The Quietly Elegant Background Art of Looney Tunes

The Gaze looks at the quietly elegant background art of Looney Tunes cartoons, noting how when the characters are removed, the screen is still filled with gorgeous liminal space.

When you strip Looney Tunes from all its characters and movement and  music, you discover this hidden dimension filled  with beautiful images that are abandoned, silent,  and kind of creepy sometimes. It’s the complete opposite of what Looney Tunes is. Filled with life and very loud. These background images are liminal spaces. Spaces that are usually filled with life, but are now dead silent.

He further explains how the art was created through layout designers and background artists.

Layout designers come up with the designs and the lighting and the camera angles for each shot of the cartoon, and those  initial designs are then used by the background artists to create the actual backdrops. These  artists are the unsung heroes of the Golden Age of American animation. An age that ran from  the 1930s up until the early 70s.

Looney Tunes Background Art

He also showcases the work of Maurice Noble, an iconic background artist whose career spanned more than six decades.

One of the things he quickly threw out the door was a style of realism that was often used at Disney. …He said that if  you have characters that are mainly lines and flat color, you should follow the same approach in your backgrounds. And if your characters are caricatures of reality, your background art should  be a caricature as well. For instance by adding lots of exaggerated imperfections or by using  stretched out and distorted perspectives.

Finally, he notes how famous works of art inspired the background artists.

Okay, first take a look at this background  from a Looney Tunes cartoon. And now look at this painting by Edward Hopper. Here’s a  De Chirico and a Looney Tunes background. Looney Tunes, Rockwell Kent. Salvador Dali, Looney Tunes.  Looney Tunes, David Hockney. You just cannot look at these backgrounds without noticing some art  references. In fact the images are little works   of art themselves. They don’t need the Looney Tunes  characters and the music and all that jazz to be complete. 

via The Awesomer

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.