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!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Snow White drafts!

Hans Perk has started posting the Snow White animator draft to coincide with the release of the "Plantinum Edition". Will this be the start of a Snow White craze of 2009, like the Pinocchio craze of 2007? If so, I'm not going to be late this time! While I don't have any studio documents myself, I thought I would post some of my own thoughts and discoveries about the information on the draft Hans has so kindly decided to provide.

The casting of the early features interests me... unlike the later films which Hans has posted the drafts for, in Pinocchio and Snow White there were units of animators assigned to each character. We often read about how Snow White was animated by Hamilton Luske (supervising animator), Grim Natwick, Jack Campbell and Robert Stokes (and there's a great article about it here), some of whom also worked on the other "realistic" human characters (Natwick on the Prince, Stokes on the Queen). There also seem to have been units assigned to two distinct *groups* of characters -- the dwarfs and the forest creatures. In the case of the dwarfs in particular, this type of casting seems to have caused a few problems, as recounted in Michael Barrier's book "Hollywood Cartoons", and it will be interesting to see how this is reflected in the assignment of scenes to animators. So you can expect quite a few more posts here responding to the Snow White drafts posted on A. Film L.A.

Friday, 16 October 2009

How dumb do they think kids' TV fans are?

When CITV stopped showing Tiny Toon Adventures at some point in the mid-90s, it was time to rely on buying videos. And thus I discovered the "volumes" of the series on video. These were not the motherlodes of silver-age goodness that the Volume 1 and 2 DVDs are today.

Volume One had New Class Day (segments), Kon-Ducki (full), Toons Take Over (full) and What Makes Toons Tick. It promised a "bonus 20 minutes" but there was none to be found - the small print explained quietly that this meant future volumes would only have three episodes on them.

Then came Volume Two, with Weekday Afternoon Live (full), A Cat's Eye View (segments), Acme Cable TV (full) and Love Disconnection (segments). You might notice that this video had four episodes on it as well. In fact, there was no indication on the back of the box that Love Disconnection was even on the video so maybe someone slipped it on in secret, who knows?

Then there was Volume Three. The blurb on the back announced that the episodes would be Duck In The Dark, Little Cake Of Horrors, Night of the Living Pets and Hare-Raising Night. If you know your TTA well, or take a look at the Tiny Toon Adventures Reference Guide, you'll realise that only Hare Raising Night is an episode - the rest are individual segments, from three different episodes. On the video the first three segments were packaged together like one episode, introduced by a clip from Love Disconnection - which, if you'll remember, was part of the previous volume! To make matters worse, the voice cast lists included the names of the episodes the segments came from, which increased the feeling of being ripped off (there's an episode called Best O' Plucky Duck Day??? why are we only seeing one-third of it?).

Next came Volume Four. I never bought that because the blurb on the back made it clear that it was just Volume One with a new box. Although it's possible it was actually *bits* of Volume One with a new box.

Friday, 9 October 2009

If you're gonna preach, for God's sake preach with conviction!

People often call this Tiny Toon Adventures segment "preachy". I'm not really sure why. In order to be preachy, surely you have to be preaching something. People say it's preaching against eating meat, but when you compare it to the great Simpsons episode "Lisa the Vegetarian" (executive produced by vegetarian David Mirkin) it's really just a cartoon run-around in a factory, and an amusing look at the attitudes to meat production in a world of anthropomorphic animals. (No-one whines about classic Bugs Bunny versus Elmer Fudd cartoons being "anti-hunting" soapboxes, but then, the world has many more meat eaters than hunters)

Of course, the captions "Me" and "David" are not part of the actual episode; they are annotations added by the YouTube poster. I'm interested in the story behind them...

I do rather like the "Happy the Cow" bit (which puts me in mind of Suicide Food) but the gender-confusion irritates me, as you'd probably figured out.

And of course the ending kind of hits you over the head with the message that "this is a fantasy world where even vegetables have feelings - it has nothing to do with real life. We're not suggesting you actually go vegetarian or something!"

I can't speak for other vegans or vegetarians of course, but I expect both we and omnivores have problems with this cartoon, and for completely opposite reasons! But maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The effect of an indoor volcanic eruption on a gym roof

There is one way in which this cartoon is dated... it didn't forsee the effects of social networking websites on goofing off. Other than that, I think it's fairly universal.

Oh, and for those of you who want the bare essentials, here are the rules of Buster's Guide to Goofing Off.

1. Time flies when you're goofing off.
2. Stop and smell the memories.
3. Never let on that you're procrastinating - people might think you're putting things off.
4. Never work on an empty stomach.
5. Short naps give you time to dream about what you're avoiding.
6. Do everything at the last possible moment.
7. Use short cuts whenever possible.
8. No matter what, always be able to run faster than those who don't follow Buster's Guide to Goofing Off.

Is it really worth pointing out that I should be working on an essay right now? :)