Saturday, October 31, 2009

Composition 14 - More Toot On Other Blogs

You can see the same hierarchical principles in these frames as what I talked about in the last Toot post.

Even this assumed jumble of a broken horn is very carefully arranged to frame the character's head. All the negative spaces in the jumble are varied shapes and clear.
All important elements of the picture are separated. The blueish colors of the owl contrast against the reddish BG elements so he stands out.
Don't ever ask me to draw a school room! Oreb pulled it off easily. (I assume easily)
I love these opening titles. A masterpiece in the art of arranging shapes.
Here's the stock Preston Blair/Disney owl dressed up in a suit of angles to make him appear modern.
A problem with trying to make each scene perfectly composed is it restricts the animators. As soon as they move a head or anything, then the composition goes out of whack. That's why limited animation seems best suited for the design style. I should say the limited in animation in this cartoon approaches genius in some parts. - which again defies the goals of UPA's rebellion against Disney.
This is the scene that drives all the modern day hipsters wild. It drove me wild too when I first saw it. But my hipster period only lasted a couple years and I mixed it with funny. Funny and hip doesn't mix well.



There is a similar film called Melody that is superficially in the same style. It doesn't seem as well designed and composed and I'm not sure why:
Too Busy

No Focus. It's just a mish-mash of clutter.
Not enough contrast or use of negative space to make the drummer read.

Characters too close and spaced too evenly apart. Not pleasing designs. Lazy looking.

Ugly balance of shapes.

Wonky broken looking building. Uninspired tree shapes.

Too Busy, textures in BG interfering with characters because they are too contrasty

Background noise and nasty colors jumping forward, distracting from character.
Too even. Left side exactly the same as right side.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Animation School 13: Classic Animation Principles and Hierarchy Applied To Stylized Drawing

Is this a rebellion against Disney from within? I don't think so.I think it reeks of Disney to the core. This may look like a simple easy-to-do flat hip drawing like you see in modern cartoons, but it's nothing of the kind.

This is the result of a decade and a half of honing Disney principles, inbetweening and animating on classic rounded Disney characters. It's a Tom Oreb layout and he uses all the tools he learned doing the uncool way of animation drawing. Thanks to Amid for this Oreb composition of an early version of the fairies from Sleeping Beauty-they should have looked this good in the movie!

He came to this style the hard way. Toot WP&B uses almost all the 40s cartoon principles, with a couple of them toned down - which makes it look rebellious or cool.

This style is actually dependent upon MORE RIGID rules than the more organic 3 dimensional typical 40s cartoon characters. It is the extreme conservatism that controls the style and makes it so wooden and soulless. It's like an artistic math problem, existing solely for the challenge of its own problems.

When most people today draw flat, they are starting from no foundation of knowledge or experience at all. They see cartoons like Toot Whistle Clunk and Boom and say "I wanna be cool and rebellious too. Only I wanna skip the hard work and study and just go right to the top and be a designer." Then they draw from the details out with no master plan of organizing the designs. They start by drawing an eye, then a nose, then draw a head around it and eventually get to a finished chaotic picture of geometric shapes all in cluttered opposition and contradiction to each other.

Oreb is instead designing from the big shapes down to the small shapes and fitting all the smaller shapes within the plan of the larger shapes. Starting with the overall composition.
The image is made of two major shapes - the group of cavemen and the girl. These 2 shapes are separated with negative space - a big hunk of it. The cavemen shape is then split into 2 groups of 2 cavemen each-separated again by a negative shape - this one smaller than the larger one between the girl and the men.
Within each group of 2, the men are carefully, thoughtfully balanced against each other using lines of action, negative shapes, overlapping shapes, organic curves....

On the organicness. Here's the main key to the style. These aren't mathematical shapes. They aren't perfect circles, ovals, there are no straight or parallel lines as in today's flat cartoons. These are very organic but on a flattened 3dimensional plane - somewhere in between a 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional space.

The negative shapes exist both in spaces between the characters or in their arm poses, but they also exist within the characters. The negative areas are contrasted against the filled busy areas to provide readabilty and to make you focus on certain areas. If everything was filled up with detail equally, it would be a cluttered mess.

There are lots of contrasts of different types of shapes. Just compare each of their noses to start.

There are contrasts in texture - large flat colored areas against hairy busy areas.
All the characters fit into the larger shapes of the composition, but within each one all the features follow the construction or hierarchy of the overall structure of the individual character.

Next, I'll break down their head constructions and you'll see how they are well thought out and make sense. They aren't chaotic or random breakings of established rules. The eyes fit on the same plane of the head position;they relate to each other, they have direction.

When I first saw this cartoon (and the other handful of chapters of the Cal Arts Bible - Pigs is Pigs, Mars and Beyond and Paul Bunyan) I too wanted to be instantly cool. When I tried to draw in this style and make the characters look like they fit together and were doing something I quickly realized how hard it was to do. Now I know why.

I also realized the effort isn't worth it in terms of the ultimate entertainment value. I'll explain that later too.

This cartoon uses the same principles and more, but is far less restrictive creatively than the stylized Disney stuff.

Was this worth anything to you or did you already understand the style?


How to do the retro flat style right using The Cal Arts Bible....

Stylish Flintstones Comics

Chris Lopez has done us another great turn. I don't know where he gets these old comic strips, but it's generous of him to share them with the world.
I loved these comics when I was a kid. I'm more critical of them now, but still enjoy looking at them. I wish I had them all.
Most of the drawings are probably Gene Hazelton (according to Chris they might be Dick Bickenbach) but both had very pleasing, sedate but somewhat modern styles.
Someone drew a good dead Fred.
This looks like an Ed Benedict character. He told me he ghosted for awhile in the 60s.
I love the great lettering in the comics. The title lettering was always a thrill. Unfortunately these are from truncated versions of the strips that leave out the title panels and possibly other panels. What a crime!
I have been spoiled by widened tastes and discovering many more great cartoonists over the years. Harvey Eisenberg's careful compositions and perfectly balanced poses make me think of these comics as being kind of clumsy by comparison. Milt Gross' wild layouts and funny posing makes this stuff seem really tame to me now.
I think the big difference between strips that catch on and strips that may be great, but not so popular is character. I'm of the opinion that a wide audience reacts best to cartoons about characters, rather than mere genius of execution - or even humor. They'll take mild humor with strong characters over hilarity with weak characters.

Milt Gross, Harvey Kurtzman, Geo. Herriman all did brilliant work, but never created strong characters that the public could latch on to. Segar, a lesser draftsman than all mentioned created Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Bluto and a host of interesting characters who could carry long stories and many stories. That's the key. He has drawing skill for sure, but is not as adventurous visually as the other guys.

The Flintstones were such strong and distinct characters on TV, that they didn't need to be executed brilliantly in order to last 3 decades. A mere 6 seasons were played over and over again forever because the public got the characters. They seemed like real folks and people like to hang around with characters more than with geniuses. Same thing can probably be said about Peanuts. Or the Simpsons. I've never thought much of the meandering stories and weak gags in the Simpsons, but I sort of understand how the public got used to the characters through sheer exposure. It's on 12 times a day. It eventually became like visiting your neighbors and befriending them. Even if your neighbors are boring, they are easily accessible and recognizable, so you enjoy their company through familiarity and habit.

Tex Avery on the other hand is an obvious genius, an innovator and very funny, but he never achieved the popularity of the Warner Bros. characters or even Tom and Jerry, who are barely characters at all - but at least they never go away. People got used to T&J because it's all Bill and Joe made for almost 20 years. Tex never settled on any strong characters and it robbed him of the acclaim and riches his greater talent deserved.

The Flintstones comics weren't funny and didn't match the show concept exactly, but were stylish enough to look at and our already strong familiarity of the likeable TV characters made us enjoy the strip version - at least until it got too influenced by late 60s comic strip styles and no longer had any resemblance to the Flintstones. I love silhouette panels in comics and the odd time they do it in animated cartoons. It really tests an artists' skills to make something read clearly in silhouette.
Familiar characters done reasonably well give us comfort. Genius makes us feel and think - or run away if we are kind of stupid. Some folks just want to relax and forget about the day's troubles.

I like Clampett because he gives us everything - fantastic characters and funny stories with great execution.

Hey do me a favor, willya? Type in "Clampett" in that Ligit search slot at the upper right of the blog and see what happens. I'm doing a test.