Monday, December 10, 2007

Cartoony + Principles - 1942 - Eatin' On The Cuff

Watch this pure cartoon fun:
Clampett combined Fleischer's cartooniness with Disney skills and added his own unique imagination and control to them.

I think Clampett's "Eatin' On The Cuff" is a landmark cartoon. It may be the first one where Avery's animators (now under Clampett) finally got what Clampett was all about. Clampett takes virtuoso animators' talents and pushes them to a new level. It's a near-perfect cartoon. It mixes all the creative elements that have been available to animators at other studios at different times. It combines Disney principles, great drawings, great gags and Fleischer cartooniness all together. This became Clampett's style and approach. He not only used all the available creative tools. He pushed them farther than anyone else and focused them and controlled them much more precisely. He gave them context.

Principles Turned Into Entertainment

During the mid to late 30s, Disney led the way in discovering and developing animation principles. Warner Bros.' 30s animation by comparison was actually pretty conservative, even Clampett's. The gags and held poses were funnier in Looney Tunes but the movement in the Disney cartoons squashed, stretched, bounced, overlapped and dragged to crazy proportions-while it was moving. They didn't ever settle on exaggerated poses, but getting from one pose to the next was wild - you have to freeze frame it to see it. The problem with the Disney cartoons was - it was all principles and not much entertainment. But they made some great cartoons this way and broke a lot of ground for others to find uses for it.
Clampett and his cohorts put the principles to use. They gave them a context. The principles are there, but they are in service of the story, character and entertainment. Each gag or bit of acting requires certain animation tools-but not every one every time. Classic Disney cartoons tend to use all the principles all the time with no control, no selection process. Everything deserves the same lush treatment. (I'll post some examples this week.)

Making A Gag Out Of Overlapping Action

The power in this animation is awesome. These are the principles of overlap and drag caricatured. The spider zips into scene and then her hair and clothes follow after-completely unattached. They hit her with a huge force. These drawings are not merely exaggerated-they are timed in a way that the impact of the action is maximum. It draws attention to the gag and the final held poses. Warner Bros. and particularly Clampett knew how to make some poses and gags more important than others and they used the principles of animation to enforce the ideas, gags and stories.
The drawings in some Scribner animation look like they aren't even connected. When you still frame it, it looks like it would never work, yet when you watch it at regular speed, it not only works, it's incredibly smooth and has impact and calculated control. It isn't simply wild and crazy, as opposed to Jim Tyer for example.
You can see the hierarchy of forms and details in the hair here. The hair is drawn as a form in motion first, then the forms have a few extra hair lines drawn within the forms.

Scribner slowed down.

Scribner Draws Gorgeous Girls
Scribner not only caricatured Veronica Lake's face, but also her body. Angular shoulders and thin arms and waist.
I like this blur effect for the eyelashes. There are only two drawings in the cycle and it looks sexy as hell.

Beauty gets crazy

Scribner Wild

Scribner exaggerates stretch, squash, overlap

Forms within forms- hierarchy
Great construction and exaggeration at the same time.

Look how damn sexy these drawings are!

I love the way McKimson drew and animated these flames. They have solid hand anatomy, yet they still waver like flames. What control!

The Switch From From The Junior to the Senior Unit

Clampett switched cartoon units in 1941. He went from a black and white unit that only did Porky Pig cartoons to a full color unit that had the top animators at Warner Bros and was free to make cartoons with any characters at all.

Tex Avery was in charge of this unit before Clampett took over, and so far hadn't really taken advantage of it on an animation level. His cartoons were basically strings of gags and he had his animators connect them with motion. If the animators put something of themselves into the cartoons along the way, fine, but they aren't cartoons that you would consider wildly creative. Not like what Tex did later at MGM.

Clampett had a mostly younger set of animators in his black and white unit. He said that while they were all very talented, there were certain ideas and gags that he wanted to try, that he thought his crew wasn't quite skilled enough yet to pull off. To tell you that truth, I find that hard to believe. I love his black and white cartoons. They have some great animation in them. Maybe some of the drawings were a bit cruder than McKimson's or Scribner's but I would love to have a unit of animators that skilled to work with.

Clampett's style is evident in his B and W cartoons.

The black and white cartoons are the most original and energetic cartoons Warners had done to date and they are full of Clampett's style and ideas.Here is a solidly constructed cat. It's so extremely solid that it looks like Clampett is making fun of construction.

There is a great variety of animation techniques in the cartoons. They go from really subtle careful acting to really wild experimental action.
You have to see this take in action. It's the craziest take I've ever seen. The way it moves is awesome. I'll post it later, but here is an article about the cartoon.

1942 - Clampett and His New Animators Figure Out What They Can Do Together

The Henpecked Duck (30/8/1941)

John Carey born 4/6/1915
Vive Risto
Born: 1902
Norm McCabe 10 February 1911
David Hoffman
Izzy Ellis

This cartoon is one of Clampett's last black and whites. It is full of subtle acting and lots of really weird and sick jokes, yet it's cute as heck. It's animated by the "young" crew. The animation is all very controlled and not as extreme as Disney cartoons.

(Hmmm...I just looked up everyone's birthdates, and it seems the age ranges are pretty much the same, so it's not really a "young" crew. Maybe just less experiencced? Or maybe just lower budgets. )

Cagey Canary (22/11/1941) co-dir: Tex Avery

Bob McKimson
Born October 13, 191o
Virgil Ross
August 8, 1907
Rod Scribner
October 10, 1910
Charles McKimson?
December 20, 1914
Sid Sutherland?
7 August 1901

Tex Avery started Cagey Canary then left for MGM. Clampett finished the cartoon, but it looks like it's mostly Avery. The animation is very down to earth, slow and mainly tells the gags. There are some Scribner scenes that look like Clampett handed them out and they are a bit wilder than earlier Avery cartoons. This is also the cartoon that was the model for the later Tweety and Sylvester cartoons.

Wabbit Twouble (20/12/1941)
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This is a half and half transition cartoon from the way the animators animated for Avery and the way they would soon be animating for Clampett. It's like they are starting to get used to Clampett's direction style.

The story is very similar to Avery's "A Wild Hare" and "The Heckling Hare". It's the same easy going feeling and pacing but weirder jokes and more acting.

Clampett also brought his more musical approach to this Bugs Bunny template cartoon. A lot of the action is timed to popular songs, so it really swings, instead of having the music post-written to fit already existing gag timing.

Porky's Pooch (27/12/1941)

This was another black and white cartoon done by the younger crew. It is the first Charlie Dog cartoon. Chuck Jones turned this one-shot Clampett idea into a series.

Any Bonds Today (1942) trailer for the U.S. War Bonds*

This is a strange little war bonds ad. It's partly animated by Scribner and Virgil Ross, but something about it looks more primitive than their regular series cartoons. Clampett told me some of the animation was by beginners.

Crazy Cruise (14/3/1942) co-dir: Tex Avery

Here's another Avery cartoon that Clampett finished.

Horton Hatches the Egg (11/4/1942)
From Horton Hatches the Egg (1942) directed by Bob Clampett.
This cartoon is the first Seuss cartoon and sticks fairly close to the book, with some added gags. The animation is superb and really gives the book a reason to be animated.

The Wacky Wabbit (2/5/1942)

This cartoon, according to Clampett is him experimenting with material and ideas he didn't think he could have done before. He has long subtle acting sequences in it, like the scene where Bugs is following Elmer through the desert singing "Oh Susanna".

Nutty News /23/42

Another from the B and W unit. Some of the last cartoons have slower timing than Clampett's earlier cartoons. My theory is because maybe he left the timing to someone else as he transitioned to the color unit.

Wacky Blackout 7/11/42

Bugs Bunny gets the Boid (11/7/1942)

Clampett proving he understands Bugs Bunny's classic character better than anyone else before or since. He also introduces Beaky Buzzard, patterned after Mortimer Snerd. Hilarious Clampett-only type gags and great acting and animation.

Eatin' on the Cuff

I'm having trouble pinpointing exactly why this cartoon stands out from Clampett's previous work, but it just feels like something completely new. The last few color cartoons are great but feel like transitions. It's interesting that this is a black and white cartoon, even though it was made by the color unit.

This whole cartoon is paced like Clampett's musical sequences in his earlier black and white cartoons. It's not just a story told in animation. It's an experience, like listening to a good song.

After this Cartoon, Clampett has a 4 year run of genius and takes animation to new levels and shows the world what animation and cartooning can be if you have the talent and the will to explore and entertain.

The Hep Cat (3/10/1942)

Clampett makes a cartoon with his new animators, but in the style of his musical black and white cartoons. Great backgrounds by Johnny Johnson.

A Tale of Two Kitties (21/11/1942)

The first Tweety cartoon has brilliant experiments in direction and pacing. I could do 20 posts on this.

Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (16/1/1943)

Clampett's masterpiece.

Tortoise wins by a Hare (20/2/1943)

Funniest Bugs Bunny cartoon ever. Virtuoso pacing and directorial control.

1942 was a pinnacle in animation history and this was Clampett at the top of the art form.

Here's your reward for plodding through some awkward sentences.


Eatin' On The Cuff is on the latest Looney Tunes DVD collection, and it's a great print. It also has a wonderful commentary by Jerry Beck.

Buy this set for everyone this Christmas!

Or get all 5 sets...