Sunday, October 12, 2008

NITPICKING ABOUT GOOFY



I only had a chance to see the new Goofy short, "How to Hook up your Home Theater," once before Disney made YouTube take it down, so here's a review based on a first impression. The review: "It's great! Go see it! It's a credit to everybody who worked on it!" And that really is my opinion. This is a big, big event for Disney. I was deliriously happy to see that they still have the muscle to do funny, full animation shorts in the Jack Kinney style. Let's hope the studio treats these animators real nice, and continues to put them on challenging, funny projects.




My longer review, intended only for other artists who are sympathetic with the film, is a little more critical. Take what I say here with a big grain of salt. I'm comparing this film to an imaginary version made with unlimited time and money, in a dream studio surrounded by fields of unicorns and griffins.

OK then, a couple of technical things to start: The character outlines might have been thicker, maybe imitating the thick and thin you get from ink lines. Also, the pacing was too fast. The gags were all great so maybe the crew couldn't bring themselves to cut any of them, but it would have been nice to linger over some of the terrific animation.



Still nitpicking, I'll mention that the cartooning in the new film might have been stronger. Here's (above) a detail by John Sibley from an one of the old, vintage Goofies (Goofys?). Wow! The drawing has so much life and energy! I miss that in the new film. To be fair I'll add that Sibley was a cartoonist of rare ability, even compared to his buddies in the forties.

In most ways the new cartoon is solidly Jack Kinney, but there's an occasional Reitherman influence. Reitherman was a good animator but a poor director and he didn't understand Goofy. Kinney's Goofy is not, and never was, a lanky, good-natured, enthusiastic bungler, as Reitherman believed. No character worth his salt reduces down to something as simple as that.

Kinney's Goofy was first and foremost a vehicle for creative, imaginative, full animation. He was conceived to make us aware of how funny a walk can be, or how funny it is that we have hands that can pick things up, and faces that can make expressions. In some respects the character was a blank slate made to absorb the personalities of the funniest people who worked on him. He was a vehicle through which the audience could appreciate their own good natures, their own bodies, and the weirdness of world around them. He was all that first...then, and only then, was he Reitherman's lanky bungler.





The colors in the interior of the house might have been a little darker and more contrasty. Compare the background in the new cartoon where Goofy sits in his easy chair (way up above, second from the top), to this vintage background (above). The old BG immediately above is darker. Even the 40s Goofies (Goofys?) used light colors sometimes, but my favorite Goofy backgrounds were slightly ominous, as if he was living in Hell.

When you think about it, that's exactly where the Kinney character was living. His was a stylized world where everybody mysteriously looked like him, neighbors hated each other, and nothing ever worked. We admired his heroism, because Goofy somehow managed to be happy in this bizarre world. I loved the new cartoon but I'd have loved it even more if it had a greater awareness of...this thing.



Here's (above) a well-done scene...









...well-done, but maybe it still needs something.You can't fault the staging. This (the four drawings above) is a really nice reveal. The problem is that it needs a topper.




I wish I could see the film again. I can't remember what Goofy did with the remotes. The thing I want to gripe about here is that I should have remembered it. What Goofy did should have been so memorable that I couldn't have forgotten it even if I'd tried. Goofy is a star and stars require star scenes. That sounds like a lot to ask for, but the best moments in the best films manage to pull it off. What we do in Hollywood isn't supposed to be easy.

So, to sum up, my criticism of the film is that it was paced too fast and didn't play sufficiently to subtext. It straightforwardly set out to what the title promised, which in my opinion is always a mistake. Films that do that risk being too predictable.

Does any of this matter? Not really. The film was still great, and definitely fun to watch. It was packed with the kind of gags that look good in animation. There were so many possible pitfalls and the film managed to avoid 99% of them, which is amazing for a crew that's not accustomed to working with the character. Disney should make more Goofies with this crew and consult them about the other projects in the studio, which would benefit from the input of these people.


43 comments:

Rossco said...

Hi Eddie.

I'm very excited that Disney have produced a new Goofy cartoon. I haven't seen it yet, and I'm not sure where I can. Where was it played originally? I'm assuming it was before a Disney feature, but it had no Australian release as far as I know, so I eagerly await a DVD release. Which leads me to my question.. as most here I am excited by the possibilities of a traditional theatrical short comeback (even if only from Disney), but what place, in terms of distribution, would they have in these times? Assuming, of course, they wish to make money off them. Do you think that in future this could lead to other animation studios opening divisions for shorts? Or do you think is this just a dream idea somewhere sitting alongside your friendly griffons?

Bitter Animator said...

I loved it. Yeah, I could tear it open and probably find loads to dislike but, given what I was expecting (and, if I remember correctly, you weren't all that enthusiastic about it initially either), this was far better than I would have thought possible given the current state of animation.

I loved it. Kudos to everyone involved.

DJ said...

then please draw for us uncle eddie!

i miss seeing your drawings, even the basic scribbles are fun to look at!

DJ

Michael Sporn said...

I wish I could say I liked the film. I think the animators did a good job with it, though they might have had more fun. The problem for me is that it's a Goofy cartoon.

This character, for me, has been so overdone and poorly done so often that it's a limp shadow of the character that originally appeared in many of the geat shorts of the 30's. (Think of Goofy in Clock Cleaners or Moving Day or Lonesome Ghosts. Then think of this one.

The new animators chose the vapid character of the 50's to impersonate. Aim for mediocrity, and you might succeed.

Of course, it's better than most of what's done today, but that's not good enough for the history books. Or to make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

You can buy the short on the iTunes store, in quality that will probably put YouTube to shame.

You have nudged me to actually watch the thing soon. I've had it on my Hard disc for some time.

Adam said...

Eddie, what did you think of the pacing? I thought they didn't leave enough time after the punchline of a joke for the audience to react. It felt to me that after the joke/gag, they were immediately into the setup on the next joke and that's why I felt the jokes were falling a little flatter than they could. I asked all my co-workers about this and nobody seemed to agree with me though, so maybe I'm just a little slow...

There was still lots to admire in the short though, the animators did a great job with an old, beloved character.

pappy d said...

I think they were shooting for a more 40's Goofy. The "wuhrld owes muhee a livin'" Goof of the 30's was scruffier, looser & generally goofier. In the post-war era, anarchy wasn't considered funny & nonconformity was believed to be pathological. All the Disney characters moved to modest suburban tract homes & sublimated their baser instincts in consumerism, except maybe Donald.

That's where the modern Disney brand was born.

Deniseletter said...

Hi Eddie,Great post,is class of learning!Good news,you can still see it again:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f2Vgo5wdHY

Mr. Trombley said...

Dear Sir,

In your post you expressed a wonderment at the proper pluralization of "Goofy".

I prefer the Dog Latin "Goofi", pronounced 'Goo-ff-eye'. In a sentence:

"A team of Goofi played hockey today-there were no survivors."

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Adam: I agree! I liked what you said so much that I modified the text in that direction a little. Thanks!

Michael: You don't like the the Kinney sports cartoons? The hockey, basketball and baseball cartoons are great! I have a hard time thinking of them as mediochre. Maybe it's the later Reitherman Goofy that you don't like.

Anon: You can buy it!? Thanks for the tip!

DJ: Thanks! I'll draw some more, I promise!

Denise: Many thanks for the link! I just went back and watched it a couple more times. I wish I'd done that before writing the review; I might have written it differently.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Rossco: That's a good question, and I don't have an adequate answer. Shorts are by far the most congenial format for funny cartoons, but whether there's a marketplace for them, I don't know.

When the internet merges with TV I have a feeling the new medium will be good for shorts.

lastangelman said...

Here you go Eddie, it's been reposted to YouTube. It's been so long since a really good Goofy cartoon has been made (that TV series and feature length movies - feh!)

Mattieshoe said...

The pacing and Timing was off. It didn't let you appreciate what was happening, it all felt like a blur by the end.

It doesn't let you appreciate what's happening. the timing is such that it tries to do nothing but move on the cartoon in the fastest way possible.
By comparison, Even the pacing of Animaniacs was more pleasant.

The backgrounds looked like they were made in photoshop. Pretty Unpleasant.


Enough computers!

Computers are designed to do the opposite of what real people can do naturally with real paints and materials.

lastangelman said...

The problem nowadays, mattieshoe, is economics.
Originally, people experimented animating with computers, however prohibitively expensive it was to do so, because - WE CAN! Now a lot of animation has shifted to computers because it's way cheaper than hiring space, people and materials the old fashioned way. People may still occasionally animate the traditional ways with actually hand painted BGs and hand painted cels, etcetera, but digital way is here to stay. The challenge is to make it appear as warm, rich, fluid, etc. as trad animation, and then transcend that. And a lot of it not only comes down to the software/hardware/tools but the animation director running the show. Dare I say, but we may have to bring back the original job description as a title - animation supervisor.

Anonymous said...

The problem with making new Goofy and Warner Bros shorts is that the archetypes of what a Goofy cartoon or Bugs Bunny cartoon is are so well defined that theres nothing to add.

Any creative universe has 8-10 years max and then it becomes a shadow of itself

Pete Emslie said...

I certainly liked this new Goofy cartoon when I first saw it, and I was glad to see that they were trying to capture the flavour of the Jack Kinney shorts. Actually, I ended up sneaking into the theatre where it played with "National Treasure 2", before then heading into another theatre to see the film I'd paid to see. I've since watched it a couple more times when it briefly was on YouTube.

I do agree with your assessment of the backgrounds, Eddie. They seemed a bit too monotone pastel for my liking, similar to what I recall seeing in the "Mickey Mouse Works" TV show from the late 90s. I think Mattieshoe has it right when he surmises that they're all digitally painted, and therefore a bit garish and tepid looking when compared to the old gouache paintings of old. There's also a tendency in this computer age of animation to go too light with the coloured outlines on the characters. I'll always prefer the look of real painted cels and backgrounds, as they're just naturally richer in colour and tonal value, with some drybrushing on the backgrounds to give them some additional punch.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Pete: true, gouache paintings do look better.

Anon: I agree mostly, but with a footnote added: we should definitely put most of our energy into doing new characters in new ways, but if the public wants to see more of the old characters it's very tempting to have a go at them for a short time, just to learn what you can learn.

Last: Thanks for the link!

Anonymous said...

This Goofy short suffers from the same timing disease that plagued "Runaway Brain", a "new" theatrical Mickey short done a few years ago: fear of losing the audience's attention led to amping things up way beyond the human threshhold. It's as if one must first watch the cartoon ten times before one can watch it the first time. Disney sometimes makes cartoons that are so dense and overwrought it feels like WORK to watch them: look at any episode of Phineas and Ferb, for Christ's sake. Disney the global juggernaut needs to just get over itself so it can re-learn how to entertain.

John R. Spumkin said...

Haven't seen it yet, Mistuh E. It seems like a step in the right direction, though, considering that this sounds like the latest GOOD Goofy cartoon (and not that bullshit they made in the 90's. "A Goofy Movie" was crap, and "An EXTREMELY Goofy Movie" was 'tuded crap.)

This sucks, though: YouTube will take down what seems like a good Goofy cartoon, but they keep both the English and Polish versions of Tarzan II up for everyone to see and get diabetes from?

That's a crying shame.

-J.

Sagelights said...

Here it is for everyone goofy short

trevor said...

Oh man, this cartoon was good, and a lot of fun to see on the big screen!

I felt the same way too, that it was a bit too fast paced. I also hated the shot of Goofy's end table with the pictures of Walt and Lassetter.

But yeah, good call Eddie! Kinney's one of my favortie Disney directors.

- trevor.

trevor said...

Hey Eddie,

They put it back up on YouTube.

- trevor.

Vince M. said...

Too bad you didn't see it at the theatre, Eddie. The Youtube version is okay, but nothing compares with a forty foot wide screen.

I second "DJ's" motion: Please share some of your art. I'm familiar with some of your work, but I'd like to have a peek behind the curtain.
Whadda'ya say?

Anonymous said...

Is there any animators/directos today that are on the same plane that guys like Jones and Clampett were? Is it just that they dont have an outlet?

If the best animators today were to work at termite terrace in the 40's would they be top directors there?

Anonymous said...

Legal version is 2 bucks on iTunes. For six minutes.

Odd bit, when I was reading of the making of this short, I always thought it would take the actual details of setting up a home theater more seriously. But I think there was a lot of misinfo on the preproduction, including going for a more flat modern fifties look on the backgrounds.

Nitpicks, some timing issues, too much happening in too short of a space to keep things reading as well. Main pacing probs that stuck out for me were one of the tumble takes before Best Buy, and the initial POV of entering Best Buy with the overactive customer caricatures.


I wonder if it might have worked better as a fifties Goofy, which seems to be the precursor for the short, although the character design seems to be leaning a bit earlier, to match Goofy the merchandized character Theme Park Host.

Okay, now I've watched it, I can actually read what Unca Eddie says, and see if he thought the same.

James N. said...

Hey Eddie,

It looks like it's back on YouTube but you should also think of buying it on iTunes if you wanna have a high quality version. The film is on iTunes for $1.99 if you're interested.

Buying it on iTunes is nice because you can step through it frame by frame and make framegrabs.

Anonymous said...

Ive always found that with even the best classic cartoons the comic sensibility and writing of most gags is pretty lame by modern standards, theyre pretty much an excuse for amazing animation and acting which elevates the gag.

Even Ren And Stimpy didnt try at all to emulate the writing of most classic cartoons other than the character motivation and plotting aspects. If John went back at time and tried to pitch "rubber walrus protectors" and other lunacy to Chuck Jones hed have looked at John like he was from Mars.

Oftentimes when I look at blogs and websites of amazing artists Ill be disappointed to find they have lame "cartoonist" senses of humor, like the artwork will be daring and technicaly insane and then theyll have a "just for yuks" type section on their website thats drawings of animals telling terrible puns to each other.

I dont mean that animation should adapt itself to the modern snarky reference meta humor dirge of today, but Id onhestly rather watch South Park and Family guy than a brilliantly animated cartoon with a 50's comic sensibility.

Theres an "eat your vegetables" mentality to the idea that the masses should watch something just because it has really good animation. (im not accusing you or John of this)

If cartoons with amazing animation are to get back into primetime hes going to need to have a comic sensibilty as crazy as John K's cause people arent going to want to watch something written by people with "Beetle Bailey" type senses of humor

Im

Anonymous said...

Case in point, is the chuck jones toon with the effete oaf salesman. The gag at the end where bugs is scared by his own face and jumps off the building after the guy is pretty lame by todays standards but was still worth watching because it was so well drawn

Anonymous said...

I also dont mean Family Guy or Robot Chicken etc. as good examples of modern humor as much as Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, Beavis and Butthead, Mitch Hedberg, The Far Side, Classic Snl, and Ren And Stimpy.

Aside from a few shorts and Ren And Stimpy there havent been any modern cartoons with great comedy and animation.

The problem is that the creator/head writer of most animated shows are writers first and know nothing about animation.
Seth Mcfarlane raves all the time about the "amazing talented artists" working on his show as do the South Park creators.

Because they dont have visual senses of humor the characters are reduced to talking heads.

At least the Simpsons had Brad Bird as artistic director during their heyday. While I share yours and Johns reservations about his conservative disney style of art and animation I think he holds up much better if you judge his work by live action standards. And there was an amazing cinematic feel to classic Simpsons that I think largely overcame their other artistic faults.

Again if a show is going to have all the awesome technical skill of that Goofy Cartoon the artist also has to have a Don Martin level sense of humor that connects to while making fun of our current culture

Anonymous said...

If you were an animator in the 40's and pitched "Tales of Worm Paranoia" to Walt Disney as a short hed have fired you on the spot and reported you to the FBI as a subversive possible commie

Anonymous said...

The 'eat your vegetables' theory also killed off Hollywood musicals in the 1950's. Musicals were 'good for you' but they gradually stopped delivering the mass movie audience. This left the gay community as the sole musical embracing demographic. The Wizard of Oz has been a Friend of Dorothy ever since.

Anonymous said...

Hell, Walt would have investigated you under suspicion of being a Jew.

Anonymous said...

What really bugs me about indy postmodernish humor is how bland and laid back it is.

When I first watched Ren and Stimpy I was expecting wacky poses and expressions and whatnot but I was shocked at the intensity and energy and darkness that ran through the whole show. Especially when Stimpy was channeling Peter Lorre.

Most indy cartoons today are about bland innefectual guys getting into "awkward social situations"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQLwwd1Pltg

Anonymous said...

These arent all the same anonymous, the musicals and jew comment were someone else

Anonymous said...

Another thing is that cartoonists used to be "men". If you look at a pic of Don Martin they don't fit the archetype of the neurotic depressed indy guy, a group shot of Termite Terrace looks like a group photo of Jack Kerouac and Friends or a Humphrey Bogart Flick.

John K has the same quality to him.

A group shot of cartoonists today looks like one of Apple Computers development staff

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v280/tomasutpen/Album%202b/termiteterrace2.jpg good ol days

http://cybernetnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/microsoft-20team-201978.jpg "modern cartoonists"

Anonymous said...

I also have no complaints comedywise about the precode rubber hose bosko and popeye type cartoons, those are unironically hilarious

Anonymous said...

or Clampett at his wackiest

Anonymous said...

What do you think of the snobbery in the high art world towards illustration?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: I hate to admit it, but the Tim clip, which violates everything I believe in, actually struck me as funny. I should be shot.

Vince: I will. don't worry!

Anon: Good point about animators looking like the software development crew at Apple! True, so horribly true!

BTW, the links didn't work, but I'll try again using a different browser.

Anon: Illustration frequently achieves the level of high art. The problem is that a lot of it is done with fugitive colors on perishable surfaces.

Have you see some of the illustration Steve put up on the ASIFA Hollywood site?

Anonymous said...

thats true but I mean criticism from the superelite critics and artists about illustration as an overall artform regardless of the materials, perhaps its not as prevalent today but illustrators seem to have been regarded as hacks 70 years ago by the art establishiment

Daryl T said...

I saw it. I love it and I just so happy that they did it. Hooray!

Hans Flagon said...

I think the timing occasionally needs breathing room.

I think the same for Pixars Presto. Where would you slip in a beat or two?

The Goofy bigger screen TV gag worked better in Eddies retrofitted storyboard than it actually did in the cartoon.. The reveal was all wrong it seems.

Bent Fork said...

hey eddie, the video is back up on youtube,heres the link :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f2Vgo5wdHY