Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Reluctant Dragon Source Material

I've now read Kenneth Grahame's original version of The Reluctant Dragon and learned that the parallel bathing to introduce the dragon and the knight was totally the invention of the Disney story department, as was the dragon playing the flute.

Furthermore, the knight in the original is St. George. Perhaps the Hays office, the movies' self-censorship body which was closely alligned with the Catholic Church's Legion of Decency, objected to a cartoonified St. George. Or perhaps Disney made the change before they could object.

In any case, St. George in the book is not a poet either, so Disney's story department was not shy about reshaping the material to make a stronger film. They invented enough visual business so that the animators always had something to work with. While the film is fairly dialogue heavy, it doesn't feel that way because the characters are always doing something when they talk. That's a lesson we seem to have forgotten over the years.


Ward Jenkins said...

I've always felt that Disney's The Relucant Dragon was one of their finer films. And you're right--the characters are always doing something while they are talking, making for some very entertaining scenes. Could this be a nod to vaudeville, perhaps?

Nancy said...

Story man T. Hee was an old vaudevillian. There were, I'm told, more cartoon characters behind the scenes at Disneys than on the screen.
DRAGON'S animation is broad, like that of a short, but always meticulously phrased so none of the action is obscured. Even high speed action such as the dragon tossing umpteen pieces of food from a basket read perfectly. It's one of my favorite pictures for dialogue animation as well; all the characters cheat the mouth shapes brazenly, with the body language carrying the acting, as it should be.