Category Archives: G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes

G.I. Joe: The Movie Animation art – Terror Drome Background Key

GI Joe: The Movie Background Key TerrorDrome Hallway detail by Robert Schaefer

I know you toy types want the toy dope.  But I’m an animation type first, so I’m always pleased to show you something cartoon-related.  Like this background key from 1987’s G.I. Joe: The Movie.  Background keys are not used in the final animation.  They can be without color, or fully painted, and are an overview of what a location — interior or exterior — looks like.  Generally they come before the storyboarding stage, so that storyboard artists know what a location looks like before planning (and drawing) scenes and shots in and around that location.  Keys are used as a reference, too, for background artists and background painters, who will fully realize in line and in color the specific backgrounds needed in every angle called for by the storyboards.

GI Joe: The Movie Background Key TerrorDrome Hallway by Robert Schaefer

This one’s by Robert Schaefer.  His credit in G.I. Joe: The Movie is “Background Art Direction.”  The whole background unit on that production is one BG Supervisor, another three on BG Art Direction, one BG Designer, nine BG painters, and one BG Coordinator.  Some of these folks were in the States at Marvel Productions, others were in Japan at Toei.  (A few uncredited ones may have been elsewhere in Japan or Korea, subcontracted, which I would never be able to track down.)  Schaefer has worked on BGs for Hanna-Barbera, Ruby-Spears, Universal, and Disney Television Animation.  And, probably of most interest to readers of this blog, Marvel Productions, where he also drew and painted on G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Jem.

Here’s how this key was used — for Pythona’s infiltration of the Cobra Terror Drome — note most of all the first shot.

GI Joe: The Movie screencaps for Robert SchaeferAn additional key or two may have been painted to describe these places.  And it’s worth noting that the Terror Drome, both inside and out, had already been visualized in Season 2.  I don’t have information on why any of that was revised or redone for The Movie, but presumably because here Cobra HQ is bigger and more labyrinthine.  But imagine a show like The Simpsons, where a key for the Simpsons’ living room reflects a “standing set” and isn’t often redone.

 

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Mortal Kombat Kano test shot

Mortal Kombat Kano test shot That Sonya Blade post got a lot of nice feedback, so let’s dip our bloody, broken toes back in the Midway pool and take a look at another test shot.

Mortal Kombat Kano test shotAgain, I don’t know anything about MK (although I did see the first film when it was released), so feel free to educate me in the comments about fatalities and the live-action TV show and oh-there-was-probably-a-sanitized-kids-cartoon-on-USA-Network and such.

Mortal Kombat Kano test shotKano here has the same body as 1993 Dice, part of Ninja Force.  Everything is the same neck down.  But Kano gets a new head.  Here’s a link to him fully painted.

Mortal Kombat Kano test shotNote in this test shot that Kano’s arm still has the Cobra logo.  But since Dice’s arms have purple paint, this led me to that one G.I. Joe figure that was recolored from 1993 Dice — 1993 Red Ninja(s).  The Red Ninja arms have the same dark blue as my Kano test shot, so I think that someone at the factory in China pulled the arms off a production Red Ninja and attached it to the otherwise white body and maroon head of test shot Kano.

Mortal Kombat Kano test shotMy test shot Kano has the same “Real Ninja Action/Spring Action FLYING DRAGON” arm thingee movement as Dice and Red Ninja.

Mortal Kombat Kano test shotI think Dice/Red Ninja/Kano had the biggest knee pads of any G.I. Joe toy ever.  That would be quite a Fatality, suffocating an opponent pinned under Kano’s knee.

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Russ Heath – Vindicator model sheet

FutureForce2_TEASE

Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster did a great job putting together two books of G.I. Joe animation model sheets – must-own for Joe art fans.  (A parent was browsing in the “Action” section of my comic book store, pulled from the shelf volume 1 of G.I. Joe Field Manual, and sort of thought it was a coloring book.  I would have spoken up, but it was clear from their casual browsing that they weren’t that interested, and I didn’t want to come across as an aggressive sales person.)  Animation model sheets started out in black and white, and that’s mostly how they were seen by many of the artists who worked on the shows.

FutureForce2_1Or in this case, commercials, since animated Battle Force 2000 only appeared in G.I. Joe advertising.  And I should say that artists tended to see photocopies of them in very-actual black and white.  Rarer is seeing the original art, here, pencil on paper, dark grey on off-white.  Russ Heath, who’s gotten some attention here at A Real American Book, drew today’s post:  Three views of the “Vindicator” hovercraft.    FutureForce2_2This is before Hasbro settled on the name “Battle Force 2000,” when the line was still “Future Force.”  (I’ve seen some Hasbro paperwork with “Future Force” on it.)  What makes these interesting is that they are early versions with different and fewer details than their Battle Force 2000 counterparts.  I’m not sure why, and it’s hard to tell from the ad since that only has four seconds of animation.  To my eyes, these models are clearly drawn from photos of toys (or toy mock-ups) or drawn from objects Heath had in front of him.  So maybe that’s it, maybe they’re referenced from mock-ups.  Not sure how that would have helped the animators, as they’d still need the final model sheets.

FutureForce2_3

Perhaps of note, or not, is that these three drawings weren’t done on the same day.  The top one is dated 9-9-86, the middle one is four days earlier, and the lower one ten days after.  That may not mean anything, as Heath had stacks of drawings to do for any Joe commercial or episode, and was working for multiple productions at any one time.  The other “Future Force” vehicle drawings I have are dated between August 5 and September 19.  That’s a big range for what was all going to appear together in one ad, but maybe it was a package deal — several ads and all their materials (script, boards, designs, sound) going overseas at the same time.  This is all conjecture.

But going back to “early versions with different and fewer details than their Battle Force 2000 counterparts,” you might be hoping for a side-by-side.  So here’s an excerpt from Sorenson and Forster’s book on the left (pg 125), with the comparable pencil drawing on the right.

FutureForce2_2compareSo today we have our usual kind of mystery — discrepancies in design — with some dates and guesses.  Makes you wonder.

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Mortal Kombat Sonya Blade test shot

Mortal Kombat Sonya Blade test shot

Some characters I have simply no attachment to.  That goes for the entirety of the 1994 Mortal Kombat line, and for several reasons:  1) I wasn’t a fan of fighting games.  2) Even if I was, I gravitated towards the drawn style of a Street Fighter II over the photo-realism a Mortal Kombat or Pit Fighter.  3) These aren’t great representations of the characters since they involve so many re-used G.I. Joe parts.  4) Oh, they’re not even in the G.I. Joe line. Continue reading

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Kurt Groen’s Cobra Zombie

Kurt Groen 1990 G.I. Joe Cobra Zombie pencil detail

Hey, all.  Sorry for the delay.  End of school and store events.  But, hey, G.I. Joe!
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Toy Trade News – Feb 1982

Toy Trade News, 17 Feb 1982

This industry publication is a fun time capsule because it was published after G.I. Joe debuted at Toy Fair 1982, but before the product really started hitting shelves.

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Russ Heath “Cubby” model sheet

Cubby animation model detail by Russ Heath, GI Joe "Cold Shoulder"Ho boy.  It’s difficult to discuss the 1989-1991 G.I. Joe animated series without stirring up strong emotions.  Pop culture recognizes the fun of the 1983-1987 series, whether it be Cobra Commander’s voice, the Public Service Announcements, or all the property damage.  And dig a little deeper, and you get superb voice acting, smart writing, and strong characterization.  And of course, action!  But these are not as present in the later episodes.  Artist extraordinaire Russ Heath, who designed the animation character models for the Marvel/Sunbow episodes, did come back for most of that second round, but the change in tone and lower production budget didn’t treat his design work as well.  The DIC run is hard to watch.  Continue reading

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