Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cartoon Tips from the 1930s

Cartoonist Bill Nolan (1896-1954) helped to create the classic rubber hose style of animation when he worked along with Otto Messmer on the Felix the Cat cartoons. 

In 1936, he wrote a little book called Cartooning Self-Taught, which presents the 1930s style.  The heads, hands, and body shapes are based on circles—or really spheres. The pupils are tall pie-cut ovals.

Men's feet are big and clown-like, with a low instep and a balloon toe. Each type of character should have a distinctive shoe: "A tramp needs tattered footwear; a dude requires shoes with spats; a farmer, boots."

Arms and legs get thicker as they go away from the body. Darks are shaded with parallel curving strokes. Poses are extreme and dynamic. Nolan says, "Comics are much more interesting if they seem to be doing something rather than remaining stationary." 

Characters can be created by using circles of different sizes. I like the angry cook with the elbows forward, the fat tycoon, and the cop swinging his billy club.

The dog, bear, and cat are doing a gait called a rack or pace, where both right legs move in tandem and both left legs move in tandem.

An assortment of animals "are all made from combinations of circles," he says. "There is no end to what you can do if you get firmly fixed in your mind the idea of building comics from the basic circles."

You can see the influence not only on the early Disney animators, but also on illustrators like R. Crumb and Dr. Seuss.


A Colonel of Truth said...

So goes 'the Circle of Life.'

Susan Krzywicki said...


Pilgrim said...

These seem so familiar, like cartoons I grew up reading in the 60's--- Dagwood, Bringing Up Father (Jiggs), Etta Kett, Mark Trail, Steve Canyon, Barney Google and Snuffy Smth....

Newt said...

Pilgrim - many of those strips started in the 30s or even earlier, in the heyday of the bigfoot style. R. Crumb's style owes a lot to these comic strips too. My favorite bigfoot artist, E.C. Segar (Thimble Theatre/Popeye, Sappo) drew in a rougher version of the style.