I've been thinking a lot about how the classic short cartoon has disappeared from the modern animation world. How do I define "classic cartoon"? Criteria for inclusion would be:
- Full animation (not limited 4 fps TV stuff, but not super fluid animation on 1's, either)
- Over the top 1940's cartoon animation style of motion and expression
- Zany characters who are capable of existing outside of a larger character development "background"
- Primary platform is short material (not feature films or TV shows)
- Backgrounds designed to build a stage for action, not build a world for believability
- Writing is gag centric, not long complex narratives requiring acts
- Primary focus on visual presentation, not dialogue.
- Action and music are joined at the hip. Music is not "stuck on" in post.
In general most animation today is "talky". Lots of dialog. TV animation consists of 5 stock poses and a lot of talking. Kids TV is pretty much the same, but with a lot of screaming (seriously, they scream a lot). Feature films are big money showcases that focus on longer narratives that demand more character development. Not as much screaming, though. For quick giggles or a 60 second bit of diversionary amusement we have Flash animation on the internet, but nobody will confuse that with a classic cartoon. Independent animation often focuses on heavy topics that, while meaningful, usually aren't very fun (JibJab takes on politics, normally not fun, but they make it fun). The studio shorts are mini versions of their big film brethren, and they share the high "per second" budgets and manpower needs of features, too. Now, I'm not saying that all of these are worthless crap. I actually like a lot of stuff. I'm just asking- where is the cartoon?
I'm talking about the unapologetically gag driven, musically integrated, over the top classic 1940's style cartoon? With animation that's not bound by earthly physics? With backgrounds that aren't focused on realistic detail & shadows? With characters that are flatly rendered but expressively drawn? It's gone, isn't it? Other than an occasional try here or there, that form of the craft has faded into the past. Not only is the form gone, but all the guys who made it are gone- and with them the knowledge of how to pull off that style of cartoon. Will it ever come back? Or is it a style of animation whose time has passed?