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On Webcomics Creators as Animators: John Allison

If an animator started out with cartoons and crossed over to live-action later, does that count? Especially if it was often said that he directed cartoons as if they were live-action, and people as if they were cartoons? Frank Tashlin was a bit of an odd duck … fitting, since he did direct some classic Warner Brothers shorts, including the brilliant Elmer/Daffy team-up, The Stupid Cupid (and he would work with Arthur Q. Bryan, the voice of Elmer, several times in live-action film). So let’s call Tashlin an animator who, most of the time, happened to be animating people (people like Tony Randall, Martin & Lewis, and Bob Hope). He’s the most famous director that you’ve never heard of.

Tashlin specialized in a certain kind of humor that comes from a situation where somebody knows that there’s a correct course of action — a polite, proper response to an obstacle — and proceeds to utterly ignore it in favor of a scheme that will absolutely fix everything. No, really it will. In Tashlin’s hands, it leads to milquetoast dudes pretending to be badass gunfighters, disabled military men playing housewife to active-duty spouses, and ad execs masquerading as the lovers of powerful clients. In bad ’70s sitcoms, this model leads inevitably to the line, “Gee, Larry, that’s a wacky idea … but it just might work!” In John Allison’s hands, it leads to Scary Go Round.

What makes John Allison’s work on Scary Go Round (and, earlier, Bobbins) of a piece with Tashlin’s work is this notion of things spiralling out of control because somebody has a plan, a cunning plan (SGR is also reminiscent in this way of the various Blackadder series). It’s perfectly clear that although the world has some odd notes (like ninjas in the garden), there’s a still a set of social norms you should follow: don’t let naked men drink that last of the milk, because your flatmate will move out. Don’t try to jam up a rival with a biker gang, because you’ll end up in service to the devil. Don’t make up lies about a van-eating monster, because you’ll get karmic retribution in the form of hot pie. Don’t forget to tip your porter, or you’ll find out that vampires are biting danger. Just don’t, because that wacky plan has consequences.

Consequences that will be expressed in Allison’s trademark lilting, playful, not-quite-punning way with language. SGR is a place where peace is the new hitting people with wooden spoons, impending doom always comes at bloodbath o’clock, and not flossing leads to Mouth-O-Geddon. Nobody talks like this … except in Tashlin movies.

Sidney: Santy Claus don’t drink.
Gloomy Willie: Oh, no? Well, how come he’s always falling down chimleys?

Chimleys? I think that’s where the skellingtons and demonds hang out in Tackleford, eatin’ their sammiches.

[…] Uncategorized Editor’s note: Been waiting a while to write this one and no, not all webcomics creators are analogous to Warner’s animators. I got a guy in mind that reminds me of Lasseter, but that’s for another day. […]

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