Archive for the ‘theory’ Category

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Theory: How To Get The Most Out Of Animation School


Imagine you want to be a concert pianist and composer, and you go to Julliard to study. What would happen if you arrived at Julliard on the first day of class and you were barely able to play “Chopsticks”. What could Julliard teach you when you don’t even possess the most basic pianistic skills?

Hundreds of animation students do exactly this when they enroll in college before acquiring even the most basic drawing skills. What can you learn about animation without even the most basic drawing skills?

I hear people talk about the Preston Blair course as if it is what you need to learn to draw. THE PRESTON BLAIR COURSE IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF LEARNING TO DRAW. If you want to be an artist in animation, you really should have accomplished the basics of everything Blair teaches by 12 or 13 years old.

You can’t even BEGIN to learn without the basics. Going to college not being able to draw well will only lead to having huge debt in student loans with absolutely nothing to show for it. Schools are a business. If we went to a car mechanic and said, “Here is $500. Fix whatever you think needs fixing and keep the rest” do you think we would get our money’s worth? Schooling is not a passive endeavor.

Students don’t want to hear this. But the ones I see succeed are consistently the ones that were prepared to learn before they even began to learn.

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Theory: The Past Is Relevant to Your Work As An Artist

Then and Now

125 Years separate these images.

(Wilhelm Busch 1865 / Bob Camp 1991)

I posted the Ren & Stimpy storyboard the day after I posted the early comic work of Wilhelm Busch in the hopes that someone would notice how much Busch’s pioneering sequential comics look like storyboards. The two Busch stories I posted are perfect examples to study if you are learning to tell stories in pictures.

But no one put two and two together. In fact, because Wilhelm Busch wasn’t a familiar name, most people didn’t even bother to click through to look at it.

The cartoonist who invented sequential comics isn’t a familiar name! What does that say about us as artists working in animation?

I can’t speak for Bob Camp who drew the Ren & Stimpy panel, because I’ve never spoken with him, but here is another Ren & Stimpy storyboard artist speaking at length about Wilhelm Busch…

Uncle Eddie’s Theory Corner: German Cartoonists

I’ve spoken with many successful animators, and their knowledge of the history of cartooning is staggering… Daumier, Nast, Gillray, Cruickshank, Hogarth… They can speak for hours about these artists and have books in their library to refer to for their own work.

What is the difference between you as an animator and Andreas or John K or Ralph Bakshi or Eric Goldberg? It isn’t necessarily talent or skill. A lot of you have talent, and skill just requires concentration and pencil mileage to develop. Every animation studio used to be packed with talented artists like these. I’ll tell you what the difference is. These guys know the history of their medium, and because of that, they push the medium forward instead of just participating in creating the same old same old.

When I post images on Animation Resources, I wonder if anyone bothers to click through the hires links or read the articles. Do you jot down the name in your sketchbook and do further googling? Do you make printouts and try to figure out the techniques for yourself? Or is it just a pretty picture to look at and click like on and never think of again?

These are not just pretty pictures. They aren’t nostalgic memories. They are BUILDING BLOCKS FOR YOUR CREATIVITY.

The material here at Animation Resources comes from the private reference libraries of professional animators. It’s the material they refer to every day in their work… the information that informs their creativity. This isn’t a musueum with specimens pickled in jars of formaldehyde. This is a vital resource for your growth as an artist. If you aren’t bookmarking, studying, filling hard drives with jpegs, learning about the artists from the past and USING THIS STUFF IN YOUR WORK… all the college degrees and knowledge of computer programs in the world won’t make you an animator.

An animator is a CARTOONIST who uses exaggeration and caricature to bring characters to life. If you want to do that for a living, you better know the foundation you are building on or you’ll be operating at a very low level creatively.

I listen in to young animators speaking about animation and I’m shocked at how narrow their experience is. There is more to learn from the history of animation than just Freddie Moore, Milt Kahl and Chuck Jones. If you limit your input to anime, TV animation and 90s Disney, you will never ever go beyond that. You won’t even get that far, because the artists who created those animated films had a MUCH wider frame of reference than you.

Animation is a very competitive business. Being able to build on the foundation of the past will give you an edge, and will allow you to go beyond what everyone else is doing, just like the two artists who drew the sketches at the top of this page. But if you limit yourself and don’t make an effort to assimilate the history of your medium, you will never get anywhere.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Theory: Live The Fabulous Lifestyle Of A Hollywood Cartoonist

Cartoonist Party

Wrap party for “Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom”

John Kricfalusi posted a blistering post this morning about popular culture and the upside down meaning of the words "liberal" and "conservative" today. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out. Here is my own take on a similar theme…

BingBingThe other day, a student at Woodbury volunteered to help build out our database. His name is Jo-Jo. He told me how much this blog, along with Eddie Fitzgerald’s and John K’s, has opened his eyes to how great cartoons were in the 30s, 40s and 50s. He had a sketchbook full of Preston Blair drawings and enthusiasm for Fleischer, MGM and Warner Bros cartoons. So I asked him what kinds of music he listens to…

“David Bowie mostly.”

My jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I gave Jo-Jo the best tip he’ll ever get…

Cartoons aren’t the only things that were better back in the first half of the 20th century.

Roy SmeckRoy SmeckMike Fontanelli stopped by later and pointed out that somebody should write a book titled "The Golden Age of Everything". Sure, there are things today that are incredibly great… computers, the internet, iPods, frost-free refrigerators, etc… but music, dance, illustration, writing, movies and cartoons were all better back then. Cartoonists should be aware of this, and they should absorb all of the greatness of the past. It will make them better cartoonists.

Today, I’m going to talk about music…

Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys

I know that someone out there is going to post a comment saying that there’s still great music being made, it just isn’t mainstream. I’m fully aware of the fact that there are talented musicians working today. But in the 30s through the 50s, incredible talent was a given. Performers, from the top of the heap to the bottom- from most popular to least- were all capable of making you do a double take and say “wow!”.

Fats WallerFats WallerWhen I ask kids what kinds of music they listen to, I usually get the response, “All kinds.” But “all kinds” usually turns out to mean a million shades of the same color… current rock music. There are so many names today for the same kind of music. For the life of me, I can’t tell the difference between rave, techno and electronica. In the past, there really were a million kinds of music… pop vocals, hot jazz, country western, big band swing, folk, rhythm & blues, bluegrass, mambo, dixieland, rock n’ roll, sweet orchestral, be bop…

I could talk for hours about this subject, but the best proof is seeing what I’m talking about…


Lucky Millinder

Lucky Millinder & Sister Rosetta Tharpe
"Four Or Five Times" (Soundie/1941)
(Quicktime 7 / 5.5 megs)


Collins And Maphis

Larry Collins & Joe Maphis
"Under The Double Eagle" (Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party/1959)
(Quicktime 7 / 5 megs)


Collins And Maphis

"Gray Goose" "Pick A Bale Of Cotton"(1950s)
(Quicktime 7 / 10 megs)


Les Paul

Les Paul & Mary Ford
"The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise" "Amuka Riki" (Grand Old Opry/1959)
(Quicktime 7 / 12 megs)

If you are a student planning to be a professional cartoonist, listen to music that relates to your work- read books that inspire cartoony ideas- watch movies to learn cinematic techniques that can be applied to cartooning- LIVE THE FABULOUS LIFESTYLE OF A FAMOUS HOLLYWOOD CARTOONIST!

By the way… Jo-Jo is a big Fats Waller fan now! And that’s not all… He graduated from college, trained with John K. and is a professional in the animation business working full time on Bravest Warriors now. Way to go, Jo-Jo!

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources


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