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Quotes / John K. Stuff

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"Analysis and pattern recognition is the antidote to cliche. If you can see formulas, then you can break them."
—"Cartoon College Year 3"

"A real cartoonist is a contradiction. It's usually someone who sees life realistically and has a sarcastic view of all the hypocrisy and insanity in the world, yet he (she) draws in a really happy lively, funny style."
—"Dan Gordon and what makes a cartoonist"

"Somewhere burned in our genetic memory is the knowledge that cartoons are supposed to be funny and make you feel good. Everyone instinctively knows it, but funny doesn't win awards or garner a lot of serious respect. Disney figured this out long ago and came up with the idea to do the opposite of what cartoons are good at. Instead of making us happy (laughing equals good feelings) he decided to make us miserable and figured out ingenious ways to make us cry. "Hey fellas, let's shoot the character's Mom! That'll destroy everyone in the theatre!" The critics eat this stuff up. I think they like the surprise that a cartoon can be something other than what cartoons are good at, even though it's no longer a surprise. It would be a surprise today if a cartoon dared to be a cartoon again. Animation producers prey on the critics' auto-reactions to fake pathos and have devised a handful of filmic tricks that push the cry button. Of course a critic's trade is to overanalyze everything and try to find "meaning" in their entertainment. If they just said "I like it. It made me cry and had lots of action and pop-culture references!" maybe no one would take them seriously - although that would be very useful to the audience."
—"By What Criteria Do We Judge Quality?"

"First, why don't we get some definitions clear. Writing and story are different things. A story is a sequence of related events. Period. A good story is a story that keeps people's attention. Not many stories are so interesting in their raw ingredients, that a mere reading of them adds up to good entertainment. You need a good storyteller to make a story interesting. You can have a bad story told by a good storyteller and it will still keep people's attention. It's much harder to keep people's attention with a good raw story and a weak storyteller."
—"Writing For Cartoons 1"

"Most animation writers don't really have any ideas, but they should. Instead they recycle the same 7 (or is it 12?) tired old "plots" and just change the catch phrases to match whatever characters they are plugging into the same script they have "written" 50 times already. I actually used to hang out with some animation writers and they all had these formulas they firmly believed in. They were all convinced that every plot had already been written. Then I pitched them a bunch of stories that didn't fit any of those plots, they shook their heads knowingly in disdain until Mighty Mouse and Ren and Stimpy came out. Now these same writers and hordes of new opportunistic charlatans have added those plots to their scripts and recycled them for the last 15 years."
—"Writing For Cartoons 3"

"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."
—"Writing for Cartoons 9: Dialogue"

"Disney characters belong in a category by themselves. They are neither realistic specific individuals culled from observation of human nature, nor are they imaginative creations from a cartoonist's mind. They are creatures in limbo. Neither real nor cartoon. Most Disney characters have one simple personality trait and a visual gimmick to help us see it. Tramp leads with his butt, Sneezy sneezes, Captain Hook sneers, Smee wiggles his fingers, etc. The odd one even might have 2 traits although I'm struggling to think of one that does. These one and maybe 2 trait characters have been recycled for decades by animators and executives whose only influence seems to be other Disney cartoons or Disney imitators. It's as if there is a group of people who live in a tent somewhere in the middle of the earth and have no contact with the upper world. They have never seen real humans interacting, so can't caricature real human psychology in its infinite variations. They have also never seen any other artists' characters or interpretations of humanity. They have only other Disney and Disney imitations to study."
—"Stock Disney Characters - The Bland Lead"

"If you are writing an outline, write with short simple sentences that tell clearly what is happening. Do not try to impress the artists with fancy-ass flowery prose and inverted sentence structures. They won't be impressed. They will be frustrated and confused and will not do their jobs well."
—"Writing for Cartoons 6"

"I think that the closer animation gets to superficial "realism" the faker it looks. Do these (stills from Beowulf (2007)) look remotely "believable"? Not as believable as if they just shot the actual actors. This has been demonstrated over and over again in our history - going back to Snow White. Everybody (even then) loved the cartoony Dwarfs and noted the complete incongruity and stiffness of Snow White and the Prince. Well animated cartoon characters are far more "believable" than "realistic" mannequins."
—"Daffy In Book Revue-Cartoony Believable Action"

"My own life has been filled with psychodrama and I have taken real events that I've witnessesd (or caused!), and adapted them in my cartoons. Whenever someone goes nuts in front of me, instead of being scared, I usually zone out instead and go into intense study mode, so I can use the material later. This scene (Ren's breakdown) in Sven Hoek was inspired by a real life event. Ren's line delivery is an imitation of someone who had an episode in the original Spumco studio - in my office. After it happened I ran to get my Sven Hoek storyboard and changed a whole scene to make it more intense and real. That's what real life events are for! Many of them are much crazier than anything you can imagine in a cartoon, so I take advantage of them when they happen. One complaint I get from many executives is that my cartoons are too unrealistic. They don't know how wrong they are."
—"What's Not To Love About Insanity?"

"I purposely made a cartoon that used some filmic tricks to make people cry just to show that it's not hard to do it. And I didn't have to shoot anyone's Mom either. I made people cry over the fact that Stimpy couldn't fart for a second time. I went out of my way to make the story have the most preposterous plot events in it-everything to undermine the seriousness of Stimpy's depression. Besides the mood tricks, I relied heavily on Stimpy and Ren's acting-the drawings of their expressions and their interactions. A lot of films will ignore this part of the pathos recipe. They rely on the filmic tricks and contrived story points."
—"Funny pathos vs cheap trick pathos- Ralph has remorse"

"What's Bugs Bunny's personality? I'll list the traits I can think of. His most general trait is that he's a heckler. He also is a magician - he can drag his hole around, drop in it and then appear behind the antagonist. Then - he is a specific kind of heckler - mostly calm and cool when in control of the situation - but when he sometimes is not in control, he becomes really irritable and his pride is sorely wounded which just makes him lose even more control. He is aware that he's the star of the show and confides with the audience about the situation. A ham performer. (Even when he loses!) He's sarcastic."
—"When Cartoons Evolved 2- Bugs Bunny prototypes"

"(The 40's) Bugs is the one that made the character become the most popular in history, not because he had 'tude, but because he was actively mischievous and devious. This Bugs actually did things in the cartoons. He didn't win by default. He went out of his way to cause trouble - and did it in a very likeable way. The 'tude Bugs is completely unlikable. He doesn't do anything to win. He just wins because the rules say so. It's like he was born an aristocrat who deserves to win because he's the star character."
—"The Best Bugs - Pre 'Tude"

"I have mixed feelings about Jim Tyer. On the one hand, he is one of my favorite animators. On the other, he is a bad influence. That's why I don't do a lot of posts about him. I sort of feel like he should be a secret just for the most sophisticated cartoonists and animators. Anyone under the top-tier level of cartoonists shouldn't be allowed to to see his work, except under the strictest supervision, because what he does will be misinterpreted as pure anarchy - like "Wow! I guess I don't have to follow any rules at all anymore!"
—"Jim Tyer Terry Toons comics"

"Someone some day has to finally explain how there can be such a difference in the levels of quality between the ideas and the execution at Disney's. Walt seems to be the cartoon counterpart of David O. Selznick. A gross combination of spectacle and mind-numbing sap."
—"So Dear To My Heart"

"I think that Superhero comics were ruined when the artists and writers started taking them seriously in the 70s. The drawings got really serious too. Some artists like Neal Adams even took the bold revolutionary step of opening Superman's mouth! When you try to hard to explain preposterous ideas, they lose their charm - and it's even worse when you try to make silly things socially conscious. Didn't the Hulk have a gay friend in the 80s who died of Aids or somethingnote ? Jesus, that's sure what the kids want to read about in their long underwear stories. No, to me the art and stories and concepts have to be as insensible as possible to make Superhero comics work. Like I said, everything about Superman is unbelievably illogical and the writers in the 50s and 60s had their tasks cut out for them. They had to keep coming up with ways to get around the fact that you can't hurt Superman, because he can do everything. How do you find conflicts for that? They had to contradict all their own premises to be able to continue writing millions of stories about God and his friends. And they did it!"
—"Wayne Boring's Superman"

"I had a tough time sitting in my seat through Meatballs, because what was happening and who it was happening to was not remotely interesting. It's hard to pace a story around characters with no personality."
—"Review of Meatballs"

"Most features follow the basic structure and trappings of Snow White and have turned it into a blind formula. The original Grimm's fairy tale of Snow White has about 4 pages of story (about 10 minutes worth of screen time). The movie added about 50 minutes of filler: animals cleaning plates with their rear ends, comedy relief, romance between two lifeless people, pathos. They also added some delightful song sequences. I would call those entertainment, not necessary for the story but worth putting in a movie because they are fun. Clampett made the exact same story as Disney's version of Snow White in 8 or 9 minutes and left out all the filler. Most animated features today are about 90% filler. The songs are no longer fun; they too have become filler."
—"Writing for Cartoons 1"

"(Captain) Hook's introduction makes you think he's going to progress and get more and more specific and rich, but he never does. There is no chemistry between him and Pan. Their ancient rivalry is told to us in exposition, but it never comes to life on the screen. They don't seem to connect, even when they fight. They just perform what the story tells them to perform and get it over with."
—"Disney Gets Almost Specific"

"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."
—"Taking The Cartoonists Out Of The Cartoon Does Not Make It Realistic"

"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."

"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. Anyone in the world can learn how to "write" this kind of stuff. It's not "story" or writing. It's just stuff."
—"Writing For Cartoons 3"

"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."
—"An Age Of Extreme Conservatism Pt. 2 - Cartoons Today"

"It would make a hell of a lot more business sense to spend less money-which would be easy, because most of the money in animated features goes to stuff that has nothing to do with entertainment: Crowd scenes. Spectacle. Live Action Camera Moves. Too many lead characters. Ridiculously costly special effect like "realistic water". (I can turn on my tap for free and get realistic water, but who would that entertain?") Live Action Star Salaries. What would be much less risky is to spend a third of what they spend now per picture, hire proven creative talent and let them entertain. That would be "safe". People will always want real entertainment made by actual talented entertainers. It is human nature. They only accept the bland because that is all they are given anymore."
—"Do All Bland Movies Make Profits?"

"If catch phrases happened, they happened by accident. They weren't "created" upfront, like they are now. How many times did you cringe as a kid when you heard "Welcome to the 90s!" or such other writer creations? When I had Ren say "You bloated sac of protoplasm!" and similar things, people would yell them at me at appearances. I would see them on t shirts. People make me say "No sir, I don't like it" all the time. None of the lines in R and S were ever meant to be catch phrases, but they would just catch on, and Nickelodeon would lean on me to use them again. I resisted as much as possible, figuring that funny dialogue in the next cartoons would also catch on naturally."
—"Writing for Cartoons 7"

"In these worlds we had funny animals that walked and talked, humans with animal parts that walked and talked, but we also had the kind of animals we are used to in real life - dumb animals that don't read and write or talk or walk on their hind legs. I am dying to know how old time cartoonists decided which creatures were allowed the gifts of intelligence, opposable thumbs or pants. Talk about playing God! Every cartoonist has as much power as the Almighty in making arbitrary decisions about which of his creatures get the good or bad end of the stick."
—"Mutant Creatures from the Netherworld"

"The worst was when it became vogue to make pretend "classic-style" cartoons and they got the same old Saturday Morning cartoon writers who wrote Scooby Doo and Superfriends to watch a couple of old Bugs Bunnies and then try to write like that in script form. The writers didn't understand cartoon jokes, so they would copy the old ones and then explain them to the audience. And the actual cartoonists on the shows that really did love the old cartoons had no say in the making of them."
—"Is It A Cartoon? Chapter 1" on shows like Animaniacs''

"The fact that you can't recognize the secret identity of a superhero just because he takes glasses on and off can only work if every character in the comics looks exactly the same - and you can't hear their voices. It helps if no one ever opens their mouths to talk and also never opens their eyes."
—"Wayne Boring's Superman"

"What's great about superheroes is that they are as preposterous as talking funny animals but are meant to be taken seriously. As if there were dramatic stories starring the 3 Stooges. Even stranger is that I've met people who take comic book writers seriously and I've witnessed people arguing over whose stories make more dramatic sense."
—"Pizzatime Doodle: The Phantom"

The Fleischers did the exact right thing with E.C. Segar's characters. They left the personalities of the characters intact and found voices that perfectly suited their personalities. The comic strip stories were continued every day and whole plots sometimes took months to complete. This type of story structure obviously wouldn't work in a 6 minute cartoon, so The Fleischers devised new story structures that took advantage of the personalities and atmosphere of the original, but added the things that only film and animation could do. Music, acting, motion gags, magic and more.
—"Popeye Rules"

"I bet you anything that no murderers of Indians made the Injun Orange drink. Indians murdered and tortured each other and made totem poles. Are the totem poles racist, therefore? Let's burn the last few and erase them from history. Seems to me like the Funny Face folks are acknowledging them as fun Americans like any other Americans. There is no political or racial statement at all being made. There are many cultures and they all deserve to be acknowledged, revered, caricatured and made fun of. Cartoonists and comedians make fun of everything. That doesn't mean we are condemning whole groups of people every time we acknowledge obvious cultural traits. This thread proves my point of everyday common insanities that we take for granted, like political "correctness". Politically correct people are free to condemn the vast majority of humans who just act naturally. Shouldn't we be offended by them? Let's make laws against them."
—"I'll Leave This to Mike to Answer—and Anyone Else"

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