Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pinocchio Part 17A

This is a great section for acting. The characters are very well defined and the conflict stems from their differing points of view. Lampwick is a delinquent, but one with an easy machismo. You can see why Pinocchio is attracted to him as a role model. Lampwick is also totally dismissive of Jiminy, and why shouldn't he be? Why would anyone take advice from an insect?

Frankie Darro never amounted to much in live action. He got stuck in a lot of B movies, though he did get the occasional role in more important films like William Wellman's Wild Boys of the Road. However, his performance as Lampwick is just perfect. The gruff edge in his voice and the dead-end kid attitude really make the character.

Fred Moore's animation, as I mentioned earlier, strikes a balance between portraying Lampwick as the tough that he is while still making him appealing. Bits of business like shot 15, where he grabs the cigar from the air after launching it with his billiards shot, show his gutter style. You can tell how much Moore is enjoying himself with this character and while Moore is known for lots of animation, I wonder if this wasn't his most successful performance.

Below are some frame grabs from shot 16 by Milt Kahl.

When I see animation like this, I feel badly that Kahl was stuck on such boring characters in the Disney features in the 1950s. He had a real talent for broad comedy and wasn't afraid to drastically change a character's shape. You can see more of this type of Kahl's animation in Saludos Amigos, where he handled the llama in the Donald Duck sequence. I'm also pretty sure he did the girl in Duck Pimples.

In a way, Kahl was a victim of his own drawing skill. He got stuck with the characters nobody else was good enough to draw, but look what he was capable of when a shot called for cartoon acting. I'd gladly give up his animation of Peter Pan and Prince Philip for more animation like the above.

Kahl's Pinocchio is a failure as a guttersnipe, but you've got to give him credit for trying.

The Jiminy unit does excellent work here. John Elliotte, Don Towsley and Bernie Wolf are all underrated animators based on their work in this film. Wolf does lovely work in the first part of Jiminy's tirade against Pinocchio. Very strong poses with emphatic lines of action. Ward Kimball finishes up with Jiminy leaving in disgust, easily matching Wolf's work.

Jiminy is upset seeing Pinocchio's moral lapses, but his anger is directed at Lampwick, who belittles him. That's what causes Jiminy to walk off; not Pinocchio's behaviour. When Jiminy returns for Pinocchio, it will be believable due to how this scene was written.

The image at left is from shot 58 by Kimball. This specific image is held for 4 frames. I always thought that it was odd. I have to wonder if it was originally shot on ones like the preceding footage but it went by too fast. I also wonder if Kimball shot a pose test and when the inbetweens were done, the fall didn't have the same punch. This is a case (and a rare one in Disney features) where the drawing calls attention to itself as a drawing. It does go by quickly, but you can feel that something odd happened. The effect is even more pronounced on a theatre screen. It does show that the studio was willing to violate its own aesthetic if the result was the right effect.


Michael J. Ruocco said...

This has got to be one of my favorite Milt Kahl scenes. So much expression... you can see how Pinocchio feels without making a sound, but the faces changing colors 3 times is sort of a cheat.

J. J. Hunsecker said...

>>The image at left is from shot 58 by Kimball. This specific image is held for 4 frames. I always thought that it was odd.<<


I thought the same thing when I first notice that held drawing. (I stumbled upon it while still framing the scene on videotape years ago.) Your second theory about it sounds right to me -- that Kimball might have taken out the inbetweens because it softened the impact of the fall.

>>but the faces changing colors 3 times is sort of a cheat.<<


I can see how you might think the color changes are a bit of a cartoon cliche now, but I wouldn't call them a cheat. In real life peoples' faces flush red when straining or angry, and look pale and wan when sick. It's based on observation, but exaggerated.

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