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16 thoughts on “Week 10 Discussion Animation”
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Group A and Grad Students post thoughts on readings/film here. All others are welcome to comment on posts.
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Do people who are well entrenched in animation actually like the term Animatoplia or being called animatophiles? The author equates the culture or the people to “trekkies” or “transcendentalist” , but those are terms that people embrace. This brings to mind pedophiles. Though I appreciate the section where he talks about the idea of “hipness” and how it leads to “displaced authenticity”, which pretty much sums up any self identified groups of sub-culture (ie hipsters).
The author discusses the cels that were sold by big auction houses in the late 1980s and early 1990s and how these were equated to the Sistine chapel. Does the artist or animator sign cels? Or is the studio or animation itself that gives the cel its inherent value?
I found it intriguing that there is that much to discuss on the premise of limited animation. For the most part mainstream animation is a commodity plain and simple. The use of cycling in limited animation is purely a business decision good or bad. To say the studios of Hanna-Barbera use of limited animation held back the genre of animation is asinine as they were just using good business practice; produce a item at the lowest cost possible.
I would assume programs like South Park the switch to 3D computer animation for much of todays work is more cost effective verse the analog painting or drawing or cut outs. Other than the nostalgia factor I am guessing it would not make financial sense or production time restraints to use these methods for mainstream animation.
The Chpt 7 reading discusses Full and Limited Animation. It was interesting to read that most animation companies in the 20th century did Limited Animation rather than Full Animation and when I continued to read it all depended on money that established if animation companies wanted to do Full or Limited Animations.
When I was younger, watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons I never realized that it was Limited Animation and being a college student studying Animation I now know the difference between styles and type of Animation.
I feel like any Animation either Full or Limited as long as a good story can be told they are good animation pieces.
In the case of full vs. Limited animation in television I don’t think there is a wrong choice. If you look at the day shows a lot of them are full animation. Part of that reason is because they have more of a budget then cartoons did back in the day. Looking at the Hanna-Barbera animated shows they probably didn’t have much of a budget and they did the best business decision cycling footage to save money.
One thing I do find interesting is if you go back and watch shows like Transformers Thundercats Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the 80s there was a very good business strategy going on. In the openings of all the shows there is a lot of movement going on things flying around and just a ton of full animation. But if you look at the actual shows they are more of a limited animation. I feel like this was a business strategy to use a lot of the budget on an opening sequence that would pull kids in so then after they saw the opening they would sit down and watch the show. So I feel like both full and limited animation have a place in television and using one or the other isn’t holding animation back by any means.
Chapter 7 of Maureen Furniss’ book does a great job of discussing full versus limited animation. I agree with you that shows often featured fuller animation in their opening titles to grab viewers’ attention. I’d like to add that the titles would be repeated in their entirety in each episode. It did not cost money to repeat the titles so the animators could afford to spend more money on them because they would only need to create them once.
‘Clutch Cargo’ and ‘Space Angel’ are my favorite examples of limited animation television cartoons. The episodes consist of mostly still wide shots and several medium close-ups of their characters with moving human lips. I like Furniss’ discussion about UPA. I forgot UPA created The Tell-Tale Heart, which is so startling it is easy to forget the animation is limited. I also appreciate how she mentions modern uses of limited animation. Her examples remind me of a ‘Kim Possible’ episode I saw as a kid. In the end of the episode, a grup of cheering children gather around Kim. Although the children are supposed to be interacting with Kim, one girl is clearly just moving her arms up and down. She smiles at Kim but, as Kim moves, the girl does not move her head to keep looking at her.
Langer’s writings on how Nickelodeon handled the animatophilia popularity of Ren and Stimpy intrigue me, as it seems related to censorship in western animation. Kricfalusi is certainly not the only cartoon creator forced to meet mandates and appeal to kids. From Danny Phantom’s showrunner being fired for wanting to make the show “too serious,” to Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken both leaving their Cartoon Network series (Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls respectively) a few seasons early because of censorship, this has been an ongoing issue. Only recently has freedom arrived with the popularity of TV-PG rated cartoons such as Adventure Time and Steven Universe, although reports of censorship still come through regularly.
However, it intrigues me also because John Kricfalusi did eventually get a chance to continue with Ren and Stimpy. In 2003, Ren and Stimpy Adult Cartoon Party premiered, with Kricfalusi’s restrictions removed. It was critically demolished and just isn’t a good cartoon. I’d argue that the limitations placed upon Kricfalusi helped make Ren and Stimpy the classic cartoon it is today. I also find it amusing that Matt Groening is mentioned as complaining about Kricfalusi’s exit from Ren and Stimpy, as Groening’s exit from The Simpsons, although not forced, has greatly diminished the legacy of that show.
Going back to this idea of censorship in cartoons, as that is the true reason Kricfalusi is fired, I’m reminded of recent censorship that occurred with one cartoon I’ve seen a few times, Clarence. In one episode, “Neighborhood Grill,” a homosexual couple kisses each other on the cheek. However, the writer of the episode went on Twitter to confirm that the show was censored, and originally they were going to kiss on the mouth. Cartoon Network, similar to Nickelodeon with Ren and Stimpy, feared parental backlash from this and censored the show. Both of these occurrences took place against the creator’s intent, although the Clarence censorship also adds unfortunate implications about representation in media.
I respect Mark Langer’s article in that it attempts to discuss the marketing of ‘The Ren & Stimpy Show’ rather than artistic martyrdom. I had only seen clips of ‘Ren & Stimpy’ and new practically nothing about it prior to reading this article, so this was intriguing to me. I was frustrated that Langer spent pages of his article leading up to John Kricfalusi’s leaving ‘Ren & Stimpy’ when it could have been summed up with less words. It sounds like Kricfalusi’s attitude was a huge contributing factor in his leaving the series.
You’re right about other creators being asked to make their television cartoons appeal more to children. Jay Ward and Bill Scott faced censorship several times during the creation of ‘The Adventures of Rocky the Flying Squirrel’ (now ‘The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends’). Although the show did contain humor for children, it also featured several adult jokes and many lines of dialogue that had to be censored out of the show.
I find it odd that that so many of these creators are upset with the censorship given these networks’ history and target audience. Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network have always been geared toward children so I think censorship would be expected. However I can understand that there was not always other options like we have today for animation (such as adult swim, Comedy Central, and even FX with Archer), and perhaps creators just wanted to get their animations out to the public. It is not easy getting a show on television so it is unfortunate that creators have to settle for whatever network gives them a chance when their ideas might be better represented on a more appropriate network.
What I’m taking away from the article is that censorship can both benefit and hurt shows
I was surprised to find that Danny Phantom’s show runner was fired. Recalling to when I was younger, I couldn’t really tell that anything was different past when he was fired, but maybe I was too naive to notice. But I feel his reason may have been acceptable because I’m sure that show could’ve become serious for a few episodes. It’s also surprising that Cartoon Network, of all networks, had censorship issues even with shows having the TV-PG rating. However, with these boundaries, I feel these shows may have benefited from them. Now look at Ren and Stimpy with them going ham with the Adult Cartoon Party; the lack of censorship probably was a factor on how it performed with critics. Even with censorship, Ren and Stimpy has the power to make somebody uneasy.
Cartoons are generally geared toward children THUS, I feel that if something is geared toward children it should be age-appropriate and should not have sexual or racist or any kind of innuendos. Nor should there be the need TO censor. Yes, some of that stuff goes right over children’s heads but my mom is a pre-k teacher. These children are 3-5 years old and you WOULDN’T believe what some of these children (that age) say and do because of what they have seen on TV. Especially in cartoons and on shows geared toward that age group.
The Ren and Stimpy reading definitely got me thinking deeper about the cartoons I grew up with and how they pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for children’s programming. Daniel raises a very interesting point that, while some may view censorship as a force that degraded Ren and Stimpy and prevented it from reaching its full potential, the restrictions, he argues, are what made it such a good cartoon, because it was not nearly as good in the unclean reboot. I think this point is particularly important because what I largely got out of the reading was that the there is a constant battle between catering to two separate audiences in shows like Ren and Stimpy, and the attempts to censor it in order to keep in kid friendly is what keeps the balance from being thrown. This balance is what allows for such shows to successfully appeal to a broad audience. They are not so adult that only adults can enjoy them, but the censors are not so bad that creators like Kricfalusi can still push through some adult humor.
In my opinion, the author’s reading showed that Kricfalusi’s eventual break with Nickelodeon was a more a result of his unwillingness to bend than Nickelodeon’s. The reason I feel this way is that it seems to me that, while Nickelodeon was willing to keep the show mature enough to attract an older audience so as long as the show could still function as a kid’s show, Kricfalusi was really only interested in skewing older and older.
When we look at how censorship stifles creative expression, we also have to keep in mind that totally uncensored material can also make the end result less accessible to certain audiences. This is where the dilemma arises- these pop culture references and adult jokes are part of what makes these cartoons so enjoyable, but they can also make the show more exclusive if they get out of hand. This works for shows like The Simpsons, where the target audience is an older crowd who can enjoy and understand that type of humor instantly, but for shows that rely on wide appeal, it’s necessary not to skew one way or the other. Likewise, over-censoring the shows degrade their mature humor and commentary, which would be a terrible loss for many cartoons. I totally agree with Daniel that it is the maintaining of this balance that makes these shows so enjoyable, because it doesn’t eliminate one audience over the other but provides genuine entertainment to both.
John Kricfalusi’s battle with Nickelodeon is a classic example of the artist vs the corporation for who controls the work. It begs one to ask the question, who owns the creative work? If its the artist, then they should have say in what does and what doesn’t with their work. If it’s the corporation, then they should hire someone who agrees with the m off the bat. Its the same notion with Disney, sign the contract, your work is theirs. This debate however, is still raging until this day. The fact that a corporation can simply get rid of someone who created the work while maintaining the rights to that work would make it seem that the corporation is the automatic owner of that piece. However, if the artists creates the work copyrights it in his or her name, would it still be the same? If they cosigned for ownership, does that mean that they both ultimately own the piece? Kricfalusi’s claim that Nickelodeon did not understand the series itself, showing that he obviously knew that the company itself did not understand what the program was meant to convey. The corporation however understood the money part of the series and seemed to ignore what the message of the series was meant to convey.
Another statement I found interesting in the Ren and Stimpy article is when Herbert Gans asks the question if New York and Hollywood create the culture, or is the culture that makes them “unwitting agents in the anthropological sense?” which is poking at another serious question that needs to be asked. Does Hollywood and the media industry create our culture? Or is it just the byproduct of society itself. It is easily argued that both are the case as Hollywood has the money to create something. However, that creation has to see a return or it will get cancelled. On the other hand, when Hollywood comes out with something, the crowds more often than not flock to see it just because its Hollywood. This creates the sense, (especially among young people) that this is where culture is going and I had better get on board or be left out, thus creating a trend within society itself which ultimately molds the final outcome of the direction in which it is headed. I also find it interesting that both individual artists and creators can help to influence the culture around them. In its early days studio animation was geared more toward just self interest and marginalized expressions of a particular artist as opposed to the mega industry that it is today. The flip in the twentieth century shows that these trends can change vary quickly. Ren and Stimpy themselves became icons in the early nineties all while pushing the boundaries of what was socially acceptable to society. One could argue that pushing the boundaries allows the next person to push slightly past them because the people observing have become desensitized to the material present, thus allowing an artist to edge society as a whole in the direction he or she wants it to go. The article also reveals the trend in which something has to be accepted by the larger organizations in order to get recognized. Animation followed this suit by becoming acceptable to the so called higher institutions of society, allowing it to become mainstream and ultimately part of our everyday lives. It is important for young filmmakers and animators to note that all this started out as just simple stuff thrown at a young audience who just wanted to be entertained due to the fact that they may have ideas that may not take off right away, but a hundred years from now might be mainstream.
Ren and Stimpy is a very important series in which film scholars need to study due to its content. As stated in the article, “taste can be more important to economics,” (147) as this greatly effects the price. The desirability of Ren and Stimpy is what ultimately allowed it to flourish for the amount of time it did, despite some complaints from parents that it was too crude and such. As with previous animations from Disney and Warner Brothers, this Nickelodeon show grew to become more acceptable to the viewers. Animatophilia had a massive effect on the creation and production of Ren and Stimpy. The show was originally meant to be part of children’s broadcasting in that many argued that it followed in the footsteps of Loony Toons and other older animations in that it was meant for children and its comical elements could be geared toward the older audience as well. The show depicted some moral elements as well as other cultural issues taking place at this time. Nickelodeon did not develop its own animations due to cost and such. Now it seems that animation can be done by almost anyone through Maya and other hardware available to the general public. This demonstrates how something that goes from being hardly acceptable becomes on demand, then ultimately available to the public. It will be interesting to watch this trend over the next few years to see where it leads us.
Maureen Furniss details the differences between full and limited animation in Ch. 7 of their book “Art in Motion.” Limited animation, one finds, applies to a human appeal to marketing, the bottom line — a concept which Mark Langer pits against creativity in general. An example of the limited animation concept, and one all too familiar among filmmakers, comes in the form of interframe compression. This form of compression acts as a shortcut for filmmakers, who may wish to cut production time (rendering) while producing an easily stream-able product (marketability). Interframe compression is a frame-to-frame method of compression that looks at changing pixels within the frame (and only changing pixels). So, the remaining, relatively restful frames stay the same, which uses up less space, which lowers the overall quality.
“Ren & Stimpy” utilizes limited animation. The result is a choppy, Flintstones-esque animation style, which many view as lower quality. In the case of John Kricfalusi, Langer argues, a degradation of quality seems to be the point. The author sets up an economy of culture versus mainstream, in which niche cultures become increasingly mainstream. As normal (in modern terms) comics and cartoons became mainstream, Langer says that certain sub-cultures dug deeper for profitable cultures within their economy. The result, he says, is a sub-cultural interest in commercial animations, vulgar comics, and early work-for-hire — garbage animation. John Kricfalusi would belong to this sub-culture, whose interest goes against marketability. The miracle of “Ren & Stimpy,” to the pleasure of 90’s sub-cultures, is its overwhelmingly positive ratings; people loved, and, more importantly, watched the show.
So, in an economy where “Ren & Stimpy” appears mainstream, what can be called “culture” — the esoteric hipster-fodder of now? Not Kricfalusi, according to Langer: “Farts are behind me,” the animator cleverly puts it. But such a fascination for societal detritus should no longer count as “culture,” as it did in the early 1990’s. If Kricfalusi recognizes this, perhaps his future material will be the stuff of new culture.
I believe if Ren and Stimpy was created in this generation of television and content that is allowed we would be looking at the outcome of his career with animation completely different. Then Kricfalusi wanted to push the boundaries, reach a limit that was borderline adult comedy but portrayed in a kid like manner so both the parents and kids could understand while both were obtaining two completely different meanings. Kricfalusi was just ahead of his time. The types of puns, jokes and satire he was doing is nothing that Is getting done in a high percentage of cartoons at the moment.
It seems like it is mandatory now to have kid cartoons to have some adult comedy in it. Producers, writers, and directors have realized it is very hard to for parents to sit through a kids movie throughout its entirety. Made me think about all the times I dragged my father to see all the pokemon movies and a yugioh movie and watching them fall asleep. But companies like Pixar and dreamworks took the ren and stimpy formula and created cartoons that adults could find themselves watching on their own without children. For some examples, Shrek series, toy story, finding nemo to just name a few.
To take a further step off the big screen and into whats on the television today. To stay on the topic of shows for kids that have a lot of adult humor like ren and stimpy. A prime example is one of my favorite shows is Adventure time where they constantly push the limit of adult humor. Ren and stimpy opened the door to the process of cartoons that meant for adults period. I believe its creation started domino effect that created show programs like adult swim and late night cartons that come on channels like fxx or comedy central.
Nickolodeon vs Kracfulsci made me realize in this situation how they were no different than Disney. Of course it is not as extreme as saying we own everything your imagine and create well working with us, even though its not for us like Disney. But being able to dispose of a creator and designer of a animation and keeping the copyright of it and being able to still sale it and make money off it is mindboggling. It seems like with animation you are signing your soul to the devil. I wonder is the animation world is still like this today.
I agree with your idea that Ren and Stimpy paved the way for adult comedy in kids TV shows/films. Another show I can think of that started right after that is Angry Beavers. I still watch it as an adult and I still think it’s great from both the child and adult perspective. Usually as a kid I was able to tell if a joke wasn’t funny to me, it must have been an adult joke that I wasn’t supposed to get anyways. I feel like those shows did a lot of that, but it was obviously a genius strategy. I feel like sometimes kids media will try a little too hard to entertain adults. I’ll use your Adventure Time example. While it’s a great show, I sometimes wonder why it’s on cartoon network during the day and not on adult swim. It’s not raunchy or anything, but the sarcasm and jokes can be too quick for even me at times. The kids I babysit are about 10 and they think it’s great and I will watch it with them but I don’t even know how they understand the jist of an episode when most of it goes right over their heads. But when I was that young, I would watch a show for how cool it looked even if i didn’t get the dialogue. Its definitely for older teens and not younger kids, so it’s interesting to me that it gets time slots around the more kiddie shows.
The conflict between Nickelodeon and the creator of “The Ren & Stimpy Show” John Kricfalusi boils down to a conflict seen repeatedly throughout film and other creative businesses, Artist vs. Business. The artist often has a grand master plan in mind or maybe an insatiable urge to continually innovate and modify their projects. In either case it can often lead to conflict as it did with Ren & Stimpy. This is because the business side is driven by profit. It doesn’t care if the artist creative need is satisfied, it only cares about having a product to sell.
The artist can be more often than not irreverent towards deadlines and budgets and the business often takes a similar attitude towards the creative process. This is what makes the commercial successes of a truly cutting edge artist so extraordinary. When the marriage between the creative side and the business side works we end up with the most wildly successful products in the world. An example would be Apple computer products. The excellent style and design attract us while the technical business and actual business is handled superbly as well.
Unfortunately in the case of Ren & Stimpy like so many projects before and after the marriage ended in divorce. We will never know what could have been. Ren & Stimpy is an excellent example of what not to do in a creative commercial venture both for those on the creative and business sides.
I recall watching a video of all the cycled images in Disney films, and was surprised to see how many scenes were exactly the same, from The Jungle Book to Robin Hood to Dumbo. I understand that limited animation was easier – it saved time and money – and it worked fine. But when you look back and acknowledge the limited animation, I can’t help but feel let down, like the magic is no longer there when I realize it’s just some guy drawing over another template of the same thing in another cartoon. But I understand completely, I would probably do the same thing had I been under a timed contract and didn’t want to put the extra work in.
Full animation then fascinates me, as it took people to make every movement, every mouth shape, and turn of a head, all individually and with no cycling whatsoever. This takes time, yes, but I would say it’s worth it when you can show off your animation and say “I did everything by itself, no cycling. Take that early Disney!”. It’s a method that further proves how far you are willing to go to get an animation done right.
This makes me slightly disappointed in the new trailer for the upcoming R-rated Batman animation “The Killing Joke”. The animation looks poorer than usual, and I could’ve sworn I saw a brief cycle of the Joker laughing. It looks too dated for what modern animation looks like, which I would understand if it seemed like they tried harder, but it doesn’t seem like that at all. Of course, it’s just a trailer and the movie might blow me away with its’ awesomeness, but as a sneak peak, the animation didn’t look so good. I guess they had to spend more of the budget for the big name actors like Mark Hamill. So I suppose even today, limited animation is a method that we go back to.