Monday, March 10, 2008

1st Season Rocky and Bullwinkle - Great Design and Style

They had some really good layout artists and designers on the first episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Here are some images from the first and 2nd episode. I don't who the designer/layout artist is, but he is topnotch.

His drawings have all the classic principles -





Every pose he does of Bullwinkle is different in the details. They all follow the general idea of Bullwinkle-the basic shapes, the basic proportions, yet the artist experiments with the specifics in every single pose.

You can describe Bullwinkle's designs in general terms-with adjectives.
He is tall and thin
He has a long neck
short skinny legs
knobby knees
A furry peanut shaped torso
His head is made of two shapes, a small rounded cranium and a larger droopy nose and muzzle.
Goofy eyes

The exact dimensions of all these adjectives is not set in stone. A great designer can play with the proportions, angles and specific details and still make the characters recognizable.

There is no tracing of model sheets.

The artist messes around with the specific details to keep everything organic, alive....and artistic.


The variations on the general theme of Bullwinkle are not totally arbitrary either. The artist makes sure his poses are functional first-they tell the story, they show us the emotion of the character, they act and they are perfectly staged so we can tell what's going on.

These variations from "model" are done with extreme control, guided by instinct and taste.
Today, this seeming freedom can be misinterpreted as having no rules. An amateur artist who considers himself a designer ends up drawing anarchic shapes that don't fit together, what we sometimes call "wonky". It's a misunderstanding of the 50s style of design.


Note that the characters evolve from the first episode to the second. The first episode drawings are fun and creative, but by the 2nd, the artist is comfortable with characters and is in "the zone" He now understands them intimately and is able to be a lot freer with the designs and poses.

Totally clear staging and silhouettes.

I love the way they drew Rocky back then too. He's so much more appealing and streamlined than the lumpy disjointed thing he became.The proportions of many famous cartoon characters tend to get evened out with time. They lose fun, spontaneity and life.Yikes!

The mouth animation is really creative and fun in this early stuff.

These 2 close ups of Bullwinkle have completely different proportions, but does the viewer notice?

His nose is turned down above, and up below. Why not?

I love the odd proportions-the tiny hands compared to the giant head. Great designers use strong contrasts in their shapes and sizes.
The shapes in this image are fantastic. So much thought! Look at the way Rocky's eyes are angled apart at the top.
His skull slopes back and the eyes follow that plane.
The interesting angles in his flying cap.
The organic cube.
The keys that splay outward at bottom.

This artist is very observant and creative at the same time.

How cool was Boris?
I also like the thick itchy lines. I wonder what they inked the cells with? It must have been done by an artist too, because it's done with such flair.


I really like this UPA closed eye theory. It's abstract yet still drawn to wrap around the face.


This stuff is pure cartoon candy.

You know who this artist reminds me of?

George Baker. It's a crunchy angular sort of style that still has underlying great drawing principles. I loved the covers of these comics when I was a kid. Still do!

Super crunchy!
Goddamn I like these drawings.

If you gotta do limited animation, use great drawings I always say. They don't cost that much. Just hire real designers and don't step on them.

I recommend this dvd with a big warning:

It has some great drawings here and there.
The Fractured Fairy Tales are generally good design and well animated.
Some of the bumpers are really clever and beautiful


The people who put this out really did a number on the cartoons.

Different voices! - In some cartoons the voices have been changed!
Rerecorded music
The wrong title sequence-it's not the first season title sequence which was really cool.

I can't understand the logic of messing with classic film and TV. Especially when they market it as "original" - "The complete First Season" which is a flat out lie.

If they know that collectors want the films untouched by executives, why do they waste the money changing everything?