When I was developing my senior thesis film at Loyola Marymount University, I ran into a huge problem. With my storyboard set and my models ready to go, I had to try and figure out how to animate my 5 minute project, by myself, in a few months, while keeping up with the rest of my schoolwork. My animation professor, Dan McLaughlin suggested that I watch “The Dover Boys” and freeze frame the inbetweens to study Bobo Cannon's usage of blur animation. (For those of you who are wondering what I'm talking about, the blur animation starts at about 3:02 with the introduction of Dan Backslide.)
I was completely enthralled. I saw things moving that only had three inbetweens between them. “I could do that!” I thought to myself. Watching the cartoon, I knew that all I had to do was move the shapes of the characters and stretch the masses from one pose to another. According to what I was freeze framing, I simply had to make sure that the predominant masses and colors were represented in the blur. No antics needed. No overshoots or cushions. Who would’ve guessed that there was such an untapped time-saving style of animation? All I had to do was create strong poses to smear into and I was home free. In short, the technique grew from my college-aged need to do things cheaper, faster, and easier.
The sequence below is from my first Johnny Bravo short. The layout is by Ginny Hawes, the clean up by Miriam Goodman, and I did the inbetweens. In it, Johnny has just slid up to a fine looking zookeeper and proceeds to check his armpit fragrance.
Scenes like the one above were always fun to animate. The only problem we ran into was making sure the masses were colored correctly. Otherwise, the movement would pop. The colorist had to consistently refer to the sequence of drawings to make sure they were keeping the masses consistent.
This type of animation was a key ingredient in helping me create the unique persona of “Johnny Bravo.” I think that it may have had a lot to do with the selling of the show. It made it stand out from the rest of the other projects being pitched by creating a character trait based on the way the character was animated.
It also made for some surreal Dali-esque cel set-ups.
When I got the series, I realized why blur animation wasn’t used very often. It was a special type of animation that had to be called for overseas. Most producers weren’t going to take the time to call for it on the sheets every time (although, I did catch them using it on “Sonic The Hedgehog” when it was still in production). Whatever the reason, I feel fortunate to be able to capitalize on a technique developed by Robert Cannon and Chuck Jones in their original Warner Brothers short.