Monday, May 28, 2007

Pinocchio Part 10A

This is one of the great sequences in Pinocchio. It's all character animation. There are no fancy camera moves or extreme perspectives in the layouts. While there's some effects and background animation, this sequence is really about two characters and their power relationship. Pinocchio, naive as ever, is simply pleased to be a success. Stromboli shifts from exhilaration to anger, and both emotions have the same root: greed.

Tytla does a great job of managing the emotional transitions. Stromboli's character is simple, but Tytla's animation is anything but. I say that the character is simple because there's no subtext. The audience can read Stromboli like a book and it's only Pinocchio's inexperience that allows him to be taken in by the puppeteer.

Tytla's draftsmanship and animation are outstanding here. Stromboli is fleshy and dimensional; he has a substantial physical presence. The secondary actions and follow through are extremely complex. Interestingly, Tytla gives Stromboli some contained gestures that one would think should be broad. When Stromboli tosses Pinocchio into the cage in shot 25 and tosses the ax in shot 51, the arm movements are close the body. These movements contrast with Stromboli yelling "Quiet!" in shot 57. There's an odd contrast here where Stromboli's most overt violence is more contained than his dialog.

One thing this sequence excels at is the use of stage business. In too many modern animated films, characters stand around yakking with nothing else to do. The animator is stuck trying to find arm gestures and head bobs that go with the dialog. In this sequence, Stromboli is working with a prop in almost every scene and using the prop to perform specific actions. The knife is used to push stacks of coins and cut food. The slug is the object of anger and then gets handed to Pinocchio. Stromboli drinks from the wine bottle and does a spit take. (Is this the first one in animation? Anyone got an earlier one?) Pinocchio himself is a prop when picked up and thrown into the cage. The ax is tossed into the remains of a puppet and the door is slammed during Stromboli's exit. There's no question that Tytla's animation here is great, but the sequence was well thought out before he got it. Wilfred Jackson didn't leave Tytla hanging, struggling to invent motion to put across the character.

Lars Calonius and Harvey Toombs get Pinocchio at the top of the sequence before he has any real emoting to do. As soon as Pinocchio's emotions come into play, Frank Thomas takes over with a couple of shots by Ollie Johnston. Pinocchio's dawning panic as he realizes he's a prisoner is handled beautifully by Thomas, who has Pinocchio clutch the bars of the cage and kick at them in an attempt to break out.

Besides handling the emotions, Thomas is stuck with the unenviable task of animating Pinocchio in the cage as it bounces around. Animators who have had to match characters to a live action plate with a moving camera will know something of the challenge that Thomas faced. The fact that we don't get distracted by drawing or perspective problems during this action is a tribute to Thomas and whoever was his assistant on these scenes.

3 comments:

mueja said...

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Jenny said...

Beautiful analysis of these scenes. Reading all this is a real treat--thank you.

David N said...

Mark, you really know how to put your finger on key points. You made an excellent observation about animation staging in general:

"In too many modern animated films, characters stand around yakking with nothing else to do. The animator is stuck trying to find arm gestures and head bobs that go with the dialog....
Wilfred Jackson didn't leave Tytla hanging, struggling to invent motion to put across the character."


(emphasis added by me)

Yes, yes, yes. Why do people do that to animators ? As Milt Kahl said : "there's nothing harder to do than a character standing around doing nothing". or something to that effect.

These things where the characters just stand around talking ... who wants to see that ? (who wants to animate stuff like that... not me , that's for sure.) There's nothing that will force an animator into cliched acting (head bobs and arm gestures, "the pointing index finger", etc.) faster than that sort of boring staging.

The rest of your analysis of Pinocchio specifically is great as always. I'm looking forward to going back and re-reading all this when you're finished with it, along with watching the film, hopefully with a fresh eye after having watched it dozens of times earlier in my days as an animation fan/wannabe animator.