Quotes: John Kricfalusi
"Taking the cartooniness out of the cartoon does not make it realistic. It just makes it bland. This is my biggest complaint about modern animation and it goes back to Disney. If you are going to go to great lengths to take the cartooniness, magic and imagination out of your cartoon characters, then you better replace it with something else - like maybe good specific designs and and an understanding of human nature and individual multi-layered characters. Rich personalities derived from observation of real life humans interacting the way they really do in the actual world around you. This never happens."
"A lot of characters in modern cartoons are simply mouthpieces for the writers. They speak in the writer's voice rather than the character's voice, tell the jokes that the writer and his writer friends think are funny, but are totally out-of-character for the character who is actually saying them. This common writer's flaw is known as "writerspeak". "I'll bet that asteroid will burn out in the atmosphere and shrink to the size of a chihuahua's head". That's writerspeak. It's informational, a setup for a gag that is supposed to happen at the end of the cartoon. A gag that the audience will predict the second they hear the writerspeak setup and congratulate themselves when they find that they were duped into being right. A gag that the cartoonists are not allowed to actually make funny by drawing the payoff funny. This is a line of dialogue that could be read by any character in the story. To the writer of a line like this, the characters are interchangable, just an assortment of extra mouths for the writer, whose mouth doesn't appear on screen. The writerspeak writer avoids writing character specific dialogue by using catch phrases. If you just tack on "D-oh" at the end of the line, then you know who said it. You could change that to "Cowabunga" or whatever else and instantly define your characters."
"I think the blog revolution really did some great stuff for animation, it probably does it for every medium. Steve Worth has a great animation archive blog, thereís so much information now online. Not just about animation that everybody already knew about, like Disney, but stuff thatís been forgotten: Great old comic books, a hundred yearsí worth of comic strips, all this stuff is available to young cartoonists who need inspiration. When I was a kid it was really hard to find any information on animation, now all the information that you would ever want about cartoons, comics, illustration, itís all available online. It should cause a renaissance of cartooning for the next generation, because thereís so much information to pull from now. I mean, itís a visual medium Ė itís the most visual medium, even more than live-action. Even old, classic live-action movies, most of the directors were artists Ė John Ford, John Huston, these old directors were artists, they really were visual people, and in cartoons itís even more so. Everybody in a cartoon production in the 1930s to the 1950s was an artist. They didnít even use scripts, if you went to Walt Disney and said ďHey, Iíve got this great script for a cartoonĒ heíd look at you like you were crazy. This is animation, you have animators with a story sense write the stories on storyboards. As soon as scripts took over the animation business, it was kind of the end of the visual part of animation, and since the sixties itís just become more and more inbred."
—John Kricfalusi, quoted from interview "A Conversation with John Kricfalusi"
Q: "The thing that strikes me watching this is that this isnít the John K. cartoon of ten years ago, or even five years ago. Your style has evolved greatly in the past few years, in terms of graphic complexity and experimentation. Has this been a conscious effort to move in a new direction and have you noticed the changes yourself?"
JK: "Itís because of a number of factors. I am just doing small projects now, so I do more of the work myself. When I was running a studio with fifty artists, I spent a lot of time training, directing and explaining what I wanted. You canít explain animation in words. I did as many drawings as I could, but they tended to be rough poses that after going through the assembly line process eventually get toned down. Katie Rice influenced me a lot. She showed me all kinds of funny abstract expressions in anime cartoons and her own drawings were super cartoony, original and cute all at the same time. The way she applied the abstractions from anime (and other influences) she liked was a revelation to me. Around the same time, thanks to Jerry Beck and Mark Kausler I started watching a lot of previously lost 1930s rubber hose cartoons: Fleischer Talkartoons, Lantz Oswalds, Ub Iwerks and Terry Toons. For decades these cartoons have been derided by cartoon historians and even some of the animators themselves. These cartoons have attributes that far surpass their seeming limitations. They were extremely inventive and the animators were encouraged to do what comes naturally to cartoonists and animators. They were allowed to draw and animate in their own individual styles. In the early 1930s, there were no set bible of rules for how to animate. The medium was too young. Every animator figured out their own unique ways of moving things. I absolutely love watching Grim Natwick, Bill Nolan, Irv Spence, Carlo Vinci and othersí animation because it is all so unique. And the cartoons were musical: all cartoons from the 1930s to the 1950s were timed to musical rhythms. This gave everything that was happening an underlying sense of fun. The tempo was the structure of the action. Amid, you also inspired me when you showed me a lot of 1950s animated commercialsĖhighly stylized stuff that was beautifully and inventively animated. In a couple of my recent [adult swim] shorts, I tried to caricature some of my favorite designy commercials. Those 50s commercials as you know were all animated by the same guys who learned their craft on rubber hose cartoons in the 1930s and honed their principles on 40s cartoons. Their stylized stuff in the 50s reflects all that foundational skill and knowledge even though it seems like they are breaking the rules."
"The reason to do layouts here (in America or your homeland) is so you can create custom acting. By "custom" I mean creating original poses and expressions that only fit the particular scene and story you are working on. If you are just gonna use stock prefab model sheet poses and expressions, then there really is no reason to do layouts in the country. You might as well just send the script directly overseas. It's a lot cheaper and all that matters is what the characters say anyway, right? Not how they say it or how they think? This is not exactly what layout was created for. It's really the animator's job to create the acting, but since animation is all done overseas (or in flash) this is the best solution I could come up with to at least have some directorial control over the performances in the stories. It's a bandaid created for TV production. However, TV practices and philosophy have largely been adopted by many full animators too. Meaning that most animators these days are expected to not really vary much from the model sheets or even the limited house styles that exist today. I see characters in every major studio making the same expressions and moving the same way they have moved for 25 years. Maybe some move smoother or have more overlap, but the acting seems to be out of the can. I've found that even really good animators have trouble adapting to different styles and especially breaking out of stock expressions, actions and poses. Too many artists do things the way "it's supposed to be done". So layout is also a way for me aid the animators in getting the customized acting I like. Chuck Jones used to do a lot of his own poses even back when he had great full animators at WB. I think he said not all them could draw well and needed detailed poses from the director. The ideal to me would be to have animators who not only can move things smoothly, but who also have their own individual styles - and an ability to break from formula - to be able to think on their feet. To be able to feel the emotions of scene and have the chops to translate those feelings into distinct and confident drawings and animation. Formula thinking Vs. Feeling. Instead of approaching a scene with thoughts like "Let's see, how is 'happy' supposed to look?" or "How many frames does an anticipation and overshoot take?" Or "How much overlapping action can I squeeze into the scene?" "How can I get some 'tude into the pose?" I much prefer artists who understand the characters and story and the specific scenes they are working on. Then they naturally from the depths of their loins custom craft all the drawings and timing to milk the maximum impact and surprises out of the context of the story. That's one of the things I love about Clampett. He encourages his animators to customize everything rather than just repeat actions they have already done a million times. That's true creativity as opposed to being merely smooth and professional. More poses? You'll probably have to put up with another lecture; sorry about that."
"Roger Ramjet cartoons deals in only the essentials - which are much cheaper than the fancy expensive polishing process that goes on in the big studios. In fact Eddie (Fitzgerald) and I often cleanse ourselves with Roger Ramjet cartoons right after watching a spectacular well polished, pore- filled blockbuster. Usually about a group of unlikely companions who get thrust out of their familiar environment (their womb-arena) and into a new harsher one. Through their arbitrary trials and solitary pathos scenes they learn to get along and become sweet friends and kindly democrats, thus teaching us that love, togetherness and character arcs are much more important than the blind corporate greed and abuse that creates these pictures. But you can just go ahead and buy the cartoons if you and your family like to laugh and don't wanna be preached to by moguls who don't believe in their own lessons."
"The animated features today and most TV cartoons are written by comittees of people who try to figure out what entertains an audience. They should instead be written by entertaining people who already know because they entertain people everywhere they go in real life. That's why we have so much insincere non-entertainment crap like "Character-arcs", bad puns, ripoffs of famous movies in the guise of "parody", contrived pathos, characters who try to find themselves, bland protagonists, one-shaded villains, broadway style tuneless songs that "move the plot forward", in every damn feature. Another amazing lie you see in many animated features is when they make fun of corporations or try to teach the audience ethics-even though the movie is being made by evil corporate executives who have no morals at all - people who stop the actual entertainers from entertaining you so they can pretend to be creative themselves. Anyone in the world can learn how to "write" this kind of stuff. It's not "story" or writing. It's just stuff. You just have to be related to the right person. A real writer has a sincere and unique outlook (his voice) on the world and has a naturally entertaining way to communicate it so that regular folks can enjoy it. This insincere style of film making can be traced at least as far back as Irving Thalberg and the earliest film executives at big motion picture companies. These people exercised their creativity, not by getting on stage and dancing or telling a funny story, but by "giving notes" to real live entertainers. How many folks complain about the Marx Bros. movies that have all that bullshit romance filler in the movies? Romance and story filler about characters THAT NOBODY IN THE AUDIENCE CARES ABOUT. This is pure executive thinking. Who goes to a Marx Bros. movie to watch Zeppo and his ilk? Every second of the "story" makes you twitch around in your seat. Today we have huge budget animated features with nothing but Zeppos in them, and no Grouchos. It's all filler and zero pure entertainment or a sincere creator's voice."
"I know general average folks appreciate cartooning talent because I witness it all the time. Almost everyone. But when I got in the business I found out that the business itself didn't appreciate the people who are the reason the business has a market at all. Cartoonists were at the bottom of the totem pole. Executives confer with "writers" and gave them the sole upfront credit for each cartoon. Now when I think of writers, I think of people who have something original to say and the gift of verbal communication to pass on their unique points of view to the public (i.e. Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ted Geisel). Novelists, maybe some old time poets, journalists, people who have a burning desire inside to share their thoughts about subjects of which they have personal knowledge - like Ted Geisel, have a great imagination and unique communicative skills. There is a another kind of writer though who has no particular point of view, no knowledge of the subjects he writes about, no imagination and no love for cartoons - and not the least amount of skill or talent for communicating anything fresh or interesting. These are "writers-for-hire" a kind of wimpy mercenary who will write anything for money on demand. This is what we had in the cartoon business in the 80s. A "writer-for-hire" would write a superhero story one day, then a Smurfs the next day and follow it up with a "Muppet-Babies". never- ever would they be caught dead talking to the artists about what they would like to draw or what they thought would be funny."
"Tom and Jerry is about as uninspired a cartoon series as was ever created. It's pure generic cartoon thinking of the time. What is a cartoon? Uh... it's where a cat chases a mouse and there is lots of hurt and noise and mayhem. It's hard to be more basic than that, so Bill and Joe didn't fix something that wasn't broken for 15 or 16 years. For that whole period they didn't even try to create new characters. As long as Tom and Jerry was popular and still winning awards, why waste brain cells thinking up something new that might fail? Now I like Bill and Joe as people and I admire their skill and professionalism and even their basic cartoony instincts, but where we depart is in this: I can't even imagine having to draw the same small handful of characters doing the same things for decades. I would go insane. Don't creative people want to create? In other words do new things? Apparently not all of them do."
"For decades, we've have endless repetitions of a small handful of stock stylized cliched characters. Why is this so? It all started with Walt Disney himself. It took him years to get to the point where his characters evolved even one superficial trait. His first star character had not a single trait. Mickey is the ultimate bland character. His appeal completely depends on how cute the individual artists can draw such simple shapes. He's made of circles and ovals and has no personality. He doesn't even have a distinct voice. It's just Walt in falsetto ó which sounds exactly like anyone else doing a falsetto. He's very cute though and is a good character to train your youngest kids to understand cartoons with. He makes a good logo."