Wednesday, June 06, 2007


The other day someone said to me that it might be a waste of time to push for animation-intensive funny cartoons because the times just aren't conducive to them. What people want now is anime, which even in its humorous moments is more audacious than funny. Funny is gone. Kaput! Attempts to revive it are doomed to be futile! Doomed! Doomed!

My strongly-felt reaction was, "Oh, really?"

By way of a counter-argument let me relate a story taken from my own experience. A long time ago I had an idea for a novel which I'd hoped would eventually become a movie. It had to do with a really terrific and innovative school housed in a castle. I spent hundreds of hours thinking about it and writing an outline and when I was finished I showed it to my family to get their re-action. To my amazement they hated it!

My kids sat me down and told me earnestly that kids hate school and would never sit still for a story that glorified it, no matter how interesting the school was. My wife, trying not to hurt my feelings, gently but firmly told me that school stories were a Victorian invention and were completely alien to the modern spirit. Everyone else I told about it agreed. They loved the characters but didn't think anyone would buy into the school idea. (Sigh!) I shelved it.

Then Happy Potter came out.

Kids all over the world lined up around the block because they couldn't get enough of Rowling's cool school in a castle (OK, Rowling added magic). The last book sold 6.9 million copies on the very first day! I waited in line with my daughter for hours on the night before the book store opened. We were nowhere near the front because a kazillion fans camped out there before we got there. You couldn't walk for all the sleeping bags and tents! Kids were chanting and shouting out lines from the stories and my daughter, completely forgetting what she said years ago said, "Gee, I wish I could have gone to a school like that!"

Here's another example: westerns! When I was in high school it looked like western movies were dead. All the latest ones were psychological or had aging stars and depressing titles like "The Last Gunfighter." I'll bet in Hollywood you couldn't give away western scripts.

Then came Sergio Leone. What a difference a new approach makes!

The same could be said for physical comedy. For a while every one said physical comedy was dead. The common wisdom was that we'd never see the likes of Arbuckle or Keaton (above) again, that the fan base that supported them was gone forever.

Then came Jim Carey.
Carey's physical schtick was not only popular, it made him the highest paid star in Hollywood! He got $70,000,000 for a single film!
Now some one tells me that animation-intensive comedy is dead.
My answer is, "Oh, Really?"


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

There is no doubt in my mind that if a cartoon could be Jim Tyer- funny, or any other kind of visual funny that rises to that level, it would be a huge hit. Jim Tyer makes me do spit takes. Who doesn't love something funny enough to make milk come out of his nose?

Of course the obvious rebuttal to naysayers is Ren and Stimpy. I don't remember anybody saying, "man this funny cartoon stuff is so out of style and out of date". The only thing nobody could understand was how it stopped being funny.

All we need to do is get rid of the mopes standing in the way and funny animation can rule, just like it was meant to.

How do we get the mopes out of the way?

Anonymous said...

Every once in a while I'll see something on The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy that makes me laugh really hard. The Billy character is pretty funny, imo.

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Wow, what a coincidence! Just last night I watched the following TED video, a lecture given by Blink's Malcolm Gladwell. Talk about a theory!


Gabriel said...

and remember when epic movies were dead and then came gladiator? It opened the doors to troy, alexander, 300, all that stuff?
And when slasher movies were dead and then came Scream, which led to so many crappy teen slasher movies?
And when pirate movies were dead there came Cutthroat Island which led to...ok, this one led to nothing, but Pirates of the Caribbean was a huge success.

This "X is dead" talk is almost always bs. Pretty much everything can suceed, it just needs to have good marketing, and it helps if it's well done too!

Elliot Cowan said...

Of course there is an audience for funny animation.
However, the suggestion that there isn't is no siller than your critical post about current comic book trends.

crsP said...

As an interesting [?] side note, I've been trying to convince people that they should stop making these increasingly crappy Harry Potter films, and start with the first one as animated movies more faithful to the book. you pre-empted my post, although it's not quite your point. I feel lost and confused.

Andreas said...

Nothing is ever really dead. The problem is audiences become jaded and worn out by derivative works that are nowhere near the quality of the original that spawned them. Eventually after successive failures, it is declared dead, and audiences have outgrown them. Over time, someone with skill and innovation that loved the originals pushes to have something new in that category put out causing people to declare that the genre was prematurely declared dead, causing the cycle of great originals spawning successive watered down derivative works until it is again declared dead. Wasn't the superhero movie genre dead for a while until Marvel stepped up and blew us all away?

fabiopower said...

Uncle Eddie:
Excuse me, sir, I no want to disturb to you, only I will like to know your oppinion ( you are a professional en the "industry"...) about our local projects animations, can to see two trailers in my blog, in the post:
"El Profesor FusiĆ³n v/s Papelucho"..
sorry for my english
Greetings from Chile, the ass of the world!

Anonymous said...

Hey man, I enjoy anime both it's chessy shows and thier 4 star intellectual ambitious efforts. But the idea that there is no audience for funny animation is silly. Kids would enjoy it as much as they would anime, as long as the show is good.Like Ren and Stimpy, there just has to be good characerization and charm to back up the animation (even with all the gross out nonsense that i don't like, John K. had that covered very well).

Anonymous said...

Maybe the answer is to give crappy comedies to directors with other chops. What if Russ Meyer were still around and Disney had handed him their abysmal upcoming live action CGI "Underdog" script? The beagle woulda popped Viagra and got stuck in Sweet Polly Purebread smack in front of a Safeway in the first twenty seconds, guaranteed. Now that's entertainment.

Amir Avni said...

Its a nasty habit of our society to say "Why can't you be like everyone else?" or "How can you back this up?" Funny cartoons arn't popular today and that alone is reason enough for you to keep making them.

You love them and you're good at making them. The most successful cartoons were entertaining to their creators. The more personal you are, the more original and interesting you get.

Lester Hunt said...

Sometimes, things die out (or die down, at least) because of deep changes in morals or beliefs. When I was a tadpole back in the fifties, there were about 120 western series on TV. Today there are none. This is probably partly due to a falling-off in belief in the sorts of values that westerns are based on. But nothing like that can explain the falling off in comic animation. Conclusion: it will be back. Soon, I hope!

Jenny Lerew said...

Boy, Eddie, M & co. should have known better(no offense to them). The school story isn't a "victorian" thing, but it is a particularly British thing. Children there still devour Mallory Towers and other books about public[private to us]schools and boarding schools, as they are a well known part of the culture there whether a kid goes to one or not.

Rowling's book btw is far from totally original. There was even a well-known series that was set in a witches' school done years before the Potter stuff, with many of the same elements-just no the sme characters, nor all the candy described. ; )

I guess I'm saying that--you're right! EVERYTHING under the sun has been done before, thought of before in concept; it's the execution that sells it and makes a book or story last. Yours could have done that. You should have shaken off the naysayers! Not every kid has the same tastes.
But quality will tell. Appeal will tell.
Thing is, as you point out there are always droves of "experts" decreeing that this or that genre is dead, that "no one reads that anymore!" etc.--there's a world of rejection--but JK Rowling was soundly rejected by more than one publisher, I believe, for much the same reasons you heard...
The moral is: plow on!

Krishva said...

I think a big part of the problem is anime. Not that it's better, but that it's so much cheaper to import anime or create a new anime- or UPA-influenced cartoon than it is to do a funny animation-intensive show like R&S, where you really need in-house animators.

As long as kids will watch anime, it will probably be hard to convince people to put a budget into another funny cartoon.

Anonymous said...

I'm not against funny, but the reason that anime and harry potter is popular, could be tied into short funny cartoons. It just isn't being done, for a lot of reasons, executives saying stuff is over kids heads, etcetera.

But I think a big reason anime IS so popular, is that it presents kids with a puzzle of sorts, when a unfamiliar cultural reference is tossed in, or complicated plots, beyond vaudeville pie in the face.

I think also, a lot of the true laughs in animation today are CHARACTER driven... identification with the character. Gags can still co-exist here, but someone has to feel for the character or situation to get the subconscious involved. And I dont' mean Scrappy Doos and Cute Robots and other condesceding characters. Don't Condescend!

cableclair said...

/correction cough/it's Jim CarRey /correction cough/

Andreas said...

To go along with my theory about so many bad puts people off, I have a friend that has tried a bunch of Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches at various restaurants in the area. He is always disappointed. He refuses to order them anymore because he "knows" he will be disappointed. So to with things that are good, and classic. People have been force fed poorly written, blandly done comedies, slapstick, westerns, so on and so forth that they expect to be disappointed. In the executive mind that means people aren't interested in that sort of story line. When a really good one comes along, it doesn't do well at first, but gains steam and popularity, or people ignore it and executives point to it as another example that people don't like it because it didn't do well.
*cough Serenity/Firefly cough*

Anonymous said...

What the hell is this, a tuberculosis ward?

katzenjammer studios said...

I'm on a huge Jim Carrey kick right now. He's a living cartoon!

I read an interview and he said that his favorite character ever was Bugs Bunny. Coincidence?! I think not!

Sean Worsham said...


....For now I will have to settle for real life characters like you, John and Mike for my humor fix now :).

cableclair said...

Jim Carrey rocks so much.
Random trivia: I read somewhere that he was the stand-in for Roger Rabbit.

I have a huge thing for cartoony guys. Yum. Facial expressions. :-D.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Cable: Jim Carey stood in for Roger Rabbit!!?? Amazing!

Anonymous said...

It was comic Charlie Fleischer (no relation to Max, Dave or Lou) who was Roger Rabbit's stand-in, not Jim Carrey.

cableclair said...

I stand corrected. Hmmmzz trying to remember where I read it cause I was pretty surprised when I did.

Elliot Cowan said...

Actually - Roger Rabbit's stand in was a large rubber mannequin.

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

Jim Tyer. TYER.

Funnier than Jim Carey.

If anyone is still here.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

IDRC: Is that Tyer site yours!? i didn't see a place to leave a comment! Anyway, It was great! Thanks much for linking to it!

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

Nope, not mine. Glad you liked it.

ryan hughes said...

Well what i say is we need to just go all out on a funny cartoon and then the peopole just gotta love it !! we just make sure we appeal to the beshojo's and shonen's (beautiful girls and boys) and we'll make millions!You probubly think i'm just some over zealous artist but I'm serious! WE ARTISTS ARE GOING TO RULE THE ANIMATION BUISNESS!!how? Well on the squash scene mabye make it look cute then on the stretch make it evil , exaturated, demented, crazy, rubbrish, and spontaniously crshly extreme yet suttle!!