Saturday, March 15, 2008

"My Friend Rabbit"

I was checking out some of my bookmarked blogs that I hadn't been to in awhile and decided to take a look at Jason Groh's Blammo site. I was quite taken with the publicity image that greeted me in one of his most recent posts, pictured at left, from a new show called "My Friend Rabbit", airing on NBC and also Treehouse here in Canada. Jason, a first-rate cartoonist by the way, is apparently directing this show at Nelvana, so I thought that I should make a point to catch it and see how it looks. 

I caught it on Treehouse today at 1:00 and was quite delighted with it. To be honest, I'm not much of a fan of today's digitally animated TV shows, but this one manages to do the best job I've ever seen with the software it utilizes. (ToonBoom, from what I gather). Yes, there is still some of the computer cutout look that I don't care for, but there is also a lot of real drawing integrated into the animation as well. For instance, when characters walk, their legs and arms are fully animated in the classic style. When they speak, their head shapes may remain static but the mouths are fully articulating the dialogue in a very pleasing manner. There are many original poses created for each scene rather than an over-reliance on "symbols".  But the thing that strikes one initially are the very appealing character and background designs - all rounded, flowing shapes in the more classic studio cartoon approach.

I noticed in the credits that it said that the series was based on the books by Eric Rohmann, so I wanted to see what the original look was that they'd adapted. Interestingly, the animated series put me in mind of Disney's "Winnie-the-Pooh", and seeing the source material from which it is derived makes the comparison seem that much more apt, as the original book illustrations share some similarities to the E.H. Shepard drawings in the Pooh books. Both the Pooh and My Friend Rabbit book illustrations feature designs that are quite charming but perhaps a bit too simplistic to make the transition to animated characters which, in my opinion, need fleshing out in the design to allow for more personality and animated expression. As such, I think that the design team on "My Friend Rabbit" has done a marvelous job at embellishing the designs to make them more appealing and more conducive to the medium of animation.

Though I may not be in the target audience for this show, I know that I would have enjoyed it and been attracted to the design style back when I was of pre-school age. Congratulations to all who are involved in this show - I wish you much success with it! 


Mark Mayerson said...

You realize, of course, that Mr. Caswell is one of the storyboard artists on this series.

Pete Emslie said...

Funnily enough, Mark, I saw his name on the second of the two segments of today's show.

Mitchel Kennedy said...

Finally, a show with designs worth looking at! Peep of course, was my favorite looking children's show on TV -- it won by miles! It's good to see other kids shows being drawn in an appealing way.

Those BGs are rad, too!

J Casual said...

I'm sure Jason and crew are happy to receive complements from such a discerning critic. Thanks.

BLAMMO The Art of Jason Groh said...

Thankyou for the kind review!

We have had a great time making this show and the response has been good so far.
Your observations are right on the money with respect to more individual poses and less reliance on Symbol animation.Your thoughts on the source material and the changes we made to further give options with regard to Animation are also true.
What a great way to start the day reading such pleasant compliments wrapped in no nonsense thought provoking theory!

All te best,

Trevor Thompson said...

Hey Pete,

I thought Toon Boom was only used for ink and paint, and that there wasn't any actual 'animation' being done with the program.

Am I wrong?

- trevor.

Pete Emslie said...

Jason - Admittedly, I'm not crazy about all the digital software being employed now to make cartoons, but I do understand that it's a necessary evil to get anything on the air considering the shrinking budgets and tight schedules. However, it's always gratifying to see committed artists who strive to transcend the look of digital and incorporate the more classic approach of traditional keyframe animation into their efforts. Secondly, the more rounded flowing shapes of your character designs are immediately pleasing to the eye. There is a warm and happy feel to your show that I well appreciate!

Trevor - To be honest, I don't really know just what is capable on ToonBoom. I believe that you can rough out your animation right in the program, then clean them up on another layer. You'd be best to ask somebody else, though - I'm a pencil and paper guy myself!

Trevor Thompson said...

Same here, Pete!

We here at Booo Tooons are working on a cartoon now called 'A Little Fairy Tail' and it's just the three of us.

Matthew Nunnery is one of the three Booo Tooon Marooons and I'd be so lost without him. He's that rare artist who's as masterful with a pencil as he is behind the mouse or tablet... but not me!

Like you, I'm a pencil and paper guy... which is why the cartoon's taking so long to get done.... I'm the director.

But seeing things like "My Friend Rabbit' tells me it won't be long before we can take real advantage of the technology and the shortcuts will look like longcuts.

A fella can dream.

- trevor.

Jenny Lerew said...

I blundered on this show a while back and stopped to watch, for the sheer pleasure of the look. I was really impressed-for all the reasons you state so well. Great job by everyone. They should definitely be proud.

I was chagrined that I'd heard nothing about it before.

Your Blogger- TempleDog! said...

"...the more rounded flowing shapes of your character designs are immediately pleasing to the eye."

You hit the nail on the head, sensei! One of the reasons this series works so well visually is the character design favours those nice "lines of beauty" shapes rather than UPA-style geometrics. Also, arms, legs and tails all have been given a nice range of frames that transition smoothly through actions while still being modular, kind of semi-limited animation. All in all a nicely polished production.

Unknown said...

Just wanted to chime in and say they're doing something right with M.F.R. because my 2 1/2 year old has been obsessed with it for over a year now. She actually recites ENTIRE EPISODES as she goes to bed at night, we can hear her on the baby monitor talking about humpa lumpas and oogey boogeys, followed by a loud "LU LU LU LU LUUUUU"

I wish this show was on more. :-)