Monday, June 18, 2007

Pinocchio Part 13A

This might be the only sequence without the presence of any of the main characters. As such, it's purely exposition where we learn that Pleasure Island is not a place that Pinocchio should be going.

However, within this sequence, there is some character development. We learn how truly small-time Honest John and Gideon are. The bag of coins that Honest John received from Stromboli is miniscule compared to what Stromboli earned from Pinocchio's appearance. We also get a look at the Coachman's swag, so we know that he's a bigger player than Honest John.

Honest John moves his finger across his throat, implying that he's comfortable with murder for a price, but when he hears about Pleasure Island all of his bravado disappears and genuine panic sets in, reinforcing that the character is all show and very little substance. Only Pinocchio's inexperience allows Honest John to accomplish anything.

The coachman appears benign, quietly smoking his pipe and casually explaining his plans. Where Honest John panics, the coachman is confident of evading the law and the memorable close-up where he says that that never come back "as boys" clearly demonstrates that beneath the doughy exterior is a criminal far more lethal and cold-blooded than Honest John could ever be.

The draft for this section is a little confusing. Shots 25, 27, 31, 34, 37 and 40 have only the coachman, yet Nick Nichols and Norm Ferguson are both credited. I don't know why that is. The coachman's most impressive shot, 42, is credited to Nichols alone.

This is another sequence that Shamus Culhane claimed to have worked on, yet Norm Tate is credited with much of the Honest John footage. However, Ferguson's work in shot 41 is the best Honest John acting in the sequence. Perhaps sequence director T. Hee felt that Tate wasn't up to the acting challenge. That shot, and Nichols following shot 42, are both important for communicating how big a threat Pleasure Island and the coachman actually are.

There is a visual pun that probably goes unnoticed these days. One of the slang terms for a doughnut is a sinker. When Honest John says that Pinocchio fell for it "hook, line and sinker," the camera is on Gideon, dunking a smoke doughnut into his beer.

4 comments:

the spectre said...

The draft for this section is a little confusing. Shots 25, 27, 31, 34, 37 and 40 have only the coachman, yet Nick Nichols and Norm Ferguson are both credited.

Also, 30 credits both Ferguson and Hugh Fraser, even though only Honest John is in the scene. It's a bit strange to see Fraser's name there anyway, his only scene outside of sequence 3.

There is an interesting lack of mention of Ferguson in the draft - this is the only sequence where he's identified with any scenes and he isn't listed as a sequence director anywhere despite being listed as one in the opening credits.

David N said...

"There is an interesting lack of mention of Ferguson in the draft - this is the only sequence where he's identified with any scenes and he isn't listed as a sequence director anywhere despite being listed as one in the opening credits."

I think this is another case where we have to understand that the drafts often record the last person to physically have possession of the scene before it moved on to Ink & Paint or Camera. As a Supervising Animator Ferguson did the upfront work getting the scenes posed out , making sure that the acting and continuity was consistent and doing the final approval on the scenes he supervised before they were Sweatboxed by Walt. Ferguson may have had a hand in all of those scenes , establishing the key poses, then handed them over to others to finish, but his was the overall guiding hand. I wouldn't underestimate his (or the other supervising animators) contributions because their name isn't on every scene in the draft. In another context it would be like looking at the final clean-up drawings in the scene folder and deciding that the Inbetweener must have been the most important person on the clean-up crew because the Key Assistant "only" did 8 drawings in the entire scene and the Inbetweener did the bulk of the 75 drawings in the scene. Someone who didn't know better might come to the conclusion that the Inbetweener was the most important artist because they did the most drawings ,right ? But of course that's not right at all. Those 8 key drawings done by the Key Assistant were the most important drawings in the scene and the Inbetweener's follow-up drawings, while not unimportant, are really the secondary drawings, working between the keys.

Jenny said...

Mark, I've wondered about the scenes that Culhane says he animated in "Pinocchio"--in this case, do you think it's possible that he did in fact do it and it was redone, or that he wasn't credited, period? The third possibility is that he was fibbing, but although Culhane certainly comes across in his book as a eyebrow-raising man I never get the feeling he's outright making stuff up. Of course, he simply could be remembering things wrongly as well-there's that drawing of "Sylvester" he includes in his illustrations that's clearly NOT what he thinks it is, for instance(in that case I'm pretty certain he simply misremembers).

Mark Mayerson said...

Jenny, I have no idea what to think about Culhane's work on Pinocchio. I don't doubt he started on the scenes that he claims, but who knows what happened to them after he left?

We know that Walt Disney could be a vindictive guy (witness the strike and its aftermath). We also know that Culhane was getting mixed reports from various supervisors and that Disney moved him around until Culhane finally fit into the animation department.

It could be that Disney felt that he'd given Culhane every benefit of the doubt until Culhane turned into somebody useful to the studio, and then Culhane took his education and skills and ran off to Florida. I can see Walt Disney being angry about that.

So Culhane may be telling the truth, but the other possibility is that Disney made sure that none of Culhane's work would reach the screen. After all, better to promote Norm Tate to animator and bind him closer to the company than to reward Culhane for leaving the studio. Making an example of Culhane would be a warning to anybody else thinking of leaving.

Or it could be that the work that Culhane did wouldn't have reached the screen in that form even if he had stayed. With Disney's penchant for revisions, it's possible that Culhane would have done those scenes again (and again and again...) until Disney was satisfied and since he left, Tate did the changes that were ordered as the film evolved. It could honestly be true that by the time the scenes were approved, they were more Tate's than Culhane's.