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I have selected some passages from Jeff Lenberg’s book The Great Cartoon Directors to share here. I chose them for their practical examples of creating funny cartoons, or if they support the idea of being inspired by live comedians.
Despite the fact that Tom and Jerry cartoons had one formula – each character trying to do the most damage to the other – neither the formula nor the characters grew tiresome. It was just a matter of setting the formula in the proper situation first.
Before handing out work to the animators, Hanna and Barbera held a meeting to discuss each film and act out the entire picture for the staff. Some animators have remarked that Bill and Joe acted these scenes “in a very hammy fashion.” But that it was just right for animation. That especially holds true when animating a delicate art form such as slapstick comedy. Exaggeration is one of the necessary ingredient that makes the comedy work.
By now, Tom and Jerry and their slapstick formula hit their stride. There were some great changes in technique, in that the cartoons moved with much greater pace. Gags didn’t take as long to build. They just zipped off the screen as fast as they were developed. The comedy style was becoming very similar to Tex Avery’s