August 24th, 2015

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Caricature: The Genius of Miguel Covarrubias

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Miguel Covarrubias was one of the most famous artists of his day, but chances are you’ve never heard of him. Caricaturists know his work- Al Hirschfeld studied under Covarrubias and shared a studio with him in 1924. He spoke of Covarrubias’ talent in the same breath as Daumier and Hogarth. Ethnologists and archaeologists know the name of Covarrubias as well. His analysis of pre-Columbian art and the culture of Bali led to books on the subject that have become classics. And his reputation as an anthropologist rivalled any of his peers in that field. Illustrator, caricaturist, anthropologist, author and educator… It’s high time you knew about Covarrubias too!

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

At the age of nineteen, Miguel Covarrubias, already a renowned caricaturist in his home country of Mexico, emigrated to New York City. He was an instant sensation, and his illustrations began appearing in New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Fellow Mexican artist, Diego Rivera described his illustrations as "those caustic but implacably good-humored drawings which, fortunately for his personal safety, people have been misled into calling caricatures. In Covarrubias’ art there is no vicious cruelty, it is all irony untainted with malice; a humor that is young and clean; a precise and well defined plasticity.”

Most of the caricatures from Vanity Fair below depict unlikely pairs of public figures. Click on the links to the Wikipedia entries on these people and see why Covarrubias put them together.

MIGUEL COVARRUBIAS CARICATURES

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Jim Londos & Herbert Hoover
(Vanity Fair, August 1932)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Senator Smith W. Brookhart & Marlene Dietrich
(Vanity Fair, September 1932)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Al Capone & Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes
(Vanity Fair, October 1932)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Clark Gable & Edward, Prince of Wales
(Vanity Fair, November 1932)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Ex-King Alfonso & James J. Walker
(Vanity Fair, December 1932)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Mrs. Ella Boole & Miss Texas Guinan
(Vanity Fair, January 1933)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Arthur Brisbane & The Sphinx
(Vanity Fair, May 1933)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Emily Post
(Vanity Fair, December 1933)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Admiral Richard E. Byrd
(Vanity Fair, December 1934)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Sally Rand & Martha Graham
(Vanity Fair, December 1934)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Dr. Samuel Johnson & Alexander Woolcott
(Vanity Fair, March 1935)


Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Auguste Piccard & William Beebe
(Vanity Fair, April 1935)

Covarrubias was much more than just an illustrator and caricaturist though. His books on Bali and Mexico revealed a careful analytical mind with an eye for detail. The following article from an arts magazine from 1948 encompasses the latter part of Covarrubias’ career…

MIGUEL COVARRUBIAS OF MEXICO CITY
By Henry C. Pitz
(January 1948)

Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Miguel Covarrubias Caricature
Miguel Covarrubias Caricature

Many thanks to the ever-faithful supporter of Animation Resources, Kent Butterworth for sharing this wonderful material from his own collection with us.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Magazine CartoonsMagazine Cartoons

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

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Posted by admin @ 1:35 pm

August 19th, 2015

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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.

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August 18th, 2015

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Comic Books: Whack Comics And The Fine Art Of Parody

Whack Comics

A week or two ago, I was taking part in a discussion on the Cold Hard Flash blog about ripping off other artists’ work. One of the people discussing the subject brought up the concept of parody, but seemed to have no idea what actually constituted parody. The dictionary defines parody like this…

par-o-dy [par-uh-dee] noun, plural -dies, verb, -died, -dy-ing.
1. a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing: his hilarious parody of Hamlet’s soliloquy.

Parody should be self-evident. The Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart said, "I find it difficult to define obscenity, but I know it when I see it." Parody is like that too. But if you’re going to be a cartoonist, you have to be able to do more than just recognize it… you need to be able to control it and utilize it as a tool. If you succeed, you can create something that does much more than just make fun of another work- it can illuminate an otherwise unthought-of truth, making your parody a creative work that stands on its own. If you fail, you risk plagiarism.

pla-gia-rism [pley-juh-riz-uhm, -jee-uh-riz-] -noun
1. the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.

As a cartoonist, you have to know how to use parody properly. Parody is not an excuse for plagiarism. It’s important to add your own caricature and exaggeration to comment on the work you’re parodying. And your exaggeration has to make a point. The easiest way to recognize how to do that is to study and analyze other parodies. Here is an example of a comic that parodies other comics… Whack!

WEIRD CREEPY AWFUL SPOOKY GHASTLY COMICS

This story is a parody of the EC Comics horror line, which included Tales From The Crypt, Vault Of Horror and The Haunt Of Fear. If you aren’t familiar with this genre, you should check out the reprints at Amazon. There is nothing even remotely like them any more.

Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics

STEVE CREVICE

This parody of Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon was created by cartoonist, William Overgard. Overgard was a friend of Caniff’s. Once, when Caniff was hospitalized, Overgard ghosted a whole week of Steve Canyon dalies so Caniff had time to recouperate. This particular copy of Whack belonged to Caniff. It was lent to us by his estate to digitize.

Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics

Before we get to more stories, take a look at this advertisement…

Whack Comics

It’s an an early advertisement for the Joe Kubert School. 3D comics and movies were all the rage then. Television was beginning to cut into ticket sales at theaters, and producers were looking for a technical advantage over TV to give them an edge. But the fad quickly fizzled out. Movie audiences and comic book readers were more interested in the quality of the movies and comics than the number of dimensions. Today, DVDs and digital media downloading are cutting into the traditional media markets. Some producers are beating the drum for 3D again. Let’s hope they realize soon that people are more interested in quality entertainment than formats.

The following story by Joe Kubert and Norman Maurer trumpets their publication of the world’s first 3D comic book, Three Dimension Comics in 1953. Strangely enough, the comic this was published in, Whack wasn’t in 3D!

Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics

PARODY

In my discussion of parody so far, I’ve left something unsaid, hoping someone would pick up on it in the comments. J.J. Hunsecker was the one who finally mentioned it…

I find it kind of ironic that you’re using Whack as an example of parody, since it can also be said to be a ripoff of MAD.

It’s important to understand exactly where the line lies between fairly exploiting an existing concept and plagiarism. Whack doesn’t plagiarise Mad magazine… it simply uses the same basic format- a parody comic book. It doesn’t ripoff Mad magazine any more than Roy Rogers ripped off Gene Autry or Star Wars ripped off Star Trek. They are simply working in the same genre.

MIGHTY MOOSE

Here’s an amusing parody of Paul Terry’s Mighty Mouse. The Super Rodent himself even makes an appearance! This is a "second generation parody". Mighty Mouse himself was a parody of Superman!

Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics

FLUSH JORDAN

Flash Gordon was also a comic inspired by the success of another similar comic. Alex Raymond created the strip to compete with Dick Calkins’ science fiction comic, Buck Rogers. Here, Flash gets "Whacked"… and Bing Crosby is dragged into the mess too!

Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics
Whack Comics

Thanks to the Estate of Milton Caniff for allowing us to digitize this great comic book.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Comic BooksComic Books

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

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

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