Friday, May 05, 2006
The Nifty Nineties
The Nifty Nineties is one of the few cartoons directed by Riley Thompson. The Mickey cartoons he directed were sometimes referred to as the "drunk Mickeys," possibly due to the alcohol consumption of the crew (both Fred Moore and Walt Kelly were known to imbibe) or possibly due to the style of animation, as the characters are more flexible in these cartoons than they've ever been.
Thanks to Jenny Lerew of Blackwing Diaries, I have a copy of the animator draft from the studio for this cartoon. The cartoon features an all-star cast of animators, including Fred Moore, Ward Kimball, Walt Kelly, Marvin Woodward, Les Clark, and Bud Swift. There's another animator credited as Smith who is probably Claude Smith. I don't know if the second names attached to some scenes are the names of assistant animators or possibly effects animators. If anybody knows, please comment.
I know that Walt Kelly, later the creator of the Pogo comic strip, animated on Pinocchio, Dumbo and The Reluctant Dragon, but this is the first time I've been able to identify specific scenes that he did. It's clear from his scenes that he was considered a more junior animator. The star Mickey scenes are done by Moore, Clark and Woodward. The broad action Mickey scenes are done by Claude Smith. None of Kelly's shots has much acting potential and he only gets one close-up.
If you are familiar with the entire cartoon, there is a sequence of still artwork which parodies the temperance plays of the 1890's. The drunk in this sequence looks like it's a caricature of storyman and director Dick Huemer, though I can't be sure. Unfortunately, the animator draft only identifies this material as coming from the music room, so I don't know who is responsible for the art.
I love animator drafts for the insights they give into a director's style. Thompson clearly gave animators continuous shots to do. Other directors like Clampett and Culhane were less likely to do that. In addition, Thompson was willing to let animation, rather than layout and cutting, carry the film. Moore's longest shot is his last one, which is 45 feet and 5 frames long. That's just over 30 seconds of continuous animation. Similarly, Kimball's longest shot is his second shot, which is 33 feet and 14 frames, or over 20 seconds. Of course, in the case of Moore and Kimball, the animation is so good and so lively that you're happy to keep watching.
There are mysteries associated with the draft. I have no idea who Elliotte is. He only animated a pair of hands removing a show card. There's information in the footage column that I can't figure out, such as "S & 1/2," "S & 1/4," "1/16S," "1/8S," and "1/4S." The background column includes notations like "NP" and "NS" that are mysteries. If anyone knows what these things refer to, please comment.