A little over a week ago I had the notion that I should write a piece talking about what I’d learned about cartoons in the past few years. No sooner had the thought occurred to me than I realized that writing such a piece would be difficult. It’s not that I haven’t learned anything, but that what I’ve learned is difficult to summarize.
For the most part I’ve been concerned to analyze and describe cartoons. I’ve learned lots of specific things about specific cartoons, some of which I’ve written about, here and elsewhere, and some of which exists only in notes, or just ideas flitting about in my mind. But general conclusions? Well, cartoons are rich and complex.
That’s hardly a conclusion. In fact, that’s why I started describing them in the first place. I already knew they were rich and complex, so much so that it’s hard to remember, accurately what happens, and how. But when you look, you see things, patterns. And they’re interesting.
I don’t know, they just are. They’re about the human mind. What we don’t know about the human mind – which is quite a bit.
Cartoons may well be the most deliberate and deliberated form or art we’ve got. It’s not only that each second of film requires 8, 10, 12 images, each one hand drawn, in different ‘slices’ and ‘segments’ by different hands. But all those drawings must be coordinated with story, voice acting, music, and sound effects. And that coordination takes a lot of talking a note passing and pointing and shrugging, whatever’s necessary to get across. And so everyone has to think and explain and conceptualize.
And still, in the end – not to mention the beginning – we don’t know what’s going on. Not really. It’s all very deliberate. But the deepest moves are intuitive, unconscious.
Why? Well, it really can’t be any other way, can it? We make art to convey what we can’t conceptualize, think, and talk about. All we can do is say “There it is, that’s what I mean.” And hope it gets over.
And so I watch cartoons. And again. Take notes. Describe. And every once in awhile, actually write something. With pictures. Pulling the sayable from the unsaid.