What animators can learn from Jackass


Since learning of Johnny Knoxville’s appreciation of Popeye and Buster Keaton as inspirations for his work on Jackass, I rented “Jackass 3”.  I laughed.  A lot.  Ryan Dunn, rest in peace.

The Jackass dudes are all stuntmen.  Stuntmen who have taken control of their product and made themselves stars.  They own it.  That in itself is a lesson to anyone in the entertainment business.  Bravo.

What else can Jackass teach us?


They set up dramatic situations where danger is clearly evident.  A mule ready to kick, a charging buffalo, a jet ski on a ramp, a tree being cut down with someone clinging to the top.  We marvel at their courage.  That is what we want from our stars.  We like to see them charging in where we wouldn’t dare go.  Maybe we need more animated characters who are looking for action.


Having to fight through obstacles to get to a goal is an essential part of drama.   The Jackass crew can think up the most ridiculous situations.  In  “Electric Avenue” they hang live stun guns and cattle prods from strings in a narrow space and try to run through it.  You can feel their pain. It’s not just running headlong into a tree, it’s imaginative.


They really are trying to be outrageous.  I’m not saying that animation needs more male nudity, vomiting or defecation, but there have been cartoons that shocked people.   Exploring limitations is certainly a way to gain notoriety.


At the end of Jackass 3, the crew stands in a room rigged with numerous explosive devices.  As the props explode the guys are filmed in high speed photography so we get clear views of their faces and reactions.  Stuff flies everywhere. Just when it seems there is nothing left to blow up, the wall caves inward with a flood of water that washes them all out.  A big ending.  That’s showmanship.


1 thought on “What animators can learn from Jackass”

  1. Looking at Jackass through the lens of classic physical comedy makes a significant difference for me. I now understand why I laugh at Jackass. It’s tapping the same primal nerves, but it’s restored the fear for their safety and the relief at their survival,


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