Thursday, June 29, 2006
These are horrible pictures. The anatomy doesn't make sense, the line quality is non-existent, the shapes and volumes don't fit into each other. ..terrible! And the color looks like it was done by a five year-old. I almost threw these away a dozen times. Now I'm glad I kept them because they're a memory of a session which proved to be a breakthrough for me. That was the night I realized I could draw and paint anything I wanted, regardless of what the model actually looked like.
All of the pictures on this post are of the same model. I drew her fat, thin, long-armed, short armed, red-haired, black-haired, small breasted and big breasted. I love the thin forearm. Imagine what she'd look like if she let her arms hang straight down!
Here I added wallpaper just for the heck of it. I do that a lot now but this is where it started. I'll post some more from this memorable night when the drawings turn up.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
ASK DOCTOR UNCLE EDDIE:
This week's question: "I love the cartoon I'm making but I have to admit that it doesn't really take off till the middle. By then half my audience is gone! How do I start a cartoon?"
Dear Perplexed: "It's easy! You start a cartoon the way a dirty joke teller starts a dirty joke. The first thing a joke teller does is make you like him, the teller. He establishes his own personality first. He dominates the scene, he gets a rhythm going, he exudes playful mischief, he creates an atmosphere which is electric with potential."
"That done, he gets started on the set-up. The set-up is the most important part of the joke. It has to be ignorant as hell. The teller gets you to smile and even laugh way before the punch line. It's as if the real joke was that the people in the story would put themselves in such an improbable and silly situation. The punch line is just an excuse to justify the funny set-up."
"Transpose all of this to a cartoon and you have your beginning. How do I know it works? Because this is more or less what Bob Clampett did. He'd start a barnyard cartoon by first establishing that it was a cool barnyard, where cool animals live. He infused the cartoon with a bouncey rhythm and a sense of life and playfulness before the plot ever got started. He took the time to make friends with the audience. A lot of animation directors seem like they're scared of the audience and try to keep it at a distance. Directors like Bob and Tex liked the people they were making cartoons for and took pains to bring them in."
BTW, the caricature of Uncle Eddie is by John K.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
I love this book! I also love literature and so does Peter Thorpe, who wrote the book. What he's saying is that literature, even the best literature, has an unrecognized dark side and that it's hurt almost as many people as it's helped. Here's a sample of Thorpe's style:
Sorry about the underlining. I hate to read a book after someone else underlined it. Usually I do all my underlining lightly in pencil so I can erase it if I have to. This looks like ball point pen. Now I feel guilty.
A few chapter titles: How Literature Seperates Us from Our feelings/How Reading MAkes Us Lazy/Our High Toleration of Incompetence/Oversimplifying Human Nature/Why We Write Badly/How Literature Gives Us the Lust for Revenge.
This (above) is from a deleted scene where Sally finally realizes what the Worm's intentions are. I did the sketch and Tuck Tucker did a genius job on the clean-up. The scene was deleted for time.
These last two drawings are inbetweens from the brilliant animation Glenn Kennedy did on the Worm addressing the audience in the beginning of the film. He had great teardrop theories and a beautiful, cartoony line that made me regret the necessity to color the scene. The originals of these drawings, along with a bunch of others, were stolen from the studio before they could be photographed. Luckily I had xeroxed a few before the thief got them.
Glenn did the scene over again, and he did a good job, but the first version is the one that lingers in my mind.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Three of these are pictures I saw in Mad Magazine when I was a little kid. One I discovered a little later, I don't remember how. I loved them when I was a kid and they continue to influence me even today.
What impressed me about the drawing on top (above) was the idea that you could do a drawing in the wonderfully ignorant, over-the-top style of the class clown but still project delicacy and restraint. This isn't a shout-at-you, Big Daddy Roth picture. The restraint actually makes it funnier than than Roth. I always meant to ask John K if this picture influenced him because John's caricature style can be described this way.
My school friends and I used to crack up over the galoot and the elbow (above). I KNEW guys like this, guys who aren't bullies, but who step on little people because they don't seem to be aware of their existence. When you're this big only other big people are on your radar. And look how eager and stupid the guy is!
This (above) is the picture that made me aware that cartooning is often about worlds in collision. Two men with totally different personalities are forced to sit so close that they interfere with each other. The pictures are funny even without the beard-in-the-soup gag. They made me aware of rhythm, framing, and funny staging. They also reminded me of the centrality of funny drawing. I stared at this a lot before the teacher confiscated the magazine.
The panel on the left (above) is the one that really captured my imagination. I thought the disgusted guy in the middle had such a funny face that I was driven to spend countless hours mugging infront of the mirror, trying to learn it. Now I've gotten really good at it.
I love to draw this kind of guy, A character who reacts with disdain and disgust to people around him.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
First let me describe what happened. I get the eye surgery and it turned out better than I expected. A few hours after the operation I lifted the patch and was amazed to see how clear everything was, clear and very, very clean. I had no idea that the world was such a incredibly clean place. You could eat off sidewalks like these! I went to sleep happy as a bug.
The next morning I wake up with a pain in the abdomen. I go to pee and nothing comes out. I try to pick something up and I can't. Just about everything I did hurt like crazy. Things get worse and worse til I end up in the emergency room of the local hospital. They speculate that the anasthesia I just had was responsible. They jam (and I do mean "jam") a catheter in ( a memorable experience) and the pee comes out like it was shot out of a firehose. I had to wear that stupid catheter and carry around a bag for a week. Well, it turns out that I get a bladder infection from the catheter and then, on top of that.....I'm going to stop here because I've probably already exceeded my gross limit. Anyway, I experienced more pain in the last two weeks than all the pain I've felt in a whole lifetime before that. I also discovered that pain sucks.
This has been such a bad experience that it's actually changed my philosophy. I used to think nature was all about fuzzy little ducklings and beautiful, forest waterfalls. I used think of nature as my friend. Now I think of it as a masked assassin hiding in the bushes with a knife. In my darkest moments I hear it saying, "Are you still here?"
I'm amazed at how little comfort people in pain can take from secular philosophy. Epictitusis is helpful but you have to change your whole life to make his ideas work. Modern philosophers are more interested in problems like "being" and what the order of words in a sentense tells us. Has philosophy ever been more irrelevant to the problems of real people than it is now?
Modern Christianity puts so much emphasis on God being love that it finds people in pain to be an embarrassment. When my dad was a kid everybody believed that love was only one aspect of God and that he was also a stern taskmaster who put us on Earth to test us. Pain fit into my dad's concept of the universe a lot better than it fits into ours.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
A funny cartoon is always built around a funny sketch and a funny sketch is always built around a funny situation. When I say funny I mean something that cracks you up just thinking about it and which makes other people crack up too, especially when they imagine your character doing it. You and your friends keep adding to the original funny situation until you've worked it up into a sketch. After that you're only problem is to figure out a story reason to justify the sketch and a quick way of getting out of it. The funny sketch is the core of the cartoon. That's it. Believe me, if you know that, you know a lot!
Are there exceptions? Of course there are, especially when you factor music in. Your music man is one of your most important people and no story should be finalized (or voices recorded) before you've integrated good opportunities for music & SFX into the story.
There's probably a lot more to say on this subject but this is the best I can do with my mind swimming from meds. I have no idea how people stretch stuff like this out into whole books. Short cartoon writing is the easiest kind of writing there is. If you draw, if you're funny (cartoon funny, not stand-up) and if you have a knack for structure then you're ready to hang your shingle out. Hmmm... Maybe there is one more subject to cover....6
OK, here's something on the subject of taste. If you want to cultivate taste then ask yourself this fudamental question: What is the purpose of a story? I mean any story, whether it's told by Shakespeare or indians sitting around a campfire. The purpose of a story is simple: it is to entertain by blowing people's minds. I don't know about you but I never go into a music store with the intention of finding something mildly interesting to listen to. I go with the hope that something I stumble on will change me forever. I go with the hope that I'll make contact with greatness in some way or be shown a truth that I didn't know before. I think everybody's like that. Don't deliberately disappoint.
Every once in a while I cut something out of white paper just for the heck of it (above). I got the idea from a book on on Hans Christian Andersson's paper cut-outs.
According to the book, which I don't have at hand, Andersson thought he was ugly and hoped the cut-outs would make him more acceptable to the people he told stories to. That's Andersson above. In my opinion he's exceptionally handsome.
The cut-outs look like they could have been done by Matisse. Did Matisse know about these? Was he influenced by them?
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I say billion dollar because my hunch is that these first two pictures are the ones that inspired Walt to make Disneyland. Look at the picture of the hearth (above). The artist beckons us deep into the picture then rightward for an imaginary walk into the fireplace. Look at the low, sheltering ceiling and at the beams which appear to struggle heroically to hold up the ceiling. Check out the ship which every boy would want to get a closer look at. Can't you hear your footsteps on the floor? Isn't the glow from the fire appealing?
Then there's the toy shelves (below). Each toy is one that you'd like to pick up and look at. You'd like to run your fingers along the edge of the shelves, maybe over the carvings. The artist could have made the shadows deeper and slightly more menacing, but that would defeat the purpose, which is to invite the viewer to come closer and examine the toys. There's a real tactile pitch going on here. I want to step into the picture then touch every toy on the shelf.
Maybe you don't see why I'm singling out Tenggren and the pictures above. Maybe you're thinking that all the top-grade Disney artists probably had the same ability, or close to it. OK, take a look at the picture below.
This is obviously a the work of a really skilled painter but it doesn't invite me in and I have no desire to hold the toys. The window might have been more interesting. After all, windows are a powerful psychological symbol just like hearths. Here the window is just a prop. The pillar is pretty good but we don't see where it connects to the ceiling so we never root for the hard-working little pillar struggling to keep the ceiling up. The floor is just textured color.
Tenngren had the ability to make the viewer want to enter his pictures, look around and pick things up. To me they suggest Disneyland where you really can enter these worlds.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
MY INITIATION INTO THE ANIMATION INDUSTRY
On the strength of my portfolio I got my first storyboard job way back in 1979 at Filmation, the studio that did Fat Albert and Flash Gordon for Saturday Morning TV. I was in heaven! I showed up my first day, eager to work, pockets full of sharpened pencils and a cumbersome, giant mirror because the animation books always showed the Golden-Age animators mugging into a mirror and I didn't want to look like a piker by showing up without one.
I think my boss-to-be was amused by all this becuase he made a big show of finding a place for me to sit. "Leeeeet's see...wheeeere shall we put Mr. Fitzgerald?" I've got it! We'll put him in with Paul Fennell!" Every face in the vicinity dropped. People said things like, "No! No! No! It's too cruel!" and "No! Even this kid doesn't deserve that!" I had no idea what they were talking about. They introduced me to Paul and he seemed likable enough. He'd been in animation since the days of rubber hose. Now he seemed to be in his eighties, just storyboarding away, biding his time till a late retirement. On the way out my boss said, "Paul's supposed to take heart pills every day but some days he forgets. If he ever forgets, and you find out about it, get out of the office! Work somewhere else! If you don't you'll be sorry!" I couldn't even imagine why he said that.
In the following weeks I immersed myself in the life of the studio. The company did everything under one roof: ink & paint, animation, assistant animation, layout...everything! Every moment I wasn't working I would walk around the halls on some pretext just revelling in the thrill of being with other cartoonists. There were times I thought I'd just burst with happiness. Also during this time one of my new friends introduced me to Bob Clampett cartoons. The effect, to put it mildly, was not subtle. Even though I'd only been working in the industry a few weeks I went around the studio telling the old animators that they were doing everything wrong, that Clampett and Scribner were the only ones who knew how animation works. This didn't make me popular with the old animators and they all complained to Paul.
One day I overheard Paul tell one of his friends that he forgot to take his heart medicine. I didn't think anything of it because it was the day of my first deadline and I was working feverishly against the clock. Paul by this time had gotten in the habbit of going into long, daily rants about what a bum Clampett was and what a punk I was and this day was no different. Usually I listened politely but my first deadline was hours away and I was afraid I'd end up on the street if I missed it. I just couldn't think with Paul's rant going on! Impulsively I turned around and shook my finger at Paul, "Paul, you've gotta give me a break here! I've gotta get this board done!"
I thought Paul was on the other side of the room but it turns out that he was right behind me. When I shook the finger I was suprised to see it happen an inch away from his face. He did a cross-eyed look at the finger then at me then hauled off and BAM!, punched me hard, right on the nose!
I was shocked. Shocked and hurt! The nose is a sensitive spot! I held my bleeding nose yelling something like, "Paul! Are you nuts!? Why did you do that!?" Paul was red-faced, caught up in the fury of it all. On the way out of the room he shouted, "Because Clampett is a punk and so are you!Punk! Punk! Punk! I'm gonna tell my friend Bill Hanna about you. You'll never get a job at that studio!"
Later on at lunch a couple of artist friends said they thought I was a wuss for not hitting him back. A wuss? Because I didn't hit a man who was a half century older than me!? That didn't make any sense. What I was really worried about was that I'd be blackballed from the animation industry. All my friends were of one opinion about that. It was probaly an empty threat and Paul probably didn't even know Bill Hanna. They pretty well talked me into their point of view when I returned to the studio and found Paul on the hall phone saying, "Here comes Fitzgerald now! Never hire that bum! he's a dirty-no-good punk!"
Well, I have to end the story somewhere and this is as good a place as any.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Let's face it, homework is a drag. After a long day of fire drills, fund raising drives, political correctness lectures, personal anecdotes by teachers, threats,punishments, uninspired lectures, tedious waiting for things, stupid questions by other students, pointless discussions about the way things are organized, evasion of bullies and trying to fit in with your peers, a kid wants to be free. He wants to indulge his romantic soul. He wants to be with the friends who actually like him and don't try to humiliate him. What's wrong with that?
The way I look at it, the grammar school people had their shot at the kid for five or six hours. If they wasted that time with boring triviality then that's not the kid's fault. Six hours a day in school is plenty of time to impart a good education. Teachers who dropped the ball and failed to do that shouldn't expect kids to make up for that by taking responsibility for their own education at night. Homework is a bad teacher's crutch. As long as teachers have this crutch they have no incentive to improve their classroom technique.
Homework also undermines the family. After a hard day at the job parents want to come home and have fun with their kids. Who can do that when the specter of homework looms? Homework forces parents to become jailers. How can you bond with your kid if you feel every night has to be devoted to threatening them and making them feel guilty about homework. ? No wonder kids retreat into their rooms every night as soon as they're old enough to know the score..
I know what you're thinking, that we live in an advanced society and that education, including homework, fuels that advancement. Well, I guess if I really thought the system produced those kind of results I'd buy into it regardless of the drawbacks. But I don't think the results are so impressive. We waste people and we waste time. Ask yourself this: why does it take 12 years to teach a kid the 3 R's plus a smattering of science and social science? Remember that the first 2 R's (reading and writing) are addressed to a kid who's already a fluent speaker of the language! Why does it take 12 long. long years to do that? You should be a doctor after 12 years of education!
I want to see everybody who wants it get a good, basic classical education. Let's confine homework to the subjects that absolutely require it and improve what's happening in the classroom during the day.!
A lot of Theory Corner readers will prefer "M", which is a terrific film no doubt , but I'm isolating the performance here. Lorre's performance in Stranger is far, far better and much more caricatured than the one he did in M! I always admired Norma Jean for creating the character of Marylon Monroe and the whole genre of the blonde bombshell. In the same way I admire Lorre for creating the genre of the fragile, sickly, friendly-when-he's-not-trying-to-kill-you psychopath. This performance has to be seen to be believed!
As a matter of fact Tom McKimson liked it so much that he parodied it in "Birth of a Notion."
The other film I'd like to serve up is Lugosi's black & white version of "The Raven." In this film Lugosi finally got a sympathetic director who realized what beautiful word music the actor was capable of. Lugosi was one of the greatest screen actors of his time but you'd never know it if all you saw was "Dracula." This is by far Lugosi's best film and it gets my highest recommendation. (Blogger may delete my picture of Lugosi but I'll let the paragaph stand).
Thursday, June 15, 2006
MY INTERVIEW WITH UNCLE EDDIE
by Buelah Pithfuzzy
"Pack up! We're going to send you to Uncle Eddie's House!" the TC for Women editor told me. Wonderfull! Being a fan of the famous theoretcian and renowned ladies' man, I was excited more than I can say!
Pulling up the driveway of his famous villa, I didn't know what to expect. Would he bowl me over with theories? Would he try to seduce me? As it happened, he kissed my hand, which I suddenly realized was exactly what I had wanted him to do. He seemed to be sensitive to every nuance, knowing without having to be told what a woman wants and needs.
Inside we sat down and, while sipping some of the most delicious tap water I ever tasted, I commenced the interview:
TC for W: "You stood on the hood of my car when I pulled into the driveway. Would you say you're impulsive?"
Uncle Eddie: "Not impulsive. Just...how do you Americans say it?...just happy to
be in the presence of a beautiful woman. Excuse me please, while I
stand and adjust the tension on my male bikini...there. Next
TC for W: "What was the longest time you ever spent making love?"
Uncle Eddie: "One night and a day. More than that and I start getting itchy."
TC for W: "Do you prefer stupid women or intelligent women?"
Uncle Eddie: "Oh, intelligent women, definitely. And if they have buck teeth, then
so much the better. But it's not the teeth so much as what a buck-
toothed woman has in her eyes, the buckness of soul, you know
what I mean?"
TC for W: "Do you ever cook for your women?"
Uncle Eddie: "Oh, yes! That is my pleasure! I make a delicious stew consisting of
oysters, catnip, Viagra and vodka. The woman holds the funnel in
her mouth and I pour."
TC for W: "Are you offended when John K draws you like this (below)?
Uncle Eddie: "Let me see (puts on his glasses) ...Oh, that John! He is such a
TC for W: "Why do you think women are so attracted to you?"
Uncle Eddie: "I hope it's not because I'm a cartoonist or any status thing like
that. I hope it's because they find me a mystery."
TC for W: "Are you a mystery?"
Uncle Eddie: Well...heh, heh!...I won't say yes and I won't say no."
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
A CHINESE BRIDGE
Actually these are pictures of two similar bridges but I'm having trouble figuring out which close shot belongs to which bridge so, what the heck, for our purpose they're all the same bridge.
What a pleasure it must be to walk on this bridge! The texture and complexity of the wood, the beautiful proportions of the enclosed space, the way the outside world is framed and presented to the walker, the smells and sounds, the moving air....I'm always amazed that architects can repackage reality for us in such a pleasing way.
I love how each step forward reveals new details. I love the mystery of what's behind a corner being gradually unravelled. I love incompletely-glimpsed distant shapes that require us to make sense out of them.
I also like the way architects can make simple tasks, like crossing an obstacle to get to the other side, into profound and insightful experiences. I'll bet people decided to get married while crossing this bridge. I'll bet kids decided what they wanted to do with their lives while crossing the bridge to go to the store.
A glimpse up is like a glimpse into heaven, a reminder of the pleasure we take in the intellect of others and of how good it feels to be part of a community.