Animation Articles: March 8, 2020

A selection of the best animation articles including news, opinions, and features from around the world for the week beginning the 8th of March, 2020.

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Boomerang Relaunch is Too Little Too Late

Cartoon Network was the original home for the vast library of Hanna-Barbera and MGM cartoons that Ted Turner had at his disposal. It soon outgrew that purpose as original content began to be broadcast on the channel and eventually banishing them altogether to a new network: Boomerang. To say they languished there is an understatement, but Turner’s attempt to make amends comes too little, too late.

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In Appreciation Of Scooby Doo Backgrounds

Kirk Demarais’ Secret Fun Blog is an eclectic place where you can come across all sorts of fun and interesting stuff, including the inspiration for today’s post. Popping up on Reddit recently was one of Kirk’s posts from 2007 that contained 50 (!) backgrounds from the epitome of Hanna-Barbera TV shows, Scooby Doo.

Here’s a few of the more intriguing ones, but check out the full set on Kirk’s blog too.

5 Hanna-Barbera Shows That Really Should Be Turned into Movies

We’ve had the Smurfs, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones and The Jetsons all make it onto the silver screen, but the Hanna-Barbera library is much more vast than these popular titles. What other properties from the past could be brought back to life with a tasteful big-screen adaptation? Let’s find out.

1. Huckleberry Hound

Via: Yowp

Seriously, eejits are all the rage in movies, especially ones who succeed despite all the odds (a role Will Farrell plays quite well). Huckleberry Hound is ripe for the picking. He’s the ultimate nice guy that even Steve Carrell can’t touch. His film would make a nice turning point towards more character driven entertainment with some physical humour thrown in for good measure.

2. Top Cat

Via: Yowp

Technically this one has already been done in Mexico, but there’s still more then enough room in the crowded US market for a wiseass cat and his gang of misfits. What could a possible plot be? How about a diamond thief accidentally dropping a diamond in Top Cat’s alley. Hilarity ensues as our favourite feline has to evade the thief and the law in order to return the diamond to its rightful owner.

3. Jonny Quest

Via: First Showing

This one is quite literally begging to be made. Action and adventure are all to common in TV shows but once you get to the big screen, things get a bit sparse. Tintin arguably fills one void, but he isn’t Jonny Quest. It’s time to see him in his own film, I mightn’t even mind if it’s live-action!

4. The Snorks

Via: 3DM3

If The Lorax can be made as good looking as it is, there’s no real reason why the Snorks can’t get a similar treatment. Bonus points for updating the concept beyond the horrible 1980s plots of the TV show.

5. The Perils of Penelope Pitstop

Via: Patrick Owsley

This is cinema gold. A [supposedly] rich Southern belle who drives a very fast car constantly being pursued by her evil cousin who’s after her inheritance. You can almost see the crappy live-action “update” now; starring Reese Witherspoon as Penelope and Hank Azaria as the Hooded Claw.

Yuck.

How about an animated version instead, complete with all the physical humour and squash and stretch that it deserves. Not too sure about including the Anthill Mob though. Why were they always following her around?

So that’s what I’ve come up with. Can you think of any others?

Watch An Attempt To Bring A Show Back in Real Time

Discovered today (Tuesday) on the animation subbreddit, this is an attempt to bring back the mid-90s cartoon SWAT Kats. It was apparently fairly popular (if the claims in this video are credible) and was produced by Hanna-Barbera/Turner with animation being done by Tremblay Bros.

So, have the instigators of this campaign read this post, or are they falling prey to the classic mistakes of campaigns past?

Perhaps this video will help you decide. You can leave your comments below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhoN9IMkJNo

For the decidedly curious, here’s a link to the revival blog.

Mark Mayerson Is Right!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEPGpHADiKk

Due to my abysmal levels of energy this morning, Amid Amidi beat me to it, but Mark’s post is nonethless right on the money.

It’s a 2005 Tom and Jerry, co-directed by Joe Barbera. In some ways, it does a remarkably good job of duplicating the look and feel of the Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoons of the 1940s and ’50s. However, in other ways, it doesn’t…..

Mark does an excellent job of running down the issues with the short, starting with the opening credits that would give any designer nightmares and going on to talk about the animation styles. There are some great comments so don’t forget to read those too.

So just what is the point of so attempting to recreate the old timey feel of a Tom & Jerry cartoon? Oh sure, it wears its loyalty to the source material on its sleeve but what does that prove? That it’s the ‘rightful successor/continuation’ to the originals? That it somehow legitimises the cartoon as a real “Tom & Jerry” short? Or is it that the creators are acknowledging the value to be had in the old shorts?

The answer is more likely that it doesn’t feel “right” to see Tom & Jerry in any other setting than the ones we’re used to. The problem is that the original shorts were a product of their time, the 1940s and 50s. Everything was different then, and Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera played on that. Just think of how many jokes they got out of that ironing board. Regardless of how many times the rehashed the same joke, they were at least using contemporary society for inspiration. Who has an ironing board like that now? No-one! As Mark says (emphasis mine):

Creative works are not only the product of people, they’re also the products of a time and place. As the world keeps changing, it is impossible to recreate something from the past. While artists often wish to duplicate what they love, they can only approximate it. Paradoxically, the closer they get to it, the more they’ve succeeded in doing nothing more than an good imitation. And since the originals are everywhere to begin with, is an imitation necessary?

And rightfully so. That’s partially why The Simpsons of today is so radically different from the early years. The show has changed but society changed even more. The first few series’ simply reflect the culture of the time (the early 90s); today’s episodes are much more post-September 11th/global recession in tone.

So the real question is, why are studios/producers reluctant to move older cartoon properties beyond their established norms? Are they afraid of the risk? I mean, Lunatics Unleashed can’t be that scary an example of what can happen, right?

Iif you’re going to go to the effort of updating properties, why not just do something new? It might be a bit more expensive, but risks can be mitigated, and you’re far more likely to have a stronger product that isn’t constrained by the pre-conceived notions of ” the old version”.

At the end of the day though, David OReilly says it best:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/davidoreilly/status/131477972023656448″]

11 More Animation Blogs That Everyone Ought to Read

Dave Levy recently posted a list of the animation websites he reads on a daily basis (and his blog should most definitely be in your bookmarks already). Seeing as he is a man of good taste, there is no need to amend his list. Indeed, you should check it out to make sure you are reading the same websites he does.

So, as an addition to those, here are 11 more that any self-respecting animation fan would readily admit to reading on a daily basis.

1. Cartoon Brew

Industry standard-bearer and the home page of anyone who is anyone in animation. Guaranteed to either raise a smile or your ire, Jerry beck and Amid Amidi offer up a continuous stream of animated goodies. From the latest TV series to the weirdest merchandise known to man, no animation website is more respected.

2. TAG Blog

The Animation Guild Local 839 is your one stop shop for all the labour news and views from the Golden Coast. Dishing out equal amounts of industry headlines and labour items of note. The TAG blog is a must for current affairs relating to working in the animation business. Sometimes trite, it is nonetheless peppered with commentary from workers and sage advice from union heads.

3. Chuck Redux

The website for all things Chuck Jones. Run by his grandson Craig Causen, Chuck Redux features everything from Oscar’s worldwide travels to the creations from the mind of the man himself. I wrote about it a while back and if you are in any doubt as to why you should read it, look no further than here.

4. John K.

The one and only John Kricfalusi. As if you needed a reason to read his blog, where he discusses techniques, characters and animation in general. Always controversial but guaranteed to advance your knowledge of this fantastic artform.

5. Mr. Fun

Floyd Norman remember Disney when it was run by Disney and then some. Every day he posts his thoughts on working then and now, sometimes throwing in a witty cartoon for good measure. Looking for insights on what it was like to work way back when? Floyd’s is the only website you need.

6. Brian Sibley

Writer and broadcaster from the UK, Brian has not one, but at least three blogs that are worthy of reading. Purveyor of tidbits that are absolutely not to be found anywhere else on the web, Brian’s blogs are a must read. Heck if Michael Sporn recommends them, you know they’re among the best to be found.

7. Deja View

Andreas Deja, famed animator with a sense of humour, recently started his blog. The guy’s one of the best animators about, so expect plenty of technique analysis from the Nine Old Men and more. What more can I say, I look forward to every post.

8. Disney History

If you’re looking for various bits and bobs from the history of Disney, look no further than Didier Ghez’s blog, self-described as:“Interesting discoveries about Disney history, vintage Disneyana, Disney artwork, the Walt’s People book series, and new books about Disney.” Do you need any more reasons to visit? I think not!

9. Joe Murray

Creator of Rocko’s Modern Life and Camp Lazlo, Joe Murray has been around the circuit more than once, and he’s learned a thing or two in the process. On his blog, he offers updates on his studio, news on KaboingTV, anecdotes from the past and advice on how to make it in a fiercely competitive industry. One that should absolutely not be overlooked.

10. Nina Paley

Independent animator, free thinker and open-culture advocate, Nina Palely uses her blog to document the latest in her working life, spread thoughts on free and open culture and to advocate changes in the way the entertainment industry works.

11. Yowp

Do you even remotely like old Hanna-Barbera stuff? Good, Yowp has you covered for just about anything and everything to do with early Hanna-Barbera. From the animators to the writers to contemporary media coverage, this blog has it all.

People I Respect: Fred Seibert

This is the fifth and last in a series of posts in which I explain why I respect certain people in the animation industry and why you should do the same.

 Via: Flickr

Four years ago, if you asked me who Fred Seibert was, I would have given you the blankest look in the world. Of course, that was before I moved to the States and had the time/energy to actually indulge my passion for animation.

If you were to look back at the animated TV landscape of the last thirty years, a few names are apt to stand out: John Kricfalusi, Matt Groening and Klasky-Csupo are just a few. These, however, are the exception and even then, only one could legitimately claim to not owe his success in any way to Fred.

How so, well, Fred is often cited as the first employee hired by MTV. His experiences from that time make for good reading as he was right smack in the middle of a developing cable media revolution in America. After his stint there, he partnered with Alan Goodman to form Fred/Alan and in so doing, was promptly hired to lead the re-branding for Nickelodeon. The results of said assignment was the beloved “splat” logo that lived for 25 years before being replaced.

After that he headed west and took charge of the venerable Hanna-Barbera studio in Hollywood. There, Fred began steering the studio more towards creator-driven shows and the use of the cartoon short as a medium for discovering and developing popular series. Such instincts served him so well that they were repeated in the Oh Yeah! and Random! cartoon series that Fred produced as part of his independent studio, Frederator and resulted in at least 5 shows getting picked up. The latest being the gobsmackingly good Adventure Time.

On top of this, Fred has been at the forefront of the current media revolution, partnering with Tim Shey and others to create Next New Networks. An organisation that has spearheaded the creation of original content specifically for the web. With more than a few solid hits under their belt, the outfit was acquired by YouTube as part of that company’s drive into the original content business.

With more careers than I can ever hope to have, for being someone who is consistently looking forward, for loving cartoons and for being an avowed fan of jazz, Fred Seibert is someone I respect.

Top Cat and Timeless-ness

Today’s post is a guest review of Kung Fu Panda 2 by Emmett Goodman. Emmett is a graduate from the Pratt Institute in New York and is a notable member of ASIFA-East. His personal review blog is here and his sketch tumblelog is here.

Top Cat is one of my favorite cartoons. But the recent news of a Spanish Top Cat feature (entitled Don Gato) has gotten me to thinking about how dated the stories of Top Cat are, and it looks like Don Gato is based on a pre-existing episode from the original series, which is just as dated. The original series is clearly set within its then present day of 1961-62. The characters are written with mannerisms that suggest a tame anti-authortarian attitude that looks more than harmless today. The show was also considerably more sophisticated in writing than Hanna Barbera’s other shows, particularly in the humorous conversations between Top Cat (“T.C.”) and local cop, Officer Dibble. The characters all idealize a perfect way of life, something left over from the innocence of 1950’s Americana, and still hanging on in 1960’s America.

I still like the artistry of the original series. The character designs of “TC” and his gang are still very cute and appealing (even though a couple of them look similar to one another), as are their individual personalities. And this was still in the days when HB’s cartoon backgrounds were rich in design and texture. The new Don Gato feature has a different look to original designs that makes them cartoon-ier, but still recognizable. However, the backgrounds are now rendered in 3D, which I have mixed emotions about. And while I can understand some being nostalgic for the good-natured feel of the old show, replicating that setting and mood doesn’t necessarily guarantee long-term success. Audiences today are more likely to mock and turn away from something that’s clearly dated and old-fashioned looking. Don Gato has a slight chance, however, as it is not as dated as some of HB’s other properties.

Timelessness has been proven to be a key to animation longevity. If nothing is set in the stone of its own era, it can viewed by any generation without fear of it being too dated. Most of the original Looney Tunes cartoons are perfect examples of being timeless, as they are a collection of characters for any situation handed to them. The personalities are not dated in any way. In fact, character personalities are not dated for the most part. And since the settings varied from middles ages to dali-esque fantasies to an exaggerated present day, they could be viewed by any generation, with the focus exclusively on the characters’ personalities.

With most modern cartoons, its a mixed bag. Some could have come from anywhere (I suggest re-reading out how Charles describes Adventure Time‘s success, as well as shows like Spongebob Squarepants, Futurama and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends) while others are clearly products of the present time (I cite the Ben 10 series and most of the Disney channel series, among other things). The recent Looney Tunes resurrection on Cartoon Network is a mixed bag, as the characters who were once placed in various settings are now placed in one sitcom setting. In a way, this makes them look like caricatures of themselves, and in turn, they look dated. And seeing Yosemite Sam singing over-produced rap-rock just doesn’t work.

If the Don Gato film was written with a new story, and explicitly stated to be taking place in the 1960s, I think it would move a lot smoother. But that’s just my opinion. I’m thinking of the last time Top Cat took feature length in 1988, which tried to put the characters in a 1980s setting complete with them singing badly-written hip-hop to meet the (then) young audience’s approval. Go check it out, and ask yourself why you never heard of it until now. Its called Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats.

As an adult now, timeless cartoons are easier for me to watch and still enjoy. Just watching something to mock its dated aesthetic doesn’t last very long for me. Although I understand show writers and artists needing to keep the present audience interested, they should really examine characters from the last 50 or so years, and narrow down why they are still remembered and beloved to this day, generations later.

Sometimes I Raid my Tumblelog For Inspiration…

…and instead I become engrossed in the stuff I find there, even from years ago. Feel free to follow me if you’re on Tumblr too. 🙂

Here’s a few of the wilder examples of animation stuff I rediscovered.

Mickey contemplating recent developments in the world of medicine

Homer shilling my favourite shoes

Woody hitting the moonshine

The Big Bad Wolf from the Three Little Bops

The real-life Wacky Races