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You Can’t Go Home Again

Dover Boys

As much as I love classic animation, I rarely (if ever) enjoy modern-day revivals and tributes to classic animation styles. I shudder every time I see a Tex Avery “take” imitation, a stylized “cartoon modern” character design, a Milt Kahl-ish performance, or yet another rubber-hosed Fleischer-style animated piece. Of course, building on these elements to achieve something new is fantastic, but too many animators view the act of recreating and referencing past styles as an accomplishment in itself. It’s an artistic dead end, explains animator and teacher Mark Mayerson in this must-read blog post. He analyzes a relatively recent Tom & Jerry short The Karate Guard to illustrate his point. It all boils down to this, he says:

Creative works are not only the product of people, they’re also the products of a time and place. As the world keeps changing, it is impossible to recreate something from the past. While artists often wish to duplicate what they love, they can only approximate it. Paradoxically, the closer they get to it, the more they’ve succeeded in doing nothing more than an good imitation. And since the originals are everywhere to begin with, is an imitation necessary?