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Interesting Facts About Cartoon Animation And Characters

Mickey in Disney's House of Mouse (2001–2003).

As in any genre of film, cartoons have their own lists of interesting facts and milestones. Some of them are quite surprising. Have you ever wondered why cartoon characters have four-fingered hands? Or what the name “Tweety” means? Check out these interesting facts about cartoon animation and characters below.

Four fingers

A lot of cartoon characters have four-fingered hands instead of five. The reason is simple – hands with four fingers are easier to draw and animate. Cartoon characters are always simplified versions of whatever their real life equivalent is. Four-fingered hand saves a lot of time in animating and it really does not make any difference to us while watching. It all started with the very first Mickey Mouse cartoon.

Mickey_Mouse

Walt Disney said that this was both an artistic and financial decision, explaining:

Artistically five digits are too many for a mouse. His hand would look like a bunch of bananas. Financially, not having an extra finger in each of 45,000 drawings that make up a six and one half minute short has saved the Studio millions.

White Gloves

Felix and Inky and Winky in "April Maze" (1930)

Felix and Inky and Winky in “April Maze” (1930)

Have you ever wondered why Mickey Mouse or Goofy wear white gloves? The reason is also simple and goes back to Mickey Mouse and the beginning of the cartoon animation, when cartoons were black and white. Mickey was first given white gloves as a way of contrasting his naturally black hands against his black body. Hands with white gloves were more visible. Felix the Cat is notable for not wearing white gloves and demonstrates why this is a problem. Also Mickey Mouse was not wearing gloves in the first cartoon Steamboat Willie.

Mickey's first appearance in 'Steamboat Willie' (1928).

Mickey’s first appearance in ‘Steamboat Willie’ (1928).

Conspicuously Light Patch

I’m sure you’ve noticed in some cartoons, which part of the background will be used. Every time when a lot of stones, bushes or doors appeared on the screen, I’m sure you were always able to guess which stone or bush is about to move. What makes it obvious is that it is strikingly lighter in color than its surroundings. This is an unintentional artifact from the animation process. Foreground/animated objects are drawn by the main animators separately from the background drawn by different artists. In most cases, these two processes were done at different locations and times, so it was difficult to match object colours with background.

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Collars, neckties and smears

If you look at many of Hanna-Barbera’s most popular characters – Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo – you will see that they wear a necktie or have a prominent collar. These elements also were introduced to reduce costs. In the 1950s, Hanna-Barbera took by the storm the television market with their cartoons. So far, the cost of a 10-minute cartoon was very high, so TV producers could not afford to buy cartoons exclusively for the TV station. They usually bought cartoons that had been previously played in cinemas. Collars allowed animators to keep character’s body static when the character was speaking. The animator re-draw only his head in each frame. That trick reduced time and the number of drawings needed for a seven-minute cartoon from around 14,000 to around 2,000 and the costs decreased significantly.

Yogi Bear and his collar

Yogi Bear and his collar

The studio also made the movement templates for each character, which allowed multiple use of the same drawing. They also used a clever trick with character’s faster movements. Instead of increasing the number of drawings per 24 frames per second (like in Disney cartoons), Hanna-Barbera introduced “smear animation”. When the character moved very fast, they animated rotating wheel of blur lines and (occasionally) visible feet, which was animated in a loop.

The Road Runner and smear animation

The Road Runner and smear animation

Bugs Bunny

A depiction of Bugs' evolution throughout the years.

A depiction of Bugs’ evolution throughout the years.

This animated rabbit is one of the most popular and recognizable cartoon characters in the world. He was “born” in 1938 in Brooklyn, New York City. Mel Blanc is the Bugs Bunny’s original voice actor and his accent is an equal blend of the Bronx and Brooklyn dialects. The inspiration for the creation of Bugs was Clark Gable’s character Peter Warne from the 1934 film It Happened One Night. In one scene, Peter Warne leans against a fence, eating carrots rapidly and talking with his mouth full to Claudette Colbert’s character. Bugs Bunny is the corporate mascot for Warner Brothers. In 2002, he was named by TV Guide as the “greatest cartoon character of all time”.

Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner

Zoom and Bored, 1957.

Zoom and Bored, 1957.

The cartoon was created in 1948 by animation director Chuck Jones for Warner Brothers as a parody of traditional “cat and mouse” cartoons like Tom and Jerry. Wile E. Coyote (also known simply as “The Coyote”) was voiced by Mel Blanc and the Road Runner by Paul Julian. Jones based the Coyote on Mark Twain’s Roughing It, in which Twain describes the coyote as “a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton” that is “a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry”. The Coyote’s name of Wile E. is a play on the word “wily.” The “E” was said to stand for Ethelbert in one issue of a Looney Tunes comic book from 1975, but its writer had not intended it to be canon.

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