Super Powers

I could easily tip into a rant on this topic.  But here is my basic premise:

Super Powers are a shortcut for creativity.

And by super powers I am including extreme martial arts skills, super genius intelligence and freaky mutations.  Somehow, these have become all to common in animation.

Charlie Chaplin taught us that comedy is the little guy against the big world.  All he has are his wits.  Cartoon characters used to have to prove themselves.  They start off as underdogs and by effort and cleverness they win.

I’m not saying we should never use super powers, but it can’t define the character.  The character has to demonstrate more individuality than suddenly achieving that long sought kung fu move or whipping up a new invention to save himself.

Cartoon characters by nature have at least one super power.  They can’t die.

Playing against type

Playing against type is a common method of creating funny characters.  It involves a character whose voice or behavior is in opposition to their physical appearance.  Here are some examples:

  1. A sweet little girl has extreme martial arts skills.
  2. An old granny who is a fantastic acrobat.
  3. An effeminate homeboy.
  4. A big muscular guy who worries about breaking a finger nail.
  5. A Troll who is an effeminate homeboy.

Of course you wouldn’t want to overuse the technique because it would create a world you couldn’t believe in.   It’s better to use it sparingly, it’s funnier that way.  If you were, for example, to put all those characters in a film together, the results would be a disorienting calamity.

SUCH AS HOODWINKED TWO

Yes, the writers of Hoodwinked 2 try to make nearly every character a contradiction. How can you connect with any of them?  The effect is funny at first, but the joke can wear out quickly.   The wolf who is just plain stupid isn’t really a contradiction, but he’s…  just plain stupid.  The troll who is an effeminate homeboy even doubles down on the technique.  The only character I find the tiniest bit interesting is the frog, who appears to be the straight man,  and it’s because he’s not like the others.  It really is best if no more than 1 secondary character plays against his or her type.

 

 

Further thoughts on Pee-Wee Herman

3 days ago I posted some videos of Pee-Wee Herman, and I have been thinking about his character.

The name Pee-Wee is not without importance. The name Pee-Wee supports his childlike character.  He is small, and harmless.  Such youthful behavior makes him non-threatening, so the audience indulges his behavior as they would a child.  The silent film star Harry Langdon had a similar quality.

In the wrestling video, Pee-Wee gets in the ring with a buffed out pro-wrestler and plays out his schtick.  But the wrestler can only get in his face.  If the wrestler were to knock him down, it would be like hitting a child.  He would be picking on someone half his weight.  When Pee-Wee mocks the wrestler, we enjoy his fearlessness.  We would love to say such things to the guy, but we don’t have the nerve.  It is one of the clown’s age old priveleges, to ridicule the powerful, to say the things we won’t.

One of the basic concepts of the clown is to not follow the rules of educated society. Children don’t follow the rules of society simply because they have not learned them yet. It gives them a license for such behavior, and is one of the ways to begin the creation of a funny character.

Comic Obsession

I must recommend the blog by Mark Kennedy, “The Temple of the Seven Golden Camels.” It is packed full of images and information from an active story artist. His post about comic obsession is particularly interesting to me. He describes the development of the horse Maximus in the film “Tangled”, including the inspiration from Tommy Lee Jone’s character from “The Fugitive.”

Comic Obsession

It is easy to think of comic obsession in cartoons. Wile E. Coyote’s obsession with the Roadrunner, Sylvester with Tweety, Scrat with the acorn.

If we consider the old expression “Nobody likes a quitter” to be true, then the inverse, “Everybody likes a character who will not quit no matter what” would also be true. Such characters earn our admiration.

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