Sunday, July 02, 2006

Alice Meets the Cheshire Cat

Thanks to Hans Perk's documentation and Thad K.'s editing prowess, here's the sequence where Alice first meets the Cheshire Cat.

It's interesting to see how Don Lusk is relegated to long shots or shots with unimportant dialogue and Marc Davis takes all of the important Alice shots. I can't help but wonder how Lusk, a long time animator at the studio, felt about the shots he was given. Alice is a real drawing challenge. Her proportions have to be rock solid; her facial features are not connected to each other like cartoonier designs, so the animator really has to be accurate. Plus, she has the follow through elements of her hair and dress. Lusk suceeds at all of them but doesn't get the best acting opportunities.

The Animation Podcast with Burny Mattinson mentions that Marc Davis worked by animating every fourth drawing and that his inbetween spacings were always halves or halves of halves. Ken Harris at Warners also worked this way, and it requires the ability to visualize every frame in advance so that the frame that you draw is exactly four drawings ahead of your last key. My hat's off to animators who are capable of that.

Finally, there's John Lounsbery's Cheshire Cat. Lounsbery may be one of the nine old men, but he isn't celebrated like some of the others. He obviously has a talent for comedy and I could easily think that Ward Kimball, who does only the last shot of the cat, was responsible for it all. I think as more animator identifications from the features come out, we're going to be surprised by the skill of the lesser known of the nine. Their relative lack of fame may have more to do with their personalities and studio politics than with their animating abilities. I, for one, would love to know more scenes animated by Lounsbery.


David N said...

And here's the kick in the head: the level of craftsmanship during that era at the Disney studio was so high that even the apparently "secondary, less important" scenes of Alice by Don Lusk are the sort of thing most animators today would be ecstatic to have on their reels. Great stuff.

The John Lounsbery Cheshire Cat scenes are a pleasant surprise ... I always assumed those were all Kimball's. I'm a huge Kimball fan, but I'm also a great admirer of John Lounsbery's work , certainly of his better known roles of Tony and Joe in "The Lady & The Tramp" and Mr. Darling in "Peter Pan" , and his Goons in "Sleeping Beauty" , Horace and Jasper in "The 101 Dalmatians" ... shall I go on ? Lounsbery and Les Clark seemed to have been very adept at following the style set for any of the characters on any given production ; evidence Les Clark's Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer's Apprentice and The Little Whirlwind , perfectly matching the Fred Moore-led incarnations of Mickey in both those shorts . And according to Canemaker's book on the Nine Old Men , Lounsbery was about the only one who could consistently and flawlessly follow Milt Kahl's designs. Yet both of them were the "quiet men" , just doing the job and doing it extraordinarily well, not forcing themselves to the front of the Disney publicity machine. And then there are the great animators like Don Lusk, John Sibley, Hal Ambro, etc, etc. who never got the limelight of the Nine Old Men .

I wish more of these wonderful animators had lived to see a day when their work would be better known (by name) and appreciated.

David N said...

By the way, when I was a young inbetweener at Bluth's on "An American Tail" Dave Spafford showed me some Lounsbery roughs of the kittens from "The Aristocats" that were so beautiful : flowing , bold pencil lines (Blackwing? ) drawn with an obvious assurance and skill . Like all great masters, he made it look effortless.

floyd norman said...

I had the opportunity to assist John Lounsbery for a while on "Mary Poppins" and later on "Robin Hood." The man is an incredible animator and a master of comedy.

Like so many of the lesser known gifted Disney animators, Lounsbery was extremely low key and never seemed to care for the spotlight.

And, you're correct about John being able to keep up with Milt Kahl. Few guys could.

Michael Sporn said...

Thanks for posting this Mark. It's incredibly enlightening. I've always liked this nice, quiet sequence. Alice is such a well delineated character here, completely through her movement. Great work in that opening walk from Don Lusk. It's pleasing knowing who did it.

Stephen Worth said...

Lounsbery seemed to run hot and cold. If he was into a sequence, he could animate as well as anyone at Disney. If he wasn't, the stuff was pretty dry. Lounsbery's scenes of the two kings in the Schumps sequence of Sleeping Beauty are nothing compared to Kahl's in the same sequence... but Lounsbery's Captain Hook at Skull Rock and at the end of the film in Peter Pan are powerful and menacing. Personally, I like Lounsbery's version of Hook better than Thomas' foppish buffoon Hook.

See ya

the spectre said...

Kimball's cat looks decidedly creepier than Lounsbery's... also a bit like Lucifer from "Cinderella."