Archive for the ‘theory’ Category

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Theory: Big Boy and the Power of Licensing- A Cautionary Tale

Bobs Big Boy

In 1936, entrepeneur Bob Wian opened a small lunch stand. He had a brilliant, yet slightly devious idea for a hamburger. If he took a standard hamburger bun and sliced it down the middle twice, instead of once… and if he took a standard hamburger patty and divided it into two small patties… he could create a double-decker hamburger that appeared to be larger than the average without costing him any more to make. He named it the "Big Boy".

Bobs Big Boy

Wian hired pretty high school girls as car-hops and dressed them in short skirts and cowboy hats. But something was still missing…

Bobs Big Boy

One day, animator Benny Washam was lunching at Wian’s stand, doodling on placemats. Wian saw that he was a cartoonist and asked him to draw a caricature of Richard Woodruff, a chubby, apple cheeked boy who helped out at the stand sweeping up after school. Washam obliged, depicting the lad in oversized checkered overalls munching on a burger.

Bobs Big Boy

Ben Washam’s Original Design

Wian loved the doodle and gave Washam his lunch for free. Bennie gave the sketch to Wian to use as a mascot for the stand.

Bobs Big Boy

Bennie didn’t think any more of it for many years…

Bobs Big Boy
Bobs Big Boy

Bobs Big Boy

Wian turned the caricature into an empire, branding not only his hamburger stand, but a line of sauces and spices and a franchised chain of family restaurants that eventually covered the entire country. A cutened version of Washam’s doodle was plastered all over the menus, signage and television advertising.

Bobs Big Boy

Bobs Big Boy

Wian knew who in the family made the decisions about where to eat… It wasn’t mom and dad, it was the kids. Outside each restaurant in the chain, he placed a huge fiberglass statue of Big Boy as a beacon to attract children…

Bobs Big Boy

And cartoonists, like assistant archivists, Alex Vassilev and JoJo Baptista!

At the restaurants, Wian gave away free comic books featuring the character. Here is an extremely rare example… Big Boy comics number one from 1956. These comics were produced by Timely Comics, which later became Marvel. They were written by Stan Lee and drawn by Bill Everett. Later issues featured the work of Archie comics artist, Dan DeCarlo. Adventures of the Big Boy is one of the longest continuously running comic book lines. It’s still being produced fifty years later.

Bobs Big Boy

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Bobs Big Boy

Years later, when Big Boy had become a familiar figure to the entire country, Washam admitted to his fellow artists at Warner Bros that he was the cartoonist who had created the character. They laughed and teased him, saying, "Benny, you should have been heir to a hamburger fortune, but no! Your lot in life is to toil day and night making animated cartoons!" They were joking, but there’s an element of truth in it. Never underestimate the power of a doodle. The Big Boy sketch that Washam traded away for a free meal in 1936 ended up selling millions and millions of dollars worth of hamburgers.

If you would like to see more Big Boy comics, let me know in the comments.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

TheoryTheory

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

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Theory: Bill Evans on the Creative Process and Self-Teaching

Bill Evans

It isn’t often that a drop-dead genius sits down to speak directly to students. It’s even rarer for these special events to be recorded for television. My musical pal, Skip Heller tipped me off to a real treasure… a TV program from 1966 titled, "The Universal Mind of Bill Evans".

I’m a big believer in interdisciplinary study. An artist is an artist, and an animator can learn an awful lot from musicians, actors, dancers and performers in all of the other fields of creative endeavor. Here, we have the opportunity to learn from one of the giants of Jazz, pianist Bill Evans.

Evans was normally a quiet sort of person, and didn’t speak a lot about his work. But he had studied to be a teacher, and his brother who was also a teacher convinced him to sit down and address the fundamental principles of his work. As I first listened to this interview, I was amazed to hear many of the same theories I had heard from the great artists I have had the opportunity to work with in animation. I’ve broken the video into four YouTube movies, and I will make note of the most important quotes below each segment.

Part 01: Direct YouTube Link

I believe that all people are in possession of what might be called a “universal mind”. Any true music speaks with this universal mind to the universal mind in all people. The understanding that results will vary only insofar as people have or have not been conditioned to the various styles of music in which the universal mind speaks. Consequently, often some effort and exposure is necessary in order to understand some of the music coming from a different period or a different culture than to which the listener has become conditioned.

Bill Evans argues that style, for better or for worse, eventually comes of itself- out of that mysterious interior well of creative inspiration that nourishes everyone to one degree or another. It’s much more important, Evans feels, to master fundamentals both in theory- so you understand what you’re doing, and in active practice- developing one’s musical muscles… not just technical dexterity, but the brain connection. Developing that facility to the point where the subconscious mind can take over the basic mechanical task of playing thus freeing the conscious to concentrate on the spontaneous creative element that distinguishes the best Jazz- and the best in all human activity.

Jazz is the only form of art that America has created and given to the world… but I think it’s more of a revival in a different form than what went on in classical music before. In the 17th century there was a great deal of improvisation in Classical music, and because of the fact that there were no electrical recording techniques to permanize or to “catch” music and to record it, the music was written so that it could be permanized that way. Slowly but surely the writing of the music and the interpreters of the music gave way to more and more interpretation and more and more cerebral composition and less and less improvisation. So finally, improvisation became a lost art in Classical music and we have only the composer and the interpreter.

I feel that Jazz is not so much a style as it is a process of making music. It’s the process of making one minute’s music in one minute’s time. Whereas when you compose, you can make one minute’s music and take three months… We tend to think of Jazz as a stylistic medium, but we must remember that in an absolute sense, Jazz is more of a certain creative process of spontaneity than a style… Any good teacher of serious classical composition will always tell a student that the composition should sound as if it’s improvised. It should have a spontaneous quality, so actually, the art of music is the art of speaking with this spontaneous quality.

The person who succeeds in anything has the realistic viewpoint at the beginning in knowing that the problem is large and that he has to take it a step at a time and he has to enjoy this step by step learning procedure.

Part 02: Direct YouTube Link

It’s better to do something simple that is real. It’s something you can build on. because you know what you’re doing. Whereas, if you try to approximate something very advanced and don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t build on it.

No matter how far I might diverge or find freedom in this format, it only is free insofar that it has reference to the strictness of the original form. That’s what gives it its strength.

Part 03: Direct YouTube Link

The whole process of learning the facility of being able to play Jazz was to take these problems from the outer level in- one by one and to stay with it at a very intense conscious concentration level until that process becomes secondary and subconscious… Then you can begin concentrating on that next problem which will allow you to do a little bit more.

I don’t consider myself as talented as many people, but in some way that was an advantage. I didn’t have a great facility immediately. I had to be more analytical. It forced me to build something.

Most people just don’t realize the immensity of the problem and either, because they can’t conquer it immediately, think they don’t have the ability; or they’re so impatient to conquer it that they never do see it through.

I remember coming to New York to make or break in Jazz and saying to myself, “How do I attack this practical problem of becoming a Jazz musician- making a living and so on… Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that all I must do is takke care of the music- even if I do it in a closet. And if I really do that, somebody is going to come to the closet and open the door and say, “Hey, we’re looking for you!”

When you begin to teach Jazz, the most dangerous thing is you begin to teach style… If you’re going to try to teach Jazz, you must teach principles that are separate from style. You have to abstract the principles of musi which have nothing to do with style. This is exceptionally difficult.

Part 04: Direct YouTube Link

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?!

Lest you think that Bill Evans’ ideas only apply to music, scan over those quotes up above and try to apply them to animation…

Animation in its purest form follows the rhythms of music and speaks to the same universal mind. Think of the funniest walk cycle you have ever seen and try to put it into words. You can’t. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. Great poses and pure movement speaks to our humanity- the part of us that operates below the verbal level.

The difference between acting for animation and acting on the stage is the difference between composition and real time improvisation. Yet the goal is the same… a feeling of spontaneity.

Deviation and exaggeration is best when it reflects the strictness of the form of the idea. Angles on characters for no reason other than to put angles on them, arbitrary exaggeration and deliberately wonky perspective don’t have the same strength as exaggeration based on the original form you’re depicting.

Style is something that comes from within after the abstract fundamentals are mastered and absorbed. If you try to learn to draw by learning a style- be it anime or Spumco or Disney- you are building upon a foundation that won’t support your artistic growth.

Learning to draw and animate is a huge undertaking and the way to do it is to break down, analyze and practice the principles one by one- from simple to more complex- just like the way the Preston Blair Course is organized. As you master the principles, they become second nature and you can move on to learning new principles.

It can be daunting to imagine how one is going to create a career in animation, but ultimately, one just has to serve the artform- even if there is no audience for your work yet. Eventually, if you serve the artform well, the audience will come.

Musicians are talking about this post.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

TheoryTheory

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

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

E-Book: Louis Raemaekers- The Cartoonist Who Helped Win The First World War

Every other month, members of Animation Resources are given access to an exclusive Members Only Reference Pack. In May 2016, they were able to download this collection of WWI cartoons by Louis Raemaekers. Our Reference Packs change every two months, so if you weren’t a member back then, you missed out on it. But you can still buy a copy of this great e-book in our E-Book and Video Store. Our downloadable PDF files are packed with high resolution images on a variety of educational subjects, and we also offer rare animated cartoons from the collection of Animation Resources as downloadable DVD quality video files. If you aren’t a member yet, please consider JOINING ANIMATION RESOURCES. It’s well worth it.


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Louis Raemaekers

Raemaekers Cartoons
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Louis Raemaekers

Berntstorff- The Next To Be Kicked Out

LOUIS RAEMAEKERS

(1869-1956)

“The cartoons of Louis Raemaekers constitute the most powerful of the honorable contributions made by neutrals to the cause of civilization in the World War.” -Theodore Roosevelt, 1917

Louis RaemaekersLouis RaemaekersLouis Raemaekers was born in the Netherlands in 1869. He led a quiet life, painting landscapes while studying and teaching in Amsterdam and Brussels. In 1906 he was asked by a newspaper in Amsterdam, Het Handelsblad, to produce a series of cartoons. His initial attempt at a comic strip was a complete failure, so he turned to politics.

Raemaekers’ interest in international affairs led him to speak out about German ambitions for expanding their territory into Holland and the Allsace region of France. This got him into trouble with the editors of Het Handelsblad. The Netherlands was neutral and Germanic aggression was a hot issue, so they started cutting back on the number of cartoons by Raemaekers in their pages. When a rival paper, De Telegraaf offered him more editorial freedom and as much space as he could fill, he jumped at the chance.

Louis Raemaekers

“I was in prison for life, but they found I had many abilities for bringing civilization to our neighbors, so now I am a soldier.”


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At the beginning of the First World War, Germany invaded Belgium. The Netherlands was neutral, so refugees streamed across the border. With them, they carried stories of German atrocities against the Belgian people. Raemaekers secretly crossed the border into Belgium to see for himself if the stories were true and returned outraged at what he had witnessed. He began to produce fiercely Anti-German political cartoons that burned with the passion of personal conviction.

Louis Raemaekers

The Massacre of the Innocents in Belgium
“All in good order. Men to the right, women to the left.”

Raemaekers’ cartoons were picked up for distribution by the British government in a series of propaganda pamphlets. The campaign was so effective, the Germans used their influence in the Netherlands to have Raemaekers tried for “endangering Dutch neutrality”. The charges were eventually dropped, but Kaiser Wilhelm II put a bounty of 12,000 marks on his head. When his wife began to receive anonymous threats, Raemaekers realized that his family was in great danger. He relocated to England, where his cartoons were celebrated in books and museum exhibitions, and syndicated to newspapers across France, Canada and the United States.

Louis Raemaekers

The German Tango- “From East to West
and West to East, I dance with thee.”

Raemaekers cartoons were instrumental in fighting against deeply entrenched American isolationism, and in 1917 the United States entered the war. Raemaekers quickly organized a lecture tour of the US and Canada, rallying the allies to support the French and mobilize against the Germans. The Christian Science Monitor said of Raemaekers, “From the outset his works revealed something more than the humorous or ironical power of the caricaturist; they showed that behind the mere pictorial comment on the war was a man who thought and wrought with a deep and uncompromising conviction as to right and wrong.”

Louis Raemaekers

Von Bethmann-Hollweg And Truth
“Truth is on the path and nothing will stay her.”


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After the war, Raemaekers withdrew from international affairs, spending the last 25 years of his life quietly in France and Brussels. By the time he passed away in 1956, the world had pretty much forgotten him. But in his obituary, the New York Times summed up his career, saying, “It has been said of Raemaekers that he was the one private individual who exercised a real and great influence on the course of the 1914-18 War. There were a dozen or so people (emperors, kings, statesmen, and commanders-in-chief) who obviously, and notoriously, shaped policies and guided events. Outside that circle of the great, Louis Raemaekers stands conspicuous as the one man who, without any assistance of title or office, indubitably swayed the destinies of peoples.”

Louis Raemaekers

The Harvest Is Ripe

Today, Raemaekers is remembered more by students of the First World War than by cartoonists and artists. His work has been looked down upon with scorn by certain revisionist historians who argue that some of the more extreme atrocities depicted in Raemaekers’ cartoons never took place. It is always difficult in wartime to know what is happening behind enemy lines. Although Raemakers made several clandestine research trips to Belgium during the war, he also depended on second hand accounts, some of which have since been proven to be untrue. But no one denies that Raemaekers himself believed his cartoons to be completely factual.

Louis Raemaekers

A Fact- The brutalization by Major Tille of the German Army on a small boy of Maastricht was verified by an eye-witness.

This sincerity is what makes him important to cartoonists today. He deserves to be remembered, not as just a propagandist, but as an artist who stood up for what he believed. His passion carried him from being a provincial landscape painter to becoming one of the most powerful and influential individuals on the world stage. There is tremendous power in the art of cartooning. It’s not just “ducks and rabbits” and mindless children’s entertainment. It can change the world. No cartoonists should ever forget that.

Louis Raemaekers

The Future- “For freedom’s battle once begun,
though baffled oft, is ever won.”

For more detailed information on Louis Raemaekers’ life and career, see John Adcock’s excellent article at Yesterday’s Papers.

Louis Raemaekers

The Sea Mine- Von Terpitz’s Victims


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Editorial CartoonsEditorial Cartoons

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

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