Animation &Commentary 27 May 2007 08:21 am


- I tend to stay away from John Krisfalusi‘s site because I often come away angry. John is one of the most knowledgeable, articulate and intelligent animation writers out there. His “course” in animation, built on the back of the Preston Blair primer, is priceless. I’ve followed that myself knowing full well that I still have a lot to learn about the medium.

However, John likes to taunt the world beyond his little box of fans and followers.
As promoted by Stephen Worth‘s AHAA blog (the link that led me to John K), a recent post had John espousing the positive “creative freedom” in 1940′s studios such as Terrytoons and Walter Lantz.

. . . . S p i t. . t a k e !. . (WHAT!!!)

As if that weren’t enough, he then posts UPA’s Unicorn In The Garden and calls it: “depressing downbeat dreary, creatively stifled drizzle.” I repeat, he’s just compared the UPA classic negatively to Terrytoons and Walter Lantz’ cartoons. (A better place, I think, to look for “dreary drizzle”.)(Dick Lundy’s creative freedom!)
. .

In later postings, atop a rough sketch from UPA he writes: “If it’s bland and sterile, it’s design.” Or he says “… and the other UPA guys decided to abandon animation, fun and lush movement and instead focus on ‘design’.” Then he praises Bill Tytla’s insipid animation and direction at Terrytoons in an ugly little short that has its own immature charm – but little else praiseworthy. There’s no lush movement or fun anywhere to be found in that short. There’s only a boxed-in, brillliant artist, Tytla, unable to work at the top of his game.

Of course all this derisive goading prompts his sycophantic fans to comment of Unicorn In The Garden:
“It’s painful to look at.”
“Upa did destroy the cartoon world.”
“… it was just a big “fuck you” to the audience.”
“Even with the better examples, there’s no denying that most of their flat designs are quite ugly. UPA sorta made it okay to do ugly animation.”

The problem is that John Krisfalusi knows full well how important the UPA break was to animation.
He knows that unless a group of artists broke from the 19th Century style of illustration animation would have remained a world of cute kittens and fairies, princesses and witches. History exists and we have to look at all of the influences to understand why it changed as it did.

(Beware: designers exercising creative freedom at the Lantz studio.).

Without UPA, 101 Dalmatians, Heavy Traffic, and Ward Kimball’s late success wouldn’t have existed. Without UPA, Maurice Noble’s brilliant work for Chuck Jones, Ralph Bakshi’s classic early films or Ren and Stimpy wouldn’t have existed. There had to be a break with the past – design wise – to enable other talents to take it to another level.

Milt Gross‘ style was squeezed at pre-UPA MGM, and good as his shorts were, they don’t equal the insanity of his strips. Today that can be done thanks to UPA.

John goes into some detail about the art of Jim Tyer (but doesn’t really say why his work is great.)

Mind you I think Jim Tyer was brilliantly well ahead of his time, and I’ve studied his work endlessly.
I also recognize that his animation was a GRAPHIC (read: DESIGN) distortion of his characters to pull out any inner spirit. You feel as though his pencil rushed to get out these drawings. The result is endlessly hilarious, but it also works in a larger, more subconscious way.
(Jim Tyer, free from Paul Terry’s low budgets.). . . . . .

Without the graphic changes brought about by UPA, Tyer’s work would not have been accepted by even the cheap producers at Terry’s or Famous. Tyer was endlessly put down by the animators around him at those studios, but he continued to do what he did.
Johnny Gent told me, “Jim could never hold a character.” Two of Terry’s best known assistants told me that he “couldn’t stay on model.” Thank god Bakshi appreciated Tyer’s work. Baksi also appreciated Hubley’s work. He stole from him in putting together his first feature.

Artists like Jules Engel, Bill Hurtz and Paul Julian; animators like Bobe Cannon, Grim Natwick and Art Babbitt had real creative freedom at UPA, and changed the world of animation for the better.

You don’t have to like The Yellow Submarine to recognize that it was a breakthrough, and you don’t have to like UPA’s films to recognize that it was a breakthrough. You don’t have to attack one of the great animation shorts, Rooty Toot Toot, to make your point. Especially when you’re aware of the brilliant animation and design – yes, design – in that film. It all comes together perfectly.

My gosh! Isn’t it time to have to stop defending Picasso as an artist. Michelangelo was great, but so was Pablo in his own way.

You do have to be honest, John K. You want to make a point, and you go so far over the edge thinking it’ll help your case, but it doesn’t. You’re speaking to new generations of animators, and perhaps they don’t fully understand or appreciate the history as you do. Take smaller steps in your criticism, please. And keep writing but don’t think you have to incite the world to get your point across. It’s just annoying and dishonest.

128 Responses to “Aaargh!”

  1. on 27 May 2007 at 11:34 am 1.Bill White said …

    Amen. Michael! I worked for John, unhappily, but I still read his blog and applaud his efforts to educate young wanna-be animators. I detest, however, his “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude towards his opinions. His praise of Terrytoons “freedom of expression” is ridiculous. These were obviously guys cranking stuff out as fast as they could to meet a deadline. To compare a Mighty Mouse cartoon to Rooty-Toot-Toot or even a Mr. Magoo cartoon is ridiculous. All your comments were my thoughts, exactly.

  2. on 27 May 2007 at 12:47 pm 2.Stephen Worth said …

    I can guarantee you that there is absolutely nothing dishonest in John’s arguments, and he doesn’t go over the edge- his analysis is focused like a laser beam and he applies every one of the principles he discusses in the blog to his own work. The blog is an extention of Spumco “theory nights”, where John would provide examples and analysis to the staff to show them what he was asking of them at the studio. Some of the kids in the comments on John’s blog totally get what he’s saying. I know that because they come in the archive to study and I see the impact John’s posts have on their studies. John is training the future leaders of the industry.

    To understand what John is saying, you need to ignore all the “opinions” that have been written in the past, and look at the films he uses as examples analytically with a fresh eye. John’s blog is built on post after post of definition of terms and supporting arguments. There’s no randomness there. There’s a lot more to it than you’re seeing. If you want to get the most out of John’s blog, think analytically without emotions- It’s not a right or wrong thing- it’s a perspective on things that just hasn’t been taken before. Try to see how the pictures relate to the words they’re accompanying and read the earlier posts that set up and frame the argument. Don’t skim- puzzle it all out even if it doesn’t seem right to you. It’s all in there and all the pieces fit, it’s just very compact and it’s easy to skim over the example that defines the concept and totally misunderstand the part that comes after it.

    When you understand what he’s saying, you’ll see exactly why John thinks Bill Tytla’s best work was for Terrytoons, the difference in creative freedom between Walter Lantz’s and Chuck Jones’s animators, the elements of cartooning and animated filmmaking that UPA lacked, and the school of cartooning that Milt Gross represented and defined and how it was the polar opposite of Disney.

    It helps to be able to see the examples that John uses. The problem is, “Defender of Justice” just isn’t as available as “Pinocchio”. Get ASIFA East to raise money for a digitizing station and hard drives, and I’ll ship you the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. Our collection now includes 85 to 90% of the filmography of Terrytoons, Lantz and Fleischer. When you see the films, instead of just reading about them in books, you realize that there are qualities to their animation that just can’t be found in other studios’ work. They’re not what the books make them out to be.

    See ya

  3. on 27 May 2007 at 1:04 pm 3.Michael said …

    I’ve seen the Lantz films, I’ve seen just about every Terrytoons. There are NO – repeat NO – Terrytoons shorts that are as good as Rooty Toot Toot. John can talk until he’s blue in the face, but I know what I know. It’s like saying a Picasso isn’t as good as an Eakins painting. It’s ridiculous and just a way of inciting stupidity.

  4. on 27 May 2007 at 1:24 pm 4.Amid said …

    Mike, I wouldn’t worry myself much about offering a rebuttal to John’s UPA posts. His arguments are self-defeating. The fact that he has to devote so many posts to vehemently deriding UPA is the most powerful argument in favor of the studio’s importance on the art form and continuing influence on the industry.

    In writing Cartoon Modern, I actually learned a lot from John in terms of how to look at cartoons critically. Thankfully he is far less dogmatic and misinformed in real life than he likes to present himself on his blog. If you’re able to generally ignore John’s opinions and instead apply his lessons to your own way of thinking, you end up with a lot of talented and original artists like Aaron Springer, Shane Glines, Tim Biskup and Gabe Swarr, or a book like Cartoon Modern.

  5. on 27 May 2007 at 1:30 pm 5.Amid said …

    Of course, I should also point out that the lessons I took away from John are among the lessons I’ve taken away from dozens of different teachers, personal mentors and artists. The most important think that the young kids reading John’s blog should remember is that relying on one person for your education is the surest way of limiting your capacity for growth and critical thinking.

  6. on 27 May 2007 at 2:41 pm 6.Keith said …

    Well, once I read his multi-post assertions that Roger Ramjet was the height of modern cartoon humor, posing, animation, staging, pacing and design I thought “Surely he’s just trolling for reaction by now.” I tend to take most of his opinions about the merits of this that or the other style with a grain of salt about the size of Minneapolis. He makes great observations and can break things down very well. As an analyst he is extremely strong. I’m happy to benefit from his analysis. And by thinking ‘unemotionally’ and certainly without any allegiance to the man I can leave off his louder assertions about his personal preferences. We all dig our own thing, that’s cool. I too wish he’d use a more moderate tone, though. The conversation within animation circles for too many years has labored under the weight of it’s own acidity.

  7. on 27 May 2007 at 3:09 pm 7.Eddie Fitzgerald said …

    Gee, “Unicorn in the Garden” does strike me as dreary and depressing, even though I’m a fan of Thurber and Matisse which were its main influences.

    I blame bebop which exerted a bad influence even on graphic art on and which wasn’t nearly as good as the swing music that preceded it. Early bop was funny but it quickly morphed into something arid and bleak, good music to accompany suicide. For some reason intellectuals latched on to it, maybe because they didn’t dance much.

    Intellectuals have favored a lot of bleak things in the last half century: Heiddeger, Derrida, minimalist art, shoebox architecture, bebop…what gives? What is this modern fascination with sterility?

    Incidentally, I’m not accusing Michael of any of this. I liked the Sesame Street cartoons he recently put up, which are far from being bleak.

  8. on 27 May 2007 at 4:26 pm 8.David said …


    You point out the same frustration I think a lot of us have in reading John K’s sometimes brilliant observations… when he lapses into provocative hyperbole I believe that in fact he knows exactly what he’s doing and he actually knows better than the blanket statements he’s making, but unfortunately not all of the “true believers” who read his site and add their yea and amens to the comment box know how to discern when the Ol’ Guru’s broadsides need to be taken with the proverbial grain-of-salt.

    My spit take came when I read one of the comments about that little Bill Tytla clip from a Terrytoon (the one with the lion and Mighty Mouse) , about how that clip was an example of “Tytla’s animation unfettered” . Right. Poor Bill Tytla, his creativity suppressed for all those years under that evil dictator Walt Disney … the dwarfs, Stromboli , Dumbo , Night On Bald Mountain : all of that was just so much crappy gay kitsch animation … but finally when Bill gets back to Atelier Terry de New Rochelle he is unfettered and allowed to really animate, free from evil Walt. As they say in those comment boxes : WTF ?

  9. on 27 May 2007 at 5:19 pm 9.Bob Flynn said …

    First and foremost, I am not a trained animator. More-so an avid appreciator of the medium, as it inspires my illustration and comics. But I am a bit of an animator hack. And its my feeling that animators can learn a lot from John’s rants, especially from a character animation standpoint. I love UPA, and was a bit disconcerted by some of John K’s recent posts. But I totally get were he’s coming from, and you have to weed through most of his posts anyway. The lesson from UPA is that simplicity can be impactful, and that design is vital to picture-making. Anyway, great thoughts Michael. It helps balance John’s attack.

  10. on 27 May 2007 at 5:41 pm 10.Thad Komorowski said …

    I’ll go with Eddie… I only watch “Unicorn in the Garden” if I have the desire to be knocked into a deep coma.

    Jim Tyer had his style way before UPA came around. If anything, his animation is Milt Gross influence.

    UPA should stand for Usurper of Proper Animation.

  11. on 27 May 2007 at 6:41 pm 11.Michael said …

    As for Unicorn In The Garden, I’m definitely NOT an intellectual, and I love that film. I love David Raksin’s score and was pleased to have been able to interview Raksin about it, years ago, thanks to Mike Barrier. The film is, to me, hilarious. Different strokes for different folks. I won’t knock your Bob McKimson cartoons if you don’t knock my UPA.

    Sorry Thad, UPA came before Tyer went into his own thing. That happened in the early to mid-fifties. His stuff wasn’t tolerated then as it was after UPA. Terry put up with his graphic distortions because Tyer turned out footage fast and cheap. It all happened after Terry’s strike which is definitely post UPA.

  12. on 27 May 2007 at 7:31 pm 12.Thad Komorowski said …

    But Tyer’s style starts showing up as early as 1943 at Famous which was, to my knowledge, before the UPA knockoffs started.

  13. on 27 May 2007 at 7:56 pm 13.Stephen Worth said …

    Amid, John went over all these same theories with you when you were working for him. You know as well as anyone that he is in real life, exactly as he presents himself in his blog, and he totally believes and has supporting arguments for every comment he makes. You may not like what he has to say, but you know and I know he is definitely NOT misinformed. I don’t know anyone in animation who has the depth and breadth of knowledge about cartooning that John has.

    As for being dogmatic, I know for a fact that John can be convinced to change his opinion. I’ve been able to do that on occasion- most notably on the Fleischer bouncing ball cartoons. But just saying “I love that film.” isn’t going to work. You have to answer all of his points and make points yourself. That requires research, looking at examples, analysis and hard work… exactly what John is encouraging the young artists who read his blog to do. They couldn’t have a better role model for that.

    Sit down and watch The Unicorn in the Garden and try to argue that it isn’t poorly drawn. It is. It’s slowly paced too. The music doesn’t add anything to what is happening on the screen. It just adds an occasional accent as punctuation after the action in a scene is over. The color styling is primitive, and any style or charm that it has going for it is more due to Thurber than it is to the animators who watered his stuff down for the animated adaptation. Yet tht film and Tell Tale Heart and other excruciatingly dull UPA films are held up as masterpieces in animation criticism and no one ever questions it… Until John.

    John’s main point in these articles is that other studios and directors (in particular Tex Avery) “did UPA” better than UPA did. All you have to do is compare Deputy Droopy, Field & Scream or those Kool Aid spots I posted to the best of UPA’s theatricals to see that’s not a particularly outlandish thing to say. Avery’s version of stylized animation is more appealing, better drawn, it moves more interestingly and the gags are a lot funnier. Most of all, the direction is tightly focused, the characters are vivid and Avery uses all aspects of filmmaking at the his disposal to put the story across. Even comparing UPA to UPA, you have to admit that their commercial films are a lot more interesting than their theatrical cartoons, with just a handful of exceptions.

    Michaell, you’re very fortunate to be on the East coast where it’s so easy to view Terrytoons and other early sound cartoons. Out here on the west coast, finding copies of Bill Nolan Lantz cartoons or early Bill Tytla and Art Babbitt at Terrytoons, or being able to view Tyer chronologically was almost impossible until recently. I’m still working on digesting the hundreds and hundreds of hours of Terry, Lantz and Columbia cartoons that have been circulating among animation historians lately.

    Thankfully, the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is making all of this material available to the public. The general consensus among the kids that hang out at the archive is that New York animation is a heck of a lot better than the stuff being done in LA in the 20s and early 30s. It’s funny that New Yorkers don’t feel the same way!

    See ya

  14. on 27 May 2007 at 9:06 pm 14.Michael said …

    Unicorn In The Garden and The Telltale Heart are held up as masterpieces because they are. I don’t think I have to lecture you, Stephen, on the history of animation. John can say anything he likes, and you can say both those films are poorly drawn and poorly scored, but it only underscores a lack of knowledge on your part. I find this conversation embarrassing to have. The films are the gems they are, and it’s irrelevant how little they represent “cartoons” in your or John’s mind. What a ridiculous argument this is! You obviously buy into every trifling bit of nonsense John utters. The Terrytoons, all of them, are worthless in relationship to the UPA films you mention. Bill Hurtz and Paul Julian and Ted Parmelee were artists, and I don’t feel that I have to defend them from your foolish comments.

    Thad, I know Jim Tyer has been animating before 1943. If you can show me one example of the work he did where he distorts the characters – in his pre 1947 films – as he did in the mid fifties, I’ll agree with you. And don’t call UPA films “knock offs” until you know what the term means. All of the Terrytoons could be called “knock offs” but none of the UPA pre 1953 could qualify for that description. You don’t have to like UPA or understand them, but don’t think you’ll get away with denigrating my appreciation of them.

  15. on 27 May 2007 at 9:29 pm 15.Bill White said …

    As much as I appreciate Thad’s blogspot, I can’t BELIEVE he can’t appreciate “Unicorn in the Garden”, a perfect and tasteful adaptation of Thurber’s story. All the “clunky” elements of the animation suit Therber’s style perfectly, and I only wish there were more cartoons of this caliber.
    When push comes to shove, all I can say is: All of you “animators”(John K, Eddie, etc.) who think you can make better/more interesting cartoons- DO IT!

    And Thad, do ANYTHING before you comment on other’s work.

  16. on 27 May 2007 at 9:59 pm 16.Thad Komorowski said …

    Hi Mike,
    My using of the word knock-off could be used interchangeably with rip-off (i.e. Herman & Katnip is a knockoff of Tom & Jerry, etc.) and was referring to what other studios were doing to immitate the studio.

    Bill White- what exactly have you done so incredibly amazing to warrant such an arrogant, pig-headed remark?

    Unicorn in the Garden is a really nice story, but it made a boring cartoon. Thurber wasn’t an animator and the short shows it.

  17. on 27 May 2007 at 10:34 pm 17.Ward said …

    I can’t believe that we have to have conversations like this at this day and age. And Stephen, I’m increasingly frustrated by how much you have to come in and defend John K. Please, let the man speak for himself (which he, as you know, has no problem doing so). He’s a big boy, he can handle it — and we are not saying anything that he probably hasn’t heard anyway. Do you see John K coming in to defend himself? No. So please, by all means, stop defending the man. It’s not making you look any better.

    Thank you, Michael, for this post. We need more people like you who can talk a good talk about analyzing animation as well as know their stuff regarding animation history.

  18. on 27 May 2007 at 11:30 pm 18.Michael said …

    Thad, your definition of “knock off” was what I thought you meant. How do you think any UPA film we’re discussing was a “knock off”? If you’re going to use language, use it properly or you’re attacking artists who did important work despite your lack of appreciation.

  19. on 27 May 2007 at 11:59 pm 19.Thad Komorowski said …

    I’m referring to the cartoons from OTHER studios, not UPA, as knockoffs of the UPA style of design and animation. Not the dearly beloved cartoons like “A Unicorn in the Garden” or “Tell-Tale Heart” being discussed but things like “What’s Opera Doc?” or “Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom” or the Ed Benedict designed Tex Avery shorts (actually, I like those more than any UPA cartoon).

    I have some ‘language’ reserved for what I think of the bulk of the UPA output, but for some reason, my reserve is unusually good for the time being.

    I like “Rooty Toot Toot” a lot though. It’s a damned lively thing.

  20. on 28 May 2007 at 3:18 am 20.J. J. Hunsecker said …

    Hi Michael,

    I enjoyed your post on UPA. It made for some interesting reading, and it seems to have inflamed some controversy.

    I wonder, though, what you mean by “artistic freedom”? It’s obvious that the artists at UPA were free creatively to make the type of cartoons they wanted to, but I think the same can be said for those who worked at Warners, MGM, Columbia and Lantz. The producers at those studios left the directors alone to make the type of cartoons they wanted to. It’s just that those directors wanted to make funny cartoons, not in doing something graphically different from Disney. (Well, maybe Culhane didn’t want to make slapstick cartoons, but Lantz didn’t interfere with Culhane’s directorial choices either.)

    Certain directors like Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery managed to make very personal cartoons while in a factory-like studio. Even in studios people think of as having tighter control on their artists there were still animators there who were given a wider lattitude with their eccentric styles — like Ward Kimball at Disney, for example.

    UPA also had certain strictures on its artists. While most found creative freedom there, others like writer Tedd Pierce felt more stifled. I also heard that Rod Scribner wasn’t too happy there either. (In fact I would say Scribner his greatest freedom under Clampett while at Warners.)

    UPA’s best years are the late 40′s and early 50′s before Hubley left the studio. In fact, in contrast to Warner Bros. which produced funny and inventive cartoons for decades before its decline, UPA’s creative years were over with very quickly. They settled into a certain look and style, and their cartoons became rather repetitive. This doesn’t minimize their importance, of course. It’s not quantity but quality we’re arguing about.

    Of course, just becasue an artist is free to create the type of cartoon they wish to, doesn’t mean that will be their best work. I personally find Cannon’s animation for Jones and Avery to be his greatest work (especially in The Dover Boys [one of the influences for UPA] and From Wags to Riches) rather than anything found in his own films for UPA. (I know Cannon hated conflict and slapstick and disliked all the cartoons he worked on at Warners, Disney and MGM.)

  21. on 28 May 2007 at 8:33 am 21.Michael said …

    The “creative freedom” came out of John Krisfalusi’s comments. He revealed to us that Bill Tyla was liberated and creatively free at Terrytoons so that he could do his best work. Nonsense. My thought on the greatest creative freedom was at UPA, however I’m not sure there was creative freedom for anyone at any of the studios. Like you’ve suggested, J.J., I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Our budgets couldn’t be worse, but in many ways I see that as liberating. It’s only the tightrope dance with clients that locks me in. Just as a dominant overseeing non-artistic boss might have boxed in some of the artists at any of the studios.

  22. on 28 May 2007 at 10:46 am 22.Bill White said …

    Thad, I apologise for what you took as an”arrogant pig-headed remark”. My point may not have come across as well in my writing. I don’t think I’ve done anything so “incredibly amazing” in a commercial animation studio. That is why I stand in awe o the whole UPA experience. I know, deep down, in reality it was just another studio, where the choices and decisions were made by 2 or 3 “big kahunas”, but the idea of being creatively free is intoxicating to those of us in the coal mines.
    Really, no offense at all Thad. I admire your site as much as I do Michael’s.
    We all seem so thin-skinned about our opinions! Let’s remember that we all love animation, and we can choose any “flavor” we please.

  23. on 28 May 2007 at 1:15 pm 23.John said …

    Famous cartoons Tyer worked on with Izzy Sparber or Dan Gordon as director from 1942-47, along with his first cartoon under Bill Tytla, generally had at least one scene in which Tyer was allowed to use is easily identifiable style. How far he took it depended on the story line of the short — Something like “Her Honor, The Mare” or “Moving Aweigh” that had no big fight scenes lent themselves less to his wilder stretch, squash and mangle animation, but here are a few cartoons in which his animation looks very much like his later work for Terrytoons:

    “You’re A Sap, Mr. Jap” (1942-Sparber; scene where te sub commander tries to blow himself up from the inside out)
    “Seein’ Red, White & Blue” (1943 Gordon; scene where Popeye is knocked out by the rigged jack-in-the-box, and then feeds Bluto spinach)
    “Spinach fer Britian (1943-Gordon; scene where Popeye’s rowboat is attacked by the German sub)
    “To Weak to Work (1943-Sparber; scene where Bluto floats into the clouds and explodes, then is pumped back to life with spinach by Popeye)
    Shape Ahoy (1945-Sparber; fight scene at the end, which is also Tyer’s first use of his ‘popping’ animation style)
    Cheese Burglar (1945-Sparber; fight scene between the dog and cat in the middle of the cartoon)
    Service With a Guile (1946-Tytla; scene at the end with Bluto where the admiral’s car explodes).

  24. on 28 May 2007 at 1:24 pm 24.Michael said …

    As I pointed out on Thad Komorowski’s site, Tyer did his amazing distortions on earlier films but it only shows up briefly in takes and double takes. The graphic distortion featured in later fifties films, the work he’s known for, was kept to a minimum in the earlier work. This may have been because the assistants were instructed to tone his work down. I know this was the case at Paramount since I’d spoken with a couple of them about the Tyer work. It was tolerated at Terry’s but Paramount did all they could do to hide it. Rod Scribner got away with a lot more of this distortion under Clampett than Tyer did at Paramount.

  25. on 28 May 2007 at 2:50 pm 25.Stephen Worth said …

    My post is the one linked to and discussed in this article. I have a right to defend it.

    In order to have a meaningful discussion about something, it’s important to not limit the conversation to “accepted wisdom”. Any opinion that can be supported with clear criteria and examples should be fair game. I find that when someone puts forward a well supported argument, it doesn’t matter whether I agree with them or not. I can still learn something from them.

    The quickest way to shut down meaningful discussion is to resort to ad hominem attacks. I’m perfectly willing to discuss my opinions calmly and without rancor. But if you want to talk with me, you need to give me the respect of not saying that my opinions aren’t my own, that I don’t have the right to discuss them, or that they are too stupid to answer. That’s just plain disresepectful, and I haven’t done anything here to deserve that kind of treatment.

    If you were able to speak with me in person, you would know that I am perfectly capable of standing on my own in a discussion, I know what I’m talking about, and I argue fairly and on point. I suggest that everyone else try to do the same. If you find yourself reacting emotionally to dissenting opinion, you need to question whether your position is based on facts or on emotions. If it’s the latter, the problem isn’t me.

    John doesn’t claim ownership of his opinions, and neither do I. Anyone who happens to agree and can defend their position is free to do that. As you can see, John and I aren’t the only ones who find UPA theatricals lacking. That topic shouldn’t be off limits.

    The thing missed in all this is the point that other studios did UPA better than UPA. No one seems willing to discuss that, but I think it’s pretty clear that Ward Kimball’s stylized films, TV shows and commercials at Disney, Tex Avery’s cartoons with Oreb and Benedict, Playhouse and early Quartet commercials, and even Format Films’ Alvin Show are more expressive, entertaining and well made than any of the UPA theatrical cartoons. Bill Hurtz’s finest work were the bumpers for Rocky & Bullwinkle, not the UPA cartoons that everyone takes for granted as “masterpieces”. The best adaptations of Dr Seuss were done by Clampett and Jones, not Cannon. Why is that? I asked Art Babbitt and Leo Salkin about that back when I was hanging out with them, and they had some pretty interesting angles on it. Their thoughts in retrospect weren’t too far from John K’s. If you look at the films with an open mind, you can see what they told me without me having to tell you.

    See ya

  26. on 28 May 2007 at 3:03 pm 26.Michael said …

    You have your opinion, I have mine. Unfortunately, history so far has been on my side. James Thurber is still as popular as always, and the film is still as much a classic as Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom.

  27. on 28 May 2007 at 3:07 pm 27.John said …

    Michael –

    You really need to get some frame grabs of Tyer’s fight animation from “Seein’ Red, White & Blue” — it’s every bit as wild as the work he was doing at Terrytoons by the end of the decade. He was toned down in the Popeye cartoons directed by Seymour Knitel, like “Puppet Love” and “A Peep in the Deep”, and there admittedly was a little toning down of the distortions even in Sparber’s shorts when the series went to color (his Averyesque work on the sex-crazed Popeye and Bluto in the nightclub scene in “W’ere On Our Way To Rio” definitely would have been wilder if he had been in full Terrytoons mode, but it also would have been animated a lot looser if it had been done in B&W a year earlier).

  28. on 28 May 2007 at 3:09 pm 28.Stephen Worth said …

    The ironic thing about Terrytoons is that the last cartoon produced there before Deitch took over, “Barnyard Actor” is more graphically audacious and original than anything done there in the UPA style, with the exception of Tom Terrific, which I think is even better than Gerald McBoing Boing when it comes to imaginative animation. (Do you have any Tom Terrific on video, Michael? I’m looking for it for the archive and all I have are a few incomplete series of cartoons.)

    There were two schools of thought on Tyer at Terrytoons… One group thought his scenes stuck out like a sore thumb in the cartoons, and the other group thought ALL the scenes should be as fun and imaginative as his. Time has proved that the latter is correct.

    By the way, I’m sure there will be a post coming on John’s site contrasting the freedom at Disney with the freedom at Terrytoons. John and Eddie and I been talking about Walt’s influence on the Disney cartoons and have come up with some interesting theories.

    See ya

  29. on 28 May 2007 at 3:13 pm 29.Stephen Worth said …

    You have your opinion, I have mine. Unfortunately, history so far has been on my side.

    The internet is changing how history is being written, and new ideas are beginning to come forward. Personally, I think the best way to form opinions on films is by watching them and analyzing how they work.

    See ya

  30. on 28 May 2007 at 3:18 pm 30.Stephen Worth said …

    You really need to get some frame grabs of Tyer’s fight animation from “Seein’ Red, White & Blue” — it’s every bit as wild as the work he was doing at Terrytoons by the end of the decade.

    You can see Tyer’s distinct style as early as the Little King cartoons at Van Beuren. It grew out of the New York cartooning style, which was built upon a lot of the same print cartoon sources as UPA. I can understand how Michael would think that it was related to UPA.

    See ya

  31. on 28 May 2007 at 5:56 pm 31.Michael said …

    Please don’t quote me as saying there is any relationship between Tyer’s work and UPA. Tyer was one of those who disliked UPA and all flat art. He was not a thinking animator but a natural one. I said his work was more acceptable to audiences once UPA had reconditioned the audience to a different type of drawing. At least read what I say before you quote me.

    Stephen all of the references that you mention as better than UPA are all works that came later. It’d be just as foolish if I were to say that Beauty and the Beast is a better film than Snow White (and I don’t think it is). The films that broke the mold were harder to do and more daring than the ones that followed. Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom came two years after Rooty Toot Toot and six years after Ragtime Bear. Tom Terrific came seven years after Gerald McBoing Boing. It’s irrelevant that you don’t like the UPA films. As an “historian” you should respect the history and the important breakthroughs that the ARTISTS at UPA made. (And you obviously don’t even have copies of Tom Terrific to make a fair comparison!)

    I still am unable to believe I am having this conversation and am embarrassed that I have to defend these great films. Gene Deitch would do the same!

    I agree with you, history is being rewritten on the internet. Unfortunately, History is History. Rewriting history is not history but opinion and fiction. As for theories, I’m not interested in reading or hearing them; they’re just your interpretation of rewritten history. People are still alive, and you can speak with them; you don’t need to create the history that suits your taste.

  32. on 28 May 2007 at 6:58 pm 32.Stephen Worth said …

    Well if you’re looking for the earliest good example, that would be “Dover Boys”. That’s a better cartoon than anything done at UPA too. But your point that UPA came earlier and other people refined the style further is valid. UPA didn’t last very long, and the artists spread out across the business and a lot of them formed their own small commercial houses.

    Do you really think contemporary audences ever related Tyer’s animation to UPA? I didn’t think people thought about cartoons like that back then.

    Sorry you aren’t interested in theory. As a filmmaker, it’s important to analyze the “whys” behind things, not just the “whats”. I don’t mean to make you mad. Just looking for some meaningful discussion.

    See ya

  33. on 28 May 2007 at 9:28 pm 33.Ward said …

    To make the statement that “Dover Boys” is a “better cartoon than anything done at UPA,” is not at all any kind of “meaningful discussion”, Stephen. To make blanket statements like that (which is actully YOUR OPINION) does not make valid arguments. And this is has been typical of your on-going conversation here. It’s been very frustating for me to read all this….

  34. on 28 May 2007 at 10:38 pm 34.Michael said …

    Thank you, Ward. This has been exasperating. Artists have created a stunning body of work, changed the history of animation, and moved everything forward so that a few people can exert their opinions and call them theories as a way of trying to denigrate these artists. You can understand why I titled this piece “Aaargh!” John’s site angers me, and his acolytes are worse. There’s such disrespect out there.

  35. on 29 May 2007 at 3:47 am 35.Stephen Worth said …

    There’s irony in telling me I shouldn’t argue for John and then complaining that I don’t support my comment about the Dover Boys. But that’s fine. I’d be happy to explain in a nutshell why Dover Boys is better than Tell Tale Heart (to choose one film to act as an example of a UPA masterpiece…)

    First of all, there’s actual animation in Dover Boys. But not just animation… it’s expressive animation that is stylized in a way that complements the stylization of the drawings. The movement is brilliantly timed, solidly drawn and funny. It zips at lightning speed from one incredible pose to another in a way that never existed in the smooth and evenly timed Disney-dominated animation that preceded it.

    The Dover Boys uses animation for the “fourth dimensional” subject matter that the medium is best suited for. It isn’t just narration over a bunch of static backgrounds- visual humor and action is happening all over the place. The Tell Tale Heart has very little animation at all. It’s not even an animatic, because animatics are intended to indicate movement that isn’t there. It’s more of a film strip. By my definition of what makes a good cartoon, that totally misuses the medium of animation. Book illustration is better suited to an approach like that.

    The music in Dover Boys works with the action- commenting on it and plussing it. It doesn’t just tread water while the characters are talking and do stings at the end of action and in transitions the way the music in Tell Tale Heart does. It adds life and dimension to the cartoon. You aren’t going to find a more sympathetic musical accompanyist than Carl Stalling.

    The Dover Boys is appealing and expressive to look at. The character designs evoke specific types of personalities. We can tell what the character is like by the way he looks. Tell Tale Heart avoids presenting characters, relying instead on a POV approach that makes characters into props on the backgrounds. It distances the audience from what is happening on the screen and renders the characters generic- symbols of characters.

    The color in Dover Boys is sophisticated, with brighter colors used to direct the eye to important action, and muted colors to frame it. Silhouettes are always crystal clear and the line is beautiful. The Tell Tale Heart is a consistent shade of muddy steel grays and browns, and textures busy up architectural forms to obfuscate them, instead of clarifying them.

    The compositions and layouts in Dover Boys are much better. The Tell Tale Heart uses long drawn out pans over static backgrounds milking a single composition, while The Dover Boys is striking new and interesting compositions dynamically with every frame of the animation.

    The pacing of the Tell Tale Heart is deadly slow. Having seen it on the big screen at least five times over the years, I can’t think of a single screening where the audience didn’t squirm… and the squirms weren’t out of fear. Dover Boys has contrasts in pace and rhythm that keep the audience involved. Every time I’ve seen it in the theater, it always keeps the audience engaged and leaves them wanting more at the end.

    James Mason reads his lines with formal detachment- hardly the best interpretation for a psychotic murderer who is in the process of suffering an internal emotional breakdown! As good of an actor as James Mason normally is, he’s miscast in this role. He’s best as a noble character with a fatal weakness, like the way Hitchcock (and even Disney!) used him.

    Now, having said all that, I’ll admit that I don’t personally care for the Dover Boys myself. It’s not to my taste. But thinking critically, and applying it to my criteria for what makes a good cartoon, it scores high. That’s what I mean when I say that people should be free to question and analyze without emotional reaction. I’m perfectly calm and I don’t intend anyone else to get riled up by what I say. When I criticize the Tell Tale Heart and say that the best UPA style cartoons were made by other studios, that isn’t at all disrespectful. I still have respect for Bobe Cannon and John Hubley and a lot of the other great artists who worked at UPA. I just think that their best work was for other projects.

    When other studios did the UPA style, they maintained more of the good elements of traditional “classic” animation. Kimball was a master of creating smooth and clear movement using stylized designs, and Avery was brilliant at clearly focusing the direction to put an idea across while still creating graphically interesting designs and poses.

    Art Babbitt had mixed feelings about the films he directed at UPA. He thought in retrospect that they didn’t hold up very well. (To be honest, films like Family Circus and Popcorn Story really don’t.) Story man, Leo Salkin told me that sometimes the tendency at UPA was to be avant garde and modern to the point of not serving the film any more. (He was particularly referring to the music, but he meant it as a general statement too.) Both of them were proud of the UPA styled work they did elsewhere- Babbitt at Quartet and Salkin at Disney and Format Films.

    My main objection to the UPA films is their “subtractive” element. They rebelled against the Disney dominated films that preceded them by adding modern design principles but subtracting the humor, expressive movement, rhythmic timing, and sophisticated drawing. To me, that’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As time went on, the UPA films got more and more subtractive- and sloppy too. It’s shocking how far Gerald McBoing Boing on the Planet Moo degenerated from the original. However, I would like to see more of the work of UPA New York. The handful of films and commercials I’ve seen that were done in New York are interesting- and Grim Natwick and Tissa David were a formidable team.

    Well, that’s a pretty long nutshell, but it’s a large and important topic.

    See ya

  36. on 29 May 2007 at 5:20 am 36.slowtiger said …

    From my european POV much of this discussion looks ridiculous, because it revolves around US-animation only. That’s totally OK, but I have to remind myself that “animation” is a much bigger field than toons and TV stuff.

    John K.’s analysis are always a great read, and I saved lots of them for further reference. But I find his praise of cartoony overacting hard to swallow. It’s like being constantly told that Jim Carey is a better actor than Bill Murray, just because of the sheer number of face muscles involved. It is, arguably, the most cartoony way to act. But animation is a much bigger field, and I just happen to prefer the “non-acting” of Bill Murray or Buster Keaton, or the “it’s all in the edit and the looks, the actor is not important” attitude of Hitchcock.

    This, of course, is no excuse for a bad film. Everybody can spot a bad film: it’s the one who fails to entertain or to interest its audience. This is totally independent from any style, and the reasons why a certain film has failed are worth to be analized: timing, setting, story, editing, music, whatever.

    But what I read from JK often strikes me as “this is a bad film, therefor the whole style must be bad.” No, it’s not. I’ve seen films with little or no animation and they have been entertaining. I’ve seen illustrated radio and it was fun. I have seen bad animation and no production values at all, but it all worked because of a great idea. I had a great time to watch abstract animation.

    Maybe the trick is to step back to be able to judge a film as a whole and not just its animation. Maybe this is JK’s “deformation professionelle” to not being able to do that, and of course he’s right to spot bad animation when he talks about animation. But successful filmmaking is so much more than that.

    Another point I feel uncomfortable with is the “masterpiece” stamp. It is as easily applied to really outstanding artwork as to stuff which in retrospective looks mediocre, but stirred attention because it was a first appearance of something. I can live with the label “historically important” or “first example of”, but this alone doesn’t make a masterpiece in my book.

  37. on 29 May 2007 at 8:04 am 37.Michael said …

    Slowtiger, I couldn’t agree with you more.

  38. on 29 May 2007 at 10:18 am 38.Elliot said …

    I’m not really tempted to offer anything else to this debate as I really don’t think there’s anything useful I could offer, but I would like to agree with Micheal and Ward and Slowtiger and all the other sensible people here.

  39. on 29 May 2007 at 11:37 am 39.Junior said …

    I like both this blog and John’s. You can get mad at him for the way he puts his opinion forth, but i can’t see why it’s such a sacrilege for him to say he prefers one thing over the other.

  40. on 29 May 2007 at 12:39 pm 40.Elliot Cowan said …

    I don’t think anyone has an issue with preference.
    I think people have a problem with a complete dismissal of a movement that was clearly important, exciting and meaningful to a great many people, even if it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

  41. on 29 May 2007 at 1:02 pm 41.Stephen Worth said …

    But what I read from JK often strikes me as “this is a bad film, therefor the whole style must be bad.” No, it’s not. I’ve seen films with little or no animation and they have been entertaining. I’ve seen illustrated radio and it was fun. I have seen bad animation and no production values at all, but it all worked because of a great idea.

    John isn’t just pointing out bad films and bad styles. If that’s all you see, you’re totally missing the point. John is pointing out the PROCESS of CREATION. He isn’t speaking to audiences on his blog, he’s speaking to animators and students of animation. Whether or not you find certain examples of “non-animation” or “illustrated radio” amusing isn’t the point. The purpose of John’s blog is to challenge the artists in his readership to apply principles of solid drawing, great composition, expressive animation and well chosen color harmonies to strengthen their own work.

    You can’t use a technique yourself until you’ve analyzed it, discussed it and figured out what makes it tick. And you can’t do that by making it off limits to critically discuss what does and doesn’t make a film better. Animation has sunk into a morass of cheats and shortcuts. The current generation of animators may be unsalvageable, but John is working to pull it out with the next generation of animators. In that, he and I have the exact same goal.

    There have been plenty of films that get by with cheats and still work. No one is denying that. But those aren’t the films that should be put up as the models for other filmmakers to study and learn from. Artists- and in particular, students- need to be challenged to work things out the “hard way” and build up their chops. Filmmakers need to look at films critically as filmmakers and understand what makes them work, not look at them as audiences and simply react with personal taste. It’s not about “I like this” and “I don’t like that.” It’s about “This one is well made using these techniques” and “This one is poorly made with no technique.”

    The internet has taken film criticism away from writers who write books for a living and has given it to filmmakers who have a particular insight into the subject. I think that is an amazing and wonderful thing. Have artists gotten so soft that they can’t accept critique any more? Are we all supposed to agree in some generalized way that something is a masterpiece and never question why? Is anyone capable of critical thinking any more? Sometimes I wonder.

    By the way, there was an excellent essay on the subject of UPA by Chuck Jones at Mark Mayerson’s blog. The title of the post is Jones Against The Tide. If you read John’s blog regularly, you’ll find that Jones has a pretty similar frame of reference.

    See ya

  42. on 29 May 2007 at 1:08 pm 42.Ward said …

    Stephen, I really don’t need a discourse on whether “Dover Boys” was a better cartoon than “Tell Tale Heart” (which was a terrible choice to prove your point). Classic example of comparing apples to oranges and I can’t believe you just wasted, what — 30 minutes? — in trying to prove this point. Weak. Weak. Weak.

    First of all, there’s no way that you can tell me that “Dover Boys” is a better cartoon than “Tell Tale Heart.” The two are not even in the same playing field. The important thing to realize in all this, Stephen, is that you have to take into matter the CONTEXT of each film. To go off into great discourse about how Dover Boys has actual animation and Tell Tale doesn’t — well, that’s a stylistic decision and not because the artists working on Tell Tale were any less animators than the WB crew. In your comment this is what you basically say:

    More animation = better cartoon.

    Ludicrous. The artistic decision to tell the old Edgar Allen Poe story in simple frames with yes, some (gasp!) animation creates a great build up of tension and horror. Much like when you read the story. The Dover Boys is played out for humor and laughs, poking fun at The Rover Boys series — with quick wit, timing, and animation. Tell Tale Heart is NOT even close to what The Dover Boys is all about.

    To Junior — Tell Tale Heart is brilliant, in my honest opinion. But you see, John K doesn’t really let his readers know about this notion of “opinion”. When he writes, it’s fact — as far as he’s concerned on his blog. When I rip on something on my own blog, I always let the reader know that hey, this is my opinion and if you disagree then I’d be happy to hear your side of the story. You’re not going to get that on John K’s blog.

  43. on 29 May 2007 at 1:11 pm 43.Stephen Worth said …

    I think people have a problem with a complete dismissal of a movement that was clearly important, exciting and meaningful to a great many people, even if it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

    It’s ironic that you would think that John is dismissing stylized animation in general, when he is the one that revitalized interest in it with the fake commercials in Ren & Stimpy. John has given plenty of examples of stylized animation that he finds to be well drawn and animated. Did you see This Post? Take a look at the titles for Ham & Hattie and the Bank of America commercial YouTubes. Can you see the difference?

    See ya

  44. on 29 May 2007 at 1:12 pm 44.Stephen Worth said …

    More EXPRESSIVE animation = better cartoon.

    See ya

  45. on 29 May 2007 at 1:18 pm 45.Michael said …

    Ward, of course you’re writing for all the rational people of the world. Stephen needs 2000 words for each of his theses on the subject, and the end result comes down to “I like this” and “I like that.” All of their comments and thesis are based completely on opinion. For some confusing reason, all of the acolytes and syncophants of John Krisfalusi feel obligated to nod absolutely in synch with him. Rational discourse becomes irrelevant in such arguments, and I for one give up on it. Either you appreciate and like the great UPA films, or you don’t. I’m pleased to say I do, and I have no intention of trying to convert anyone. I just don’t want to sit by idly while the great self-proclaimed master, pronounces intelligent, beautifully crafted films as poor and tries to justify his opinion.

  46. on 29 May 2007 at 1:52 pm 46.Stephen Worth said …

    All of their comments and thesis are based completely on opinion.

    Yes, and all opposing comments and thesis are opinions too. The difference between one opinion and another is the strength of the arguments supporting it. By giving up on rational discourse and by attacking the person instead of the position you’re not supporting your own argument well.

    I enjoy analyzing, discussing and debating the relative merits of cartoons. It’s what I do for a living. The animators I work with love to do that too. The surest way to kill something is to set it on a pedestal and pickle it in formaldehyde. Ideas need to be taken out and dusted off once in a while. If someone puts forward an opinion that you don’t agree with, you should challenge it point by point with supporting arguments and examples. If you just get angry when someone disagrees with you, you’re doing it wrong. No one should have to apologize for stating an opinion, and its silly to expect them to preface each and every one with “I may be wrong, but…” The value of the opinion is in the words that support it.

    John K’s All Kinds of Stuff, along with the Archive blog and Cartoon Brew are the most popular and highly trafficked animation blogs on the internet. All three involve strong opinions that are supported by examples. When someone reads Amid’s site, they take it as a given that they are reading Amid’s opinion. I always make it clear that I’m presenting my own vision for the Archive readers. And John’s readers know they are reading John K.

    This is a totally new way of discussing and analyzing animation. The authors are involved and actively engaged with the readers. That requires that the readers be more than just passive receptors of knowledge. The readers can disagree and post support for their own positions in the comments. If the readers of the debate make an effort to understand, they can process the information and apply it. Clearly, thousands and thousands of people are doing that on a regular basis with John’s blog with no problems. I think it’s pretty neat.

    See ya

  47. on 29 May 2007 at 2:58 pm 47.slowtiger said …

    (I really shouldn’t step deeper into it, but … )

    [I]Animation has sunk into a morass of cheats and shortcuts.[/I]

    Successful animation always dances on the thin line between “nice to have” and “not in the budget/not possible with this technique”. One part of artistry is the ability to make a statement with what is available: money, time, skills. The economy of filmmaking is as much part of the art as is script or animation. I’ve done successful and enjoyable films with just 10 or 30 drawings filling 2 minutes screening time. So what? Would you like to ban walk cycles and holds because they are just “cheats”?

    No one forces you or anybody else to take bad films as some holy grail to follow. But the definition of “good film” is much much wider than your understanding of a “cartoon”.

  48. on 29 May 2007 at 3:48 pm 48.Elliot Cowan said …

    “But the definition of “good film” is much much wider than your understanding of a “cartoon”.”

    Bless you Slowtiger.

  49. on 29 May 2007 at 4:59 pm 49.Stephen Worth said …

    There’s a big difference between economy and a cheat. It’s possible to work on a very small budget and still make great animation. Culhane tells a story in his book about the early days of TV animation. He designed a low budget TV cartoon that did away with lipsync. He reasoned that the posing and animation of the characters was much more important than the mechanical task of lip assignment. Ultimately, the whole TV animation industry did the exact opposite- eliminating all animation *except* lipsync. Culhane was right, and the results were disastrous for animation.

    Format Films’ The Alvin Show has segments that are completely uninbetweened. Poses snap from one to another. But the poses are so strong, and the timing so good, it works perfectly. But lack of lipsync and inbetweening isn’t what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about lack of animation. Limited budgets may have been a partial excuse for later TV animation, but the theatrical UPA cartoons cost as much as any other studio’s cartoons- more in some cases. There is no excuse for the poor animation in many of the UPA cartoons.

    The essence of hand drawn animation is in the quality of the drawings. Limited time and money can be dealt with- limited skills on the part of the filmmaker is deadly. A filmmaker who is more interested in labor saving cheats than striving to improve his skills and grow creatively is what is commonly called a hack.

    My definition of a “good animated film” is the same as my definition of a “good cartoon”- one that uses the medium for all it’s worth- “fourth dimensional” elements that justify telling a story in animation rather than live action, expressive acting, strong direction with a focused point of view and something to say, good design and layout with an eye for composition, color harmonies that accent the focus of the scene and set a mood, music and sound effects that enhance the atmosphere and emotion of the scene, dialogue that serves the action and doesn’t exist for its own sake, timing that has rhythm, contrast and pacing, drawing that reflects mastery of the technique and style involved, clarity and underlying structure in visual storytelling, and entertainment value that keeps an audience engaged and involved. In short, total control over all aspects of the medium and a clear point of view.

    It’s easy to forgive a film that doesn’t succeed on every level if it at least tries. There are very few films that hit the bulls eye on every level. But films that use cheats as a crutch to avoid solving the problem eloquently, and films that fail on multiple levels at once just aren’t good films.

    How’s that for a definition?

    See ya

  50. on 29 May 2007 at 5:22 pm 50.Michael said …

    Unicorn In The Garden, The Tell Tale Heart, Gerald McBoing Boing and Rooty Toot Toot are all masterworks. All have brilliant animation. Every drawing of them all is excellent, and the timing of all of them is absolute precision. If you don’t see it, I’m sorry. I’m not convinced, then, that you are the best arbiter of good animation.

    Your references to much of the trashy TV animation you mention only serve to underline that point. I am sure that you are missing the point of these GREAT films, and my words aren’t going to help you get it. These films are not good; they’re great classics. All your words, all John Krisfalusi’s words about “cartoons” will not convince me to stop seeing the art in these films. So what’s the point of continuing?

  51. on 29 May 2007 at 5:48 pm 51.Thad Komorowski said …

    Where is the animation in “The Tell-Tale Heart”? Just curious.

  52. on 29 May 2007 at 6:23 pm 52.Ward said …

    Check it here: Tell Tale Heart. There’s some animation at the beginning with the moth and the old man, then throughout there are various elements that have animation to them: shadows, bed cover, the policemen, etc. There doesn’t need to be much to move in this film and what they do animate is just enough. My favorite part is the hand at the end, but you don’t get the full effect from the poorer quality of this YouTube version. You’ll have to view it for yourself on that HELLBOY 2-disc DVD set.

  53. on 29 May 2007 at 7:11 pm 53.Elliot Cowan said …

    Ward – thank you for linking Tell Tale Heart.
    I had not seen it before and it was absolutely thrilling.

  54. on 29 May 2007 at 7:11 pm 54.Stephen Worth said …

    With expressive animation, better color harmonies and more imaginative timing, the Tell Tale Heart would be a hundred times stronger than it is with just a moth, a bed cover and the shadow of a policeman. Look at the Tell Tale Heart or Rise of Duton Lang on YouTube, then look at the KoolAid commercials by Tex Avery, Ed Benedict and Rod Scribner that I posted and tell me which of them is the best example of expressive and skillful stylized animation.

    No one is saying that stylized cartoons are all bad. We’re just saying that there are good ones and there are bad ones, and what you read in books about films isn’t always what you see when you sit down and watch them. You have to THINK about WHY they’re great or not so great.

    By the way, that “trashy TV animation” was produced by Herb Klynn, Jules Engel and Leo Salkin, along with Bob Kurtz, Osmand Evans, Gil Turner, Ed Nofziger, Rudy Larriva and Alan Zaslove. This group of artists formed the core of UPA when Saperstein bought out the studio to make crappy TV cartoons. They defected to form Format Films- a studio where they could continue and expand upon the creativity of UPA. The year after The Alvin Show, several of these same artists were nominated for an Oscar for best animated short- continuing the streak of Oscar recognition they started at UPA.

    See ya

  55. on 29 May 2007 at 7:55 pm 55.Elliot Cowan said …

    Have you ever had one of those pointless conversations with godly fundamentalists who just aren’t prepared to see beyond what they’ve been brought up to believe?
    This debate has become one of those.

  56. on 29 May 2007 at 8:28 pm 56.Stephen Worth said …


  57. on 29 May 2007 at 9:41 pm 57.Amid said …

    Faulting Tell-Tale Heart for its lack of “expressive and skillful stylized animation” is like faulting Norman McLaren’s Begone Dull Care for its lack of pictorial imagery. It completely misses the point that animation is an infinitely rich graphic art filled with all types of visual possibilities.

    That is exactly what the UPA artists were trying to prove with films like Tell-Tale Heart though that lesson apparently still hasn’t sunk in with people like the head of ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Archive who wish to limit the definition of what constitutes quality animated filmmaking. It’s depressing that somebody in charge of a project dedicating to promoting and educating people about the possibilities of this art form is so limited in his own understanding about what the possibilities of the art form are.

  58. on 29 May 2007 at 9:54 pm 58.Michael said …

    Thank you, Amid. That was very well articulated. Obviously, the ASIFA-Hollywood Archive has some wonderful items, however I have to wonder how much some of it’s appreciated. Is the Terrytoons artwork more valuable than the UPA model sheets? It would seem that’s the case.

  59. on 29 May 2007 at 10:13 pm 59.Eddie Fitzgerald said …

    I just watched “Telltale Heart.” It’s great! I love Steve and John and agree with most of their opinions but… the film is good. UPA is overdue for chastizement but better negative examples can be found than this one.

  60. on 29 May 2007 at 10:35 pm 60.Stephen Worth said …

    It isn’t that outlandish to suggest that good animation should have some good animation in it!

    Tell Tale Heart may be a great filmstrip, or animatic, or slideshow, but it isn’t great animation.

    See ya

  61. on 29 May 2007 at 10:48 pm 61.Dave Levy said …

    An interesting moment occured during a commentary track on one of the WB cartoon sets. The commentary featured Eddie Fitzgerald and John K talking over Chuck Jone’s classic Waikiki Wabbit. I don’t think John K uttered more than two words for the duration of the cartoon. It was an amazing contrast to how John K could barely contain himself commenting over Clampett cartoons on the same set.

    Waikiki Wabbit has much of the broad acting that you find in a Clampett cartoon but, because it was by Jones, John K sat on his hands for the whole commentary. I wondered if John K could really be that narrow in his tastes on what qualifies as worthwhile animation. What a little box people create for themselves.

    As much as I love the Clampett cartoons and that school of animation, it would be a very sorry history if that was ALL we had to draw inspiration upon. Thank Goodness for UPA, The Hubley’s, the world of international festival films and anything else that helped show us the true potential for this medium.

  62. on 29 May 2007 at 11:00 pm 62.Stephen Worth said …

    By the way, the UPA model sheets and the Natwick and David drawings on the site are from my own collection. We digitized a first edition of Mel Crawford’s “Gerald McBoing Boing” and a copy of “In Henry’s Backyard: The Races of Mankind” from my collection as well. Do I think that Terrytoons artwork is more important than these things… well, that depends on the Terrytoons artwork. There are good and bad Terrytoons cartoons too.

    As for my understanding of the art form being limited… I think my work on the archive speaks for itself. But it isn’t just me, and it isn’t just what you see on the website. The best way to see the full scope of what we’re accomplishing here is to stop by and take the tour. This project is going to be growing and evolving long after all of us are dead and buried.

    See ya

  63. on 29 May 2007 at 11:09 pm 63.Amid said …

    Tell Tale Heart may be a great filmstrip, or animatic, or slideshow, but it isn’t great animation.

    A statement like this seriously calls into question your understanding of what animation even is. It’s certainly a far richer and more diverse art form than you’d like to believe. Animated filmmaking is the marriage of many different arts – music, movement and choreography, film, graphic design, painting – and it is the filmmaker’s personal choice about which elements they wish to emphasize in a production.

    If every film emphasized superfluous movement of the type that you seem to enjoy in the Kool-Aid spots, then animation would indeed be a dull and repetitive art form. Thankfully, we have a diversity of filmmakers from the UPA pioneers like Bobe Cannon and John Hubley to George Dunning, Len Lye, Yuri Norstein, Jiri Trnka and Kihachiro Kawamoto. An animation archive that gives Kool-Aid commercials and Playboy cartoons prominence over these aforemention animation legends would be as silly as an archive of US presidents that devoted its focus on William Henry Harrison at the expense of all of our country’s truly great presidents.

  64. on 29 May 2007 at 11:35 pm 64.J. J. Hunsecker said …

    I’m not here to bash UPA. I enjoy their earlier work, especially those directed by Hubley.

    However, it’s obvious that those artists were inspired by Chuck Jones’s The Dover Boys, both in the design, stylized movement, and subject matter. In fact, Hubley and Sommer produced a direct copy of that film while at Columbia called The Rocky Road To Ruin. The subject matter, time period, and character designs were all similar to Jones’s cartoon. They even had McLeish (sp.?) narrate the cartoon! (Prof. Small and Mr. Tall are similar in design to Dover Boys, too.) Hubley has even mentioned this influence in interviews.

    In fact, I would say that both Chuck Jones and Frank Tashlin are the fathers of UPA. Under their tutelage artists were allowed to experiment graphically with character & background design and animation, which in turn inspired the artists who would later form UPA. Sometimes they even took it too far, as with the busy background elements in Wakiki Wabbit. (And most of the early 40′s Columbia cartoons, while interesting, are failures.) That’s why I have to disagree with Michael about the animation studios like Warners not allowing their artists creative freedom.

    I personally enjoy cartoons like Rooty Toot Toot, Robin Hoodlum, Punchy De Leon, Gerald McBoing Boing (I heard Cannon was forced to put in the scene of McBoing Boing’s father scolding Gerald, that’s how much Cannon hated conflict), Ragtime Bear, and The Tell-Tale Heart. (I HATE Madelaine, though!) But I have to agree with Steve Worth’s assessment here, and I think he’s being unfairly attack. (And this is coming from someone who has disagreed with him many times before.)

  65. on 29 May 2007 at 11:42 pm 65.Stephen Worth said …

    Ward Kimball said the the art in animation was the differences between the drawings, not the drawings themselves. A good animated cartoon is one that exploits the aspects that make animated filmmaking unique. Lots of voice over narration and pans over static backgrounds isn’t what makes animation unique. Movement, personality and life expressed through successive drawings is what makes hand drawn animation unique.

    There’s an aspect of the archive you might not be aware of… It isn’t an archive OF animation, it’s an archive FOR animators. Work by print cartoonists as well as illustrators, comic artists, and designers are just as important as reference for animation artists as the work of animators- moreso in some cases, because animation had traditionally been limited to just a few styles, while illustration and cartooning are stylistically more diverse. The focus is on the things that are worthwhile studying- technique in particular. We aren’t concerned with the content of the films as much as how they express the content. That’s why a brilliantly executed KoolAid commercial can be just as important to the archive as a film celebrating the brotherhood of man. The statement of the film is up to the filmmaker. They can’t get that from reference in a library. It has to come from within themselves and from the world around them. But they can learn timing, composition and solid drawing from reference in a library.

    I’m curious though… What drawings in the KoolAid spot do you consider superfluous and why?

    See ya

  66. on 30 May 2007 at 3:44 am 66.Sogturtle said …

    Interesting and a very heated little debate! I don’t know that I really have much to add to it as so much of what John K. (and acolytes) write and say is sheer (ahem) verbiage :o ) as pointed out above.

    And my hat’s off not just to UPA but everybody that has made any kind of full-animation cartoon(s) (even those that all perceive as bad)… I specified “full-animation” because of my intense appreciation of the mass amount of labor entailed in it.

    It’s hard for me to be a tremendous fan of UPA largely because of their generally tamer type of humor, (my personal preference, no point in trying to hide it). I appreciate what UPA did and admire that they started a theatrical studio so comparatively late in the game and then managed to obtain their artistic goals-to-boot. Likewise I wholeheartedly endorse other people’s loving and praising their cartoons. Buuuut what has long disturbed me was the UPA-artists active disdain for the type of animation and humor that existed at the other studios, as UPA could not have existed without everything that came before it (the Silents, Disney, Schlesinger/Warners, MGM) despite UPA’s thinking that they were indebted much more to modern art. This is NOT to dismiss what UPA did at all, as the revolution that they wrought was a sizable one, no two ways about it. But sadly, UPA’s massive emphasis on graphics-heavy animation helped vastly in paving the way shortly for TV limited-animation, which was largely the death of the artform.

    I’ve seen a number of the UPA theatricals on the big-screen, including “Tell Tale Heart”, which worked very, very well on the theater screen. And as such, it is a great animated short (despite its extremely brief and limited-animation). But on the other hand, I don’t know that Poe’s short-story might not have worked just as well as a live-action short, as there is nothing in the UPA version per se that necessitated it being animated… No cartoon-animals, no wild action or humor, but instead stark drama and tension.

    Chuck Jones once said something on the lines that animation is indeed a broad, broad field which is almost unlimited except by the imagination. And as such, despite different styles and diverse attitudes, UPA and Warners, Disney, MGM, Lantz and Terrytoons can co-exist on that same field…

  67. on 30 May 2007 at 5:16 am 67.Richard said …

    First of all, I gotta be honest, I’m just sick to death of hearing about “John K this, John K that” on every other animation website there is. Why do so many of you out there swallow what this guy’s preaching? He made some funny Ren and Stimpy cartoons in the early 90s and has not produced a single thing of substance or value ever since. There may be some value in some of his blog lessons, but let’s be honest. He’s his own biggest fan. His main concern nowadays is in desperately cementing his own “legacy” by making outrageous statements like this and aligning himself with the likes of Clampett with great hyperbole. Geez. There’s nothing wrong with a little self-promotion, but when some wash-up declares himself judge and jury and does nothing but attack other people’s work and declare how everything sucks, etc…. well it just gets real old!

    (I love ya John, but if you have any juice left in that tank, let’s see you single handedly animate a short and get nominated for an oscar or something. If you have such love for this craft you wouldn’t be waiting around for a big commercial deal and making dumb cellphone ads, you’d be joining the struggling ranks of the real indie animators out there who don’t just do this for money. Forget about the big cash and show us what ya really got.)

    To get to the “argument” at hand. Really, you guys are comparing apples and oranges. Some people prefer apples. Some prefer oranges. One is not “better” than the other. It’s as pointless as arguing that Dali is better than Pollock. They’re just different. What scares me is how many of you fellows should really know better than even going down this road :)

  68. on 30 May 2007 at 5:17 am 68.SugarPete said …

    “It’s ironic that you would think that John is dismissing stylized animation in general, when he is the one that revitalized interest in it with the fake commercials in Ren & Stimpy.”

    Here we go again. This “theory” has never sat right with me ever since John first proclaimed it over on his blog. Apparently it was not the love of UPA and the early Hanna Barbera cartoons that sparked both Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCraken’s cartoons….it was John’s Log commercials. Gimme a break.

  69. on 30 May 2007 at 5:32 am 69.Jerry Seinsmell said …

    That Tell Tale Heart cartoon isnt funny at all.
    I like Mr Magoo cartoons though, like the one how Mr Magoo mistakes a bear for being his nephew.

  70. on 30 May 2007 at 7:14 am 70.Thad Komorowski said …

    One final comment (hopefully)…
    I’m actually surprised at the bashing of Worth here, for him expressing a point of view (which, shockingly, I share). Let’s just remember what the subject matter is here, and that we’re all free to like and dislike what we like. You like the personal, moving graphic cartoons, or you don’t (I don’t).

  71. on 30 May 2007 at 7:46 am 71.steve coats said …

    Could any of the people who participated in the ‘discussion’ I have just read please read their own words and then look honestly at themselves without thinking they have become self-absorbed and pretentious. They’re cartoons enjoy the ones you like and don’t get your knickers in a twist about the others. It’s easy. Have a beer guys!

  72. on 30 May 2007 at 7:58 am 72.Elliot Cowan said …

    I can, very comfortably.
    Can I still have a beer?

  73. on 30 May 2007 at 8:03 am 73.Benjamin De Schrijver said …

    [i]My definition of a “good animated film” is the same as my definition of a “good cartoon”- one that uses the medium for all it’s worth-[/i]
    Stephen, as a filmmaker and film analyst you should know that what’s NOT there can be equal or even more important than what is there. This is what Tell Tale Heart does perfectly (this is the first time I’ve seen it). It would not work better with more animation. Or for that matter, it would not work better as a live action film either, as someone brought up: the characters in it are stylized to great effect and it’d be nearly impossible to lit a house like this – if you can find one or build a similar set, for that matter. And even when it’d be lit well, there’s still a quality that these paintings have thanks to being paintings, that a live action image wouldn’t have.

  74. on 30 May 2007 at 8:07 am 74.Benjamin De Schrijver said …

    Sorry, that had to be ” the characters and environments in it are stylized to great effect and…”

  75. on 30 May 2007 at 8:52 am 75.Tony Mines said …

    From an outside perspective, the narrative of this conversation, viewed as a piece of drama, is far more interesting than the subject being discussed.

    Having seen almost none of the films in question, I have been reading this thing from a political and anthropological point of view, and it took me to an amusing discovery.

    On the one hand you have Steven Worth, who like John, is an excellent and studied practitioner of the well rounded arguement. As studied at telling you to calm down and view things objectively, as they are at creating the impression that they have calmed down and are viewing things objectively.

    Then you have Michael, who from an observers perspective, seems to have assumed the standpoint of a right-wing nut. Rejecting discussion, clinging to the sturdy rock of established opinion with all the strength their cognative dissonance can muster.

    But then, a couple of mouse clicks change all that.

    Because when I actually watched The Tell Tale Heart, I was confronted (with regards to Stephens arguments) with the exact same connundrum that I so often face when reading Johns Blog. That being, that while I agree with every word he is ‘saying’, the examples he cites in support are so often – I don’t know. Just… wrong.

    John K can write a hundred words, a thousand. And I can find myself agreeing with every one of them. The principles are sound, the theories informed, the arguments well grounded – but then he’ll go and cite some fecking Roger Ramjet cartoon as an example. And you just have to take a step back and go “whoa there john”

    It’s like suddenly discovering that the nice hotelier you’ve been chatting with all afternoon, likes to dress as his dead mother and ‘do’ the voice.

    Fact is, that like most of us – John likes what he likes. He enjoys commercials from his childhood, he likes certain sorts of cartoon, and he doesn’t like some other stuff.

    But he won’t just admit that. He’s got all these strong opinions about what does and doesn’t constitute good cartooning, and thankfully he applies them where it matters – in his own work. But he’s got himself in this muddle where its not good enough for him to just admit that he likes certain things ‘cos he just does’. Instead, he has to write these endless blogs in which he tries to rationalise (in accordance with his own politic) HOW it is that his favourite things ARE all better than some other things he doesn’t like as much. And as often as not, while the principles of the arguments are solid, they JUST DON’T APPLY to whatever films he’s banging on about.

    So I watch The Tell Tale Heart, and it blows my mind. And suddenly I understand why Michael has been so stubborn and unreasonable this whole time. It’s because Michael – like John – has been speaking the whole time, eloquently, reasonably and with balanced and considered argument – out of his a-hole!

    I guess this whole argument has been viewed from the perspectives of madmen, who like all of us, believe them selves to be sane…

  76. on 30 May 2007 at 9:49 am 76.J Lee said …

    Part of the problem here is taking John K’s general reaction to UPA’s 1950s work, and boiling it down in this thread to “Unicorn” and “Tell-Tale Heart”. I consider neither to be masterpieces or total failures; “Tell-Tale Heart” probably would have done better in theaters if it had been released 15-20 years later, when theatrical audiences weren’t attuned to expecting a funny cartoon to automatically show up every time on screen.

    But in going over the whole of UPA’s work, and the way it was treated by cinema critics at the time of their release, it’s clear that when UPA crafted cartoons that were breakthrough masterpieces, they were showered with high praise, and held up to a light that other studios should strive for, instead of continuing with their their pedestrian works of mindless chase-and-violence; when UPA made cartoons that were ambitious, but not wholly successful, they were showered with high praise, and held up to a light that other studios should strive for, instead of continuing with their their pedestrian works of mindless chase-and-violence; and when UPA made boring little six-minute time-fillers with scant entertainment value outside of film students studying their graphic designs, they were showered with high praise, and held up to a light that other studios should strive for, instead of continuing with their their pedestrian works of mindless chase-and-violence.

    Basically, the critics of the 1950s treated all UPA work in the same way people who attend the Special Olympics treat the last-place finisher. Nobody boos that child, or holds them up to criticism or ridicule because of what they’re done; they’re praised for just competing and overcoming the obstacles they had to endure. Much of the UPA staff share similar views to the critics of the day in both art and design and politics, and the critics were justifiably horrified by the blacklist of the 1950s and what it did to Hollywood in general, and to UPA staffers like Hubley and Eastman in particular.

    So the studio got a free pass from the critics — ANYTHING that came out of UPA was considered worthy of celebration, without regards to separating experiments in design to the stories. Some of Bob Canon’s one-shots make Myron Waldman’s Casper cartoons look as fast-paced as Road Runner shorts by comparison; didn’t matter. They still were lauded by the critics, who turned a blind eye to the faults.

    It was that type of praise, which continued on past the studio’s demise into the late 1960s and early 1970s, led other studios to mimic UPA’s efforts, both in how the cartoons looked and how the characters acted. In that context, I’m in total agreement with John K that over-celebration of the studios efforts (mainly the post-1952 work) put animation on a slippery slope down from its 1940s peaks. As for whether Terrytoons is better than UPA — well, they’re certainly more active, which is what John loves, but they’re also extremely repetitive, and you have to look hard at times to find the pearls, like Jim Tyer’s animation, amid the dull sameness of the stories Terry’s crew churned out. They’re last on my list of Golden Age studios whose films I’d like to watch over and over, but the UPA work of the mid-50s doesn’t hold up well to repeated viewing, either.

  77. on 30 May 2007 at 10:40 am 77.Tim Drage said …

    The basic problem is that all humans, especially animators, suffer from every one of these:

  78. on 30 May 2007 at 11:17 am 78.warren said …

    Everyone has such intense POVs on what was once considered light throwaway entertainment! I’m sure the people who created these films would be honestly impressed and surprised by the reactions here. (

  79. on 30 May 2007 at 12:12 pm 79.Nathan said …

    I must say, I feel 10 times smarter from having read this debate. It’s fascinating to see all these famous animators from tv and movies having such an intelligent debate online. The internet is wonderful that people from all walks can do this. It’s like a suspense novel. Long, wordy, and in this case, educational!

    I’m not joining in the debate here as I am no expert in anything (except scrambling eggs, perhaps) but it seems kind of odd to compare the Dover Boys to the Tell-Tale Heart.

    Not that either film is bad, but that they are SO extremely different from each other. It’s like trying to compare and contrast, say, a banana with a shoe or something to that effect.

  80. on 30 May 2007 at 12:26 pm 80.Tony Mines said …

    Bravo Tim. Concise and to the point (unlike my comment)
    That wikipedia entry could easily be renamed ‘list of shortcomings consistent in animators’.
    I would be tempted to change it to such, but a cognitively dysfunctional wiki-guardian would only change it back straight away…

  81. on 30 May 2007 at 12:37 pm 81.Paul said …

    Good call, Nathan. It seems to me that comparing Dover Boys and Tell-Tale Heart is a fool’s errand. One is a played for laughs, the other is intended as a piece of drama and suspense. Faulting Tell-Tale for not being “as good a cartoon” as Dover causes any other arguments made based on this assumption to totally fall apart.

  82. on 30 May 2007 at 1:19 pm 82.Stephen Worth said …

    Stephen, as a filmmaker and film analyst you should know that what’s NOT there can be equal or even more important than what is there. This is what Tell Tale Heart does perfectly (this is the first time I’ve seen it). It would not work better with more animation. Or for that matter, it would not work better as a live action film either

    I don’t believe in the subtractive theory of creation. An animation director has so many powerful resources for putting his point across, it’s a crime to neglect any of them, particularly one as important as the actual animation. The best films are the ones made by directors who USE the medium- where the voices, music, animation, color, design, etc- are all focused in the same direction to put across his vision. When you see a film like that, it’s like magic- super powerful.

    South Park and Family Guy are illustrated radio, where the animation has been sublimated to the dialogue. Some people are able to accept the subtractive filmmaking of these shows and still enjoy them. I get angry that I’m being shown animation without animation in it. Tell Tale Heart is pretty much the same, just with a different style and tone. Even if it succeeds on some level without using the medium for what it’s best at, I don’t see that as a success.

    Tell Tale Heart would most definitely have been better with more and better drawings. It would have been more than just an animatic of a picture book like Captain Kangaroo reading Mike the Steam Shovel. The characters would have been vivid, not just because of James Mason’s voice over narration, but because of the skill and artistry of the animator. That’s what I watch an animated film to see.

    I’ll repeat (and it will be ignored again) I’m not saying that all UPA style animation is bad. There are tons of examples of great modern style cartoons- by UPA, the artists that worked there, and other studios and artists as well. But I happen to think that the best ones are the ones that are more than just modern design. The movement should be as well done and expressive as the backgrounds.

    See ya

  83. on 30 May 2007 at 1:23 pm 83.Adrienne said …

    Reading John K. does take a good amount of separating “wheat from chaff”, and there’s a lot more wheat than chaff. However, if the “animated world” was remade into something John liked or could appreciate, it would be trading one sort of dullness and repetition for another. Thank God for variety. How long could the Golden Age cartoons as we know them could have gone on, even with all the time and money in the world? They are all a product of their time and you can’t go home again. UPA was a product of its time as well, and it’s not UPA’s fault that people with nothing but dollar signs in their eyes liked the idea of limited animation to increase their profits. John’s posts about how UPA animators wanted to make films to get respect is interesting (don’t know if I buy it, but its’ interesting). There is a ring of truth to the fact often, comedy =replay value and money, but not respect. Personally, I don’t think animation as a medium *will* get any respect until a number of animated feature films are released in the US that are serious, appeal to adults, are entertaining, and promoted correctly. Those are a lot of critera to fill and even then, it still may not get respect, because a lot of people’s minds simply aren’t open to the idea. That’s why its’ rediculous to compare US animation with Japan. John K. gets tiresome to read after a while, especially when he goes on and on about feature films. Would anyone want to sit through the stuff John K. does for 2 hours in a stretch? I’d liike to see him tackle a feature-length story with characters who aren’t psychotic or retarded.

  84. on 30 May 2007 at 1:50 pm 84.Bill Field said …

    Paul, concerning Post 81, you’re right–how can you compare a dramatic good vs evil story like Dover Boys, with a laugh out loud comedy like Tell-Tale heart–haw haw–I remember thinking “he wasn’t taunting you, you’re just crazyyyy!What a punchline, after the whole suspenseful build up, an ironic classic comedy take that is akin to the great miscommunication comedy of Three’s Company–OOPS! He wasn’t trying to drive you crazy—you already were!”
    - I’m kidding, just FYI-

    I agree with John K.,BigShot, Ward, Sir Sporno, Amid, Thad–I like UPA, Terrytoons, Lantz, Disney, HB…but they all have the shortcomings and historic leaps forward for the artform that you all mention– I agree too, that simple puppet comedy has a potential to be as entertaining as Pixar or other CG-fare. I’m open minded and liberally accepting that you can always learn valuable lessons from everything— I applaud you all.
    I see all your points quite frankly, but I’m prompted to quote the Rev. King– Rodney King,
    “Can’t we all just– Get along?”

  85. on 30 May 2007 at 1:51 pm 85.Amy Mebberson said …

    I stopped reading John K’s blog ages ago. Like even his worst detractors here, I certainly appreciate his efforts to make artists analyse and STUDY their craft. I saved many notes he gave, but like others, his insistence that his opinion is FACT put me off.
    A world of animation governed ENTIRELY by John K’s rules would be terrifying, in my opinion.

    I could never do stuff as stylised as UPA, but I love watching it anyway and appreciate the importance of it.
    So don’t worry, there ARE those of us out there who have our tastes AND can still appreciate the comparitive merits of many different cartoon styles.

  86. on 30 May 2007 at 2:01 pm 86.Kevin Martinez said …

    Well, this has been the most pointless debate the Animation blogging community has had in a while. Why are we getting our undergarments in a bunch because of John’s posts? You guys are basically giving him what he wants; fireworks and free publicity because of his inflammatory, deliberately-designed-to-fry-eggs-on-the-foreheads-of-people-like-you “analysis” of these cartoons”.

    However, that having been said, I still find the UPA cartoons to be a tremendous slog to sit through, designs notwithstanding. Why? because they’re so excruciatingly slow, and so in love with their own self-proclaimed “superiority” to the “funny animal” cartoons of those pesky other studios. Kinda like Chuck Jones later 60′s shorts, which incidentally, are heavily inspired by these cartoons.

    Give me a funny, competently timed Billy and Mandy or Invader Zim episode anyday if cartoons like Tell-Tale Heart (coma-inducing) or Unicorn in the Garden (all the entertainment value of Chinese water torture) are supposed to be the apex of cartoon “art”

  87. on 30 May 2007 at 3:36 pm 87.Barbara from BC said …

    The Unicorn in the Garden animation, written by James Thurber is in the style of a Thurber cartoon, animated. It matches the mood of the story perfectly. Not really meant for children. I like it a lot, though it clearly illustrates the “war of the sexes” attitude that used to be considered very funny which is now outdated, along with the “lock up that crazy person” mentality.

  88. on 30 May 2007 at 3:42 pm 88.bobservo said …

    John K. is a man who claims to love and treasure the golden age of animation, then, when given free reign over a project, proceeds to make an unfunny 40(!) minute cartoon about a cat getting pregnant. There’s an obvious disconnect there.

  89. on 30 May 2007 at 6:48 pm 89.Rogelio T. said …

    >And you obviously don’t even have copies of Tom Terrific to make a fair comparison!

    Here’s some Tom Terrific!!!.

  90. on 30 May 2007 at 7:26 pm 90.Robert Schaad said …

    I check in on John K’s site from time to time…and generally agree w/ his opinions. However, I admit to being flustered by the UPA assessment. Dover Boys is great…and innovative. So is Rooty Toot Toot, and Tell Tale Heart AND Unicorn in the Garden. The various studios (Terrytoons, Lantz) did indeed seem to be locked into a style at that time. The UPA shorts greatest strengths lie in the distinctive look of each. Tell Tale Heart would not have worked if it was animated in a more cartoony style…it’s supposed to be horrifying. Unicorn was a Thurber story…it had to have that look. The Terrytoons and Lantz output had a beautiful, lush look all right…but really aren’t we just fully appreciating it now? And Steve…as an ASIFA-East member, I’d welcome the AHAA archive.

  91. on 30 May 2007 at 7:30 pm 91.steve coats said …

    I hope none of you people are actually animators because your work would be BORING! Now stop fighting with your brothers or you won’t b allowed to watch cartoons. Do any of you watch them to enjoy not to analyse?

  92. on 30 May 2007 at 7:58 pm 92.Robert Schaad said …

    That’s the thing steve c…if you just sit back and enjoy…the analysis goes out the window. Transfixed again…like a kid!

  93. on 30 May 2007 at 7:58 pm 93.Paul said …

    Watching for fun and analyzing are not mutually exclusive, Steve.

  94. on 30 May 2007 at 8:04 pm 94.Jenny said …

    I couldn’t disagree more strongly with the various few who deem this kind of discussion “pointless” or “boring”.
    Most of the people actively engaged in the back and forth here have pretty impeccable animation credentials, so based on their resumes alone I’d be interested in what they have to say on this subject, whether it’s in the form of an “argument” or not. If it drives anyone nuts to see people have an intricate, opinionated discussion about animation, well, what are you doing here, reading it in the first place? This is a pretty sophisticated blog, not myspace.

    I’ve complanied on my blog about film journals of yore that turned entertaining and sometimes hilarious cartoons and animation into dry, dull subjects for disseratio; these comments are far from that–they’re facinating reading.

  95. on 30 May 2007 at 8:36 pm 95.Stephen Worth said …

    Hello Robert

    The goal of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is to create a digital database that can be syndicated to all the other ASIFA chapters around the world. If a chapter of ASIFA will raise the funds to purchase a digitizing station and the membership will contribute scans to the database, ASIFA-Hollywood will give them a copy of our database, complete with the thousands and thousands of video and image files we’ve collected so far. Imagine how incredible the archive would be if animators around the world were all contributing their reference material to a central source accessible by all! I can imagine it. That’s what I’m in the process of building.

    Tell everyone at ASIFA-East.

    See ya

  96. on 30 May 2007 at 8:52 pm 96.Andrew said …

    I agree with Jenny – this has been a fascinating read, and the youtube links to the cartoons under discussion are invaluable. However, after watching the “Tell-Tale Heart” for the first time in 30 some years, I have to say that that is a very poor choice to give if John K. wishes to showcase how awful UPA is. John K may know his animators and animation/cartoon history, but the man who gave us George Liquor and Stimpy’s fart is not someone who I would consider knowledgeable about art.

    Is it just me, or does John K. seem to hold interminably on what he considers a funny “take?”

  97. on 30 May 2007 at 9:20 pm 97.Bill Field said …

    I personally think chaos is a better state to create than calm. I think attaching labels is a scary thing because it limits and restrains folks from investigating a library of say, Terrytoons–ya either love ‘em or hate ‘em, it seems, but their cartoons were as varied as Disney’s, they too garnered Oscars, as did Lantz’ Studio. UPA is not as varied to me, but I’ve been heavily influenced by their colors and layouts. And they really could do both sterile yet artsy and touchy feely/emotionally explosive. John K. gets a lot of his layout theories from here, and much as he’d hate to say, I doubt his psychodramatic comedy would look the same in a world w/o a UPA.But he makes you look further into a cartoon than you could’ve w/ just UPA-style alone. I like his layered approach and pacing–more than anyone I can think of quickly.

    On Frederator, check out Spumco Vet, Vince Waller, doing Kurtzman’s HEYLOOK! It has that classic look ala Spum.

  98. on 30 May 2007 at 10:27 pm 98.Richard said …

    South Park and Family Guy are illustrated radio, where the animation has been sublimated to the dialogue.

    Stephen Worth, you need to get past how pretty the pictures move and look at the big picture.
    South Park would simply not be funny if it were beautifully animated with lush backgrounds. It would be terrible. The cut-out animation serves the story. It’s a style. Can you imagine if the humor of South Park had Disney animation? It wouldn’t fit.

    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. You actually seem to be annoyed that clever writing is driving the artwork (as it should be), rather than the other way around. Would you call Seinfeld “live action radio”?

    Declaring something bad merely because it’s minimally (or even poorly) animated is incredibly short-sighted. It’s like saying, “all live action cinematography is worthless unless it’s lush and colorful”. Ever hear of other genres? Intentionally shaky camerawork for the sake of effect?

    Anyone who suggests all animation “should be” this way or that way is automatically dead wrong, period. Animation should and can be anything, and we should appreciate and study all forms of it.

  99. on 30 May 2007 at 11:07 pm 99.Jorge Garrido said …

    UPA cartoons aren’t entertaining to regular like me who want to laugh out loud at characters beating the crap at each other. And that’s ok. Just don’t browbeat people when they say they dislike a cartoon.


    If we all had open minds our brains would fly out of our heads.

  100. on 30 May 2007 at 11:15 pm 100.Garge Jorrido said …

    Are you sure to have a brain Jorge ?

  101. on 31 May 2007 at 2:40 am 101.Soos said …

    You know, for all the talk about how UPA only tried to appeal to movie critics, is anyone genuinely entertained by The Dover Boys?

    It’s certainly visually creative, but they’re reusing the same gags and dated parodies that show up in a million other WB shorts.

  102. on 31 May 2007 at 4:18 am 102.Tony Mines said …

    I don’t believe in the subtractive theory of creation. An animation director has so many powerful resources for putting his point across, it’s a crime to neglect any of them, particularly one as important as the actual animation. The best films are the ones made by directors who USE the medium- where the voices, music, animation, color, design, etc- are all focused in the same direction to put across his vision. When you see a film like that, it’s like magic- super powerful.

    In which Stephen fails to recognise that the argument he presents, though valid in and of itself, stands in contradiction to the ultimate intentions of his argument.

    Some people are able to accept the subtractive filmmaking of these shows and still enjoy them. I get angry that I’m being shown animation without animation in it.

    In which the argument descends into a form of creative fascism, and the whole thing flies out the window.

    So who wants to talk about the weather?

  103. on 31 May 2007 at 4:58 am 103.Brian Brantley said …

    It is frustrating to even have this argument, because it’s a very tiring, smart and researched discussion, but the answer to the debate’s just a very simple one. Some films just different. Some animation is just different. There’s good examples of well-known, well-liked animation for both styles.

    Contrasting them for preference is fine. You have to value something in the medium, to express. But the problem comes in swapping preference for fact and using a sum of the whole to define the whole. If John were wholy consistent & honest in that approach, we’d have John arguing with John, because The Flinstones and Rocket Ramjet are both open to being slaughtered with the same(wrong) analytical approach. But for some reason John likes both of them despite and is far from unemotional in his support of them.

    More EXPRESSIVE animation = better cartoon.

    See ya

    See, this is better. At least you don’t force people to read mountains of text searching for something more than just an opinion.

    Yes, and all opposing comments and thesis are opinions too. The difference between one opinion and another is the strength of the arguments supporting it. By giving up on rational discourse and by attacking the person instead of the position you’re not supporting your own argument well.

    Yeah, but to have a proper comparison and argument, there has to be a respect for the goals of each of the films and how well they suceeded. You can’t start with a single goal, and argue this one reached it and this one didn’t. It’s just not logical, and can’t be followed without severe frustration. Both John and John’s henchmen follow that course.

    Don’t you see that everyone that comes on here to talk about John, mentions first and foremost a respect for John, his work, his concepts, and his knowlegde? Do you ever here a John supporter come on with “first and foremost, I respect UPA for this and that” or whatever the topic be? Do you ever see John give respect to a film for it’s successes or aim? Set a plateau for analysis and comparison? If I ever do, it’s far and few between – and a lot of times he abandons it if he does.

    Anyway, I just want to end this with telling Stephen Worth that animation is versatile enough to be used in countless ways. I don’t deny the skill and knowledge put into some of the animation you admire and support. But I personally believe that you have such a tunnel vision with that type of animation, that you don’t see anything outside those boundaries. Namely the film. The film and animation’s purpose in harmony with the film.

  104. on 31 May 2007 at 6:08 am 104.steve coats said …

    Hey anyone looking for a REAL fight after all these cream puffs and “pantywaists’ shadow boxing there’s a rip snorter over at the pigeon racers. It’s the baned timers versus the electronic timers. Now they really get personal! After that try the French polishers who are having a dish up over can anything really beat shallac. Not so feisty as the pigeon boys but they sure make some heavy intellectual points. Worth a look when your done here.
    Maintain the rage folks!

  105. on 31 May 2007 at 6:29 am 105.Roberto González said …

    I happen to have the same preferences John and Stephen have. And I’d agree with them about some things. I had never watched the UPA cartoons before but I did a research on youtube and after watching several of them , they really didn’t look like untouchable masterpieces to me. I did like Rooty Toot Toot, Gerald McBoing Boing and Unicorn In The Garden. The first one I think it’s the most succesful, it’s entertaining and the designs and music work well with the story. Gerald McBoing Boing I think it could have used a wider color palette and faster pacing. Unicorn In The Garden worked sometimes, but it is really slow paced and boring at some moments. It could have used more expressive animation, as Stephen says, though I like the design of the woman character and his face expressions are ,well, expressive.

    The Dover Boys is not a cartoon I especially enjoy, but all the funny animal stuff and almost everything Looney Tunes, Disney or MGM did, I find it amazing and those are the real masterpieces for me. Walter Lantz and Terrytoons were a little more poor in stories or character development but the drawings are gold.

    However I understand that , without UPA, Avery couldn’t have done his UPA like stuff. Probably Jones and Tashlin were inspired to do something like The Bear That Wasn’t, a cartoon I really love.

    I agree with Brian Brantley that it would be more fair to compare more related cartoons and several aspects of them, and also consider the purpose of every one of them. John K. said Unicorn was “depressing”, but I think that was actually the purpose of the story in that cartoon. It was certainly not a LOL cartoon, so it can’t be judged as one of them.

    John and Stephen would talk about the technical aspects (animation, music, drawings, color) and I think most of them are better in the cartoons they (and me) praise, but they should consider the entire film, its purpose and how succesful it was in it. Instead of starting with the premise “it didn’t work because of that” they should start with “What they were trying to do in this film?” and then analyzing how succesful they were in the execution of that purpose.

  106. on 31 May 2007 at 6:38 am 106.Roberto González said …

    Also there is a little cartoon I would like to talk about: Symphony in Slang. Even though I love Droopy and the Wolf cartoons, I would consider that one almost as good as any of them. And it actually has very little animation. It has expressive drawings, yes, but there is a certain lack of movement. However, it serves a purpose in the cartoon. It really makes it special and different. I don’t know if that’s enough for Stephen to accept the substractive theory of cinema, but I would like to know…

  107. on 31 May 2007 at 6:39 am 107.Tony Mines said …

    No one wants to talk about that weather huh? Where I am it’s inconsistent. Like this conversation.

    Seriously though, what’s really going on here is this:

    More EXPRESSIVE animation = better cartoon.

    Thats as good a reductio ad ludicrum of this conversation as we’re gonna get. If I can swing the conversation back to its original subject, which I believe was “AAARGH!”

    The thing with John K, and the reason his stupid blog is worth making all this fuss over, is that he is one of the most intelligent, practiced and informed contributors out there, and his teachings are doing more good for a generation of new animators, than a thousand stupid degree programs.

    But only if you remember one thing. That John K (and his school) is always talking about cartoons. Not animation. John will wax lyrical about the importance of multiple influences and what have you, but he is always talking in relation to cartooning. If you can keep that in mind, he has a hell of a lot to teach all of us.

    More expressive animation might well make for a better cartoon. But it might also bugger up an animated film that acquires no benefit from being more cartoony.

    The rest of us know that. But under the laws of K, any film that finds itself in that predicament in the first place, just ain’t worth the watching.

    So anyway. First person to win back their dignity through rational conversation, wins a cigar!

  108. on 31 May 2007 at 1:41 pm 108.Stephen Worth said …

    there has to be a respect for the goals of each of the films and how well they suceeded. You can’t start with a single goal, and argue this one reached it and this one didn’t.

    If the single goal is “expressiveness”, you sure can! Expressiveness is the ultimate goal of all art, not just funny animal cartoons or experimental films.

    Instead of starting with the premise “it didn’t work because of that” they should start with “What they were trying to do in this film?” and then analyzing how succesful they were in the execution of that purpose.

    When a filmmaker sets the goal for himself to just present “design” in an isolated way, and doesn’t attempt to utilize a fraction of the power of the medium he’s working in, he’s doing two things wrong- he’s setting too low a goal for himself and he isn’t using the tools at his disposal in an effective manner. I’m not talking about “cartoony” or “stylized” or “realistic” here… I’m talking about using the medium.

    Setting low goals for ourselves is exactly what ended up creating the huge decline in animation in the post-UPA era. As Kent Butterworth said, the concept that design itself could carry a film creatively is what has led to the era of runaway production where animation is designed here and the “non-creative” task of animation is shipped overseas for wage slaves to crank out. It’s time to start setting higher goals for ourselves, and that starts with selecting films that are good models of that. There’s no reason that animation can’t be both stylized AND expressive.

    When I provided the KoolAid commercials as an example, I wasn’t asking you to compare the message of those commercials to the UPA films- It’s obvious that the Tell Tale Heart and Gerald McBoing Boing have more powerful things to say than a KoolAid commercial. I was asking you to look at them as a model of execution. The KoolAid spots are brilliantly directed and timed. The movement is brilliant as well, and it fits both the design and the personality being expressed in the characters. The music, the cutting, the staging, the compositions, the designs, the voices, the timing, the backgrounds, the movement, the music… Everything is working together in harmony to create a whole even more powerful than the sum of its parts. Put that in mastery of the medium at the service of creating a chilling vision of Poe, or a parable by Dr Seuss and you would really have something. Animation is one of the most powerful creative mediums ever devised. It combines the serial time element of film with the expressive power of art. “Yow! Go to it!” is what I say to that.

    UPA films like Gerald McBoing Boing have excellent design and layout- phenominal design and layout in fact. But I’m asking you to imagine how much better they would be if they had all of the strength and power of truly great animation too. It’s not about “funny animal” or “stylized” or “experimental”… It’s about expressive movement. Expressive movement is at the core of all animation. It’s not being unfair to the filmmaker to judge his animated film by the expressiveness of the animation.

    That said, I agree that John is definitely just talking about “cartoons” in his blog, not art in general. He’s a cartoonist and he makes cartoons. He is teaching the next generation of cartoonists how to make them. If you want to read about how to be an oil painter, or a dancer, or an architect, you should find another blog written by an expert on those subjects. But I bet the issues of skill, expressiveness and using the medium to its full advantage are still issues that get discussed. And even an easel painter or sculptor could find ideas of value in his blog.

    See ya

  109. on 31 May 2007 at 2:20 pm 109.Benjamin De Schrijver said …

    “I don’t believe in the subtractive theory of creation.”
    What do you think the use of contrast is based on? It’s one of THE main principles in all art, and contrast IS ‘the substractive theory of creation’.

    “The music, the cutting, the staging, the compositions, the designs, the voices, the timing, the backgrounds, the movement, the music… Everything is working together in harmony to create a whole even more powerful than the sum of its parts.”
    Mmmh, that’s exactly what Tell Tale Heart does to me. How can’t you see (feel) how expressive the music, voicework, awkward compositions and backgrounds, the little movement that is there (contrast!), etc are? They’re FULL of expression.

    “I’m not talking about “cartoony” or “stylized” or “realistic” here… I’m talking about using the medium.”
    Animation isn’t a medium about movement. It’s a medium about storytelling. At least, to me… isn’t it to you?

  110. on 31 May 2007 at 2:23 pm 110.Michael said …

    Unfortunately, you’re making the biased decision that more drawings for Gerald McBoing Boing would have made it better. I absolutely disagree with that. Grim Natwick once brought up Gerald’s walk as a perfect walk for that film – incredibly creataive and totally full of charm and character, and Tissa David has often said exactly the same. Your inability to see that shows me that reflects your opinion, but not the opinion of the people who made those films.

    My opinion is that the animation for that film could not have been better. That wonderful scene of him running alongside the train, the dramatic tension of him walking sadly up those stairs. Animation and design were perfectly matched in that film. Obviously other people saw that too since it won the Oscar. Of course, the Oscar is no real proof of excellence since so many bad films have won, but it does show that a lot of people within the industry didn’t find the animation poor.

  111. on 31 May 2007 at 7:47 pm 111.Egypt Urnash said …

    John is… dogmatic.

    At times his blog feels like it’s advocating that the ONLY acceptable kind of animation is FUNNY FORTIES CARTOON FROLICS. He trashes anything “great” that focuses on darker, gloomier emotions without a hearty leavening of humor.

    I learnt a hell of a lot in my own time at Spümcø, and I keep reading his blog because he has a lot to teach. His analysis of what makes a cartoon work, or fail to work, is razor-sharp and always worth reading. But his dogged insistence that animation always has to be FUNNY to be good kinda drives me nuts.

  112. on 31 May 2007 at 9:21 pm 112.Eddie Fitzgerald said …

    I just watched “Unicorn in the Garden” and “Gerald Mc Boing Boing” again. Both films still strike me as dreary and depressing but there are a lot of good things in them and it doesn’t surprise me that they have a following.

    The people who say they won’t go to John’s site are most likely going to go in spite of what they said. They just won’t admit it. And who could blame them? John hosts the most intelligent discussion of funny cartoons on the net. Missing it would put the absenter at a severe disadvantage.

    It seems to me that we’re fighting a kind of proxy war here where the real issues are lurking behind the scenes. What’s at stake for me is the legitimacy and future of funny cartoons. There’s nothing really wrong with other types of cartoons but there’s a new baby being born and its struggling to get its share of the oxogen.

    What funny people want to see is funny cartoons done in a contemporary style. I don’t mean Simpsons or South Park funny, I mean cartoons that are drawn and animated funny. Drawing intensive cartoons! You wouldn’t think that would arouse opposition but it does.

    Funny cartoons require a different organizational structure in the unit that hosts them, a different kind of training for artists, a different kind of approach to animation history…well, it would be a long list. Thinking funny means you’re going to encounter a certain amount of friction from artists and fans who have a different agenda.

    I don’t mean to be heavy-handed here. Artists of different types can still be fans of each other’s cartoons. I’m sincerely glad UPA did some of the cartoons they did but their condescending hostility to funny, their long-term emphasis on design rather than animation and their affinity for abstract music lost animation a lot of its public support and made funny a lot more difficult to do.

  113. on 31 May 2007 at 10:39 pm 113.Michael said …

    Eddie, you have to understand that I don’t dislike John’s work, and goodness knows I love everything I’ve seen of your work. I’m just defending films that I believe are important to the history of animation and films I still love dearly. My tastes run from Jim Tyer to Snow White to much of John Krisfalusi. If I weren’t a fan of all this stuff my blog wouldn’t be so eclectic. These are all the cartoons that made me; I just don’t think it all has to be funny all the time.

  114. on 31 May 2007 at 11:10 pm 114.Brian Brantley said …

    That was a good post Eddie. And I agree that it made funny difficult to do, but the problem with studios is anything that isn’t what’s been successful recently is going to be hard to do in animation. It’s just the nature of the beast unfortunately. I can understand John expressing his frustration with that and preference. But he doesn’t have to demean UPA shorts and compare & contrast on an uneven playing field. That’s all I’m saying.

    As far as Stephen’s (extremely) strongheld beliefs about what expressive, good animation is – I simply don’t share ‘em. There’s too many ways to do animation and make it endlessly effective in many different manners. Contrast should have it’s permanent place in the industry for both story and animation. While I do think my preference lies in full, expressive animation – I still think there’s a lot of highly skilled, effective work out there of a different kind. Far too much so to hope the pendulum swung in the opposite direction and forced everything that wasn’t funny to be difficult to do. Simplification of the medium in general has been animation’s greatest foe. I’m not going to throw my support in that direction.

  115. on 31 May 2007 at 11:12 pm 115.Bob Harper said …

    UPA didn’t make it hard to draw and animate funny. How is it that most all the other studios seemed to produce mostly duds as far as funny goes during that ERA. Tex Avery and Jim Tyer showed how to make that style funny and yet?

    And if UPA was so bad and detrimental then why did Johm K. single handedly bring it back to the modern forefrunt as he claims. Why is it he bashes their lack of animation while praising Roger Ramjet’s lack of animation.

    I like a lot of what John shows on his blog, but have to disagree with some fo the unfounded conclusions that he’s drawn from UPA, such as they did what they did to get respect. Fred Crippen, Gene Deitch, Jules Engel etc. all said it was about creative freedom. They were chock full of amazing talent who chose to animate the way they did – and notice that most every production had a different style and animation to it. Experimentation was what it was all about, nobody has to like their results, but at least they tried.

    As a cartoonist/animator I get tired of the bitching that there are no funny cartoons. Many of us try the best we can and slowly but surely are staring to get some nice results. We try in spite of all the folks in this so called community of ours putting us down and the near impossible task if breaking through the corporate barriers. We do it because we love it.

    There is a solution to having the cartoons you really want to see – Make them!

  116. on 31 May 2007 at 11:57 pm 116.Soos said …

    As an aside, isn’t it kind of cool that John K. got this discussion going in the first place?

    It seems like Eddie did a better job of making the points John wanted to get across, but it was John’s hyperbolic language that got everyone passionately arguing about it.

  117. on 01 Jun 2007 at 12:16 am 117.Ryan Martin said …

    It’s naive to take John’s blanket statements at face value. One of his chief attributes – and it’s an attribute he has time and again argued the importance of – is his superior analytical abilities. He’s obviously taken great care to extract what he likes from the UPA toons and avoid what he doesn’t – anyone who thinks John K.’s opinion of UPA is entirely negative needs to go back and have a look at old Ren & Stimpy episodes. It’s not just the Log commercials that play on that style.

    To Stephen: the great thing about animation is that it will not be pigeonholed. You can do anything with the medium. “Rooty Toot Toot” and “Gerald McBoingBoing” are excellent for what they are, and neither would make sense in any other medium but animation. It’s totally bizarre that you’re trying to subtract from their worth by imposing some ill-considered orthodoxy on them.

  118. on 01 Jun 2007 at 12:20 am 118.Carter said …

    What I got from John’s posts was that he was placing a lot of the blame for the loss of the craft of animation – which is most definitely a historical fact – on UPA. They made good cartoons, but they did it without the full vocabulary of animation, thus the wildly popular style they inspired failed to carry on the torch of the 1940s greats.

    His point is that stylization isn’t bad, and that it didn’t require the principles of great animation be thrown away, but because UPA were successful while visibly not trying for what was previously seen as good animation, it was now OK for other studios (HB etc.) to forget about quality animation, and ultimately the refined craft was doomed. Much like technical painting hit a peak with Caravaggio, technical animation hit a peak with the 40s greats; only the dropoff was severe and supremely unfortunate. It’s one thing to explore new styles, but that shouldn’t come at the complete loss of honed skill and studied technique.

    John makes his point poorly because the better argument is less about giving UPA’s work a thumbs down as a viewer (which obviously anyone is free to do, but so what?) but rather to note their rather unfortunate role in a key moment in the history of animation-the-craft. Cut through the hyperbole and I think he does indeed make his point, and despite the ungainly way he makes the point, it’s worthy, because it isn’t a point I’ve heard made before.

  119. on 01 Jun 2007 at 11:30 am 119.Yan said …

    “Expressiveness is the ultimate goal of all art, not just funny animal cartoons or experimental films.”

    Wow. In all seriousness, I’m curious to know how much education in art history and art theory the average animator has. These sorts of comments suggest very little. Whether the purpose of art is expression, or any of many, many other possible purposes, or whether or not it even makes sense to speak of _a_ purpose of art, or to give priority to some sort of purpose over other aspects of an artwork — these are questions that have been seriously and intelligently disagreed about since Plato. For the record, most of art history (both the great practitioners and theorists) has sided against the adolescent “art = expression” formula. But you’ve got Tolstoy and Trent Reznor on your side.

    But at least recognize there is a long history of reflection and bewilderment on this issue, most of it occurring before the invention of animation. To reduce a 2,000 year history of a highly varied, and complicated practice to a pat formula of expression is oversimplistic, at the least.

  120. on 01 Jun 2007 at 4:06 pm 120.Eddie Fitzgerald said …

    Michael: Thanks for the compliment! As I write I notice that you have 119 comments. I’m delighted that this will push the counter over to 120 which is the most I ever got on my own blog. Of course I only got that many because two guys carried on an insult war with each other.

  121. on 01 Jun 2007 at 6:28 pm 121.DJ said …

    Oh.. yeah!

    Nice post and great discussion.. This is the first time I HAVE SEEN people being so analytical about animation film making..

    whether one agrees with Michael or with John, one does get a lot of education just reading all these comments.. Thanks a lot to both you guys (and everyone who discussed here) for this enlightening read..

    Now.. 50 yrs from now, are we gonna have a similar debate on “mainland American animation” and “outsourced thirdworld stuff”? I wish! I hope the limited resources that the third world countries have could produce something as intersting and as influential as the topics discussed here. ARTISTIC FREEDOM!! WHERE ART THOU!!


  122. on 02 Jun 2007 at 6:39 am 122.Benjamin De Schrijver said …

    Just thought I’d say John K posted a comment about it on Will Finn’s blog.

  123. on 02 Jun 2007 at 9:45 am 123.Dave Levy said …

    One thought just popped into my head. I’d like to suggest that what John K and his supporters are trying to do is to settle a score from sixty years ago. UPA prided themselves in not making “funny (or furry) animal” chase pictures. UPA’s 1950s innovation suddenly made Clampett and the rest seem suddenly old hat. You can see how it bruised Chuck Jones’ ego by reading the book, Chuck Jones’ conversations. Decades after the fact Chuck was still feeling the need to rejustify his “furry animal” pictures in the light of the UPA revolution.

    Now, in 2007, just about every golden age great is no longer with us, and the UPA style has, in it’s own way, become an old fashioned look. Yet, like mid-century modern furniture, it’s a highly attractive old fashioned look. Both “furry animal” pictures and UPA now belong to hisory and there’s no doubt that both will continue to cast a long shadow, continuing to inspire future generations. Think of them as part of a wonderful animation salad bar and put a little from each camp on your plate.

  124. on 02 Jun 2007 at 11:49 pm 124.Mr. F said …

    God, Micheal and Steve just freakin call each other up on the phone and continue the arguement for hours until one of you runs out of spittle.

  125. on 04 Jun 2007 at 2:39 pm 125.P.C.Unfunny said …

    “With expressive animation, better color harmonies and more imaginative timing, the Tell Tale Heart would be a hundred times stronger than it is with just a moth, a bed cover and the shadow of a policeman.”

    I’ll have to agree Steve.The TELL TALE HEART short feels dull,flat,and lifeless.I don’t mind limited animation as long as it life, the few animated parts in this film don’t even do that. Most of the time,it’s just camera movement. And the colors,the very definition of drab.

  126. on 08 Jun 2007 at 8:49 pm 126.Stephanie said …

    This blog thread is too good to not comment on. As Tony Mines points out, it is extraordinarily valuable as a narrative, with character arcs and plot twists to boot. I teach an English class at UCLA and devote one session to blogs, memoirs and journals. I may very well make this join my syllabus for the fall quarter.

    Michael, while I tend to defend your actual comments on the films being discussed, I have to stop you at the point that you say this discussion is useless. In fact, it should be archived because it represents a way of discussing these ideas in a way that, as Stephen has pointed out, has never been done before. It is an extremely valuable resource for anyone who wants to participate in cultural discussions of any sort. The unofficial cultural records that blogs like this represent are just as important as official cultural records like Amid’s latest book.

    I’m a graduate student studying film archiving. I’ve focused much of my studies on issues of access, as well as research and study. (One of) my critical interest(s) is in animation, although I must confess that reading all of the blogs linked to in this post alone reveals that I know VERY little about the subject as a whole. I know the most about abstract and experimental animation, and have helped program and publicize screenings of them.

    So as someone coming from a background more grounded in critical theory and outside of the animation production world, I am here to say that the opinions of myself, Stephen, Michael, and ALL that have replied to this blog are EQUALLY valuable.

    As far as Tony’s comments about John K defending the infallibility of cartoons from his childhood and using his analytical expertise to defend them, I would say that we all do that to some extent. I think the opinions and tastes of anyone who really LOVES animation is inextricably linked to feelings we had towards them as children, regardless of how much we “legitimatize our childhood” by citing well-supported facts and theories. I recently went off to several bigwigs at a reputable film archive, as well as the professor of my Film Restoration seminar (an established film theorist and historian) about why the animated film The Last Unicorn deserves a proper restoration. I defended this statement from a theoretical perspective, citing the film’s unique place in animation history, and was able to write six pages to this effect. I still feel every point I made about the film was valid.

    Later when I was at the ASIFA archive for a different project, I told Stephen Worth about my interest in The Last Unicorn and he said it was an “awful” example of “bad Japanese animation,” and that it “followed none of the principles of animation.” This floored me. I’ve been working on a project at the archive, and so far I’ve realized that Stephen and I have completely different tastes and opinions on animation. For one example (among several), he has a dislike for avant garde animation, which is my principal area of interest. On this thread, I tend to agree most with are those who are disagreeing with Stephen. But I stop at the point where they attack the very fact that he is posting this opinion (and I think that his link to the page about Ad Hominem was apt in this context). I think that anyone who is willing to take an informed stance on their opinions is worthy of paying attention to (as is, by the way, anyone who devotes their career to an archive like ASIFA’s …).

    As an archive patron, I will say that Stephen is very fair in gearing researchers and animation students towards what their particular tastes are. I came in looking for Disney history, and although Stephen does not prefer Disney, he still helped me tremendously and provided tons of valuable resources for my project. He spent ample time helping me, despite the fact that I’m a historian and not an animator, hence not representative of the group the archive is intended for.

    So yes, we may all be pretentious and self-absorbed and we may all need (several) beer(s). But that doesn’t mean we should not engage in these discussions – they are what is making the web, and modern culture in general, more interesting. We should all do what Tony says and stick to our own opinions about the cartoons we love – but still read blogs like these to reinforce that admiration. I will now conclude my lengthy diatribe and return to the marathon that is finals week. And then I will drink lots and lots of beer.

    Stephanie Sapienza

  127. on 08 Jun 2007 at 9:59 pm 127.Michael said …

    Stephanie, I am sure I didn’t call this coversation useless, however enervated I was by the lack of appreciation for what I am confident is Art of the first order. And then when those films I consider masterpieces of Art are compared unfavorably to the most workmanlike of film, Terrytoons what can one say. It’s just exasperating and pointless for ME to continue in the conversation.
    I am completely on your side. There is an absolute lack of respect for anything experimental these days, and to some extent I blame the parochial point of view that John Krisfalusi espouses (though I believe he truly believes otherwise – why else would he state on Will Finn’s site, “I can’t think of any modern animator who is more influenced by UPA than I am. . . And I in turn influenced younger animators and introduced a whole generation to that kind of design…” contrary to what Stephen Worth espoused on his behalf). There’s a duplicitousness there between that statement and what he preaches on his own site.

    Without respect for the moderns in art, there can be no forward movement.

  128. on 25 May 2009 at 5:37 pm 128.Steve Brown said …

    I am entering this discussion so late that probably no one will see my comment anyway, but…

    I completely agree that the animation world would be seriously deprived by the absence of independent auteurs like McLaren, Hubley, Norstein, Kawamoto, Luzzati & Gianini, Parn, Kovalyov, and so many others.

    As much as I may love what John K calls “cartoon” cartoons. why would that cause me to want to disregard and dismiss all the other wonderful works that do not fall within that category?

    I also find it interesting that John feels as if UPA somehow destroyed commercial animation, and yet is so appreciative of early Hanna Barbera, when UPA so obviously contributed to the aesthetic and the production techniques that made television animation economically viable.

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