Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

When I was still studying animation at Vancouver Film School, I watched a lot of animation. This proved to be less of a break from the drawing table, and more of a change of pace, because I was still studying the animation, critiquing the character designs, analyzing the camera angles, trying to spot what they'd done well, and what they'd done wrong.

At one point I made the mistake of revisiting one of my all-time favorite childhood cartoons, Rocky & Bullwinkle. As a student of animation, I was horrified. Much of the animation was bad: cycles of three keys with no inbetweens, bodies leveled off in such a way that only the legs moved in a walk, and so forth. But it wasn't just the animation. Everything was sloppy. Frames were out of focus, "cleaned-up" drawings looked smeared, background cels were scratched or panned in the wrong direction, hairs were trapped between levels, greasy fingerprints were left behind. It was filled with glaring problem after glaring problem. As one of my instructors put it, it looked like they got drunk and made a cartoon over the weekend.

But the production value of the show was particularly tragic for one reason: the writing was brilliant. You could listen to the soundtrack without picture and still laugh. It had so much potential, but it was executed so hastily I wanted to weep.

It remains a great example of how to cut corners and, more importantly, what not to do. But I haven't dared watch it again for enjoyment. I've hoped that one day I can overcome my training and see it only for what it could have been. I do so miss Fractured Fairy Tales, Dudley Do-Right Of The Mounties, Aesop And Son, and Peabody's Improbable History.

But today I got a glimmer of hope. In a list of projects rumored to be in production at Dreamworks, there is mention of Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

After so many botched 3D adaptations of television cartoons, I'm usually cautious of such news. But after Sony surprised me with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, I'm a bit more willing to suspend my doubts. Mr. Peabody and Sherman on the big screen? If only I could find the keys to the WABAC machine! In the meantime, check out this concept art of Mr. Peabody.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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