Monday, November 15, 2010

My Favorite Animated Scene

I love this scene from Kansas City Kitty.
It exemplifies the fun, excitement and creative spirit of the most creative age of animation.
After being somewhat stagnant for almost 20 years, animation experienced a creative explosion after the arrival of sound.
I don't know if sound spurred it, or if it just happened by chance at the same time, but for about 10 years animation explored ideas and techniques with a wild abandon.
There was an anything goes spirit in the air - which is actually animation's most natural urge, an urge that to be suppressed has to be crushed under huge and unnatural pressures. It used to be axiomatic that "You can do anything in cartoons".
The creative growth of the 30s continued at a slower pace in the 40s - mostly at Warner Bros.
At Disney's the creative emphasis changed from its earlier period of exploration to a new era of preservation (and endless repetition) of previously discovered techniques and the codifying of rules.
It was the difference between the Hellenic and the Hellenistic periods of philosophy. Egyptian librarians followed by medieval monks blindly preserved abstract rules that were unintended by the earlier creators who simply explored and unearthed the new and exciting. Curiosity was replaced by dogma. This scholastic tendency led to inevitable decay as each succeeding generation lost more of what it was trying to preserve.
By the 1950s, entertainment cartoons became fairly stale and formulaic in general, while the last vestiges of exploration, fun and cartooniness flourished in - of all places - animated commercials on TV.











There was a slight return of creative spirit in the early 90s, but that quickly degenerated by the end of the decade into hidebound stifling formula (the age of 'tude), both in feature animation and flash animation. Those trends were accompanied by another - an unfathomable glorification of the primitive on television.

I wonder when we'll see a return to the days of trying anything that will wow an audience, a release from the great fear we have of the spontaneous creativity and natural entertainment of talent.

42 comments:

Steven M. said...

Yikes, Betty looks terribly obese in these stills, but like the scene.

Luis María Benítez said...

The walking part of this scene reminds me of your animation for Björk's "I Miss You" video clip.

J C Roberts said...

There's a similar feel to this in a segment of your Bjork video, the random character parade. Was this scene being directly emulated in that?

Shawn Dickinson said...

haha That cartoon clip makes me so friggin' HAPPY!

ardy said...

>People fear talent and creativity.

Now I'm sad. :(

JohnK said...

"Was this scene being directly emulated in that? "

JohnK said...

yes, absolutely

J C Roberts said...

I had a feeling as soon as I saw this post. It was one of my favorite parts of that video, and I figured it had to be a Fleischer-inspired moment.

Carmine said...

Wow, great scene. Is this really your all time favorite scene, or just an example of what you favor?

I fear creativity in cartoons has a hard battle, like society in general. We live today in a full on corporatist culture (much more advanced than it was in the 90s), and as you've said many times so profoundly, such a culture hates creativity.

What worries me is things like "Tangled". Say what you will about past Disney features, but from the advertisements, I do believe this is the first one that seems to be like "a Disney movie for people who like to watch pretty people". The prince in it, aside from being gay ;), is like the "Twilight" version of a Disney prince. And the princess looks like a barbie doll. Having "pretty" characters is fine, but when it is the primary selling point, thats when I worry.

kurtwil said...

Definitely saw the Fleischer cartoon's influence in Bjork's video. Didn't know until today that Rudy Vallee was Fleischer's influence for Kitty... .

This blog post encouraged a viewing of VENTURE BROS 3rd season's last episode to better understand state of today's TV animation. No life there...Animation's roughly equal to 70's Filmation/Hanna Barbara. I didn't listen to the sound. Ah well, back to the real stuff :-)

Are music videos still providing creative opportunities for animation, or have they embraced the 'tude formula like nearly everything else today?

Elana Pritchard said...

Now that's a post! A posts's post!
It truly has it all.

I have complete creative control over my comic stip right now, but as you can probably guess, it's because I do it all for free. I'm just happy because it's on The Rumpus right now so people will actually see it and hopefully it will influence the readers to lighten up and have fun and also challenge themselves creatively and use their brains.

It's becuase of John K here that I started challenging myself, ya know.

Forbidden Hippo said...

I have hope for the future, simply because there are people who do care about this craft, such as the people who frequent this site.

It is surprising that the internet has not spawned a new golden age of animation (unless it has and I have not found it) but I am hopeful.

Also, I would like to mention that I have been doodling my whole life but have never really applied myself to studying and practicing drawing until pretty recently (my new interest in drawing sparked from my frequenting this site). I own the Preston Blair book and have been copying, copying, copying his lessons as well as images that get posted on here. I mention this to remind you that your posts are not in vain. This site has been very inspirational and encouraging. Don't give up hope!

Scrawnycartoons said...

Wow! That clip was flipping insane! It makes no sense but there's so much fun about it. I'd love to see someone try to pitch that today:

"so she can't get out of the water, so she pulls a plug on the ocean floor and the ocean begins to drain. For some reason the ocean critters are happy and she rides on a turtle next to them clapping and dancing. Oh and in the shot she has a mermaid tail!"

By the way, John is this really your favorite animated scene ever?

Esun said...

>>I wonder when we'll see a return to the days of trying anything that will wow an audience, a release from the great fear we have of the spontaneous creativity and natural entertainment of talent.

So you consider yourself a passive watcher from the sidelines?

Why not changing things by yourself and inspire a whole generation of people again?

Bob said...

The animators at fleischers were the best. My favorite were Grim Natwick, Willard Bowsky and Seymour Kneitel. I do have much more, but I was wondering if the animators at the fleischers ever ventured into other studios.
I know Natwick and tyer did, but I am not aware of anyone else. In tyer's work I see that loose animation style carried into his terrytoons, but you don't see that anarchic style too often and I love it so.
Also do you happen to know if there is any wild animation like tyer's territoons or the fleischers? If that question is too broad I guess I'm trying to say that I'm interested in seeing animation that has a loose feel to it like popeye or betty boop, but not as controlled as Warner Brothers.

Martin Juneau said...

I don't know if one of my uncles having this short in tape. He's a Betty Boop fan and this scene is pricelss and insane with good tastes. We need more creative peoples and cartoons like that if we have the freedom to do it.

My first comic story A Overlooking Job which i planned to do indepedently will be in a true comic album this week. After one year of hard work based of nothing and the result from i seen after the printing pages is stunning and amazing. The next step for me will be better in drawing characterisations and use movements.

thomas said...

Who would have thought drowning could be so much fun.

The thing is, its not entirely clear whether or not she makes it out alive.

The last scene where Bettie's parading with the lobster and other creatures seems to imply that she's passed on to another dimension; plus, she's turned into a mermaid.

Its all verry verry ambiguous

mike f. said...

...an unfathomable glorification of the primitive on television...

Not just television, it's across the board: music, comics, literature, fashion, advertising, industrial design - you name it.

Matt Hawkins said...

We used to play "Kansas City Kitty" in a band (from Kansas City) I was in. We got it from a Betty Boop cartoon on a VHS collection , but that one had live action footage of Rudy Valley inter-spliced with Boop. This could be the same cartoon but I don't remember the portly Boop or this scene. I still have the VHS but no way to play them :(
"She's so dumb it just gives me the chills, she thinks Rudy Valley is a place between two hills" classic

The Butcher said...

"After being somewhat stagnant for almost 20 years, animation experienced a creative explosion after the arrival of sound."

It's like a Cambrian Explosion for animation!

Reg said...

There's such unlimited scope for imagination and creativity with cartoons.

I vividly remember a cartoon featuring medicine bottles that came alive in a pharmacy after hours, with a deathly skull-headed bottle of poison - it made a massive impression on me a kid. (anyone remember this?)

EalaDubh said...

When was cel animation first invented? Wouldn't steps forward in the 1920s be due as much to that as to the advent of sound?

Scott said...

John, your comments on how animation/cartoon in general have been changed and degraded reminds me alot of Jean Baudrillard's views on the state of the art world; for example his book "Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?". Have you read anything by him?

Kali Fontecchio said...

That snake KILLS ME his faces are too fuggin' funny.

Geneva said...

The endings of all of these old Fleischers are so totally brilliant!! They always cheer me up.

Zoran Taylor said...

Hmmmm.....I like it, but I honestly don't find it that remarkable by Fleischer standards. It's got NOTHING on the end of "Betty Boop M.D." - Now THAT's creative abandon!

Zoran Taylor said...

Tell you the truth, it cuts away WAAAAY too fast for me. Fleischer Studios lived and died by their genius lingering cycles - what gives here? Love the frame grabs, but I barely registered all that! Then again, I guess that adds to the mystery of it all......but it'll never be as funny as "The Cat Who Laid The Golden Hairball"s denoument. That killed me so hard I think I might still be dead...

Zoran Taylor said...

*Just to be clear, by "cut away" I actually meant iris out.

Mauro Gianetto said...

Hey john, great blog. Argentinian follower over here. My english is hard as old socks.
Annyway, just wanted to say that, I really admire your work and your drawing skills. I'm training to become a good artist myself, but I'm still amateur. Your blog is a great source of inspiration, information, and horrible 80's rage, and I love it. Keep it up.
As a popeye and jersey shore fan, I reaaaaally think you should check this shit out.
http://www.merchandisingplaza.co.uk/images/products/27670/img1.jpg

I mean.... look at that 'tude dude!!! WHAT THE GHAAAAAA....

Thiago Levy said...

This blog is a one great weapon in favor of good animation. It will reach enough people and they will be enlighten. I shifted my carer path because of this blog. If anybody that follows this posts every day like me, get a chance to have a "word" on this industry. Things will change! I believe that there is good intention, but there is no notion of what is happening. They don't teach this kind of stuff in any school.

Rothello said...

Reminds me of the sheer craziness of Barnacle Bill the Sailor, the Betty Boop cartoon.


In that one, much like this scene listed, stuff happens for absolutely no reason other than it to happen (like walls coming to life and eating people, and EVERYTHING just coming to life for no reason)- it was pretty darn great.

And on an aside, I'd be lying if I said this blog didn't inspire me to improve my own artistic technique.

Conceit Arturo said...

I didnt realize you enjoyed bewildering parades of random so much, when I realized this I instantly thoguht PAUL ROBERTSON. He's into game-graphics so it's all pixelly, and there's plenty of japanese culture references, loops and reused animation, but it does have that quality... Youtube Vid

His Blog


Another Blog

Pokey said...

"Kansas City Kitty"? That was the name of the cat in the 1941 Porky Pig episode "We The Animals Squeak"[of course another attempt to create a proxy one shot as Porky ain't in it exscept beginning and end.]

I look at the pic and think "FAT Betty? What has she been eating? Drinking fat milk?"


Steve

Pokey said...

Carmine, the only really big [cue Ed Sullivan joke here] problem with the princess in Tangled isn't the cuteness but as said on Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck's Cartoon Brew site, "'Tude"..


Steve C.
Oh..as I was in a hurry to put these links last time..

Blog for fans of the original 50s-60s Gumby series
Facebook page

Pokey said...

Mind another post-make it a trilogy:With response to John K.'s last comments in the article:

Tude wasn't just movies or flash, most importantly as we KNOW and have discussed---!!! It started showing up in every 1990s TV cartoon....!!

[Whew!]

kurtwil said...

Pokey, the rise of 'tude got a big boost from "DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince". Half of their rap songs were funny stories, while the other half were mostly posturing 'tude.

Imitators and "influenced" began spreading the 'tude around (possibly a factor in creating Gangsta, etc.), and the rest is history.

Paul B said...

Hi John!
Off Topic: I've found a clip on Youtube from the making of Hanna Barbera cartoons, here's the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBKoY6RTS6Q&feature=related

Hope you like it!

SandraRivas said...

That scene was soo cute!! Maybe someday cartoons will go back to being fun again.

Cory said...

I love this scene, thanks for the screencaps, I'm gonna make a GIF.

Zoran Taylor said...

@Cory - That's a great idea! I always felt that Max & Dave Fleischer were the Grandfathers of the GIF.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Well said, John! Well said!!!

paul etcheverry said...

John's favorite animated scene provides a wonderful and ultra-cartoony ending for Kitty From Kansas City and works beautifully with the musical score.

Yep, a BBW version of Betty stars in this Screen Song cartoon featuring guest star Rudy Vallee, who at one point sings "she means the world to me, she weighs 243."