Monday, August 13, 2007

Modern Comedy timing VS Classic Comedy Timing

Modern Cartoon Timing Tricks

Modern cartoon timing has a real obvious feel and look to it. Everything "snaps" from pose to pose. Here is a CG short Dave linked to in the comments of the Chimptude post.

I don't know anything about it except it has French credits. But the look and feel is all Cal Arts.

It's well done in many ways (some of the ape runs are very clever, it's composed and planned well, etc.), but the pose-to-pose timing is that formula you see in modern disney-esque "comedies". Like "Cats Don't Dance" "Emperor's New Groove" "Incredibles" "Madagascar" etc.
It's a style of timing that draws attention to itself, rather than drawing attention to the characters or story.

The actions have short anticipations and then BANG! - they snap past the final pose and settle in a couple frames. Hardly any inbetweens. It's as if the characters' limbs and features are all spring-loaded. Pull the trigger and the action fires.

I see this all the time in modern cartoons. The zip, zip, zip style.

*NOTE: I'm not talking about the editing or quick cuts. I'm strictly talking about the character animation-the way it moves from one pose to the next.

I'm wondering if the computer is programmed now to automatically apply these stock timing moves to get from one key pose to the next. Anybody know?

Classic Cartoon Custom Timing

Classic comedy timing felt a lot more natural and had more variety to it. Even Tex Avery - who used very stylized artistic timing and some say a "formula", still didn't rely on a small handful of tricks. Every gag and story point has custom timing. Some reactions are slow. Some are fast. The fast takes are done in a variety of ways, not the same way every time. Each animator adds his own style on top of Tex's direction. Each action is timed to make the gag or story point work best.

I would like to see animation get back to a more humanized custom tailored timing. Of course you would need characters and stories that reflect some kind of humanity to inspire the animators.

When I watch modern full-animation, I feel like I'm watching student exercises. (Actually, I think that's what this short is, but it looks just like the professional animated features being made today). I don't get drawn into the characters, stories or gags because I've seen them all so many times before.

Some studios are slicker than others at doing the formulas, but formulas they remain.

Another commenter sent me another short film that has all the stock modern Cal Arts acting triggers in it and I will show you that in another post and compare it to a classic cartoon that I think has more varied and natural acting in it.


Michael J. Ruocco said...

The cartoon itself had some good moments, but those moments go by too quick to fathom. You blink & you miss half the show. There's no time to stop & breathe for a second before the next hit or gag occurs. With all the crap that's going on in that minute & a half, they could have stretched the cartoon another two minutes & it would have made it much more viewable & enjoyable.

PCUnfunny said...

This is the same problem I had with those Roger Rabbit shorts. There is always a build of ancipation and then the actual gag just passes in a secound.

tark said...

gobelins did it.
it's a french animation school


Tool said...

you could probably reach cal arts students more with your valid points about animation art and stuff except that you tirelessly insult them and its getting really old and who would listen to someone like that.

Tool said...

all i mean is you could probably impart all this great advice in a way that doesnt turn people off to it.

benj said...

The "french short" you posted is from GOBELINS, a french school.

Andy J. Latham said...

I have noticed this for a while now, before I even got into animation. I think it's odd that the important principles of animation like anticipation are used so little. I guess it can be good to sometimes have a sudden movement without anticipation. If used sparingly, that can look really good. I think cartoon makers latched onto that an went overboard.
Visit Andy's Animation!

JohnK said...

Hi Tool,

I didn't insult anyone. i'm just pointing out a style that is very prevalent these days and suggesting that people recognize it and maybe think about widening our techniques.

Pointing out that someone has an accent doesn't mean it's an insult.

The Cal Arts style is like a regional accent (that has spread). People who have an accent generally don't realize it because everyone they hang around with also has the accent.

I know, I'm a Canadian and Canadians don't think they have accents until Americans make fun of us.

If you were learning to speak English, would you listen only to English in Italian accents? That's what young animators do when they copy modern feature animation tricks. They learn the accents instead of the basic tools with which they could communicate in their own ways.

I would like to have many accents and voices in animation.

Brian B said...

Is a lot of that stuff basically an extension of the Dover Boys? Bowler Hat Guy from Meet the Robinsons was very reminiscient of the villain from The Dover Boys since they've adopted a similar timing and ripped a stock character that goes back in a long line.

I know it's talked about as being a very influential film, specific for it's time and different, but in the context of today that is not exactly a good short.

Oh, and nice analogy John on the accents. I know what you're saying. I think it's a bit hard to classify Calarts as a single accent though. A lot of people go there. There films are pretty varied imo through their character animation and experimental animation. Maybe not always good, but differnt.

Chickens And Beandip said...

You made the point about accents which is a valid point, but it almost contradicts some of what you said in previus posts. Couldn't rubber hose animation be considered an accent? Ultimate if you want to break animation down to it's elements it would be bouncing balls and flour sacks. That is what would best represent animation technique. Then apply your smeers and what not to them. Your blurred stretched inbetweens and experiment from there. I hear people say the same thing when it comes to art books. So many times I've heard people knock Byrne Hogarth saying, "don't get his books he has a horrible style." When the whole purpose of the book is not to teach you style, but the fundamentals of drawing. The bosco hose is an accent, the structure and the movement and the timing is the animation. Much the same with the "cal arts" style. So isn't it equally wrong to copy the "Bosco" style of animation choices as it is to copy the cal arts animation choices? And is having only one type of timing in cartoons all that bad? And to answer the cg question, the computer does the inbetween how the animator chooses. It can pop, move in a linear fashion or arc in and out of smoothly, but most animators still add inbetweens and breakdowns to affect the arcs and timings. I think the one thing people forget about cg is that because it is 3d it is much more representational of "real" and it makes it harder for people to have that suspension of disbelief that drawing can have. Cg tends to imitate realistic movements more a because it suits the medium better, and b, technology constraints. It isn't as easy to stretch a cg character as it is to draw a character stretched or morphed. But beleive me the animators are dying to use rigs that allow them the ability to stretch and squash and do all the crazy shenanigans that most 2d animators take for granted.

JohnK said...

Bosko is not an accent. It's basics.

You can grow and expand your style from basics as all the classic animators did.

Rubber Hose is almost devoid of style, except for what the individual animators bring to it.It's circles and tubes.

If you learn basics first, you can easily adapt to other styles and for4m your own personal style from it.

If you study something as stylized as modern Disney, you will have a hell of a time ever expressing yourself - or working for a non-Disney director.

I know this from many years of experience.

Most Cal-Arts style animators can't break out of the auto-response actions and expressions.

And I agree, don't teach yourself anatomy from Byrne Hogarth. No humans look like that.

Brian: I don't see any resemblance to the Dover Boys. I think that is a brilliant custom made cartoon.

craig clark said...

Interesting. I think what is going on is that todays films are less about acting and performance, and more about post Star Wars/MTV style fast direction. There is more cutting involved, less playing out the scene like a pantomine or stage actor. So thus
old school timing thought, classic Disney timing where everything cushions in and out nicely on ones, and classic MGM/Warners over shoot and settle was been changed to a new faster stock formula to support the sped up cutting techniques. Perhaps todays films need to breathe a little more and let the audience soak in the performance of the character.

Brad said...

I didn't realize the monkey video was a 'short' until I re-read the post. It sounds stupid to say but it seemed too brief to be a short; there wasn't enough time to build up the arc of tension and the end was hardly satisfying as far as conclusions go.

Am I missing the point of shorts altogether? The thing seemed like a trailer for a CG movie.

Drifta39 said...

Well... unfortunatly, this is what kids (like my little sister) have been fed and this is what they're used to now, and if they're enjoying it animators aren't gonna change any time soon.

This is probably why kids find it so hard to watch Looney Tunes and other classics that you like nowadays. However classic Tom & Jerry still reels them in.

(BTW I know almost nothing about the technical aspect of animation, I'm not an aspiring cartoonist, so excuse my ignorance)

Ryan G. said...

>>I'm wondering if the computer is programmed now to automatically apply these stock timing moves to get from one key pose to the next. Anybody know?<<

There isnt a fast pose to pose timing button in 3D. This was intentional. 3D programs have an ease in and ease out controls so you can animate how you please. This particular short was pretty good, a little fast at times but I could still read everything. The action reminded me of family guy, like how Peter just falls down, basically from one beginning pose to the end pose. I think the last gag of the rock falling on the robot could have started slow and then sped up instead of just upright to fallen.

>>they could have stretched the cartoon another two minutes & it would have made it much more viewable & enjoyable.<<

Im not really sure if that would have benefited this short. I enjoyed the pacing, it had a great sense of urgency and chaos, which made sense. I think people as a whole are able to process more quick cuts and faster action then say 40 years ago. I once reversed storyboarded a car commercial and paused the tape on each cut. There were 28 cuts in a 30 second commercial. Thats fast.

Bruce said...

I’ll try to help out as much as I can.

Computer animation combines vector graphics with programmed movement. The starting point is often a stick figure in which the position of each feature (limb, mouth etc) is defined by as Avars (animation variable).

The character "Woody" in Toy Story, for example, uses 700 Avars, with 100 Avars in his face alone. Successive sets of Avars control all movement of the character from frame to frame. Once the stick model is moving in the desired way, the avars are incorporated into a full wire frame model or a model built of polygons.

Finally surfaces are added, requiring a lengthy process of rendering to produce the final scene.

There are several ways of generating the Avar values to obtain motion in the character. Motion tracking, for example, uses lights or markers on a real person acting out the part, tracked by a video camera, or the Avars may be set manually using a joystick or other form of input control.

Toy Story uses no motion tracking, because only manual control by a skilled animator can produce effects not easily acted out by a real person. That and animating on inanimate objects was a plus, without worrying so much about the problems about hair, flesh, skin, and so on.

Speaking of which, I remember Eddie doing a post about In-betweens in the Clampett cartoon, Kitty Cornered, and he had once said that his buddy, Milton Gray, talked to a 3D computer animator who tried to do Scribner-type in-betweens in 3D, and sadly to say, it didn’t work. “We can accept 2D line drawings that are skewered in a funny way, but the 3D equivalents just look grotesque!”

3D animation (like 2D) can do anything. The trick, however, is the animator knowing how to pull off all of the basics and principles of animation, along with adding the fun stuff and keep the computer doing what you want it to, and not let it try to “help” you too much.

What I find interesting, is the following that Milton Gray had commented on in-betweening, in Eddie’s blog: “an inbetweener would need permission and a good working relationship with the animator, to dare to do this creative type of in-betweening on his own. It is more typical for an inbetweener to be screamed at by an animator if the inbetweener adds anything original of his own.”

This kind of reminds me of my venture at an animation program I’ve taken at Cap College a few summers ago, with one of the teachers/ animator wanted, and somewhat succeeded, to dumb down one of my designs, because he didn’t like the original design of a pirate that had features, and characteristics of a cockatoo, that had spent time on a island filled with them. That was my original design, but he undervalued it down to a straight, old man, with a big nose that resembled a parrot’s beak.

While the title of “in-betweener” is gone, the job of the in-betweener is now split between several animators in the production process. Technically the computer does the in-betweens, but if you go with the in-betweens the computer creates, the results can be damn ugly.

The animator must go over his or her work to make sure the models and rigs are doing what they want them to between key frames. The TDs and riggers help out the in-betweening if they create controls on the characters to allow for the distortion and poses needed for really good in-betweens. The computer helps out again in the render by adding motion blur.

Again, if you go with the defaults, it’s not going to be the work you want (and should want for your audience), but in the end, the computer’s just a tool like a pencil, or a clay model, etc.

So to answer your question, it’s more of the human, rather than the machine, to put the blame on. You don't know what you don’t know.

I hope this helps (I have a feeling it won't, however).

Susi said...

John, do you have any tips to share on how to study timing for animation? (apart from studying the oldies, I mean...)
The advice I hear all over is to just go for it and adjust-tweak the timing till it feels right, but that doesn't seem a good approach to me (and furthermore it's not practical at all if you're not animating with the computer but with good old pencil and paper...) Thank you in advance for your answer, and for all the effort and knowledge you put in this blog.

Gavin Freitas said...

Great flick, but it was too fast. I couldent agree with you more John on this one....

Larry Phillips said...

Animation isn't the only place we see this. Many live-action films suffer from over-use of a fast and furious type editing style.

It's the tired old "MTV / Gamer / Internet generation can process info quicker and have a short attention span" theory at work IMO.

Unfortunately this is translated by many into "quick equals snappy and be sure to cram it all into a few seconds or nobody will watch it".

Tim Pixton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

I pretty much cant stand Most Disney cartoons and they do mostly seem to be stock movements but I really Thought the Emperors New Groove stood out and I particularly liked that one which really is saying allot seeing as I make fun of Disney any chance I get!

Tim Pixton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brandon said...

I think the timing and spacing I've used for most of the animation I've done has been pretty snappy. It was pretty interesting doing the Bosko excercise, and seeing how evenly spaced the inbetweens were.

pappy d said...

I thought it was a top-drawer student film.

I wish I could stop-frame it to be sure, but it looks like sometimes the action key is missing altogether. It was only implied by the anticipation & reaction poses.

I may be totally wrong, but I suspect it may relate to the difficulty of depicting force with a virtual puppet. It's seems to be impossible with most rigs to get a clean throughline such as you'll see in traditional animation or even in live-action reference.

The best solution may have been to focus on the held poses or poses in suspension & fudge the movement in between.

And they say you can't cheat in 3D!

pappy d said...

I thought it was a top-drawer student film.

I wish I could stop-frame it to be sure, but it looks like sometimes the action key is missing altogether. It was only implied by the anticipation & reaction poses.

I may be totally wrong, but I suspect it may relate to the difficulty of depicting force with a virtual puppet. It's seems to be impossible with most rigs to get a clean throughline such as you'll see in traditional animation or even in live-action reference.

The best solution may have been to focus on the held poses or poses in suspension & fudge the movement in between.

And they say you can't cheat in 3D!

jbiziou said...

I love the Old MGM stuff, Tom and Jerry in particular, and the Tex Avery cartoons were so much fun to watch, I too would like to make cartoons with more of the feel of the old time stuff. I still have lots to learn but am always enjoying the process.

I have worked on a few 3d projects and had fun with that, more as a learning experience, but to work on a 2d cartoon with more guts and should would be Great,,

Can I send you a short little animation I did? how does that work here on your site? should I just post the link to Download it?

bye the way, I did not go to Cal arts :)

Thanks John , love the site, very fun and informative to read :)

Alana said...

I know a few people have already linked to the Gobelins site, but here's the specific page that animation's on.

Tool said...

"I would like to have many accents and voices in animation."

yeah its a totally good point i agree with. i just feel like, i probably dont want to admit i read this blog or people might think i am against that school or its students and i got a lot of friends there and i feel like i'd have a lot of explaining or something.

i dont even want to do the kind of contour drawing cartoons personally but its still informative as hell, absolutely anyone who wants to do moving pictures can benefit from your advice, clearly.

Colin said...

Are there any other links to those two videos you posted.

They're not showing up for me. It's kinda hard to study what I can't see.

Margaret said...

In a world where the highest per-frame budgets are probably in commercials, is it any surprise this sort of timing has become popular? Spend as little time as possible hitting your poses HARD, so they READ in the brief snippet of 15-30 seconds each scene has. Grab the viewer with that punchy, shocking timing, and let them relax for the lingering money shot of the Product at the end.


Growing up in the 70s, some of the lushest animation on Saturday mornings was the ads. People learnt from that. People are still learning from that. There was probably more money and skill poured into some of those :30 spots than into a lot of the cartoons they interrupted.

Mr. Semaj said...

Geez, that looked like it was filmed in fast-forward.

Emmett said...

That ape short looks like a student film. That snapping pose style of animation appears to be the quickest way for student animators to get it done. I say this as an animation student who is given too many non-animation classes to deal with.

Mr. K, what did Tex Avery and all the other golden age directors base their timing on? Is there any record of what they relied on for comedic and animation time?

litlgrey said...

John... it's almost unfair for you to compare something that is an example of today's mundane and ordinary, with a short that represented the absolute pinnacle of masterful comedic animation timing.
It's like taking an episode of "Friends" and comparing it to a classic episode of The Phil Silvers Show - it's a wholly loaded comparison, and the paucity of, well, EVERYTHING, is revealed in the modern product.
In the case of the Avery short, you're talking about a golden moment of animated comedy which was so right, so perfect, that it can only have come from the vibrant spirit of a comedic maverick like Avery.
Under no circumstances will anything ever be seen like "Magical Maestro" again - the team spirit isn't there, the dedication isn't there, and the technology will never again be there. Does anyone now really get what it must have taken to construct a diabolical masterpiece of razor-sharp editing with no software; and using magnetic tape and celluloid film; using cell animation shot with cameras; arranging studio sessions with voice actors and singers, musicians, copyists and session producers - all while trying to keep to a pre-ordained time limit of six minutes or 650 feet of film?

stiff said...

Everybody seems to have latched onto the "fast" theme here, but I don't think that was really the point, cuz wasn't Classico über-fast? I think what John is getting at is more the lack of variation in the inbetweening that pervades 3D animation.

Some people have already commented on the computerized "stock timing moves", but I want to put in my two cents. The animation programs being used to make this stuff make it easy to snap from pose to pose, so to do otherwise just means you have to spend exorbitant amounts of time tinkering with velocities and "ease" values. "Ease" functions aren't worth two shits for any real animation. They apply a uniform acceleration to a tween at the beginning or end of the motion, and if you want anything different than uniform acceleration, guess what! you gotta change it yourself, and the controls to do so, as I might've already mentioned, are cumbersome to say the least, and not very intuitive if you've never taken Newtonian physics (or slept through it, cuz what's a cartoonist need that for?). But real living things don't move with uniform acceleration, so to see it looks unnatural. So if you snap from pose to pose, nobody can even see that it's not moving naturally. Voilá--problem solved. I think that what you may have hit on, John, is a "style" born out of convenience, and perpetuated by learning the accents.

Clinton said...

Hi John,

I watched both shorts, and found a couple of differences. In Magical Maestro, all the gags are happening to Spike alone. The magician is getting his revenge on Spike for rubbing him off. I reckon that the ending was just used to end the short quickly, because I'm sure the magician could have spent a long time turning Spike into all kinds of stereotypes. As for the 3D short, I guess the comedy was in the entire plot where a primate interacted with a robot. It's like the Pixar short, "For the Birds", where a bunch of smaller birds interacted with one large bird. You don't know anything beyond the fact that there is one big bird with ten little birds, and anyone can tell you it doesn't look right, so it's funny. I would call this: "Out of Place". I liked the 3D short though, i enjoyed it. I think I understand what you are saying though about comedy in modern animation as opposed to animation done long past.

PCUnfunny said...

stiff: Classico gave you more then enough time for too look at all the funny darwings. It didn't have super quick cuts and movement so fast that you see everything zip by.

Roberto González said...

Extremely interesting post. I can't agree more even though I wouldn't have been capable of explain it so clearly myself. I knew there were something that didn't quite work with this type of animation, though I kinda find it less blatant in 2D. I definitely agree that this style draws attention to itself more than it does to characters or story.

DH said...


The computer has these graph curves that can inform how one joint moves from point A to point B, in terms of eases or lack of (it can also translate in linear). These are all things the animator has to set and tweak to get things (inbetweens) right.

Some 3D animators rely on tweaking these "curves" to get the end result.

And more *interestingly* some treat each frame like a drawing, and go pretty much from frame to frame making sure the inbetweens work.

These guys are using the 3D program like it was 2D. In the end when 3D stuff is rendered it is nothing other than a 2D image.

dave said...

i think youre right in the sense that there are formulas when it comes to timing... i will admit that i use them constantly. stock 8 frame runs or 12 frame walks, broad actions being 4 frames ahead of sound, using at least 6 frames to read a hold, etc ...thats really it as far as formula. dont you just get an idea of how many frames it takes to do something given a certain style after a while? Havent these things been around since the dawn of animation? whats the difference between snappy timing formulas and the classic animation directors timing their shorts to music with march tempos? none of these things are rules obviously, but cant they be used as tools for various things like giving your aniimation a certain feeling or keeping the timing consistent from one shot to the next (if thats what youre after)? i would love to know what your approach to it is as a director. when youre slugging out all your timing, do you have your john k formulas you use?
Like others have said before me, the computer isnt 'programmed' to inbetween for you. i know that youre pretty adept with flash, so you know exactly how inbetweens work in a computer. they take you from point a to point b. how would a head turn look in flash if you were to just tween it or snap from one pose to the next? obviously it would look like ass. so you do your breakdown, blah blah etc. with 3d, if you have the time, youre going to hand craft your poses anywhere from 2's to 8's depending on how fast your action is. on top of that, if your rig is set up the right way, you can stretch your character to create smear frames... this is of course under ideal circumstances where good animation is a priority. because some of us are out there animating stuff like Roly Poly Olie for a living. Maybe the equivalent would be some of the HB or ruby spears stuff.
i would agree that theres a clear difference between modern and classic timing, but i also think that with things like 3d, we've been freed up to layout our films in a much more sophisticated way if we want, using all of the tools any filmmaker has, instead of whats most economical or easiest to draw. so maybe theres just more of a tendency nowadays to go faster, because cinema as a whole is doing that, and the audience needs that much more information now for whatever reason. whatever the case, hopefully the style serves the story. i dont think the new way or the old way is a matter of one being superior to the other. i thinjk theres a lot to learn from both camps... be it the broad stuff from the forties or the really nuanced stuff that comes from the level of control in cg. personally i started by trying to make everything as broad and cartoony as could be, so that the principles were really put to use in an obvious way. then i had to learn how to judiciously apply those principles to animate in different styles.
im glad this discussion is about animation, and not whether or not something is CG!

JohnK said...

>be it the broad stuff from the forties or the really nuanced stuff that comes from the level of control in cg. <<

My point is that the old stuff has a lot more variety and nuance. It's not all "broad".

The new stuff-cg or 2d is too simple and repetitive and has no relation to humanity. It's a small handful of timing tricks that avoid your having to really think about your characters as living creatures with motivations, emotions and impulses.

Chris Rank said...

Isn't it ironic that the Tex Avery cartoon has a villan with a "Sniff?" (see your previous post about how villians are portrayed in most films)

One cartoon i keep meaning to ask about (opinion-wise) is the "triplets of belleville"

I say they use animation as it should be i think would be an understatement.

he said said...

If you go frame by frame on that cg movie (find the quicktime, press left and right), you can see that's it's pretty cool. The ship breathes, the monkey is framed well when it's up on the hill, and he makes a really funny expression when he gets smacked in the face. It's just really fast.

That loose string gag made me laugh harder than I have in weeks! Man, that was brilliant.

chet said...

While I do love the design and look of most top shelf CG (Pixar being the top), it is unfortunate that it has become a tool that people so often compare to traditional 2D animation.

I have always believed CG films from Pixar and the like to be much more like stop-motion puppet work. Thinking of it this way helps me to enjoy it for what it is, and to not concern myself for what it is not: namely, a valid substitute for quality 2D cell animation.

Now that said, I find the quick cuts and rampant, non-stop action trends of modern movies (animated and otherwise) to be nearly UN-watchable on the big screen. I doubt this has anything to do with age (hell, I'm only 36), but I am sure it has much to do with the fact that I WANT to see the action, not just a blur, not just a no-tween thunk.

I miss the acting and pauses in classic animation. Little stuff like that actually made the ultra fast-paced stuff pay off even more. Everyone seems to be pulling from the same editing style these days and I find it almost unwatchable on many levels, most of which have been mentioned many times In John's examples here.

I think CG animators should look to the acting brilliance portrayed in Aardman's claymation shorts (and anything by Nick Park) to get a sense of what subtlety is all about. That style of stop-motion puppetry is much closer to the strengths of CG character movements as they stand today anyway.

And I think 2D animators need to keep looking back to the past for their motivation and inspiration, as John has provided continuous examples for.

But mostly, 2D and 3D CG should be treated for what they are: 2 different sets of tools requiring different disciplines, that yield much different types of outcomes, with very little overlapping qualities.

Keep up the great work, John.

PCUnfunny said...

"Isn't it ironic that the Tex Avery cartoon has a villan with a "Sniff?" (see your previous post about how villians are portrayed in most films)"

The difference is Avery was playing that silly sterotypical turd-sniffing villian for humor, he didn't expect you to take them seriously. But in the Disney/Pixar films,they do.

Johnny Mastronardi said...

I would write off the quick style of editing to two factors. The barebones approach to modern entertainment is definitely a factor. Sesame Street to SNL to the News to Robot Chicken, most of our entertainment is jumpy for the ADD generation.
Secondly, I think it's an attempt to minimize time cost and maximize "style". Face it, it's easier to have a few frames that are good than a lot of frames that are great. It goes back to the "Great Piggy Bank Robbery" post. In a good cartoon, every frame has to have life, and each frame should be funny and unique. Today's cheap mass market animation has found that it can get away with holding drawings that are funny, so they'll stick with them and throw away the quality of the middle frames, while compensating by having fewer middle frames.
CG is based on this principle. While a good animator will go through and tweak the keyframing to get things just right, I highly doubt the big studios habitually animate frame by frame like claymation forces you to do.
The result of all of this is that we lose the fluidity in classical animation that came by drawing every frame to be a good drawing. Now, everything is jerky and "perfect" without the nuances of creativity. If Walmart has taught us anything, it's that the American public can be placated with a pretty low common denominator, and no longer demands quality or creativity.

r. said...

How are you trying to compared two totally different styles? It's like comparing Fantasia vs. Cars, different stuff works for different stories. We live in a fast world and this is product of this generation, comapring it to old stuff only makes you look like you hate changes to a set of rules. Look at Bollywood and how boring and predictable their movies are since they all gotta have the same thing and copy the one before it. Maybe you don't like The Simpsons since that show doesn't follow the "classic" rules. I like the retro thing you have in your style, but putting down the short because it's too fast for your taste isn't very nice. Rules were meant to be broken, specially for animation, which main idea is tell a story using drawings, even if they are as crude as "South Park" is.

dave said...

"But mostly, 2D and 3D CG should be treated for what they are: 2 different sets of tools requiring different disciplines, that yield much different types of outcomes, with very little overlapping qualities."

Wow man, you knocked my socks clear off.

How did you reach this conclusion? Im wondering, because as far as I know, 2d, 3d, and stop mo have a lot more in common than not. They all use the same principles, the approach to animation is the same, and they all end up in a 2d, graphical format. thats why theres a principle called silhouette, that forces you to keep that in mind while youre animating.

JohnK said...

>>but putting down the short because it's too fast for your taste isn't very nice. <<

It's not too fast for my taste. It's too formulaic and simple.

I've seen it all before. I want more variety and humanity.

Jason Tammemägi said...

I quite liked the short but anticipation on every movement for no reason whatsoever is the bane of animation. But then, it also happens in that Avery cartoon when the door is opened so what do I know?

I guess the difference is that they pick their moments in the Avery cartoon. Not every movement needs the obligitory bounce.

But the constant bobbing up and down of many animations makes me car sick.

James said...

I kinda liked the timing actually. Sure, it definately distracted from story (which is why it probably wouldn't work as a longer peice).

I do agree that it's characteristic of modern animation timing in general.

PCUnfunny said...

"How are you trying to compared two totally different styles? It's like comparing Fantasia vs. Cars, different stuff works for different stories."

Spoken like a true non-artist. Ya know, I am just so sick of that word "style". It it used so many times to explain bad artwork by people who don't even know what it means.

JKG said...

Hi John,
These student films were supposed to be made in 6 month and limited to 1 minute (a bit more for CGI) in order to open the Annecy Festival each year. That's why most of them are really fast paced but some are focused on acting, check these among others:

I understand what you meant about accents, this can be explained by the influence of some former disney animators who teach there, that's not an excuse.Also this school is know for having student exchanges with CalArts.

In my school (not this one), we don't learn the basics through references. But I wish we could have some exercices with many different animation styles (MGM, UPA, Disney, etc. fortunately we got the japanese once) so we could understand how they work and why we use them. We were lucky to have a storyboard teacher who showed us an episode of Space Madness's R&S and Tex Avery (Jones & Blair era), it was a discovery for 90% of the young audience. We just experience any animation medium (from charcoal to sable) with few production purposes(for the best and worst of it), but the studios are not aware of that and are mostly looking for stererotypical stuff. I can tell you that here, in France, the animation industry is f***** up but we still hope to make a change.

Your fan.

PS: is there any way you can come in France for a lecture ?

chet said...

Dave wrote:
>How did you reach this conclusion? Im wondering, because as far as I know, 2d, 3d, and stop mo have a lot more in common than not. They all use the same principles, the approach to animation is the same, and they all end up in a 2d, graphical format.

Sorry. I worded the last part of my post very very poorly. I was trying to say that CG was a different discipline from 2D, NOT because they do NOT share most of the principles of animation, but because each one has HUGE strengths over the other one. I was trying to say that comparing them isn't always the best thing because they are not meant to deliver the same style of animation.

Do you think CG will ever produce a product that looks and acts like a vintage WB short? I don't know the answer to that.

It just seems to me that because CG is much more similar to stop-motion puppetry right now, than it is to hand drawn cell animation, that it is up to the animator (director, studio, etc) to decide which (2D or CG) will deliver the end result that the story demands.

I've read what John has written here about his wanting to see more variety in everything (character style, editing, etc). I agree.

Sorry for the rambling post.

Dan said...

Looks heavily influenced by Jamie Hewlett's stuff on Gorillaz.

jbiziou said...

Hey John,

you had posted that some guy has sent you some animation and I wasn't sure how you handled that,,,

I'm inspired bye the old stuff, the old MGM cartoons,,,

if you like you can see a little of my animation , they are small files,,


or you can just look around,,,

thanks JOhn,

love your site, love your cartoons:)

Tyler said...

Hey JohnK,

What do you think of this one?

Also CG, similar Cal Arts style, fewer "snapping" motions, accompanying orchestral music! Though characters may be too cliched - Englishman vs. Frenchman. Still, I found it more interesting than the monkey.

Rob said...

I love that pube joke in the Tex cartoon!

Robert said...

Call it cliched, but the animation in this short was WAY better than most Gobelin student works. They usually seem to be exercises in unusual design and lighting that they never get around to animating well.

Ok, maybe they are animating with a Cal Arts accent, but at least it's solid animating and not the floaty CG timing that passes for animation most of the time.

adri said...

I agree. Watching animation movies today is never a surprise. The animators just select among the archetipes and animate the character the way someone did before. There is no avance, no investigation... Animation could be much more.

billehB said...

But John, i got so bored watching the second one, its so slow and tiresome, i could see the outcome of every joke hours before it happened and still had to sit through the whole dull thing.

I can understand you're reasoning on all points but if I wouldn't pay to see the second animation.

Ash Collins said...

the gobelins films are usually excellent (like the monkey one) and to be honest pisses all over anything like cal arts. in fact most french animation pisses all over everyone else. more gobelins excellence:

Ari said...

hey john,

thanks for switching me on. i'm a cg animator and i realise all i've been doing is trying to imitate pixar or whoever, with fluid animation bringing attention to itself and so on. so now with this new perspective i'm pretty much fucked

Kevin said...

John, you asking for more humanlike expressions and timing and more fluidity in cartoons is nice and all but I think you're coming off as the old man who's cranky at what the new kids are doing because it's new.

Sure, we could make cartoons move realistically, but then again why not just film it? If it's an animation shouldn't we embrace the tools at our disposal and play around with it? If these animation kids will someday find it hard to animate in someone else's style, well, wouldn't that mean someone would have to look at their animation reel and hire them first?

If I needed someone to animate a certain way and their demo reel showed they weren't versed in the style I was going for then I wouldn't hire them. Meanwhile other people who are looking for snappy animation will hire these kids.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with the style or the short. The animation style added a certain cartoony charm I personally like. I also like old Tex Avery style timing and animation as well, I don't see one as better than the other, just two different ways of doing the same thing.

You often come off as insulting (as some people have accused you of) in the way you talk about the supposed downfall of animation. You start your bland article out with "adjective
1. lacking taste or flavor or tang; "a bland diet"; "insipid hospital food"; "flavorless supermarket tomatoes"; "vapid beer"; "vapid tea"
2. lacking stimulating characteristics; uninteresting; "a bland little drama"; "a flat joke"" and then follow up with "3. smoothly agreeable and courteous with a degree of sophistication; "he was too politic to quarrel with so important a personage"; "the manager pacified the customer with a smooth apology for the error" [syn: politic]"

No one's stupid, bland has a negative connotation in the english language. And then in your article about bland cartoons you throw in movies like the Iron Giant, which while not proving successful at the box office is a cult hit loved by many animators. And yes, you turn around to say "The third Warner Bros. animated feature, Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (1999), was not a commercial success, although it received rave reviews and performed well with test audiences. The Iron Giant would eventually became a modern cult classic.", but it's essentially double speak. You say one thing and insinuate the film is bland by interspercing a picture of it with other bland films, making the statement that the film is bland.

You're speaking out of two corners of your mouth, and the fact that you act as if you're somehow nuetral in the argument is facetious.

You watch the short Burning Safari and automatically say the film has the look and feel of CalArts. By your immediate dismissal of the subject it's taken as a put down.

And you don't act the same for old classical cartoons, you complain about all animation looking the same, then praise the way timing is done in old-school, when, had you been born into that age as an animator you'd be animating in that style just like everybody else! It was Disney that came around and added weight and believability as you say, in a way that sounds as if Disney's style killed classical bounce and throbbing, then weasel your way to dissing the new stuff saying it should be more like Tex Avery style with more added weight and believability (the same things you we're stating as detrimental due to it ending an age of animation.)

You insinuate negativity and use double-speak all the time. If you're truly not cogniscent of it then at least you could take the time to acknowledge this and be clearer in describing your opinions and ideas.

You might be tired of seeing snappy animation, but I'm tired of animators crying and complaining about how bad the industry apparently is. I think you all should quit being animators for a year and become sequential artists, then come back and we'll see how bad you've got it.

JohnK said...

>>And yes, you turn around to say "The third Warner Bros. animated feature, Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (1999), was not a commercial success, although it received rave reviews and performed well with test audiences.<<

No, I didn't say that. I copied and pasted some info from Wikipedia about which movies made money and which didn't.

Some bland movies make money, some don't. That's my point. It's a crapshoot when almost all the movies are the same style and type of story.

You might be tired of seeing snappy animation,<<

I'm tired of seeing formulas, as many cartoonists who could do more interesting things are. That's why I started this blog, to help teach a new generation to do better more interesting stuff.

By expanding your horizons and learning skills and observation.

Take advantage of it or don't. It's free.

Captain Napalm said...

It's gotta have variety. Certain things being "snappy" can be funny if there are slower movements as well. And it also helps not to use the same kind of overshoot every time. I can say with absolute certainty that David Silverman has a few of those CalArts habits, but his animation makes me laugh myself sick AND pulls me deeper into the story, whereas stuff like "Fairly OddParents", which is arguably very slightly similar, is ugly, annoying and not believable at all. If you're creative, you don't have to worry about purging yourself of you evil habits. You just get better at what you do and learn to do other things as well.

Recedebo said...

I have only 4 years in attempting animation (discovering how things must move, squish, and expand), so i think i know almost nothing about it, about how timing must be done, or how accents must be, but with that of posing, I've noticed in many new animated features that they change from pose to pose very roughly, like a robot dance move, it begins, the limb reaches the desired position, and then it starts all over with another pose. I see in old cartoons that the poses come so smoothly you hardly notice them, they just come naturally, like if the characters were live creatures... How is this achieved? Also, I hardly beleive there are many other ways to animate, i think this has been so overexploded, how could there be other gags or other ways to move characters when there have been so many people around in those years to discover them? Excuse my point of view, if it is to closed but I have only began at this, and I don't know how to discover new ways of doing it.

Dattaprasad said...

What exactly is 'Cal Arts' timing? I am not that sensitive to cartoon formulas, yet... Also I wonder if we are reading too much into the short. I mean, my friends enjoyed it.. and thats what matters. I'd like to know WHAT IS CAL ARTS TIMING?

Dattaprasad said...

I didn't intend my comment to appear as rant (or shouting), i just wanted to stress it. I was expecting a dissection more specific than two video links cause I don't exactly understand the difference and hence couldn't follow comments.

fandumb said...

Have you seen the character designs in 'The Art of Madagascar 3'? They are AMAZING. They're so expressive and lively!