Monday, April 05, 2004

I'd like to talk about contemporary Warner Bros. animation: namely, how outrageously horrible it all is.

You heard me.

Picture this: it's the 1930s and 40s. You're an animator working in a small, stuffy, practically condemned studio called "Termite Terrace" (affectionately called so by you and your cohorts working inside). You produce a string of incredible, entertaining animation that would hail in a GOLDEN AGE of your craft. You win Oscars fairly regularly, and create a style and visual language that would become the language of cartoons.

Then Warner Bros. shuts you down.

Unfortunately, it looks like WB will NEVER fully recover from that awful mistake. Dictionary.com defines an idea as "Something, such as a thought or conception, that potentially or actually exists in the mind as a product of mental activity." Great ideas are born from anarchy, where your "mental activity" doesn't have any constraints. The forgotten little studio-that-could was a perfect example of this, where cartoonists were free to try out new ideas (as long as they were within budget) with hardly any interferance from the big wigs upstairs (true, there were producers they answered to, but these people were not particular high up on the corporate ladder, and often were fairly leniant).

But, alas, when something great becomes recognized, it's called to the attention of the higher-ups, who look at the brilliance and craft of these animated shorts and see only the following plastered across the screen:

$ $ $ $ $


So later, realizing that the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies characters are the only lucrative franchise possiblities they have, Warner Bros. attempts to resurrect what they had previously obliterated, but this time it was by their rules. Sure, they made a few good steps, such as hiring Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng on as consultants... but ultimately, Warner Bros. failed.

The Elements of Contemporary Warner Bros. Suckage

  1. Writing: Originally, cartoonists made the cartoons. Hence their name; cartoonists. Sure they would have "gag men" and writers, but generally these people actually knew how to draw as well, and would work with the cartoonists to create a storyboard that would act as a guideline for the final project. Warner Bros. decided this worked far too smoothly. They needed organization. So now, Warner Bros. cartoons are written by frustrated sitcom writers who can't get a job writing sitcoms. Let me put that into perspective: when was the last time you saw a really good sitcom? They're not good enough to write for those.


  2. Recycled Gags: In the original Looney Tunes shorts, Wile E. Coyote would run off the cliff, hang in midair for a moment till he realized he was falling, then give an exasperated look at the camera and fall. This was the gag, and it was humorous because it was absurd. In contemporary WB shorts, the character will run off the cliff, hang in mid-air, and fall... and then another character will come on, and give a brief lecture on cartoon physics and why this is possible. They seem to realize what was funny about the gag: the gag itself. In an attempt to somehow put a new twist on previous gags, the writers have resorted to a technique that really kills the joke altogether. Chuck Jones' cartoons were brilliant because of the WEALTH of gags that emerged from that simple scenario, whereas the contemporary ones simply recycle what he had already done, which makes for very stale humor.


  3. Bad Concepts: "Tiny Tunes"... the same characters as before, only shorter and less endearing! "Animaniacs"... three dog-weasel-things trapped in a watchtower who introduce bad musical-themed short after bad musical-themed short! "Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries"... the same characters you loved, but without all those pesky jokes!


  4. The Television Audience: Unfortunately, theatrical shorts seem to be quite dead. As such, Warner Bros. has catered to the television audience and, now that the studio is run by the corporation and bad sitcom-writing drones, the shorts have been watered down to a lowest-common-denominator audience, mutilating their ancestry beyond recognition.

What makes all this even sadder to me is the fact that right now there is a real wealth of great voice actors out there, with nobody (in my opinion) taking real advantage of them. These guys should be on GREAT cartoons, not "okay" cartoons.

Oh, and before I sign off, I do have to mention the one piece of original Warner Bros. output I've enjoyed:

Pinky & the Brain.

I'm done.

   - posted by Tyler Sticka @

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