Category: cartoons

The Green Lantern has always been one of my favorite superheroes, in spite of having a horrible rogues gallery. The ring’s powers may be silly, but at least it gives him the power of flight. In many ways he’s the adult version of Harold and the Purple Crayon.

And there’s something potent of the symbolism of a ring, be it a wedding ring, or the One Ring from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings fantasy.

This movie had the largest number of scenes, in fact they may be considered acts. I enjoyed drawing the green magic, and the wolf was fun too, perhaps reminiscent of Peter and the Wolf? The ending, as always, was problematic, and perhaps too similar to The Artist, but was fun to draw.

The Magic Ring

I love the snow storm after the title shot; it was inspired by the opening credits of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (by Rankin/Bass). Keep in mind each snowflake was drawn (and its movement tracked) by hand, which made for a laborious opening sequence.

I have got to figure out a way to show emotions other than having characters wave their arms up and down.

Snow Day

OK, you try turning the hangman word game into a movie. I wanted the mystery word to contain the letters for fin, and was happy when I discovered that the remaining letters of friend spelled red. This was the first movie to not use the color red, other than The Vampire, which used it only for fin at the end.

Hangman

The title sequences are often mini-movies of their own, and I was especially proud of the opening for King Kong. If you pay attention at the end, you’ll see the angry villagers doing the choreography for Y.M.C.A.

King Kong

This movie is almost a sequel to The Robot, except it stars our favorite little stick figure. Having figures fly is my favorite thing to animate; much more poetic than the drudgery of walking.

Heaven

The original, unfinished version of this sat unused for a few months. That version began with three heads on a beach, with a single stick figure approaching and spray-painting a mustache on one. It didn’t flow or make sence (not that any of the others do), so I started over with the idea of having a kid annoy one of the heads. I kept adding kids, until at seven I decided to turn this into the unauthorized sequel to The Sound of Music. The heads were supposed to retaliate by zapping beams from their eyes, or swatting the figures with frog-like tongues and eating them, but tongues are hard to draw, and the zaps didn’t have the pleasing movements of jumping monuments.

Easter Island

Another film where a small idea grew into a long production. This one was inspired by a video game I wrote back in college, also called Flies. The player controlled a tank in the backyard, trying to shoot down flies which would try to land to pick up dog poop, which they would use to nourish a new batch of baby flies. Ah, college. I also borrowed from a children’s story I wrote a few years back (“Bonjour, D.C.”), where a swarm of giant flies carries off the Washington Monument. When I was young, I often read the story of the man who becomes a hero by killing seven flies with a single swat. I was in awe of that feat. Here, it takes a little longer, but if you count, you’ll see he does get his seven flies. Note too that a different set of seven carries off his head at the end.

I like how the clean white background accumulates debris, and the horrific ballet of the swarm. I hope no one minds that my flies flap like seagulls, splat like mosquitos, and attack like pirannahs. After the quiet terror of “The Vampire,” it’s nice to allow both the stick figure and its nemesis let loose with violent abandon.

Flies

These cartoons were made in 1999, and posted on a now-defunct web site I had made called Le Théâtre du Bâton Figure. I had tried to research what the French call stick figure but never got a definitive answer, and wondered if – zut alors! – they hadn’t yet discovered the wonders of this simple animation style. So, bâton is French for stick, but it’s not clear that bâton figure is the best translation for stick figure.

In that September, I jiggered the web site to switch from using frames to using tables. (Frames are considered a bad web standard for several reasons, but tables hadn’t yet become a bête noire, this being before CSS made a splash.) During the renovation, I also decided I wanted to add a little public message while the audience waits for the main attraction. “Défence de fumer” (No Smoking) seemed to fit the bill. I should add that the first cartoon had been made during my father’s doomed battle with lung cancer. So, this cartoon is for him.

S’il vous plaît, défence de fumer = Please, no smoking.

Défence de Fumer

I decided I wanted another flying stick figure, and thus the vampire was born. The original plot included the victim fighting back with a baseball bat (duh), and I also toyed with the idea of having the robot from my previous film come along and attack the vampire. Simplicity won, though with 127 frames this unexpectedly became the most complex film so far. Drawing the cape was easy and fun – it reminded me of the giant octopus from “Singin’ in the Rain” – same concept, really. I also was going to show blood (and lots of it) when the vampire quenches his thirst, but I preferred the intimacy of just seeing their two round heads so close together. I also wanted to have the silouette of a medieval town in the night sky, but the plain dark background had a much stronger effect.

The Vampire

Six months after “Lights Out” had passed, and I had been wanting to add another film to the collection but didn’t have time for an epic. I started fiddling with truck sketches, and the truck became a school bus, and the bus had a crash. I find the bright yellow appealing, though it lessons the impact of the red blood. I liked how much of the action took place in a tiny window just nine pixels high. Is the guy at the rear suffering a double tragedy of an epilectic seizure at the moment of the crash, or is the invisible hand of the author flicking him over for a cheap visual florish?

The School Bus