The more I examine the animator drafts that are coming to light (and I'm grateful for each and every one of them), the more I realize that our understanding of Disney animation is terribly incomplete. There are animators like Les Clark, whose work in the features isn't all that celebrated, yet here he is doing excellent work that deserves to be talked about. That goes for his scenes in Mr. Duck Steps Out, too.
And it seems that each draft reveals a hidden treasure: Paul Allen in Mr. Duck, Cliff Nordberg in All The Cats Join In and in this cartoon, John Elliotte. He was credited on features throughout the 1940's, but I've never read anything about him and am not aware of any of his feature scenes being identified.
While we know about effects animators like Josh Meador, Ugo D'Orsi or Cy Young, this cartoon has a crew of mostly anonymous effects people who do excellent work.
I can only hope that more of these drafts will come to light, especially for the features. I think that there are surprises awaiting us and many unsung animators whose work deserves recognition. The Nine Old Men are not the only Disney animators worthy of attention and some of them, like Les Clark, haven't gotten the attention they deserve.
This cartoon is a case of many hands all working at a high level. You've got typically great animation by Les Clark, Ward Kimball and Fred Moore, but they don't dominate this cartoon's footage the way they do The Nifty Nineties. Instead, animators like Duncan, Jones, Muse, Woodward and Elliotte manage to do personality-oriented action that maintains the standard, followed by straight action done by James Armstrong and Walt Kelly that makes for an exciting climax. Kimball and Moore return to wrap things up.
Just about every animator here has a highlight scene. Les Clark's entrance for Mickey is a walk that verges on dance. It overflows with personality. Clark also did Donald's first scenes in Mr. Duck, so it appears that he was counted on to set the tone for a character. Ward Kimball's best scene is number 13, where Mickey rakes leaves to the music. Moore follows Kimball in this section and you can see his poses in the model sheets I posted yesterday. Two of Moore's shots run 24 seconds or more (16 and 18), yet they never flag. There's not much in the way of gags in Kimball's and Moore's scenes in this section; the appeal comes strictly from how Mickey moves. That's a testimony to their ability to come up with poses and timing that satisfy your eye.
Ken Muse doesn't have much work in this cartoon, but scenes 25 and 26 are a well done comic struggle with the basket.
This is followed by John Elliotte's work. If I didn't know better, I'd think it was Fred Moore's. He seems to have caught Moore's Mickey proportions well and while his posing isn't quite up to Moore's standard, it's pretty darn close. He draws flexible shapes and has strong contrast in his timing. He has a talent for comic action that keeps Mickey's personality front and center. Mickey sneaking around the building includes some funny foot animation and a good take. The battle with the whirlwind in the bag is some of the best material in the film.
I wish I knew more feature scenes that Walt Kelly animated, because it appears from the shorts that he was considered an action animator. Mickey's run away from the tornado is well done and Kelly does some nice perspective animation of Mickey in the bucket. James Armstrong gets a lot of extreme long shots, but the few places where Mickey is a decent size (scenes 34 and 54) he handles Mickey well.
The whirlwind and its larger version are beautifully animated. Both have personality in addition to good rendering treatments. I don't know who did the marching leaves (either Woodward or Harbough), but they always make me laugh.
There are 27 animators on this cartoon! Contrast that to the half dozen or fewer who would animate on a typical Warner Bros. cartoon. Only the Disney studio had a staff so large that it could throw so many people at a short. And maybe Disney was the only studio where the staff was skilled enough to make a cartoon look consistent when drawn by so many hands.