Friday, May 10, 2013

Cartoon-onomics

Allie asked me how they make cartoons talk.
Did you ever have one of those out of body experiences where you try to look at life through the eyes of a five year old? You weren’t very good at it?  Me neither. It was like . . . driving a big ol’ klunker bus down the highway doing sixty and suddenly throwing it in reverse.  Stripped gears, baby. And horrible engine sounds.  Pretty sure that’s what this conversation was like to my little granddaughter.
I gave it my best shot.
Quickly I scanned through the grown-up catalog in my brain of real life ways to explain a cartoon to a kid. It was a pretty outdated catalog, but I found what I thought was a genius idea.  Quickly, I ran into our office, grabbed a pencil and a half-used pad of post-it notes, and began drawing the worst-ever jumping stick-figure flip-book in the history of cartooning.  The heads got alternately larger and smaller on each page which made it look like they were inflating and deflating for no particular reason. And while the legs were in motion, they also grew remarkably longer and shorter throughout the tiny little epic—kind of like accordion action figures.
I didn’t know if Allie understood what I was trying to show her about cartoon cells done the old-fashioned way, but when I finished and enthusiastically flipped the home-made movie for her, she politely said,
“That’s good, YaYa.  But how do they talk?”
Oh, yeah. Talking. I decided to tap into her love of Disney’s movie, Tangled.
“See, Allie,” I began, “somebody drew better pictures than these and made, like, a video of them but there were thousands and thousands of these kinds of pages with Rapunzel on them, and while they played the movie one day, a woman stood at a microphone and they recorded her voice saying all the things you hear in the movie and when they put it all together, the pictures and the recorded voices, they had Tangled. 
“So it’s a made up story that looks real, but actually it’s somebody’s voice along with pictures drawn by an artist.  See?”  I concluded.
Allie looked very serious. At first she said nothing as what I’d told her sunk in. And then she sternly corrected my feeble explanation.
“But, YaYa, Rapunzel is real.  I saw her at Disneyland.  She’s real.
And that’s when the blood all drained to my feet and they took away my grandma card.
Hmm.  Guess I drove that bus into a lake.
At least she still believes in the tooth fairy.

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