Monday, 7 September 2009

The Pinocchio craze of Ought Seven

When I look back fondly on my days at University, somehow it's the Spring 2007 semester that gives me the most nostalgic glow. However, one of the things about that time which really put it on the map had nothing to do with University life. I refer to when Hans Perk posted the animator drafts for Pinocchio!

In order to understand why that was so great, I need to take you back to the summer of 2002. Some piece of stimulus -- probably the Rankin-Bass animated versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King -- gave me a renewed interest in some of the old animated films - especially the ones from the late '30s and very early '40s: Snow White, Gulliver's Travels, Pinocchio and Hoppity (aka Mr Bug) Goes To Town.

I do remember having that kidhood feeling of fascination/terror regarding Pinocchio. It was probably the one of those films which I had seen the least often... and perhaps that was why it was the one which caught my interest the most, although it would be almost a year before I saw it again. I did read about it, though, in a book that had been in the house a long time, which I had also not looked at for many years: Christopher Finch's The Art of Walt Disney.

In this book I discovered some information about the making of Pinocchio which I probably hadn't paid attention to when I looked in the book before. I learned that different animators were assigned to different characters: for example, Jiminy Cricket's animators included Ward Kimball, Woolie Reitherman and Don Towsley, and Lampwick was animated by Fred Moore. I recognised the names of many animators, and had long been able to distinguish the directors of Warner Brothers cartoons (I could tell a Chuck Jones cartoon from a Bob Clampett cartoon, for example), but this was the first time I had really learned anything about what the actual animators did.

In summer 2003 I had rediscovered "golden age" animation, and I found the Termite Terrace Trading Post on the ToonZone forums. (If those links are confusing you, this was before the TTTP moved to the Golden Age Cartoons forums) And there I was in contact with people who were able to tell you which person was responsible for which character or which scene in almost any cartoon - usually the Tom and Jerry and Warner Bros. shorts. I did hear (read, that is) vague talk about how the Disney studio always kept meticulous animation records, but I knew that if I ever asked the simple question "Who animated what in Pinocchio", even if anyone knew the answer it would be far to big and complicated for them to post.

Then in summer 2006, I saw that some animation historians had set up blogs where they were posting old studio records - animation drafts which listed each individual scene (what we would usually call a "shot") and who animated it. One blogger, Michael Sporn, had even posted up the first few scenes of the Pinocchio draft! But those were the only pages he had. And thus, it wasn't until February 2007 that I was able to finally see that which I had hoped for all those years.

So, over the next few weeks, as Hans posted more and more pages of the animation draft, I would learn the answer to "who animated what." In fact, at the time part of my University work actually involved studying old censuses which had been put onto computer databases and learning what conlusions could be reached from them. So after each of those classes on Tuesday mornings, I'd put aside one set of historical records and check the A. Film L.A. blog to see if a different type of historical records had been posted.

It was the start of a kind of Pinocchio craze among animation bloggers, but that will have to wait for another post...

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