Saturday, May 19, 2007

UPA - flat stylized cartoons I like

This Wally VS UPA stuff was all supposed to be the subject of 1 post, but I'm finding that to make my point is taking a lot more work than I originally thought it would. And some commenters are misinterpreting what I've been getting at.

I'm interrupting the thread to make something clear:

Probably many of you folks think I hate all stylized animation. Nope. I actually love the idea of it and love to see many styles of cartoon animation.
The best stylized cartoon animation was not in the UPA entertainment shorts for theatres, but in commercials and even TV for some reason.
Tom Terrific was a low budget TV cartoon that still used real animation, and didn't merely inbetween from pose to pose.

Just in case anyone forgot, I even brought back the "UPA style" or as it's known now "Retro Cartoons". So obviously I like it and think there is a place for stylization.
Dave Sheldon - one of my favorite cartoonists designed many retro tribute fake commercials for me.

I added these little shorts just to bookend and offer a contrast to the style of the Ren and Stimpy cartoons, never knowing what influence they would have on the next 15 years.

After we did these fake commercials in Ren and Stimpy, this became the dominant style of kiddie TV cartoons.

I remember all through the 80s trying to get my bosses at Filmation, Hanna Barbera and the like to let me do flatter more designy characters and styles. I would always come up against this argument: "John, these characters are too flat and cold. Nobody wants this old fashioned (old-school) stuff anymore. Kids won't be able to identify with the characters. They want round 3 dimensional characters like we draw here":

Anyway I like stylized stuff that's fun and animated, that isn't bland and stuffy. The UPA entertainment cartoons were to me, the least entertaining form of stylized cartoons because they were designed blandly and didn't animate very well. Meanwhile their industrial films were great and lots of animated commercials were done by classic full-animation animators who did very creative stylized ads.

Here's a real irony. Rod Scribner-who I think was the most talented and versatile animator in history did some stuff for UPA, but not for the entertainment shorts.

He did the title sequence for some of the shorts, and that animation and design was way more fun and interesting than the shorts themselves.


He also animated some shorts for the UPA TV show- which would have been much lower budget than their theatrical shorts. His TV shorts are full of amazing design and animation- he figured out stylized ways to move the characters. He didn't just do keys and then evenly inbetween - them like in the award winning theatricals. Does this make any sense to you?

If this had become the trend for stylized animation, UPA might never have killed cartoon animation. It would have invigorated the medium and given us lots more variety and directions to go in.

Scribner also animated lots of stylized commercials: