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"TV is such a monster. It swallows up all this animation so fast that nobody seems to care whether it's good or bad. These kids shows are badly done technically; it seems as though nobody really looks at them but the kids...the networks don't look at the show, they just look at the ratings. If the ratings are good, to heck with the show. They don't care whether it's just a bouncing ball."
Friz Freleng, sharing his feelings about some of the detrimental effects of the era.

The unfortunate successor to The Golden Age of Animation, slowly setting in at the late 1950s and slowly fading out at some point during the '80s [1]. Limited Animation was the rule, not the exception during this time. Its start coincided with the Fall of the Studio System in Hollywood. The theatrical short slowly died off, and cartoons moved to television. Naturally, this era would leave a lasting impression on the American culture, for better or for worse, as the primary target audience for cartoons became children.

To start with, Limited Animation was primarily an artistic choice for animators like Chuck Jones and John Hubley who were tired of Disneyfication. With the death of UPA and MGM animation studios, it became primarily about saving time and money.[2] Hanna-Barbera was very prominent during this time, thanks to how cheaply produced and rushed their television cartoons were. Filmation also got its start during this time, although it wouldn't hit its stride until much later during the '80s. In the meantime, it did give us shows like Star Trek the Animated Series (which was a continuation of the original show after it was canceled). However, like Hanna-Barbera, they also relied on notoriously low budget animation (possibly even more so than the other company) and corner cutting to get their cartoons out as quickly and cheaply as possible. Hanna-Barbera writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears also formed Ruby-Spears around this time and churned out a number of properties based on celebrities, toys, and other Animated Adaptations of sitcoms, mimicking their former employer's animated style to a T.

However, this does not mean everything from this era was bad. Disney's output remained generally respectable and generally well animated early on, although Walt Disney's continual lack of involvement with his films due to his focus on television and theme park projects at the time had a noticeable effect in quality on the '60s Disney films, and the inevitable death of the man hit the company extremely hard, sending their studio into a hard slump post-The Jungle Book. Although they would eventually begin to recover with their short adaptations of the Winnie the Pooh stories (which were later made into a feature) as well as The Rescuers, which was something of a throwback to the style of the older Disney films, thanks in part to a Mr. Don Bluth... mind you, he was an employee of Disney at one point in the past. However, Disney would still continue to struggle until the '80s.

Looney Tunes was still producing some decent and entertaining shorts late in The Fifties, as some of its most memorable shorts were from this decade. Animation quality was down, but the writing along with the direction of Chuck Jones managed to produce some timeless classics in spite of that. However, due to budget problems the Warner Bros. company forcibly shut down their animation studio for good in this era. (Although a brief revival was unsuccessfully attempted late during the 60s) But, the characters would get a revival in the form of the smash hit anthology repackaging series The Bugs Bunny Show, which reaired many of their old theatrical cartoons and, exposed to new generations, ultimately helped to immortalize the characters as pop culture icons. (And not just Warner Brothers, either; if any motion picture company had a theatrical short to their name, animated or not, they would be on the bandwagon.) The surviving Golden Age players were about to get back into the game, in a big way.

Limited Animation pioneer Hubley did his best work at UPA in the '50s, with shows such as Gerald McBoing-Boing. Later he left UPA and became a noted independent animator, producing a series of distinctive and personal films with his wife Faith. And this was a booming period for trippy, avant-garde European animation such as Fantastic Planet and Yellow Submarine. In Canada, the National Film Board of Canada encouraged exploration in all kinds of Deranged Animation techniques, most famously with the work of Norman Mclaren who produced wildly creative shorts like Begone Dull Care (Drawn On Film animation set to Oscar Peterson's jazz music), Neighbours (Pixiliation) and Pas Ex Deux (Ballet dance with optical printing enhancements).

Animator Ralph Bakshi, who got his start in this era working in the twilight years of Terry Toons, rose to prominence during this era thanks to Fritz the Cat. This film, along with Watership Down, challenged the idea that cartoons were solely "kids' stuff", an idea that was becoming increasingly popular at the time due to the diminishing quality of the cartoons of that time period, as well as people becoming overly familiar with the Disney style of family oriented entertainment coming out.

Bakshi would also go on to make an animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, which despite extremely mixed critical reaction was ultimately a box office success. Heavy Metal would create its own cult interest late in the game (1981). Even Hanna-Barbera brought a respectable adaptation of Charlotte's Web to the big screen in 1973. And though Your Mileage May Vary on which, some cartoons from this era may have had mediocre to poor animation but were ultimately saved by good writing; shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle would be a particularly good example of that.

Also, Anime was making its first impact in North America with such imports as Astro Boy, Speed Racer, Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets. While it often was crudely Bowdlerized, the form's distinctive look and content created a cult following that would eventually grow into much more.

The Soviet Russia reversal, however, is still at its dirty job. Behind the "iron curtain", many USSR cartoons saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Some are dark, some are educational, some are just damn fun. And not only were successful inside the country (we're not even speaking about a huge amount of fans who loves them even today and makes English translations of these cartoons for you)... one even got a ton of awards. Considerably, the animation cut was not an option for Ivanov-Vano's cartoons made in this era, every one of which made you feel like you're back to Disney's times of rise when hand-drawn people and animals moved as smooth as never before (and after). However, Eastern European Animation also brought us Gene Deitch's Tom and Jerry shorts in the 1960s, which were...interesting to say the least.


Animation Age Ghetto is a trope that has its roots firmly planted in this era. Check it out to see the full impact of this era on the typical viewer's idea of a cartoon nowadays.

Chances are whenever you see a parody of this era or something that was made during it, it's either a Take That or an Affectionate Parody at the least.

For this era's successor, see The Renaissance Age of Animation (which lasted from the 1980s through the '90s).



Characters, films and series that are associated with this era


Animators who are directly associated with this era



Tropes that are associated with this era

 Scooby Doo: Scooby-dooby-doo!

Everyone else: Ahahahahahaha! * iris out on Scooby's face, occasionally with a wink*

Notes

  1. the Dark Age ended for animated movies some time before the change would spread to television as well, not fully disappearing until Disney and Warner improved television animation standards in the late '80s and early '90s
  2. Much like the debate over Flash Animation quality today.
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