Monday, June 23, 2008

Two Note Song

Some talk recently about the '90s Warners cartoons and the problems they had with replicating the storyboards in overseas animation. So I thought I would point you to an example of a '90s WB storyboard, part of Rusty Mills's board for a segment called "Wakko's Two-Note Song." This was from episode # 82 (which means we won't see it on DVD unless Warners releases the elusive volume # 4), an all-musical episode.

The segment is a clever introduction to the concept that music is more than the notes, that the same two notes can sound different depending on rhythm, harmony and orchestration. The storyboard excerpt covers the part of the cartoon that runs from about 0:50 to about 1:35. Allowing for some of Wang's quirks in the way of drawing the characters, the final result conveys more or less what the storyboard does (of course, I have no way of knowing how many re-takes there were). That may explain why Wang was the studio WB used most frequently; they weren't brilliant but they didn't produce stuff that looked nothing like the original boards.

One thing I always sort of liked about the "Animaniacs" segments with Dr. Scratchansniff (the bald psychiatrist who looked like a cross between Dr. Strangelove and a dentist that director/designer Alfred Gimeno used to go to) was that Yakko, Wakko, and Dot actually did seem to like him. and he actually seemed to sort of like them. Usually. (There was one cartoon late in the run where they just seemed to give him a hard time for the hell of it; that wasn't very good at all.)

One thing that was easy to criticize about "Animaniacs" was that nearly all the characters were irredeemable bastards -- they didn't learn lessons, they hurt innocent people and/or dogs and pigeons, and they frequently acted in selfish or irresponsible ways -- but they all had good or warm qualities that you could actually believe in, because the show didn't hit you over the head with trying to make you love the characters. If you liked the show, you'd notice the characters' good qualities; if you didn't, you wouldn't watch anyway, so there was no need for the show to go out of its way to redeem the characters every episode. I don't know if that makes sense; I guess I'm saying that while I didn't like, say, the Buttons/Mindy cartoons very much, I appreciate the fact that the show actually let her be a little brat who caused other people to suffer, and just assumed that if we liked the segments, we'd realize that she really didn't mean any harm.

On a down note, I really do not like what had happened to Wakko's voice by this time. It had developed out of the original Ringo Starr impression a long time before, but it kept getting higher and hoarser until it was quite unpleasant to listen to.

While I'm here, I might as well haul out my favorite Animaniacs song segment from the WB years, which is not at all to say it's my favorite song. "There's Only One of You" is a cute Randy Rogel song, not one of his best, about how we're all unique. (The message seems wrong, since it keeps telling us that all the animals and birds and such are undifferentiated, but "you" are special." But by the logic of the song, wouldn't "you" be just another one of the many billions of people in the world?) But it was given to StarToons in Chicago to animate, with Dave Pryor directing, and it was "staged" the way a song segment needed to be: with one overriding set and theme -- in this case, a Vaudeville performance -- which could then branch out into other locations and background ideas as needed (like the spiders criss-crossing across the screen) but always coming back to the main set to keep the number grounded. A lot of the later Animaniacs songs would just cut around from one location to another, making the segments feel very static and scripted because the characters weren't moving around, only the scene was changing.

I wish I could identify some of the StarToons animators in the scene, but I'm not completely sure and I don't want to get stuff wrong.

Unfortunately this segment was not shown on its own; it was used to fill out a two-part musical episode (not used well, either; there was no setup for it whatsoever and it didn't look or feel like part of the episode). The episode it was in was not nearly as well animated, and this piece sort of got lost.


Mattieshoe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mattieshoe said...

"The storyboard excerpt covers the part of the cartoon that runs from about 0:50 to about 1:35. Allowing for some of Wang's quirks in the way of drawing the characters, the final result conveys more or less what the storyboard does"

That may have been part of the problem with the visuals in the WB years.

they were so determined to make the storyboards as clear as possible that the end result wasn't spontaneous or interesting.

Had WBA given up on Layouts by this time?

because that would explain the boring nature of the visuals.

I did notice that these storyboards were a little too clean to begin with.

Mattieshoe said...

Oh yeah

apparently this entire segment was ANIMATED by David Pryor; not just directed.

Mattieshoe said...

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Viacom International Inc.. "

What?? How can Viacom own the rights to Animaniacs?

I know it was shown on nickelodeon, but they can't call themselves the copyright owner. that's ridiculous.