In 1998, aged just 14, aspiring young cartoonist Amir Avni decided to send a letter to the creator of Ren & Stimpy, John Kricfalusi, along with a few cartoons he'd drawn, some of which contained relatively unknown characters of John's. An incredibly generous reply soon arrived in the form of the wonderfully supportive, illustrated letter seen below, along with this picture and a book by Preston Blair. When I spoke to Amir in 2010, he said of John's response:
"I think John puts a lot of faith in the younger generation of cartoonists, and wants to make sure they are well educated. He sees the younger generation as the future of cartoons, and that's why he's so approachable and good willed."It's an admirable stance, and one that inspired this particular young animator to follow his dream. He has since studied animation at Sheridan College, has even worked as part of John's Digital Inking crew on the George Liquor Show, and currently, as of 2013, works for Cartoon Network. His brilliant work can be seen at his blog, Toonamir. John's blog is here.
Note: Thanks to the incredible response to this post early-2010, John Kricfalusi subsequently answered questions over on Reddit, who even changed their logo for a day to honour him.
Transcript follows. Huge thanks to both Amir and John.
Thanks for your letter and all your cartoons to look at.
We're having trouble opening your flash files, though; when I click the player it opens a blank screen. I have somebody trying to figure it out. If it doesn't work, maybe you can post them on the web and give me the URL.
Your comics are pretty good, especially your staging and continuity. You might have the makings of a good storyboard artist. I'm sending you a very good how to draw animation book by Preston Blair. Preston was one of Tex Avery's animators. He animated 'Red Hot Riding Hood' and many other characters.
His book shows you very important fundamentals of good cartoon drawing.
Construction. Learn how to construct your drawings out of 3-dimensional objects. Learn how to draw hands so they look solid. I want you to copy the drawings in his book. Start on the first page, draw slow. Look very closely. Measure the proportions. Draw the drawings step-by-step, just the way Preston does.
After you finish each drawing check it carefully against the drawing in the book. (if you do your drawings on tracing paper, you can lay the paper on top of the book to see where you made mistakes. On your drawing write the mistakes. Then do the drawing again, this time correcting the mistakes.
Here's another important piece of information for you:
Good drawing is more important than anything else in animation. More than ideas, style, stories. Everything starts with good drawing. Learn to draw construction, perspective.
Ok, now it's up to you.
Oh, by the way - OLD cartoons (from the 1940'a especially are better than new cartoons. If you copy the drawings in new cartoons you won't learn anything - except how to get bad habits. Look at Tom and Jerry from 1947 - 1954 or Elmer Fudd + Porky Pig from the 40's + early 50's.)
I'm amazed at how much you know about us. How do you know about BIGLOAF? and MILDMAN!
You can see Jimmy + George Liquor on the internet. Oh, I guess you know that.
Allright Bastard, let's get to work. Draw! and slow now.
My email address is [redacted] if you have any questions - not too many I hope! I get a lot of email and it's hard to answer it all.