Sorry I've been a while since I posted but I went on a bender in Tijuana and woke up buried under a landfill and handcuffed to a dead hooker.
Okay, that's not funny, I know. And it's not actually true but I wanted to see if anyone actually reads these. Plus, it's better than the truth: you know, the usual blogger litany; work is busy, crazy stuff in personal life, wah wah blah blah who cares?
Plus, I've been working and working to get this post refined and ready to publish, because it's a weird topic and I want it to sound just right. A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to see the movie "Cars" (and a couple of pieces of art as well) that made some odd thoughts in my brain percolate.
One of my obsessive topics for discussion is, of course, the whole "line of action" thing. As we talk about "line of action" and "gesture line" it's worth taking a minute to talk about how to handle more solid objects and how this might apply to them.
When we are drawing an object that's solid like a car, we know it's a big solid object that doesn't squash and stretch in real life, right? But if you wanted to draw a car and show that it was going really fast could you s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the car to show it was going fast? Could you draw it curving as it takes a corner?
When drawing and animating solid objects - like vehicles - everything is realtive. Mickey Mouse's car can take on much more of a gesture than Mr. Incredible's car. If Mr. Incredible's car started to bend around corners and act cartoony you would start to question the integrity of that world. You would start to wonder if a bullet fired from a gun would actually hurt Mr. Incredible or bounce off of him? Is the bullet rubbery, like his car appears to be?
And what if you are drawing a character that happens to be a solid object? You want him to feel like a solid object at all times, right? But why rob yourself of the tools you have, like gesture, that show expression?
The objects in "Beauty and the Beast" show a good compromise to these points. Of course the most famous example is the Doorknob in "Alice in Wonderland". His mouth shapes stay as close as possible to the shape of a keyhole. And his "nose" is a doorknob that doesn't squash and stretch, it just stays solid.
I recently started looking at the art of Floyd Gottfredson (he's the topic of another post, for sure) and I was struck by these drawings. Here, Mickey is trying to fly a plane into a canyon but the plane keeps getting stopped by an invisible force field (man, those comics had some wacky plot lines). I was struck by how much "gesture" Floyd got into the body of the plane. It's such a tough thing to sell - that the plane is revving at full speed but coming up against an invisible impediment. Sheesh, tough to put over!
My first instinct when I saw these was that Floyd went too far. The plane loses it's "integrity" to me. The plane looks like it's turning to putty or melting, and that's not the idea Floyd is drawing here. The plane has crumpled and wrinkled so much that it loses the effect of a metal airplane. And that's more acceptable in Mickey's world than Mr. Incredibles....but I think it goes too far. That's just my opinion.
I can't help but love these drawings though. What a great simple airplane design. Really appealing. And I do love the way he bends and crinkles that airplane, don't get me wrong. I just think it's a good example of losing a shape's "identity" a little bit. There could be a story line where the plane turns to putty or gets melted by a heat ray or something, and you wouldn't want the view\er to think that was happening here.
But I must say that I love Floyd's stuff in general. His great proportions on Mickey and other characters makes them super appealing. He draws great gestures too...more on him later! When I posted those Daan Jippes comics of Mickey a while back someone pointed out how much Daan seemed to be inspired by Floyd. It certainly looks that way. And speaking of Mr. Jippes...
In his new comic strip "Havank", Daan does something that a lot of European Comic Artists seem to do (Franquin did this all the time): he makes it appear that this car has a bit of a "gesture" to it without deforming the solid structure of the car. By drawing it from this angle and drawing the tires the way he does, he creates a great curve on the right hand side of the car. The car appears to be in motion and has a great "line of action" but retains it's identity as a solid form.
Anyway, when you see the movie "Cars" check out that the cars, even though they are characters with personality, don't have a lot of "gesture" to them. They retain their solid form at all times. As a filmmaker, your first impulse might be to give them a lot of flexibility in their bodies for expression. But if they had a lot of bend and flex in their bodies they would start to lose their identity as automobiles and start to look like people in car suits. In the old Disney short "Susie the Blue Coupe", Susie the titular coupe had a lot more flexibility than the autos in "Cars" and it works fine for Susie, but I'm guessing that the guys at Pixar figured out that their characters would start to look odd if they had that much flexibility and yet were rendered so realistically. Susie is pretty cartoony. The vehicles in "Cars" are rendered very much to look like real cars in a real world. If they start to bend like rubber, that would fight the visual cues that they are real. It would look very strange, I imagine. So different cases call for different treatments.