Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of John Kricfalusi

John Kricfalusi

Animator (Ren and Stimpy, George Liquor)

Posted in animator, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm John Kricfalusi. I make cartoons and sometimes I make toys. I use to love it when cartoons were allowed to have the characters sell toys of themselves in their own cartoons.

I am currently trying to combine these 2 things I love so much and do it for the web. I also am doing a Kickstarter campaign for a cartoon I really want to make starring the most patriotic guy on the planet, George Liquor, American.

What hardware do you use?

I plan my cartoon stories starting with a short plot outline in Microsoft Word's "outline" view. (like this document). Then I "write" them in detail on storyboards by drawing them. I like to use the crappiest drawing media so as not to be too concerned with the finish look of the storyboards. I want to draw the stories as fast as possible so as to keep a feeling of spontaneity and life in them. I draw with standard Bic ball point pens on lined pads.

My hardware and software knowledge is somewhat limited. I use typical stuff like Macs, Photoshop, Illustrator, Final Cut etc. I animate in ToonBoom, and draw on a Cintiq.

And what software?

I curse the computer and my software all the time. I'm always complaining that whoever designs programs for creative people or artists doesn't really take into consideration how we work and think.

I think programmers like each function to take as many arbitrary steps as possible. Functions that should just be one click of a key take multiple steps and you have to dig through cluttered interfaces to find what you want.

Artists like the tools to be basic and simple instead of buried under thousands or palettes and drag down menus - not interfaces that change with every new incarnation of the same programs! Or when simple commands become more complicated in later incarnations - like when Apple introduced OS X and changed "new folder" from "Command N" to some time wasting drag down menu. Aaargh.

I'm dying to design my own more functional programs. I have been talking to the people at Toonboom and practically begging them to simplify their animation programs to make them more user-friendly. I want to design a plug-in for them that is geared to animation directors and traditional animators.

I time all my cartoons to musical tempos like the directors did for the classic cartoons of the 1930's to the 50's. They used to write the timing on musical bar sheets that are marked off in beats and bars. In the timelines of most animation programs you don't have any way of seeing the overall structure of your timing as you do in music or old time cartoons. Instead you just have a long timeline with hundreds or thousands of individual frames - which is very hard to read.

It would be like having a yardstick that is only marked in 16ths of an inch and you had to keep track of 576 increments. Timelines in animation programs are incredibly primitive.

What would be your dream setup?

Having a small studio with just a handful of top cartoonists and animators. I want to do all the animation with animators of my own choice - artists who are highly skilled and whose styles complement my own.

The current system doesn't work this way. It's impossible to get custom-made animation with the individual artists' personal touches because the animation is sent overseas to factories in Asia (and elsewhere). An assembly line mentality has replaced the traditional animated cartoon's director/ animator oriented system.

In the 1940's a great director like Bob Clampett not only had all his artists and animators on the same floor with him; he also had specific artists who really suited his style - and each animator had his own personal strengths. This way the director could "cast" certain types of scenes to the perfect artist for the job. Today's animation assumes that all artists are alike and they are all made to draw exactly the same. You might as well just have a computer animate whole cartoons by itself. Why have artists at all if they aren't allowed to express their own quirks and personalities?

I'm hoping think that with technology going the way it sort of is, that I will be able to bring back this custom made personal type of entertainment back.

Animators have these advantages today that the classic animators didn't:

The Internet - in particular, blogs (here's a great blog, just one out of thousands). There are a ton of personal blogs online that show art and cartoons in a myriad of styles from the last 100 years and more. We can easily find the most skilled, imaginative and unique cartoonists that ever lived.

Before the blogs, for inspiration, we had to rely on a tiny handful of books written by people who weren't artists themselves and their limited tastes and opinions caused the animation business to gradually decay and become more and more inbred. Maybe the next generation of cartoonists will have a much wider range of styles to inspire them and bring on a 2nd golden age.

Because of programs like Toonboom we can now quickly perform some of the animation workflow that used to be time consuming and expensive - like painting cels, shooting pencil tests and then waiting for days (or months) to see what you did before you have a chance to learn by trial and error. These jobs are almost instantaneous now.

Bringing down the costs of the non-creative, labor intensive aspects of animation should allow for more of the budget to be put into the animation itself. Strangely this hasn't happened in any of the major studios yet. They seem to use computers but still hang on to outdated procedures from the assembly line system of Saturday Morning cartoons.

I think crowd-funding might have a significant impact on not just animation but entertainment, publishing and any other creative endeavors. The idea that you can bypass giant soulless media corporations and reach your audience directly is another revolution in the making. I have just put a cartoon project on Kickstarter and the audience input so far is great.