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  #1  
Old 12-16-2002, 01:03 PM
gsteinma gsteinma is offline
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Why do the characters in very old animated cartoons CONSTANTLY bob up & down?

I was watching some very old Betty Boop cartoons over the weekend - man, they are so hard to watch! I get seasick watching these old cartoons because the characters bob up and down continuously! This is especially true of Fleischer studio cartoons (such as Betty Boop and Popeye) from the 1930s. Why did they do it? Was it a way of marking time to synchronize the sound, or did they do it because they thought if the characters stood still people would think they weren't getting their money's worth? Or did the animators have Palsey?
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  #2  
Old 12-16-2002, 01:09 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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I'm not sure what you're talking about. Often when there was music going on the characters would bob or move in time tio the music as a sort of dance. But it wasn't invariably there. Popeye didn't generally bounce around, nor did Koko the Clown in the very oldest cartoons.

They certainly didn't have to bounce up and down to synchronize the sound -- the sound is recorded [i]first[p/i], and then the animation is done to meet the soundtrack. In fact, the Fleischers invented an animated "metronome" to guide the orchestra in recording cartoon music. See Leslie Cabarga's wonderful book The Fleischer Story.
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Old 12-16-2002, 01:10 PM
Olentzero Olentzero is offline
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If I remember correctly, it's something along the lines of your second hypothesis - the continuous motion made the cartoons seem more lifelike. Unfortunately I don't have any cites to back it up.

Or maybe the Fleischers just dug it.
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  #4  
Old 12-16-2002, 01:16 PM
gsteinma gsteinma is offline
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No, it is constantly there. Take an old Popyeye cartoon - no music at the time, Popeye is just standing to one side - yet his knees are constantly flexing as he bobs up and down. Or this Betty Boop cartoon "Poor Cinderella" - the Fairy Godmother is talking to her, and she is also flexing her knees and bobbing up and down but NOT in time to the music OR the Fairy Godmothers poem - she's just doing it to do it! In the same cartoon at the beginning there is a "proclamation" banner held up for 10 seconds and all 8 tassles on it are bobbing up and down - NOT swaying in the breeze, just bobbing up and down! Again NOT in time to the music.
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Old 12-16-2002, 01:20 PM
dorkusmalorkusmafia dorkusmalorkusmafia is offline
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I remember seeing that with Popeye as well. Most of the time the "dancing look" went in time with the music in the background, even with Popeye. At least that is my personal observation. I am not as familiar with Betty Boop, but I have a hankering that it is based on a similar premise.
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  #6  
Old 12-16-2002, 01:35 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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I'll have to look at my old cartoons again, because I don't recall them bouncing "out-of-time" or without music. Cabarga certainly doesn't mention it.

If they did do so, it was probably to remind the audience it was an animated cartoon, and to take advantafge of the medium. Windsor McKay certainly had his character Gertie the Dinosaur bouncing around when she wasn't doing anything else in his classic cartoon of the same name.
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  #7  
Old 12-16-2002, 01:39 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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It was also an easily repeatable action that could re-use drawings of moving knees/legs. Saves animation costs. Walt Disney used it in Steamboat Willie and other early Disney toons.
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Old 12-16-2002, 02:40 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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Bosda has it. It was a way of re-using the same drawings over and over, and hitting the audience over the head with the fact that they were watching drawings that--get this--MOVED!
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Old 12-16-2002, 02:48 PM
blowero blowero is offline
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That's funny, I'm never bothered by bobbing in old Fleischer cartoons, but the stuff Walt Disney did, like Steamboat Willy, bugs the crap out of me in that regard. They even did a parody of his jerky style on The Simpsons (Steamboat Scratchy). Disney really was a pretty dismal animator, but he at least had the sense later on to relegate the actual drawing to others who could do it well.
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  #10  
Old 12-16-2002, 02:49 PM
Tars Tarkas Tars Tarkas is offline
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Bosco and Honey cartoons do this all the time. It is part of the reason the Bosco cartoons suck, they spend so much time doing lame things showing off that it is an animated show that they don't do any gags.
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  #11  
Old 12-16-2002, 05:53 PM
shy guy shy guy is offline
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Quote:
Steamboat Scratchy
[nitpick]I believe it was Steamboat Itchy.[/nitpick]
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  #12  
Old 12-16-2002, 06:04 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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Quote:
CalMeacham: They certainly didn't have to bounce up and down to synchronize the sound -- the sound is recorded first, and then the animation is done to meet the soundtrack.
Quote:
blowero: I'm never bothered by bobbing in old Fleischer cartoons, but the stuff Walt Disney did, like Steamboat Willy, bugs the crap out of me in that regard.
This is unsurprising. The Fleischer Bros. were brilliant animators and approached the medium the right way. Walt Disney, on the other hand, was fumbling around in the dark. In the beginning, he did do the animation first and then work on a sound-track to suit it. This ass-backwards approach became known in the industry as "Mickey Mousing", (particularly w/ regard to adding music to match actions,) the meaning of which has been broadened to refer to any thing that's done in an inferior way.
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  #13  
Old 12-16-2002, 08:14 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by CalMeacham
it was probably to remind the audience it was an animated cartoon, and to take advantage of the medium.
Like all the ridiculously unnecessary balance shifting in early stereo recordings?

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  #14  
Old 12-16-2002, 08:56 PM
Number Number is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by KneadToKnow
Like all the ridiculously unnecessary balance shifting in early stereo recordings?
Or pretty much any scene in a 3D movie.

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  #15  
Old 12-16-2002, 09:12 PM
Gala Matrix Fire Gala Matrix Fire is offline
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I love that about old cartoons. So much motion, wheeeee!
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  #16  
Old 12-16-2002, 09:34 PM
typhoon typhoon is offline
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Kind of like how the not-so-well-done computer-generated characters of the modern day have a bunch of superfluous movement.
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  #17  
Old 12-17-2002, 02:50 PM
blowero blowero is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Larry Mudd
The Fleischer Bros. were brilliant animators and approached the medium the right way.
I agree. And as a sidetrack, while we're sucking up to the Fleischers, how did they do that 3-D looking background effect you see in Betty Boop cartoons? That was amazing, and years ahead of their time.
Quote:
Walt Disney, on the other hand, was fumbling around in the dark. In the beginning, he did do the animation first and then work on a sound-track to suit it. This ass-backwards approach became known in the industry as "Mickey Mousing", (particularly w/ regard to adding music to match actions,) the meaning of which has been broadened to refer to any thing that's done in an inferior way.
Hilarious. I always wondered where that expression came from.
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  #18  
Old 12-17-2002, 02:56 PM
blowero blowero is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by shy guy
[nitpick]I believe it was Steamboat Itchy.[/nitpick]
Why do I hear the Comic Book Guy voice when I read that?
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  #19  
Old 12-17-2002, 03:10 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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I agree. And as a sidetrack, while we're sucking up to the Fleischers, how did they do that 3-D looking background effect you see in Betty Boop cartoons? That was amazing, and years ahead of their time.
It was a patented process of theirs (they patented the Rotoscope, too), in which a model was built on a large rotating turntable with a fixed camera, and I think there was a special frame to hold the animation cels -- think of the Disney Multiplane camera turned horizontal, only with a rotating bed instead of a flat one. There are pictures and descriptions in Leslie Cabarga's book, and I'll bet there are plenty on the Internet, too.
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  #20  
Old 12-17-2002, 03:20 PM
Walloon Walloon is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by blowero
Disney really was a pretty dismal animator, but he at least had the sense later on to relegate the actual drawing to others who could do it well.
Disney himself never did the animation for his cartoons after he left Kansas City for Hollywood. He had animator Ub Iwerks working for him from 1924 to 1930, and it's Iweks' style that you see in Steamboat Willie (1928).
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Old 12-17-2002, 04:21 PM
RickJay RickJay is online now
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Quote:
Originally posted by Larry Mudd
This is unsurprising. The Fleischer Bros. were brilliant animators and approached the medium the right way. Walt Disney, on the other hand, was fumbling around in the dark. In the beginning, he did do the animation first and then work on a sound-track to suit it. This ass-backwards approach became known in the industry as "Mickey Mousing", (particularly w/ regard to adding music to match actions,) the meaning of which has been broadened to refer to any thing that's done in an inferior way.
Why is it artistically less valid to make the music for the benefit of the images, as opposed to vice versa?
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Old 12-17-2002, 04:25 PM
mobo85 mobo85 is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by CalMeacham
It was a patented process of theirs (they patented the Rotoscope, too), in which a model was built on a large rotating turntable with a fixed camera, and I think there was a special frame to hold the animation cels.
If you can view TIFF images, click on "Images" in this link:
US Patent No. 2054414: Art of Making Motion Picture Cartoons
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  #23  
Old 12-17-2002, 04:30 PM
blowero blowero is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Walloon
Disney himself never did the animation for his cartoons after he left Kansas City for Hollywood. He had animator Ub Iwerks working for him from 1924 to 1930, and it's Iweks' style that you see in Steamboat Willie (1928).
Didn't know that; thanks for the correction.
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  #24  
Old 12-17-2002, 06:43 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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RickJay: Why is it artistically less valid to make the music for the benefit of the images, as opposed to vice versa?
Generally, because it's much easier to make a naturally flowing soundtrack, than to try to create animation from scratch which seems like natural movement. A keyframer might rigidly enforce a certain number of "beats-per-minute" throughout a whole project, and that would be easy enough to fit music to-- but in most circumstances it would look stupid. What they did at Disney Studios was make a silent cartoon, and then instruct an orchestra to "accompany" the finished product. Because the scene changes come pretty much randomly, the orchestra sounds like a collective club foot. They were also responsible for supplying "sound effects" -- A sliding action would prompt the trombone player to do a little "slide", and maybe there'd be a cymbal-crash if the "slide" ended violently. Since it's relatively simple to create a naturally-flowing sound track, it makes sense to do that first-- then the keyframer has a reference to use to make a naturally-flowing animation. Not only does the soundtrack sound better, it helps to improve the realism of the cartoon.
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Old 12-17-2002, 07:19 PM
pizzabrat pizzabrat is offline
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[QUOTE}Bosco and Honey cartoons do this all the time. It is part of the reason the Bosco cartoons suck, they spend so
much time doing lame things showing off that it is an animated show that they don't do any gags.[/QUOTE]

Those "lame things" WERE the gags. And Bosko toons had scads of gags ranging from cute to hillarious, like the one where Bosko finds his garage empty and goes calling for his car until it tiptoes apologetically out from the outhouse, or in "The Booze Hangs High" where everyone gets drunk and starts singing until the pig sings so hard he vomits out a half eaten cob of corn. Then he picks it up, timidly dusts it off, and opens his stomach like a door to place the corn back inside, looking completely embarrassed the whole time.
The dancing was the best part anyway. I wish cartoons today had characters who grooved constantly to a very modern beat while playing out loose plotlines.
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Old 12-17-2002, 08:01 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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Quote:
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RickJay: Why is it artistically less valid to make the music for the benefit of the images, as opposed to vice versa?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Generally, because it's much easier to make a naturally flowing soundtrack, than to try to create animation from scratch which seems like natural movement. A keyframer might rigidly enforce a certain number of "beats-per-minute" throughout a whole project, and that would be easy enough to fit music to-- but in most circumstances it would look stupid. What they did at Disney Studios was make a silent cartoon, and then instruct an orchestra to "accompany" the finished product. Because the scene changes come pretty much randomly, the orchestra sounds like a collective club foot. They were also responsible for supplying "sound effects" -- A sliding action would prompt the trombone player to do a little "slide", and maybe there'd be a cymbal-crash if the "slide" ended violently. Since it's relatively simple to create a naturally-flowing sound track, it makes sense to do that first-- then the keyframer has a reference to use to make a naturally-flowing animation. Not only does the soundtrack sound better, it helps to improve the realism of the cartoon.
I was unaware that Disney did this in its early days. They certainly learned, though, because it was their standard method by the time they started making their features.

One o the Disney fiascos was when the decided to re-record the sound for Fantasia in the late 1980s. They got a new orchestra together and a new narrator to take the place of Deems Taylor. Of course, theyt couldn't do anything about Leopold Stokowski, since he was alread in the movie, so we had the image of Stokowski conducting the sound of musicians who likely hadn't even been born when he went through his actions. Worse, no matter how carefully you try to match he action on screen, it never matches up!. The next time Disney released Fantasia, it was with the original soundtrack.
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  #27  
Old 12-17-2002, 08:23 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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Eesh-- I never knew they did that to Fantasia, (which I think is the best thing Disney ever put out.) Still the original soundtrack is flawed-- An orchestral version of Bach's Toccata and fugue in D minor? Offensive, of the face of it. The oscilloscope-on-acid animation that they did for that sequence was brilliant, though.

As for Bosko, I wish WB stuck with him-- those cartoons were f'd up!.

The one where Bosko has a movie theatre, and there's a bunch of newsreel parodies? Oh, god, the "Geneva Peace Summit" -- and Hitler with that axe! What the hell?
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  #28  
Old 12-17-2002, 08:48 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Larry Mudd
In the beginning, he did do the animation first and then work on a sound-track to suit it. This ass-backwards approach became known in the industry as "Mickey Mousing", (particularly w/ regard to adding music to match actions,) the meaning of which has been broadened to refer to any thing that's done in an inferior way.
In the modern world of movie soundtrack music, "Mickey Mousing" is (still) used to refer to music that mimicks the action in an overly literal or "cartoony" way. For example, when Mickey's hand goes up, the pitch of the instruments go up (e.g. they play an ascending scale), and when Mickey's hand goes down, the pitch also descends. It's appropriate for slapstick or kiddie cartoons, but it just sounds silly when it's done for a "real" movie or TV show.
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