Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cartoon Blues

I've been studying Disney animators from the 30s as of late (Ub Iwerks, Fred Moore, Bill Tytla). It's one of those oddities where I'm discovering more of my cartooning roots after the fact, by looking at their drawings and thinking to myself, "Wait a minute, I kind of draw like that." The characters in their drawings are prime examples of construction, expression, and line that really appeal to me. The Fleischer style has been on my radar since college, but not until recently have I been delving into the early Disney artists.

Today I was flipping through Treasures of Disney Animation Art , a huge book my parents got me when I was 12 or so. It was weird—like I discovered Goofy again for the first time. I find his design very appealing...more complex than Mickey and the like which is probably why he appeared later. Goofy is definitely one of the stranger Disney creations, especially in his original form before he got more polished up (I'm a fan of the purple shiny-eyelid Goofy). So, I've been hitting the sketchbook.

Above is a study of a drawing by clean-up artist Dick Huemer from Lonesome Ghosts (1937). The construction of his face appears complex at first glance, but it can be broken down into simple organic shapes that wrap around each other.

And here, a study of a drawing by clean-up artist Art Babbit from Moving Day (1936). I love how low his head droops in this moment of the walk cycle. This is trademark Goofy—there's tons of personality conveyed in just this one drawing.

I recently borrowed a DVD from a from a friend that featured all sorts of Ub Iwerks cartoons. I'm drawn to the simplicity of his characters, because they also have a ton of personality. Below are some drawings I did of freeze frames from Ali Baba (1936).

This character is so rubbery and loose, packed with energy and movement. I especially like how Ub draws hands—big and bendy.

And finally, below are some original characters I drew with the same non-photo blue pencil. This charming specimen of a woman:

And a possible suitor?


David DeGrand said...

Nice job on the Goofy drawings! He is a complex character and I've gone nuts trying to draw him myself, the elongated muzzle always trips me up. I also love your Iwerks characters, his cartoons are absolute bliss!! Have you seen "Balloon Land"? It's my favorite Iwerks cartoon, the characters are a blast to draw. Awesome stuff as always Bob!

Chris Houghton said...

Wow, GREAT studies here Bob! You've really figured out Goofy and not just how to "draw" him but how to construct him. You have such wonderfully solid drawings and great characters too!

Bob Flynn said...


Thanks! He is trickier than your average character, but again...totally do-able because their is a logic to his construction. Very 3-dimensional. I actually just ordered the DVD I borrowed, The Cartoons that Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection, Vol. 1. Which doesn't include Balloon Land, but I have watched it on YouTube. Very cool.


Double Thanks! One of the things that has resonated after reading John K beat it over our heads is SOLID CONSTRUCTION (he and practically every classic book on cartooning). He basically gave me a term for what I either intuitively liked or didn't like about different cartooning styles.

I like cartoons to feel real and dimensional. People can pull off "flat" if they are good designers, but so many cartoonists sit somewhere in between. It often comes off awkward looking to me.

I should add that I also really like the looser "doodly" cartooning styles of Watterson and Herriman. Drawing that is confident, dynamic, and packed with personality (charm).

I figure studying the classic characters I find appealing is bound to rub off in a good way. Draw Draw Draw!

Honolulu Dogfight said...

Really great Bob. I wish any of my students would do studies like this. I show the John K site and lessons over and over and they just aren't interested.
As for looser drawings- I just got a really nice fountain pen for christmas and have been scribbling away trying to be loose and confident and draw like Alex Raymond.
I'm sure it's never going to happen.

Bob Flynn said...

Thanks, George! I'm not sure these studies are for everyone. But the only way to begin to understand a character is to draw them. I am a student of cartoons, so it's always a very rewarding exercise. Have fun with your new pen!