More storyboards. This time it’s pages 16, 16A, 17, 18, and 19.
Category Archives: Animation
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:
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:
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.
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.
Prose recollections of my life as a G.I. Joe fan continue next week. In the meantime, to celebrate Jim Sorenson’s announcement about his book of G.I. Joe animation model sheets (I helped out a little bit), today’s post features the model sheets for the two boys in PSA #34:
Thanks again to YouTube user PSAGIJoe for uploading the original public service announcements.
I love this one for its mild message about nutrition, rather than the more severe topics of theft, vehicular injury, and death by asphyxiation, as well its catalog of animation mistakes: the color pop on Lifeline’s backpack, the terrible animation of the trio biting and chewing, Lifeline’s ability to talk without chewing, the oddity of bumping into a special forces operative single-handedly juggling fruit while… waiting for us? Also, that weird apple vending machine thing.
Is this just a poorly designed shelf? Are those apples floating in zero G? Is it a graphic of apples printed on the front surface of an apple vending machine? It’s in no way important, but to me it strikes of the cultural divide between America and Japan (or Korea) crossed with an impending deadline. I don’t have the storyboard for this PSA, but I’ll guess that the backgrounds weren’t fully fleshed out. Photocopies went to the animators overseas, where retail stores are a little different, and some talented background painter whipped up this contraption:
Anyway, here’s Terrell Williams and “boy,” all ready for their close-ups.
They’re unsigned, so I don’t know who drew them, but looking over the list of G.I. Joe model designers, I’d guess Carol Lundberg, John Koch, or William Draut.
In this Ted Pedersen-written episode of G.I. Joe from 1985, “Satellite Down,” the Joes track a lost satellite to somewhere in an “unexplored region” of Africa. There they meet a tribe of primitives called Primords, who worship the satellite as a god. And Storm Shadow and Spirit fight!
Here’s Russ Heath’s original artwork (pencil on animation bond — I cropped out the punch holes) for one version, unused in the episode, for the Primord Chief.
I don’t recall when this generic trooper (version two) appeared within the 1984 G.I. Joe animated miniseries, “The Revenge of Cobra,” (feel free to chime in in the comments), but here’s a little art of him. (Version one, not pictured in this post, is sans camo.) First up is a black and white photocopy of the model sheet, with cel paint color codes written in pencil.
And here’s the color model sheet — cel vinyl (like acrylic paint) on the back of an animation cel. Two or three of these were painted for every single character that appeared (standard for animation, not just the G.I. Joe production). One or two stayed in the States, and one or two went overseas with all the scripts, storyboards, and background keys to the animation studio that would produce the bulk of the show, in this case Toei in Japan.
This art is likely Russ Heath, since he’s the main designer credited on “Revenge,” but I should point out that eight other artists appear in the end credits of these five episodes. They did costume changes, props, and lesser background characters so there’s a chance one of them took a Heath drawing of Generic Joe version one and added a few details.
I don’t know if the term “greenshirts” came about in early Joe fandom, or in 2000 when Devil’s Due Press published its G.I. Joe comic book and canonized the term, but I’ve never liked the word (even though it’s wonderfully accurate) because it represents the animation’s misunderstanding of the Joe concept from almost year one. With generic soldiers running around in the background of every episode, G.I. Joe becomes a stand-in for the regular, larger armed forces, rather than Delta Force, (what it’s actually a stand-in for), akin to the A-Team or the Mission: Impossible folks. It’s not hundreds of men and women, it’s five or ten or 20 on smaller missions.
But seriously, I don’t recall when this guy shows up. Do you?
Credited writer Ron Friedman and credited Story Consultant Buzz Dixon have different takes on how much of this they wrote. Based on their recollections from when I interviewed each, as well as their recall on various Rhino Home Video G.I. Joe DVDs from 2003-2004 my sense is that much more of the credit should go to Dixon. I delve into this a bit in Chapter 8 of my book, but either way, here’s the first five pages of screenplay from Sunbow Productions’ 1987 G.I. Joe: The Movie.