Category Archives: Animation

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.

Case in point:  Cubby.  Winter Operations Specialist Sub-Zero has a polar bear cub named Cubby.  He wears clothes, stands upright, and he gives Sgt. Slaughter a hard time.  Man, I’m just going to have to do an episode review next post, it’s just too replete with weird and crazy.  Anyway, here’s Russ Heath’s awesome drawing:

Cubby animation model detail by Russ Heath, GI Joe "Cold Shoulder"If you want a whole book of awesome Russ Heath G.I. Joe drawings, go buy this and this.  (If you’re near Boston, buy it here.)  But don’t think too hard about this:

Screencap from 1990 GI Joe episode "Cold Shoulder"

Or do think too hard about it and let me know in the comments.

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Russ Heath G.I. Joe art – Fiona Diamond

Russ Heath detail GI Joe model Fiona Diamond from episode "That's Entertainment"

Season 3 of G.I. Joe, or as the Shout! Factory DVDs call it, Series 2 Season 1, is a mixed bag.  Lots of returning writers, characters, and voice actors, but the show is a different tone.  It’s funny, or tries to be, and there’s not much sense of danger.  I’m never worried for the Joes.  But Russ Heath was on board again drawing model sheets, so that’s a bright spot.  Today’s artwork comes from a ridiculous episode called “That’s Entertainment,” where Cobra Commander kidnaps actor/comedian Jackie Love and decides he wants to make movies.  Really, the less said, the better.  Continue reading

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G.I. Joe commercials – 1987 Effie award winner

Effie Award 1987 catalog partial cover

No doubt you’re familiar with the Academy Awards, given to films and film artists, planners, and scientists.  Or the Emmys, given for television, or the Grammys and Tonys, for recorded music and Broadway theatre.  You’ve maybe heard of the Clios, which we think of as the Oscars of advertising, but that category is more broadly defined on the Clio website as “advertising, design, interactive and communications.”  And there are the Effies, for “marketing communications” — given to marketers by the marketing industry.

G.I. Joe won a silver Effie in 1987. Continue reading

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G.I. Joe Animation Art – “The Wrong Stuff”

GI Joe "The Wrong Stuff" animation cel detail

As much as I love G.I. Joe toys and comics, I was a fan of the animation first.  I went to school for animation, and teach it, and the Sunbow/Marvel G.I. Joe (along with Transformers) are my top shows.  Vivid color, strong animation, smart writing, superb sound design, stellar music, and top-notch voice acting bring me back to these two series again and again.  They’re charming.  And their strengths are such that I can blissfully ignore their many flaws, like the ease with which a squad of Joes flies into space in F-14 jets, or return via parachute.

But Flint Dille and Stanley Ralph Ross’ “The Wrong Stuff,” for all its silliness, is one of the series’ best episodes.  One day I’ll write a long post about it, but in a word, it’s funny.  So let’s celebrate that fun with an original production cel and background of Wild Bill in full astronaut regalia.  Click for larger: Continue reading

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About G.I. Joe

Destro Duke GI Joe action

My article for TheFw is up.  Read it here!

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“The Rotten Egg” storyboards batch 6

Sorry for the delay!  Back to blogging!  Thanks to all the visitors who clicked here while I wasn’t posting.G.I. Joe season 2 storyboard to animation still comparison "The Rotten Egg"

Pages [1-5] [6-7C] [7D-10] [11-15] [16-19] [20-24] [24A-28]

More storyboards from writers Steve Mitchell and Barbara Petty’s “The Rotten Egg,” this time pages 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24.  Sorry, I don’t know who boarded these, but when I do I’ll update this sentence.

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 020

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 021

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 022

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 023

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 024Things will get a little more interesting with batch 7 when the final animation deviates a little from the storyboard.

Pages [1-5] [6-7C] [7D-10] [11-15] [16-19] [20-24] [24A-28]

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“The Rotten Egg” storyboards batch 5

G.I. Joe season 2 storyboard to animation still comparison "The Rotten Egg"

Pages [1-5] [6-7C] [7D-10] [11-15] [16-19] [20-24] [24A-28]

More storyboards.  This time it’s pages 16, 16A, 17, 18, and 19.

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 016

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 017

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 017A

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 018

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 019

Pages [1-5] [6-7C] [7D-10] [11-15] [16-19] [20-24] [24A-28]

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“The Rotten Egg” storyboards batch 4

G.I. Joe season 2 storyboard to animation still comparison "The Rotten Egg"

 

Pages [1-5] [6-7C] [7D-10] [11-15] [16-19]

Something that simultaneously delighted and bothered me as a kid watching G.I. Joe was how obvious certain traps were that the Joes walked headlong into.  Whereas in Larry Hama’s comic-verse, a Cobra military academy in the next state over would have felt right at home with Broca (note the anagram!) Beach and the Cobra Consulate Building.  But here CEC was trying to have it both ways — secret and yet in plain sight.  So it bothered me then, though amuses me now, that Leatherneck tools over on the Silver Mirage, outnumbered a thousand to one, and is actually surprised when what are clearly bad guy cadets turn out to be bad guys.  But Barbara Petty and Steve Mitchell crafted a strong script with great characterization, that delivers something new for the series — a rivalry begun in the past — and manages to be filled with tension and action — mostly sans weapons, while eschewing the “regular” Cobra Command.  No small feat.  Clunky animation, yes?  (See still above, YIKES)  But great boards, of which here are five more pages:

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 011

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 012

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 013

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 014

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 015

Pages [1-5] [6-7C] [7D-10] [11-15] [16-19]

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“The Rotten Egg” storyboards batch 3

G.I. Joe The Rotten Egg storyboards TEASE

Pages [1-5] [6-7C] [7D-10] [11-15] [16-19]

Back to the storyboards for the Season 2 episode, “The Rotten Egg.”  These pages below are drawn by two or three artists, unusual for a Joe board as one artist tended to handle each act.  There may have been deadline trouble, or a change from the director (or Hasbro) necessitated altering shots, and perhaps whoever originated these had already moved on to the next episode.  What is certain is that Mike Vosburg drew some of what’s below — everything but the Wet-Suit close-up on the first page, the top tier of the second page, all of the third page, the first two panels of the fourth page, and probably none of the final page.  Vosburg’s figure work (see big panel above) is angular, and he spots blacks — no sketchy pencil lines, no rounded or bulbous anatomy.  Vosburg is a tremendously talented artist, a post for another day, but for fun trivia I’ll point out he was the only artist who both drew the monthly Marvel comic and also storyboarded for the daily cartoon.  Coincidentally, to boot.  Pages 7D, 8, 9, 9A, and 10:

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 007D

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 008

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 009

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 009A

G.I. Joe "The Rotten Egg" Season 2 storyboard page 010

Next five pages!

Pages [1-5] [6-7C] [7D-10] [11-15] [16-19]

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Sunbow Productions memos

In the 1980s Sunbow Productions, based in New York but with an office in Los Angeles, oversaw production of the animated G.I. Joe cartoon.  Because the show was so intensive — dozens of characters, props, vehicles, and locations, the show bible and “briefing books” were by necessity large three-ring binders filled with photocopies of model sheets, sample dialogue, photos of toys, and lists of names.  All in an effort to properly and correctly feature and advertise Hasbro’s product.  Today’s post is two photocopies of memos to the west coast producers and story editors, likely from Terri Gruskin in NY.

Sunbow Productions internal memos G.I. Joe dated 1984

You may find posts like this — without artwork, or imagery of characters or people — to be dry.  But I find such documents fascinating.  In this case because it’s a reminder that the whole process was a series of revisions and rolling changes.  And even though the memo is unsigned, it’s a concrete document showing a decision being made, and representing the dissemination of that decision.

Also, mid ’84 appears to be when Tomax and Xamot’s names were finalized.  (Without Hasbro documents it would be unfair to call this definitive, but presumably there wasn’t a lag between the decision in Pawtucket and the directive in Los Angeles.)  It’s notable that the TV ad for Marvel Comics’ G.I. Joe issue #37 (printed in spring 1985, but the ad was in the works 6 to 12 months prior) refers to them only as “evil twin brothers,” so their names were in flux while (presumably) Legal cleared them.

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