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John Kricfalusi, Mike Van Eaton, Rita Street, Jorge Garrido, Andreas Deja, John Canemaker, Jerry Beck, Leonard Maltin, June Foray, Paul and John Vinci, B. Paul Husband, Nancy Cartwright, Mike Fontanelli, Tom & Jill Kenny, Will Finn, Ralph Bakshi, Sherm Cohen, Marc Deckter, Dan diPaola, Kara Vallow
Janet Blatter, Keith Lango Animation, Thorsten Bruemmel, David Soto, Paul Dini, Rik Maki, Ray Pointer, James Tucker, Rogelio Toledo, Nicolas Martinez, Joyce Murray Sullivan, David Wilson, David Apatoff, San Jose State Shrunkenheadman Club, Matthew DeCoster, Dino's Pizza, Chappell Ellison, Brian Homan, Barbara Miller, Wes Archer, Kevin Dooley, Caroline Melinger
Gemma Ross, Milton Knight, Claudio Riba, Eric Graf, Michael Fallik, Gary Francis, Joseph Baptista, Kelsey Sorge-Toomey, Alexander Camarillo, Alex Vassilev, Ernest Kim, Danny Young, Glenn Han, Sarah Worth, Chris Paluszek, Michael Woodside, Giancarlo Cassia, Ross Kolde, Amy Rogers
There’s one aspect of animation that I haven’t dealt with much yet- Voice Acting. My own research in this area is pretty limited. I hope sometime in the future, a specialist in this field will contribute their expertise to the Archive to curate this important aspect of cartoon filmmaking.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have any interesting material dealing with voice acting at Animation Resources. Eric Graf stopped by with a wonderful treasure the other day… An LP record pressed by the production company of legendary voice actor, Mel Blanc. It’s a recording of a speech by Blanc at the 1966 Annual Awards Luncheon of the Station Representatives Association. Titled “Mel Blanc Takes A Humorous Look At Commercials: Past, Present and Future (Who The Hell Is Mel Blanc?)”, this record is a hilarious glimpse at both the advertising industry and a little known aspect of the career of one of the most famous voice actors of all time.
Ralph Bakshi is one of my best friends. Ralph has retired to New Mexico to paint, but he is still very much in touch with the animation scene today. After a bit of cajoling, I’ve persuaded him to speak to the animation community on Animation Resources. In this article, Ralph gives his viewpoint on the history of animation and points the direction that he thinks animation should take in the future. Whether you draw animation with a pencil or use a computer, I think you’ll find his comments to be important and inspiring. -Stephen Worth
BAKSHI SPEAKS TO CGI ANIMATORS
Frame to frame animation eventually came to a grinding end. I’m not sure which generation of young animators were at Disney redoing and relearning the tradition of making boring films and recreating cliched motion when it expired. Except for Jim Tyer, “Modern Animation” and Ralph Bakshi, animation was dying- while doing the same old thing. Big money and animators never really followed Bakshi, “Modern Animation” or Jim Tyer. They just rehashed its past.
UPA failed because it was nothing more than elitist designers trying to animate on museum walls. Content was unimportant to them, really. Matisse or Picasso were more important. Bakshi was hounded out of the business by controversy. And you’d be surprised how many animation directors at Terrytoons disliked Jim Tyer’s work because it didn’t look like Disney- or anything else for that matter. Terry kept him on because his weekly footage output was so large.
Lord of the Rings was done in rotoscope animation because rotoscope made it physically possible to do it. You couldn’t do Lord of the Rings in less than 25 years using traditional animation. Thirty years later- Wow! Along comes the computer… “We can do Disney story animation with another look and sell it back to audiences.” Of course, I would have used computers and motion capture if they had been around during my day. But I turned to Tolkien to try to change the kinds of stories animation told. My city films were being thrown out of theaters.
So, what’s the argument here? Unless hand-drawn animation finds new creative story approaches and new creative drawn motion exaggerations, it will look as it always looked at the end- faded and drawn. There’ll be no great interest for it either. Computer animation has the exact same problem. Computer animation will eventually grow old, just like hand-drawn animation, unless something new happens. It will fall into manneristic boredom if it continues to endlessly redo what’s already been done before. The success and the money will always follow the creative artists who take either of these two mediums and do something different with it.
A lot of people remember and love Jim Tyer’s animation today because he really did something different with hand-drawn animation. He didn’t follow the crowd.
BAKSHI ON 2D vs 3D
First of all, when it comes to controversy over 2D vs. 3D, I’m in no particular camp. I think computer animation is amazing. Some of the Japanese hand drawn animation I’ve seen is great too. John K. was a breath of fresh air for animation. But the discussion always comes down to the same one I always have with the young kids in the industry- the starving ones with mortgages to pay. When I see the end credits on big studio animated films, I’m floored by the amount of people it takes to finish a film. The cost to make the first 20 minutes of your modern animated feature would comprise the entire budgets of all of my first six films put together. Hard to believe but true!
It’s probably inconceivable to you guys, but I made my feature films with no pencil tests, no storyboards, no retakes, no color keys, no character designers, no special effects department, nothing, zip, nada- because we had to. (How I did that is another discussion altogether.) I was my own animation director- everything came to me. I flipped the drawings and gave the OK. God bless the professionalism of Irv Spence, John Sparey, Ambi Paliwoda, Virgil Ross, Manny Perez… all those guys who animated for me, because they’re the ones that made it all come alive.
I’ll tell you a secret… Not having pencil tests was liberating for the animators who worked for me. They knew I was expecting creativity, not perfection. I wasn’t gonna be standing over the moviola looking at their tests saying, “raise that pinkie finger a little higher” or “fix that lip flap”. There was no room for retakes. Knowing that made them unafraid. No one was going to look over their shoulder and second guess them. They puzzled out the scene, expressed themselves through the character, and moved on to the next scene. You better believe- they loved it!
When I was young, I had a dream- and a rage over Disney’s insistence that nothing worked on the big screen unless it was perfect- redone and reworked until it was flawless. I always thought the difference between my films and the Disney ones was the difference between rock n’ roll and a symphony. I love them both if the music is right. But a lot of spoiled animators claimed that I was ruining every young kid’s life with my rough animation- and that Terry-Toons and I were nothing. I didn’t listen to them, because I always felt that honesty, leaving the pack, telling stories that were part of the director’s personal life and not some merchandiser’s idea- all those things were more important than Disney’s insistence on perfect animation.
OK. Let’s talk animation. First of all, I want to talk to you drawing type animators…
When I hear 2D animators today talking about acting in hand-drawn cartoons, I ask, what kind of acting? Are you talking about the old fashioned acting that animators have always done? You know… the hand on the hip, finger-pointing, broad action, lots of overlapping action, screeching to a halt- all that turn-of-the-century old fashioned mime stuff. Is that what you’re talking about? Well, forget about it. If you’re gonna compete with computer animation, you better go all out and do something that’s totally different. Call it “new acting”. Blow the computer out of the water. Sure, Milt Kahl, Irv Spence, Bill Tytla and all those guys were great. Leave them alone. They’ve done their job. It would just seem old to do the exact same thing today. Find something new to call your own- something exciting as hell.
To you computer guys…
I’m supposed to scold you computer animators and tell you to think more like the hand drawn guys. Well, there’s no question hand drawn animation is different than CGI, motion capture or rotoscope, or even limited animation. Yes, computer animators CAN learn a lot from hand drawn if they know where to look. Maybe… maybe… maybe…
Some history- Early on, hand drawn was great- Fleischer’s Popeye, Jim Tyer, Freddie Moore, Rod Scribner, Bill Tytla, Johnny Gent… the direct, fresh stuff. But then suddenly, along came “real good animation” with all its complication, and the long painful looks, big shrugs and sighs, batting eyelashes, cutesy pie phony crap until you want to vomit… Overnight, all the old greats were forced to either kill themselves, stay drunk all the time, or quickly fade away. Animation got saddled with a bunch of boring, repetitive, old fashioned, dumb cliches. I am NOT going to tell computer animation to follow that road. Sure, computer animators should look at hand drawn animation to learn. But don’t get down on your knees. Don’t make the same mistakes hand drawn animation made at the end. Study the right stuff. There’s a hell of a lot more to learn from a Fleischer Popeye than there is from some “epic fantasy” like Prince of Egypt.
So I’m sitting in the theater watching a rat trying to cook some food. Now he’s trying to get out the window… I blink with amazement at the brilliance of your computer, but wait a minute… This is nothing more than a Disney film made with a computer! Your bosses must have MADE you do this. Where do you guys think you’re headed? Do you really think copying Disney films over and over isn’t going to get just as boring as the boring Disney films you’re copying? You’ve got all these great computers… show me something I haven’t seen a million times already. I have things in my head that the computer could do that would stun you. (But don’t worry. I got turned down by every studio in town.)
Listen. I’m talking to that bunch of you computer guys out there who want to crawl into a basement with a big stack of machines and kick ass- the guys who want to do something NEW and DIFFERENT. Don’t worry about the money. You’re not getting paid that much anyway. If your characters shake and spit the colors off in some scenes- great. It doesn’t matter. And if some of the textures jiggle a little, who cares? Back in the day, I heard animators critique the animation in my films as being “too ruff”. Well, we didn’t like it all either- but we LOVED what we were making- Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Coonskin, Hey Good Lookin’, Wizards- thirty years later and they’re still playing worldwide, because they were honest and rugged. The animation didn’t take away from the movie like the slick stuff I see in hand drawn animation at the end. Something REAL is always better than something realistic.
OK. Now I’m talking to ALL animators- with a computer or with a pencil…
Here’s a guy you could all learn a trick or two from… John Kricfalusi. Why is John Kricfalusi so great? Why do people copy John’s stuff but never seem to really get it? Great draftsmen have tried and failed to imitate him. How the hell does he do it?
Well, when I first let John direct, it was an amazing thing to watch. It wasn’t the way he combed his hair and it wasn’t the way he tried to hustle me. John was a one-of-a-kind. When one of John’s characters pointed a finger, it REALLY pointed. It pointed like no other finger in no other cartoon ever pointed before. When John drew the curve of an ankle on a girl character, it was like no ankle curve I ever saw before. Everybody thinks John’s style is what sets him apart. It isn’t about his style… it’s not about the color… it’s not about the jokes… it’s not about the expressions… it’s not the voices… Don’t imitate that stuff. If I hear another fake John K cartoon voice I think I’m gonna scream!
The thing that put John so far ahead of the pack was his originality. His poses were fresh and they jumped off the sheet at you. They lived and breathed and acted in a way that wasn’t like anything that came before. Every drawing was brand new for him. He thought things out for himself, expressed his own ideas, and didn’t keep rehashing someone else’s tired old cheats. John’s brilliant posing took animation to another level, and animators would be smart if they followed his lead. BUT HEAR THIS… Don’t imitate his creations. Imitate his creativity.
There are no sides here, only techniques. The important thing is to do something more than just sell dolls and hamburgers, or get the best table at some bullshit restaurant. Stop crying. Go out and do something. Starve to death if you have to. It’s honorable.
Go buy my book. Read more. Learn more. Get mad at me again.
Several years ago at the San Diego Comic-Con, I had the honor of hosting an interview with Ralph Bakshi. He had some important things to say to the animators in the crowd. Watch Ralph take my question and hit it out of the park…
Many thanks to the Bakshi family for their helpfulness and generosity, and to our fantastic videographer, JD Mata.
Feel free to embed the YouTube on your own website. Spread the word! Educators may download a higher resolution copy of this video to burn to DVD for viewing in their classroom.
UNFILTERED: The Complete Ralph Bakshi isn’t one of those "art books" with postage stamp sized pictures floating in oceans of tasteful white space and huge text blocks of scholarly blather that crowds out the images. It’s just pictures, pictures and more pictures… along with just enough text to put them in context. The book is organized to show Ralph’s career from his earliest days at Terry-Toons, to his groundbreaking features, to his revolutionary TV work, to his most recent fine art paintings. Even if you think you know all there is to know about Bakshi, this book will grab you by the lapels and shake you and show you things you’ve never seen the likes of before. Click through the link to pick up the Bakshi book at Amazon.
Last week, Animation Resources supporter Marc Schirmeister stopped by with a stack of rare fanzines from the late 1960s and early 70s. Included among them were two great issues of Graphic Story Magazine devoted to the genius of Basil Wolverton.
Here is an article Wolverton wrote in 1948 for the Daily Oregonian…
ACOUSTICS IN THE COMICS
By Basil Wolverton
The so called comic strip on my drawing board showed a heavy horse stepping on a bozo’s bean. The horse was tramping on the guy’s head in a delicate way, of course, so the situation would be more entertaining than grusome- depending on the reader’s sense of humor. But, like an old silent movie, the cartoon needed something, and that something was sound. There had to be a heavily lettered word oozing out from the exact point of contact between the horse’s hoofs and the man’s head. Thus the reader, pronouncing that sound word to himself, would actually hear within his mind the excitingly comical noise that would eminate from such action.
Summoning both brain cells hurriedly together, I tried desperately to imagine just what sort of sound would ensue if a nag were to step on someone’s skull. The word CRUNCH popped into my mind. Then CRONCH. Then CRANCH. I settled for CRANCH because somehow it seemed more refined. But before I could letter the word on the cartoon, I suddenly recalled my latest unhappy interview with the person who publishes my comic strips.
“I want realism!” he had bellowed. “No more of this wild imaginitive stuff that’s causing some people to want to ban our comic books! From now on, get that realism in there, and your strips will be horribly funny! Then the readers will go into hysterics and laugh like crazy, and our books will be acclaimed the most laugh provoking on the stands!” That meant that an imaginative word like CRANCH was taboo. It was up to me to get the real sound word. I looked furtively about as a preposterous plan permeated my pate.
It was easy to rent a horse. It wasn’t as easy to argue my brother in law into placing his pan on the pavement, and letting me ride the nag over his noggin. “Horses are so heavy!” he foolishly kept countering. “Besides, I have a cold sore.” As he waddled away, I realized my plan was hopeless- until he stumbled over something in the street. Before he could pull his chin out of the asphalt, I had steered the rented mare over him, and her hind hoof scored a bull’s eye on his bare bean.
The sound? It was far from CRANCH. The real thing turned out to be SLORNK. It was a sort of a slippery liquid sound. That was probably because my brother in law has oily skin and a thin skull. With the noxious noise fresh in mind, I streaked into my studio and feverishly lettered the word SLORNK boldly across the cartoon.
Weeks later the fan mail began pouring in. They all said the same thing. In fact, both of them were worded the same. The first one read “I want to congratulate you on that completely true to life cartoon you drew of the horse stepping on a man’s head. The word SLORNK describing the sound was absolutely accurate. I know, because I am always getting my head stepped on by some careless nag.” The second letter was the same as the first, except for the signature. I figured when I wrote them that there should be some difference. Otherwise the publisher might get wise when I showed them to him.
He was dumbfounded when he saw them. After recovering, he slapped me on my sunburn and rammed one of his dollar cigars into my mush. Unfortunately, he stuck the wrong end into my mouth. Besides, he was smoking it. “Two fan letters in eleven years” he murmured incredulously. “My boy, you have arrived! It’s just like I predicted,” my publisher beamed, “your horribly realistic sound words are paying off!”
I leaped on his desk. “Then I’m ripe for a raise?” I queried. peering so anxiously and closely into his red-rimmed readers that I could detect his wife’s fingernail scratches on his contact lenses. Anticipation was causing me to quiver like a rat terrier with radio-active fleas on a cold day. The suspense was terrible. Finally he opened his trap. He was grinning. This was the day for which I had waited eleven long years. “It does not!” he roared, brushing me off his desk. “I was merely feeling pleased that at last you may be worth almost as much as I’ve been paying you!”
While I gathered my teeth up off the floor, he pointed at me demandingly. “If you want a raise, every one of your sound effect words will have to be absolutely authentic! In other words, don’t draw a single sound word into your strips until you’ve actually staged the cartoon situation with real people and things!”
(Incidentally, you readers should stop worrying about my brother in law. Ever since the day the horse stepped on his head, he has had nothing but good luck. Why shouldn’t he, what with a horseshoe embedded in the back of his bean? Furthermore, he’s the only living person who can slide his head inside those record-in-the-slot phonographs without crushing his ears.)
My publisher pointed at me demandingly. “If you want a raise, every one of your sound effect words will have to be absolutely authentic! In other words, don’t draw a single sound word into your strips until you’ve actually staged the cartoon situation with real people and things!”
As for my publisher’s demands, they resulted in my running out of friends and relatives within a week. Neighbors complained about howls and screams emanating from the studio. People su
ed. The ASPCA hounded me. My wife and fourteen kids swore sudden allegiance to the Progressive party, then fled to Siberia.
Meanwhile, however, I managed to catalog hundreds of authentic sound words- enough to last me for a lifetime of cartooning, and enough I thought, to cover any and all comic situations, regardless of how terrible. I was so proud of my achievement that I showed the lengthy list to my publisher. Here are some of the more subtle sound words describing various clashings, crashings, slashings, bashings, hashings, mashings, etc. Read the situation, then voice the accompanying sound word to yourself, and note how vividly the picture then comes to your mind:
Pinheaded person pullingg pate out of a pop bottle: FOINK!
Glass eye falling into tomato soup: PLOOP!
Glass eye falling into a pitcher of thick syrup: PLOFF!
Man sitting on short tack: SQUINCH!
Man sitting on long tack: SQUONCH!
Uppers dropping in gob of putty: FLUP!
Hungry cannibal filing eyetooth: FWATCH!
Man with calloused feet crossing rough linoleum: SKIRP! SKIRP!
Thumb gouging eye: SPOP!
Hot lava speweing on WCTU convention: FOOSK!
Hot lava spewing on Elks’ convention: SSSCRISH!
Person skidding on hot stove in bare feet: SCREESH!
Beaver biting into wooden leg: CRASP!
Car crashing into large vat of frogs’ eggs: SKWORP!
False teeth falling through skylight: TWUNK!
Sock in the face with Sears Roebuck catalog: PWOSH!
Sock in the face with Montgomery Ward catalog: PWASH!
Octopus slapping a tentacle on bald bean: SPOOP!
Man dragging toenails over No.2 grade sandpaper: SKARP!
Man falling on face in a barrel of wet teabags: FROMP!
Sock in the kisser with a wet codfish: SCHALAMPF!
Person socking wet halibut with his kisser: SCHLOOF!
Lowers falling into a bucket of cup grease: UNPH!
Man with small head drowning in a glass of tomato juice: GOIK!
Woodpecker hammering on human head: DUD-DUD-DUD-DUD-DUD!
Cannon ball landing in mush of toothless man: FWOCK!
Two bald men colliding headon: KROCK!
Garter snapping on varicose vein: SCHWIPP!
Single BB shot landing on a cow’s udder: PWIP!
Person pulling ponderous pate through a puny porthole: SPOOCH!
Bear trap springing on human noggin: SPROCK!
Rat trap springing on person’s big toe: SPACK!
Man falling into a garbage can full of spoiled caviar: CROFF!
Surgeon tossing gallstones into empty garbage can: KRANG!
Man with one hair getting a haircut: WHICK!
Person being kicked in the neck: PFWUMPFPH!
Person getting kicked in snappers: PWACK!
Measle germ snapping at skin: SCHLOPP!
If you’ve been able to struggle through the foregoing list of cartoon words, perhaps now your acoustical sense has been sharpened to the extent that you can readily guess a situation just by reading a sound word. To test your ability, hee is a list of cartoon words denoting various noises. If you can guess the action by which even one of them is produced, then your extremely something or other.
Now check your definitions with the following list. Even if you missed defining all the words, it’s no reflection on your intelligence. Fact is, the more you miss, the brighter you probably are. On the other hand, the more you can guess, the better comic strip cartoonist you can become- unless, unfortunately, you’re already one.
SNIKK: The sound made by an African pygmy idly snapping his fingernail against his skull
SPIRP: Nose being caught in an orange juicer
FAMP: Corpulent person falling on back in a vat of peanut butter
SWORP: Meteor hitting obese dame on back of neck
SPITCH: Man sticking his head inside huge dynamo in action
KANK: Crazed horsefly crashing into dome of empty-headed man
IKK: Person with protruding eyeballs falling face down
SPRATCH: Court plaster being yanked off polose chest
PWOT: Wet socks being tossed into the corner of the room
YOTCH: Post office pen forming the letter O
KZEEP: Man with rusty eyelid winking at gal
KLISH: Man falling on chin on thin crusted beetle
FEEMP: Mole (on chin) being hit with stray buckshot
SHZWOP: Obese dame’s girdle splitting out
KOPYP: Skin pore snapping shut on contact with cold air
“Good work!” my publisher mumbled two days later, when he had finished reading the list. “Then I get the raise?” I gurgled hopefully. His brows knitted. (He was working on a pair of socks at the same time.) “Not until you complete that list by adding one more sound word! The word that’s missing is the one that describes the sound of a railway train running over a cartoonist’s conk!”
“That should be easy,” I chirped. “I’ll just-” Suddenly, the awful significance of his demand dawned on me. My publisher had conceived of this diabolical plan to prevent my getting a raise. But I would fool him.
A half hour later my noggin was resting uncomfortably on a railroad rail.
They told me later at the hospital that it wasn’t too bad. Only 22 cars, plus the locomotive had been derailed. “The train crew wanted the day off anyway” my doctor said. “They will be up later to thank you.” While he poured glue in the cracks in my conk, I struggled to recall the exact sound of the locomotive passing over my pate. I became frantic at the thought that it had eluded me. Then I remembered. How could I forget something that had been so forcefully crammed into my mind?
I raced out of the hospital and downtown to my publisher’s office. When that man saw the Scotch tape on my skull, he blanched a little. “Did you find out what the sound of a train running over a cartoonist’s head is?” he asked. “I did.” I announced triumphantly. He leaned expectantly so far forward that his rear suspender buttons flew off, zipped out the window, and nailed a burglar who was ransacking a safe in an office across the street.
“What is the sound?” he asked shakily.
“It is GJDRKZLXCBWQ.”
“GJDRKZLXCBWQ?” he queried doubtfully.
“No. It’s GJDRKZLXCBWQ. The L is silent.”
My publisher is not emotional. I have never known him to be moved to tears. But now his lips quivered violently. Or perhaps he was just trying to get something out of his teeth. “Now I have heard everything!” he blubbered.
“The raise.” I reminded him. “How about it?” “The raise? Oh yes. To show my appreciation for collecting the most complete and authentic list of cartoonists’ sound words, I’m going to double your salary!” Whereupon he reached into his wallet and tossed me twice as much as I had been getting previously per week.
Then I realized that my list of sound words wasn’t quite complete until that moment. In all my life I had never heard that lush, lovely sound. It was a mild, whispery sound, barely audible.
Here it is: FMNW!
It was the sound made by my new doubled salary- two $1.00 bills brushing lightly together.
Thanks to Marc Schirmeister for sharing this with us.
Animation Resources depends on your contributions to support its services to the worldwide animation community. Please contribute using PayPal.
Animation Resources is a 501(c)(3) California non-profit corporation. We are providing self-study resources and training material to animation professionals, cartoonists, designers, Illustrators, students and researchers. Animation Resource's Director, Stephen Worth can be reached at... email@example.com.
I would like to thank the membership of The International Animated Film Society: ASIFA-Hollywood for sponsoring my efforts to get this project off the ground during its first few years. In particular, I owe a debt of gratitude to ASIFA-Hollywood's president, Antran Manoogian. Without his unwavering support and valuable guidance this project would not exist. -Stephen Worth