the live audience's response is there to remind us that we still exist in a universe where such things are not considered normal.

EalaDubh said...

People actually died in the original Johnny Quest, and not in a comical way. Not a big deal for any other primetime adventure show, but it must have seemed pretty daring by 1964 TV animation standards and would certainly have raised eyebrows when it went into Saturday morning syndication.

Brendan Body said...

Hey John,

Insightful post. I'm not sure if this has been mentioned here before but I'd be very curious in your opinion of the John Carter of Mars tests? They were created in 1936 by Bob Clampett, someone I now you hold in high regard.

link

Gamon the horse said...

John k, I have a blogger account,
I am making music videos soon.

S said...

Sir, I'd like to send you an invitation regarding an art book I'm putting together for charity (a 501 (c) 3 non-profit). If you would be so kind to email me back at WebElf@DarickR.com , I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you! :)

william wray said...

Don't see it mentioned, but the first three drawings are by Alex Toth.

Kieran Pertnav said...

Those designs reminded me of a student short film, which combines some realistic elements with an overall cartoony sensibility. It's worth watching.
http://www.cartoonbrew.com/brewtv/alpha9.html

Vincent Waller said...

Looking at those drawings makes me wish I could draw...like that.

Daniel Og said...

that´s a stile of cartoon i really love.
i wish we could see a reformulated version of this kind of cartoon addapted to our days and heroes...

i think, even though there´s not much action in these cartoons, the style and and storyline makes it worth it.
and it´s much better than those conan and g i joes cartoons they did in the eighties and nineties...