Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stories About Today's Mighty Mouse

It will feature the first cartoon I (almost) totally directed.

By almost, I mean in the sense of an old time director, I supervised every creative aspect of the cartoon - except the final editing. I had no control over the sound effects or cutting.

On Bakshi's Mighty Mouse, I supervised all the stories and design and I restored an old time -director-unit system. There were 3 or 4 directors who theoretically would supervise all the creative aspects of individual films. 2 of the directors were actually kind of reluctant to do that and didn't really approve of the whole idea in the first place!

This trailer has Meoww - (Mine) and Witch Tricks (Eddie's first cartoon)

This was the first time I ever had so much control over a cartoon, let alone the whole series. But I learned quickly that you really only have as much control as you have skill, experience and knowledge.
I think I wanted this cartoon to be like a Warner Bros. cartoon. It's not totally my own personal style of humor. We were only slightly cautious with what stories we presented to the CBS executives and I think this story was to test the waters.My only previous experience with partial direction was on a New Jetsons Cartoon a couple years earlier: High Tech Wreck.

I say partial, because I didn't have anything to do with the story or storyboard, voice direction or editing.

I designed the characters, supervised and drew many layouts, supervised the colors and BGs and chased everything around the studio to follow it through.

I had a great storyboard drawn and written by Tony Benedict that inspired me to draw the poses as lively and funny as possible. By a lucky accident, I got to actually hand out the show to the animators in Taipei personally. I did some pretty bad timing in many scenes but got lucky in others. That experience gave me at least some first hand knowledge of how everything fits together and what can go wrong-and right.

Anyway, back to "MEOWW"

We had a lot of fun drawing it. It was full of cartoony lively poses and we were lucky enough to have Dave Marshall oversee the animation in Taipei and he did his best to insure that the animators actually used our poses. They would lose something in the cleanups, but nothing like the way everything creative gets erased on our own coasts by the normal production system.

Even so, when the animation came back and we watched it on the movieola in Bakshi's studio we were pretty disappointed. I thought Ralph was gonna fire me for sure. Maybe he did! I got fired every couple weeks.

It just didn't seem to play. The timing was mushy. The voices sounded weak and unsure and the gags seemed dated and quaint.

I had this exact same experience a couple years later when the first Ren and Stimpy cartoon came back from overseas and we all watched it on the movieola. (although the gags weren't quaint this time. I never tried to imitate WB or anybody else again.)

Actually, maybe worse, because the overseas studio was not as careful to follow what we sent as Cuckoo's Nest and Dave Marshall were on Mighty Mouse.

On Ren and Stimpy, I had control of the editing - which I didn't on Mighty Mouse, so I patched up the first couple episodes with sound effects and music bandaids and somehow it made the films play better, even though much of the animation and timing weren't working on their own.

But I didn't have this opportunity (or even the idea) to change the feeling of this first Mighty Mouse cartoon in editing.

It still was quite a revolution when compared to the cartoons being made everywhere else and I think I was hardest on it than anyone.

This very style led directly to Tiny Toons, but I quickly veered away and concentrated on weirder stories, stronger personalities and more surprises.

Working on Mighty Mouse, with Ralph's support, experience and a real live Director's/unit system, we were actually able to learn from mistakes and get a little better the more we practiced our craft.

I'll put the cartoon up later...