Thursday, March 27, 2014

H-B Design: Heavyset Male Human Character # 3

For our third example I picked one that is only identified as "The Rancher."  I have absolutely no idea what cartoon this came from... but it makes me think of a guy from the Central Valley.
Incidentally, the hat was a lot of fun!

Probably it's a case of me drawing the legs too long but once again our "quarters" theory doesn't hold up as well as it might:

True quarters would occur if the bottom of the feet were at about that dotted red line.

There's lots of things I like about this character.  We might want to call him the Indignant Heavyset Man.  I love the facial expression, holding the hand up as if counting off points of dissension.  I like the overalls... and I LUV that hat!

I especially appreciate the head shape.  Here we see both an indent and a "bulge"...

We can see that the upper circumference of the head is smaller than the lower circumference... indicating the indent.

The bulge, though, is like a structural bulge to give strength and rigidity to the skull. 

The head is a classic that works on a rancher, but it would also work as a bank president... or give him a chef's hat and he's an agry chef Boyardee... he could be a cop, a fireman, a mayor, you name it.  There's a lot to be learned from this character.  Study him well.

I also love the shape of the hand being held up.  A friend mentioned that sometimes these simple drawings mask a lot of sophisticated design decisions.  I certainly agree that's the case with this character.  I'd never know how to create him spontaneously... but now that I have him for constant reference I don't need to.

Tomorrow's project will be a character from the Jetsons.  Then we'll try creating a few of our own based on the commonalities from the 4 figures.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

H-B Design: Heavyset Male Human Character # 2

For this exercise I picked a character originally drawn and painted by Hawley Pratt and Al White.  The character is based on an HB character and clearly Hawley and Al were staying faithful to the HB look.
I especially like this character because... aside from Hawley Pratt being one of my favorite artists... I love the hands.  The finger pointing, the fist shaking, very expressive and very cartooney hands.

Incidentally, the original character had 4 fingers and a thumb per hand.  Now, we all know that cartoon protocol calls for 3 fingers per hand... now don't weeee?

Anyway, I made the appropriate change and drew this great character... I call him the mayor.  He just hired QuickDraw as the town marshal and now he's yelling at QD and his sidekick Baba Lou: go out there and catch the bad guys!!!

Let's examine the mayor's ... well... er... proportions:
In comparison to yesterday's exercise the head is a bit large.  The chin extends beyond the quarter mark.  I'm going to say the head comprises one-third of the character.  The legs, you will note, are clearly delineated at the quarter mark.

As you've probably noticed, I'm eyeballing my dimensions... they are by no means exact.  Cartoons aren't meant to be exact... at least, my cartoons aren't meant to be exact.

As with yesterday's character, the bottom half of the face "outweighs" and is clearly larger than the top half.  Plus, the face once again "indents" at the nose.

Commonalities between the two characters:

Bodies divided roughly into quarters, but the head can comprise one third of the character.

The oval shape to both bodies is pretty obvious. 

Once again, no visible neck.  This time instead of a kerchief covering the neck, the jaw hangs below the neck line while the coat scrunches up at the sides.

The head "indents" at the nose.  That is to say: the top part of the head is smaller in circumference than the bottom part.

On our original Golden Book drawing the legs were a bit confusing in their construction.  Remember yesterday's exercise where the legs looked like a pair of sticks stuck onto the character?  Today there's more heft, more flow, in the way the legs are defined.  A weighty flow of either arms or legs from the torso is not a Hanna-Barbera-ism... it's more of a Golden Book-ism.  HB kept the attachment of arms and legs pretty simple.  They were uniquely shaped, to be sure, but their attachment points were quite uncomplicated.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

H-B Design: Heavyset Male Human Characters

I've collected a lot of images of pencil "roughs," paper and pencil sequences submitted to the ink and paint departments.  These pencil roughs are the sort of thing being sold by the thousands on Ebay... I wish I was a billionaire I'd buy every single one.

Here's what I propose to do: first, I try drawing the character.  Thus, by the time you see it it's already undergone one phase of "translation" in my effort to capture the character.  Then I post my drawing plus some analysis of its elements in our search for commonalities.

Anyway, here's a generic cowboy, one of many heavyset male characters created at HB Studios.  I'm not sure what cartoon this came from, maybe an episode from Quick Draw McGraw:
Your basic, heavyset cowboy.  Or sheriff, by the look of him.
HB wasn't kind to us men-folk.  According to them we've got big guts, round little heads, skinny legs, big feet, we look sorta stupid.... etc.  But we also look pretty dang funny!

Let's start by analyzing the overall proportions:
That is a pretty tall 10 gallon hat!
The character is pretty evenly divided into quarters (not including the hat).  Half the character consists of torso.

Because we draw with shapes let's have a look at the basic shapes to this character:
Really, it's basically 2 ovals.  Easy enough.

Limited animation involved one static cell (an inked and painted acetate or mylar sheet ready for filming) for many frames while superimposing specific action over it.  For instance, the shape of the head might be the same drawing for 10 seconds of film with animated mouth drawings superimposed over it.  That's what gave HB product that blocky look.

One thing HB would do in the interests of limited animation would be to divide or segment the areas receiving superimposed action with something.  For instance, many animal characters wore collars or bow ties.  Their faces were drawn with distinct muzzles... remember the 5:00 shadow to Fred Flintstone and his pal Barney Rubble?  This was so animators could direct their efforts at the specific area needing superimposing... due to the lines of the muzzle and boundaries of the collar there wasn't much chance for overlap.

In our character, look at the size of the kerchief.  Cuts right across the intersection of the 2 ovals and thus eliminates a lot of potential issues regarding movement of the neck.  In fact, at HB necks on heavyset male human characters were a rarity.  Heads tended to blend into the body.  Think again of Fred and Barney on the Flintstones.  Their heads grew out of their bearskins (or whatever those things were supposed to be) like a couple of mountains.  Sort of like our character here.

The head shape is something you'll see again and again on HB human characters: the head "indents" right at the nose area.  Unfortunately, there isn't an easy formula for getting this indent right... it requires a lot of practice.  Well, it requires me to practice a lot, you'll probably do a lot better.  That indented head, though, is a hallmark of HB male human characters.

Observations thus far:
  • Body divided into quarters: the head is one quarter, the legs and feet comprise a quarter, the torso - including that ample stomach - constitute one half the character.  The hat's a freebie.
  • The basic body shape is an oval... a rather large oval.
  • The head merges with the body... no neck that we can see.  Often the HB technique was to mask the neck with a collar of some sort.
  •  The head is "indented" at the nose.  The jaw and lower face comprise the larger oval, the upper head and eyes the smaller oval.  It's a great look but it requires some practice to get it right.

Generic Peoples

I want to spend some time examining character design and the studio I'm going to concentrate on for the time being is Hanna Barbera.

I've read accounts of the closing of other major animation studios in the '50s, MGM (Tom & Jerry, Droopy, Etc.), Universal (Walter Lantz), Warners (Bugs & Crew), and even Disney was undergoing lay-offs.  Animators beat feet down Cahuenga Blvd. and signed up at HB, which had a lock on the new, burgeoning television market.

It was a different style of animation, to be sure, the studio called it limited animation to address the budgetary realities of creating all these cartoons, but it was work.  And these guys were glad to get it.  So they adapted to the new reality.

Whereas the new style of animation didn't have the fluidity, the plasticity, or the sheer elegance of the old theatrical shorts that isn't to say it wasn't fun to look at.  HB pioneered a new look, a distinctly cartooney look, that deeply influenced folks of my generation who grew up on Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Yogi Bear, and all the rest of the gang.

I still admire the Art Lozzi's backgrounds to Yogi Bear and Bob Gentle's work on the Flintstones, as well as "Monty" Montealegre's backgrounds to Hucklebery Hound.  In fact, I enjoy looking at the artwork far more than I enjoy the watching the cartoons... let's face it, the jokes could be trite - although sometimes they got in a few zingers - and the stories often just plodded along.

But the character design - at least in those very early days - was top notch!  To us kids, Huck and his pals weren't drawings, they were living, breathing characters.  Fun characters.  And we couldn't get enough of 'em.

I want to start this study by examining not the animal characters... we'll eventually get there... but a few of the human characters created on Cahuenga Blvd.  Let's see if we can derive some commonalities, some principles, in our quest to achieve that Hanna Barbera look.

Onward, then.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Jungle Headquarters, Stage 1

So here's the deal.  Remember awhile back when I scooped an old clapboard building off Google Maps?  This was the building:
This is somewhere in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  Great example of a clapboard building.
Then I tweaked it in Photoshop until I had something "cartoon-ey" looking:
Pretty far cry from the original photo, wouldn't you agree?  Tall and thin and slightly ridiculous looking.  Just like in a cartoon.

Here's my basic painting of the building:
Against a jungle backdrop it would be sorta reminiscent of a Johnny Quest episode, don't you think?
Notice that I've changed the colors and the design somewhat.  I haven't added any shading whatsoever because I'm still debating what sort of setting I'll use for it.  I specifically selected these colors to put it in a jungle or tropical backdrop.  I'm calling it Jungle Headquarters for now.

Old Cano, after all, has based himself in the middle region of the Philippines.

Having visited this part of the Philippines I can assure you a wooden building with thin windows like this would be pretty useless because it's hotter 'n !@#$% down there and you want lots of airflow.  Well, today they build these cinder block, squat, flat buildings with composite roofs that can withstand the monsoon season.

There are spooky ol' places like this one out there.  Lots of fun to look at but probably full of bugs.  Wooden buildings don't age well in that heat and humidity but they are cool-looking.

I tried putting in wider windows but like most issues of practicality... it doesn't give us the atmosphere we want.  It looks too dang functional to be spooky.  So thin little windows it is.

Also, if you look closely, I didn't use any straightedge tools.  This is completely hand-drawn using the photo as a reference.  A little loosey-goosey but that's what makes it a cartoon.

Stay tuned for Jungle Headquarters.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Old Cano Takes a Stroll

Anybody remember this guy?

So I thought: how about taking him out for a stroll to work some of the gut off him.

And there he is.  In one of the not-so-fine neighborhoods of So Cal.

This one took a long time because, as usual, I was in a hurry.  I started coloring and shading too soon without using a constant reference.  And before I knew it arms and legs were growing shorter and longer, shirt length varied from one figure to the next... even the hat looked different in each pose.  It was ridiculous!

Well, in the old days animators used light boxes.  They'd place their paper over the previous drawing and use it as a strict reference to keep things in proportion and to keep everything in spec.

So I started all over again.  This time I used the first drawing as my strict reference and basically "cannibalized" it for each of the succeeding drawings.

The graffiti on the fence, incidentally, reads National City.  Ahhhh.... home sweet home.