Why cartoon characters wear gloves

This is the VHS for An Extremely Goofy Movie. It’s the follow up to the cult classic A Goofy Movie and it’s one of my favorite animated films. Now, there’s a moment in this movie where Bobby Zimmeruski, Max’s stoner friend — You know, the one that chugs Cheese Wiz? He says, “Do you ever wonder why we’re always like… wearing gloves?” That’s a damn good question, Bobby. Let’s figure this out. Does the question, “Why do Animated characters wear gloves?”, come up a lot for you? John: The question rarely comes up, but when it does, there are a number of answers to it. That’s John Canemaker, he’s an animation historian and professor at NYU. The most basic theory is that gloves saved time. John: Animation of any kind— even with computers— is a very work-intensive or labor intensive process. “Pardon me. I’ve always wondered how they were made.” At the dawn of animation, everything was hand-drawn over and over and over again. And certain techniques to make the process more efficient shaped the style of the cartoons. John: Felix the Cat, for example, was a very boxy-looking character. As Felix was becoming more popular, the animator Bill Nolan decided to remove his snout and make him more circular overall. John: And that design—what they call the rubber hose and circle design, very spaghetti-like arms of the characters— continued to the design of Mickey Mouse as well. This rubber hose and circle aesthetic allowed animators to quickly draw arms, legs, and heads without spending too much time developing realistic details of the character’s body—like elbows and knees. A round edge was much faster to draw than an angle, and that certainly applied to hands, with all those fingers and knuckles. But hands posed another a problem for animators in the age of fuzzy black and white film. John: Characters were in black and white films difficult to see against their black bodies. Take a look at Mickey Mouse. In 1927’s Plane Crazy he had black hands and feet, just like Felix. He gained shoes by 1928’s Steamboat Willie and in 1929 he’s wearing gloves in The Opry House. The rubber hose style of animation is in full effect here. Every character is exaggerated, round, and simple. And like many of the glove-wearing cartoon characters of his time, Mickey Mouse is a non-human doing very human things. In his 1968 biography, “The Disney Version”, Walt Disney addresses this very issue. He says, “We didn’t want him to have mouse hands, because he was supposed to be more human. So we gave him gloves.” So in addition to saving time and providing color contrast, gloves bring non-human things to life, making their grand gestures stand out. These 1935 tea kettles from Van Beuren Studio have them. This movie camera does too. When Pinocchio is a puppet, he wears gloves. But when he becomes a boy, they disappear. They’re no longer needed. But there’s another, less practical influence behind cartoon characters’ white gloves. The Opry House is a film about Mickey putting on a big vaudeville show. That film and many of the animations that predated it were inextricably linked to vaudeville performance and the blackface minstrel shows of the time. In fact, early animators often performed on vaudeville stages. Nicholas Sammond writes in Birth of An Industry that early animated characters like Felix the Cat, Bimbo, Bosko, and Mickey Mouse “weren’t just like Minstrels, they were Minstrels.” Both the cartoons and the stage characters were portrayed as mischievous and rebellious yet good natured. They wore loose clothes, had painted faces, and … they wore white gloves. In the 1930s vaudeville and blackface minstrelsy declined. White gloves were no longer associated with vaudeville to a new generation of viewers. Instead, they were just part of the cartoon style people came to expect. John: There’s also The Band Concert, do you know that film? It’s from 1935. John: One of the characters is Clarabelle Cow and she plays the flute and her glove gets stuck in the flute [chiuckles] so, really strange without the glove on it. Sixty years later Goofy takes off his gloves before getting in a pool and it’s quite frankly, really disturbing. Now what’s really bothering me is why Daffy Duck and many other animated birds don’t wear gloves. We might never know. Daffy: Look, let’s not split hairs. Why do you even wear gloves? Bugs Bunny: Because, I’ve always worn them. It’s who I am. Why do you wear that thing around your neck? Touché Bugs Bunny. Touché.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. oh my god… just had to go get all woke with this video didnt you. lol. jesus… this is why youre going bankrupt. nobody respects you or takes you seriously.

  2. 4:27
    Pröbably beca6se those particular birds can fly. It would look weird.
    Also, the looney tunes canary bird (i forgot the name) i think is supposed to be more of a real bird than an anthro

  3. So their hands don’t directly touch the filthy, stinky manure they were constantly carrying around and smearing on one another, those sick freaks

    I'm surprised Mickey still has white gloves and still makes cartoons today.

  5. They are black so if their hands are black then you can’t tell where their hands are if they put their hands on their hips or something like that. So i guess it became traditional so then every cartoon character started wearing gloves.

  6. I'm writing one of my junior year essays (IA or Internal Assessment) on the history of the portrayal of African Americans in the entertainment industry of the 20th century, and Nicholas Sammond is one of my main secondary sources. The issue of cartoon gloves comes up in his book (mentioned in the video) and I remembered Vox made a video on cartoon characters wearing gloves. I decided to watch this video again because I hadn't been impacted by the minstrel part as heavily when I saw the vid the first time. Writing this essay has really made me look at a lot of early animation very differently and appreciate some of the animation we have today.

  7. because it takes less work

    who wants to draw detailed hands with wrinkles knuckles and fingernails every slide?

  8. "Why do you wear that thing around your neck?"
    – Bugs to a very petty duck

    I thought that was supposed to be a natural marking – i.e. variation on Daffy's plumage

  9. Because then children would be traumatized if they see dear Mickey with rat claws and wet with sewer juice

  10. “Five fingers looked like too much on such a little figure, so we took one away. That was just one less finger to animate”
    That book just answered my 2nd burning question

  11. They wear gloves to avoid the “uncanny valley” effect, which is the tendency for people to be revolted by creatures that appear almost human.

  12. I think gloves define the focal point, a lot of artists struggle to draw hands gloves are an easier alternative, but Disney and wb are two different styles maybe Warner brothers decided to get away from gloves with their toons almost

  13. Have you ever tried animation with a bird with gloves! Me neither it would be insanely hard and would come out terrible

  14. I remember that in an episode of Mickey Mouse clubhouse Minnie tries on these shoes and she only had one toe😕

  15. Well, I like to think that they have gloves so if they put their hand over their body its visible. Without gloves it looks like it just disappears.

  16. They wanna humanize them, so they won't seem as indifference and we humq tend to be afraid of something that we don't understand. Take God for example, who really look after our image, but with a reverse psychology to make the story sound legit.

  17. I was taken aback when 'black face' was referred to so flippantly. This video would be so much more if it offered contextualization like Nolan Alper-Esko does in their comments

  18. hmm vox asks why they wear gloves
    let me guess their conclusion; because they are rapists and society hates women 🤔

  19. Animated animal characters with gloves, the gloves are actually cyborg hands to augment their non human paws.

Related Post