Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bob Clampett and One Throwaway Genius Scene


Think about what this scene would read like in a script, or even an outline:

Sylvester runs out the door and leaves it open.

The retarded lumpy cat follows.
He's too stupid to know the order of opening and closing a door, so he closes it first then runs into the wall instead.

The wall envelops him in rude rubbery wall skin.

Sylvester, from outside, opens the door again and motions to the other pussycats" C'mon fellas, hurry up!"
When he opens the door it slams over the retarded cat who is stuck in the wall.

The door is rubber too and forms around the lumpy dumb cat and leaves his tail balled up in a nasty place.

Sylvester slams the door open.

The other side of the door now has the dumb cat stuck to it.
The door flesh spits the retard out and he bounces onto the floor.

A small Sylvester cat runs into the scene over the retard and jumps off his butt and through the keyhole.

The hole quivers invitingly and attracts the notice of the 'tard.

The retard decides he will try jumping through the hole.
He anticipates.

Out of nowhere, a baby cat runs into the scene grabs the keyhole and stretches it down to his level.
he jumps through the quivering hole.

The 'tard cat dives towards where the hole used to be and hits the door hard and falls down.

The end.

Does that sound like anything that would pass executive (or cartoon critic) scrutiny?

Is the scene necessary to the plot or character development of the cartoon? Does it further the arcs? Does it sound funny in words?

Why is it so great then? Let's look closely at the bits that make it up.

Design: This is a great looking shot. The perspective is exagerrated to give a sense of weirdness to the scene before anything even happens. It's not "wonky". It's planned to compose well with the characters.

Great Animation Exaggeration: The drawings in the animation are super exaggerated when you still frame them, but move smooth as silk when you watch it in real time.Accents: Clampett's accents are stronger than anyone else's in history. Accents are punctuation. They draw attention to what you want the audience to notice.

Clampett's accents are not merely functional. They are also part of the entertainment. Watch this stuff in real time and see just how much fun the movements are.

In a Freleng cartoon, the accents are just barely readable. Accents are like the rhythms in music. The punctuation in music is what gives it its excitement.

Some folks got rhythm. Others don't. Clampett gots rhythm.

This is the keyframe that "reads". The ones before and after give it the powerful accent.

"Design" in almost every frame. While there are whole articles and books about the "design elements" in the odd scene in the odd UPA cartoon and everyone gets all excited about them (including me), I'm sitting watching Clampett cartoons and finding great shapes and forms and compositions on every frame.
This wide door is a functional inbetween that just happens to also look really cool. It looks cool still and in motion. That's ultra design.

This antic pose is a beautiful design. Everything flows along the line of action and the pose composes well with the background shapes.


Weirdness is one of the most important elements of a cartoon and Clampett gives you more than anybody.

How gorgeously rude is the drawing of the cat stuck in the wall membrane?


You'd think the cat stuck in the wall skin was the end of the gag, but nope, Clampett thinks up a topper.

Now the pussy is vacuu-formed by the door and on top of that, the tail is...you know.
The animators love those muzzle-bulbs as Chloe calls them.

Ye Gods, is that a great drawing of weirdness!

This cell setup should be hanging in The Louvre. On the ceiling.

Muzzlebulbs to the extreme.

Quivering Animated Orifices:
I can't believe the love the animator put into the drawings of the quivering hole! Look how great that shape is!

Pure cartoon-design genius.

Run the clip again and watch how the hole moves. You can really feel that sucker.

Ouch. Where else would a Clampett cat step first?

Clarity/Directing Each Story Point:

Every important part of the continuity is punctuated with animation tools and accents.

When a cartoon is moving this fast and so many things are happening, clarity and punctuation is super important.

Clampett can cram more ideas and action into a few seconds than anyone. Being able to coordinate and control them so that you don't miss them takes immense skill and control.
Clampett is the ultra director. He uses his tools more than anyone, and has a larger toolbox to boot.

Part 2 tomorrow...