Friday, December 08, 2006

Color Theory 6 - Montealegre - Lion Hearted Huck

The other main BG color/painter/stylist in the early HB cartoons was Montealegre.

His style in general is more primary/secondary colors and you can really see that in some MGM cartoons he did for Mike Lah Droopy cartoons. He was already doing the sponge technique but in a simpler, more garish style.

He actually started painting richer lusher cartoon BGs for Hanna Barbera's TV cartoons even though the budgets were considerably smaller.

Here's a great one.

Lion Hearted Huck is one of the first Huckleberry Hound cartoons. The BGs are really striking in this and many of the earliest pictures they did.
It's funny, this whole flat style was unpopularized by UPA cartoons, cartoons that were made on purpose to not connect with regular folks. They designed them to appeal to snooty critics and bland but artsy fartsy cartoonists.

The one cartoon series that UPA considered to be their "sellout" series is boring as crap-Mr. Magoo. They felt guilty even making them as meagerly entertaining as they are (read all the cartoon history books-they admit it!) These UPA cartoons were done for big budgets-as big as the lusher fully animated classic Warner's and MGM cartoons that the artists were rebelling against.

In my dumbass regular guy on the street who likes girls opinion, the "UPA style" was done best by the cartoonists who still wanted to appeal to a wide audience-Tex Avery and Ed Benedict in their 50s cartoons and Hanna Barbera in their earliest TV cartoons (also designed by Ed Benedict).

I like the look of these cartoons way more than the bigger budget, slower produced snooty molasses paced UPA cartoons.

These Hanna Barbera artists used the simpler styled flatter design but left in the main ingredient that separates cartoons from other mediums-the ingredient of "fun". These cartoons are like ice cream for the eyes. They are really fun to look at and have a big "kid appeal". They don't look down their noses at the audience. These color combinations are subtle, harmonious yet bold all at the same time.
It's strange how beautiful the colors are when you consider that they were made to be broadcast in black and white. Maybe Art can shed some light on why they paid so much attention to the color. Did they expect the cartoons to be syndicated later? That would be pretty far-seeing for 1958.
Look at the amazing colors that go into making that tree look so rich. Violet, reddish brown and burgundy.
The green BG has fern leaves painted on and criss-crossed. Some are lighter than the BG, some darker. The combination gives a rich and subtle texture to the scene without distracting from the character.
It's funny-The BGs are so bold and stylish in this cartoon, yet the animation is as bland as can be. It's animated by Ken Muse, the blandest of the HB animators. Even with a severly limited animation budget, Mike Lah, Carlo Vinci, Ed Love, Don Patterson and some other animators managed to put their own styles and some life into the animation drawings. Ken just did the minimum of what was required-and this later became the HB style and formula that so many people condemn them for.
Wow! I would kill to have this BG hanging on my wall. If you have it, let me know so I can put out a contract.
Do you know how lucky we are to even have this styling in Hanna Barbera cartoons? Ed Benedict told me that Joe Barbera hated stylized cartoons. Joe walked in on Ed working one night on a Tex Avery cartoon and started grilling him. "Why are you drawing this flat crap? Nobody wants it. Nobody likes Mr. Magoo! The folks in middle America want round soft cute things."

The only reason Joe and Bill went with Ed's graphic style, was that they figured it would read better on the tiny black and white TV screens of the 50s. Simple characters with big black lines would read from a mile away, even in Black and White.

As Hanna Barbera became successful, the cartoons became less stylized, more bland, more even and generic. Just watch Yogi Bear's 1960 cartoon series and you'll see it is already way less adventurous than 2 mere years earlier. By 1962 we have Touche Turtle and Wally Gator which are so bland it hurts.

Hanna Barbera went from:

1958 - adventurous, radical, experimental, fun. Every cartoon feels different.

to 1960 - still very professional yet more conservative (leaving out the first season of the Flintstones which I will talk about later)

1962 - conservative, bland and repetitive, HB starts recruiting young inexperienced artists who never animated.

1965 - ugly xerox lines, Iwao Takamoto reluctantly imitating Ed's design style, Saturday morning executive interference.

1967- Iwao and his crew starts to design harder to animate characters in a pseudo 60's Disney style-which are impossible to animate well with a low budget.

Gang cartoons start which further hampers the chances to animate well.

1969 - Scooby Doo-absolute crap. Ugly design, sloppy amateur execution, not written by cartoonists anymore-the ugliest BGs ever. The end of the world.

This is Hanna Barbera copying Filmation's Archies show. All basic cartoon principles are outlawed from here on in. No squash and stretch, no line of action, no funny teeth and tongues, no exaggeration, no design appeal, no composition, no professional voice acting, no writing on storyboards. Tiny FLESH-COLORED EYES!!!!!!!

Anything fun or professional is deemed "too cartoony". "Cartoony" becomes a swear word. And here we are today still in this retarded illogical state of mind.

Anyway thank God that no one was paying much overall attention in these early cartoons and left the artists to put some of themselves into the art and entertainment.

I asked Art to tell us a little bit about Monte and here's what he said:

Monte? Fernando Montealegre, Costa Rican, a charmer (at times), a good artist, funny guy, sort of conceited and family-proud. We started the same day at MGM and became close friends. He had studied classical painting in San Jose. When Bob needed assistance, Monte was sent in to help out, following the oldish MGM technique. As I already mentioned, because of the fact that in the new Hanna/Barbera set-up, we had to work fast and simple, we established a style that allowed us both to work on one cartoon without noticeable differences. When we each had a complete cartoon to do, which became more and more frequent, then our styles began to show. But we managed to keep it all Hanna-and-Barbera-identifiable.