Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stooges Studies For Toys

These guys are really hard to draw! They are so unique and have too many interesting subtleties, not only in their physical features, but in their personalities. It's murder trying to cram them all in and still get a likeness.

Ask the competition how hard it is to get likenesses:

When I showed the owners of the 3 Stooges drawings like this they said: "Why is Moe punching Larry? How come you draw him mean? Moe's not mean. He's just....frustrated."

Jim Smith Studies
Excuse the rain damage.

My Moe

I think the 3 Stooges made the funniest films in history. They are the perfect combination of comedic acting, timing, slapstick and cartoon gags. They never cheat you with filler and insincere pathos either. It's the most honest comedy you'lll find anywhere. They give your money's worth.

They have rereleased all their films (plus some lost ones!) in chronological order.

That's good news and bad news. The picture looks great, but the sound has been "remastered" till it's hardly there any more. You have to turn up the volume on your set all the way and still you are straining to hear the voices and sound effects that were perfectly clear on TV and video tapes just a few years ago. Why do they do this? The old cartoons have lousy sound on DVDs too. Each new release has thinner and thinner sound. Does anyone have an explanation for what they are doing? And why they hire deaf people to remix sound?

This volume (3) has one of the craziest, fastest Stooges films of all time! "Cactus Makes Perfect". It's more cartoony than most cartoons and has the funniest shaving scene ever.

Bonus Kissable Larry


kevin said...

any chance of another video tutorial? i'd love to see how you go about breaking down the construction/drawing stuff like this.

Jake the Animator said...

These are great examples of caricature - from rough to clean & colored, exploring 3 dimensions. thanks for posting this!

The Butcher said...


What do you think of HDTV/blue ray technology? Do you think it's making anything better? I think it makes the picture look weird and cluttered.

Sven Hoek said...

I have been taping the Stooges for years and have most of the episodes, which I have transferred to DVD. The sound quality is great. I would really like to get the ones I dont have but I cannot abide bad sound. I think I have seen every short about 10 times its high-larious.

If you like slapstick comedy, you have got to get the stooges shorts.

Vanoni! said...

All three drawings a great but that Larry is exquisite.
When I see it I start quoting quoting him uncontrollably. Must be the sign of a good cartoon drawing - I want it to talk and move! Ha!

That Moe doll looks a little symmetrical compared to the other two. I've never actually seen these up close though.

- Corbett

Nicol3 said...

"He's not angry.. he's just frustrated."

Story of my life.

Franky said...

I know how much you love the Stooges, but I can never take more than 2 of their flicks in a row. They just seem to grate on my nerves.

That being said my faves from the Stooges has to be the one where they are plumbers and the one where they are making hors d'oeuvres for a bunch of snooty people - "can o' peas animal crackers"

I'll stick with my Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton. They make my sides hurt from laughing!

perspex said...

I find the Three Stooges to be actually rather depressing, knowing full well within the opening credits that somebody is gonna get in trouble, and Moe is gonna hit them and berate's like watching my father!

and that's supposed to be funny?
Give me the Marx Bros or Laurel&Hardy anytime.

Larry Levine said...

Hey, John--where's Curly Joe, the greatest Stooge of 'em all???

Who's with me in declaring "Snow White & the Three Stooges" their finest moment? Hello..anyone there..? Hello, hello?

mike f. said...

Sheesh! That lampost - "The Three Generic Humanoid Bipeds".

I wish Spumko could have gotten clearance to do a Shemp doll, too - and maybe a Vernon Dent! (No one else can deliver the line: "Now where've I seen those three guys before?" with such conviction, such ominous foreboding of impending menace...)

Every man should have his head caricatured by Jim Smith, by the way. I remember he drew the whole cast of "The Andy Griffith Show" once - including Floyd. Man, they would've made killer toys!

mike f. said...

Hey Corbett, how are you doing?

Phantom Spitter said...

The Spumco Stooges are perfect! The competitor messed up completely. They got Moe's nose all wrong, and Curly has too much hair. A ruined pun!
Anyway, I love the Stooges. I can't understand for the life of me why there are so many people who hate those lovable knuckle-heads. I once asked a Stooge-hater why she chose her stance, and this was her response: "They're dorky!"
But their dorkiness and loonicy is what makes them funny! Some people are just plain ignorant.

James said...

I love the stuff on the 3 stooges box.

Ted said...

Are you running 5.1 sound through a stereo setup? See if altering the audio setup to stereo (or to 5.1 if you have a 5.1 setup) helps.

Zoran Taylor said...

Yeah, I'll admit they're not my favorite, as brilliant as they are. I'm more of a Chaplin/Groucho kinda guy. I love the idea of people who could've been serious intellectuals taking a pass on writing political essays, saying "nah, I couuld make all the same points with slapstick." That's what Modern Times is - a biting satire constructed out of nothing but cartoony gags. I'm just blown away by the fact that you can do that, it's actually possible!
God, imagine if The Stooges and The Three Stooges were conglomerated into one troupe: even crazier. Moe Pokes Iggy's eyes, Iggy whips out a bazooka and blows his head clean off. Hilarious!

Tom A said...

The stooges fascinate me because their formula for humor is so basic and simple yet does not insult the intelligence of the audience. It's comedy boiled down to its most elemental parts.

JohnK said...

"Are you running 5.1 sound through a stereo setup? See if altering the audio setup to stereo (or to 5.1 if you have a 5.1 setup) helps."

i watch it on a regular tv where you should be able to hear it

the tv has speakers for that purpose.

the engineers ruin the sound

Vanoni! said...

"Sheesh! That lampost - "The Three Generic Humanoid Bipeds". "

Ha! I'm sure someone high up in the company in a bad suit said, "Put Larry's ass on Shemp's face! That'll be. . .wacky!!"

I risk public belittlement by proclaiming here that Shemp IS my favorite stooge. A Shemp doll would have been great.

Mike! - I miss your comedic stories and your vaudeville like delivery.
I'm still here in balmy Minnesota. I told 'em this snow bit is old and tired but they just laugh at me and insist on bringing it back for a return engagement next month. Meanwhile I'm trying to be a full time freelancer - which turns out is harder than my previous job as a part time procrastinator!

Been asked to deface any Druckers lately??

Nico said...

wow That Stooges cartoon at the very top is FANTASTIC. Amazinggggg colors too

You and kali are my favorite color theorists. :)

Adam T said...

Ahhh the 3 Stooges. Makes me nostalgic for the days when comedy was funny and aggressive instead of whiney and passive-aggressive.

There hasn't been a good live slapstick comedy since the Naked Gun 33 1/3. Somebody needs to revive it.

k.dubb said...

fantastic drawings John K & Jim Smith!

now why is it when I draw something and say, "boy, that was hard to draw!" it doesn't look ANYTHING like your drawing at the top??

curse you John K!

The Jerk said...

"i watch it on a regular tv where you should be able to hear it

the tv has speakers for that purpose.

the engineers ruin the sound"

the purpose of speakers on tv's is to frustrate viewers with their lousy quality until they break down and spend extra bucks on external speakers.

HemlockMan said...

Didn't Moe bite his lower lip with his upper teeth (while hiding his incisors with his upper lip)? Why don't I ever see anyone draw him like that?

I can believe the Stooge owners would say something utterly stupid like that. People in management and other corporate shills are packed with that kind of smelly stuff.

PCUnfunny said...

I love these dolls ! Yes, it is so hard to capture the essence of the Stooges because they have a range of emotions.

"Why is Moe punching Larry? How come you draw him mean? Moe's not mean. He's just....frustrated"

Wow, just no comment.

JohnK said...

"the purpose of speakers on tv's is to frustrate viewers with their lousy quality until they break down and spend extra bucks on external speakers."

all my tapes play just fine on the tv, even the exact same shows

so do the the tv broadcast stations

the dvds have bad sound, as do most dvds

they get worse every year

MLP said...

The expressions on the top drawing in the post look awesome to me, really capturing the flavor of typical moments for each Stooge.

trevor said...

The Jerk's actually right, John.

These sound engineers are no older than 33, and they've been taught by industry types that current and future generations won't get anything that was done the old fashioned way.

This is why they make the color look crappy on the new Looney Tunes discs. Even though they keep all the jokes, they think that kids won't enjoy the cartoons unless every color in the rainbow is used and turned up on high.

But, they also want you to buy newer and newer things ( the sound on your T.V. shows will eventually go to crap too ) rendering your tapes and other points of enjoyment useless.

My uncle Rick worked for Sony for many years and told me first hand of their nafarious efforts. They also design all the parts to break after a relatively short period of time, and the machinery to work only using Sony-made parts.

Money. Killing creativity and technology's advances since 1961.

- trevor.

Zoran Taylor said...

I think the problems with DVD audio quality are a pretty recent development. I have some DVDs that sound amazing, and I have some which leave a fair bit to be desired. VHS sounds good for awhile, but it decays pretty rapidly if you watch it a lot, WAY faster than vinyl. Which is embarrassing, because microgroove records were developed several decades earlier and thus SHOULD be an inferior technology, if we still have any illusions of technological "progress".

With classic cartoons, I don't expect much in terms of sound. They're in mono, they predate magnetic tape, they were recorded with no more than four mics and even the good prints have been worn out beyond total, unequivocal repair. Just out of curiosity, though, in your experience where did Looney Tunes sound best, John? The Cineforum, maybe? Was Reg's place called that back in the '70s? Yep, that's right, I live in Toronto. (Speaking of which, feel free to use this line that sprung into my mind over dinner: "There are two seasons in a Canadian cartoon - Winter, and No Construction!" WHOOOOP-woopwoopwoopwoop!!!!)

:: smo :: said...

awesome! thanks for the update! i've always collected marx brothers films but i'd like to get some stooges in the mix too! man when these were all getting their first run it had to be the funniest time in theaters in history. screw ticket sales they should keep track of laughter.

JohnK said...

"With classic cartoons, I don't expect much in terms of sound. They're in mono, they predate magnetic tape, they were recorded with no more than four mics and even the good prints have been worn out beyond total, unequivocal repair."

Old films have way better sound than stuff recorded today.Clearer, bigger, louder and way more distinct.

Even old Huckleberry Hound cartoons - which had really cheap recording facilities in 1957 sound better on VHS tapes than modern digital recordings. Waaaaay better.

Of course the dvds of those same cartoons don't sound as good as the tapes, because they do something to ruin them.

I know this from direct experience.

Ever since we started recording and mixing digitally, I've never been able to get full and clear sound like I used to when we did everything on tape.

Even from the same recording studios.

Brendan M said...

Love the caricatures.

The best Three Stooges episode (or rather my favorite) is i think it's called "Disorder in the Court" or something to that effect. If anyone hasn't seen it, you should see it immediately. It's full of hilarious gags.

Either that episode or the episode where they all have to take care of a baby, and they wind up giving it a gun somehow- and making funny faces to try and make the baby cheer up.

I dunno. There are far too many great episodes of the Stooges to pick a favorite

Best stooge though? Larry. Shortly followed by Iggy

Caleb Bowen said...

I agree that Moe isn't exactly mean. He just has to exist with the only 2 people in the world dumber than him, which leads to relentless violence(and genius comedy).

John, I know what you mean about the thin audio. I've noticed myself leaning into the tv with the volume up all the way more and more. Even on the best stereo systems, there will be something missing.

Audio mastering is similar to removing film scratches and marks, but with audio noise. I guess it's like throwing just the baby's arms out with the bathwater.

Ben Forbes said...

I really like these study drawings. I wish I could have bought these.

Question, any luck with finding a way for Canadians to purchase the upcoming Presidential toys?

PCUnfunny said...

"John, I know what you mean about the thin audio. I've noticed myself leaning into the tv with the volume up all the way more and more"

I have the same problem as well. I am glad I am not the only one. I never had this problem so much with VHS.

PCUnfunny said...

Oh and one question for you John, why is it were you forced to go digital recording with APC ? Was it cheaper or is it you had no choice in the matter ?

Anonymous said...

Good to see your sketches of the Three Stooges. Like most, I love Curly. He's Moe's perfect opposite.

Now, on the note of comedy, what do you think of George Carlin, John? I know it's really off topic, but I've always wanted to know what you think of him. Personally, I think he's hilarious.


Kali Fontecchio said...

The dvd sound is crap on those for some reason worse than any other dvds I've heard. On my laptop I have to use headphones to hear Stooges. GRR.

Zoran Taylor said...

If only the 1970s produced the best cartoons of all time instead of the worst. It was the golden age of audio production and mastering. A lot of movies sounded crappy, but anything done at a good facility by someone with a background in music and artistic recording was vastly superior to anything before OR after. Why else would people STILL be blasting those records at top volume on any given street and loving every second of it? Ask a teenager. Like me.

How was the original R&S recorded? I'm sure you have your disappointments with it, but I still think it the sound rocks.

Vince M. said...

Your Stooges dolls were some of the best personality toys I've ever seen. I wish you'd tackle the Marx Bros. and Abbott & Costello.

MDC said...

I'm not sure but I think Ted is asking if the dvd itself is set on 5.1 mode. In other words check your audio set up from the main menu. I dunno?! Sometimes it seems that they set that as the default mode. I don't have the dvds so I can't comment. But of course you probably know this anyway! You certainly have more experience in these matters than me. And let that be the understatement of 2008!

mike f. said...

[Been asked to deface any Druckers lately??]

Nah, I only deface Tom & Jerry now. BTW, you'll be glad to hear that the marketing genius who tried to have Mort Drucker's original drawing "enhanced" was unceremoniously booted from the company. (If you live long enough, corporations eventually do something right, if only because the law of averages catches up with them.)

Shawn said...

I want a laughing Eddie doll.

Oliver_A said...


"I know this from direct experience.

Ever since we started recording and mixing digitally, I've never been able to get full and clear sound like I used to when we did everything on tape."

The problem is, most people, including myself, don't understand what you mean by "full" and "clear". On the technical side, digital is superior to analogue recording systems, especially the very high signal/noise ratio, being able to capture, if set-up properly, a huge spectrum of dynamics. So my definition of clear would be a crystal sharp sound catching all dynamics in high and low frequency ranges. Old cartoons particularly don't have such high dynamics due to the technical limitations of optical/magnetic recording systems.

I think it would be best if you would post a comparison between the superior VHS and inferior DVD versions of cartoons/shows. Because I can not imagine what you mean, VHS is such a crappy system, it should be easily outdone by both Laserdisc and DVD.

Zoran Taylor said...

"I want a laughing Eddie doll."

ME TOO! That would be hilarious. Just set him on my desk when I'm drawing and press his button anytime I'm real proud of a gag I came up with: "Haw - haw - haw -haw!!!" If you ever really make one, John, don't forget to include not just the laugh but also:

"Oh, that is priceless!"

"THAT FACE!!! I've SEEN you do that face!!!"

"This is like the Citizen Kane of modern animation!"

and maybe just as an extra,

"It looks like David Hasselhof's chest!!!"

I've got my money out already - step on it, Spum!!

trevor said...

Are these toys going to come back? When they came out, I was totally broke.

Anywhere I can buy them? All three?

And, was there ever a Shemp?

- trevor.

Rotgut said...

Oliver, I understand the high signal-to-noise ratio part of digital versus analog — but to say the digital lows are better than analog is just not true.

It is widely recognized that, if you know what you are doing, you can obtain a fuller, warmer sound from analog than from digital.

Why do you think there are so many recording/sound processing products out there to "warm up" the sound of all this digital gear people are using?

Tube amps for guitarists offer a warmer tone than non-tube amps. Not an opinion, it's a fact.

So I say these films are being digitally reprocessed over years and years and — like a Xerox machine, if you copy a copy and copy that copy, etc — you eventually get crap. In this case, crap audio.

ChristopherC said...

I agree Stooges have some of the best comedy ever, it's interesting how most women don't care for the Stooges and most don't get what's so funny. Chip was always pretty funny to me

Caleb Bowen said...

Anything that wasn't recorded digitally is at the mercy of the person working the soundboard. If they're good, you should hear things you couldn't before. If they're careless or inexperienced, they will just remove the noise and then compress what's left.

When they remove noise, they're basically just turning down an EQ band; you can still hear everything, but it will be thinner.

A good example of audio compression is loud commercials; the volume on your tv hasn't changed, but it suddenly sounds twice as loud. That's because they specifically maximize the sound to get your attention.

I once got hired to fix a "professional" recording for a jazz group. Their original sounded great; it was lively and you could hear the stand-up bass and it's reverberations in the room. The mastering technician they later hired applied 'pop template #3' to the songs, and they paid for a song that sounded like it came out of a casio keyboard(the bass really thumps in your over-sized car stereo though). As a last ditch effort, they gave me and my apartment studio a try. I ended up mixing the 2 tracks together and the band was happy with it because it had the sub woofer thud with the atmospheric vibe. We shouldn't have to make excuses for technology that was sold to us as an upgrade.

Sven Hoek said...

Digital is only as good as the person running the board(but it can be awesome). My band (Stone Soul) has only tube amps because the sound is so much "warmer" (hard to explain) but the analog feels better.
And anything being 'updated' to digital from analog has to be handled with care because a lot of warmth can be lost when making the transition.
A lot of what is being lost is the nuance of the sound, the dynamics from high to low and loud to soft. If you run a lot of processing on analog sound it will lose the dynamics it previously had. These days sound engineers will try to maximise the volume which does awful things to the subtlety and can ultimatly ruin the sound all together.

Of course, the industry could hire people with experience but they would have to pay for it, god forbid.

Zoran Taylor said...

I think the technology is getting better but the technicians are getting worse. Digital recording is far more sophisticated than it used to be, and it's not far from being CAPABLE of the kind of warmth and clarity that analog has. But because the people in charge of using it are such douchebags, they would rather make out ears bleed until we pay attention than make sound appealing again. The whole "we-can't-do-it-because-digital-sucks" excuse is just part of the big lie: if the musicians and the producers were actually in charge of what we hear, we would be hearing some great stuff. If you're familiar with the Canadian indie label Arts & Crafts, you know how good new music that isn't analog CAN sound. It's still getting there, warmth-wise, but it's getting there fast.

Now for Pete's sake, let's talk about cartoons again!

Anonymous said...

The ability that I admire from you the most, John, is that you are the best at turning a real person into a cartoon.

Also, this question is a bit off topic, but what are your thoughts on the British funny man, Benny Hill?

Here is one of my favorite skit's that aired on his television program, "The Life of Maurice Dribble: From Womb to Tomb"

Have a good one,

From an aspiring animator/ artist

CartoonSteve said...

Volume 3 is supposed to have "You Nazty Spy" which was Moe and Larry's favorite short. According to Wikipedia, it was historically significant for being "the first Hollywood film to spoof Hitler."

mike f. said...

[I want a laughing Eddie doll.]

Me too. I'm tired of playing with the real thing.

Alvaro said...

I love those drawings and the dolls. I can´t believe that Hollywood is making The Three Stooges as movie and it will be directed by the Farrelly brothers. (sigh)

Adam Gunn said...

I think they're trying to get rid of the noise on the old recordings. Most older tv shows and films recorded a lot of background noise. That noise probably gets bad when they compress the sound (which they unquestionably do all the time now), so they probably spend some time trying to get rid of the noise but also end up getting rid of everything else to. They literally suck everything out of the sound so that it sucks.

Vanoni! said...

If you pull Eddie's string does he talk??

I never got to know him that well.

- C

fred said...

The Stooges short "Disorder in the Court" contains what is perhaps the funniest line in the history of comedy. After the Stooges have been rampaging around for a while, the film cuts to a close up of the judge, who intones "Gentlemen! You must control your murderous impulses."

TP said...

The Stooooooges!
That 1st drawing is hardcore!

Chris Rank said...

Hey, any chance you'd be interested in selling that first Stooges rendering as a poster or litho print? I bet you could sell loads.

Bwanasonic said...

That noise probably gets bad when they compress the sound (which they unquestionably do all the time now), so they probably spend some time trying to get rid of the noise but also end up getting rid of everything else to."

I watched some of the Stooges vol. III tonite, and I can attest to the need to crank the volume (yes I checked all the audio options in the signal chain). As pointed out above, this is probably due to a lack of compression, which has pros and cons. The pros being that if you crank the volume, you have good sound with maximum dynamic range and a good S/N ration. The cons being, that left at that setting, the volume is a booby trap when you switch to something else. Some DVD players and TVs have sound options that will compress the audio (usually labeled *late night* or something), and that might be good for the Stooges stuff if you can be bothered.

Audio geek stuff aside, the Stooges DVDs are great!

HernĂ¡n G. Fuentealba said...

I really ejoyed how they made fun of the rich people,and the social class differences remark