Mid-Century Modern Cartoon Style


Mid-Century Modern cartoons have a very unique nostalgic style.  I decided it might be fun to collect some mid-century modern references and write a little about the subject.  I while ago I came across and article about Creating a Mid-Century Illustration on Smashing Magazine that got me thinking about the subject.
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Growing up, I remember watching various Disney cartoon shorts that had this style.   Disney’s  “Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom” and “Melody” come to mind.

4 cave men playing primitive instruments.
From the short Disney Film “Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom” image from Heritage Auctions.

mid-Centrury modern cartoon and man playing sax.

Another prime example would be the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, Fractured Fairly Tales, and Dudley Do-Right by Jay Ward and Bill Scott.

A collage of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Fractured Fairy Tales, and Peabody and Sherman.
Rocky & Bullwinkle, Fractured Fairy Tales, and Peabody and Sherman were great examples of Mid-Century Modern Cartoons.

And there’s also the Hanna Barbera cartoons…

Hanna Barbara Cartoons.

More Modern Examples

Looking at some more modern examples, I recall the end credits of Tangles used a similar style.

Tangled End Credits

end credits from Tangled.

maximus the horse in mid-century modern style.

Tangled Character portraits in quirky mid-century modern style.

Tangled Series – New Spin on Old Look

Rapunzel on a horse illustration.
notice the flat colors and the mid-century-style textures, and quirky shapes.

The Tangle series also took cues from the mid-century modern aesthetic but added a 21st century spin.  They took the mid-century quirky drawing style and softened it a bit, and added a more vibrant color pallet.

lovely landscaptefrom Tangled Before Ever After.
This landscape show beautiful colors that are far more vibrant and varied than you’d see in the classic mid-century modern cartoons.
minor character blowing a horn.
They also didn’t shy away from putting certain elements out of focus. These colors remind me of the hunchback of Notre Dame.
night scene from Tangled Series.
Those barrels are purposely drawn with the flaw perspective often seen in the mid-century modern cartoons. notice how the top is rounded but the bottom is flat.
King and Queen in Tangled Series.
The king and Queen are mostly rendered with flat color, but the queen still has soft lighting on her left side. The column on the left has a rough chalky highlight.
Repunzel with Glowing Hair again.
There’s a lot of detail done with the lighting, but mixed with the roughly drawn grass in the foreground.
Guards breaking down a door.
The guards armor and clothing is smooth. But there is a lot of texture in the door and battering ram. the spiral is drawn with angular lines.
running away on horses.
The cliff has lots of straight lines and bold shapes. the tree has an interesting shape to it’s branches.

Throughout the cartoon you see rough charcoal-like edges, flat colors, and paper textures.  There’s a much greater emphasis on lighting, as compared to the old-mid-century cartoons.  This makes sense as the the gorgeous lighting in the original movie was an iconic part of the film’s look.

Space Illustrations

Beside the traditional fairly tale look.  I’m also interested in mid-century style space illustrations.  I wanted to put a collection together here…

An Illustration by Jez Tuya
space man by Jez Tuya.
space man by Jez Tuya.
star wars t-shirt.
star wars ships in a mid-century modern style.
flying saucers
This has a fun vintage background.
mid century sci fi.
This mid-century sci-fi illustration by Nicole Renski
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