I noticed in the last post that you mentioned glorified bad animation? I'm curious as to which shows you are referring to. Not defending them just curious which ones in particular.
The most glaring example I can think of that isn’t a cartoon obviously produced to sell toys to children (and pretty much all of those are garbage) is The Problem Solverz, which aired for one season on CN. I don’t understand how this even got on tv - I can only imagine that the people who created it must have friends in high places who pulled a few strings. That, or the execs are really that clueless (this wouldn’t surprise me after thinking that CN Real was a good idea). The designs, art direction and animation are so unspeakably bad that if you saw an episode of it without knowing where it came from you’d think it was from a bad flash cartoon or something.
But TPS is an easy target - I would wager most people were turned off by it. A more polarizing example that I’m sure many would vehemently disagree with me is Adventure Time. Don’t get me wrong - AT can be cute and charming at times, and I like the imagination that goes into it. But AT often displays the bare minimum of animation understanding to get by, and because of its popularity I think it sets a really bad precedent for what is considered an animation standard.
I think it’s fine if your character designs are relatively simple and all their limbs are basically noodles if you know what you’re doing already. For example, FLCL would sometimes revert to simpler styles (manga panels, South Park, wobbly/boiling animation) to achieve different looks during the series, but still applied the principles of animation to all their scenes. No matter what the style is, they made it work for animation. The animation never feels like it plays second fiddle to anything else in the series - because after all, why else would it be animated?
But I don’t get the feeling that the creators of AT understand good design for animation, or animation as a whole. In AT, characters simply move from pose to pose, and if they need to do something complex they often just bend haphazardly like a wet noodle to get from drawing A to drawing B. And if they want to be funny, they just draw a silly face on the ‘blank slate’ type look they have on the faces. It’s like a very, very lazy version of the expressionism of an old Warner Bros cartoon or something like Ren & Stimpy, but when going off-model was used wisely there, AT just treats the face area like a whiteboard and nothing else matters.
Basically, I get the vibe that the people behind AT studied animation casually, got the basics of it and never bothered to learn anything more. Many artists become complacent in knowing the bare minimum of something if they can get by, and never really get better. That’s how AT comes off to me. I never see any examples of an animation segment in AT that display the principles of animation in an outstanding way - I think the show’s appeal is mostly driven by the voiceover, comedy styling and the colors - especially the backgrounds, which I think are easily the best part of the show from a visual standpoint.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, however AT can get pretty heavy on the frame count, but it comes off a little contrived when the animation has very little of the 12 principles applied to it. Smooth animation does not always make for good animation. It’s basically polishing a turd, for lack of a better term.
I even recall Thurop Van Orman (creator of Flapjack) saying at one point that bad drawings were often kept and used purposely in cartoons because they were funny. I suppose I can see the humor in that from time to time, but I think it’s gotten to the point where bad art is becoming “hip” and it’s beginning to take priority over artists who actually understand design. There is a difference between an artist being asked to draw ‘bad art’, and someone who doesn’t know how to draw who simply draws badly because they aren’t an artist. And this difference increases ten-fold when you bring something to animation, because animation is a complexly layered process that a layman cannot “fake it to make it”, so to speak.
At the end of the day, most of AT is probably animated overseas anyway, and they are given simple instructions on what to do based on keys and storyboards. That’s what most animation “studios” here in the states have devolved in to. Why? Because it’s cheaper, and all execs care about is money and toy sales. At the very least, I will give AT credit in the ‘soul’ department - it got popular on its own merits, and while I don’t think it’s very funny I understand why a lot of people do.
I just find it troubling seeing many artists and cartoons attempting to be copycats of AT, because it’s a really poisonous example of animation that willfully neglects many strong and important building blocks that shouldn’t be ignored. In 10 years it will probably be something else, and 10 years ago the same story. It’s certainly not the worst trend to hit American animation (Hannah Barbera’s “canned pickle” assembly line era of animation during the Flintstones era was probably the worst), though I hope people who are AT fans dig a little deeper for better stuff out there, and branch out artistically beyond AT’s crude design and animation.
That being said, I do think there are some great examples of cartoons being made today that are genuinely animation-driven, and those cartoons are:
The Amazing World of Gumball
Wander Over Yonder (from none other than Craig McCracken)
And before anyone replies saying something like AT isn’t trying to be an animated masterpiece, yes I know this, and I’m not expecting that they or anyone should. I only believe that animated series should put art and animation before anything else - if you cannot get that right, then you shouldn’t bother unless you’re trying to do something purposely tacky looking like Aqua Teen Hunger Force. If you don’t agree with me, that is fine. I don’t expect everyone to think like me, and I am a stubborn bitch.