Thursday, February 19, 2009

Critter Casts, Continued

(Following up on my earlier post about human characters vs. humanized animals in cartoons...)

This Mytoons article by Rusty Mills, about unused artwork and develpment for Animaniacs reveals that the Ben Stein character in the cartoon "Chairman of the Bored" (co-directed by Mills) was originally drawn as a dog. In the final version, the character, who won't stop following the Warners until he's finished telling them his entire rambling story about how he met Bob Barker, was a human. A few Animaniacs cartoons actually had them going up against humanized animals, like a bear who owns a house and a garage in "Garage Sale of the Century," and it never worked quite as well as having them interact with humans.

Although the three lead characters on Animaniacs were not exactly animals -- they were supposed to be animal-like characters with no particular species like some of the early imitators of Mickey Mouse -- they were clearly characters who functioned best in a human world, because they were supposed to be the only crazy characters in a world that otherwise takes itself seriously., and because their behavior only made sense if their antagonists were the kind of people we'd like to see taken down a peg in real life (in other words, humans like the ones we know).

But another character on the show, Slappy Squirrel, was just the opposite; she was at her best in cartoons where her antagonists were cartoon animals (dogs, wolves, chipmunks). Her specialty was taking delight in inflicting violence, often without provocation, and demonstrating her knowledge of cartoon conventions; that often seemed too cruel and nasty when she was up against a human, whereas inflicting violence on a cartoon animal seems less harsh. (That's why Wile E. Coyote can take more of a beating than a human like Elmer Fudd or even Yosemite Sam; there's a limit to how much you can hurt them without the audience realizing that there's a human being there, even a cartoon human being, getting sliced in half or squished.) Though the one where she was fighting Daniel Boone worked very well, so there goes that rule. The point is just that whether a cartoon uses a human or animal antagonist is a tricky question that depends on the nature of the story, the characters and the conflict.


Anonymous said...

"Chairman of the Bored" is perhaps the only episode wherein Yakko, Wakko and Dot battle their antagonist to a draw.

Ricardo Cantoral said...

Speaking of "Garage Sale of the Century", it was an incredibly dumb idea to take the Poppa Bear character design and just enlarge it.

Ricardo Cantoral said...

The point is just that whether a cartoon uses a human or animal antagonist is a tricky question that depends on the nature of the story"

That springs to mind a Robert McKimson cartoon. I can't remember the title but the plot was Miss Prissy trying look for what she thinks is her egg. At one point we see Miss Prissy trying to get her egg back a human shopkeeper and a human woman. Porky is looking for her since she is her hen and the police officer he speaks to his an animal and so his the crook Miss Prissy ends up hiding with, Pretty Boy Beagle. Later, we see Pretty Boy and Miss Prissy surrounded by cops but their heads aren't shown at all. We only see Porky knee high to other observers and police men. The point I am trying to make is during that whole cartoon we never actually see the human-sized animals interacting with the humans.

Mattieshoe said...

Speaking of Animaniacs, I think I just saw a short that emphasizes what most pure cartoonists think Animaniacs was like all the time.

I swear, the drawings are equatable to those of a Care Bear episode,
only here it's shoehorned into something that's supposed to be "Cartoony"

Every drawing looks like a trace of the main Model sheet. it's some of the worst animation I've ever seen.

there's many more things wring with it, but I'm not about to go into them.

Ugh. I was put to sleep by this.