Archive for the ‘upa’ Category

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Exhibit: Grim Natwick In The Modern Age

PART THREE: GRIM NATWICK AND MODERN ANIMATION

Grim Natwick

Studio gag drawing from UPA depicting an animator being laid off, replaced by children cutting out paper dolls.

It’s important to keep in mind Grim Natwick’s age when you look over his career. When he animated Snow White, he was one of the oldest artists at the Disney studio- 49 years of age. When his former assistant from Iwerks, Stephen Bosustow convinced him to join UPA in 1950, he was sixty. Most animators of his generation were thinking of retirement, or coasting on their past accomplishments until their pensions came through… but not Grim. He dove into the stylistic revolution of UPA with both feet. Grim animated on the early Magoo cartoons, as well as one-shots like "Rooty Toot Toot" and "Gerald McBoing Boing". In the early 50s, he was sent to New York as the keystone animator for UPA’s East coast office, where he animated many commercials and industrial films for the company, along with his assistant Tissa David.

Click to see Grim's  UPA model sheets

When UPA NY shut its doors, Grim worked at various New York commercial studios like Ray Favata and Robert Lawrence Productions. He animated on the first television cartoon series, Crusader Rabbit, and later took in work from Jay Ward and Bill Scott on the George of the Jungle program. He freelanced for Melendez and Duane Crowther’s Duck Soup Producktions, eventually settling in with director, Richard Williams. He animated on Raggedy Ann & Andy and travelled to the UK to teach while working on Cobbler & the Thief. He continued to draw into his early 90s, until his failing eyesight made it difficult.

Click to see Grim's post UPA commercialsClick to see Grim's post UPA commercialsOne afternoon, as I sat with Grim on his front porch, he casually mentioned that he had been told that there were machines that animated- computers. He wondered aloud "how they manage to get the machines to hold a pencil" and expressed an interest in finding out more about it. So I called my friend Charlie Gibson, who was a partner at Rhythm & Hues in Hollywood. I arranged for Grim to take a tour of their studio the following week.

50s TV Commercial50s TV CommercialWhen we arrived, we found the entire staff of R&H standing in the lobby waiting for us. Charlie showed Grim their machine room and demo reel, and sat him down at a workstation to see how wireframe characters are posed. After a few minutes working with the mouse, Grim leaned back in his chair and said, "I’ve seen some amazing things here today that I never would have imagined possible. I don’t pretend to understand everything I’ve seen, but I have a basic idea of what you do here. I have just one question to ask you… When I animated Snow White or Mickey Mouse, I had certain tricks to put the personality of the character across… a gesture, the raising of an eyebrow, a bit of acting… How do you do that sort of thing with your computer?"

50s TV Commercial50s TV CommercialThe room went silent. Charlie paused for a moment and replied, "Well, Grim, you just put your finger on the thing we struggle with every day… Computer animation is still very new. We’re constantly learning as we go. To answer your question, we study classic cartoons to learn those secrets from great animators like you."

In the space of an afternoon at nearly 100 years old, Grim had gone from "How do they get the machines to hold a pencil?" to putting his finger on the main issue facing CGI animators. His mind was always nimble and able to see the challenges facing animation in the future. He was truly a remarkable man.

EXHIBIT CATALOG: GRIM NATWICK IN THE MODERN AGE

Grim Natwick

Top Row: A Selection Of Natwick Animals (left to right) Chicken character designs from "Solid Ivory"* (Lantz/1947) / Lion doodle (after Jones’ "Inki & The Lion")* (ca. 1947) / Tiger studio gag drawing* (ca. 1944) / Character design for Lantz Wartime cartoon (ca.1943) / Concept for children’s book* (ca. 1947)

Middle Row: 1950s Commercials (left to right) Character design (ca.1959) / Self caricature of layout artist Art Heineman (UPA ca.1952) / Studio gag drawing depicting an animator being replaced by children cutting out paper dolls (UPA ca.1952) / Model drawing of Bert Piels (Piels Beer) by Tissa David from Grim Natwick animation (UPA ca. 1955) / Model drawings from unknown commercial by Tissa David from Grim Natwick animation (UPA ca.1955)

Bottom Row: Studio Gag Drawings Self caricature by Bill Melendez (ca. early 60s) / Studio gag drawing depicting Bill Scott explaining to a West coast animator how to dress like an East coast animator (UPA NY ca. 1952) / Three studio gag drawings by Bill Scott depicting the relationships between Grim Natwick, John Hubley and Scott (UPA NY ca. 1952)

* denotes a drawing by Grim Natwick

Next Chapter: THE GREATEST ANIMATOR WHO EVER LIVED (Studio Gag Drawings & Caricatures)


Grim Natwick Exhibit
Assistant Archivist, Joseph Baptista views the exhibit.

GRIM NATWICK’S SCRAPBOOK

This travelling exhibit has appeared at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive in Burbank, CA and at the South Wood Historical Society Museum in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, birthplace of Grim Natwick.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

TheoryGrim Natwick

This posting is part of an online exhibit entitled Grim Natwick’s Scrapbook.

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Story: Alvin Show Pilot Board

Alvin Show Pilot Board

This is a very special post. Here is the complete storyboard to the pilot cartoon for The Alvin Show (1961). This is the board that Format Films and Ross Bagdasarian Sr. (aka: David Seville) used to pitch the show to the networks. It was probably done by Disney/UPA storyman, Leo Salkin. Salkin was the Associate Producer on the series and handled a lot of the story duties, working side by side with Bagdasarian to develop both the Chipmunk and Clyde Crashcup cartoons.

Alvin Show Pilot Board

I know that this might look like a checkerboard on your screen at this resolution. I made an extra effort to make the large size images big enough for you to read clearly, so please click on the pages and take the time to sit down and read this from beginning to end. I think you’ll be amazed at how well it plays in your head. It’s like you’re watching the cartoon.

Alvin Show Pilot Board

The drawings are simple, yet funny and expressive. Note how the compositions frame the action clearly, without clutter. Many current TV shows repeat the same oblique two-shot setups over and over. But this board keeps things interesting through clever staging and cutting.This is truly a model for television storyboard artists to follow. Enjoy!

Alvin Show Pilot Board
Alvin Show Pilot Board
Alvin Show Pilot Board
Alvin Show Pilot Board
Alvin Show Pilot Board
Alvin Show Pilot Board
Alvin Show Pilot Board
Alvin Show Pilot Board
Alvin Show Pilot Board
Alvin Show Pilot Board

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Animated CartoonsAnimated Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Animation.

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Design: UPA Done Right

UPA Done Right

John Kricfalusi’s blog, "All Kinds Of Stuff" continues to be the most information packed and eye opening animation resource on the internet. If you haven’t visited it lately, you’ll want to check out the series of posts John has been writing on the impact of UPA on animation. I guarantee that you’ve never heard these sorts of opinions anywhere else, and once you digest the concepts, you’ll never look at a UPA cartoon the same again.

UPA Done Right

Here is just a sample of what John has to say…

If you don’t know cartoon history and you just grew up watching Cartoon Network, you might think that this flat stuff is something new and “hip”. It’s not. It’s much older than UPA, and the more graphic styles in cartoons before UPA didn’t come with the wimpy trappings. Because of our association with UPA’s beginnings, we assume that when we do something in a graphic style, we have to also carry over all the other attributes that came with UPA’s particular cartoon vision- the blandness, the wimpy world view, the snootiness.

UPA Done Right

People usually don’t analyze or break apart the elements that make up something they like. If we like it we assume that every ingredient in it is equally good. Then when we develop our own styles, we copy the bad with the good. That’s what we need ANALYSIS for!

Like many artists, I have tons of influences. There are lots of things that inspire me. I try to figure out why they do and I break them down into their separate ingredients. I then decide which ingredients are the ones that are useful and discard the others that might have just come along with it, but don’t actually add anything. There are good things about UPA and Disney- Tex Avery combined them and added his own world view to them and made cartoons more entertaining than either style.

UPA Done Right

John’s comments cut like a sword through the “design for design’s sake” school of animation. He cites Tex Avery as the one cartoon director who was able to incorporate modern design sensibilities, while still maintaining the entertainment value and humor of classic cartoons. He’s dead right. This post reminded me of my favorite series of commercials… which were directed by Avery at Cascade studios and animated by Rod Scribner.

UPA Done Right

Not only is the character design modern in the "UPA style" but the movement has been stylized in a complementary manner. Why don’t the current "Flat" cartoons move like this?!

UPA Done Right

KoolAid Spots (Cascade/ca.1960)
(Quicktime 7 / 6.8 megs)

UPDATE: I was browsing through Cartoon Modern today, and I found a post that Amid did last Summer that perfectly encapsulates my thoughts about the importance of animation even in stylized cartoons…

The Importance of "Animation" in Animaton Design

One of the hardest things to get across when discussing animation design is that it’s not just about character designers, layout artists and background painters. The animator is a critical member of the design team….

The primary reason, in my opinion, that so much of today’s stylized animation rings hollow is because nobody ever follows through on the animation. Regardless of whether a show is animated traditionally overseas or if it’s done in Flash, most contemporary TV series creators think their job is done once they’ve created a pretty model sheet and slapped on a bit of color styling. These few stills illustrate however that model sheets are often the least important aspect of stylized animation– what the animator does with those designs is what truly counts.

Exactly! Great animators like Bill Littlejohn, Rod Scribner and Grim Natwick moved these kinds of designs in unique and stylized ways.

This post is causing quite a ruckus over at Michael Sporn’s blog. Check out Michael’s post titled Aaargh. In particular, read the comments. Here’s a real doozy…

Not everything has to look or move gorgeously to be good or artful. That’s one of the dumbest, scariest suggestions I’ve heard anyone make in animation circles.

Yow! Do people really think lousy animation is artistic?!

Cartoon Brew has jumped into… The Great UPA Debate. Will Finn (check out his great new blog, small room) writes…

I see Steve Worth’s point about Kool-Aid ads and such, where perfectly admirable work is overlooked because it wasn’t in the service of "Art witha a capital A". Animators who want to evaluate work on a technique level should be able to appreciate that wherever they find it and not just where the intelligentsia have enshrined it with a golden frame.

Let the debate continue!

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Animated CartoonsAnimated Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Animation.
TheoryTheory

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Theory.