Sunday, October 30, 2011

Using The Medium - Fredrikstad Seminar

One of the subjects I'm going to talk about is taking advantage of what animation can do that you can't do as well in other media.
You can do abstracted designs...
You can do extreme exaggeration. This type of gag would just look grotesque in live action.
Like this:

Although both Jerry Lewis and the 3 Stooges did some similar things, but not anywhere near as exaggerated.

People are much more eager to suspend their disbelief and accept preposterous situations in cartoons than they are in live action.

Since the animator is completely controlling every image on screen, he can make those images have really interesting and entertaining proportions...if he's allowed to.

That skinny Daffy body coming out of the fat Porky butt is hilarious! The same gag would not have as much impact if the proportions were more even - as they might have been if Friz did the same gag. Gags in cartoons are not just the idea of the gag itself-it's the visual presentation of the idea.

This scene is amazing.
You don't actually see all these drawings in real time but you definitely feel the impact.
It's a powerful combination of imagination and skill at work.

This type of petrified mannequin doesn't have any of the specificity and subtlety of real live actors, nor does it take advantage of design, appeal, imagination, abstraction or exaggeration that animation has to offer.
It's also very tedious to do. I don't know why anyone would purposely choose to do something that takes so much work, is no fun to do and has such a vague and boring result.
Look at that horse design. Horses are hard to animate in the first place, but you'd think you could at least start with a pleasant design that takes advantage of cartooning or at least, illustration.Here's a beautifully drawn and animated horse from an early UPA cartoon. It's both stylized and based on real horse anatomy. It would still be a bugger of a job to animate and you'd have to be super skilled to pull it off - as these animators and layout artists obviously were. This design predates the horse in Sleeping Beauty which has been copied so many times ever since.
Animated humans hardly ever make expressions-unlike cartoon characters or real people. They make these generic vacant faces. Even if this expression was interesting the first time it was drawn, is it still interesting 25 years later when it's used in every animated feature?
Here's something that inspired me. In Clampett cartoons, sometimes Scribner and the other animators would combine live action anatomy and expressions with the advantage of exaggeration that cartoons have.

This is the best of both worlds.

But again, you really have to draw like a sunovabitch to pull this sort of thing off.

The topics I will be speaking about:

Timing: animating to rhythms
Exaggeration: It doesn't read if it doesn't stretch
Abstraction and Imagination: Tex Avery and UPA, 2 different approaches to using the medium
Acting: Cartoon VS Live Action VS a Combination VS Generic Formula
Context: Using the medium to strengthen and enrich the "story" points
Control VS Anarchy
Skill: Wowing the audience with outstanding craftsmanship

I am going to show clips from classic cartoons that inspire me and then show some of my stuff that used the inspirations.



SparkyMK3 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elana Pritchard said...

The generic stock cartoon woman never has any cheek muscles.

gerbish said...

here's hoping someone from the audience will record this seminar (if thats allowed). a lot of us who cant make it to fredrikstad are dying to learn from this

Peggy said...

> You can do extreme exaggeration. This type of gag would just look grotesque in live action.

I dunno, I seem to remember really enjoying the way it looked when Jim Carrey got to do a bunch of CG Avery wolf takes in "The Mask". Digging up the trailer on Youtube, it still looks pretty good - they took a very very mobile, expressive actor as their base, then plussed the living hell out of him in CG.

I'd kinda like to see some modern well-done CG doing weird rubberhose gags to humans. This, for instance, is laugh-my-ass-off funny.

C said...

The UPA horse is cute! I rather like the horse in Sleeping Beauty, too. Pity he got copied so much. The horses in Sleepy Hollow were excellent. Here's a fun horse by some Japanese people.

I never understood why so many people tried to be Disney by making clones of their characters and cramming their films with songs.

Herman G said...

This looks like a must see seminar. I hope you set a few up in Los Angeles, like the Ctnexpo or something. That has the best lectures from the top people live I've seen as well. Love those stills, amazing craftsmanship.

kurtwil said...

Very useful post, JK.

I wish we at Unlimited Energee had been more "cartoony". But sadly, we simply didn't have the time, the money, and/or (in most cases) the talent.

Meanwhile, "BEAVIS and BUTTHEAD" are coming back. M. Judge has decided to produce another season of 'em: the antithesis of what you've discussed here !!

Joshua Marchant (Scrawnycartoons) said...

As an animation student who's been animating "Quest for Camelot" style humans, I can say that they are difficult to animate and the end product, underwhelming.

Amazing cartoon stills, they look even better in motion. They're the kind of cartoons I want to work on

Jeremy said...

I think anybody would agree that Quest for Camelot was pretty much a ripoff of what Disney was doing back in the 90s.

Not only was the animation totally unoriginal, nothing about the story, or the music, works. In movies like Aladdin or Lion King, the songs were perfectly timed with the story. In Q4C, they just throw them in there and expect it to work.

Also John,

have you heard of the Nostalgia Critic [played by Thatguywiththeglasses founder, Doug Walker]? He's actually done a review of Quest for Camelot a year and a half ago and pretty summed how bad it was.

If you want, I can send you a link. :)

JohnK said...

I didn't pick Camelot to pick on it. It's representative of a lot of animation, Disney, Filmation or otherwise.

TheDon said...

Why'd you throw Friz under the bus again, John?

Damiano D said...

Hey John, are you going to be filming this at all? I think it would be a tremendous help to all us striving animators who can't be there at the festival.

Zoran Taylor said...

@Peggy - Yeah, but the "Going To The Store" guy isn't lifelike at all, just anatomically accurate in a very general way. He still looks like he's made out of plastic. That's what makes it hilarious. That and the presence of a tune by Perrey-Kingsley, perhaps the greatest undiscovered (pre-GTTS) treasure trove of not just great but IDEAL cartoon music out there. (Incidentally, I'd also love to hear some Moondog in cartoons someday....)

JohnK said...


I didn't. Friz would agree with what I said. He freely admitted he didn't like to exaggerate too far.

His cartoons look pretty much like his storyboard drawings.

Anonymous said...

Someone online posted this message from Lauren Faust admitting the hate on Camelot. You guys can read it here if your interested (Sorry. Dont know how to put the link in words).

The funny thing is, I remember some of the production notes from Camelot from my dad(who worked with Warner Bros at the time as a special effects guy for the live-action features). He was friends with one of the animators and he kept the "screw up" from Warner bros a secret. Doesn't help the fact that Camelot was based off of a book.

The female character's original design was much different from the finished product. Imagine the design somewhat on the lines of a girl you'd see in a Frank Frezetta(Spelling?) painting although with a PG13 thing of course. I'm just going to say that most of the character designs were quickly changed to make it look like a Disney feature. I never noticed until now from Lauren mentioning the female character as well as the guy looking like Bell and the Beast. Most of the action scenes had to be toned down as well. The whole censorship on the film makes Disney's big time censorship on Black Cauldron look like a masterpiece for crying out loud.

In the end, when the film was finished. My dad gets a message from his friend that he quits the animation department for WB. To work for DIC. Others left as well, to this day they never put Camelot on their resumes because they are ashamed for working on such crap. Makes you wonder why Warner Bros of all people would mimic Disney, when in the very beginning they were ashamed of doing it.

Say John, will this seminar your doing be recorded? It would be a real treat for all of us who dont live in California to see it.

She-Thing said...

Beautiful explanation--- love the design of the horse.

I saw Tintin the other day btw. An already static character like Hergés animated. Animated? seriously? mocap is animation? Ang Lee himself said it in Hulk's making of : "No, this is not animation, I'm moving the creature and making it become real with real movements, but it's not animation." I wonder what Spielberg came through his mind. Will he ever have an original idea with real, personal, feelings? Nah.

I wish I was in that festival Mr. K... too many kilometres far away from here. Besos.

Kenny W. said...

Another good one, John. One thing I love about these posts is getting to see the animation frame-by-frame and get to really appreciate the meticulous detail and things.
I've been meaning to ask, do you think this sort of cartoony effect can be pulled off in comics? I've been looking for a post or something of that.
I also really hate those live action CG exaggerations, like in this inspector gadget I watched last night. It never works...

kurtwil said...

Well, a reason CGI stuff is often so stiff is its animation tools (mathematically based) act more like positioning aids for tabletop puppets (drag hand/foot there and body follows, etc.) rather than fluid drawings.

Some of these tools have been adapted to work with cutout drawings (those inverse-shape Canadian shows, etc). The result's often very "Clutch Cargo-ish".

Still, the tools can be useful __if__ an artist combines them with skilled drawings.

JK, have you tried any of the Harmony IK or shape library systems (and if IK / shape library brings up blanks, no's probably best to stay away from 'em! ;-) ).

Geoff Wheeler said...

Hey John,

Great Post!!...any chance you could do the same talk in L.A.?

I'd be there in a heartbeat.

Unknown said...

It's good that you mentioned Quest for Camelot, not only that the people in the movie are incredibly boring to look at, the story has like a billion plot holes that are unexplained through out, I feel like I lose a brain cell every time I expose myself to these films!

Salomon Fenix said...

I'll tell you one thing John K. You do not know what happens in these last years that he spends criticizing all the follies and says that the hippies around is disgusting and these pods and I'll tell you one thing, people like you (and your followers) now there are better series during this time, look at your Amid at Cartoon Brew criticize him for his extreme views, and now My little pony friendship is magic (which I think you hate it) is very popular, and stop saying now many pods tods tease you, just talk about fanarts better, yours or something.

Kirk said...

etymology: Latin: anima "life, breath, soul." animation
1590s, "action of imparting life," from Latin: animationem (nom. animatio) "an animating," noun of action from pp. stem of animare (see animate). Meaning "vitality" is from 1610s. Cinematographic sense is from 1912.

Hand drawn full animation art is the best, sure. But screw the little subjective definitions that this or that is or is not animation.

Steven M. said...

That generic woman has no soul.

Hernán G. Fuentealba said...

I have a theory why the modern arts and anymation dont look for the same ideal parameters as in the past, I think is because is easier to teach, (and then to find) artist who will do it simplier and for less money, than if they wanted to pay more qualified artist for the work, its lie the old tv which were made with fine woods and metallic parts, and the present ones made of plastic. I think that there are few artist in the world who could do works of quality as in the past, but most of them has no money to start their own independent projects. So the big studios has the monopoly of the artistic producion and they can reduce the marked to what they decide the public should consume or not...

Fantômas said...

What cartoon are those Daffy Duck stills from?! I'm dying to know!

Fantômas said...

Please let me know what cartoon the Daffy Duck stills are from! It's really eating at me!