Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rada rada rada

It's no secret that two of my favorite animated shows on air right now are Chowder and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, both from Cartoon Network.

After many months of reruns, new episodes of the two will finally start airing. There will be new Chowder airing for four days in a row starting June 1st. Then a week later, on June 11, new Chowders and Flapjacks will air every Thursday until the end of the year.

Brace yourselves. For all we know this may be the last time CN will air this much, you know, cartoons.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Interview with Bob Camp

Bob Camp is a cartoonist, having worked in animation for more than 20 years. He was one of the main creatives at Ren & Stimpy and eventually became the show runner when Nickelodeon decided to take over the production. He has also done work on Tiny Toons Adventures, Cow and Chicken, and other shows. He has a blog here.

Who were your cartooning influences?
First Mad magazine. Harvey Kurtzman, Mort Drucker, Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Sergio, all those guys. Of course I was very influenced by Warners and MGM cartoons and Hanna Barbera. Larry Hama, Gary Hallgren, John Buscema who i was lucky enough to work with. I worked for 6 or 7 years at marvel which was the best art school ever.

What was your first job in animation?
I worked at Rankin Bass in NYC during the 80's on Thundercats and 4 other shows there. It was a small studio and I did almost all the design work as all production work was sent overseas.

Of all the shows you worked on, which one would you consider to be your favorite? The least favorite?
That's hard to say. Ren and Stimpy was rewarding in so many ways but it was also a painful experience.

Scene from "Stimpy's Invention", storyboarded by Bob Camp.

After Ren & Stimpy ended, what did you do?
Worked on lots of movies as a storyboard artist, worked on Cow and Chicken, did a pilot for Cartoon network. Lots of freelance.

From Lucky Lydia, a pilot developed by Bob Camp for Cartoon Network. h/t

What is your opinion on the practice of outsourcing animation to another country?
It's always been the way animation is done since the early 60's. Rankin Bass was the first to do it I believe. As a producer I understand why it's done. It's cheaper just like it's cheaper to make sneakers in Chinese sweatshops.
I'm all for keeping American's working. With so many different new types of animation software and production models there's no reason not to do it in country. Yes, America first damnit!

In your opinion, what do you think is wrong (or right) with animation today?
The same thing that's always been wrong with it and there's plenty of angry blogs about it out there and they make a lot of good points. Bitching about things is a big waste of time. As long as it is a business run by businessmen it will be businesslike which has nothing to do with drawing funny pictures.

Are there any contemporary animation that you like?
I like lots of stuff but I rarely watch TV anymore. Mighty B is cool. It looks exactly like Ren and Stimpy. I find it ironic that I couldn't get a job on that show:) Of course Pixar is amazing, Dreamworks has been putting out lots of great stuff. Generally features are getting better and better.

Have you considered going independent, a-la Bill Plympton?
Sure but I'm not an animator like Bill. He does all that stuff himself. I need to make a living. That is good advice for young animators though.

Script vs. storyboard: what's your take on this whole debate?
I have nothing against scripts. I do think that people must learn to move on from a script and let the cartoonists do their thing and having a script written in stone is self defeating. Obviously storyboards are what I do and I don't need a script. A 3 page outline will do just fine thanks.

Interview © Charles Brubaker
Ren & Stimpy Created by John Kricfalusi © Viacom
Lucky Lydia © Cartoon Network
Gregon and Evo © Bob Camp

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

REVIEW: The Best of Rocko's Modern Life, Vols. 1 & 2

All images are NOT from the DVD, but rather from iTunes. You'll find out why in a sec.

Rocko's Modern Life is an animated series that ran on Nickelodeon from 1993 to 1996 for a total of 52 episodes. It was created by cartoonist Joe Murray and it was produced through Games Animation.

It was Nick's fourth attempt at original cartoons (after Doug, Rugrats, and Ren & Stimpy) and the show began production around the time the latter show got taken away from the creator and continued under the Games studio. Rocko is often compared to Ren & Stimpy, in that the show had a "wacky", cartoony animation style. However, that's where the similarity ends. For one, Rocko was more grounded into its setting, in contrast to the "anything can happen" style in Ren & Stimpy.

Even with the Ren & Stimpy comparison, Rocko is a brilliant TV cartoon. In fact, I'd say Rocko was better than that insane chihuahua and dumb cat (not that they were awful or anythin'. heh heh). The characters are interesting enough to drive a whole story through, even making episodes about a mudane task like Rocko going shopping entertaining. The show was well-written and directed, due to contributions from writer/artists such as Stephen Hillenburg (SpongeBob), Jeff "Swampy" Marsh (Phineas and Ferb), Mark O'Hare (Citizen Dog), and others.

Rocko had few VHS tapes released in the ninties, but a show was never given a DVD treatment, until last year...sorta.

About a year ago, Nickelodeon made a deal with to release their older shows through their DVD-on-demand service. Basically they make a new DVD to every order they recieve, which is then shipped.

Through this, the entire first season of Rocko was released, but (for some reason) under the umbrella The Best of Rocko's Modern Life.

So yeah, don't expect anything fancy from this. Just a basic menu with no extras what-so-ever.

These are DVD-R, meaning that it won't work on all players. Unfortunately, one of them happens to be the computer I'm typing this from (I have no idea why, since I managed to play other DVD-Rs with no issues). The only players that I could actually play these were from my friend's laptop and through the regular DVD player on my TV. As a result, I'll be basing this from what I saw on my TV.

The picture quality looks good. Keep in mind that the show was made 15 years ago and was painted on cels and filmed, so don't expect razer-sharp image quality.

The opening sequence only shows up in the very beginning. The closing credits are there in appropriate episodes, but then it just cuts to the next cartoon after that.

"Leap Frogs", the show's banned episode, is included, which I guess is a plus.

Not everything's uncut, however. "The Good, the Bad, and the Wallaby" had a scene where a milking machine is attached to Heffer, essentially going through (implied) orgasm over it. It was removed from reruns and unfortunately is removed in the DVD as well. Strangely, however, this scene was intact in the "With Friends Like These" VHS tape that came out years ago.

And it's VERY expensive. Each volume costs about $25. Which is pretty high for a six-episode set with zero extras.

So do I recommend it? Well, it depends. If you're desperate for Rocko on DVD, this is pretty much the only legit one so far. Hopefully they sell well enough for Viacom to consider an actual retail release of the entire run. One can dream. At best, try to find a cheaper copy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Animation cels

I recently bought several animation cels of the Mother Goose and Grimm series that CBS aired back in 1991, so I thought now would be a good time to write about them.

Until the early 2000s, most hand-drawn cartoons were painted on cels, which are clear plastic sheets, usually about 10" x 12" big.

After the animation drawings are cleaned up, they are either inked directly onto cels or xeroxed. Then they flip the cel and add paint to it.

Here's the front:

And the back, where paint is applied:

After they are painted, the cels are then placed over the background art and photographed to create one frame of animation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cartoon directors

When one thinks of a cartoon director, the chances are names like Chuck Jones or Tex Avery comes up. The jobs these directors did varied by the studios and the directors' preference, but for the most part they acted out animation, decided on how the story should go, how the characters are designed, how the character's voice should sound, how it should be timed, and a ton of other stuff.

This was in the days of Looney Tunes, which was more than 50 years ago.

In modern sense, especially in television, the job of directing a cartoon really varies, depending on the studio, the show, and how it's set up.

In some cartoons, a person listed director basically fills out the timing sheet for the overseas animators to follow. They rarely have input in the story structure, the designs, or directing the voice actors (usually the show's creator does all or part of that).

In script-driven cartoons, the director is involved in visualizing the scripts for the storyboard artists, although the level of power varies greatly depending on the show. In those shows they rarely do the timing, often giving out sections of storyboards for other timers to fill out.

It's no secret that each section is separated by levels. Many animation fans scoff at this, saying it's too segmented, but I don't think it's an awful system. As long as there is at least one creative head who is de-facto in charge of all the departments (whether it's the creator or the show-runner) there should at least be some consistance. Knowing the strict deadlines in TV animation, it's not too bad, and as long as you have the right people it's still capable of producing good cartoons.

That said, I'm curious to know what others view about this.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's the BOOGIE MAN!

With a case of heebie jeebies

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Dark Knight - 1960s version

Do you like to see a magic trick?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Worm Paranoia - Eddie's notes

Courtesy of Bob Jaques, here are the notes that Eddie Fitzgerald gave to Bob for his short Tales of Worm Paranoia.