Monday, August 23, 2004

Notes on a Fellow Canadian

Via Jerry Beck, I direct you to the e-mail battle between Michael Barrier and John Kricfalusi.

Fan reaction to Kricfalusi's comments seems largely based on anger about his comments on Carl Barks and Walt Disney, which doesn't bother me; nobody should be immune from criticism (not even John Kricfalusi his own self). Besides, as so often, he has some good points to make, even if he goes overboard with them: there is something very generalized about the physical acting in Disney cartoons, and there is more specific, individual physical characterization in the work of some of the best Warner animators. And Kricfalusi's I'm-the-greatest schtick is the sort of thing you forgive if you agree with him, and tolerate if you disagree with him. He's sort of earned the right to think he's an important figure in animation history, because given the influence of Ren and Stimpy, Kricfalusi is an important figure in animation history.

What interests me (to plagiarize something I wrote on a message board) is that even though Kricfalusi is often considered the leader of the return to "cartoony" cartoons, a lot of what he writes sounds like his ideal is for cartoons to be more like live-action -- that is, he wants "human" acting, physical acting whose nuances can be compared to those of a human actor. I think a lot of what he sees as generalization in Disney cartoons is really a sort of universality, of trying to convey a general, widely-understood mood or feeling in a movement, rather than trying to make the movements similar to the unique, specific movements of a particular actor. There's something a bit, well, un-cartoony about Kricfalusi's idea of good animated acting; he often comes across as wishing that he were Kirk Douglas rather than a guy with a pencil.

On the merits of the recent Ren and Stimpys... well, I didn't care for the ones I've seen, which struck me as the apotheosis of what I liked least in Ren and Stimpy to begin with: not the gross-out humor, but the slowness, the endless pauses to call attention to the "funny drawings," the sacrifice of everything -- pacing, plotting, even gags -- for the sake of calling attention to the drawing and the physical acting. (Kricfalusi's idol, Bob Clampett, sometimes had the same problem -- a lesser Clampett cartoon can die in a theatrical screening because the demands of plot, character and structure are subordinated to the wacky drawings -- but Clampett's cartoons, even the lesser ones, are fast. Kricfalusi's sort of Clampett in slo-mo.) Still, the comments by Eddie Fitzgerald (who was, incidentally, the inspiration for Pinky of Pinky and the Brain) are fairly accurate; Kricfalusi inspired a lot of artists who had more or less given up hope of having fun again, and gave some life back to the animation industry. His comments on other animated shows tend to be ill-informed, like his infamous anonymous review of Animaniacs based on a viewing of precisely zero episodes, but even those of us who liked Animaniacs better than Ren and Stimpy have to admit that it's Ren and Stimpy that redefined animation and had the far-reaching influence on the industry. Of course, that influence means that Kricfalusi is now basically a member of the "establishment," but hey -- that's proof that his ideas, some of them, anyway, took hold.

1 comment:

Mattieshoe said...
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