Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What Cartoons Can Do





Cartoons can do things that no other medium can do. They used to do it all the time.These are from Dick Lundy's "Banquet Busters" 1948.




You can float when you smell something heavenly.You can change into abstract shapes to convey your mood.

You can propell yourself through the air by stretching and squashing.
You can penetrate the smallest crevice.

You can have perfectly composed beautiful poses.You can smash people with anything handy.

You can zip out of scenes.

Cartoons can easily do all these magic things that live action can't. Of course it's not easy to draw and animate them this beautifully. You have to be really good to do it.

Watch it in motion.

WACKY WOODY

But why does so much animation not take advantage of its natural gifts?

Instead we have whole schools of animation that try to compete with live action on its own level, which is impossible. We get badly formulaic animation acting, contrived stories filled with pathos, horrible puns, lots of realistic hairs and pores and no visual magic or pure fun.



BTW, look how great this print looks! I don't think you will ever see these cartoons look as good as the Columbia House releases, so if you can find those anywhere, snap them up.

The last versions I saw of these cartoons were digitally "remastered" and destroyed, full of DVNR line-erased all kinds of sick digital compression. I think that all cartoons from now on are going to be tampered with.


DVNR AND REMASTERING RUINS CARTOONS





MORE REMASTERING TORTURE ON LOONEY TUNES DVDS



The Columbia House cartoons look just like the films they were made on. Probably because they were a low budget release, so they couldn't afford to spend any extra money ruining them.

49 comments:

Kali Fontecchio said...

The way Woody looks in the opening sequence is one of my favorite Woody designs. A really crazed Woody suits his character.

Woody does look really good in this particular cartoon too. It is a shame Andy Panda is in it too, he's so boring compared to Woody. He's like a filler cartoon character hahaha.

Chainsaw said...

You reminded me of how powerful iconographic representations of emotions can be.

Raff said...

>> Instead we have whole schools of animation that try to compete with live action on its own level, which is impossible. <<

Interesting that you bring that up, because animated cartoons once had the visual edge over live action.

Especially in the 30's, 40's and 50's. The cartoons were colorful and had zippy motion while the live action looked dull, drab and very distant from the viewer.

Once computers came to town, suddenly you could use vivid color, stylish motion and cartoony effects, and be as minimal or lush in the composition of the picture as you liked.

Thanks to computers, live action finally caught up to cartoons.

...and in fact beat them at their own game, because the cartoon producers rested on the medium's 1940's reputation while they cut corners all over the place.

NineInchNachos said...

John, you for got to add:
- Cartoons can bend linear space/time
- Cartoons can manipulate the fabric of reality
- Cartoons can battle fascists
- Cartoons can be a subversive culture jamming tool.
- Cartoons can comfort tormented minds; Cartoons can torment comfortable minds.

Peter Welsiack said...

Hi Kali!

The sequence John has posted was animated by Pat Matthews, but the beautifully animated opening sequence you cite is by Emery Hawkins! It's one of my very favorite pieces of animation. John, we've read pieces on Scribner, McKimson, and other great animators, but what of Hawkins?

John's #1 Fan,
Peter Welsiack

Duck Dodgers said...

I already got all the Columbia House dvds however a Woody collection (a terrific compilation mad eby the great Jerry) is scheduled to release this July.
Anyone who loves animation must buy it!

max said...

Why do Lantz cartoons have a particular look to them? I can't put my finger on it.

PCUnfunny said...

This Woody animation was great, this was his best character design by far. His designs in the 1950's and onward was so bland and boring.People seem to forget that in animation you can do anything. Why dose anyone want realistic or plausible animation ?

Gabriel said...

i didn't think you like woody. I love his cartoons (well, some of them), and i've seen people ask about him in the comments and you never replied. I agree with Kali about the opening, that Woody design is way cool!

JohnK said...

Gabriel:

I like lots of Lantz cartoons. I'm going to do a post about what I think is great about the studio soon.

Peter:

Thanks for the identification.
The opening scenes? You mean the Woody title? Someone told me that Ed Love did that. But there are 2 that are very similar.

I wish I knew of some certain way to know which animators are which. I see people arguing a lot about it.

I just know which scenes I like and will post those, but keep giving us clues if you have them!

Max:

What I like about Lantz cartoons is that they DON'T have a particular look to them. They are all different.

Okapi Figment William said...

The good Woody Cartoons are hard to find. I remember seeing some color Woody Cartoons in late 80s early 90's, early saturday mornings. Woody had big crazy eyes, ruffled blue feathers & segmented legs, like big bird. This in my mind was Woodys prime & he was soooo much more insane.

Peter Welsiack said...

Hi John!

No, it was definitely Emery who did the opening animation of "Guess Who?!" that was used throughout the 1940s (first image in this post).

Ed Love did some great animation in "Banquet Busters" (the scene at the end with Woody getting caught in the turkey).

Your #1 Fan,
Peter Welsiack

JohnK said...

>>No, it was definitely Emery who did the opening animation of "Guess Who?!" that was used throughout the 1940s (first image in this post).<<

Well that's great animation, but how do you know who did what? Do you have tracking lists from the cartoons?

I'd love to know all this stuff for sure, because people dispute who did what...

Ryan G. said...

What does Columbia House do different to keep the quality of the original film? You need the DVNTSC compression to make a DVD dont you?

Mr. Semaj said...

I think Thad posted about this particular scene last summer.

SpongeBob is currently the only in-production cartoon that takes full advantage of its medium. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.)

Most other on-air cartoons are pretty comfortable in their semi-realistic skin. In fact, people have complained about how The Simpsons became TOO cartoony, compared to its earlier years, and how King of the Hill has started using more trailer trash material.

But you're absolutely right about the terrible puns. The Simpsons especially can't seem to use any original titles for their episodes anymore; they're all puns from different movies or phrases.

PCUnfunny said...

"SpongeBob is currently the only in-production cartoon that takes full advantage of its medium. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.)"

I whould agree. I would actually stand to watch it if the characters weren't so fucking annoying.

Peter Welsiack said...

Hi John!

Lots of animation experts have educated me through their writings and conversations. Mark Kausler, the greatest expert on the golden age cartoons I know, said that Emery did that animation. Emery did a lot of expert animation in his career, most of it at Lantz and Warners.

Your #1 Fan,
Peter Welsiack

JohnK said...

Hi Ryan,

take a look at the Popeye stills below.

They are from a 3/4" tape transfered to a DVD.

The lines and images are perfectly clear.

Most store bought DVDS of cartoons look like hell. They don't just DVNR them. They do all kinds of crazy digital stuff to them, including destroying the sound.

I can't even watch the Looney Tunes DVDS, they are so mangled.

I think it is automatic now for all the engineers to change what the films look like just because they can. They feel it's their creative duty.

I know, I've personally caught them doing it to my films.

joseanderson said...

Hi, great John K.!!!
My first comment in here. Well, actually, I've found your blog last month and I did read allll the content in it. It was amazing! Thanks a lot for all your patience to put all that great knowledge available to us. Well, I've even tried put some new learnings in my last piece, an pilot episode of Moron and Doron (Mongo e Drongo in the original brazilian portuguese). I would like very much if you could have the time to see it and comment, criticize, whatever. I know that I will improve a lot. The link is:
http://www.j-anderson.com.br/cartoonshow/episodio001.html
my e-mail, if you do like to answer is: anderson@j-anderson.com.br
I've made it all by myself, except the sounds. My wife colorized some parts. 3 minutes of lots of work :)
I hope that you like something in there.

dondoit said...

Hey John, sorry to ask but is there any word on the ultimate Ren & Stimpy DVD set?

Ryan G. said...

Hey John. I agree with the great quality of the Popeye and Woody stills. What was the format of say, a Ren and Stimpy episode? Was it output to film or tape? Or is it done digitally?

PCUnfunny said...

"I know, I've personally caught them doing it to my films."

I hope you gave them a good beating John.

ZSL said...

Good lord.

I remember last time someone posted examples of DVNR wrecking up the Looney Toons DVD's.

My eyes it burns! D:

Rodrigo said...

Hey JK,

I haven't posted or visited in a while, mainly because I've been busy directing and animating some interstitials for a public show at Texas A&M. I don't know if you recall me saying I'd be doing this, but the event was last week. In a theater of 600+ people respectively on two separate nights, I got the entire theater roaring with laughter. My colleagues and teachers have a new found respect for me, the guy who used to merely draw cartoons on the dry erase. The people who run the theater are begging for a copy of the intro and we sold t-shirts printed with our characters like hotcakes soon after the show was over.

Anyway, point is, is that I made it a point to have my animators and myself really study not only the 12 golden rules, but also several entrees of your blog. So this whole comment is really an indirect "thank you."

Keep doing your thing John, and I'll try to keep doing mine.

Lyris said...

>> What does Columbia House do different to keep the quality of the original film? You need the DVNTSC compression to make a DVD dont you?

Columbia House just takes the film and transfers it as is. You're right that all DVDs need MPEG-2 compression (it's part of the DVD spec and the player wouldn't play the disc otherwise), but the worst MPEG-2 compression does (if it's not given a high enough data rate) is degrade the details in moving areas by turning them into that blocky pattern. DVNR is a process applied to the video *before* it's compressed that actually ends up warping the lines.

>> What was the format of say, a Ren and Stimpy episode? Was it output to film or tape? Or is it done digitally?

I'm not John :) but I hope he doesn't mind me answering this: the older R&S shows were printed to film then transferred to broadcast video tape for editing later. The ones that were digitally painted (Sven Hoek, Haunted House etc) were transferred from computer to broadcast tape.

I'd like to know where the original film elements are for the film-produced episodes (if they still exist).

Oliver_A said...

I don't think digital technology is bad, in fact, when used correctly, it often is the only hope to restore degraded film material back to its original glory. With the resolution of todays digital film scanners, one can achieve amazing results, even with damaged source materials.

There are a few rules however to obey.

First, avoid using automatic noise reduction algorithms as much as possible, especially in cartoons. The black outlines of the drawings are mistaken by the software for scratch and dirt. Scratches and speck should be removed manually.

Second, turn those fucking grain filters off! Grain texture is a natural element of film, and gives it a unique look. Degraining movies give them a mushy video look.

Third, try to leave the colour as original as possible. The problem is, without an original colour reference, it is very hard to restore colour of degraded film correctly. Or if you only have the black white 3 strip seperation masters. That's why, for example, they consulted with the original cinematographer when they restored Vertigo. They even used original props as references, knowing "Aha, the chair in this scene is yellow, not green!". For cartoons, they should look at the original atwork, if it still exists.

The Looney Tunes DVD's aren't that bad if you consider what Disney had done to their classic movies. Snow White for example, is practically destroyed in how it is released on DVD. Degrained to death, and even the colours digitally repainted and lines digitally redrawn!

John' didn't you have any saying in how your cartoons are represented on DVD? You know how they are supposed to look. What source materials were used? Video masters or real film elements?

Your fan

Oliver

Duck Dodgers said...

By the way, there are some cartoons in the Columbia House ruined by DVNR, expecially "Salmon Yeggs" and "Freeloading Feline".

Also, many cartoons have edits ("The Barber of Seville", "Pigeon Patrol", "The REckless Driver".....

However, these 15 volumes includes an incredible number of cartoons, the majority of them are uncut and the quality is superb so I highly suggest them anyway.

If you really love animation medium, buy the Woody Woodpecker set that will come out this July. It is the DVD event of the year among with the Popeye sets and the LTGC 5.

Clinton said...

This makes storyboarding more important. You can take a scene and find new ways to make even more screwy and fun to watch,

Martyn Drake said...

What do people think about applying these physical effects on live action, photo-realistic characters?

Things like Son of the Mask were just plain awful to me because the various warping and other effects just look TOO odd and just out of place.

The original Mask film wasn't too bad, perhaps because the character itself was designed to look more like a cartoon character so that the effects appear to be more "natural".

I don't know. Perhaps it's just me, but I'm just not keen on that sort of stuff.

Craig D said...

Yeah, what is it with all this signal processing? Are the DVD folks worried that things won't look all plastic & perfect on the giant screen HDTVs that are being force-fed to us via Best Buy et al? Dang it, if the cartoons looked OK blown up to the size of a barn on a movie screen, I would imagine that it should look OK when viewed on a five-foot Plasma TV screen. But, hey, that's just me and what do i know?

Even small companies like VCI ENTERTAINMENT have been screwing with their transfers, as I mentioned HERE.

I was musing about this and thought I'd throw it out to all the folks here:

WHY are cartoons being produced today?

WHY were they ever produced in the first place?

JohnK said...

>>If you really love animation medium, buy the Woody Woodpecker set that will come out this July. It is the DVD event of the year among with the Popeye sets and the LTGC 5.><<

WB has already proven they can't leave the cartoons alone. Each DVD they release gets worse.

They thin out the lines, the colors have all been changed into bright primaries, and the images strobe. They do other stupid stuff to the films too. Sometimes they even have double images as on the whole Clampett side of one of the sets.

I don't have any reason to believe they will do any better with Popeye.

I'm pretty sure Woody will not look as good as the Columbia House sets.

Lyris said...

>> Second, turn those fucking grain filters off! Grain texture is a natural element of film, and gives it a unique look. Degraining movies give them a mushy video look.

Oliver, exactly. I HATE film grain removal.

Duck Dodgers said...

>>I'm pretty sure Woody will not look as good as the Columbia House sets.<<

No John,
the Woody Woodpecker set will include new transfers from original prints of all the best Woody cartoons plus b/w stuff and assorted rarities that have never been released on DVD like "Abou Ben Boogie" and "The Greatest Man in Siam".
The shorts will not be restored but they will only be new transfers from the original copies so they sure will look awesome.

The Columbia House series is hit and miss.
Hit:some cartoons look in a marvellous way; Miss: some shorts are edited; others got DVNR; too many of the early Woody cartoons of the 50s got alteration of the original soundtrack with Grace Stafford reading a là Woody every sign, letter and anything that can be written plus providing unnnecessary narration.

Pard' me,
what do you mean with "double image"?

Ryan G. said...

Hey thanks Lyris..

JohnK said...

>>The shorts will not be restored but they will only be new transfers from the original copies so they sure will look awesome.<<

Don't count on it.

murrayb said...

Now thats eye candy.
That drybrushing is amazing. No digital software can (practically) even comes close to that look.(corel painter maybe, but how would you flip to make a good smear?) hand cel painting artisans of this caliber no longer exist anyways.

gloopgleep said...

Early Woody rocks. Drooler's Delight, etc.
When I was a kid (early teens) and had a paper route in my neighborhood in New Rochelle, NY, I used to deliver papers to Walter Lantz' brother, who was a sculptor.

I.D.R.C. said...

Oliver, exactly. I HATE film grain removal.

I really hope that Woody and Popeye come out okay, but it's hard to expect such a thing. From the first time they sent a B&W Looney Tunes to Korea to be hand-colorized, the wieners who own this stuff have demonstrated that they have no clear concept of what makes it good.

E said...

If every single cartoon were all squash and stretch and slapstick it would suck. YOU would be king, but itd be a lackluster kingdom. sorry.

im grateful for the broad genres, some are obviously done better than others, but if everyting were old school hanna barberra kids would grow up a LOT faster because theyd be bored into adulthood with lack of variety.

Kevin W. Martinez said...

"I don't have any reason to believe they will do any better with Popeye."

Jerry Beck says that he's seen the Popeye DVD and has found no DVNR (and the cartoons were restored by the prestigious resotration team that handled the Gone with the Wind and Wizard of Oz sets)

And since these are, for the most part, Black and white cartoons (plus the three two-reelers, but no one thinks that the Sinbad print that was restored specifically for DVD has jacked-up colors), I don't think we have to worry about any harm befalling the Popeye DVD.

Kevin W. Martinez said...

Also, Andrea's post left me confused? If the shorts on the Woody Woodpecker collection aren't restored, how can they look good?

JohnK said...

>>And since these are, for the most part, Black and white cartoons (plus the three two-reelers, but no one thinks that the Sinbad print that was restored specifically for DVD has jacked-up colors), I don't think we have to worry about any harm befalling the Popeye DVD.<<


I saw a hideous pink, purple and turquoise version of Sinbad in theatres. It looked Popeye meets My Little Pony.
They also had it at the commentaries.
Then they weren't sure if that was the version that would be on the DVD.

There are so many ways now to change what the films look like that I seriously doubt they will look good.

One thing they love to do is make the lines really thin, so that the TV scan lines cut through the drawings and then everything strobes and gives you epileptic fits.

I hope I'm wrong, but why would they change their ways all of a sudden?

They promise every time that the cartoons look better than ever, then they look worse in ever new ways. And they ruin the sound.

I.D.R.C. said...

If every single cartoon were all squash and stretch and slapstick it would suck.

Instead of maybe one percent of cartoons behaving like cartoons, could we get maybe 50?

Roberto González said...

Oh, this is one of my favourite Woody cartoons. I love Andy Panda character design in this one, it has to be one of the cutest animated characters ever.

I rewacthed it yesterday and the ending had a certain feeling to the ending of "Rubber Nipple Salesmen". I know that was a Three Stooges homage, but both the Woody and the Ren and Stimpy cartoons had this intense feeling during all it, then they kind of end "in medias res".

Peter F. Bernard, Jr. said...

I want to say publicly that I can't comprehend anyone who likes Spumco also liking the Spongebob or Ecozone stuff. I was personally offered a chance to do a John K imitation show at nick back in the 90s and I said no. Even in months when I can't pay my bills, I don't regret it because at least I don't hate myself. I'm not sure how people can even look at Spongebob. It's Stimpy and Sven, with Ren demoted to the bad guy next door. It's the ultimate in pandering to executives and the lamest LCD thinking. I'm with that born-again guy, Spongebob is making the kids all gay, haha (not that there's anything wrong with that).

I.D.R.C. said...

I want to say publicly that I can't comprehend anyone who likes Spumco also liking the Spongebob or Ecozone stuff.

I'll hazard a guess. People love real cartoons. Spongebob is as close to a real cartoon as any network is willing to get. It may not actually be one, but it's a good enough fake to hook a lot of people.

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

Banquet Busters is an anthologic Woody Woodpecker cartoon that Dick Lundy directed in 1948. And it has memorable scenes.
It also involves Andy Panda and the Mousie (from the Andy Panda short Mousie Come Home [1945], also directed by Dick Lundy).

Rodinei Campos da Silveira (from São Paulo, Brazil)

;-)

Duck Dodgers said...

Rodinei.
"Mousie come Home" is not a Lundy short.
It was directed by Culhane and, as result, it's a terrific cartoon, way funnier than a typical Lundy one (Lundy cartoons got marvellous animation but they were never that funny. Examples: the Barney Bear cartoons)

Jim Rockford said...

I miss the old woody cartoons,they too got hacked up for television recently.even the music was changed!
In the 70's they used to run them on tv in weekeday mornings and I loved the older ones,where woody looked crazy and acted really wild,then in the later 50's episodes he became much cuter looking and bland.
I remember ktla used to run the early Popeyes on saturday mornings and they were amazing.
It saddens me to think we might never get to see them on dvd as they originally were,without all the computer enhanced digitally remastered redubbed crap.