Tuesday, August 05, 2008

WHICH HAS THE BETTER BACKGROUND STYLING?

I can't stand the backgrounds in most 3D animated comedies. They're too realistic and "airbrushy"...but maybe I'm just hard to please. I'd be curious to see what Theory Corner readers think. Which do you prefer: the background styling in Kung-Fu Panda (above)....


...Wall-E (above)....


...and Horton....


...or the Viewmaster background styling (above and below) from 1961? Come to think of it, which character styling do you prefer? Which conveys the most warmth? The most humor? The most "good-time" feel?







All these pictures stolen with gratitude from Bob Logan's blog.

86 comments:

Rafi animates said...

Easily the viewmaster images. characters and backgrounds.

in fact, looking at those images makes me want to go and make a stop-mo cartoon with that look.

oddly, the stills form the films don't inspire me at all.

Michael Sporn said...

You can't beat the character styling from the viewmaster films. Horton has the best BG styling and even the characters are best of the animated lot. Unfortunately, none of them are as good as they could be in 2D.

Sorry, I'm stuck on flat.

Kris said...

Well, the Viewmaster stuff is definitely the most fun.

In all the scenes the backgrounds work well with the characters. I can't imagine a Viewmaster-type background working with CG characters (unless they were styled to look like Viewmaster modeled characters).

Wall-E actually worked with the hyper-realistic backgrounds used while he was on Earth. Made it look like very sophisticated stop-motion/model FX instead of CG.

Anonymous said...

You're comparing Viewmasters to CG?

I get what you're driving for, but seeing the blue sky and pink papier-mache rocks in the Quick Draw pictures doesn't immediately say "good time feeling", it's the cuteness of puppet versions of Q-D. Apples & oranges.

The BGs in "WALL-E" were very "realistic"; those in "Panda" were anything but realistic(they were the most painterly and impressionistic done so far for a CG film in fact). Did you see both films incidentally? Your thoughts on those would be interesting. I'd guess you didn't much care for either of them?

oppo said...
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oppo said...
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rgr. thornhill said...

I'm with Mike Sporn. The viewmasters actually look like a human being did it.

CGI = slick and soulless.

Nick said...

A Jim Reardon written and directed PIXAR film would be interesting. After all, this is the same man who gave us "Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown", "Don't Touch That Dial!" and "Elwee and the Tree Weasels".

As for the topic at hand, I do think it is a little unfair to compare the Viewmaster stuff with the CGI films. For one thing its a completely different medium and done for a different purpose. I won't deny that it is the most aesthetically pleasing though. Out of the three CG films presented, Kung-Fu Panda probably has the best character designs, but Wall-E was the better film overall, and given it's subject matter, didn't really call for the visuals to be "good time".

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Oppo: Andy Stanton, Jim Rearden, and Pete Doctor are all terrific people. I imagine if they were reading this they'd say, "Hey, we like the Viewmasters, too, but you need the right story to make graphics like that work!"

Of course the right story would be comedy, but the management of big studios are reluctant to commit to comedies. The feeling is that comedy only works in shorts and that it's less likely to create lovable, marketable characters. I disagree but I'll save that disagreement for a post that makes its argument with 3D examples.

Jorge Garrido said...

What really pisses me off about this is that CG is so realistic that they could make it look like fake cheap paper mache scael models on purpose, and it'd look exactly like an old 1960s viewmaster set, or a 1930s Popeye set!

Someone should make a cartoon with CGI sets designed to look fake and scale model and old on purpose. They'd save time and money and have the best background styling on TV!

Anonymous said...

The Viewmaster stuff resonates the best and not because it's old and cost thirty-seven cents to produce. There's something about art not done by committees with over a hundred million bucks on the line. Whatever gives it genuine life gets factored out in such a process. Oh, and all executives on earth need to be gassed.

Rudy Tenebre said...

The viewmaster stuff, which is composed of minatures--actually in three dimensions, doubtless should be the aim of these sorts of films...

out of curiousity do you prefer glaze painting, (Leonardo, Raphael) or impasto (Delacroix, Van Gogh)... or Parrish vs. Saunders, (if the above examples too high-brow)

Airbrushing is surely the bastard heir to the glazes of the old masters, tho' it is lurid. But I like sleaze...

pappy d said...

A good BG needs to look as though there's something incomplete in the composition without the characters. I get the feeling I could hang the BG's from Panda & Horton on the wall & they'd work all by themselves.

When BG's get too cluttered or have other composition problems, there's a tendency in CG to put them out of focus to force you to look at the character.

Oswald Iten said...

Of course, if you compare them like this, the viewmaster pics have to standout. But I also like most of the Horton characters as well as about half the background styling. Still the playdoh-colors were a bit too bright, and sometimes the jungle looked simply uninspiring.

As someone said before: We're comparing animation backgrounds here, not illustrations, so I'd go with the first half of Wall-E, since these settings suited the characters best. Kung-Fu Panda certainly had the best Dreamworks backgrounds so far, but they were over the top like the film itself. I remember scenes where the characters had to compete for attention with what is supposed to be a backdrop.

about comedy: I feel always puzzled how big studios try to frantically pile up old jokes and prat falls to plaster preposterous stories. How much can a writer (or writing comittee) believe in the appeal/sincerity of their creation, if they believe they have to rely on "target audience jokes" to hold our attention?
As much as I like serious subject matter (grave of the fireflies), I'd rather see a real animated comedy (Wilder/Capra-style) instead of a upgraded children's books with unrelated gags on top.

rgr. thornhill said...

Those viewmasters probably cost about twenty bucks to make, and they still have more humanity than any billion-dollar Pixar or Dreamworks film. So it's actually to the CGI features' disadvantage to be compared to viewmasters.

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

The viewmasters have the best everything. Layout is one. That panda thing was obviously worked up as seperate cool poses for back-to-school stickers, and pasted together in front of some crap, not much different than Scooby-Doo, just more stylish. They wash out the BG in the center to disguise the fact that it has zero layout value, as they were too lazy to properly integrate everything in a genuinely interesting way in order to enhance a product designed with a 20-minute life cycle.

When I was 8 I would've wanted to live in those viewmasters.

Mr. Trombley said...

Dear Sir, Looking just at the backgrounds I really can't see that much difference in any of them. The first Viewmaster photo is just your basic hold-up on the way to Kirk's Rock. The others look nicer, but are certainly nothing to write home about.

I just don't see what it is view-master backgrounds everyone else is talking about. I mean the colors and textures are the same as the Wall-E ones, just under a different light. Maybe it's the cheap toy charm.

The best background out of the selected would probably be the second viewmaster, but it isn't a quantum leap beyond the others. I guess the Horton picture is the best of the CG stuff, but the picture is so tiny it is hard to be sure.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Trevor: I had to delete two of your comments, not because of the points you were making, but because they were full of really personal insults.

pappy d said...

No comparison. The features are just computer graphics whereas the Viewmaster is 3D!

trevor:

Maybe you're just in a bad mood.

Having the name 'Goldberg' doesn't make you an executive. He's a truly great animator (Genie in Aladdin), a thoughtful director & a mensch-ethical guy.

When Roger Rabbit was made, there was only one feature studio in this town & they were toiling on Oliver & Co. For one thing, animator salaries have gone 'way up since DreamWorks offered Disney some competition. You're quite right that money doesn't equal quality & it can't buy happiness, but just try to get either one without it!

John Lasseter is an actual human being too. He's a vast improvement on the Harvard-MBA generic manager who used to run features at Disney.

trevor said...

I'm sorry if I offended you, or someone you care for, Eddie. You should know it was never my intention to hurt your feelings or insult you. You're one of my personal heroes.

It just really frustrates me when people who I really used to admire turn on me, or do something that I feel uncharacteristic or hurtful to the craft or something I love, like Roger Rabbit for example.

I'm a little too passionate and sometimes the censor in my brain goes to sleep.

Please accept my apologies. I don't want to be known in your mind as the overzealous loudmouth. There's enough of those out there that I don't need to contribute to the stereotype.

Humbly yours,

- trevor.

Phantom Spitter said...

My God, it's no contest! The Viewmaster backgrounds are infinately superior to the crappy "3D" backgrounds. The Viewmaster character designs are better, too.

Jorge Garrido said...

Fear not, Eddie and Trevor. Due to personal insults and my general mysanthropy, 20% of the comments I make on CartoonBrew.com are not posted, especially if it's one of Amid's posts.

That's right, folks, when I comment on CartoonBrew, a good 1 out of 5 are not posted. Someday I'm going to compile these "Lost Comments" into a hardcover book. Eddie, I'd be honoured if you would write the foreword. It was between you and Stephen King, but nobody hires Stephen King anymore, he's too busy.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Trevor: No problemo!

Jorge; Exactly! You can make backgrounds that look a little fake, like Viewmaster did!

Pseudonym said...

This is a personal opinion, obviously, but I think that Aardman backgrounds do stand up to the 1960s backgrounds.

Anonymous said...

"Of course the right story would be comedy, but the management of big studios are reluctant to commit to comedies."

So...Kung Fu Panda was a drama? Come on.

Dreamworks makes comedies. They aren't the comedies you would make and a lot of your readers go on and on about how much they think they suck, but they still make comedies.

Audiences don't go repeatedly to see Dreamworks films because they were itching for dramas-they go because they laugh a lot, and enjoyed them.

They've also been successful enough to employ a lot of talented people including Jim Smith(who did story on "Monsters Vs. Aliens"), Lynne Naylor and Chris Reccardi. Among others you know.

Aaron said...

What about Presto, Eddie?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: Holy cow! I've given offense where none was intended! It's true that I passionately believe in a more cartoony style of comedy that hasn't been attempted in features yet, but that doesn't mean everybody who has different taste than my own is a bum. I can see where what I said can be interpreted that way, but it's not what I meant.

I'm as guilty as anyone else for slinging mud at people who disagree with me, but recently I had a change of mind. I don't know what provoked it, but it seems to me now that the way to argue these things is to put your cards on the table and give concrete examples of what you think should be done and why. That shows respect for the other person and makes for a more interesting conversation.

I was really glad to have Bob Logan's Viewmasters because a picture is worth a thousand words. That's an undeniably appealing style, which makes a powerful argument all by itself. I wish in the past I'd argued that way more often.

It occurs to me now that the people I disagree with often haven't seen the pictures that make me feel the way I do. That's changing because of sites like John K's and the ASIFA-Hollywood archive, just to name two. Now lots of people know about Milt Gross and Fearless Fostick and all that stuff, and a real (and fun) discussion about the future of animation is possible.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Aaron: I'm embarrassed to ask: who is Presto?

mom v many said...

Well, I'm not a cartoonist just a long time lover of the art. I grew up with viewmaster so I wouldn't pass on it. My kids, as well as their friends LOVED Wall-e.
The better the story, the more they allowed themselves to enjoy the animation.
I've seen how this also works with Anime. I'm not particularly fond of this style but the kids are very supportive of it. I really do believe it has something to do with the story.
CG is nice but I would love to see them 3D veiwmaster style!

Rudy Tenebre said...

Riveting and animated-hah- discussion, Mr. Fitz. But don't be too equaniminous, everyone who disagrees with you is a goddam bum!

The Viewmaster images economy of composition, the light, the goddam intentionality, just seems so much clearer, innocent, and not out to dazzle, but to inspire wonder. Happy you and your cohorts can make a lifetime of your craft. Perhaps there's a "Don't Touch that Dial" satire waiting for pixar, et al. Surely the Jims and Lynnes have their wings clipped, or mebbie they've resigned with that great calm of ageing...

Adam T said...

One thing that I think is being overlooked is the fact that those viewmaster images are static. It's easier to compose characters and backgrounds into a harmonious whole when the characters don't move. It would be impossible and probably undesirable to have every frame of an animated feature be as tightly composed.

Another thing that I did notice is that I was more drawn to the viewmaster reels for a really subtle reason. You can tell the budget for making them was small but it doesn't detract from the entertainment value. When I see Kung-Fu Panda I see some entertainment but I also see a lot of bloat and waste. I can sense the presence of marketers, business administrators, entertainment consultants, and IT guys. Kung-Fu Panda is not a vacation from reality for adults as it is for little kids. It's a reminder of a reality not every adult likes. A reality that is sometimes unnecessarily complex. Where the QuickDraw viewmaster reels have the 'kinder simpler time' nostalgia pixie dust sprinkled all over them.

diego cumplido said...

Presto's is that Magicians and Rabbits short film that appeared just before WALL-E.... (I haven't seen it)... "You can make backgrounds that look a little fake" That's the clue!! an intent to replicate the puppetry graphics instead of realism (in general)...that's the problem with all the big studios shit they do now, ...all the stuff has to be BIG and FANCY, they prepare their movies as if they're going to war (insecurity issues).

Anonymous said...

"Presto" is available for download on Itunes for about a buck. It's worth a look. It's what Tex Avery might have done with all the money in the national treasury.

MostEmailedNews.com said...

Viewmaster without a doubt...


- T

www.MostEmailedNews.com

talkingtj said...

i cant believe how beautiful the viewmaster backgrounds are! if they were capable of such beauty and detail back in 61 , why do we need computer animation today? were those rankin/bass type puppets they used?

troy j. said...

i cant believe how beautiful the view master backgrounds are, certainly more warm and human than the computer animated stuff, if that was the quality of work being done back in 61, then why is the current stuff so uninspired? we dont need computer animation, we need inspiration and quality.were hose rankin/bass type puppets they used?

cwyatt said...

The clips you selected from Kung Fu Panda and Wall E were not the best.

CG and stop motion are totally different mediums and I love and have worked on both.
There were gorgeous BGs in Kung Fu Panda that gave the right feel for the characters and action.Wall E was well done but soooo drab that I was depressed throughout the whole film. Beautiful animation, direction, and script, but I wanted to spruce up the BGs on Earth and tone down the space BGs.
Did anyone see the opening titles for Kung Fu Panda?? Why can't we have more gorgeous features styled like that?? Then I would never be out of work!

Viewmasters are beautiful. And all stop motion is amazing and feels so different from traditional animation. I miss the Penny cartoons.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Cwyatt: I used Google Images to get the pictures, with the intention of using the most beautiful backgrounds I could get for each film. What you saw was the best Google came up with, though it occurred to me later that I'd have done better if the search had been more specific.

Anonymous said...

Not offended at all.
I guess instead of the sentence you actually wrote: "the management of big studios are reluctant to commit to comedies", you meant that they're reluctant to commit to the kind of "more cartoony style of comedy" that you would like to see. But that's not what you wrote.
Is there only room for one kind of comedy? I would bet even you don't think so. But maybe you do think the films are so not what you'd like that they don't qualify as "comedies". Just trying to understand and respond to what you're writing here.

Honestly? These particular Viewmaster background sets are far from the best examples of this technique-they're okay but not all that incredibly feel-good-not by themselves. It's the characters that are the reason-the fact that these are flat H-B characters formed in 3 dimensions, well-sculpted in good poses.
But that is not animation nor is it a film, nor is it fair to compare a dozen Viewmaster setups to WALL-E or Panda or any film. Features are complicated to pull off. They have to be to sustain interest for over a solid hour. Did Bob Clampett ever have interest in doing a feature? I doubt it. it wasn't his thing.

Joan said...

I am a viewmater collector and I remember staring into those things for hours wondering how they got the backgrounds like they did and that was 50 years ago. I totally
felt so wonderful looking at them. However, I love all the pixar films and their backgrounds too, especially Monsters. Inc and Nemo. Art is in the eye of the beholder I guess and think they all have their merits.

Joan

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

It would be impossible and probably undesirable to have every frame of an animated feature be as tightly composed.

The panda thing is an obvious publicity still but even thought it's rendered in 3D it has no depth! It has no composition.

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

Features are complicated to pull off. They have to be to sustain interest for over a solid hour.

That may be their excuse for tossing in some heart-tugging slop,and boring me most of the time, but I don't buy it.

Clampett coulda made a good feature. He would've done it by breaking all the rules, and by inventing new ones, not by regurgitating the old rules again and again.

Nick said...

I've just noticed something else about those viewmasters images. Quick Draw McGraw is riding a horse drawn cart, when he himself is a horse! The wonders of cartoon animals.

Adam T said...

The panda thing is an obvious publicity still but even thought it's rendered in 3D it has no depth! It has no composition.

I agree it has no depth, but I disagree about it having no composition. Take a closer look at the placement of the buildings. The monkey on the left's bicep curl basically frames the roof of the left most building. The building in the center's tip bisects the image in half. That center line passes through the panda's left ear, eye, nose, and foot. There's also two lines that radiate from the panda's left foot at 45 degrees. The one heading to the left passes through the panda's right foot, the snakes head and the monkey's fist. The one heading right passes through the red panda's tiny fist, and the leopard's fist. So the basic composition is a V with a vertical line passing down the middle.

It looks really fake though. Especially with the characters looking directly at you. It's trying too hard and ends up looking contrived.

The view master images are composed but there is less distinction between the foreground and background which makes the tight composition of those images more genuine or believable in some way.

But I stand by what I said earlier for the other two. The Horton Hears a Who and Wall-E shots are definite screen grabs and it isn't fair to compare them with the QuickDraw view master reels.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: A terrific comment, which goes to the heart of this issue! It deserves a better answer than I can give it here. I promise to give it a whole post in a few days!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Otto: Wow! A nice comment about poetry! What was the date or the subject of the entry you were commenting on? I'll have to delay an answer, but I'll be thinking about it!

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

but I disagree about it having no composition.

Would you agree that it has poorly integrated composition? Would you surmise that the background was arrived at seperately from the characters who were arrived at without any thought of interaction, and then put together and positioned in the least objectionable way, rather than skillfully assembled as a whole, from the ground up? That's what I think. It's boring.

oppo said...
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trevor said...

I agree with i.d.r.c..

There's gotta be something said for the fact that safe means the same thing done over and over again. It doesn't mean you can't sustain over an hour with nothing but gags... it just means it hasn't been done well yet. Nor is it common.

The Pythons ran into this problem, thinking they couldn't do a sketch film longer than forty minutes. But look at The Meaning of Life.

- trevor.

Anonymous said...

"Clampett coulda made a good feature. He would've done it by breaking all the rules, and by inventing new ones, not by regurgitating the old rules again and again."

Coulda woulda shoulda.

Clampett was a genius. He could have done most anything. He didn't. I doubt he'd have cared to do a cartoon feature, though. He would have been great doing a liveaction film a la Tashlin.

Phantom Spitter said...

Eddie, when the heck are you gonna bring back the smoker?? And what about the Bob Clampett stories and Peter Pan part 3, and blah blah blah yaddee yaddee yadda? Huh? When?

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

I doubt he'd have cared to do a cartoon feature, though.

Outside of Disney there was no cartoon feature business. How can you conclude he wouldn't have wanted to?

If Schlesinger had committed to a feature, you think he would have said "No, give it to Friz?"

Anonymous said...

"Outside of Disney there was no cartoon feature business."

Wrong.

Anyway, I think Clampett exploited and enjoyed the exact perameters of the seven minute cartoon.
I arrive at that because of the way his seven minute cartoons are done. Because of how he excelled at them and the style of his direction and his particular tastes. I don't think that style lends itself to a sustained 79 minute narrative feature film, and I dare to write that Bob was experienced and smart enough to think that too. He knew what he was doing.

Besides, as far as I know he never once said he'd like to do a feature, unlike Chuck Jones, for instance. Which isn't important. Feature animation isn't everyone's holy grail nor should it be.

Features and shorts are apples and klaxon horns. They are very different animals.

Jorge Garrido said...

The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive has the greatest lesson in composition in the history of western art, from the Famous Artists Course, on its website. The author(s) lists four basic elements of composition: picture area, depth, line, and value. I could write a whole blog post on how that Panda picture doesn't utilize any of these elements well, but the one that most strikes me is the lack of depth.

Ths picture has none. The background is completely meaningless. The characters exist in a 2D plane, on the same level, as if they all jumped towards us at the same time, at the same speed. It might as well be a white background. They could have used depth by making some characters closer to us than the others. But according to the book, this composition is "a poor use of three dimensional space. All three figures [are placed] on the same line and the effect is one of flatness rather than depth." It also says such composition is "flat and uninteresting."

This kind of amateurish promotional image would have gotten people fired in the 60s. This is the way 14 year olds draw. It's a terrible way to sell the film. I'm gonna go watch Mad Men.

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

Besides, as far as I know he never once said he'd like to do a feature,

You claim to divine that he wouldn't have wanted to. He may have never thought about it. I think if faced with the challenge he would have adjusted his art as necessary and tried his best to wow the audience, whether he succeeded or failed.

If he were coming up right now, would he say, "They are only making features --I guess I'm screwed. It's not my thing?"

Outside of Disney there was LITTLE feature business. Is that better?

trevor said...

If Schlesinger had committed to a feature, you think he would have said "No, give it to Friz?"

Something tells me that in those days, Leon, in that unlikely situation, would've given a feature to either Tashlin or Jones. Tash because he was already aspiring to be a director, Jones because he was trying to emulate the king of the features, Disney.

But, my favorite Leon quote of all time has to do with this subject: "I need an animated feature like I need a second asshole".

- trevor.

Andreas said...

I'd love to see a comedy that doesn't make use of pop culture references, scatological humor, fart jokes, and the like.

The backgrounds? I always loved the old viewmaster images. I haven't seen any of those films yet, so I can't really judge. I like backgrounds that support the composition, keep you in the frame and don't detract from the action and acting. Realistic, impressionistic, obvious fake, it doesn't matter to me, as long as it doesn't take me out of the moment and bring me crashing back to reality.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ!

The Panda image is a PROMOTIONAL image! It's NOT A FRAME from the film!

It's a LOUSY example to prove a point--a straw man.

These things generally aren't put together by the animators you know. And by the way--animation moves It's not static.
Sheesh.
Sorry but some people *JORGE* just drive a guy nuts. By the way Jorge, I guess you've never seen the "promotional images" of anything before--like Disney circa 1960-1987. They're terrible. Again, they came from other than the animation dept.

Anonymous said...

Great topic Eddie. Looking at the viewmaster I couldn't help think about Nighmare Before Christmas where the still frames still captivate me and draw my eyes in like magnets. I really like the designs and subject matter, but there's just something about the way light bounces off an object in physical reality that makes me believe it. When I see Shrek in the same lighting whether he's in a forest, castle square or grassy plain -- I just have a harder time believing it.

I've noticed of late is that many of the CG comedies are lit high key, so they don't have a great variation in depth -- everything is very even. There tends to be more variation in color than in light, so the sense of composition \ depth is diminished, at least to my eyes. That viewmaster shot looks like it has great depth.

Lastly, the fact that we're comparing still frames to a stage photo really made me question the strength of the argument... then I remember the (cinema) photography of Citizen Kane where every still frame looks like a painting I want to own.

Great seeing you and Mike F. the other day. Hope to see ya again soon.
Henry

Anonymous said...

"Outside of Disney there was LITTLE feature business. Is that better?"

Hell yes.

Jorge Garrido said...

anonymous: What straw man? I have seen those promotional images, and they still have better composition than the flat Panda image. Proof

rgr. thornhill said...

I know it's against what's in fashion, but if we're talking about WHO would have been put in charge of a Warner animated feature, it'd have been Freleng because of his seniority. (And all of those Warner feature projects were given to his unit.)

Who would have made a better feature is nice food for thought for one with no life, seeing as there is nothing to base an opinion on, except for features long after the fact. Besides, aren't the shorts that exist enough?

Jason Anders said...

Hi Eddie!

I love those Viewmaster images! I just started learning Maya in school, and it's all about sucking the fun right out of the backgrounds. Those Quickdraw images should be posted in every Maya classroom!

Rudy Tenebre said...

Seems to me the question at hand concerns the direction left to production design and character design, not necessarily these frame-ups literally, but the qualities they bear. They are points of reference--the qualities of the stills could very easily, it would seem, be translated into animation. Your director says "like this, not like this..." Eddie seems to prefer the sharp textures, direct lighting, and his old antiquarian prejudice for the simplicity of the HB characters, (yep!). As oppsed to the fogged out backgrounds, and perhaps overly complex character design and surface textures of the CG guys. So the conversation spins away into digression. What the hell did Tashlin direct in terms of features? Remember, this live-action bug which gnaws at animation directors is their downfall...lookit Bakshi, from rotoscope to oblivion!!

Dirtyoldtoon said...

It's just my opinion, but I don't see the View Master stuff as being all that interesting. I read too many comments about how great 60's kitch is and I get the feeling that nobody in the animation industry thinks anything done since 1965 is worth a damn. I mean they're cute little puppets and all, but it's time to move on.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Rudy: I'm not a fan of the H&B cartoons, but I love the designs, toys, books, cereal boxes, Viewmasters, etc, that came out of that studio. I also like the theme music and intros...just about everything but the cartoons themselves.

Pixar should do a five or six minute short short using the Viewmaster-type look just to see how it translates into film. Get a cartoony cartoonist like John K to direct it, so that the project also reflects an experiment in new kinds of cartoon posing and acting for 3D.

Or, a less expensive approach...Yikes! This could turn out to be a long discussion! Let me save this thought for a whole post devoted to the subject.

I wonder what background and animation experiments Pixar has already done that the public hasn't seen.

Anonymous said...

"Pixar should do a five or six minute short short using the Viewmaster-type look just to see how it translates into film. Get a cartoony cartoonist like John K to direct it, so that the project also reflects an experiment in new kinds of cartoon posing and acting for 3D."

But thats exactly what Pixar is actually doing right now.

See "Presto" before you decide that it just has to be John who would do such a project. Not that your opinion would change one bit, but you should still try to see it. It's all over the internet.

Have you seen Wall-e or Kung Fu Panda by the way?

Anonymous said...

"What the hell did Tashlin direct in terms of features?"

WTF?
You're kidding, right? He directed huge hits, hilarious comedies that are still funny today. "Son Of Paleface", "The Girl Can't Help It" and "Rock Hunter" are classics. He was far more successful in a worldly sense for his live action than his few animated shorts.


"Remember, this live-action bug which gnaws at animation directors is their downfall...lookit Bakshi, from rotoscope to oblivion!!"

Oh, nonsense. "Oblivion"? His name has never been forgotten. There are other, less palatable reasons he wasn't still making films. Mainly it's that no one went to see them. Because his last ones weren't any good.
But he STILL got "Cool World" to direct long after his roto obsession(which was all about budgets anyway, not an artistic decision). That had little roto. It wasn't good at all. That's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Clampett did attempt a feature back in the 1950s, capitalizing on the success of Beany and Cecil.

On the Beany DVD, they show a few tests from (what they claim was meant to be) a 3-D color B&C feature. All the puppet characters were oversized for big screen viewing, and Capt Huffinpuff was played by an actor with an oversized mask. The results look like a primative Sid and Marty Kroft show. Needless to say the movie was never made, for whatever reason, lack of funding maybe, or maybe the project was just too big to continue on such a large scale. I don't know anything about the actual storyline or what studio might have produced it, I just know that it was never made.

Ryan G. said...

I have to say, Ive seen all 3 films and Kung Fu Panda stood out to be better stylistically than Horton. Horton was good too..The 2d in horton was horrible though..Ruined it for me.

WallE was realistic but what I liked was the shaky hand held camera they used.

The viewfinder ones are great but hard to compare to CG.

Anonymous said...

H-B used to put their most skilled animators and directors on their main titles and their still graphics went through lots of vetting. Longtime H-B graphics head Iraj Paran is still alive and you need to ask him to comment on that process. H-B was very picky about some things, but there was just too much footage to crap out when it came to every single frame of their numerous shows. DIC took this approach and polished it to a dull brown. They spent 90% of their money on main titles, leaving their show content to suck the proverbial lead pipe.

Bush said...

although I am a outspoken supporter of both air and brushes, I may have to agree (note: sign of weakness) with your assertion about the old fashioned backgrounds. They do give the shot a level of stylistic consistency. On the flip side, the airbrushed look makes near-sighted viewers feel more comfortable. So, I'm on the fence (fortunately it is a soft, airbrushed fence and is therefore not too painful).

Ryan G. said...

Oh by the way, did anyone see Pixar's short with the magician before WallE? It had classic Warner Bros written all over it.

Rudy Tenebre said...

anon.- It's my humble discretion to lose all interest in Bakshi's output past Wizards, (and I'm very devoted to the films for which he will be remembered, and am sensitive to the narrow socio-political situation which would tolerate Traffic and Coonskin--which I dub to be great works of art). Obviously if I invoke the man's name he hasn't been wiped from memory, (just got a retrospective, no?)
As for Tashlin's live-action 'hits', seems only a nuanced cinephile, as you no doubt are, would consider these, if not iconic works, then household names...?

Anonymous said...

Tashlin's live action comedies, with a few exceptions, have sadly not aged well. Just try watching "The Glass Bottom Boat" or "Son of Paleface" in 2008. And they were side-splitting in their day.

cwyatt said...

Yay!!!! I feel like I'm back at work again! I love this conversation.

What's next Eddie?

How about Women in animation??
I can hear the grunts now.

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

PRESTO

Jenny said...

"
What's next Eddie?
How about Women in animation??
I can hear the grunts now."


What does that even mean?

buzz said...

78 posts and nobody's mentioned the Fliescher's use of 3-D models behind flat animation cels...

There's a certain charm to the Viewmaster reels because they quite clearly are NOT animated but single pose sculptures. They possess a toy-like feel to them; the backgrounds were simple because they wanted the characters to pop out against them; the backgrounds were not an intregal part of the story as they were in WALL-E since Wall-E interacted with his environment far more than the Quickdraw/Babalooie models do.

What CGI has done has to make it economically feasible to do as many mediocre animated films as it was to do live action ones. Think about it; prior to CGI most animated films were either really good in terms of design or they were really awful but almost nothing in between. Now CGI has reduced their expense to the point that even mediocre product stands a good chance of making a return on the investment.

As a result, too many film makers can take the safe middle road approach; spending just enough to look passable while not having to invest a significant effort into making it look good, while conversely having enough that they don't have to come up with ingenious solutions to lack of budget.

pappy d said...

"What does that even mean?"

It's the marriage of 2 fine obsessions.

Oddity said...

I haven't seen Wall-e yet and I'm not really dying to do it, but I've seen Presto now and there are quite a few positive things in it, although a big portion of time I was thinking about the missed opportunities.

On the bright side I like the rabbit's fur and texture - very toylike and cute. The backgrounds didn't bother me much to be frank. The colors might be a bit dark. They had musical timing which is very good.

They dared not to make cartoon focus on anything but the magician and the rabbit which was a very smart thing to do since everything else would have been redurant.

And I really like the premise - the magical ability of these hats has potential for a creative entertainment - it's not the usual pattern stuff or just an excuse for one sole gag.

The thing that struck me as a wasted opportunity were the uninspired musical timing and pacing. The music was just generic "wacky" cartoon music. It's like they used music as a sound effect and it doesn't feel like music at all. It really hurt the cartoon for me.

The finale too didn't felt like one. It didn't have a sense of culmination. The scenes where the magician gets pulled up to the roof and down and all the other crazy stuff felt too mechanical. I kept thinking about the scene in "The Tale of Two Kitties" John broke down a while ago and how it could have been better.

It was a pleasent suprise nevertheless.

I would love if you did more well-intended commentry on animation bits - like the one with Iron Giant.

Vince M. said...

I.m crazy about the look of the Viewmaster slides. always have been. There's a charm about them that I can't describe. Maybe it's the fact that they were sculpted and designed specifically for these little reels that brings so much life to them.

Does anyone know who the creative people were behind these creations? Did the same team produce all of them? What was the approval process with HB, Disney, etc... Do any of these figurines still exist. You'd think someone would have created a 'making of' or 'art of' book dedicated to these beautiful little wonders of storytelling.
But you're comparing apples to oranges, stacking these up against CG films. And you know you are, you cheeky monkey. Don't you?

On an unrelated note: Is there anywhere I can go on the web to see YOUR artwork, Eddie? I like the articles you write and the Fumetti, but I'd like to see more examples of your work; sketches, finishes. etc...
Please let me know.

Love this blog.

Noel Grassy said...

The Viewmaster BG's have the love.

My question is how does one extract the Viewmaster image and convert it to digital format?

That is all,

NG

kurtwil said...

Another fascinating blog (glad JK offered the link!).

Noel, I worked on such a project. If the original setups of viewmaster artwork are available, 2 images could be taken with a digital camera and then composited as a stereo image.
If only the flat image is available, it gets ugly (roto objects to make plates, partial rebuilding of obscured plates, arranging plates in a 3D environment or CGI Compositing.

As for Eddie's question: IMHO the Viewmasters work better as a still entity because everything was designed as sort of a 3D comic book and something the eye is intended to linger on.
For the 3D films shown, they seem to emphasize foreground character(s). Our CROCADOO animation productions did the same - we moved the audience along by story and character acting, and the BG's relegated to supporting roles, though there were exceptional exceptions every so often.

Jay Johnson said...

You miss where all the current trend of marketing goes. The negative space in the Kung Fu Panda image spells sex.