Monday, November 09, 2015

Treehouse Opening Pt 4 - Dire Consequences of Trick or Treating

Believe it or not I really wanted to do some straight story stuff with the Simpsons. By 'straight' I mean a narrative story (as opposed to a song or strictly abstract visuals). I was dying to do a caricature of the Simpsons characters' personalities as well as their design. - like what I do with the Hanna Barbera characters.
I think Abe is a fun character. Old and cantankerous, I figured I'd make him older and more cantankerous. I thought I'd throw in that he'd also be very religious and superstitious as many old timers are.

*An animation history irony:

People tend to think of cartoons as exaggerations of reality - and that was pretty much taken for granted up until the 1960s. 

 In 1960, Hanna and Barbera created the first prime time animated cartoon - the precursor to the Simpsons and every other cartoon sitcom that followed.

The characters and situations in the Flintstones were inspired by the live action "The Honeymooners". So you would imagine that the animated show would be much more exaggerated than its live-action counterpart.  

While I love the Flintstones, the irony is that it is really a toned-down version of the Honeymooners. The live characters in the Honeymooners are much more exaggerated than the cartoon. They have more depth to the personalities and a much broader range of expressions and gestures.

I don't know how this came about, but the Flintstones' animation style must have seeped into the consciousness of generations of TV watchers all the way to today. Every animated sitcom that has been ever made is less exaggerated than characters in live action sitcoms - and even less exaggerated than real people in general (and even less exaggerated than Hanna Barbera cartoons).

So I wanted to do an experiment and reverse the trend by animating the Simpsons using their same basic personalities, but adding more range and expression to the acting - by caricaturing what is already there in a milder form.

Alas, Matt, Al and I came up with so many ideas - including a song, that we couldn't fit them all into the minute and a half slot. Maybe they'll let me animate a whole episode one day.


Jesse Oliver said...

I hope you the chance to do a Full Half Hour Simpsons episode! ;)

mpulse said...

You doing a whole ep would be really cool. The Simpsons are now in the territory where they need to do something like that to shake things up. Don't think Fox execs are ready for you tho.

Anonymous said...

nice shadows

Carey De Witt said...

"The Simpsons" are a waste of time?

Pseudonym said...

I always figured that the reason why Hanna-Barbera TV shows were toned down was budget. One year's worth of Warner Bros animation in the golden era was 1/3 the screen time of one season of The Flintstones, so you knew it would never be at that standard.

Carmine said...

Your Abe is absolutely awesome!! Hopefully they're smart enough to let you animate a whole episode! With their resources and you ready and willing, it boggles the mind as to why it's not already in production. Great stuff!!

kurtwil said...

Seems like you and Ralph Bakshi are on parallel roads: two animators going way beyond live action! Definitely a nice change from the mostly rigid puppetoons-like 3D stuff out there today!

Matt Ward said...

Hi John,

Early animators like Winsor McCay, Blackton, Fleishcer, Disney etc. seemed particularly interested in the idea of exaggeration that you mentioned. And it often seemed wrapped up with a focus on the animator as Artist, highlighting the cartoonist's individual authorship, both by displaying the full capabilities of animation and in the trope of including the animator in the cartoon (with either a drawing hand or including themselves as a main character as in the case of McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur).

I was wondering if the Flintstones style came about because of financial or time constraints and the look just stuck because of the huge popularity of those cartoons.

As (from my perspective at least) one of the last animators with an autonomous persona, style, look, and stable of characters, do you associate more with that early school of cartoonists? Or perhaps would like to bring that style back?

I thought Stimpy's Explodey cartoon was a hilarious take on all of those weird older cartoons, by the way. It really captured how terrifying they were.


John E. B. said...

Oh yeah I really hope you get to do a full episode! Plus a new George Liquor series for Adult Swim!

JohnK said...

Pseudonym: Even with a limited budget you can still draw funny acting. They actually did in the Flintstones for the first couple years, it just wasn't as varied or specific as the Honeymooners. They should have built upon where they started, but instead, it gradually got toned down until the acting became very generic.

Matt: Yes I identify with the early animators. Absolutely.

Carey: I didn't say that! I'm just talking about the visual acting style.

Jeff Read said...

The Flintstones was engineered to be stamped out on the cheap to fill a whole season on a tight budget, much like anime. Exaggeration and artistry get thrown under the bus when the studio is mainly looking at ROI.