Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Simpsons Meet The Fleischers...



...or Barney meets Bluto, if you prefer.

While looking at The Simpsons Handbook, I was struck how the construction of the characters resembled the construction used at the Fleischer studio. The Fleischers never really outgrew this approach to construction. You can see it as late as the Stone Age cartoons, which were some of the last things they did before losing the studio.

You know how in It's a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart gets to see what the world was like if he was never born? Looking at The Simpsons model sheets, it's like looking at a world where Fred Moore was never born.

These characters are created out of separate, static shapes. The lines that define the shapes are completely lacking in rhythm and there's no attempt to use line to tie the shapes together.

None of the Fox primetime animated series seem to be interested in flexible shapes, which really is a shame. I've heard that Fox considered stretch and squash old fashioned, but as you can see, The Simpsons approach isn't exactly new.

8 comments:

Keith Lango said...

Hmm. Looks like a typical CG character construction to me. *wink
Much of the earlier designs for CG come off like this. Heck, a lot of the current designs still do. So we have stiff computer puppets or stiff hand drawn animation. A common theme for 21st animation seems to be emerging. Stuff like this is hard to animate well and get a sense of flow or music in the character. You can get away with it in stop motion because the animation is so obviously hand-made that all those little imperfections add their own kind of magic to the play. For hand drawn animation the flow of the line is a lot of the magic. If The Simpson's marks a return to hand drawn animation as a viable business model again (like it ever wasn't, but you know what I mean) here's hoping that the stiffness of the Simpson's universe isn't the new de-facto style guide to what hand drawn animation should look like. But like you mention, not that Fox really cares.

Erik Westlund said...

hummm...

The Fleischers where on to something for a while there before the bottom fell out. Serial animation for adult audiences. Now, the Simpsons have occupied that same space handily in recent years.

I wonder if knowing the median age of the audience changes what is considered acceptable in terms of squash and stretch, and other playful visual aspects of animation?

Just some speculation based on what I see represented here.

cartoon lad said...

The Tracy Ulman Simpsons shorts actually were fairly cartoony.I read Matt Groening is ashamed of those short episodes, I think at heart he's a bit boring and conservative and not comfortable with the expressiveness,lunacy and anarchy of a real cartoon.

J. J. Hunsecker said...

You're dead right about the Simpsons/Fleischer construction similarities. I always thought that the Simpsons characters looked like something out of an early thirties cartoon, too -- minus the looser, rubber hose animation, though.

Thad K said...

Mark, one of the writers probably read this post. So watch for a scene of Barney drunk dressed in Bluto's garb in the 18th season!

Stephen Worth said...

There's a huge difference between those two model sheets. One is made up of shapes that look like the ductwork of a building, and the other is made up of round, animatable ones with joints and points where the character can flex.

See ya
Steve

cartoon lad said...

>>There's a huge difference between those two model sheets. One is made up of shapes that look like the ductwork of a building, and the other is made up of round, animatable ones with joints and points where the character can flex.<<


You can squash and stretch the Simpsons characters easily-they just dont do it.

Andreas said...

>>I think at heart he's a bit boring and conservative and not comfortable with the expressiveness,lunacy and anarchy of a real cartoon.

Cartoon Lad, you might be on to something. Have you read his strip Life in Hell?