Monday, June 16, 2008

The Talkier The Better

To illustrate my point, from a previous post, about Bob Clampett's cartoons being extremely talky, here are two versions of the same gag. One is from Clampett's "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery," the other from "China Jones," a McKimson short from 1959.

Of course the first version is better, but then, you don't need me to tell you that McKimson 1959 is inferior to Clampett 1946 (or McKimson 1946 for that matter). The point here is that in 1946, Clampett has Daffy Duck talking through every step of the gag, telling us what he sees, what he's doing, why he's doing it, and making a smart-ass pop culture reference after the gag is over. In 1959, Daffy does the same gag without saying anything except "oops." And this is McKimson, whose cartoons by this time were the most dialogue-heavy at the studio.

I think the dialogue in the earlier version enhances the gag, honestly. Take the dialogue away and it's a straightforward cartoon gag from Warren Foster, a good gag (as his gags usually were), but there are a limited number of things that can be done with it. The dialogue overlays Daffy's bravado and misplaced self-confidence on top of the gag, making the payoff funnier because he so clearly had himself believing in his own brilliance.

I guess what I'm saying is: 1) Don't anybody get the idea that Clampett's cartoons are "cartoony" because of their pure visual style. They are cartoony, but they're some of the talkiest cartoons ever made, and talkiness is actually not incompatible with cartooniness. 2) Avoiding dialogue and telling the story in pictures rather than words does not actually make a cartoon more "visual," and can actually make it duller.



10 comments:

Kevin W. Martinez said...

"talkiness is actually not incompatible with cartooniness".

Blasphemy. Everyone KNOWS only talkiness in cartoons only results in that horrible Simpsons and Family Guy bilge and any cartoons that's talky can't every be called a REAL cartoon.

Mattieshoe said...

"Everyone KNOWS only talkiness in cartoons only results in that horrible Simpsons and Family Guy bilge and any cartoons that's talky can't every be called a REAL cartoon."

Just because Something's "Talky" doesn't mean it's not Visually appealing and interesting.


The simpsons and Family guy have nothing but Dialog to work with. (And not very good or smart or Story-advancing Dialog at that)


Clampett has all the tools you can think of at his disposal, and Dialog is only one of those things.

Mattieshoe said...

Jaime, Maybe you should use a less derogatory term then "Talky" to describe clampett's cartoons.


Some purists will take any opportunity you give them to turn what you said into a cartoon hate speech.

Try using "Dialog-heavy" or something like that.

Anonymous said...

"Some purists will take any opportunity you give them to turn what you said into a cartoon hate speech."

I don't see any evidence of that in this thread...just a couple of folks unfamiliar with sarcasm.

J Lee said...

Talkiness isn't a problem when the characters are in perpetual motion, as they are in Clampett's cartoons. Talkiness in place of any motion, or very limited motion, is the killer.

It robs the scene of most of its reason for being animated in the first place, which is that you can squash, stretch, spin, mangle and almost anything else to an animated character in ways you can never do in live action -- and, despite all it's praised, still can't do in CGI the way you could in full animation from the 1940s.

(Though in this case, and under the circumstances, Daffy's muteness is a little more understandable because he's running for his life in McKimson's cartoon, while he's hunting down the criminals in an overly-confident manner in Clampett's cartoon. Plus, any post-1957 cartoon that could still pull off the "Dragon Lady" gag can't be all bad...)

Anonymous said...

"I don't see any evidence of that in this thread...just a couple of folks unfamiliar with sarcasm."

Not to mention the first poster who should take typing and grammar classes before attempting bile-filled sarcasm.

Michael Sporn said...

I never quite understood the problem with dialogue if it's in the hands of an artist - or, at least, someone who knows what to do with it.

PCUnfunny said...

In cartoons EVERYTHING is suppose cartoony, including the dialogue. What makes a cartoon "talky" is when the dialogue is used to explain everything that is going on. You can listen to an entire episode of The Simpsons without looking at the screen once.

PCUnfunny said...

Also the difference between Daffy's speech and some Simpsons or Animaniacs speech, the character is acting with strong emotion and conviction. Nevertheless, you still have to look at screen because of the cartoony acting.

Anonymous said...

The Clampett cartoon is about comic books and comic book exposition. It flows from the premise that Daffy would illuminate every point verbally, since he has stepped into the comic book world. The McKimson example is a parody of the 1950's live action series "China Smith" and may owe some of its silence to what it was sending up. Even if Clampett and McKimson had made comparative shorts in the same year, the inherent levels of onscreen energy would likely indicate the same contrast as you have here.