Cartoons That Have Influenced Me: Animaniacs

So, basically immediately after I posted my last blog about what’s influenced me, it was announced Animaniacs was making a return to Hulu.

I watched a metric ton of this show when I was in middle and high school. Reluctant to really get into it at first, my cousin helped get me into this early in the show’s run one Thanksgiving day. It took me a few episodes to really “click” on what was going on, but I realized this was as close to a good, modern day revival of the Looney Tunes format we were going to get.

While that may not exactly sound like glowing praise, allow me to explain — I don’t like things that purely emulate or revive something. Animaniacs stood very, very well on its own and still paid homage to classic Warner Bros animation, without focusing on too much. And it did this much better than Tiny Toons; while Tiny Toons was decent, it was still derivative. Animaniacs paved a lot of new territory, its characters were all new territory. The shows concept, while thin, held together (lost, classic cartoon characters escape confinement, hijinks ensue).

I like large ensemble casts when done well. (There are several examples of this: Looney Tunes/ Merry Melodies, Bloom County, to name a couple), but it’s important that each character stand well on its own. There can be exceptions to this; Mr. Skullhead isn’t exactly a well developed character, but the gags always work. (And yes, my favorite character is by far Wakko, so much so, I spent years honing my impression of him. I’m a blast at parties.)

Razzle is one character who undoubtedly was influenced by this cartoon. Her design is very much akin to the Warner Bros – far more than I intended, to be quite frank. The original notion of the set up with Razzle was to be more akin to 20s/30s animation; but let’s face it; so were Yakko, Wakko and Dot.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on liking Animaniacs — if I was, it certainly wouldn’t be rebooted. I could probably talk ad nauseum about the show (I didn’t even touch the music on the show, which is amazing to say the least), but it wouldn’t be anything that wasn’t already covered anyway by so many other people. Warner Bros. (and the Warner Sister) animation is fairly influential on what I’ve done, and let’s face it – this is a golden, modern example of that, and I’m glad it’s coming back.

Cartoons That Have Influenced Me: Porky In Wackyland

* AUTHOR’S NOTE: Starting this year, I’ll be starting a series of blogs about cartoons, comics, and other visual media that has influenced me – think of this as a small peak into the madness inside my own head.

Porky in Wackyland… Oh, what to say and where do I start with this cartoon?
I can’t think of any cartoon that exemplifies more just what draws me to cartoons in general than Porky in Wackyland. I’m likely parroting a large number of people when I call it Bob Clampett’s finest work. And frankly, this cartoon scared the hell out of me as a kid, but the more I watched it the more it grew on me and warped my fragile little mind.

There’s so much going on, particularly in the first four minutes, that I dont really a recap of the picture is particularly appropriate; plot is minimal and the entire thing is built of a manic pace of surreal images. The film builds its entire premise on building something up, then doing the unexpected, or just plain bizarre to begin with. There’s a small undercurrent of satire, but each example is confined to its specific gag and doesn’t detract from anything else in the film.

In short? Its a masterpiece.

Wackyland plays a huge part of the style in Jason in a Strange Land, and for some imagery and stylistic issues in how I planned on handling Razzle cartoons. While it’s hard to duplicate something like Clampett’s manic pacing in a comic, the throwaway satire was planned for Razzle, and the backgrounds for both cartoons would have been (or are, in Jason’s case) extremely surreal. As I plan the next chapter in Jason In a Strange Land, I am consistently looking back on this cartoon, and this was in fact, the inspiration for writing this series.

On Coloring Characters

I realize that, in practice, I have never actually applied color to two of my characters, Razzle and Jason, despite have a vivid idea of what the colors actually are in my head. Thank the fact that I’ve never had any practical reason to actually do so. Razzle was never fully applied anyway, and Jason has so far gone in black and white. Honestly… I’ve considered doing upcoming installments of Jason in a Strange Land in color, especially as the surrealism of the whole crazy things extends. Considering the way I shade it I don’t think it would be too much of a hassle, as well.

Anyway, without further adieu, Razzle and Jason in glorious color:

One thing that came to clear to me as I was doing this, too – was just how often I make a main character a redhead. Examples throughout the last, oh, 20 or so years:

At least I have enough of a habit of varying the color of red, from Moxie’s coral color to Jason’s wine red. I’ve pondered this, and maybe it’s a penchant for redheads, maybe it’s because there’s a fair amount of red in my hair (depending on the light, har har) itself. It’s possible, there’s certainly a fair amount of me in all my characters — especially the leading ones. Jason’s melancholy, Moxie’s spirit and eagerness, and Sartris especially, as the intent is he’s a very direct reflection of me in many ways, albeit exaggerated in many respects. (more on this in another post).

Despite all this, the red hair has almost always been intentional. Stacy and Jeane are older characters and it’s a bit more difficult to recall correctly, especially since both these characters are more or less retired, anyway, so I don’t feel terribly obligated to dig that deep into my memory as it were. Moxie’s represents eagerness, Sartris’s represents fire. Razzle was meant to contrast the brown on her fur (saturation wise) and Jason’s… well, with Jason, I couldn’t see any other color in my head but that and grey. I think the muted wine color versus a more vibrant red reflects his melancholy as well.

I suppose my next wild project may have a redhead too. Signature of my characters maybe?

Unused Webcomic Idea #1: Razzle

Razzle is probably one of my favorite cartoon character designs, and it actually kind of saddens me I never did much with her.

Aside from being a little Animaniacs-y, Razzle does tickle me because it’s a cat, wearing cat eye glasses. She was the straight person (in a sense) of a trio; the intelligent and gregarious girl along side her friends Hot Candy, a pretty, popular rabbit girl and Bad Medicine, a dour, gothic dog. The character design, again, like Animaniacs, harkened back to old black and white era and the golden age of animation – particularly Harman and Ising and Clampett — rubber hose characters that stretch, squish, and more akin to Clampett, can still be expressive.

Aside from her two diametrically opposing friends, Razzle was an only child to two vague parental figures ( I had not fleshed these two out too terribly much ). In the first story concept I developed for this, her parents adopt a younger brother, who is an adorable mouse. Hijinks ensue as she continuously tries to devour her adopted brother. The story probably would resolve predictably with Razzle accepting her brother as a mouse and protecting him. But occasionally trying to eat him after that. Instinct! Or something.


Bad Medicine, Razzle, and Hot Candy (in order, left to right.)
Original character designs redrawn for your convenience.

The only thing that really kept me from getting this going was story, and how to handle it. The idea, is a little, well… tame, for me. It would almost make a better children’s show than anything else. It’s kind of safe, a bit simplisticly goofy. I never really felt inspired writing Razzle, and never even finished the first script (it’s around, though.) I always liked drawing her, and even for a long time – years – used her as a default mascot for the now defunct apathyzeal.com and the occasionaly avatar around the web.

Unlike Jason In A Strange Land, I don’t have many plans to revisit this comic entirely beyond this post. Still, Razzle remains a favorite design that I’ve done, and I’m sure art of her, at least, will pop up occasionally. Until then, I put the character designs into the illustrations gallery.