Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why I didn't really like "Boo Boo Runs Wild" - This May Be My Last John K post for a while

The usual caveats: I know many of the people who worked on this cartoon, and can’t speak highly enough about their talent, and that includes John K.

But on John’s blog he holds up Boo Boo Runs Wild as what really works in a cartoon. I remember watching it a few times – once, the first time, in shock and awe that he got away with what he did. And then, afterwards… Well, that point is for act III of this post.

I have to say, he’s pretty good at making his case over time. I was wondering where this whole “gruntspeak” posting was going – being baffled by how much time and effort he spent discussing the grunting bear in Roger Ramjet.

(For the super hilarious SOMETHINGAWFUL.COM version of these posts, click HERE
and root around. It's awesome.)

Then, of course, I figured it out. It was a couching mechanism for him to pat himself on the back for previous work and point out how words and writers are unimportant in a cartoon.

Fair enough. It's his blog, and it's moderated and doesn't allow anonymous comment so there's no point in even trying to have this discussion there.

So we'll have it here.

But if this is the case, and this is the cartoon is the example of what goes right with animation:



…then lets talk about that.

The cartoon starts at :24 as we pan past a bunch of signs – and ends on a “no shaving” sign on a moose’s ass punctuated by a Bullwinkle Moose, “Hey Watch it!”

From 1:09 to 3:30 – Yogi and Boo Boo wake up, do a funny walk cycle WITHOUT their clothes. There’s a (to me) really funny verbal joke about how all bears must wear at least one human item of clothing, and the bears return to the cave and walk out, repeating the funny walk cycle. We’re 3:30 into the cartoon now.

3:31 – Ranger Smith spends 30 seconds talking to the camera, letting them know he can’t wait to see Yogi screw up.

4:08 – 5:00 – We spend a minute learning “There’s only one thing bears like more than picnic baskets.” Only to have Ranger Smith plop a sign down that says “No tearing of bark.” This sign is never read. And for a cartoon, there’s a hell of a lot of “read me” jokes in here.

From 5:00 – 7:00 –Boo Boo is tired of rules, and is returning to his bear nature. His lips go gray, his nose blue and he now has a different walk cycle as Yogi looks on in horror.

And so ends Act I of a 20 minute cartoon.

I could keep going. I actually did. But as I went on, I found myself getting snarkier and snarkier, and more petty, and that’s not what I’m trying to do. I swear to God.

I think there are some really funny drawings, some excellent timing and some great comedy in here.

But it’s worth asking this: Does this cartoon work because it’s intrinsically hilarious? No. I’m not saying it’s not funny… I’m saying it’s funny because it’s PARODY. A Moose. That isn't Bullwinkle. Talks in Bullwinkle's voice. Parody.

Things work and are funny here because you know the characters already.

Boo Boo SHOULDN’T run wild. Yogi SHOULDN’T attack the ranger. Cindy SHOULDN’T be swapping tongues with Boo Boo. The Ranger shouldn’t be pulling out a gun to shoot Boo Boo.

In the end, this is a story about:
• Boo Boo meets self
• Boo Boo loses self
• Boo Boo gets self back.

But if you don’t know Boo Boo is the sweet bear, and you don’t know Yogi’s history, this might be amusing, but it doesn’t resonate. Every thing that works in this cartoon works because it’s winking at the past.

It is a cartoon animated to entertain animation professionals and animation enthusiasts. THAT’S IT. While there are great things about this cartoon, it’s not work. It’s REWORK.
Even the Gruntspeak isn’t original - it is admittedly an homage to the Roger Ramjet grunting bear.

This work is exactly, I might add, what writers who write scripts have been accused of doing to destroy the industry.

Does the fact that I don't worship "Boo Boo Runs Wild" as the second coming of the animation Christ mean I can't appreciate the joy these people clearly had making the cartoon? No. Does any of the above discussion mean the cartoon shouldn't have been made? Also no.

Why shouldn't people who love something be able to do it, and within doing that, have fun with it?

But honestly - come on. The difference between a Family Guy parody of Yogi Bear and John K's parody of Yogi bear is the Family Guy parody of Yogi Bear would have been 19 minutes and 30 seconds SHORTER.

I’m posting this for three reasons: One, you can dissect ANYBODY’S work and show how it sucks, or how it’s great. Two: You can do it in a civil way, without taking cheap shots and dismissing an entire profession of people. And three, one person’s “homage” is another person’s “blasphemy” and it’s really in the eye of the beholder.

And with that, I throw to the floor.

- Steve

25 comments:

Walt Disney said...

Well done, Steve. Nicely put and presented.

Anonymous said...

Ive been reading this pussy middle of the road "I want to be friends" crap for a bit. You think youre shit doesnt stink?

Who the fuck are you? What the fuck have you done?

Die in obscurity, asswipe.

Stan said...

Ahhh... John K. weighs in.

Kovalic said...

Now, I've got to say, I'm a big fan of John K's stuff. In fact, I just picked up some original artwork of his. Big Ren and Stimpy love, and all. Plus other brilliance. I'm not worthy, yadda, yadda.

Now, there was much that was good about this, but here's my own ignorant, non-industry, sometimes-cartoonist, sometimes-writer take on why this didn't click on all cylinders as a parody.

There's far too much John K in it.

Now, this SHOULD be a good thing. But in a piece that's riffing off an iconic bit, for the most part, I think the iconic bit has to take front and center.

When I first saw "Boo Boo Runs Wild,", I thought that the timing was a little off. Something...just...didn't strike a true chord - or at least didn't strike a chord that should be struck, in the best parodies. Something about the writing...the beats...the pacing...something...

The timing's very Ren and Stimpy, I thought.with the slow burns, the off-note pacing...and that worked brilliantly in Ren and Stimpy. Why doesn't it totally work here?

Only later did it hit me -- it hurts "Boo Boo Runs Wild" as parody, because it's a second voice coming in, taking away from the purity of the central conceit. Unless it's in the context of a larger piece (ie, a short "bit" riffing something in the middle of a larger show), my thought is that this "second voice" in the parody (the first being the Hanna-Barbera riff) adds a comic element that's at odds with the actual parody itself. You have to be a Yogi Bear fan to get the core of the piece, but you need to be a John K fan to get all of it.

The Family Guy Yogi Bear bit was a quick one-two sucker punch, and worked hilariously. "Boo Boo Runs Wild" has a lot of great, neat stuff in it, overall seems to come across less successfully, which is almost ironic, given that it has far more time to explore the nuances of a Yogi Bear short.

Steve said...

Woo.

"Die in obscurity?" That's a little harsh.

Plus, I've done stuff. Shouldn't it be "Die in RELATIVE obscurity?"

Points off for not calling me a hack, by the way.

Please someone notice me said...

No, I'm pretty sure Obscurity is where in you'll die.

Cravingattention@marmelsanidiot.com

Matt Wayne said...

I remember being filled with love as I watched this one and getting restless during the other Ranger Smith cartoon. But I wonder what a room full of kids watching this would sound like. (Or even an all-ages audience.)

I thought the "No Toons" sign was like, "no cartoons," meaning no fun, but an ex-Spumco employee said that John K hates the term "toons." But there's no way to get that. So this was really made for people who not only know classic Yogi, but also know what John K thinks.

Bob Harper said...

To me, Boo Boo Runs Wild isn't a parody so much as it's a new director's take on old characters. Even later episodes of Yogi relied on the audience knowing who the characters were for some of their gags to work.

Even some of Family Guy relies on audiences knowing the characters, and especially the constant parodies of Pop Culture, and even more especially the obscure ones for the joke to work. True those parodies are short but all add up to taking away from the story.
At least Boo-Boo is animated ;).

Point is I'm not here to rag on Family Guy or blow smoke up John K.'s ass, but to show how everyone has a different perspective of what works and doesn't, especially in humor.

Matt Wayne said...

Boo-Boo wasn't a new take on old characters, but a takedown of old characters. The same kind of thing as Harvey Birdman, D.A. which is why Cartoon Network bought it. I thought it was funny, but nowhere near as good or as accessible as the Ren and Stimpy stuff that aired on Spike TV. But I'm sure Ralph Bakshi's appearance had a few folks scratching their heads too.

I'm not saying everybody needs to get every reference, but that the audience's attention tends to wander during Boo-Boo, unless they're grownups and ardent fans of classic limited-animation TV shorts. And again, I think it's really funny. But funny like Andy Kaufman, not like Bill Hanna.

Bob Harper said...

Matt,

I get what your saying. Call it what you will, "take" - "takedown" it is till a new director infusing his sensibilties into some old characters, in this case characters ruined by the same studio that created them.

I've seen this cartoon with a varierty of audiences. Kids laughed at the violence and grunting, the Gen X'ers laughed at the sexual innuendos and the Die Hard HB folks hated what he did to their beloved character - evidently they never saw Yogi's Gang.

I find it funnier than the Spike TV Ren and Stimpys and regret that we won't see more of these kinds of experiments with these characters.

Alex said...

I think it's funny that the moment there's a rational argument against John K's posts, someone has to go and use the term "asswipe." His blog is full of drooling sycophants, so I guess that's not much of a surprise.

I love John K's work. Honestly, a lot of it is hilarious. As an animation student, I really enjoy some of his lectures, too, because he does know what makes animation (as in, the movement itself) funny.

But this whole anti-animation writing thing is just unfair. John's right to say that there are some things that couldn't be done with straightforward "writing." Boo Boo's grunts are funny, for sure. But Steve did a great job of pointing out how much writing there was in Boo Boo Runs Wild.

In this sense, John K is an animation writer as well as an animator. So the real issue is this: is John angry at animation writers for "ruining animation"? Or is he angry at them for ruining his career?

Stan said...

What career?


Sorry. Don't want to anger the asswipe guy.

Matt Wayne said...

Animation writers don't have enough power to ruin John K. We barely have enough power to ruin the scripts we get.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if I do an attack John K post, people will notice my insipid blog.

Anonymous said...

You totally missed the whole point of Boo Boo Runs Wild. First off, it's totally true to the characters. The bears live in a forest and steal picnic baskets. They don't fly around in a space ark riding skateboards and wearing sunglasses and hawaian shirts. The backgrounds are even authentic to the style of the original show. But this familiar 60s cartoon that we all know inside and out now has the story of a 1930s film noir thriller, complete with love triangle, emotional outbursts, a hard boiled cop forced to do his duty, partners selling each other out and a buddy risking everything to save his friend from being destroyed. It has a lot of things going for it that family guy has never had. directoral style, voice acting, animation and design.

Steve said...

Finally. Discussion. I'll save the first part for the last.



::You totally missed the whole point of Boo Boo Runs Wild. First off, it's totally true to the characters. The bears live in a forest and steal picnic baskets.::

And they stand up and talk, but I know that's not the point you're getting at. :)

::They don't fly around in a space ark riding skateboards and wearing sunglasses and hawaian shirts.::

I shiver at that thought.

::The backgrounds are even authentic to the style of the original show.::

Not just the backgrounds, but the backgrounds, the voices, the music, the sound effects.

I think this was done so the "out of character" stuff would pop more - that's what makes parody parody.

So far, we agree more than we disagree.

::But this familiar 60s cartoon that we all know inside and out now has the story of a 1930s film noir thriller, complete with love triangle, emotional outbursts, a hard boiled cop forced to do his duty, partners selling each other out and a buddy risking everything to save his friend from being destroyed. It has a lot of things going for it that family guy has never had. directoral style, voice acting, animation and design.::

Of course, this was signed:

::Anonymous::

I will absolutely say that there are things about "Boo Boo" that resonate with others that don't resonate with me.

I suppose that's probably why it's art. It's different things to different people.

But you also make an interesting point - about me not getting it. Valid. Maybe I didn't.

It's a shame, then, that I don't know anything you and where you're coming from, because your post is well written, reasoned, and interesting.

Are you somebody who worked on the cartoon?

Because if you are, then you know more about the intent than I do. I was watching it for what it was, with new eyes for the first time.

Are you somebody who knows some backstory about the cartoon

From John K, or someone else? Because if you're either of the above, you're pointing out something that might have been intended, but didn't hit everyone.

That doesn't mean I think you're wrong. I see some of the things you're pointing out now. But others, not so much.

So in the end, I'm left with my first opinion - that this was somebody who loved these characters that chose to put his mark on them.

Are you a fan who saw this with no information or wikipedia digging?

Because if you are, that's a totally different conversation. If you went into it with the same amount of preconceived notion that I did, and walked away with a different experience, that's a conversation worth having.

::It has a lot of things going for it that family guy has never had.::

Oh, the Family Guy comment was more about how long a parody on that show is, rather than any specific Yogi Bear parody. To be honest, I didn't even know they DID a Yogi Bear parody on Family Guy.

Anyway - thanks for the opinion. I might not share all of it, but it's not bad insight either.

Insipidly, Asswipily yours,

Steve

Alex said...

Honestly, I didn't mean to imply that animation writers did ruin John K's career, or that they had the power to.

It just seems to me that this is how John perceives it. Or, at least, this is how I perceive it based on how he phrases his rants.

I think Steve and, uh, "anyonymous" both raised good points. I'm aware that the nature of the weblog allows one to give their honest opinions on a subject, and I respect that. John K can say whatever the heck he wants. It makes for an interesting read, anyway.

What I don't understand is how there can't be a "middle of the road" and why Anonymous P. Asswipe thinks this is the "pussy position". Is there any reason animators and animation writers can't agree on something? Yeesh.

Anonymous said...

I like how you reply sentence by sentence but you never seem to adress anything the person says. Clever writing.

Steve said...

I already said what I wanted to say in the post, idiot.

I don't pick fights just for the sake of picking fights... I debate because I have an opinion.

Anonymous said...

its better to debate because you know what youre talking about and youre willing to back it up. you know what they say about opinions being like assholes. everyone has one but most of them stink.

Steve said...

Semantics, anonydude, but I'll take the bait.

Exactly what would you like give my thoughts on?

Anonymous said...

There was a MOUNTAIN of repressed gayness in that film. A mountain.

Anonymous said...

The John K clones are pathetic and mindless. Reasoning with them truly is a waste of breath. This is and has been a fact for a long, long time.

Anonymous said...

"But honestly - come on. The difference between a Family Guy parody of Yogi Bear and John K's parody of Yogi bear is the Family Guy parody of Yogi Bear would have been 19 minutes and 30 seconds SHORTER."

Are you blind, or do you really see no difference between these shows except for content? Ever hear of form? Of course not you're too busy having your irony detector flattered by the Aqua Teens.

As long as "animation writers" refuse to recognize that animation starts with drawings, we're going to be stuck debating the merits of illustrated radio.

Kit Peters said...

I watched this today for the first time. I'm familiar, in a passing way, with Yogi and Boo Boo, and I've watched some Ren & Stimpy. I didn't realize at first that this was done by John K., but I thought it looked a lot like "Ren & Stimpy Meet Yogi Bear", so I guess I wasn't far off. :)

Honestly, I found this jarring. I like the idea of a film noir parody of a classic cartoon, but the excess sound effects, the... grossness, for lack of a better word, of the whole thing. Basically the whole "Ren & Stimpy" vibe really didn't work for me. I haven't watched any R&S recently, so I can't tell you if I've lost my taste for that style of humor as I've gotten older, or if it just didn't work for me in the Yogi Bear context.