Watch La Linea, the Popular 1970s Italian Animations Drawn with a Single Line

Sim­plic­i­ty is not the goal. It is the by-prod­uct of a good idea and mod­est expec­ta­tions.

Thus spake design­er Paul Rand, a man who knew some­thing about mak­ing an impres­sion, hav­ing cre­at­ed icon­ic logos for such imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­niz­able brands as ABC, IBM, and UPS.

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, play­ing clas­si­cal piano or ice skat­ing.

When­ev­er he bumps up against an obstacle—an uncross­able gap in his base­line, an inad­ver­tent­ly explod­ed penis—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.

Watch a big two-hour marathon of La Lin­ea at the top, or the com­plete col­lec­tion here.

via E.D.W. Lynch on Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Dis­ney Car­toon That Intro­duced Mick­ey Mouse & Ani­ma­tion with Sound (1928)

Con­fi­dence: The Car­toon That Helped Amer­i­ca Get Through the Great Depres­sion (1933)

Japan­ese Car­toons from the 1920s and 30s Reveal the Styl­is­tic Roots of Ani­me

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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