Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rens & Stimpies

Some doodles I did with my pen tablet.

Two of the most fun cartoon characters in the world to draw... mainly because the rules are so loose. To draw Bugs Bunny, there are a lot of little subtleties you have to get right or it just doesn't look like him. Ren & Stimpy, on the other hand, look different in every scene. That's because John Kricfalusi has a much more liberal idea of "on-model" than most animators.

This remains one of the best cartoon series ever made. Everything about it was fun: the voices, the crazy plots, the cartoony expressions. And it was the first cartoon I remember to give kids what they really want: booger and fart jokes!

I'm feeling good: here's a cartoon!

What the heck, they're free... here's another:

UPDATE: My mistake- I didn't realize the version of "Big Baby Scam" was the edited version. Here's the deleted scene of Ren & Stimpy in the bathtub with Grandpa:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Flat but Stylish

Here's a doodle I did today just for the heck of it:

I tried to keep it loose but still keep the basic feel of the characters. The lines are a little squiggly because I was using my pen tablet, which I am still getting the hang of, and trying to be conscious of the hierarchy of thick and thin lines. Came out ok, for being a quick sketch... I guess Barney's hand looks a little weird...

Like most people, I always liked the Flintstones, but I did have problems with it. The Hanna-Barbera limited animation style of all those Cartoon Express cartoons always looked cheap to me, even as a kid, and the flat drawing style bored me. The humor was also pretty thin... how many times did they use that same punchline when an animal is being used as a household appliance: "Eh, it's a living!" It also always bugged me that the characters would run with their arms hanging still at their sides.

More recently, though, I came to appreciate what HB was doing in those early days of made-for-TV cartoons. The drawings were more flat than their earlier theatrical shorts (like Tom & Jerry), but they were very graphical and stylish... an extension of the UPA style. The art was very carefully thought out by top designers like Ed Benedict and Carlo Vinci.

The backgrounds above are very stylish and well-designed as well. They retain the style of the character drawings but stand back because of the textures, and the limited color palette. I don't do a lot of painting (almost none actually) but I've been trying to incorporate this look into some of my drawings using Photoshop brushes. I may try out Corel Painter one of these days... can anyone recommend it?

This stylishness can sometimes be lost in the way these characters are depicted now... Sometimes you'll see them rendered with three dimensional shading, which makes absolutely NO sense with the way they were designed. Certainly not in this style, anyway:

They work so much better flat and grapical. The above just looks like a lousy Disney cartoon. In the '90s they even made a live-action movie. I guess it's interesting for about five minutes to see what they'd look like as real people, but when you stop and think about it the whole endeavor is kind of stupid, isn't it? I don't get why studios do this... if you want to make a Flintstones movie, why not a cartoon? It's the medium the whole concept was created around. Fred's outfit makes no sense on a real human body.

Everything has its place. These HB cartoons can be sort of boring to watch but there is genuine skill in the way they were executed that I am just now beginning to pick up on.

Here's a couple funny clips, including Fred and Barney hawking cigarettes in the 60's:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lonesome Ghosts

Hey gang- here's another great cartoon!

This is one of the many Disney cartoons I saw as a kid, over and over and over again on VHS, taped off TV.

As an adult, a part of me finds the Warner Brothers cartoons more appropriate to my tastes- the humor is sharper, the characters better. The prevailing opinion is that while Warner Brothers had better gags and more appealing characters, Disney excelled in smooth, technically brilliant animation. So with a Disney cartoon, you're less likely to actually laugh out loud.

This sounds about right to me... think about Bugs Bunny's wit vs. Mickey Mouse's personality, or lack thereof. On the other hand, Donald Duck, while somewhat narrowly defined, is one of the funniest cartoon characters to watch. More about him in a future post. For now, let's get down to my insane-obsessive analysis.

First of all, look at these bums, lying around, waiting for the phone to ring. This cartoon came out in 1937 – 47 years before Danny Aykroyd & company captured our imaginations with Ghostbusters. Now that's forward-thinking!

I also love the idea of trying to catch ghosts with shotguns and nets. At around the five minute mark, Donald even punches a ghost in the face. Who would think of doing this?

The ghosts' voices are funny to me too- the creators just added a weird echo to them to make them sound "otherworldly" or something, but it's a 1930's effect so it sounds like they're in a bathroom stall or something. I love it- it's one of those details that brings me back to watching it as a kid.

This above is the kind of thing you see more of in the Disney shorts. Both Disney and WB showed you crazy things you couldn't see in real life, but while a Bugs Bunny cartoon might be filled with quotable dialogue, shorts like this were more based around complex visual gags. Mickey bouncing off the door (twice), then having to catch his balance before pulling the door to the floor. It's the kind of thing you can only see in cartoons and here is rendered beautifully- the timing, the subtle details that go by before you even realize they're happening.

Mickey catching his balance after bouncing off the wall is one of those moments I love. It happens so fast you barely notice it, but goes so far in terms of bringing life to the character.

Here's another one of those visual gags- this is a fairly long, slapsticky scene of Goofy getting caught up in this armoire-type thing. He's not saying anything particularly funny, but the animation is executed perfectly so it's great to watch.

I haven't seen this one in years, I can't imagine why these old cartoons are never on TV anymore. Kids would still love them. Youtube is great!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Angry Old Men

Some sketches of middle-aged men that popped up in my notebooks and post-its at work.

I don't know what happened to this guy, but he seems pretty annoyed about it. I guess this is the punchline to a comic strip or something.

This fellow reminds me of a teacher I had in high school... sort of an irascible, effeminate middle-aged man whose shirts were always a bit too tight.

This guy probably has a hard time finding a shirt that isn't too tight, too.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ballad of Billy The Kid

Who doesn't love this guy?

I've been listening to a bunch of Billy Joel lately. He's one of those guys I listened to constantly in the 80's because a) he was still churning out the big hits, and b) my mom listened to him. Back then he was pretty cool, boppin' around in his videos in sunglasses like he was a good lookin' guy or something. And he could back up his bravado because he was married to Christie Brinkley.

He's also one of the guys whom I have witnessed growing old, and unlike many of his contemporaries he has decided to age the way a normal person would. There's a definite dignity to that which I very much respect (just look at Elton John's wigs to illustrate my point- that being said, I love Elton too).

Here he is again with those features more exaggerated:

It's time for me to start improving my caricature skills, and to do that effectively I think I need to practice realistic portraits first so I get all the features down before I start exaggerating them. This one is a lot rougher than the straight portrait, but I think the ideas are there... busted-looking nose, sunken-looking eyes etc. I'll post an improved version when ready, maybe a younger-looking Billy this time.

These songs are second-to-none, by the way. It's too bad he's essentially retired form songwriting because he really does craft a solid song... verses and choruses all loaded with hooks, satisfying rhyme schemes, and they always tell a story. He doesn't cheat you either- listen to his songs, they always seem to have four or five verses, a bridge will repeat with an entirely different set of lyrics, and when you think the song is ending, a whole new verse starts up that adds a new wrinkle to the situation.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Voice of Her Generation

Your 2010 Album of the Year Grammy recipient:

She's not bad, but once again the Grammys pick a pretty lame record to bestow their top honor. But you know, she means no harm (unlike the Black Eyed Peas, also nominated) so I depicted her very small, fragile, with this oversized guitar, and big goofy expression she always has on like she's just happy to be doing her thing, and as it so happens, she's in the spotlight.

However, I do like this:

Friday, February 5, 2010

More Super-Men

As long as we're on the subject, here's a few more of my Pajama-wearing Superman sketches:

Just look at those macho, manly muscles.


This man simply HATES crime.

What a Specimen!

My favorite Superman: the 1930's muscleman version from the early comics.

Here are the hallmarks, as I see them:

1. Very wide torso and slightly pudgy physique
2. Weathered, mildly aged look to face
3. Square, hard, manly chin
4. Very neat, greased down hairstyle
5. Details on outfit suggest sweatsuit-like material
6. Stiff, uncomfortable stance as a result of the briefs being worn outside the pants
7. Flat, un-dynamic look to the cape
8. Heartless attitude toward criminals:

(I couldn't find a direct example of this just now, so this is my own interpretation)

In 1938, Superman was supposed to be just that- a "Super Man"- the ideal of manly macho manliness all men would aspire to be, who would kick sand in the face of weaklings and walk off with the hottest girl. It wasn't until later when the creators added the backstory about Ma and Pa Kent, and his moral obligation to protect man.

Look at that Physical Marvel!

I enjoy this earlier version mostly because he's so of his time- a time when men were gruff and aggressive and worked out with medicine balls and punching bags. Anything less would be an utter disgrace:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oh, Rush, You Old Blowhard!

I believe there is nothing this guy won't say to contradict the left. He literally has no limits.

I'm not going to get into any political discussion on this blog, though. I just wanted to show off some drawings of this clown.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

15 Years? Really?

It's pretty hard to believe- it's been 15 years since Calvin & Hobbes stopped appearing in newspapers, eventually leading to the decline of sales and demise of print media in general. Bill Watterson tends to shun the spotlight and very rarely does interviews, but once every twenty years or so he emerges to address his fanbase. He just did an interview with his hometown paper:

Who knows why he chose to speak now. Maybe with the passing of JD Salinger he reexamined his status as a famous recluse... Probably not, though.

Bill Watterson

He’s probably right about what people would be saying if he kept doing it. It was the best comic strip ever but, like the Beatles, it now has an untarnished legacy. Until he passes away and Dreamworks produces a big-budget CGI Calvin and Hobbes monstrosity starring Renee Zellwigger as Hobbes.

Read some old Calvin and Hobbes here. It will absolutely brighten your day.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Old Grey Hare

Hey everybody, here's a great cartoon:

A couple of thoughts: first of all, Elmer Fudd has to have the greatest cartoon voice of all time (provided by Arthur Q. Bryan, not Mel
Blanc as I always assumed). They always tried to work in lines that
sounded especially hilarious in his voice - like "My, that weawwy was a dewicious weg of wamb."

In this one he goes "What happened- I'm aaaalll winckled." And it's GREAT.

Bugs Bunny shows up as a rascally old coot, torments Elmer til he gets himself shot, and then, as always happens in situations like this, Elmer feels terrible and cries, "So wong, old fwiend!" There's so much good stuff in this cartoon.

Back in these days, they used full animation (as opposed to limited animation- an explanation can be found halfway down the page here) and drew so many details... and they happened so fast, you might miss them. With limited animation, the characters hold their poses so you have time to dwell on every nuance. These Golden Age characters keep moving. Like when God is talking to Elmer and he's looking around- and does this funny little twist to look behind him:

Or when Bugs is "dying" and says, "who turned out the lights?" and Elmer looks around to see what he's talking about, for some reason:
Look how horrifying this frame is! A demonic Bugs Bunny is strangling an old man!
I could go on but this cartoon speaks for itself. Maybe I'll do more of these at some point.

UPDATE: Aparently this cartoon was removed from Youtube due to a copyright violation from Warner Bros. I'm not going to bother searching for and re-posting right now, because I imagine it will just get taken down again, but if you can find it on Google video or anywhere, I highly recommend checking it out.