Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cartoon Network’s 20th Birthday - Extra


Ed Benedict was an animator and layout artist who, in his work for Hanna-Barbera Studios, helped design many of its early television series including The Flintstones.

Character design and animation of this period had almost everything to do with economy, or in other words solutions to limited television budgets. As result you have a lot of characters who stand and talk, characters in lengthy walk cycles and running cycles (against repeating backgrounds) also usually talking, and characters with convenient accessories of collars and neckties that clearly define the body and a talking head.

This design is a caricature of anatomy and not very reliant upon a working skeletal structure. Peculiar to The Flintstones, for example, are Wilma’s and Betty’s skirts which operated more like puffs of fur from which their legs may protrude in any direction without, for the most part, disturbing the puff’s shape.

A large part of the joy of drawing The Flintstones are not only the fanciful dinosaurs but even more fanciful low-tech gadgets. How is it possible to cobble together a motor bike using stone wheels, logs, a tortoise shell and bee hive? If only real engineering were as easy and fun.

In the concept sketches, I tried giving Wichita a saber-tooth look which only complicated the fuzzy muzzle I wanted to keep in the design. The layout on the whole is not, admittedly, consistent with the original Flintstones series in which all action takes place parallel to the screen, left, right, up and down. Fred always made U-turns off screen. The change from a running dinosaur was to better fit it in frame without worrying about its tail, and benefitted from having a more interesting twist in its posture and its head popping out over the hill in groundhog fashion is a better visual than merely a hungry dino.

[final color art]


 A lot of the designs of The Powerpuff Girls (PPG) were co-developed by both Craig and Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Laboratory). With both having worked at Hanna-Barbera on Two Stupid Dogs, it’s not surprising that both their first shows, PPG and Dexter’s Lab, carry on the H&B style. I describe much of the style as a theory of letting shapes be interesting first and descriptive or representative second. So there are irregular zig-zagging lines which could be a row of teeth, fingers or a torn shirt and loopy curls which could be puffs of hair, a tree canopy or a bunch of flowers.

It’s possible that from his work on Batman, The Animated Series, Genndy imbued strong lines of action to character designs, often as unbroken arcing lines on one side of an arm or leg.

As a pre-wide-screen series, rarely did PPG have more than three characters in an action scene, and as such, this layout is too busy as a faithful show set-up. This is really two scene squeezed together. Although I’d like the focus up front, but it’s kind of better to flatten the space to have Tuff-Girl more fighting along side all three Powerpuff Girls.

My first concept sketch is a post-battle, victory scene. This is what I do when I haven’t figured out what the characters look like. Once I’ve a design (and in a sense am bored with it), then more interesting poses come out as an expression of “I wonder what else this character can do?”

My Dexter’s Lab styled Tuff-Girl and Wichita would probably be the same as this. And I probably change little for a Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends style, also a show by Craig.

[final color art]


Ben 10 was created by a group by the name of Man of Action (Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly and Steven T. Seagle). Although drawing upon stylistic influences of comic books and Japanese Anime, much of what ended up on screen became less stylized, more rounded and generally having less of a distinct style. This then became my biggest struggle – what does a Ben 10 styled Tuff-Girl look like? My solution mostly relies on a bigger head and an Omnitrix hour-glass motif worked into her costume.

My choice to draw Diamondhead as Ben’s alien-hero transformation did come from his sharp, crystal edges being a reasonable contrast to Tar Bear’s sloppiness. It is also a reflection of how much more comfortable I am now drawing him than seven years ago. Diamondhead was mostly designed to be seen in certain angles that allows his brow/ visor to naturally form a “V” for an intense gaze. There are other little details of his design that don’t work in three-dimension, so half about Diamondhead is figuring out a cheat for a better, stronger pose.

I like having Tuff-Girl (and Wichita) chasing Dr. Animo. Story-wise, once T.G. catches Animo the fights over and the action’s done and that’s not what you want on your comic book cover. Having decided to change the layout to have T.G. in the foreground, Animo still had to be in the fight.

[final color art]


Pendleton Ward created Adventure Time. Although he worked as a storyboard artist on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, there is perhaps no one source of stylistic influence for the show’s design.

For sure there are a lot of small button eyes, big round heads, rubber-hose arms and legs, small 3-fingered hand and a general absence of noses. Although none of these are shared by Tuff-Girl’s traditional design, it’s perhaps due to these that so much fell into place quickly. A lot of stylized Tuff-Girl draws upon the Fionna character design as opposed to series regulars like Princess Bubblegum or Marceline the Vampire. Stylized Wichita is somewhat based on a wolf cub that appeared in an episode. Stylized Eagle One could be based on any of the rugged warriors that pop up in the series.

The back story also seemed to fall in place quickly. As the last of the four scenes I was creating for this celebration, the victory moment also seemed appropriate.

[final color art]


Iwao Takamoto was a Japanese-American Animator who was a production and character designer for Walt Disney Productions and for Hanna-Barbera design characters for such shows as Scooby-Doo.

My exploration here is a slightly shorter Daphne in a simplified Tuff-Girl costume. Given how this basic girl design served as the house-style over many years, there wasn’t any reason to push it further.

Wichita is her same silhouette with Scooby eyes.


Glen Murakami is an animator, animation director and producer known for his work on Batman Beyond, Teen Titans and the Ben 10 series Alien Force and Ultimate Alien.

My exploration keys in on Murakami’s signature style of strong posing and lines and sharp definitive corners. A finer tip pen would have helped. Her costume has much larger areas of black than I usually design just to take advantage of Glen’s sense of using strong black shapes in his designs.

Wichita’s design is almost all made up as his designs for terrestrial, four-legged creatures is rare, especially small, furry ones. 

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