Monday, September 17, 2007

Cartoon College Year 1: My Ideal Cartoon School

This course is designed to make the graduates as skilled as possible.

On top of that, they would be trained to be extremely observant and analytic. They would be able to adapt to many drawing styles, because they would know the difference between what is a universal drawing principle and what is a superficial stylistic habit.

It doesn't matter if you plan to be a 2d animator, CG animator or even a Flash animator, these skills will put you at the top of your chosen branch of animation.

It's also designed to inspire the cartoonists to enjoy the immense potential of creativity that is possible when you combine skill, imagination and fun.

1st year

1) 1st Principles of Cartoon Drawing

Basic Construction

Traditional Animated Cartoon construction:

We will learn classic cartoon construction in the same order that classic cartoonists learned it, starting with rubber hose construction and working our way towards sphere and pear construction.

Toy Construction: Drawing cartoon shapes in actual 3 dimensions

Cartoon toys are cartoon shapes (non-anatomical) modeled into actual 3 dimensional objects. How better to learn how cartoony shapes look in different positions than to turn toys in different positions and draw them?

Classic cartoon construction is strictly theoretical. Drawing toys puts the theories to the test and will make you draw more dimensional than you ever thought possible.

Line Of Action

These drawing tools are used for the purpose of clarity. They give the artist control of how the audience perceives their poses.

Drawing Funny

Near the end of the year, once the students have a good grasp of basic cartoon drawing tools, then we will apply them to the task of making people laugh by visuals alone.

I'll have to think about how to actually teach this. It may be more of a case of encouraging it and inspiring people by showing tons of examples from the funniest cartoonists in history.

2) Inbetweening and Cleanup

Historically, the most successful method for learning anything has been the apprenticeship system. In the early days of animation, cartoonists broke into the business by assisting more experienced animators. They cleaned up the animators' rough poses and drew the inbetweens. Being an assistant animator teaches you many important principles of animation. You just absorb what the animator is doing and then when you begin to animate yourself, you have a great head start. I think the first year students should inbetween and cleanup the 3rd and 4th year students' animation.

Cleanup itself is extremely important to good animation. Animation is about more than smooth motion. It is about clear distinct drawings, expressions and poses. Smooth motion of vague or sloppy drawings cannot compete with smooth motion of strong distinct entertaining drawings.

3) 1st Principles of Cartoon Motion

We would learn the basic tools of cartoon motion, step by step starting with rubber hose animation.

rubber hose animation basics

animating to beats,

how to read and write ex sheets.
-walks, double bounce walks, runs, basic movement,
figure 8 motions,
Overlapping Action
basic lip synch,
¾ walks with animating backgrounds
Animating the impossible-using the medium to do what only animation can do.

4) Life Drawing

Studying the general from life

with an emphasis on slow careful drawings, structure, perspective and proportions.

In the first year, we would concentrate on:


Not much detailed anatomy until 2nd year.

Life drawing has not brought many tangible benefits to young animators' cartoon skills. I have seen many student portfolios that have decent life drawings, yet primitive cartoon drawings. Life drawing should be geared to help the student apply general skills from observing life to his cartoon drawings. That would be the aim of this life drawing class. No quick gesture drawings. Scribbling is not a useful animators' tool.

5) Caricature and Observation

Observation over style: Learning to use your eyes and senses to analyze, rather than copying trendy or established styles.

When you sit down to caricature a person, you should try to bury all your preconceived notions of what "caricature style" is.

There is no caricature style. Each person is unique. Every person is a unique style and the person should dictate what you draw.

You should not filter the subject through what you think your style or your favorite caricaturist's style is.

The purpose of caricaturing in this course will be to break your prejudices.
You will be amassing many many new shapes and forms that you can later apply to your animation characters.

You will learn how to see contrasts and how to exaggerate them, thus drawing attention to what makes people and shapes have a distinct clear visual overall statement.

This will help kill any tendencies to genericism that the rest of the business instills in young artists.

6) Applications

This class will be totally devoted to making sure that the students apply what they learn from their other classes to actual cartoon drawings and animation. This is a big hole in most animation schools. We will plug up the hole here.

If you learned foreshortening in life drawing yesterday, you will then do a bunch of drawings of Donald Duck using foreshortening.

If you learned new eye shapes or head shapes in caricature class, you will draw simpler more cartoony characters that use those shapes.

7) ROOTS - History of cartoons

cartoons, comics and animation from 1920 or so till about 1965. (this would be every year and each year I would have the students study aspects of classic cartoons that relate to their exercises.

This course is meant to broaden the cartoonists' horizons and to inspire them.
Disney will merely be one of very many styles we will look at.


If I had my choice in electives, I would design courses that would broaden the interests of cartoonists but at the same time enhance their creativity and ideas.


Dance (every year)

Technical Crap Basic Flash

Great Entertainers from other fields

Gene Krupa
Jack Benny

Fred Astaire
Kirk Douglas
Joan Crawford
Peter Lorre
The Three Stooges
Buster Keaton
Frank Sinatra
Ella Fitzgerald
Cab Calloway

many many more...

I'm curious as to how many people would take a course like this. If you are thinking of going to an animation/cartooning school in the next couple years, read this outline of my year one and tell me in the comments whether you would sign up for something like this. (I will add the other years in posts soon)

If I get enough interest, maybe I can take it to an art school.

I know one thing. If I started a school for cartoons and animation, the graduates would be in great demand throughout the industry.

Many cartoonists who have gone through the rigorous Spumco training have gone on to great success and fame.

This course would be even more focused on the students because there would be no show deadlines complicating the matter.

I bet if I get a hundred or 2 comments from wanna-be students, we'd have a good argument to sell this school to someone.