Tuesday, March 25, 2014

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.

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