Tuesday, May 29, 2007

UPA VS Wally 5 UPA bred worse imitations, amateurism and killed actual animation


I don't blame classic animators for wanting to try to animate different styles. It would get boring to do the same drawing style all the time. But I think it's odd that when they did get the chance to animate something new, they didn't actually animate it. They just inbetweened the stiff key poses. There is no more timing either. Everything just floats at the same rate. No contrasts. The cartoons move in a machine-like automaton sort of way.




This led to the 60s,

when new animators got into the business that weren't classically trained and they animated simplistic designs with no timing or animation. The Cheerios kid had at least a happy though clunky design appeal and some of the commercials had good animation, but many had stiff, evenly inbetweened movements. Ironically, they still had more life in them than UPA cartoons. The characters at least seemed alive.

As the 60s dragged on, the cartoons drifted further and further away from both good design and good animation-in other words against both UPA and Disney.

It just got worse and worse after that.

It got to the point in the 1970s, that if you knew anything at all about animating (or design appeal!) you would get yelled at by your bosses. I remember working at Duck Soup animating on commercials, and if I even used squash and stretch or called for uneven inbetweens they told me to stop doing that " Tex Avery stuff." General classic animation principles were considered radical by the 1980s. 50s Friz cartoons would have been extreme exaggeration.

Here's one of my favorite UPA cartoons by Bobe Cannon. At least I remember it standing out when I first saw a string of UPA cartoons. This seemed less amateurish than many of them to me. I think maybe because it has some simple design balance, whereas there are so many UPA cartoons that have no balance at all. However...and here was the big danger of UPA. Look at the drawings. To the average person, these drawings look like stick figures. They look like anyone could do them. Could an executive tell the difference between this drawing style and your Dad's?

It's drawn by Tee Hee - purposely in a childlike primitive style, to look as if a professional artist didn't do it. Bobe Cannon directed, but I can't figure out what that means. He was a great animator, but there is no animation in it. How could this have been fun for him? This kind of cartoon is anti-animation. All the skills the classic animators developed and polished from 1930 to 1950 have been totally abandoned. Animated cartoons had taken cartoon skills to a new level. Now that UPA subtracted animation principles, it brought animation back down near the level of comic strips and lost the advantages animated cartoons had over still cartoons.


I have to wonder, did Cannon and his cohorts sabotage their own usefulness? Here is a cartoon by Cannon that anyone in the world could have done.

The revolution these great animators started opened the door to non-skilled amateur artists to compete with them and doomed quality animation.

Animation was replaced by stiff cardboard poses, and "trace-backs" …Which are inbetweens that are just tracings of the keys gradually floating into the position of the next key.

No overlapping action,
no squash and stretch,
no line of action,
no contrasts in timing,
no construction,
no nothing.

Just ugliness.

I don't even know what this thing is below, but you can thank the wave of non-animated, merely inbetweened UPA cartoons for it. It's someone obviously trying to bring back general animation principles, but either doesn't fully know what they are, or is not being allowed to use them. I think the animator probably likes old cartoons though. It seems to be a superficial attempt to mimic them. But in the 80s, it really was like trying to revive Greek knowledge in the dark ages from scraps of surviving manuscripts. There was no one to teach the lost techniques to the young animators. And no studio to learn it on the job.

The first time I saw squash and stretch and overlap again (besides some highly degraded nasty looking Disney movies) in the 1980s was in Brad Bird's "Family Dog". It seemed amazing at the time, because no one had seen or done it since classic cartoons. It was a lost art. It had some timing too, but constructed, appealing and fun drawings took longer to make a reappearance in animation - and they didn't stay around long.