Sunday, April 30, 2006

Direction 1: What Do Cartoon Directors Do Anyway? Ask Bob and Tex

People have asked me many times what a cartoon director does. They understand what an animator does or a storyboard artist does, but it's sort of vague in most people's minds what a director's duties are, so I'm gonna help you out with a controlled experiment that happened at the Leon Schlesinger studio in 1942.
This was the last year that Tex Avery worked at Looney Tunes. He left for MGM and went on to make his best cartoons. He had just spent the last 7 years or so at Warners directing some of the greatest talents in animation history.

He directed Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Bobe Cannon and Virgil Ross in 1935 to 1937 and later directed Bob McKimson and Rod Scribner - probably the two most skilled and talented animators at Warner Bros.
This cartoon above, Aloha Hooey is the last Tex Avery cartoon to be released by Warner Bros. Scribner, McKimson, Virgil Ross and other top animators worked on the cartoon.

Below is a great Rod Scribner scene from Aloha Hooey (watch the acting in it too!):
After Tex left, Bob Clampett - who had been directing the youngest animation unit at Warners for the last 5 years got promoted to directing Tex' unit-the top unit at Warners.

Bob told me how exciting this was. He said he always had all these great ideas he wanted to try to animate in his cartoons, but his younger animators were not quite ready to do some of them-even though they were all really good and had already made many classics with Bob - including Daffy Doc, Porky In Egypt, Porky and Daffy, Porky's Party, Henpecked Duck and Polar Pals. These guys were all in their early 20s when they made this stuff!

So now that Bob was working with the top animators in the whole studio, he got to try some new things.

Eatin' On The Cuff was made by Clampett shortly after Tex made Aloha Hooey. These cartoons were animated by the same people and both cartoons were one-shots so that's why this comparison makes a nice controlled experiment. It allows you to see what exactly the two different directors would with the same teams.

Watch the cartoons and see if you can tell what's different about the cartoons and that will help you understand what a director does.

The one other factor that's different about the 2 cartoons: Tex had been working with this crew for years and knew their abilities well. Bob was directing them for the first time.

Here's some hints of things to look for:
wild action
facial expressions
Looney quotient

Aloha Hooey by Tex Avery 1942

Eatin' On The Cuff by Bob Clampett 1942

Both directors went on to evolve and create more and more inventive and funny cartoons for years, but these two pictures are particularly interesting to me historically.

By the way, Dave Mackay has a great site-that's where I get the dates and credits for all these cartoons-go check it out and see what everyone at Warner's was doing and when. You too can trace where new styles and ideas came from!

Mark Deckter provided all these great images. Go here for more! And thank him! Be polite now...He did a lot of work for you.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Rubber Hose c - Fleischer VS Disney

These cartoons were made within a year of each other.
One of them is more fun, crazy and imaginative.
you decide!

Hey! If you wanna hear all about the early days of cartoons from Friz Freleng, and Hanna and Barbera, go to this interview I did with them in 1992. You won't believe what these guys have to say about everything past and present! If you think I'm crabby...

Steve Worth
has done an amazing job of illustrating and editing the interviews. If you love classic cartoons, you don't wanna miss this!
PLEASE! Everybody post a comment and let Steve know what a great job he's doing with the animation archive. There's already more info there than in all the animation books ever written-and he's only got started!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

2 Types of cartoonists-Origin of styles 2 -Rubber Hose animation part B


A very specific rubber hose character created by Grim Natwick-the best of the era.

I used to not like rubber hose cartoons because I thought they were primitive, and in some technical senses they are, compared to what the same animators did in the 1940s.

They didn't have color, lines of action, construction, everyone tended to move the same, not much characterization...etc.

This was true for most of the studios in the early 30s, but one studio more than made up for all these early limitations-The Fleischers'.

One of the best scenes ever in cartoons-from Barnacle Bill
The cartoons they made from 1929 to 1933 were so creative and so resisitant to formula and rules that they stand to this day as some of the most creative and fun cartoons ever made.

Fleischer character-ugly but funny (from Snow White)

By contrast the Disney cartoons of the same period are extremely generic, bland and boring.
Disney himself was such a conservative guy in his tastes that while he kept advancing technical skill, he resisted imagination and creativity.

I honestly don't know how he survived to the mid 30s with the cartoons he was making in the early 30s.

His characters are all pretty much circles and hoses and made up of mathematical proportions.

The Fleischers had a much wider range of character designs and they were hip and they used the biggest jazz stars of the day to do much of their music. Plus they were bawdy and honest. They liked dirty jokes -even rape jokes! They liked funny stuff and surrealism and wanted to please their audience.
Look. somehow the Fleischers can make circles look funny!

Fleischer Crowd Scenes

Disney was always a square.

The Fleischers, interestingly were in New York in the early days, along with Van Beuren and Terrytoons. All these studios early on followed their own whims and weren't swept along by the Disney influence that dominated the Hollywood cartoon studios. Not till later and that was their downfall.

Disney had a very different idea of what quality meant than most cartoonists had or have in thier natural state.

To Disney, "more" meant "better". He was going to make his cartoons have more characters, more details in the backgrounds, more colors, more more more.
4 symmetrical Cannibals drawn exactly the same is 8x funnier than 1/2 of one

Anybody have a frame grab of a hugely elaborate scene from an early Disney cartoon I can use as an illustration?

Disney was kind of an average guy except for his ambition. Most regular folk will look at a highly detailed drawing full of cross-hatching or lots of tiny smooth brush strokes and be impressed. "Wow, that painting looks like a photo! Now that's talent!" That's how Disney thought. Disney himself was a cartoonist but not a very good one.

He was also a guy who loved rules and formulas. He wanted everything to be controlled and symmetrical. He needed reasons for everything. Where rules didn't exist, he and his artists invented them. There's a whole book documenting this called "The Illusion Of Life" written by 2 of his animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. It actually brags about how the studio took the cartooniness out of cartoons.

Rare instance of a funny drawing in a Disney Cartoon
Walt must have been on vacation when this scene was animated!

A regular cartoonist wants to have skills but also wants to break rules. In New York, Disney's influence took longer to grab hold and for the decade Fleischer continued to make fun and imaginative and stylish cartoons from 1929 to 1933 with Betty Boop and Talkartoons and from 1933 to about 1940 with Popeye cartoons.

Popeye funny and kinda gross and full of personality

In Hollywood most of the cartoon studios of the early 30s copied Disney's blandness. In fact many of the studios were founded by Disney animators.
Ub Iwerks-who was Disney's top animator in the early days started his own studio and managed to make some fun stuff.

Harman and Ising founded Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies and introduced Bosko and the first talking cartoon. Interestingly, the first few Boskos were very creative, bawdy, funny and had a variety of drawing styles in them, but soon they became standardized and one was drawn about the same as the last.

Disney started the idea that each animator should draw the characters the same way and it became harder to tell one animator from the next. I think this was a huge setback for cartoons, because many animators have strong individual styles and if encouraged to showcase them can add a lot of fun and entertainment to the cartoons. Many later Disney animators were cast according to the way they move things but were still made to keep the characters as "on-model" or generic as they could.

Luckily Tex Avery and Bob Clampett soon took over the creative direction of the Looney Tunes studio. They saved it from being just another bland Disney clone. Most of the other studios tried to become fake Disneys- while dying in the process.

Whether bland or boring or thrilling and creative all 30s cartoons shared some fundamental good things.
Number 1: all the animators timed their work to music. At first they did it very mechanically-right to the beat, but as they got better their timing became more sophisticated and by the 40s, even non-musical cartoons have an invisible meter going all the time and this automatically makes the cartoons feel good.

The rubber hose style and the moving to the beats was the greatest way for animators to learn. Drawing simple shapes allowed the animators to learn the fundamental principles of movement without being bogged down with all the time it takes to draw useless details. Doing this to music gave them a great sense of timing. Doing it without a lot of control from non-cartoonists allowed the process of inventing animated cartoons to happen naturally through trial and error. It caused the techniques and the art of animation to grow at the fastest rate of any artform in history.

From 1928 to 1940 the medium went from stick figures to the greatest cartoons ever made. Through the 40s the momentum slowed down a bit but continued in a forward direction. The 50s started a decline.
In the 60s cartoons crashed, non-cartoonists stole the medium from us and we have never again been able to get back on a forward moving path for any prolonged period of time.

The advances in technical aspects of animation through the late 30s brought with it an unfortunate by-product. Many of the animators-especially Disney- wanted to leave behind the best attributes of the early cartoons.

There was one cartoon director of the 40s that really preserved the good points of the rubber hose cartoons while taking advantage of all the advances in cartoon techniques. Bob Clampett.

He continued making his cartoons to music and did it better than anyone from the late 30s till today. He kept the silly, surreal impossible cartooniness of the earliest cartoons and added the squash and stretch, line of action and pear shapes that developed at Disney and on top of all that, he added strong and specific personality to the characters.

Warner Bros. pioneered the idea of cartoons having the director's individual personality stamped onto them. Clampett took it a step further by giving each of the characters a living breathing presence. He added the personality and supreme performances.

More on the 40s later.
Thanks to Max and Clarke and especially Marc for helping me out!

2 Types of cartoonists-Origin of styles 2 -Rubber Hose animation

If you didn't read the first article on this subject, you might want to start here:

The beginnings of production line cartoons were really spinoffs of the comic strip-in particular, the cartoony style of comics-the balls and tubes style of unrealistic comic strips.

In fact the earliest animated cartoons were drawn by comic strip artists.
In the 1920s Paul Terry was the main developer of this style. Many other young animators looked up to him and his techniques-especially Walt Disney.
I'm not an expert in all the details of the very early period of animated cartoons. Look to Mark Kausler, Steve Worth and Jerry Beck if you are interested in learning more!
Here's how to find Jerry (look on the left side and scroll down to "classic shorts" and click whatever studio you want to learn about:

These early cartoons are even simpler in design than the comic strips that spawned them. There is a good reason for this. A comic strip artist only has to draw 4 panels a day. An animator in those days had to do between 12 and 24 drawings for every second of film!
Animation from the 20s to the early 50s was both very logical -and at the same time the most creative time in animation history. Why? For a very simple reason: Animators and Cartoonists invented it and developed it, and at a time when Western civilization believed that the practicioners of a profession were the ones best suited to create, develop and grow the business. And that they did. This is the complete opposite of how things are done in the modern corporate and mystical west today. Nothing is logical. Common sense is a thing of the past.

During the 20s the style of animated cartoons started to slowly diverge from the style of still cartoons and comics. The mere act of having to move drawings makes you learn things you might never have to even think about when you draw still drawings. As good and creative as many of the comics were, they were generally very stiff. The poses were unnatural and a kind of picture shorthand. Walk poses didn't flow or have weight. Characters were only drawn from 3 angles-front, side and 3/4 and in most comics, the characters didn't even open their mouths to talk! It seems that comic strip artists never even thought to have a character do what seems so obvious to an animator-to open your mouth to speak. The few that did, just barely opened the mouths and the shape of the mouth didn't describe any particular phonetic sound.

In my opinion, the animated cartoon really exploded with creativity in the late 20s and all through the 30s-once sound was added to the moving pictures.

With Steamboat Willie the sound cartoon era officially started. It wasn't the first sound cartoon, but the first to cause a sensation. What was special about it? Not much. Except one really important thing: The whole damn cartoon was synchronized to music!

This simple innovation was so magic and appealing that it caught on and soon everyone was doing it. And doing it better and better.

For some reason it seemed so natural and logical to all the animators at every studio, that moving your cartoon actions to musical beats became not a creative choice but a fundamental axiom in how to make a correct cartoon. And it is one of the things that made cartoons just about the highest artform in history. It combines the two most pleasurable senses-sight and sound and makes it's goal to make your eyes and ears happy.

This is so logical to me that I can't believe that this simple concept is lost today. Most cartoons today punish your eyes and your ears.

What makes cartoons different than other forms of art? They take art which was meant to pleasure your eyes and distill the pleasure-they take out any cumbersome details that don't lead to immediate satisfaction. Cartoons are candy for the eyes. That was the whole philosophy of early cartoons and I guess was also the reason that they never got serious consideration as an art form-not until they started taking the fun out! UPA is about the first cartoon studio to be taken seriously by a lot of critics-and it's mainly because the cartoons removed the element of fun from them.

In the 20s and 30s the animators experimented with their art and would make the cartoons do impossible things that could never happen in real life.
Why? Because they could. And the audiences loved it. We all love magic. Well, all of us except executives.
Strangely, one particular animation studio of the rubber hose period had conservative forces at work.
More tomorrow...

Hey guys, send me the links to your sites that have rubber hose stuff up and I'll send folks there!

Mark Deckter has some great rubber hose posts here!

Help me do some Rubber Hose crap



Hey pals,

I have a whole bunch of articles about classic animation history and styles, but I'm stuck for the moment.

I want to do an article about rubber hose animation from 1928-1993 and am having trouble finding artwork or frame grabs to illustrate it.

I'm looking in particular for Disney and Fleischer stuff to compare especially scenes that have a few background characters in them.

If any of you can make frame grabs or have scans of art can you send me links to them? I want to put up the article tonight.

Swing You Sinners-some of the weirdest stuff
The thunder and lightning scene in Barnacle Bill.
Anything fun and weird from Fleischer
Surreal Disney??

Crowd scenes from Mickey barnyard cartoons and Fleischer cartoons...

Thanks everyone!!

Your pal,


Monday, April 24, 2006

Beautiful People 17-

Don't forget-if you want me to draw your perfect head, or something else...

write me at
Orders are pouring in!

My animation 2

The beginning of this scene-Stimpy getting ready to hwarf a hairball was animated by the amazing Lynne Naylor. I did Ren and then in the middle of the scene when Stimpy hwarfs too..and the smacking.

The first scene below-when Ren and Stimpy take was done by Lynne, then the walks and big takes were done by me.

Here's that tail trouble I told you about:

My pal Nico made these clips for us and he has some whacked-out shorts of his own at:
Co check them out!

Big House Blues was animated about half in Los Angeles by Lynne Naylor, me, Jim Smith and Dave Feiss. The other half was animated by Bob Jaques and Kelly Armstrong (maybe others?) at Carbunkle Studios in Vancouver. The Carbunkle folks went on to animate the best of the first and second season's episodes. The style of movement and the techniques they pioneered were carried on by a Korean Studio-Rough Draft- and then by almost all the following Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network series all through the 90s and up to today. You can see their lip synch techniques in the first Dexter's Lab short and then in tons of cartoons afterwards.

They also had to develop a way to get one off model pose to snap into another unrelated pose-this because many of my layout artists were not animators (including me) and didn't flip their drawings correctly. This layout mistake and Carbunkle's animated solution of it is now an established technique that everyone in TV uses-even in Flash cartoons.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

My Animation 1

I'm not much of an animator because I haven't done it enough, but every once in a while I'm forced to do it-either because I can't afford a real animator, or there's a scene that's just so intense and specific that I can't explain it in words to an animator, so I go ahead and do it myself. The problem is, every time I animate a secene, I have to learn all over again by trial and error. I never did come up with any formulas and techniques that I could lean on. I just always custom make the damn scenes.

Like the butt slapping scene above. I just had the whole scene dancing around in my noggin and went ahead and did it.

This scene of Yogi and The Ranger struggling over the gun was a nightmare to animate. It has a million levels and a bunch of combinations of cycles and re-use in it. The sheets are mind-boggling, about 2 pages wide.

I actually had a great animator working on Boo Boo Runs Wild. He's a filipino guy named Anthony Agrusa-maybe I'll put some of his scenes up in a later post. He animated really funny and super smooth dynamic stuff, and last I heard he's been sentenced to working on those prime time animation shows. You know the ones-the ones the huge budgets that have no animation in them.

This scene above is inspired by Ed Love's animation in the early Hanna Barbera cartoons. I'll come back and explain it later, but I'm gonna go to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles now with the best voice talent in the world-Eric Bauza! Say hi to him in the comments. He reads this stuff every day.

BTW, you can thank Nico for making these clips for me, and there are more to come!

Keep checking back.

Here's the fight scene uncut. This fight is inspired by Ultimate Fighting, my favorite TV show. My friend Todd White has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and he consulted with me for all the actions in the scene. Ranger Smith has Yogi in his "guard position" a standard Jiu Jitsu defense made popular by Royce Gracie and used by all fighters now.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Lost Episodes of Ren and Stimpy - sneak previews 2

The response to the last Lost Episodes clips was so great, that I've decided to tease you some more...

And pre-order the DVDs from Amazon! You can rate it too based on these lovely clips. We picked clips of stuff that we figured you can't get in any other cartoons-hot chicks, cartoon violence and all the things that make for decent human entertainment.

You also get this thank you card from me.

Oh, sorry if I can't answer all my myspace comments and requests right away. There are so many, I don't know where to start!
..maybe with cartoonist girls, or rich investors, how's that?

Today, as an added bonus, my friend David has put up the clip of a banned scene from Sven Hoek and his restored version of it. Go thank his ass!

If you missed the last clips I posted click this thing here:


That's what these guys did. And look at them now!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Beautiful People 16

Love every one of us and bring us home to worship.

If you want to buy some original John K. art here's a few nuggets. I can't afford anything under 100 bucks though!

If you want to special commision something-like have me draw your own perfect head or whatever, then email me at cartoonmister@aol
That's an email just for capitalistic transactions, though, not gossip!
and if you don't have a paltry hundred bucks, here's some cheapo fun cartoon merchandise!

Thanks for coming back to my crap over and over again!
You folks are such pals.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Lost Episodes of Ren and Stimpy - sneak previews

HEY FOLKS! Make sure you email a link to this post to every person in the world so that they can all see clips from new Ren and Stimpy cartoons!

Here's a scene from Altruists that's just plain silly.

We originally planned to do this scene as a takeoff on Game shows, with the announcer yelling all the prizes to the widow. I was eating breakfast with Eric Bauza and Mike Kerr as we were coming up with gags, and all of a sudden after each time Eric yelled what the prize was, I whispered how much it cost. We died laughing. I don't know why. It makes no sense but we decided to put it in the cartoon, and the more I whispered the more perverted it started to sound.

Buy the DVD and enjoy all the weirdness in the privacy of your own home. Don't forget to close the curtains!

I'm gonna post a few clips throughout the day, so keep coming back to check!

That clip is just a sample of the many character based scenes from the new Ren and Stimpys. I like to have scenes in my stories that just kind of invite you in to spy on Ren and Stimpy's private moments-to let you know what they are really like. A bit of voyeurism, you know?

Then when the gross, surreal or outrageous stuff happens, it has more effect because it seems like it's happening to real people - or beasts anyway.

Here's a tender scene just before Stimpy gives birth. BTW,Stimpy's Pregnant is another cartoon first-the first ever live birth in cartoons and the moment will be on screen too, but you'll have to wait till the DVD comes out to see that.

More to come...if you beg me.

INTERESTING MUSICAL FACT ABOUT SPUMCO: If you pay attention to these clips you might notice that the actions go to the music. I got that from Bob Clampett. He told me that since the beginning of sound cartoons, every animator timed everything to musical beats. That way the musician had an easy time scoring the cartoons afterwards.

Clampett though, always wanted to decide on the music BEFORE he started animating, so he would show his storyboards to Carl Stalling who would play the piano as Bob acted out the scenes and they would work out whatever music they both thought would put the gags and story over best.
Stalling wrote the music out on bar sheets, and under the notation Bob would write what actions were happening in the cartoon.

He would then take the timing notes and transfer them to animation exposure sheets, so the animators would animate the scenes to the music.

This makes Clampett's cartoons feel very diferent from the other directors' cartoons. Even his non-musicals are musical.Clampett's cartoons have a swinging upbeat feeling so even during what could merely be exposition scenes, you feel good and just enjoy the ride. Take a look at "Wabbit Twouble" as a great example.

All the other directors wrote their timing to beats, but unless they were actually doing a musical-like Rhapsody in Rivets (Freleng) or Rabbit Of Seville (Jones) they didn't usually know beforehand what the music would be.

Clampett (and this is what I love about him) used every creative tool at his disposal to make our cartoon viewing experience a richer pleasure.

All the new Ren and Stimpys and many of the originals are timed to music before they are ever animated. We pick the music that we think sets the mood and pace for the scenes and then cut our storyboards in an animatic to that music.

PRE-ORDER IT NOW and get this nifty card signed to you!
(well, signed to you after you sign it! It comes with the set)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Design 3a - Ed B article from Animation Blast

Amid Amidi was kind enough to let me put up an interview with me about Ed from his world renowned cartoon magazine Animation Blast. (the only animation magazine that's actually about animators!)

Clarke scanned these for you.
The Boo Boo drawings above are not actually by Ed. It's someone at Spumco trying to inbetween Boo Boo's front and side view. Did you ever notice that the views of him look totally different? Does anybody have a copy of the original Ed Boo Boo model that I can put up here?

Go order back issues of Animation Blast. They are loaded with great artwork and articles.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Design 3 - Ed Benedict and Fred Flintstone

Ed Benedict is the greatest!
My favorite cartoon designer of all time is Ed Benedict. He's the guy who created the original Hanna Barbera style of the late 50s and early 60s. You're probably saying to yourself, "I thought John hated flat stuff!" I don't. I hate bad stuff. I hate bland stuff. I hate cheating.

Look how funny these drawings are! These are the first finished models Ed did for the Flinstones. Then HB made him water them down a step before they accepted them for television. Then year by year Hanna Barbera continued to water them down more and more until they finally became ugly, wobbly and bland and unwatchable. They took out all of Ed's charm. God knows why.

Ed taught me how to draw when I was a kid! He didn't know it but he did. I used to sit in front of the TV watching Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and The Flintstones with my drawing pads every day and draw as fast as I could.

I memorized the design of every early HB character by the time I was 9 years old.

I also copied the Warner Bros. characters from comic books, and Tom and Jerry (even though I had never seen a Tom and Jerry cartoon!)
and Disney cartoons and anything else on TV or in comics.

But my favorite characters to draw were always Ed's. I just loved the design of the Hanna Barbera cartoons and was aware that they actually HAD design. Most other cartoons were sort of generic-Disney, Warner Bros and MGM-I mean generic in design-they were all made of balls and pears. Hanna Barbera had a real look about it and it fascinated me.

I could also tell all the animators apart just by the way they interpreted Ed's drawings.

I didn't know any of them by name, but I had traits that I knew them by- That's the guy who draws crooked wrists (Carlo Vinci)-there's the guy with the upside down curly mouths (EdLove) etc.

If you want to learn who they are, get on ebay and find the Flintstones Laser Disc Flintstones collection I produced-it's all explained in there and there are music videos Henry Porch cut together for each animator to help you recognize his style

What I like about Ed's style of design is that he does all the things I like about cartoons at once.
I love style. I love interesting design. I love funny. I love cute. And I love character.

There are a lot of talented character designers from the 40s and 50s who have interesting looks-like Tom Oreb, but they create pure designs rather than characters and I want to believe that these magical cartoon creatures are real and have souls.

You can tell just by looking at Ed's designs what the character is like. They aren't just wallpaper.

I'm gonna post Barney next. The first models of him are hilarious. He's real retarded looking, like a cartoon writer! (except nice)

Hey there's a couple great Golden Books painted by Mel Crawford that are actually drawn in Ed's style with poses right from these early models!

Clarke Snyde has all the pages from "Pebbles Flintstone" - my all time favorite Golden Book. I went INSANE when I discovered this book at 10 years old. Mel Crawford is another fantastic cartoonist/illustrator/painter.
Go check it out. It's so fun!

Ed's style may look simple but don't be fooled. The guy is a real artist and can draw like an old time illustrator and in many styles.
His cartoons look so great because he has strong fundamentals behind them.
I'll talk more about him when I post the Barney models.

Here's a real treat below, some practice designs as Ed was trying to figure out the look he wanted for The Flintstones.

Ed is one of my all time heroes-a true cartoon genius!

I have lots more of his stuff but it's all xeroxes and in the custody of Asifa's archive right now. Beg Steve over there to start putting some stuff up!
Oh and he also has tapes of me interviewing Ed. Ed is hilarious! He's nothing like what you would expect from his drawing style.

In case you didn't know, Ed is also the guy who designed and layed out the stylish Tex Avery cartoons from the 50s-like this great one!