Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations.
An example of Rand’s observation, La Linea, aka Mr. Line, a beloved and deceptively simple cartoon character drawn with a single unbroken line, began as a shill for an Italian cookware company. No matter what he manages to get up to in two or three minutes, it’s determined that he’ll eventually butt up against the limitations of his lineal reality. His chattering, apoplectic response proved such a hit with viewers, that a few episodes in, the cookware connection was severed. Mr. Line went on to become a global star in his own right, appearing in 90 short animations throughout his 15-year history, starting in 1971. Find many of the episodes on Youtube here.
The formula does sound rather simple. Animator Osvaldo Cavandoli starts each episode by drawing a horizontal line in white grease pencil. The line takes on human form. Mr. Line’s a zesty guy, the sort who throws himself into whatever it is he’s doing, whether ogling girls at the beach (top), playing classical piano (above) or ice skating (below).
Whenever he bumps up against an obstacle—an uncrossable gap in his baseline, an inadvertently exploded penis (NSFW, below)—he calls upon the godlike hand of the animator to make things right.
(Bawdy humor is a staple of La Linea, though the visual format keeps things fairly chaste. Innuendo aside, it’s about as graphic as a big rig’s silhouetted mudflap girl.)
Voiceover artist Carlo Bonomi contributes a large part of the charm. Mr. Line may speak with an Italian accent, but his vocal track is 90% improvised gibberish, with a smattering of Lombard dialect. Watch him channel the character in the recording booth, below.
I love hearing him take the even-keeled Cavandoli to task. I don’t speak Italian, but I had the sensation I understood where both players are coming from in the scene below.
via E.D.W. Lynch on Laughing Squid