Friday, October 17, 2008

Jim Tyer Terrytoons Comics

I have mixed feelings about Jim Tyer. On the one hand, he is one of my favorite animators. On the other, he is a bad influence. That's why I don't do a lot of posts about him. I sort of feel like he should be a secret just for the most sophisticated cartoonists and animators. Anyone under the top-tier level of cartoonists shouldn't be allowed to to see his work, except under the strictest supervision, because what he does will be misinterpreted as pure anarchy - like "Wow! I guess I don't have to follow any rules at all anymore!"

Tyer is a pure cartoonist. He does cartoons for the main reasons that cartoons should exist at all - to be wacky looking. They should be instantly funny to look at, then should do impossible things and should move in crazy imaginative ways. He covers all those 3 criteria naturally through sheer cartoonist's instinct. I think most cartoonists need those 3 attributes, yet so few have even one of them.

I do believe in the value having a few exceptions, like Bob McKimson or some Disney animators who aren't exactly zany but can bring other qualities to the cartoon world to round it out. I'm all for bringing supplemental skills from other arts to add to our medium, as long as they don't take it over completely, which sadly has happened.

Tyer actually has some solid skills that many of his fans might overlook. When he feels like it, he can control his work. For some strange reason, he tends to do that more in the comics than in his cartoons.
These comics are still much wackier than most comics, but are kind of conservative compared to his animation. The poses in this Heckle and Jeckle comic have some measure of construction and have very clear lines of action and silhouettes.
They are easy to read - not cluttered like most amateur comic art.
Good clear negative spaces. Good contrasts of spaces versus filled features on the characters.

Unlike Kurtzman, Post, Kelly, Frazetta, Stein and Gross he doesn't really compose his frames as a whole. He just draws each character separately and lines them up next to each other.

His characters don't seem to have expressions-especially in the eyes. They are always glassy eyed.
I like the way he draws Heckle and Jeckle's beaks - they have a lot more life than the other Terrytoons animators.

Check out the scene in SteepleJacks where Heckle and Jeckle are in front of the fence talking and eating hotdogs. There is some really rubbery, crazy, imaginative impossible mouth shapes and animation. It's hilarious. There is a lot of other funny Tyer animation in the cartoon. The bulldog chasing the magpies on the girders. The bulldog's foot nailed to the ground and his fifty toes...good funny stuff.

Jim Tyer needed Terrytoons. He needed cartoons without direction or purpose, because he didn't have any sense of balance. Every drawing and action to Tyer is equally amusing and potentially wacky - regardless of what's supposed to be happening in the story. I don't think his animation would have worked in any controlled situation - although I wish he had worked for Clampett for awhile and I really wish he had done some early Flintstones, just to see how it would have worked.

His limited animation for Snuffy Smith, Stuffy Durma, Milton the Monster and other 60s New York cartoons is really creative, sloppy and funny all at the same time.

Tyer TV Felix, Milton

There is a theory that Jim Tyer wrote his own Terrytoons comics. I believe it because his stories seem so much crazier than the others. Not just the drawings, but the whole premise.


The Butcher said...

I don't really see this as pure anarchy. I see some control in it, although it seems to take a side stage to wackiness, which is good. The funny drawings are the main priority, and you can't make instantly funny drawings if they don't automatically read. It's like there's just enough control to get the point (i.e. the funny drawing) across.

I also understand that I'm not sophisticated enough to use Tyer as an influence. As long as you make that point abundantly clear, we laymen can still enjoy his work.
Don't keep it a secret.

Devlin Thompson said...

Oddly enough, I was watching a "Stuffy Durma" cartoon by Tyer this morning over breakfast and thinking about his work in relation to yours. THE MILTON THE MONSTER SHOW DVD set has been a pleasant surprise overall. The King Features cartoons were never shown on local stations where I grew up, so pretty much my only experience with them was a "Christmas Kid's Movie Festival" one year at a local theater (I went for the opportunity to see SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, which was then difficult to retrospect, justly so!) . Along with the feature, they ran a hodgepodge of shorts-- Warner Bros.,Terrytoons, DePatie-Freleng...and two or three KRAZY KATs, that were just awful,as well as confusing to me, since even then I knew that the strip was long gone by the time the cartoons were made. Those were so traumatic to me at a formative age that I never sought out any of the King cartoons on home video. Would you say that the SNUFFY SMITHs are worth tracking down?

Caleb said...

The Heckle and Jeckle cartoon was one of my favorites as a kid, and I'm not even sure why. I think I could sense that hippies didn't want me watching it. They used a lot of gags but they were always in the moment, not just trying to rush to the next gag. They were street-smart scam artists, which is a lot cooler than a character that's just wacko.

Hey, maybe with some modern 'tude and some flashy backwards fashion accessories we can make H 'n J appeal to today's kids who don't know any better. Forget the dynamic of the 2 different voices, and make them both talk 'street'. (please believe I'm joking)

Zoran Taylor said... I missing something here? Maybe it's my level of experience in observing this stuff, but I see control EVERYWHERE in those panels. And pretty much all the principles. I have always been able to tell when an artist has no clue what their doing, or is abandoning all the rules, but neither strikes me here. However, I do notice that a lot of Terrytoons animation is somewhere between insanely inspired and hopelessly sloppy. Maybe that's Tyer.

JohnK said...

That's what I said in the post.

Mattieshoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EalaDubh said...

I remember seeing a Mighty Mouse model sheet labelled 'JIM TYER EXPRESSIONS - USE WITH EXTREME CAUTION'. The expressions and poses ended up (or at least most visible) in the episode where Scrappy is taken back to the prehistoric past.

Steini said...

Back when I was a young boy we used to have a VHS tape of a couple of cartoons about a couple of black feathered, yellow beaked birds. I used to watch it all the time with my brothers.
Now the VHS tape is long gone now, and back then I wasn't very good at English and wasn't paying much attention to any on-screen text so the name of the show never stuck with me.

It's all back now, and I even found one of the shorts that was on the tape on youtube:

I love how they reuse the same sounds. The 'water splash' in particular has a very memorable sound to it. It certainly made me smile with nostalgia hearing it again.

So... thanks John. For this, but mostly all the rest; the hints, tips and beautiful images you post.

Nikita said...

I recognize some of the jokes! like the crows feet, I remember someone else doing really crazy jokes like that! but I can't put my finger one who it is.

Nikita said...

john, this may or may not have anything to do with this post, but what was it like when you first began animating? do you remember what your first one was?

Zoran Taylor said...

"That's what I said in the post."

Yeah, you named a few. I get what you're saying about the comics being more controlled than the cartoons. What I'm wondering is if yu think there are SPECIFIC principles which the comic stuff DOESN'T have, sort of like what you said about Milt Gross not using construction. So would you say that group composition is Tyer's own deliberate blind spot? Does he have others? I can say for myself that the lack of real expressions bugs me, even though the drawings are funny.

The Butcher said...

"I can say for myself that the lack of real expressions bugs me, even though the drawings are funny."

Even most classic cartoons don't use very specific expressions. I believe that's where Spumco was most innovative.

diego cumplido said...

what kind of guy was Jim Tyer? ... that can help to understand his work.

SoleilSmile said...

Hey, John. I'm way off topic here, but will you ever do a Boomerang short? The ones they have on right now, like the musical Jabberjaw and Josie and Pussycat homages, are neat but getting a bit tired. It would be great to see your work there.

Think about it, if you haven't already.

Bugs said...

What is with your fascination over these lousy Terrytoon cartoons and the always-disappointing Heckel and Schmeckel? By the way, could the voices of these two have been more boring? Honestly. Give it up. Develop some critical skills so that you can stop trying to defend the indefensible. And, as always, please post only the comments that concur with your jaded, self-promotional opinions.

Tedtoons said...

I remember watching Heckle and Jeckle cartoons when I was a kid. (I watched ANYTHING that was a cartoon.) I seem to remember thinking they were okay, but they weren't my favorite or anything. I don't think I could ever tell them apart. (certainly can't make them out here from the youtube quality). Their voices were kind of different; that's all I remember being distinguishing between them.

This was the first one I've seen in a long time. It's better than I remembered them being. (maybe that's because it's a Tyer.)

The Butcher said...

"What is with your fascination over these lousy Terrytoon cartoons and the always-disappointing Heckel and Schmeckel? By the way, could the voices of these two have been more boring? Honestly. Give it up. Develop some critical skills so that you can stop trying to defend the indefensible. And, as always, please post only the comments that concur with your jaded, self-promotional opinions."

Critical skills like yours? You know, where you don't analyse anything, you just say something sucks and that something is boring without giving any reasons? Must be true because you said it, right?

You're an idiot.

Bugs said...

Wrote the butcher:
"You're an idiot."

Just read your profile, Eric, so coming from you, I'll take that as a compliment.

Once you and your pals develop some critical skills, you'll find that you won't want to spend any time at all discussing and analyzing stuff (like Schmeckel and Jeckyl) that isn't worth the the digital ink when, in fact, there are so many other animated subjects worthy of analysis and praise.

My point: don't waste your time on garbage.

trevor said...

Honestly. Give it up. Develop some critical skills so that you can stop trying to defend the indefensible. And, as always, please post only the comments that concur with your jaded, self-promotional opinions.

..... Dude, who hurt you?

- trevor.

Cartoon Crank said...

"Bugs" obviously has something up his ass. These Terrytoons aren't outstanding, but they're a lot of fun. And Jim Tyer was a genius, period. I do have a problem with John's idea that this kind of brilliance should only be viewed by those on an approved list though.

The Butcher said...

Wrote the butcher:
"You're an idiot."

"Just read your profile, Eric, so coming from you, I'll take that as a compliment."

So you take being called an idiot as a compliment? Case in point.

Also, Bug Bunny was it? Yes, I love your profile. Damndest thing though, I coulda swore the real Bugs Bunny was actually funny. I get the feeling you're not really him. Anyway, when you're done playing make-believe and look up what "critical skills" actually are (since you've yet to demonstrate any) then you can join in the discussion with the rest of us adults. Until then keep plagarizing copyrighted material and see how many people actually give a wet fart what you think.

Caleb said...

Just thought I'd mention Heckle and Jeckle have a cameo in Kill Bill 2. Quentin Tarantino puts things he likes in his movies because of entertainment value, not to be mistaken for self-promotion. I think it's important to shed light on things that aren't mainstream.

Now I'm self-conscious of wasting digital ink.

Whit said...

Terrytoons never understood Heckle and Jeckle. Filmation never had a hope in hell of understanding them. The Simpsons, who used them in a cameo, just used them for a cameo. These two magpies aren't ciphers. They aren't all potatoes and no meat. Nobody has delivered the goods with them. Yet.

HemlockMan said...

You know what's neat? That gang-of-four group there in the "They did it!" panel.

Jim Rockford said...

Tyer's work is amazingly wild!
I remember his Batfink episodes really stuck out in my memory when I was a kid.
The characters were always so wacky looking!
Hugo-ago-go and Batfink would almost always be off model and the movements were inspired and very funny.
Check out "the kitchy koo kaper" or "speed up slow down"
He definetly had a style all his own!