Jim Tyer, Super Genius

Readers of Cartoon Brew should know the name Jim Tyer. He’s the cartoonist whose each and every drawing will immediately make you laugh, and an animation style you can never forget. At first glance his animation looks wrong, sloppy and way off-model. You wonder how he got away with what he did. But upon closer inspection, you realize the guy knew exactly what he was doing, and was a refreshing counterpoint to the Disney-inspired “illusion of life” other animators were striving to achieve. If there is such a thing as a “cult animator”, Tyer would be leader of the pack.

Thad K., who updates his Animation ID blog with neat things everyday, just posted this incredible Tyer sequence below, from a 1950 Terrytoon, Dream Walking. It really sums up everything we love about this animator.


  • Hulky

    I ‘d argue(based on that example) that he’s terribly inept as an animator. The animation is so off model it’s like he did it with his eyes closed. The lip sync is also pretty bad, as well as the comic timing.

  • http://www.flightoftheintruder.blogspot.com Chris Hatfield

    Pretty funny. Maybe I missed the swtup but why are they sleeping in the same bed?

  • Joe Busam

    Seeing this reminds me how much of a void there is in my cartoon collection. I wish there was some way to get these things released on DVD.

  • Doug Drown

    I LOVE Jim Tyer’s work, and have ever since I was a young kid, first saw his rubbery creations and thought, “This is weird.” The guy definitely thought outside the box — WAY outside — and he had not only a manic approach to animation, but even the comic books he drew have a unique appearance, with characters that were sometimes highly detailed but also inappropriately cross-eyed, disproportioned, and just plain googly-looking. Tyer was a genius. I’ve read a bit about him, but not much is suggested about where he might have gotten his ideas.

  • http://utopiamoment.ca jack ruttan

    Makes me think of what John Kricfalusi might have been doing, if he was working in that era. With both the good and bad aspects.

  • http://www.andrews.edu/~drazen/sonic.html Daniel J. Drazen

    Yeah, I remember his work on various “Mighty Mouse” and “Hekyll and Jekyll” cartoons. I always thought his work was out there, but never in a way that turned me off from watching. There are animators who’re technically better but it’s easier to walk away from their toons. I’d compare Tyer’s work to the old George Lichty “Grin and Bear It” cartoon panels: they weren’t even trying to be anywhere near the Milt Caniff school of cartooning, but they got the job done.

  • Chris Carder

    This is the first bit of work I’ve seen by Mr. Tyer. I noticed that he had his main character break the 2D plane and move both towards and away from the camera in two seperate shots. One when he enters the kitchen and one when he goes to answer the door. This seems a bit unconventional and something that I don’t remember seeing used too often in WB animations of the same era.

  • http://portapuppets.does.it uncle wayne

    Wow! Whatta way to start off my Wed. morn. A gorgeous Terrytoon!! Thank YOO!

  • Houmann

    Funny stuff. Reminds me of early ren and stimpy, only with wit, charm, better timing, and better drawing.

  • Brian O.

    Where can we find information about Jim Tyer? I’d like to know more about him, Rod Scribner and others. I’ve read Kim Deitch’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams which was an amalgamation of different personalities but hard to tell where truth and fiction begin and end.

  • Adam

    Tyer proves there’s much more to animation than being on model and in sync.
    That walk near the end of the clip is insanely great.

  • nld

    I agree with the first half of the article: the animation is wrong, sloppy, and way off model.

    everything that comes after that… not so much

  • Just An Opinion

    Do we have examples of him drawing well? I mean doing actual legible drawings? figure studies?

    You know, maybe this is one of those Picasso deals, like when P drew beautiful fully rendered works before delving into the more abstract?

    Or is he just not a very good draftsman? I’d be interested in seeing more, “not so funny” drawings if there’s any around… Jerry? Amid?

    Who knows, maybe it just wasn’t his thing. Enjoyable animation though.

  • Demetre

    Wrong, sloppy, and off model. But hell it’s funny.

  • Nicolas Martinez

    Wonderful, Wonderful stuff.

  • Gene

    The vaults are full of neat and on-model cartoons, and they are boring. Literal minds may accuse Tyer of many things but not boredom, that cardinal sin of filmmaking.

    Gandy Goose and Sourpuss always slept together, as did most great comedy teams in the classic era of vaudeville and film. Bakshi’s “The Ice Goose Cometh” 1987 Mighty Mouse cartoon was made to clarify that very point in their long-running relationship.

    Sad that we live in such times that an obvious genius like Tyer can be so fundamentally misunderstood. If there is any correlation in music to Tyer, it might be Charlie Parker when he first came on the scene, challenging every known rule of playing. There were plenty of squares who were certain what he did wasn’t music.

  • http://cinemahustle.blogspot.com alexander

    That cat’s walk cycle was hilarious! I love Tyer so much, I wish this was uploading in a format you could look at frame by frame.

  • Robert Schaad

    Brilliant! I used to watch/study some of the fight scenes from Heckle and Jeckle in slo-mo on the VCR. An amazing variety of poses and facial expressions. Somehow, even though slightly erratic, it works.

  • http://portapuppets.does.it uncle wayne

    when these characters enter your living room for 2 (or 3) decades +….it’s hard not to love ‘em!

  • Christopher Cook

    Tyer also did some hilarious animation for Famous Studios on some wartime Popeye cartoons.

    Two more hilarious bits of Tyer can be seen in a couple of Heckle & Jeckle cartoons–in “Log Rollers” watch Powerful Pierre’s face as he spreads the gunpowder. It’s a vapid smile and he never stops looking at the camera. In “Goony Golfers,” Jeckle’s moving around of the cup and the bulldog’s subsequent loss of temper are hilarious.

    And during Bakshi’s “Mighty Mouse” show, they had a model sheet marked “Tyer expressions–use with extreme caution!”

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/ Niffiwan

    A joy to watch! I think some people need to be a little more open-minded and see it on its own terms. There’s far more to animation than being on-model and having perfect lip-synching.

    And if you think there isn’t, then you’re really going to hate this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scve7JbhbH4

    or this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_p5hr-szHcw

  • http://btouch.typepad.com/house_that_touch_built/ Brandon Cordy

    That don’t look right at all. And I’m not talking about the animation (which is perfectly wacky in its own fluid way).

  • sharon blondin

    you have what it takes to keep us laughing when the cartoons of today have forgotton comedy and simplicity of stupidity, you are a pleasure to today.

  • Marsh

    Yeah, Tyer’s stuff would never make it past a focus group.

  • Shmorky

    I love love LOVE these cartoons, especially these two characters (which John K has admitted basing most of Ren and Stimpy’s personalities on.) I haven’t been privileged enough to see all of them, but as a boy who liked to rummage through peoples’ classic cartoon collections these ones really stood out as hilarious. I’d love to buy these cartoons if I could find them on DVD/VHS. …even in crappy washed-out quality. I’ve only ever seen bootlegs that other people have though.
    If you don’t laugh at that walk cycle at the end you’re just blind.

  • Theodore

    The only way to see a restored DVD release of Terrytoons classic shorts is to convince Viacom what’s in their vaults is worth releasing.

  • Shmorky

    Ya know, looking back at a lot of his cartoons… do y’think maybe he was a little influenced by Milt Gross?

  • Dock Miles

    There’s a good deal of Disney worship hereabouts, so it’s no surprise that folks might find being “off character” something of a sin, regardless of other considerations.

    My question is — I can understand why Sourpuss has the weird little circle on his foot, it’s a wacky kind of shorthand for paw pads. But why does Gandy have the same circle on his feet?

  • gary hufford

    hi, love Mr. tyer’s GREAT stuff!!!!!!!!