Monday, December 27, 2010

Duke Starts To Morph

Everybody changes as they age but nobody did it better than the Duke.He turned into a completely different design.And everyone loved him even more.
His personality is as distinct as his head.
"Distinct" is the thing that to me is most missing from entertainment today and especially animation.From some of the comments I can see that many people are actually repulsed by anything that isn't cookie-cutter stock mathematical blandness.
I guess the last couple generations have been raised to expect sameness and any time anything sticks out or breaks formula they just don't know what to make of it.

To me, I've always loved things that stand out from the norm and it's one of the reasons I veered away from even the real Disney cartoons at an early age. It was just too much re-use of the same character designs and story formulas over and over again and no amount of slickness could cover up the blandness.

By the 80s blandness had added sloppiness to its brew and again for me, no amount of shadows, pores, shiny hairs or production value can hide the fact that we are in the biggest creative rut of repetitive degeneration I have ever seen.

These modern "pretty boy" clone characters in all the animated features are just pale imitations of Anime characters, but toned down so much that everything but the eyes and short foreheads is exactly like 70s and 80s Filmation cartoons or Ken dolls- and why anyone would want cartoons to not be imaginative or be less interesting than real life is beyond me.

27 comments:

Arthur Filloy said...

Hear Hear,

When I was a kid, animated pictures like "The Point" had the message of individuality,like it was cool to be diferent. Nowadays the message is to conform, to be like everyone else.

I'm afraid that blandness and mediocraty are here to stay.

Ben said...

People are afraid to experiment. It's kind of creepy to think that even the basics are seen as "out there" ideas.

It's rare that you find unique personalities anymore -- no one has anything (contemporary) to draw from.

Steven M. said...

I'm repulsed by cookie-cutter blandness. I love seeing different things and something new. If only more people knew better.

Jorge said...

That Dell "Searchers" comic is horrendous in every way, terribly drawn, but Alex Toth did a terrific comic book of "Rio Bravo" but wasn't allowed to use Duke's likeness. It's still the best John Wayne comic there is, though.

Scrawnycartoons said...

It's hard to believe that less then 3 years ago, I honestly thought "Aladdin" and the like were magnum opus' of animation. Eeew, I don't think any amount of showers will rid me of that particular shame.

Today I think wrinkles are the most exciting thing in the world! Those Disney dudes have barely one!

They have an eye, a nose and a mouth. That's it! No meaty cheeks, no wrinkly foreheads. Sheesh.

They aren't eye candy, they're more like eye...cyanide

Lamb said...

Distinct?
He looks like an ordinary bloke to me. Maybe its coz I'm in Britain, we're all abnormal freaks here.

Also, how do I send John sappy fanmail.

SoleilSmile said...

Morphing is fine. However, old Hollywood new better than to pair middle aged Wayne up as the romantic lead of a 25 year old girl.
Bette, Joan and Lana woulda been a good match from him!

Zooni said...

"Cookie-cutter" designs are boring and I don't get the appeal of them. With my characters, I try my best to give them individual and unique designs, access their flaws, give them imperfect teeth, etc. This is what makes people unique; not the plastic barbies we see on tell nowadays.

SoleilSmile said...

By the way, what everyone think of the design of the KING who was daddy aged? Or the thugs in the tavern?

JohnK said...

Weren't the thugs just the same old character from Sword in The Stone that has been used a thousand times?

Space Ace, Dragon's Lair, etc.

SoleilSmile said...

Oh, I don't know, John. I really didn't pay attention. What did you think of the king? Or let's try some other Disney movies, what did you think of the character designs in Atlantis? They were flawed ( not all designs fit into the same design universe), but what did you think of Rourke? Milo was a skinny little thing ( which many woman complained about it) and matched up with Kida.
Try to think of a few other times Disney stuck it's neck out and got it chopped off. Feature animation is a scary-expensive business with a specific audience. You only get one shot per story. What sort of risks would you take if you had dividends to pay you investors and knowing that the tween-young adult market is very-VERY fickle?

What would you do? I know, that I am inexperienced compared to you and I don't want to convey disrespect so please don't take this the wrong way, John; give yourself an assignment.
Choose a well known pre-existing story or even a movie and redesign all of the characters. This was one of my favorite Cal Arts assignments that we did in groups, but it fun as an individual effort as well. NO. We did not go Disney conventional at first exploration--WE HAD FUN twisting things around. Then we would remember the mantra: big C small a ( COMMERCIAL art) and reign in our ambitions to suit the proposed non-eclectic tastes of the audience. Conforming is a b*tch. Remember to serve your genre and remember SHAPES, colors and silhouette tells and story. I'm not going to ramble on anymore, so get started. It will great to see what you come up with.
Sorry to be so bossy...
Love,
Ashanti

kurtwil said...

Ironic that the new breed of software tools CGI artists use can create as wrinkled and unique a character as any can wish, and yet most CGI characters remain el-mondo-blando.

Perhaps it's because many production pipelines rely on older tools that lack that capability, yet would cost a fortune to update (both the tools, and retraining the people to use 'em).

But wait, I forget...do entertainment companies train any more? These days they mostly toss artists back into the talent herd migrating to another grassy "production" field to graze on. If artists need different knowledge/tools to "chew the grass", they'd best know 'em before migrating.

Landon said...

I'm something of an anti-conformist myself, usually going by with what I liked as opposed to what others liked most of the time.

However, no offense, but I feel you have a lot of nerve calling certain things "bland". My friend, who is also a fan of you, actually feels your animation has been getting pretty bland and creepy by the time the Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon came around. According to him, the characters "just push themselves around too much while moving and keep pausing in their motion when they're trying to talk." I know you're all about the drawing over the story, but that's just ridiculous.

Also, these other people commenting on you have a lot of nerve to be talking about not conforming when they're blindly agreeing with what you have to say as opposed to, you know, having an opinion. No offense, all you people out there, but I figure you should consider being a little more open-minded.

All in all, I respect you, John Kricfalusi, for your vast knowledge of animation and I agree with you to an extent about modern entertainment, but I still have an opinion of my own and I choose to go by it.

Carmine said...

This is the exact reason I haven't seen "Tangled" yet. I may think Flynn is hot, but the sexiness of him and Rapunzel scares me. It reeks of corporate fascist conformity. The pretty leads, imo, function like sirens and are very dangerous.

I hope I didn't come across as supportive of these things; I only was making a "whats good for the goose is good for the gander" point about pretty male leads in comparison to female ones.

So, who are some "distinct" female actors? Lucille Ball maybe?

JohnK said...

>>Try to think of a few other times Disney stuck it's neck out and got it chopped off.<

I'm trying real hard, but can't think of a single time. Seems to me it's a complete crap shoot which movies make money and which don't.

They all have the same designs and story and scenes so they should each make a little less money than the previous one. But logic doesn't seem to apply.

Why didn't the Princess and the Frog succeed? It's the same as the latest one - and the same as "Enchanted" and every Don Bluth movie and a hundred other "safe" movies that died.

JohnK said...

>>Try to think of a few other times Disney stuck it's neck out and got it chopped off.<

I'm trying real hard, but can't think of a single time. Seems to me it's a complete crap shoot which movies make money and which don't.

They all have the same designs and story and scenes so they should each make a little less money than the previous one. But logic doesn't seem to apply.

Why didn't the Princess and the Frog succeed? It's the same as the latest one - and the same as "Enchanted" and every Don Bluth movie and a hundred other "safe" movies - most of which lost money.

I can't tell the difference between Atlantis and these other ones. Except it has more corners on the same designs everyone always uses.

SandraRivas said...

This blog post was pure poetry to me.

A lot of people I know try to defend this blandness and claim it as a "style", which baffles me even more.

One actually said to me, "Disney is always trying something new in each movie." Sheesh, as if this world couldn't get any crazier.

Ollie said...

I'd really love to see more examples of good character design. I just got an awesome book called The Cream of Tank Girl and it's full of great Jamie Hewlett art. Comics, covers, designs and it even has storyboards for a Tank Girl cartoon that was never made. You should check it out John.

Carmine said...

A difference among their movies is the quality of the music. "The Little Mermaid" - "Lion King" had exceptional music that functioned the way music in musicals is suppose to function like. That, in my view, was a big reason for their success and acclaim. "The Princess and the Frog"'s music was totally forgettable.

JohnK said...

I forget the music from all those movies. Thank goodness.

Trevor G. said...

Bland doesn't exist in real life.

I actually looked up a few stereotypes to see if this held true in real life as it does in the modern cartoons. It doesn't.

I looked up supermodels, no two alike. Cheerleaders. Bodybuilders. Boxers. You name it. No one was missing at least one thing that was unique about them. That made them 'them' if you looked for it.

There is a lot to draw from. Not just facial features, although you could do it with that alone.

Their walk. Everyone has a unique walk, we all know that. Who can't recognize your best friend coming down the street from far away.

Posture. Expressions used. The way their face moves.

Atmosphere, even. Some people are 'dreamy'. Even among dreamy people, there are different kinds.

Some are your angry types. (George Liquor.) But he also 'has to impress' people. Not all angry types are like that! And that'll change his face. Sure as anything.

Has that 'confident' grin on the brink of madness, very proud posture. Etc.

Not all bullies are huge. Some are skinny jerks with a wiry temper, willing to bite you in the neck or throw a chair at you. Rascally. lol. <- Drawing from somebody I know? Maybe.

Wonder what other stereo-types could be found out there.

Even the ones we have are sort of the offspring of older kinds.

The fop branched out and had the rich-snob, and the gay, both as its children. A paternal stereotype. lol

There were homosexuals in ancient greece, but they weren't the same 'culture' or 'types' that we have today - though I will have to admit it on this one, I wasn't there, how would I know!?

Well I know Jerry Springer show wasn't around, that's for sure. It was instead the Gladiator soap opera of prisoners vs. lions. I know. I'm getting me greeks and my romans mixed up and show absolutely no knowledge of history. MY POINT! *eyes search around as if for meaning.*

Perhaps we could go something like this: Fop, Dandy, Rollicker, Goth, Emo, Vampire, Furry.

Oh what a slippery 200 years it has been!

And 'the gays' are just ONE stereo-type. Where DO the cheerleaders come from? Did they exist in ancient Greece? Who are their ancestors?

Everything has to start somewhere. And different cultures paint different customs, concepts of beauty, what is acceptable, what is ideal, and so forth.

Or you can think of it cross-species! Are you attracted to a male gorilla!? No!? Really!? But I'll bet you I know somebody who is. And she's probably a female gorilla--or a male one, yeeeesh.

But alas, beauty is in the eye of the beholder *siigh.*

Isaac said...

Tangled is more than the sum of its parts. The movie manages to be very entertaining thanks to its pacing and visuals, even though the acting is generic and the characters are bland. You can tell what's in store when audience is spoon-fed the plot at the beginning of the film, and pretty much all the way throughout. When I saw the thugs I did instantly think of Dragon's Lair, but unlike Dirk their acting isn't a copy of Mowgli's. However, like all the other characters in the film, they shift back and forth from specific acting to generic acting. All the characters, including Rapunzel, constantly pulls those Seinfeld (CalArts) faces when they talk, even in dramatic moments. It's painful to watch. Most of the characters suffer from rubber-band pose-to-mirrored-pose snapping, especially the horse. I'm sick of seeing human beings and animals move like industrial robots. That said, I don't think audiences are sick of it. I think they like it, all of it: the Seinfeld faces, the "wacky" back-and-forth snapping movements, and the generic acting.

That's what's important in entertainment, right? Know your audience. This film caters the generic-acting-loving audience. There's an audience for specific acting out there, too. HBO probably knows how to find it better than Disney.

SoleilSmile said...

I love Jamie Hewlett. Sesame Workshop had me apply his style to my default 40's construction for a film I did for them in October.
Their advice was, "We know Disney cute is your training, but we go for urban and kinda ugly". So the producer and I worked together and came up with a Fleischer/Disney/Hewlett hybrid and I used Ernie Nordli for the BG's. The film turned out ok, but I wish I had more time for production so I could animate all the scenes.
Ah well, it was fun.

By the way, non-profits take HUGE risks and don't have investor funding . Therefore, they don't aim specifically for the monied suburb market that Big 5 studios rely on. They have no investors to pay dividends to, so there is more freedom of design. Just think of the funky designs you've grown up with featured on Sesame Street and The Electric Company :)
The Daddy "D"short still give me nightmares!

Trevor G. said...

John it really is hit or miss why something is a success. I think it has more to do with culture. When the culture is ready. For something new. Or if that new thing has been refined in the 'dark places' for a while, and just reaches a wider audience when that audience is ready to recieve it.

The color palette, and style, whether you hate Disney or not, I'm sorry, but Sleeping Beauty was an artistic masterpiece at least for its backgrounds and the design of a few key characters ( Malificent.)

I'd also say the same for, well no one is going to argue Pinocchio. Would you really? X)

When something is new, and ground breaking, it usually gets a good reception, but it has to have a buffer. A few years of groundbreaking stuff that made it no where, for people to get used to it first. On a general scale.

I'm trying to think real hard here. Star-Wars, Final Fantasy 7 (don't know if you know what that is, but it was the Star Wars of video games. It was a blow your mind for it's time.) Were successes because they just took thinks to a whole new level. Like Snow White, who had seen such an animation before?

It was all new. And when something is a new medium, people are forced to be creative. No one has tread before.

its hard to be creative in a well-established medium and the older it gets, the more saturated it becomes.

Maybe we should be working on claymation or something more obscure. Heaven knows.

I know that classic/good illustration never get's old. Maybe we just need to go back to the basics.

Teaching artists to draw from Life. Rather than other artists. Do a little day-dreaming.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Well said, John! Well said!

Jorge said...

"So, who are some "distinct" female actors? Lucille Ball maybe?"

Barbara Stanwyck
Jean Arthur
Vera Miles
Bette Davis
Ginger Rogers
Joan Crawford
Emma Stone

Mike Bombon said...

I completely disagree that we aren't creating, experimenting, and putting fresh new things out there.

Look outside of mass media and you'll find art and creativity are still very much alive and kicking. Look at the art on the streets, just to start.

It's everywhere... It's still evolving. You just have to know where to look. Be clever. Never be satisfied with what you find easily.

As for movies: There's a ton of distinguished modern actors that can hang with the best of them as well. If you want a list, come talk to me. This ain't my blog!