Thursday, 29 October 2009

A closer look at sequence 3B - Snow White meets animals

Definitely a Snow White craze - while at work this evening I saw a poster for a pantomime version of the story, and I overheard part of a lecture which quoted from a girl who had been to see another pantomime production of it in 1938. Probably one of the Disney-approved ones as they seemed to run the racket on Snow White performances at that time.

OK, open up the drafts on A. Film L.A. and stick Snow White in your DVD player, it's time to take a closer look at scene 3B - Snow White meets animals!

In Michael Barrier's book "Hollywood Cartoons" (which is what I'll probably mean when I refer to "Barrier" from now on) he mentions one of the problems which faced Disney and his employees during the making of the film was the casting of the dwarfs. It was impossible for one animator to handle all the dwarfs' footage, nor was it feasible to assign one animator to each dwarf as they spent so much time all on screen at once, interacting with each other. The result was to have several animators assign to the dwarfs, all of whom at some point animated *all* of the dwarfs, and therefore needing to learn the right way to portray all seven characters.

Presumably no such problem existed with the other group of characters drawn by a group of animators: the forest animals. They're less important to the story and less differentiated, with many being generic rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks. It's interesting to compare the designs to those used in Bambi, originally intended to be the second feature. They are more simply drawn than in the later feature, and I find this makes the rabbits more appealing than Thumper. The deer, on the other hand, I find both designs appealing, but the simpler Snow White design is probably less suited for a feature's main characters.

There are a few animals in this and later sequences who stand out as distinctive characters. Most memorable perhaps is the turtle, but there is also a family of deer and of bluebirds. No animator seems to have been consistenly assigned to these characters with the exception of the three bluebirds, who are usually handled by Eric Larson, including in a substantial section where the youngest of the birds sings with Snow White and hits a "sour note". This scene was obviously added to at a late stage, perhaps even during animation, because as Hans notes, scene numbers run from 15B to 15BBBBB!

Other than that, there are occasional consistent assignments: for example, Larson also animates both scene 9 where a group of squirrels flees into a tree trunk and 10A where they emerge from holes in the tree trunk. However, some assignments seem fairly arbitrary: while Bernard Garbutt animates scene 8 - a group of animals (inluding the doe and fawn) scurrying away, over a log, after Snow White wakes up, and scene 10B, featuring the same animals on the same background, the same set-up is animated at the beginning of the sequence in scene 3 by James Algar. No animator seems to "own" any of the animal characters, except for Larson with the three bluebirds.

All the animators working on this sequence were in Hamilton Luske's unit, as he was the supervising animator for Snow White and the animals. Barrier mentions he had seven animators in his unit: the three who animated the heroine (Grim Natwick, Jack Campbell and Robert Stokes) and the four who animated the animals (who he doesn't name but are presumably the four who animated them in this sequence: Eric Larson, Milt Kahl, James Algar and Bernard Garbutt). Luske also animated the Huntsman in sequence 3A and I'd expect he was the supervisor for the Prince as well, as he was animated by Grim Natwick and Milt Kahl. There are also two more mysterious names on the draft: Maxwell Gray and Tony Rivera. Gray animates the Huntsman in sequence 2B and Rivera's name appears alongside Campbell's, seemingly animating Snow White as well, in sequence 3A. It seems likely they were Luske and Campbell's assistants, respectively, and were assisting on the Snow White animation in this scene as well, but as the animals were also handled by members of Luske's unit, who knows?

Ham Luske actually drew a few of the animal scenes in this sequence himself, including scene 10, the first to feature the bluebird family who, as I mentioned before, were handled by Eric Larson the rest of the time. I wonder why this is. Did he have the technical expertise to animate the fancy flying they do, or did some person in authority feel that the supervisor should do the scene which introduces the characters?

In general Eric Larson animates the most scenes in this sequence and probably is most consistently assigned to specific characters. It's no surprise he became the supervising animator for all the (less anthropomorphic) animal characters in Pinocchio.

The draft Hans has been posting is not a final draft and so there are some interesting differences between it and the finished film. It contains several deleted scenes - this sequence has only one, 27A, and it already has a big question mark over it. There's also a small mistake: scene 15F has the same description as scene 15E, and should be something like "quails come out of cave". Other sequences contain many more scenes that were cut (or changed) later on -- keep checking both A. Film L.A. and this blog to find out more about them!

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