Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pinocchio Part 12A

The one shot sequence 4-7, where Geppetto and Pinocchio cross paths, is a typical melodramatic convention where characters just miss each other and don't know it. It's a convention because it works. It worked for Dickens and D.W. Griffith and it certainly works for Disney.

The next sequence starts out with Pinocchio and Jiminy realizing their mistakes and wallowing in self pity. The appearance of the Blue Fairy puts both of them in a panic as they each feel guilt for their actions. Unfortunately for Pinocchio, that guilt isn't enough to make him tell the truth and he tells the Blue Fairy one whopper after another, causing his nose to grow. It's Jiminy who persuades the Blue Fairy to give them another chance, and in a neat structural reversal, he bats his eyelashes at her the same way she did when she convinced him to become Pinocchio's conscience.

The Blue Fairy gives them a fresh start and vanishes, leaving them to head home, presumably wiser for their experiences. Unfortunately, Pinocchio still has a lot to learn.

The self-pity scenes are a duet between Ollie Johnston on Pinocchio and Ward Kimball on Jiminy. Both characters hold their left hands to their faces, visually reinforcing their similar failures and emotional states. Pinocchio's tears, which drench Jiminy, are parallel to the rain that poured down on Jiminy and Geppetto.

Jiminy blows Pinocchio's nose, reminding us that it functions as a nose before Pinocchio's lies turn it into a branch.

With the arrival of the Blue Fairy, Kimball steps out and Bernie Wolf steps in for Jiminy. Once Pinocchio's nose starts to sprout leaves, John Elliotte replaces Wolf and Frank Thomas takes Pinocchio over from Ollie Johnston. However, the animators keep changing. Wolf comes back for Jiminy's eyelash batting and Les Clark and Walt Clinton do Pinocchio scenes inbetween those done by Thomas and Johnston.

What we have here isn't casting by character and certainly not casting by shot or sequence. It's surprising that the sequence works as well as it does in terms of emotional consistency. The animators do get extended acting chances here, but the character arcs are split among many animators. Without tight story work and good character layouts, this sequence could deteriorate into a mess. While the sequence works, you can't say that the work has been logically assigned.

Switching gears for a moment, I want to talk about the assistant director for this sequence, Ford Beebe. I can't imagine how he came to be involved with Disney. Beebe, for those who don't know, is probably best known as a director of live action serials and B movies. He was writing films as early as 1916 and directing as early as 1922, working heavily in westerns. In the 1930s, he specialized in live action films based on comic strips such as Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Tim Tyler's Luck, Jungle Jim and Secret Agent X-9.

I have no idea how he came to Disney or what caused him to leave. Alberto Becattini credits Beebe as the director of the "Pastoral Symphony" in Fantasia (1940) as well as The Thrify Pig (1941), Seven Wise Dwarfs (1941) and Donald's Decision (1942). And we know from this draft that he was also an assistant director on Pinocchio.

After Disney, he went back to live action B movies, helming the series Bomba the Jungle Boy starring Johnny Sheffield. Sheffield wrote about working with Beebe and makes him sound like a typical B movie craftsman: pleasant, unpretentious and efficient.

If anybody knows more about Beebe's time at Disney, I'd love to hear about it.

6 comments:

the spectre said...

Ford Beebe, I think, would have been an assistant director on the Pastoral Symphony, assisting Ham Luske who is also listed as a director of that sequence. The Pastoral seems to have had the highest amount of top-level "features" animators on it.

Just a little comment on this scene in Pinocchio - it's kind of strange that Jiminy tells Pinocchio to try to "be cheerful - like me!" The joke is that Jiminy *isn't* cheerful, but, y'know, Jiminy has far more reason to be cheerful as he can leave any time he wants to! :)

Speaking of Jiminy, I wonder what the "Ham" credits on the draft mean... note that this sequence is listed as "After Preview" so I suspect that the before-preview draft was in some way different - crediting the real animator(s) rather than the director (assuming Ham Luske wasn't the real animator - it would seem kind of strange if he was)

Joe said...

Methinks we have our Beebes crossed!
(IMDB certainly does!)

Ford Ingalsbe Beebe (b. 26 Nov 1888, d. 26 Nov 1978) was the writer, producer and director, while his son, Ford I. Beebe, Jr. (b. 20 Aug 1913) was the assistant director at Disney.
Unfortunately he passed away in Feb 2006 in Hawaii.

Mark Mayerson said...

Joe, this is totally news to me and it just makes for more questions. Ford Jr. was only at Disney for a few years. Was he an artist? After Disney, did he continue to work in the film business or in commercial art? Can you point me to any sort of info on his career?

Gary McClurg said...

Ford Beebe, Jr. was the co-director of "The Pastoral Symphony" segment...

I'm saddened to learn of his death. Over the years I lost touch with him...

Back in high school... I was thrown into this new library class..., which turned out to be a media class... something new they were trying…

Well at the end of the first week our teacher turned the class over to this old guy (I was a teenager so any one over 30 was old).

Ford Beebe, Jr., went to UCI to get a degree so he could pass on his knowledge. His professors didn't like him because all his fellow students... would of course go to someone whose family worked in the industry... and like others have stated his father was one of the King of the B’s directors… I believe his uncle Lloyd was a director or DP also…

So UCI's lost was our gain... I know he did the old animated Alke Seltzer TV spots. Both the drawn ones and the stop motion... I know he's not listed as a director... but he did work on or produce with friends Charlie the Lonesome Cougar....

I should have a better memory because its funny I never watched the Wonderful World Of Disney on Sunday nights... but I did the Sunday that I met Ford... call it karma or something....

I still have some cells from I believe was a Ford car commercials… what I have are the cells of confetti floating down…

And I can still remember what he wrote in my yearbook… “Keep thinking up great stuff.” … but in reality he told me I was a talented guy who was lazy who had great ideas…

Would love to tell him that I’ve completed my fifth feature film as either a line producer or producer… and I’ve directed several music videos…

So long Ford a good friend and a better mentor…

Mark Mayerson said...

Gary, thanks for sharing your memories.

Liimlsan said...

Conventions only work when they're not used to death.

In 'American Tail,' for all its talk of bringing back 'golden age Disney storytelling' or all that bull, the characters (who are supposed to have lost each other in the middle of the atlantic ocean) just randomly walk around and under each other at least ten times. For most of the film, the little kid is never more than ten feet away from the parents he's trying to find; and it stops being cute and starts being infuriating.