Tuesday, January 01, 2008
The above compilation, done by Thad K, is a collection of Jim Tyer animation done for Terrytoons. Besides Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle, there are clips from the Terry Bears, Little Roquefort, Gandy Goose and Sourpuss, and one-shot cartoons.
In the past, I've compared Tyer to Curly Howard of The Three Stooges, but the more I see of Tyer's work, the more I think that I underestimated him. Ed Wynn said (as Chuck Jones quoted him) that a comedian isn't someone who opens a funny door, he's someone who opens a door funny. That's Tyer. The gags in this compilation are nothing special; their humour comes from how they are performed.
I'll admit to being something of an animation snob. My pet peeve is that animation sticks too much to surfaces and doesn't grapple enough with strong emotions and the realities of human existence. However, I love Tyer. His work makes me laugh out loud in ways that the work of more conventional animators does not. He's from the tradition of coarseness that Will Finn writes about here and here.
Most of all, he reminds us that it's possible to animate funny. There's a Harpo Marx innocence and exuberance in Tyer's work; you can tell how much fun he's having while animating a scene. He breaks just about all the rules of animating: he draws off model, his characters lack structure, his volumes are inconsistent, and his work lacks a feeling of weight and momentum. But his rule-breaking is not the result of ignorance or lack of skill. Everything he does provokes laughter, even when the material is old and tired. Jim Tyer was a gifted, natural comedian. Compare the compilation above to anything currently on TV. If TV animation has any motion as funny as Tyer, somebody please tell me about it. I could use the laughs.
I've recently begun to wonder if Bob Clampett and Rod Scribner weren't an influence on Tyer. Their wildest work was in the early to mid 1940s when Tyer was still at Famous Studios. It was at Famous that Tyer's animation style began to emerge and by all accounts, he was fired for not sticking to a more conservative approach. Once Clampett left Warners, Scribner's work was never the same as he never found a director as sympathetic as Clampett. Tyer never found a director as sympathetic, but he did find several who were apathetic. At Terry, Tyer was left alone to pursue his own approach. While his work is not as controlled or as structural as Scribner's, I wonder if Tyer didn't take Scribner's work as an inspiration and a challenge.
Kudos to Thad for editing the compilation. It was a nice way to start 2008 and here's hoping it's an indication of how the rest of the year will play out. I wish everyone reading this a happy, healthy and productive new year.