The vibe of old-school animation and why we’re still crazy about it?
Do you remember spending vacations at your grandparent’s house, listening to their long stories, in which they were recalling “old good times”, old good music, old good films, old good books, yearning for modern culture (and “young people like you”), that got too excited with technologies, and gadgets? All of that seemed to be a little out there, so you just smile, and nod along, understanding the difference between generations. It is okay.
Here’s something you may find curious. You might not notice how you become one of them. Seriously, and I can explain what kind of trick happened here.
You may not have grandchildren yet, but you may already have nostalgia for old-school animation.
And it doesn’t even depend on whether your profession is related to animation or not. It is just a popular imagination that is a part of your imagination, too, having deep-rooted affection for old-time animation.
Millennials and Zoomers grew up on animated comics, animated films in the early morning, and casually drawn characters.
Despite the high-quality graphics, and fantastic special effects we still love old-school animation, which has already become classic.
On the deeper level it may be about the values, but generally speaking, vintage animation radiated an unusual mixture of ease and dreaming.
It is not like we don’t have it here and now. The balmy pictures are redolent of modern themes, and many subjects really derive from nostalgic gazes on old-fashioned animation. But the source of inspiration remains the same.
“That’s what we’ve gravitated toward our whole life. The massive computer graphics push and digital art push make sense. You can save a lot of money, but it was not the same quality to us as the old-school, hand-drawn art. We wanted to keep things that would make the game look alive like 1930s cartoons.”
Chad Moldenhauer, animation director
When and how did the feeling appear?
Maybe you wonder how it all started.
It was always one of mankind’s greatest dreams to recreate the motion of a picture (and that’s why we call it now in the same way – “motion picture”, because of the picture which moves.. hmm okay I’m sure, you got it).
Of course, it was an uneasy mission, otherwise, it wouldn’t take hundreds of years to complete it. Attempts to capture movement in a picture began in the primeval era, continued in ancient times and led to the appearance of primitive animation in the first half of the 19th century.
We are all familiar with the name Walt Disney, but there were also plenty of people who were working on projects that enabled animation in the future.
Just take a look at this:
- On August 30, 1877, the invention of Emile Raynaud was patented, this day is even considered the birthday of hand-drawn animation;
- James Stuart Blackton created the film “The Enchanted Drawing”, which has not yet had intermediate phases. During this period, he discovers the secret of animation, stop-motion animation, which is also called “One turn, one picture”;
- the American company Vitagraph Company of America releases one of the first animated films by James Stuart Blackton shot on film – “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces”, which was a series of simple drawings depicting funny grimaces;
- in the USA, cartoonist Winsor McKay raises hand-drawn animation to a new level of quality, in 1914 he creates a prototype of an animated series with a common cartoon character Gertie the Dinosaur – the first cartoon character in history endowed with bright personal qualities;
- Winsor McKay created the film “Little Nemo” based on a newspaper comic.
And that’s all before well-known Disney! Moreover – in 1899 Arthur Melbourne-Cooper created the first cartoon commercial for Matches: An Appeal.
It’s really hard to imagine how cool it was in those years. So many attempts, so many works, and so many names that most people don’t know.
The first or definitely one of the first associations with animation that come to mind is Disney.
How does that happen?
“I think people tend to forget the pipeline to produce that look just doesn’t exist anymore. The 1930s were like the most ambitious time in animation — people were just going at it. You had painters who were coming from these prestigious painting schools and illustration schools now learning how to do animation. To re-create that level of art was actually really daunting and difficult for a modern TV pipeline.”
art director Andrea Fernandez
No, I am not going to bother you with squash and stretch (which gives your animated characters and objects the illusion of gravity, weight, mass and flexibility) or staging (a lot like composition in the artwork) or anything else.
What seems to be important to emphasize is how these principles created the very first examples of something we call “old-fashioned” animation today.
“Another part of what I love about the old cartoons is there was always just a hint of a nightmare to it. It wasn’t a horror show, but they didn’t have the constraints of wondering what kids would think. … It’s just that hint of eerie. It’s like the most joyful nightmare you can have, essentially.”
Jared Moldenhauer, animation director
Something should be different, you may say. Agreed. There is a big difference between old times animation and these days approaches to the way of digestion animation by the modern audiences. It is obvious that audiences in the 1930s would be amazed completely just by seeing a drawn character moving. That’s understandable. Today now one would concentrate on just cool-looking animation. We, modern viewers, need storytelling, and plot-driven animation. Just images do not work even on billboards. Always has to be movement, changes in events, etc. Without it, any image won’t be a big surprise for the audience these days.
So, 12 principles of animation put a very beginning to the pictures many people love so much. Also important to note that it was Disney animators who did that. Why? Because Disney is an extremely big part of the whole nostalgia for old times animation.
What is nostalgiacore?
Nostalgia is in some way an engine for our culture in its many forms. We can’t look at the possible future with the same level of warmth and adoration. We have become attached to our collective past and the past we have never seen but get caught by some aesthetic features. Yeah, innovations and hunger for a progressive future are important for almost every modern culture, but that feeling is not as constructive as nostalgia.
This is evident from the content we produce and share – Netflix megahit Bridgerton and Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Mumsnet-friendly Kitchen Disco, an Instagram account dedicated to the clothing in The Sopranos or vintage pages across Tumblr, Pinterest or even YouTube.
Nostalgia is one of the main culturally appropriate and hype feelings we have these days. It is a big trend that makes time swirl.
“While some of the current retro cultures are anemoia – nostalgia for an era you didn’t live through, ie Hailey Bieber obsessing over the ’90s when her birth certificate reads 1996 – The Revival Spiral sees us leaning into a seemingly ever-hastening longing for the recent past. This is possible because change is constant in digital culture, meaning we’re quickly nostalgic for eras that, on paper, we have only just left.”
Lauren Cochrane, journalist
But we would add to this insightful piece that nostalgia for the past isn’t limited by the trend of the recent past. People feel nostalgia for older things. Way older!
Although many people assume that nostalgia is a kind of entertainment, business analysts and founders consider nostalgia as a tool that can help some companies sell.
“A growing body of research reveals that it’s an important psychological resource that helps individuals cope with life’s stressors, build strong relationships, find and maintain meaning in life, and become more creative and inspired. I’ve been conducting research on the psychology of nostalgia for almost 20 years. Based on what I’ve learned, I believe managers can use the power of nostalgia to help their organizations thrive.”
Clay Routledge, Harvard Business Review
Now, let’s try to make it all into one. We have a great tendency toward the old times and their aesthetic, and its cultural tendency; there is a pleasant feeling of nostalgia that helps people build resilience and become more creative. It leads to the next thing.
Among many new things that appear these days, there are also entirely aesthetic movements that are based solely on nostalgia. Just because it is among the main things that draw our attention and makes people romanticise something.
Well, that’s where old-fashioned animation can be a great medium.
“Nostalgiacore is an aesthetic involving nostalgia and archived history. Most senses of nostalgia focus on childhood/teenagehood TV shows, movies, music, snacks, trends, fashion, video games and other forms of technology, Hangout places (such as malls), books, comics, and many other things.”
People might say about their favourite movies, cartoons, and commercials, but in the case of nostalgiacore there is also a great deal of saudade, let’s say so, for the vibe of old times. Even if they have never been there. Maybe, mostly even if they have never been there. Curious, huh?
That’s especially relevant for the animation we are talking about.
“We ended up having a small handful of ‘Silly Symphonies’ and old Fleischer and ComiColor cartoons, which just stuck with us more than … ‘He-Man’ or ‘Ninja Turtles. We just found ourselves always coming back to these old tapes we had.”
Reacquainting the audience with the 30’s animation
The relatively recent “The Cuphead Show!” is both experimental and a way of paying respects to old-time animation we are talking about today. Besides, the directors not only followed their own love for the old animation but also put themselves in the task of reaching out to the audience that might not even know about such animation.
The directors turned their passion for old times animation into a modern revisiting of a genre. Which is also a great contribution to nostalgiacore.
The scenes involve 2D animation tracked over a 3D-sculpted miniature background. It helps to recreate old-fashioned animation, immerse the audience in the atmosphere, and just return back a vibe. But it is also a complex process.
“It’s painstaking and it’s expensive; that’s why it’s not done anymore. But it’s such a signature of those 1930s cartoons. The Fleischers invented this process. [We said], ‘If we’re doing a 1930s show, it has to have that.’”
executive producer Dave Wasson, who developed the Netflix animated series.
The animated series is about brothers Cuphead and Mugman — the characters of the original game. Besides applying stereoscopic animation, the series uses the 1930s cartoon style, reinventing it for the modern audience. Frankly, not that many series we know that would create series in such a genre.
“The Cuphead Show” is the consequence of the directors’ love for experimental hand-drawn cartoons of the 1930s. It includes Walt Disney Productions’ “Silly Symphonies”.
“‘The Skeleton Dance’ by Disney has been burned into my mind from a very young age. We rewatched that a ton throughout our life. The Fleischer series, all of this stuff, we found it so incredible. Back in that era of animation, they didn’t quite understand the subtle nature of acting, which is a benefit because [the animations are] wild and all over the place. We were always drawn to it — something about it just had that extra sparkle.”
Chad Moldenhauer, the director
Here’s an interesting thing: the brothers showed their videos to their friends and realized many of them had never seen that style of animation before. But all of them had an appreciation of what it looked like.
But they also found out another goal, the one we already mentioned: to show people that new old style of animation:
“We’re going to do the exact same thing with the series because there’s a whole generation of kids who’ve grown up with CGI, and they don’t necessarily have the same level of appreciation for this incredibly beautiful, looks-like-hand-painted animation. And now this generation of kids will see it for the first time and go, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve never seen anything like that.’ I think it’s exciting to have the next generation get turned on to it.”
The cartoon should have looked like it was created back at that time.
“It’s not like we made this show that’s for animation scholars. “If you don’t know anything about it and you just like funny pictures, you can still watch it. Hopefully, it will introduce a whole new generation of an audience to this style.”
This is clearly our case: a modern example of nostalgia for old-fashioned animation.
“When we landed on the style, one of the key elements was that the only reason we were going to do this game was keeping the same traditional aspects as the old days,” Moldenhauer says. “If you would have told us how much work it was, we never would have done it.”
Many of us have been growing up watching cartoons. Among them might be really old or relatively old cartoons that somehow correspond to our topic. Often that is the link to the older animation.
Besides the nostalgia movement, so to say, there are also other groups of people that unify around old-time animation. One of them is cartooncore.
The Cartooncore enthusiasts are usually inspired by:
- The 1920s-1930s Rubber-Hose animation (Disney, Fleischer, and Warner Bros)
- 40’s (Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry)
- ’50s-’70s (Hanna-Barbera and Fritz the Cat)
- 80’s (He-man, She-Ra, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and TMNT)
- 90’s (Ren & Stimpy, Beavis and Butthead, Ed, Edd n Eddy, and Johnny Bravo)
An extremely important part of the whole old animation style thing is Disney. You understand that it should become a kind of aesthetic theme, right?
“Disneycore is an aesthetic based around all things Disney. Vintage Disneycore is based around the old classic Disney films and shows whether as Princess Disneycore is constructed around Disney princesses classic or modern. Fashion includes Disney merch, jeans, and Mickey/Minnie Mouse ears or backpacks. Disneycore fans enjoy music such as Disney movie scores, musical songs, and remixes of Disney music.”
Old school animation commercial
Commercial animation is vital for the modern world. For real. Can you imagine there is a great commercial McDonald’s campaign without animated videos? We can’t.
But it didn’t start yesterday. A long time ago people understood how efficient it would be to use animated characters in commercials, and how people would react to them. Just a few examples that were extremely important at the time, but maybe look a bit peculiar these days.
Kelloggs’ Apple Jacks spot commercial is a classic way of using animation back then in 1966. Just look at these characters!
It is curious why people don’t use Bugs Bunny for commercials anymore. A great reference to old times and just an amazing way to nail sales.
Social commercials are at their best, even though they might look a little bit strange to us these days.
As you can see, loving old movies or having an occasional tickle of nostalgia for times you either have or haven’t been in, leads to many forms of manifestation of the love. It could be the whole aesthetic movement, an animated series to pay respects to beloved styles or the great impact on the culture – world culture to be precise.
We can’t say that nostalgia will cease or have a lesser effect on us.
So, why are we still crazy about old-style animation? The reasons, as you see, are plenty. So many factors intersected to manifest saudade for old time, classical drawings despite the innovative nature of our present.
If you would like to have a video in the vintage animation style, you can always contact Darvideo animation studio to discuss a project. We, too, love old animation and occasionally feel nostalgia for it;)