Monday, July 12, 2010

3D or not 3D

OK. Just saw "Despicable Me" with my son Andrew. Very funny movie, liked the character and environment design and the way everything moved. Coulda used a little more Addams Family-style dark despicability. A tad too sweet for me in spots. If I wanna cry, I'll cut a !@#$ onion. But that's just my inner bastard talking.

Now, onto the subject of 3D animation in general. Before the flick started, there was a Bataan death march from one trailer after another. They all look the !@# same.

Here, I see eye to eye with John Kricfalusi, the Ren & Stimpy guy. I'm not saying wipe 3D animation from the face of the earth. But carve out a little space for Tex Avery/Bob Clampett-style animation. Let cartoons be cartoons, damnit.

3D animation is not cartooning. It's a different animal. What it resembles, more than anything else, is puppetry. Essentially, 3D animators (usually an army of animators) create 3-dimensional puppets. These puppets have physical properties. They have mass and weight. They have skin that reflects light. They have skeletons and muscles. They even have hair.

OK, a 3D animated feature that treats its characters as puppets can be charming. Like, say, The Incredibles. Nothing against that.

When a 3D animated feature apes reality (Disney's eternal wet dream of "the imitation of life" finally realized) it's down right freaking creepy. Like, say, the latest installment of "Cats and Dogs." They look too much like REAL cats and dogs for the thing to be funny. If a cartoon dog gets his ass caught in a pneumatic chute, that's funny. If it happens to a real dog, it ain't.

Apply this to a few classic cartoon sequences.

Bugs Bunny, tormenting the bull in "Bully for Bugs" with a Rube Goldberg series of torture devices that ultimately light a large stick of dynamite and blow him up.

The waitress in the Flintstones putting an eight-foot section of dinosaur ribs on the family car and tipping it over.

Bugs Bunny tricking two hillbillies into beating the crap out of each other and jumping in a hay-baling machine in "Hillbilly Hare."

If you imagine this stuff happening to realistic, digital characters, it's acually pretty disgusting.


Bob said...

Bob Clampett? Wasn't he the guy who pioneered cartoon xerography? That's real animation? In 1964, you would have been complaining about the xerography. It's good to be a luddite.

And now I have the Beany and Cecil jingle running around in the depths of my head. Thanks a lot.

Marty Fugate said...

I think that was Ub Iwerks at Disney in the 1950s.

Clampett had a very imaginative, surreal style and a great sense of comic timing. ("The Great Piggy Bank Robbery" is one example.) As anarchic and surreal as could get, everything he did was rooted in a sense of where objects are in space, how they're modeled and how they move.

What, me Luddite? Nah. My position has always been that animation created after "traditional" cell animation is a different artistic medium. (Or media.) Each variety of media its own inner logic.

Short version: Traditional cell animation = living drawings. 3-D animation = digital puppetry.

So, yeah, hypothetically, you could do what Clampett did with 3-D animation. But I think it'd be less charming.

"I'm coming Beany Boy!"