Wednesday, February 14, 2007

:: upa ::

sorry for all the non drawing posts lately, i've been doing more reading than drawing.

united productions of america, was a studio and a reactionary animation movement at the same time. there's so much artwork out there people are calling upa inspired today, but it doesn't move! so without further adieu, here's some upa so you can see what i mean!


this is a john hubley cartoon, whose name has come up a lot recently. hubley was really big on design, and full animation. he has the most designerly of the upa cartoons, rooty toot toot above being his pinnacle, and last short. the characters are very graphic yet they stretch, morph, and change color based on emotion and personality. they express by the way they move and contort. and screen depth becomes very important. Hubley worked to go against his background of Disney cartoons, and worked away from cute design and story.


bobe cannon, was the other primary figure at UPA, he directed gerald mc boing boing above. egos [apparently mostly Hubley's] and sensibilities caused the two to split into two units, with animators and designers jumping between the two. Cannon came from Warners [and did work at disney and mgm for a stint]. An animator for Clampett early on [think porky in wacky land "hello bobo!"] and later Jones. Cannon's directorial style was reactionary as well. Working against stories of violence and over the top gags, which was his background at WB. he directed in a similar fashion to Jones, giving his animators drawings to work from, although they were more actual animation drawings than layouts. his designs also tend to be strong, and he used mis en scen and the backgrounds to direct attention to the characters. he definitely has leanings more in a cute direction, which is definitely less warners. in boing boing [a story by ted giesel...dr. suess!] you can really see cannon's directorial style solidify. more muted action, emotion not delivered by expression or movement, but by setting, graphic but pliable character design. he wanted to make known that the cartoon was made up of drawings that were animated, not just characters that were.

today i think people confuse upa with flat design heavy cartoons. yet neither of these cartoons are still. in the credits of both you'll see very impressive names! art babbit, grim natwick, bill melendez; all sorts of competent animators' names appear in UPA cartoons. they're anything BUT flat and motionless.

designerly cartoons can be beautiful! but take away animation and they quickly lose their appeal. even cannon's more muted cute cartoons move fluidly when they do move, often in ways that most today would consider "off model," by stretching arms without elbows and bending in unusual ways. and hubley's more stylistic designs become even less flat when they move all around the screen and show off their depth. nothing in these cartoons flips from one 3/4 view to another, everything rotates, everything animates.

upa was animation by and for artists who were tired of the norms established in the golden age that, all it's creators came from [therefore they were all rooted in classic animation principle before they experimented]. today we have this trickle down of skewed upa principles mixed with programs like flash to get a highly watered down version of graphic animation, that is flat and lifeless. a lot of that comes from people not having studied actual animation design and principle. some people out there get it though, like my bud dagan moriarty for one; check out his stuff and you'll see life in every drawing, and design principle that the likes of bobe cannon would definitely support! upa means design, but it definitely doesn't mean flat! don't let anyone try and convince you otherwise!

again sorry i'm so preachy lately! i'm going to try and start putting some of this theory into practice soon! ...promise!


Peter said...

do your comments work? let's find out!

Peter said...


mikecarloooyeah said...

Thanks for the post smo, I ve been thinking about what exactly it is that I want to say about these last few posts. It's totally awesome that there are a small group of people fed up with the standards of the industry these days especially in New York animation. Even more interesting is that there are a smaller group of people within that are motivated by the situation enough to start doing something about it. Post some of your own stuff, but keep educating people on these things, because I know I ve learned, and seen things within your posts that I hadn't seen before. Keep rockin'

Dagan Moriarty said...

Hey smo,
i never thanked you for the 'kudos' here... it's enough to make a guy blush, i tell ya. :)

thanks dude!