Monday, December 31, 2007

Hang Kali On Your Wall

Hey folks, Happy New Year! Thanks for a great year of comments and fighting! No seriously, it's great to know there are so many cartoon fans who are as passionate as me about the stuff and willing to shed blood for their beliefs.

Hey I bet some of you out there would love to have some cartoony decorations on your walls. Kali is constantly turning out sketches, paintings and color marker renderings and I so I said to her, "Why don't you see if anybody would want to buy some of this stuff?".

Kali, like all students is always struggling to get that exorbitant tuition paid and then eat on top of that. I'm sure lots of you out there know all about it!

Her current obsession seems to be the original TV Chipmunks from 1960. We've been watching those and they are really fun, way different than the creepy incarnations of the last 30 years, more cartoony, no cheesy pathos or moral lessons.

She has these great pages of inked doodles and I'm trying to get her to scan some and show 'em to you. I bet you could snap one up for a good bargain. I'll try to post some later today.

She can do custom stuff for you too, like caricatures of you and your buds.

Find her ass here:

Thanks again for a fun and educational year. Let's explore lots more cartoons this year.

Next: Various theories of animated "takes".

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mike Judge and Humanity

I've used the words "humanity", "sincerity", and others to describe a quality in entertainment that I can't find the perfect word for. If you've got a better one, let me know!

It's a quality I find in The Honeymooners, All In The Family, The Three Stooges, Bob McKimson cartoons, Kirk Douglas movies, Johnny Winter music, early Beatles and many other entertainments and entertainers. It's not the artistic finesse or skill - although that comes with many of my favorite's more a quality of truthfulness, an open, no-bullshit view of the world, a way of communicating universal and real human emotions and sensory feelings that cuts through current trends and styles.

You won't find this quality in blockbuster animated features, Cirque Du Soleil, but maybe sometimes in the odd TV show.

Mike Judge has this mysterious quality of sincere, open minded truthfulness and he sees what's really funny about actual humanity versus phony popular trends- he makes fun of when humans lie to us about who we are. He speaks to real people.

When so much modern entertainment is polished insincerity, it's refreshing to watch something and laugh out loud.

When I watch King of The hill, I'm pretty sure I can tell which scenes are Mike unfiltered and which are teams of writers trying to evoke fake pathos. I'm caught off guard by Mike's jokes and laugh really loud, then it quickly switches to someone trying to manipulate me to cry over some writer's contrivance. It's a weird combination of elements.

Buy This Cartoon and many more here:


***CHUCK JONES had humanity supplied to him for awhile by Mike Maltese. Tex Avery, The Fleischers and Clampett had it in abundance.

UPA went out of their way to excise it from their cartoons- so much so that even Jones saw it.What kind of humans are entertained by this? Send pictures.





Thursday, December 27, 2007

Clampett Structure - Clever and Entertaining Setups Tale Of Two Kitties

Clampett and Film/Story Structure
Clampett has a reputation of being wild and anarchic (thanks mostly to Chuck Jones telling everyone that) but in reality, his films are extremely well structured and tightly controlled.

All storytellers have to find ways to balance storytelling devices with entertainment. You have to tell your audience what your story is about at some point and this requires a setup. Setups can be boring or expositional as the writer or director explains to the audience through words what they are supposed to expect from the story.

Exposition to Setup the Story
Tex Avery usually spends a minute or 2 having a character explain what the story is about before the actual entertainment starts, "Whatever you do, don't make a noise, not one little sound!" and then we know that there will be a succession of gags around someone trying not to make a noise.

Entertaining Setups

Clampett's setups are very clever..."clever" is a word you usually associate with Chuck Jones, but Clampett's clever is different. Jones wants you to notice that what he just did is clever and he will point to the clever bit in some way (a character will glance at the audience and pause, to let you know to appreciate it)

Clampett doesn't care if you know what he did was clever. Cleverness is just one of many storytelling tools he uses to entertain you with. He's so confident in his power to entertain that he just throws tons of ideas at the screen and doesn't worry if you miss some or just feel them.

This cartoon is a masterpiece of entertainment, acting, story and film structure, crazy ideas and cartooniness. And cleverness.

It's structure is multi-leveled.

This post covers the setups. Clampett has to setup the story and character relationships but doesn't want to rely merely on exposition. He does it in 20 seconds, and you don't even see the characters for most of that time.

The very first thing we hear is "Hey Babbit!" but we don't see the character. The audience already knows this will be an animated incarnation of Abbot and Costello, but Clampett teases us by not showing them. Instead he shows a fence and we hear the violence happening behind it as we see loose boards slamming and garbage flying up in the air as Babbitt smacks Catstello around.

(BTW, a modern audience doesn't know who Abbot and Costello are and this cartoon structure still works. )

This is a really clever and indirect way to establish the characters and it builds suspense and curiosity in the audience. We are hooked right away and can't wait to see what's coming."

Set Up Audience Curiosity and Characters
"Hey Babbit! Cut it out! I don't wanna do it!
By the way, this layout of the fence is great. It has a flowing S curve that gives the pan a much more dynamic motion than if the fence was just horizontal and vertical lines.

Setup Story Plot and More About Characters
In the first tight acting scene of the characters we can really see their relationship. Catstello is wimpy and Babbit domineering. It's funny lively acting while they quickly make the story point that they are hungry and Babbit wants Catstello to catch a bird for them.
"You wanna eat, don't you?"
"Well go up and get the bird!"
This funny shot shows how hard it's gonna be for Catstello to get the bird.

Clampett makes us think at first that Catstello is an animal lover and doesn't want to hurt anyone, when in reality he's just scared.
"But I donn't wanna hoit nobody Babbbit..."
"What's the matter fraidy cat, this is only a tiny little bird!"
"You mean only a teensy weensy itsy bitsy tiny defenseless bird?"

This is all Bob McKimson animation. Full animation that deserves the work that went into it. No tricks. No squishy stretchy snapping away from and into poses. It's all done to let you enjoy the characters as characters, not as animated cliches.

Catstello Finds Courage
As soon as Catstello thinks the bird is too tiny to put up a fight, he gets courage. This could have been done with one quick pose and expression, but Clampett gets McKimson to milk the new found bravery with 3 different stages of fun personality animation.

"Let me at 'im!"
"Gangway, I'll moidelize him!"

He turns into a Gorilla in the middle of the bravery scene and hops around. This is a pure Clampett type of idea. Just for fun, but it makes the point.

"Let me at 'im!"

Then he goes into a boxer bit...
Many of the top animation directors have been assigned certain skills and signatures that define them. Because Jones' style and cleverness is so obvious, he gets the title of being the clever stylish guy.

Friz gets the title of musical guy, because his timing is so mechanically to the beat and it's hard to find any more tangible cartoon skill that everyone else isn't much better at - he gets music and timing by default. Tex is the wild crazy guy.

Clampett is all of the above and much more. A lot of his creative tools are behind the scenes working to make the entertainment experience stronger and richer, so they don't get written about by critics much. Because you have to actually get into deeper analysis of his films to see how they work, they are harder to write about. Especially if you don't make cartoons yourself and aren't aware of all the problems you have to solve firsthand.

Compare these acting scenes to later cartoons and see if you don't think 40s character acting in cartoons is more fun that the walking talking and held poses of 50s cartoons.

Much more of Tale Of Two Kitties to come.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

McKimson's gift to Dads - humanity

Y'know, when you read a lot of animation histories or critiques, you find that the animators that get the most points among the critics are the ones who seem to have invented the most stuff, broke ground or bucked the establishment. Skill at entertainment is not high on the list of praise and I think that's an injustice. (just look at what wins animation academy awards)

To me, all art and entertainment should aim at communicating with humanity and speaking truth to human nature. Yes, great innovators are to be admired, but so are great pure entertainers. Entertaining at the top levels requires great talent and skill and love of the audience, and most of the audience is not made up of critics or art historians. It's made up of us people who have real lives and all experience universal emotions and situations.

Kids look for certain things in their entertainment that is different than what the adults need, and certainly different than what the critics need. The general perception of cartoons today is that it's a medium for kids, but it wasn't always that way.

Most grown up men aren't that into what cartoons are all about - fantasy, silliness and wild imagination. They certainly aren't looking for art and imaginative flights of fancy.

After all, they have to be mature and bring home the bacon, shave 4 times a day, raise smart ass kids, worry about rent, taxes, Liberals, stocks and pensions. They are slabs of meat riddled with real life stress.

So what do men find entertaining? The essentials: Fear, pain, stupidity and abuse.

These are all universally funny and that's why the 3 Stooges are the most popular comedians in history and Bob McKimson is the greatest cartoon director for the unwashed capitalist masses.

McKimson delivers the goods and I'll bet he made the most popular WB cartoons after Clampett left the place. Mckimson is the Jules White of the cartoon world.
This is top level fear.

This scene completely says it all:

Nothing is funnier than a good ass beating with a board...except when it's a beating that's the result of causing a burly male to experience extreme fear.
What else do regular guys need from entertainment?


*** These frame grabs are from a remastered cartoon. The lines have been ridiculously thinned. Note how jagged that makes them. The colors have been "modernized" by taking out all the subtleties and pumping up the primaries and secondaries. It makes the cartoon strobe when you watch it on TV and flattens everything out, but this is all you get to see because we have removed the Film-maker's version from history."