“Limited animation” doesn’t have to mean “uninteresting animation.” Lots of TV commercials produced in the 1950s proved that. And the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons had some interesting animation, too. Unfortunately, that changed within a few years.
Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about. Here’s Jinks walking in “Cousin Tex,” one of the first Pixie and Dixie cartoons produced in 1958. Carlo Vinci is the animator, at least of the drawings below. The walk cycle is eight drawings on twos, meaning the cycle takes up a foot of film. Jinks has a low crotch, so his steps are low. But Carlo’s tried to make the cycle interesting by flipping Jinks’ feet, and dropping a knee almost to the floor while raising the other leg. The cat’s butt sways as well. It’s a unique walk and nice to watch.
Now we’re back to the start of the cycle. See the position of the feet.
Compare that walk to this one Lew Marshall gave to Jinks in “Plutocrat Cat” a couple of seasons later. Again, it’s eight drawings on twos. The arms churn and the butt sways a bit, but it’s pretty conventional.
And we’re back to the start of the cycle.
It isn’t a case of Marshall being a lousy animator. He wasn’t. Marshall came up with some neat takes and poses on Jinks in the 1958-59 season. But as time wore on, the studio’s animation got less distinctive. No one talks about interesting animation when they discuss Lippy and Hardy, or Breezly and Sneezly, or even the Jetsons (design, yes, in the case of the latter). Was the studio just too busy to add little touches to its movement of drawings? Or weren’t they deemed desirable or necessary any more? Perhaps it was a manifestation of the suburban ‘50s, a decade which got blander and more conformist as it wore on. Whatever the case, it was too bad. The studio had the artists who could take some of the limits out of limited animation.