Tuesday, June 12, 2007

CLAMPETT AND THE ART OF THE INBETWEEN



GREETINGS CARTOON FANS!


Thanks to friends John & Kali I'm able to post a real discussion of animation with lots of examples and not just a couple of stolen frame grabs. I even have a link to a film clip at the bottom! I feel so adult!

OK, enough gushing! Let's get down to it!



This is Porky on the doorstep from Clampett's "Kitty Cornered." This was the first Clampett I ever saw and when it came on my jaw practically dropped to the floor!
I was used to pose to pose animation where the inbetweens were just technical necessities. I didn't question that, I just assumed that animation involved a certain amount of tedium and there was no way of getting around it. Now here, in front of me, was a whole different way of animating! Here the animator (Rod Scribner) did his own inbetweens. I was shocked! It not only worked but it was fall-off-the-seat funny!


Most of the poses on this post are inbetweens. I had to leave out a lot to conserve bandwidth, but you can see that Scribner is cartooning like crazy, throwing in every funny idea that could fit. The pose above with raised arms reminds me of the old Keystone Cops poses that you used to see in newspaper comics. I love how Porky's fat little body compresses here. Look how delightfully seedy his eyes are!


This (above) is the kind of toothy, squinty expression you only get in inbetweens. Inbetweens should look like inbetweens. They should show all the transitory little emotions between the major emotions. Even a sad person will have a happy inbetween or two and visa versa.


Here (above) Porky struggles to get the word out. Even if he didn't stutter he'd have to struggle. We humans communicate with grunts and whistles from our lips and voice box and getting it all out past the mushy part of our muzzle requires an effort!
"OH BOB! YOU WERE SO GREAT! HOW DID YOU AND SCRIBNER THINK OF STUFF LIKE THAT!!!???" Oh...uh... pardon. I lost it for a moment.



So here's the pig again! He pushes out toward camera with his mean little baby face...


Then he antics back, looking very much like a human all of a sudden (as all animals should periodically), then...




BAM! A really explosive thrust outward (above) with big, dilated eyes and killer arm positions! Those arms work great with the bowed legs. Scribner was a great cartoonist as well as a great animator! What a dynamite combination!

Oops! He withdraws into a little compressed ball of peevish anger. Somehow we become aware of the nightshirt again.

His muzzle (above) prepares for another outburst. The cheek muscles pucker and stretch in preparation for forcing the words out.


A big antic (above) allows us to see how large the cranium is. The arms fly up as if to do another Keystone Cops pose but instead...


...instead he grabs the air like a baby and diddles it! And wow, look at the far away stare in Porky's eyes!

Is the anger dissipating? Sort of! Here's (above) another classic inbetween face showing the tired, squinting eyes again. Emotion is very tiring for us and we have to go into near sleep between emotions sometimes, even when we're excited and in the middle of broad action.

The world of inbetweens is a strange, surreal world where characters' real emotions hold sway. It's the world that would exist if all of us were prevented from taking stock poses to impress other people. It's the world of the ego rather than the super-ego. It's a place where people flash angry, infantile, ridiculing, lecherous, acquisitive, stupid poses at each other. In a funny studio the inbetweener would be a respected professional possessing great and mysterious secrets about the human condition.

Back to the cartoon: Porky snaps out of his reverie into this hilarious Joe Besser fists-up-to-the-cheeks pose. I like hands that hug the face. After all, the face is the master, the controller. What could be more natural than to have its minions nearby?

Gee, I must sound crazy talking this way. Anyway, it's a tribute to Bob Clampett that his cartoons stimulate discussion like this. I'm a huge fan of Jones and Avery but their animation is pretty straight-forward and not as nuanced as what Clampett and Scribner did.

Here's (below) the Porky on the step animation!
CLICK ON THIS TO SEE THE FIRST EVER OFFICIAL CARTOON CLIP!!!




OK, that's enough for one day! Return to your work-a-day world secure in the knowledge that you're a new man (yes, even if you were a woman before)! You've been up to the mountain! You've been refreshed at the fountain of Clampett!

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm on dialup and it takes forever for these png pics to download. A lot of times half the pic downloads and then I get the red x.

Sadly it seems to be Kali and John's favorite file. Yeah, you can see the pic in higher definition but it's a pain in the butt.

I hate pngs. Why not use a faster loading file?

crsP said...

HI, nice of you to leave that comment on my painting. Seems there might be a twinge of sarcasm in it [only because your enthusiasm for it seems much higher than the quality of the piece!], But thanks anyway! I have a supposition as to why you [and myself] may like that particular one against the others. To keep it brief [I may expand on this in a post on my log], it may be because it is based somewhat on a memory of a real girl, as opposed to some flight of fancy cooked up in my imagination. Like your drawings from films and tv, people relate to them more so because it's easier to empathise with. I'm probably not explaining this properly.

On the subject of in-betweening, do you think that this type of quality would have been produced had he not done it himself? Would an in-betweener have the incentive of motivation to not just do a straight tween between the poses, seeing as they weren't getting rewarded for it?I don't know how it is, but from what I read from animators I get the impression that in-betweeners are seen as 'grunts' and not really doing anything of artistic merit. The key animators get all the groupies.

Lee said...

Brilliant! Excellent!

I've been waiting and waiting and waiting to finally become a new man!

(And the post on inbetweens was wonderful!)

Anonymous said...

Is that writing on your arms in the last picture? It looks like it says, "Worker EF".

Lester Hunt said...

Wow. It's amazing how much is going on there, and in less than (as best I can tell) two seconds of film!

Milton Gray said...

Great post, Eddie! I too noticed this long ago by spending a lot of time single-framing animation from the 1940s Clampett cartoons, but this is the first time I've seen anyone comment on it publicly.

To comment on the question asked by "crsp", an inbetweener would need permission, and a good working relationship with the animator, to dare to do this creative type of inbetweening 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.

Max Ward said...

Did Scribner animate straight away? I don't have as keen of an eye as you and the rest of your company, but it doesn't look like pose to pose to me. I can't really find any key poses in the animation. You should get frame grabs of the key poses to compare to the inbetweens.


Good job on your very first multimedia post! Keep em coming!

JohnK said...

Scribner probably roughed all the inbetweens, because there don't seem to be any "straight" inbetweens.

I think he just animated the whole scene straight ahead, following the dialogue track.

An awful lot of his scenes are like this. He is a completely unique animator.

I think these Clampett cartoons should have been the turning point in animation.

It's such a higher depiction of life. I'm amazed it didn't progress from there after Clampett left Warners'.


Now that we know about this, shouldn't we use it as our starting point and take off from there??

Surely in theatricals we could.

Why are we still tracing model sheets and inbetweening them when pulsating throbbing blood filled life is possible?

Aaron T. said...

This is my favorite cartoon of all time. Now I love it even more!

Anonymous said...

The consumer products spawned executive excrement that run cartoon divisions today have no idea how to live "pulsating, throbbing, blood-filled life", let alone wring a buck out of it. They let their frigid creative execs tell them what to feel.

Jeffrey Dekker said...

Amazing!!

I could watch that clip all day.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: Sorry for the problem! I'll talk to John about it!

The video will play but as you said you have to leave the video screen on for a bit while it slowly downloads. That's because the video as posted contains all the frames and not an abridgement like the ones on YouTube.

Jorge Garrido said...
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Jorge Garrido said...

GENIUS analysis of a GENIUS scene!!! I hate how Clampett faded out of Scribner's animation, though. What are we missing?

Also: Where can I get that portrait of Clampett? Maybe all the Spumco bigshots should get portraits in black suits in front of doodles.

Or maybe animation studios should implement a dress code.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Clampett makes me laugh and be happy, thus, "YAY!"

I had fun helping you make it too!

FUN!

pappy d said...

A great & much needed post on inbetweens! When you have to work in the assembly-line industrial model of production, it's easy to forget:

There are no inbetweens in Nature.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Crsp: Inbetweeners certainly are considered grunts at most places and that needs to change. Inbetweening is a creative job if it's done right.

Of course the inbetweener would have to work closely with the animator. Either that or the animator would have to do his own inbetweens. A way could be found to make this work if studios had the will.

The problem is that no modern studio is doing funny animation that would require creative inbetweening. That's an outrage!

People want to see funny animation, not just funny held poses. Why are animators relegated to the back of the bus in their own industry?

Milt: You certainly did spend a lot of time studying this stuff and you inspired me and others to do the same. Many thanks!

Max: I don't think there are many key poses on what I posted. This looks like fluid, straight-ahead animation.

John: Thanks for making an important point! Clampett and Scribner laid the ground for a revolution in animation but no studio except yours picked up on it.

It's a shame because there's lots of ways to use the techniques that Clampett inspired. We don't all have to draw like Scribner.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Kali: Thanks a million for putting that stuff up! And thanks for looking terrific in the pictures!

BTW, Kali drew the beret and mustache on the picture of me at the top! I think it brought out my suave side very nicely.

Gabriel said...

I must agree with anonymous about the PNG vs. JPG thingie. I tried to talk Kali out of using pngs but she said the quality of pngs is better. It is better, but for our purposes it's not noticeable. See one of the original pics on this post and compare it to a jpeg version of the same thing. Notice any big quality drop? Neither do I, but the size of the first one is about 470k, which is ridiculous. The second one is mere 63k. I know this stuff is boring, but you wouldn't have your bandwith problems if you learned it, eddie. Or force Kali to learn it and tell her to help you! :)

Oh, GREAT post! Thanks Eddie and Kali!

JohnH said...

The surprising thing about this scene, to me anyway, is that you don't easily see any of these mid-poses in the full-motion clip. You can sometimes catch them if you pause, but the flash player used doesn't have a frame advance function so it's hard to catch them.

Gabriel said...

johnh, it's easy to see them with quicktime. If you save it to your computer you'll be able to maximize it and check it out advancing frame by frame. I'm doing it now, the clip is really cool!

Joe Henderson said...

Hey Eddie

I wanted to show you Fedor's Tweetybird that we talked about. Here it is.

http://img211.imageshack.us/my.php?image=aukiu39hf.jpg

I emailed a bunch to john.

Joe Henderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Nethery said...

Great post , Eddie. "Kitty Cornered" is one of my all time favorites and I think I've stepped through it frame-by-frame at least two dozen times. There's something good to be learned in every scene.

You're totally right that the inbetweener is an important member of the team and in a properly run animation studio would be acknowledged as such. I've always thought a good inbetweener is worth their weight in gold. Unfortunately it is usually portrayed as a "grunt" job and a mere stepping stone position to become a Key Clean Up artist or an Animator, so hardly anyone sticks with it long enough to become a really , really good inbetweener for the sake of being a good inbetweener ... there's always the eyes on the prize of getting the big promotion to Key Assistant and then on to Animator . (and unfortunately the culture in most animation studios makes it seem like those who stay in the inbetweener postion and don't get promoted are second-class artists, so it breeds resentment and apathy among those who are "stuck" as inbetweeners.) Of course, for the kind of action Scribner is doing here it's probably best for the animator to do all the drawings himself rather than leave it to an assistant. It's an eye-opener to see how almost every drawing is "off-model" in the technical sense , but that's what makes it alive. Real people's faces go "off model" when they talk or emote . Just step frame-by-frame through live action footage to see it . I realize I'm preachin' to the choir at this point , but I just thought I'd bring it up again.

David Nethery said...

Of course, Scribner's very controlled in his use of distortion and going "off-model" for effect. Animator's of Scribner's caliber understood the structure underneath the character well enough to distort it with credibility . Too many people without the same grasp of fundamentals will try to emulate someone like Scribner and they just end up with a big mess, the faces of characters boiling and warping all over the place with no control. I think that's what John was getting at in emphasizing the importance of learning the fundamentals from the Preston Blair book, then after that basic mastery of principles has been attained , the animator can go nuts with distortion.

Amy said...

Speaking AS a former inbetweener, I felt a bit of both worlds. The attitude I got from animation is that you DO NOT CHANGE OR ADD A THING, because it takes control away from the animator. However, the further up the ladder you are in IB experience, the more likely you were to follow arcs of movement better or favour certain keys to enhance a gesture. If you could do this well, animators would LOVE you and it didn't necessairly impinge on their authority over the scene.

As an ASSISTANT animator, I got a little more creative freedom to enhance and build on the basic groundwork that the animator would set up. Of course, that required gaining the trust of animators and proving that you could do the job properly and knew the principles as soundly as they did.

Sadly, a lot of inbetweeners, too, faced with the 'just a grunt' stigma, tended to not really care about their work much and were content to mechanically inbetween. Drove me NUTS when I had to supervise them and tried to teach them that there was MUCH more to good inbetweening that that.

William said...

There goes Scribner with the mouths again...Wow! What amazing acting and astonishingly funny drawings 'inbetween' the action, in fact, they are their own hypyhenated emotions that Spumco later capitalized on. Such joy, detail, and life packed in each tiny isntant- most impressive of all is how all of that action happens in like three and a half seconds.

Pappy D is right- there are no inbetweens in nature. Thanks for the clip, Eddie, I look forward to more frame-by-frame cartoooon analysis.

Mr. Semaj said...

The funniest part about the clip is how Porky can't finish his tirade when the camera moves on to the next scene. :D

david gemmill said...

these are fucking awesomes poses and expressions makes me want to animate and kick some ass. in due time.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Gabriel: Interesting examples! You convinced me! Whenever I learn how to make my own frame grabs I'll consider using jpegs instead of pngs!

Joe: Fedor...giant Russian bone crusher Fedor...did that picture of Tweety!? Fascinating!

Jenny said...

Yeah, Semaj has it right: it's a wonderful thing that it fades out on Porky dithering away, so beside himself he can't form any coherent thought. The fade out itself seems to get a laugh(this is really one of those that has to be seen with a group-a big group. The experience is enhanced 1000%).
In fact, Porky probably goes through a wider range of expression and mood here than he ever did before or since; he kind of contains every idea of Clampett's in a single performance. Everything from his "RAWR" shock appearance in the window to running at top speed whimpering the old "A-gony-eeeeiiii, ah-gone-iiiiieeee" to shock, cunning, contentedness, outrage, disbelief...etc.etc. Everybody working at top form, whatta combo. Perfect cartoon.

Clinton said...

Thanks for posting a topic about Rob Scribner, Ed! You answered the question I posted on John K.'s blog. I am trying to apply his techinques in my own work. I have a lot of "Animator's Survival Kit" techinques still in my system. Are you going to comment on other animator's techinques?

Thomas said...

"Kitty Kornered" also boasts one of Clampett's funniest lines, when the fish awakens her husband after a cat has impossibly crammed itself into their wet, happy, fishbowl home: "Henry, I think there's somebody in the house!"

Russell H said...

What's so fascinating about these is how Scribner restricts all his outrageous animation to the upper part of Porky's body: note how Porky's legs stay in pretty much the same place and stay "in proportion" while everything from the waist up, especially the hands, arms and head get squashed and stretched and exaggerated. To me, this keeps the scene "under control" despite all the thrashing around and keeps the viewer's eye focused where Scribner wants it. Scribner uses Porky's arms and hands to "frame" his face, which is the real focus of the scene; his wild expressions bring to life and "act out" what he's saying. The face, framed by the white-gloved hands and white nightshirt against the white door, "reads" extremely well.

Just another everyday masterpiece from a true master.

Anonymous said...

Bob Clampett is a complete hack. ITHat animation looks so sloppy and ugly. It looks completely un-lifelike. CLAMPETT SUCKS!

Mariana said...

I don't know if you've ever seen Gotlib's work, but I think you might like it! He's really funy and very good at drawing funny faces. You can check out some examples of his work here.

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

I like how you tell it, Reverend Ed. I been to Porky church.

Jim Rockford said...

I love this cartoon! What an incredible array of expressions!
Clampett and Scriber are quite a combo,scribner really got a dynamic performance out of Porky! very realistic portrayal of human type emotions

Jorge Garrido said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cbrubaker said...

That was a blast to look at.

Man, I wish cartoons were still animated inside USA. Combine that with bigger budget and great cartoonists and you oughta get funny cartoon drawings in each frame.

And this is OT, but I felt I should ask this question.

Was Spumco involved in "2 Stupid Dogs?"

I'm asking because alot of familiar Spumco artists worked on this show. John K. recieved screen credit for providing "tidbits of poor taste" in some episodes and Vince Waller was the animation director for a handful.

And of course, you did the storyboard for one episode as well.

Did Hanna-Barbera subcontract those eps to Spumco, or did they just moved to H-B after Nickelodeon dismissed the studio on "Ren and Stimpy?"

Hammerson said...

Aahh, refreshed at the fountain of Clampett... and Fitzgerald. In just two seconds, Clampett and Scribner were able to emit the wider range of emotions than anybody else could do in the entire 90-minute animated feature (or the entire output of animated features in history, taken together).
I've noticed too, whenever I still-framed Scribner's scenes, that every single drawing looks like Scribner's work, so there are no inbetweens in the classic sense. He must have been remarkably fast animator, if he was able to produce so much footage in every cartoon. Greg Duffell once told me that Scribner used to make his animation drawings with ink and brush, instead of pencil! And it's absolutely amazing that his scenes work so well, and look incredibly smooth, tight and controlled. In the hands of many other animators, Scribner's approach would result in confusing mess, no matter how good the individual drawings are.

What an amazing post. Many thanks to you Uncle Eddie, and to your lovely assistant :-)

Anonymous said...

2 Stupid Dogs was a show done by Chris Ure, Mark Kennedy and Van Cook for HB.

Anonymous said...

Oh-and no, Spumco wasn't involved with it.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny: One reason the cartoon had so many animation opportunities is that it was written with that in mind. Most modern stories are too complex to support virtuoso animation.

Clinton: I'd like to do other animators in the future when I learn how to do my own frame grabs. In the meantime I'd like to do at least one more Scribner if I can prevail on Kali again.

Russell: Good point!

Mariana: Gotlib's a really good artist but his drawings lack appeal. It pains me to see someone with his skill have to struggle with this.

Brubaker, Anon: I did one board for 2 Stupid Dogs. I didn't know other Spumco people worked on it too.

Hammerson: Ink and brush! Amazing!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jorge: Good analysis and I totally agree. Perkins wins for all the reasons you mentioned!

Looney Moon Cartoons said...

I commented on an earlier post that microexpressions were likely too subtle to animate. Man, did you prove me wrong. I always learn something from your great theories.

Ray said...

Eddie, this posting is dynamite - and a public service. Thank you!

ryan hughes said...

I always look foward to you're blogs! They are always refreshing and educational! They are a big help!But when and why did you start in anamation?

Jorge Garrido said...

Looking back, this is still the best analysis of a cartoon I've ever read.

Rabsmith said...

I worked as an inbetweener in feature animation, and I absolutely loathed it. Compared to knocking out original roughs, it was more like cold maths.

Others in the studio never seemed to mind inbetweening, but there was no evidence they could come up with good originals.......a cartoonist with a strong personal style is probably going to wind up frustrated relegated to inbetweening.