National Mood and Cartoon Content

Here is something interesting.

Socionomics.net posted a two part article about national mood, measured in Dow Jones “bull” and “bear” markets, being reflected in the content of cartoons.  In a nutshell, when the markets are up, cartoon content is more positive.  When markets are down, content becomes more serious and cynical.  Here are some of the graphics

The articles are not difficult reading, and offer some interesting perspective on animation history. And it makes sense. When life is good, people do not want to question it, they want to enjoy it. When life is difficult, people like to see stories about others in difficult situations, because they can relate to it.

Here are the links: PART 1 and PART 2

I particularly like this graphic, although I’m not sure I agree with the “art” category.

Looney Tunes/The Amazing World of Gumball

I don’t watch much television animation.    I still watch the Simpsons, occasionally. Recently I noticed that the new Looney Tunes show was on, so I gave it a chance.  I spent most the show with my face screwed up in a confused expression.  I just don’t like Bug’s and Daffy’s suburban existence.  The CG Roadrunner bit did have some notable qualities, staying mostly true to it’s roots, with decent animation for a television show.  I wanted more of that.

But it was the show that followed Looney Tunes that inspired me to write this post. Where the Looney Tunes have grown stale, a fresh set of characters has made me a fan.  The Amazing World of Gumball, produced by Studio Soi in Germany, really caught me by surprise.   It uses a mixed media approach, with photographic backgrounds, then combinations of 2D and 3D characters.  Gumball is a comedy about a suburban family.   (Yes, they belong in the suburbs, unlike Bugs and Daffy)  Gumball’s Mom is a cat, his dad is a rabbit.  Gumball is a cat, the little sister, Anais, is a rabbit.   But of course it doesn’t matter.  The family pet, a goldfish, has evolved into a third sibling.  His name is Darwin.  They are all 2D characters.   The rest of the town is a mixture of all kinds.  The kids go to school with a CG T-rex, and anthropomorphized food such as a banana and toast. Their teacher is some sort of ape. But they are all fun.   It recreates the energy of Sponge Bob, but stands on it’s own.   Sponge Bob had sincerity, which is something lacking in most of the “edgy” tv shows.  Gumball has that sincerity.  The simple stories are carried out with fierce energy and great timing.   The voices of Gumball’s family are very good.  Where the Looney Tunes belong to an earlier generation of artists, Gumball shows the enthusiasm you get from original creators The real test?  My 9 year old laughed.  Bravo!

Dancing to cartoony sound effects

This is a really interesting dance piece done at my alma mater, NYU. It’s artsy, yet funny. The dancer reminds me of Jim Carrey. I just wish the camera were closer.

Maybe the 11 second club should post a sound clip like this, something non narrative and a little wacky. Or make one for yourself.

Starting from the end? Safety Last

Ahh, early Hollywood, where filmmakers were just figuring out how to do things.  Where masterpieces could  be spun out in any way the director saw fit.  Previously I posted about how Buster Keaton would often build his stories beginning-end-middle.  Now I discovered this quote from Harold Lloyd.  It’s from an essay titled “The Serious Business of Being Funny”.

About using scripts.  In Safety Last, probably one of our most popular films, we did the final scenes of that clock climb first.  We didn’t know what we were going to have for the beginning of the film.  We hadn’t made up the opening.  After we found that we had, in our opinion, a very, very good thrill sequence, something that was going to be popular and bring in a few shekels, we went back and figured out what we would do for a beginning and worked on up.  We tried out the same thing in The Freshman.

In The Freshman we tried to shoot the football sequence first – it’s the best sequence, naturally – and we tried to do it first just as we had done the clock climb first in Safety Last.  We went out to the Rose Bowl where we did a great deal of the picture, and we worked for about a week and a half, but it didn’t come off.  It didn’t come off because we didn’t know the character at that time – we didn’t understand him well enough, and we were off with the wrong kind of material.  So we went back and did that story from the beginning, and the football game was shot at the last.

I can imagine conceiving a film this way.  Having a flash of an image or sequence that is so powerful, you could build a story around it.  For animation, that actually sounds quite acceptable.  But to actually start shooting that scene with no idea what came before, that would be considered crazy these days.

Here is one more significant quote from the same essay:

Look, all the comedians of my day had to be students of comedy.  You studied comedy, it just didn’t happen, believe me.

How come the English can do wordless TV animation?

Not long ago, Cartoon Brew posted some videos of the new Bugs and Daffy TV show.  As usual,  the producers hired a bunch of witty writers to come up with jokes for Bugs and Daffy.  Lots of attitude, but little action.

So why is it the English can turn out great TV animation that uses almost no dialog? What I’m thinking of are these two shows.  The Animated Mr. Bean, and Shaun the Sheep from Aardman. Here are samples.

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