Animation Studies 2 : Toon vs Actor. Research: Dissect and take note – Cool World (1992)

During the picking apart of Cool World, I do want to keep in mind to not compare the story or character style to Who Frames Roger Rabbit.  This is just research to see what works and what doesn’t work, and when it doesn’t work how it relates to the audience.  Keeping in mind that the budget of Cool World was $30 mil. whilst Roger had twice that budget, I do ask myself if the difference between the two in performance is something that money could have fixed or if they simply missed the fundamentals of film and animation.

For Cool World I’ve decided to dissect this clip as to me it shows everything that is wrong with this film. Some might like the story, some might like the scenery, however the film does feel disconnected more than not.  Holli is pretty much a Jessica Rabbit when it comes to her.. assets..  and the cartoon meets real world added to it is what made me decide to take this film as my bad option.  Mind, I have seen several films that translated badly when they tried to merge both dimensions, but this is the one I’ve chosen as it is so much like Who Framed but with all that made Roger Rabbit, taken out.


In Cool World the characters have no depth in their design as the creators did not work with shadows and highlights.  This makes a character look flat and placing that against a very detailed background which has both shadows and highlights creates an odd contrast. The thick lines that are around Holli could have been replaced by a simple rim light from where the light was hitting her frame whilst the opposite side would have (even if it’s a faint) shadow, this would make her connect more with the surrounding and with that the audience would fall for the illusion that she belongs in the animated world.


Size and perspective.
The scene above shows the first time that Holli lays eyes on Frank in this moment. This is also when you first realise their height difference.  She goes to turn and faces him whilst he approaches the camera. During this all, she remains the same size (not proportions though) yet later on in the scene she is shown to be somewhat smaller than he is.   I am pointing this out because it seems to be a vital mistake relating to shadow as she has none which makes her seem more present in the scene and he’s almost drenched in it, which takes away some of his form and this makes him look much smaller than he actually is.  Perspective is needed in order to know the correct height of the animated character and therefore also the correct height difference between the actor and the toon.


Another example of the lack of shadows.  Holli is looking very pasted onto the film, the lack of depth is most crippling and the black outline isn’t contributing any good to the character or the scene.


Decore and usage of.
Where Who Framed Roger Rabbit animated cartoons into scenes with cartoonish looking objects whilst they were real objects, the creators of Cool World decided to create an almost stage like appearance in the scenes.  With which, in all honestly, is nothing wrong with if it translates well with the rest of the scene and characters.  In this case, it doesn’t.  The character design is simple, 50/60’s style but then the decore is an odd .. almost alien type of design which doesn’t relate to the cartoon world it’s part of.  Even with this being a cartoon world, the world itself seems to relate more to Frank than it does to Holli or any of the other cartoons that flop about in the scenes.

Interaction between objects and characters.

Where Who Framed showed all sorts of ways on how to move an object to create the illusion that there is an interaction taking place between the object and the character, Cool World lacked all of this. During this scene Holli is feeling up Frank’s torso, hands running up and down his blazer, but there is no movement what so ever on his blazer. When she pushes him, he moves, so it’s clear that interaction between the two can take place and so there is no reason as to why his blazer won’t move when she traces her hand over it.  This scene, to me, shows pretty much everything that is wrong with this film’s attempt to combine the real with the animated world. The lack of shadows and highlights disconnects the two characters from eachother, it also creates lack of depth which contributes to Holli sucking Frank’s finger not even being noticed by people when they first see it. The eyeline match is a no match, Frank has no idea where he should look to find a connection with Holli’s eyes and so contribute to the illusion of her being infront of him and interacting.  The lack of movement in clothes when it comes to touch takes away even more of the illusion of Holli’s hands being all over Frank.

And last.. but not least..


There is no regard, whatsoever, to Frank .. or even Holli being solid.  Frank’s hands move through her arms, her head moves through his face, her chest should be pressed against his, however it’s drawn in a way that makes her absolute 2d and rendering away the idea that she is interacting properly with an actual person.


And again the lack of proportion, height and size.

Summing up Cool World and what I took from it:

  • Size, proportion, height.  Working with perspective in an establishing shot or wide angle shot, perspective helps alot when it comes to keeping with the right proportions.
  • Shadows and lighting.  This seems much more important than I initially thought.  When researching Roger Rabbit, I thought it was a nice extra, but it affects so much more.  The darkness of the scenes above is so high that Frank simply lives through his highlighted areas and this darkness has no effect whatsoever on Holli, leaving her to stand out much more than she should.
  • Depth and understanding of 3d behaviour on a 2d character. Even if you draw something you have to keep to the basic knowledge of depth and what perspective does to a character.  Holli’s chest press against Frank should not show both of her breasts in the position she is in.  This mistake does make her look flat rather than rounded out with the illusion that she’s an actual person stuck in a cartoon world.
  • Interaction.  Whenever something touches something else, there is some form of interaction.   A rock and a rock rubbing against one another doesn’t do much, but a hand on cloth rubbing upwards creates folds and creases.  Movement such as this helps with the illusion of the two characters interacting with eachother in a real way.
  • Eyeline match.  It has been noted out on how it should be in my previous blog of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but here we have seen what happens if there is no eyeline match. In a photo it seems a bit weird, but in the video itself it takes you right out of the illusion.


A little bit of tweaking to see how it could have been if shadow and highlight was implemented. Added to that, the eyeline match.  There is more of a connection due to the eyeline match and much more depth even with the very light brush of shadow and thin rim light here and there.

To answer my own question at the beginning of the blog..  Yes, money does matter.  The amount of shadow play in Roger Rabbit was that of an insanely high amount, which gave the animators and creators much more time to work on the film, due to a higher budget, however.. they both took around 2 years to make.I do think that Cool World could have worked more on their screenplay regarding simple fundamentals such as the eyeline match, which costs no money and is simply poor directing choices,perspective and concept art to have real knowledge of the size of Holli or any other animated toon.  They could have also placed a shadow or two here and there, they didn’t put up one shadow during the scene above which, honestly, does take away from the screenplay.

1.YouTube. (2017). Cool World – Holli Would and Frank. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Mar. 2017].

Images are screenshots from the video which is referenced above. The last image was edited by myself. 

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