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Rubber hose animation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short "The Fox Chase" (1928) is an example of the Rubber hose style of animation

Rubber hose animation was the first animation style that became standardized in the American animation field. While the style was replaced with more modern animation techniques over time, there has been a minor revitalization in recent years with modern examples such as the 2017 video game Cuphead and the character Spinel from Steven Universe: The Movie. The defining feature of the style is "rubber hose limbs"—arms, and sometimes legs, that are typically simple, flowing curves, without articulation (no hinged wrists or elbows).[1][2]


Beginnings and rise

In the early days of hand drawn animation in the 1920s, the studios' main areas were not in Hollywood, but New York City. Animation was a new phenomenon and there were no experienced animators; yet there were skilled artists working on newspapers, creating comic strips in a time when even the comic strips themselves were relatively new. Many of them became fascinated with the introduction of moving drawings, and saw them as new possibilities and challenges to use their skills on something they found more exciting than the newspaper strips.

For this reason, many of the first cartoons had many similarities with moving comic strips. The artists experimented with what worked and what did not, and what they could and could not do. In the strips, they had no need to think of their work in three dimensions or how they moved, but at the same time this extra aspect gave them the opportunity to introduce gags and elements not possible in comic stills. Moreover, because the drawings had to be mass-produced to create the illusion of movement, they had to come up with a compromise where characters were less detailed and time consuming, but at the same time alive and complex enough. As animators gained experience through trial, error and collaborations, cartoons became more professional and dominated by specific rules of how to make them.

The studios had to be sensitive to any new business trend to survive the competition. A consequence of this was that the style and design of the most successful and popular cartoons had a great impact on the rest of the animation business. One of the earliest examples was Felix the Cat, who quickly spawned imitators at different studios. Combined with the natural evolution of animation, this resulted in a dominating design that would be known as the rubber hose style, despite individual differences between the studios. Bill Nolan is credited with the introduction of this animation style.[3]

Decline and fall

Rubber hose animation gradually faded away as cartoons were made more sophisticated, especially by Walt Disney. Disney wanted to make his cartoons more realistic and have them follow much of the same rules as live action, a direction that would later be named full animation. Disney saw animation as a potential surrogate for live action, where he could do what was impossible in live action once it achieved his demands of realism. This direction did not allow the fluid bodies seen in the rubber hose style and, due to Disney's success, this trend was spread to the remaining producers of cartoons through demands from their Hollywood distributors.

Rubber-hose trademarks appeared in some later cartoons, including those of Tex Avery for MGM, The Warner Siblings for WB Animation, or Ren and Stimpy, but the original style and its influence became a part of animation history by the start of the 1930s, and went out of favor by the mid-1930s. Fleischer Studios held to it the longest, finally conforming to the more contemporary West Coast animation style by 1940. The style's influence, however, still continues into the present, with shows like Adventure Time incorporating some of rubber hose animation's elements.[4]

Influence in modern media

While there are not many uses of rubber hose animation today, there are some media that pay homage to the animation style.

Theatrical animated shorts

In 2013, Walt Disney Animation Studios produced a 3D animated slapstick comedy short film, using the style.[5] Get a Horse! combines black-and-white hand-drawn animation and color[6] CGI animation, the short features the characters of the late 1920s Mickey Mouse cartoons, and features archival recordings of Walt Disney in a posthumous role as Mickey Mouse.[7][8] It is the first original Mickey Mouse theatrical animated short since Runaway Brain (1995), and the first appearance of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in a Disney animated production in 85 years.

Video games

Some video games use rubber hose animation, including Kingdom Hearts, Epic Mickey, Skullgirls, Bendy and the Ink Machine, Cuphead, and even the old Sonic the Hedgehog games, shows and comics. Kingdom Hearts uses the rubber hose animation style in one of the levels as a homage to the classic way of animating. Epic Mickey is a Disney game that utilizes the classic style of Disney characters, bringing them back to the 1930s look. Skullgirls includes the playable character "Peacock", whose visual design and attacks draw from 1920s animation tropes. Bendy and the Ink Machine's characters are based on 1920s rubber hose animation, having the appearance of old black and white cartoons. The animation for each of Cuphead's numerous characters and creatures relies heavily on techniques pioneered by the animation style; its creators wanted players to feel as though they were watching a 1930s cartoon. Sonic the Hedgehog also had rubber hose limbs, especially in the games in the 90s. An example of his rubber hose limbs is evident in his trademark pose of one hand on his hip, a waving finger and crossed legs, seen on the box art of his original game.


The Futurama episode "Reincarnation", in its segment "Colorama", uses rubber hose animation. In this portion of the episode, the characters are rather bouncy and have an air of playfulness about them.

Another prominent use of rubber hose animation is Disney Television's Mickey Mouse. The series has the slapstick feel of the original Mickey Mouse shorts, while providing a modern update with the extensive use of Toon Boom and Flash animation, and "presents Mickey in a broad range of humorous situations that showcase his pluck and rascality, along with his long-beloved charm and good-heartedness.[9][10]

The claymation TV series, Pingu has techniques incorporated in its animation, such as having characters have their upper body stretch to reach up or roll up in a ball.

In the episode Truth or Square from the television series SpongeBob SquarePants, Patchy the Pirate presents a film of how the cartoon would have been like if it was made in the 1930s. In the film, the animation is done in rubber hose animation and the song used is called Rubber Hose Rag.[11]

In the episode "It's A Wonderful Half-Life" from CatDog, the dream sequence for the entire episode is done in the style of the 1920's-1930's cartoons, and the characters all have pie eyes.

Mondo Media's Happy Tree Friends is done in rubber hose style using Flash animation and most of the characters have 'pie eyes', which are in the shape of Pac-Man's body and that resemble eyes from rubber hose characters from the golden period of this animation style, the 1920s and 1930s.

In Steven Universe: The Movie, the main antagonist Spinel is animated in this style but other characters remain animated in the more contemporary style typical of the series so far. Spinel uses this stretchy and unarticulated movement to her advantage, stretching and morphing her limbs into objects she uses in battle to get the upper hand. Her main song and most of her music themes are in Electroswing, a modern twist on music from the time period where Spinel's character inspiration came from.

In Bojack Horseman season 6, the conglomerate Whitewhale plays a video to new corporate employees which includes several animation techniques different from the dominant style of the show, including a segment done in classic rubber hose animation.

Music videos

The video for Dua Lipa's single "Hallucinate" depicts Lipa and a series of fantastical characters in rubber hose animation.

Ghostmane released a music video for his song "AI" that portrays the artist in a combination of rubber hose animation and stop motion animation.


*laugh track intesifies*
The "Patron Saint" Image of the cartoon cat

The found-footage style creature "Cartoon cat" made by Trevor Henderson has a rubber hose design and has the ability to do the things a rubber hose cartoon character can do for sinister and murderous purposes.


  1. ^ "John Kricfalusi "All Kinds of Stuff" blog entry, "Help Me Do Some Rubber Hose Crap."".
  2. ^ Beiman, Nancy (2017-08-06). Animated Performance: Bringing Imaginary Animal, Human and Fantasy Characters to Life. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-350-03962-9. While “rubber hose” characters can be amusing, it is difficult to create a subtle acting performance in this style of animation. Rubber-hose animation handles squash, stretch, and other distortions in a technique that calls attention to itself.
  3. ^ Arnold, Gordon B. (2017). Animation and the American Imagination. p. 30. ISBN 9781440833601.
  4. ^ "The Basics of Animation Style Guides". Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Disney Animation preview: 'Frozen,' 'Big Hero 6' at Disney's D23; Plus 'Zootopia' announced".
  6. ^ "Old-school Mickey Mouse gets future shock in 'Get a Horse!' FIRST LOOK".
  7. ^ Keegan, Rebecca (23 April 2013). "Walt Disney Animation releases new Mickey Mouse short". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "
  10. ^ Suszek, Mike (January 4, 2014). "1930s cartoon-inspired Cuphead targeting late 2014 on PC". Joystiq. AOL Tech. Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  11. ^ "SpongeBob: Truth or Square - Rubber Hose Rag song".
This page was last edited on 9 September 2021, at 09:47
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