Thursday, May 31, 2007

Six Authors In Search of a Character: Part 6, Sound, Bar Sheets and Timing

Steamboat Willie (1928) was not the first sound cartoon, but it was the first to have an impact on audiences. The relationship between the visuals and the soundtrack in that film became the dominant one in the animation business.

The Fleischer Brothers had made cartoons using Lee DeForest’s Phonofilm system as early as 1925. Their first, My Old Kentucky Home, included some synchronized sound of a character playing a trombone and speaking the line “Now let’s all follow the bouncing ball and sing along.” Later Fleischer cartoons using this sound system seem to have only a musical score added with no attempt at synchronization (Cabarga 34).

While in N.Y. to record the soundtrack for Steamboat Willie, Disney saw an Aesop’s Fable cartoon with sound. Disney wrote to his brother Roy in California, “It merely had an orchestra playing and adding some noises. The talking part does not mean a thing. It doesn’t even match. We sure have nothing to worry about from these quarters” (quoted in Bob Thomas 92). Disney was confident because he conceived of sound cartoons in a specific way; he valued the tight synchronization of picture and sound.

Disney’s shift to the production of sound cartoons was born out of desperation. Prior to the creation of Mickey Mouse, Disney had been producing silent Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons for producer Charles Mintz and Universal. When it came time to renew the contract, Mintz insisted that Disney take a $450 cut in the budget of each cartoon or he would take the character and a majority of Disney’s staff away and produce the series himself. Disney couldn’t meet the price cut, so he left the meeting without a character, a distributor, and a large percentage of his staff (Maltin 34).

With his remaining staff, Disney created Mickey Mouse and started to produce cartoons without having a distributor. Two cartoons, Plane Crazy and Gallopin’ Gaucho (both 1928) were produced as silent films. The third Mickey Mouse cartoon, Steamboat Willie (1928), was conceived from the start as a film with a soundtrack (Maltin 34). Disney needed something to differentiate his cartoon series from his competition; the cartoons had to be distinctive enough to gain a distribution contract or the studio would have no income.

When starting Steamboat Willie, the Disney staff had struggled with how to achieve synchronization. Wilfred Jackson, then an assistant animator, brought in a metronome. Jackson’s mother was a music teacher. As Disney knew that sound film would be projected at 24 frames per second, they were able to work out a relationship between the metronome and film frames. This allowed them to use the metronome to plan the action of the entire cartoon in advance, before the musical score was recorded and the film was animated (Barrier, Hollywood 51).

Exposure sheets existed as an animation tool in the silent era, at least as early as 1916 (Barrier, Hollywood 28). An exposure sheet is a chart that indicates which drawings are to be photographed for each frame of film. During the silent era, the exposure sheet would be prepared after the animation was drawn (J. B. Kaufman 30). Because there was no soundtrack to worry about, the timing of the animation could be changed with little problem. With sound, in order to maintain synchronization, the exposure sheets needed to be planned in advance of animation, so that the animator would know which frames would match a musical beat or a sound effect.

Each horizontal line represents one frame of film. The vertical numbers in the colunms labeled 1 and 2 are drawings that will be photographed for that frame. From Animation by Preston Blair.

Disney developed a new tool for use with exposure sheets called bar sheets. These sheets were essentially musical manuscript paper. One musical staff would include the score and a parallel staff would include the action. Bar sheets took up less space than exposure sheets because they didn’t need space for drawing numbers, camera information, etc. Once the action was plotted on a bar sheet relative to the musical score, the information would be transferred to exposure sheets that were sent to the animators (Barrier, Hollywood 51).

A detail of a bar sheet from the Warner Bros. cartoon Shuffle Off to Buffalo. You can see how action has been planned to work with the musical beats. Courtesy of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive and Mark Kausler.

As a result, Steamboat Willie was more tightly synchronized than any sound cartoon had previously been. “As Disney was well aware, he was now far ahead of any other cartoon producer in his mastery of sound” (Barrier, Hollywood 54).

This approach to timing cartoons became an industry standard. Director and musical director would collaborate on choosing tempos for each section of a cartoon. The director would plan out the cuts and action to work to the musical beat and the animator had to stick to the beat in order to maintain synchronization.

In effect, this approach to synchronizing animation and sound turned all cartoons into the equivalent of musicals. There might be no singing or dancing within a cartoon, but the pacing of the action is still dictated by the musical tempo. Animators were dominated by the musical beat in the same way as dancers. This creates a unified approach to timing, forcing all the animators on a film (and all working on a single character) to adhere to a preset pace. It prevents individual animators from using timing as a means of expression. To use a live action analogy, Walter Kerr talks about how Oliver Hardy’s sense of pace altered silent comedy.
“It was Hardy’s personal rhythm, a rhythm that has been recognized as that of a “Southern gentleman,” that determined the new pace at which both men were to work and to which silent comedy would be forced to accommodate itself. In taking over from [Stan] Laurel as go-getter, as initiator of all catastrophe, Hardy could not behave as the impetuous Laurel had behaved in the role, or as virtually all two reel runaway clowns had eagerly behaved before him. They had sprinted from square one, as though in response to a starter’s gun; there would be further gunshots along the way to make them go faster and faster. Hardy heard music instead, the soothing guidance of a steady 2/4 beat, the mellifluous promptings of a chastely tuned pianoforte” (Kerr 329).
Once the decision to pre-time cartoons to a musical soundtrack was made, it became impossible for individual animators to affect pace in the way that someone like Hardy could. The director and the musical director controlled the pace of a character’s motion, not the animator.

The reliance on the musical beat at Disney loosened by the end of World War II. At that point, dialog sequences were post-scored with music the same way that a live action film would be. By the time Cinderella was in production in the late ‘40’s, even action sequences were no longer timed to music (Barrier, Hollywood 399). However, musical beats remained an integral part of cartoon timing at studios like Warner Bros. and MGM.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Trouble in FX Land

As bad as I think things are as to how animated productions are organized, they're not as bad as they are in the visual effects field. Variety reports how schedules are shrinking to the point where parts of films are being locked before other parts are edited and how the industry is coming perilously close to missing a delivery date. How long will it be before a film scheduled to open in thousands of theatres just doesn't show up?

Effects are treated more like a commodity than animation. Productions routinely split effects work up between several studios. Furthermore, the pressure on budgets and schedules is resulting in very long hours, which is causing some of the most experienced artists to leave the field. This is another case where the "needs" of an industry are counterproductive to the long term health of that industry. Sooner or later, all bubbles must burst.

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.

Friday, May 25, 2007

John Wayne's 100th

May 26 is John Wayne's 100th birthday. His films have continued to be popular, but he's really three different characters. There is John Ford's Wayne, there's Howard Hawks' Wayne and then there's Wayne's own Wayne.

The simplest of these is Wayne's own conception of his screen persona. This Wayne is a hero or an avenger; someone who overcomes adversity or a powerful man with a sense of justice who helps the downtrodden and punishes evil doers. If you look at Wayne's films in the '60's and '70's, which he produced himself, this is the character you'll see. The problem is that the character is pretty shallow and predictable. Wayne's audience obviously responded to this character, but in many ways it's no different than any action hero except for the particulars of Wayne's personality.

Hawks used Wayne like he used Cary Grant in Only Angels Have Wings and Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep. In Hawks' hands, Wayne is the consummate professional. Whether Wayne's a sheriff in Rio Bravo or an animal trapper in Hatari, Wayne is supremely capable of accomplishing a task. It's ironic that in Red River, Wayne's first performance for Hawks, Montgomery Clift plays the typical Hawks hero with Wayne being unprofessional by letting personal feelings get in the way of doing the job.

Finally, there's Ford's Wayne, who is the most interesting to me and responsible for whatever claim Wayne has to being a great actor. Ford consistently frustrates Wayne. Instead of being a powerful avenger, Ford makes him powerful but bound by society or by his own conflicting emotions. Initially, the frustration comes from others in films like Stagecoach (where the sheriff wants to send him back to jail rather than let him shoot it out with Luke Plummer), or They Were Expendable and Fort Apache (where Wayne is frustrated by Army decisions). Stating with Rio Grande, however, Wayne's frustrations are mostly interior. He's got to reconcile things that are mutually exclusive. In Rio Grande and The Wings of Eagles, it's duty and family. In The Quiet Man, it's personal experience vs. society's expectations. In The Searchers, it's racism and sexual need against the sanctity of family. In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it's personal happiness vs. the force of history.

As I wrote here, it's the difference between character vs. character and character vs. self. In the Wayne and Hawks versions, you have the former. Wayne can be impressive and even charming in these films, but there's little to challenge him as an actor. Ford adds a layer of character vs. self, which elevates Wayne into another league. Ford gives Wayne an element of self-awareness and tragedy that's missing from his other roles.

I'm writing about this because it relates to animation. Wayne as a performer was a known quantity. Yet depending on who was directing him and what the director's conception was, Wayne could be predictable or a revelation. Wayne didn't even realize (or didn't like) what Ford added or he would have brought some of it into the films he controlled.

There's a parallel between Wayne and Bill Tytla. Give Tytla a properly conceived role and he can give you great acting. Give him a poorly conceived role, like all of his post-Disney work, and Tytla's skill isn't enough to create a memorable result on the screen. Animators tend to be fixated on poses, silhouettes, line of action, timing, follow through, etc. but it counts for nothing unless there's something meaningful to say. We'll only get great animated performances and great animated films when they're more ambitiously conceived.

Six Authors In Search of a Character: Part 5, Character Design

A live actor can take his or her own body for granted. An actor literally has a lifetime of experience living in it and intimately knows his or her own shape, size and physical limitations.

One reason that a producer or director will cast an actor in a role is because he or she is physically suited to it. The actor is the right age and gender for the role and may also be the right height, weight and personality for it. If actors have been chosen for these qualities, they don’t have to think about altering themselves physically, merely about how to best play the role.

When actors do physically alter themselves, it is a novelty that is cause for discussion. When Robert DeNiro gained sixty pounds for the role of Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, it was still being mentioned in reviews of the DVD 25 years after the film’s release (Abel 1).

The unity that exists between actors and their physical selves in a performance does not exist for animators. The physical manifestation of a character exists independently of the animator, so the animator must relate to a character’s appearance differently than a live actor would. In addition, animators are not responsible for the creation of their characters’ appearances.
“By the time animation of [“The] Sorcerer[‘s Apprentice”] and Pinocchio got under way in January 1938, Disney had introduced a new layer of character designers. These people would draw preliminary model sheets of new characters, improving on the story sketches, but would not animate the characters; the animators, in pilot scenes, would uncover flaws in the designs and draw the final versions” (Barrier, Hollywood 256)
Somebody needs to determine what an animated character looks like. Character design may start as early as the first inspirational sketches for a film or may start at the storyboard stage. Ultimately, though, the look of a character has to be codified so that it will be consistent throughout a film. Character designers may refine work that has already been done or may design characters from scratch, but they are the ones responsible for pulling the look of a character into focus.

The model sheet was the tool developed for the sake of consistency. Model sheets generally fall into two different types. Some are detailed instructions as to how to draw a character. They include different views of a character so that an animator will know what a character looks like no matter which way he turns. The sheet may also specifically comment about sizes and proportions, either in words or by the use of guidelines. Because characters will probably be handled by more than one animator, model sheets are necessary to maintain a consistent look for a character.

A Jiminy Cricket model sheet from Pinocchio, showing how to draw the character’s head from any angle. From the collection of the author. Click to enlarge.

Model sheets were used at least as early as 1920 (Adamson, Fleischers 27). However, as late as the mid-1930’s, some studios were still not using model sheets, leading to characters whose appearance changed scene by scene.
“The model sheet, which establishes the look, shape, and even dimensions for each character, and which is so essential to professional animation, was unknown at Van Beuren. This meant that even a simplistic, homely character like [director Burt] Gillette’s [sic] real winner, Molly Moo Cow, given to thirteen animators, would emerge as thirteen different cows. Rubber-legged and amorphous to begin with, Molly would go through a most disquieting process of metamorphosis when the work of these thirteen animators was cut together into what was supposedly a single five-minute cartoon” (Barbera 47).
Other model sheets exist to communicate a sense of a character’s personality. These sheets may not draw the character as he will appear in the final film (and may include a warning to that effect as below), but give examples of poses and attitudes that communicate to the animator the essence of who the character is.

A model sheet for The Little Whirlwind. From the collection of the author. Click to enlarge.

Character design has an impact on animated behaviour in very specific ways. The degree of realism in the design determines how realistically the character must move. Here are stills of two rabbits. The viewer instantly gets different expectations from these designs. Max Hare, from The Tortoise and the Hare (top) is designed to resemble a human; he stands on two legs and wears clothing. By contrast, Thumper from Bambi, is designed to more closely resemble a rabbit.

Frame enlargements. Click to enlarge.

The character designer has done more than design a look; the designer has provoked expectations. Presented with these designs, the animator must deal with the expectations or risk alienating the audience. If Max Hare runs, he has to run on two legs. If he were to run on all fours, he would look ludicrous. Thumper, looking more rabbit-like, must move like a real rabbit if he is to be believable.

Design had a similar impact on Andy Serkis when he was cast to play the character of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Serkis recalled,
“There were also sketches by the incredible Alan Lee and John Howe. One pencil sketch by the latter, which to me depicted Gollum as a cross between a homeless junkie and a survivor of a concentration camp, directly influenced how I would move as Gollum in the films. From this image I strongly felt that Gollum should be on all fours at all times, that the weight of the addiction to the ring had reduced him to a crawling wretch” (11).
Design also provokes expectations with regard to personality. Here are examples of early character designs for the Queen in Snow White.

Preliminary designs from The Art of Walt Disney by Christopher Finch; final design from Treasury of Disney Animation Art by John Canemaker. Click to enlarge.

The plumpness of the design at left implies a certain ineffectuality. The facial expression doesn’t imply malice. While the preliminary design on the right appears meaner, the Queen doesn’t appear much of a physical threat.

Contrast them with the final design of the Queen. Her face combined with her trim figure implies that she’s a woman of action who is motivated by hate. She seems far more threatening than the early designs.

In live action terms, the early design might be played by someone like Roseanne Barr while the final design might be played by Angelina Jolie. For performers who were contemporary with the release of Snow White, the early designs might be played by Margaret Dumont and the final design played by Judith Anderson. Forgetting personality for a moment, each of these performers would bring a different physical presence to the role, one that is unique to their own physical beings.

Animators not only lack the unity with characters that live actors have, they also lack the physical identification with a character. The animator’s physique is does not have to relate in any way to a character’s physique. It is possible for a single animator to deal with a range of characters, regardless of their appearances, and the animator must collaborate with designers who shape audience expectations as to how a character should move and behave.

Over the course of Frank Thomas’s career as an animator at Disney, he animated the following characters: mouse (The Brave Little Tailor), dwarf (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), fawn (Bambi), queen (Alice in Wonderland), pirate captain (Peter Pan), cocker spaniel (Lady and the Tramp), wizard (The Sword in the Stone), panther (The Jungle Book), and alligator (The Rescuers). This list is far from complete. These characters vary widely in their sizes, shapes, ages, genders, and species. By contrast, DeNiro gaining sixty pounds is only a minor physical alteration.

The character design and the motion begin separately and the animator has to work to close the gap between them. On Disney features, an initial minute of animation was done for major characters, where the design was put through its paces. Animator Frank Thomas wrote that,
“We must study the design carefully, questioning the shape of his whole figure, his costume, his head, cheeks, mouth, eyes, hands, legs, arms – even the setting he is in and how he relates to it” (222).

Animator Grim Natwick talked about the evolution of the design of the Snow White character and the animators’ part of the process.
“There were probably two thousand different drawings made trying to develop Snow White’s character. She started out as a little fairy-book character that that didn’t seem right. As the character changed, they gave us two complete months to practice animation on Snow White before we had to make a single scene that would go into the picture. So if a model came in from the designing department that we animated and we found things we didn’t like, we simply went back and told them. As a matter of fact, every model that came to an animator at Disney’s did not have to be animated until the animator wrote his okay on it” (Maltin 56).
This was not true in later years. During the production of Sleeping Beauty (1959) at Disney, Frank Thomas complained about Eyvind Earle’s “very rigid design” and how it was inhibiting animators (Barrier, Hollywood 557). Thomas and Ollie Johnston later wrote that, “the animator must give up his best tools of communication if he limits his drawing to the restrictions of a strong design” (516). The collaboration between animators and character designers is not always a happy one.

In the realm of stop-motion or computer animation, there is a further step in the design process. In these types of animation, the character must be constructed. In the case of stop motion, the character is constructed out of physical materials where in computer animation, the character is constructed in the virtual world that exists within a software package.

Constructed characters free animators from having to worry about drawing a character in a consistent fashion. However, while freeing animators in one sense, it can restrict them in others. When drawing, animators are only limited by their ability to visualize and draw the characters in various positions. However, there are physical limitations to constructed characters.

Characters for stop-motion are limited by the physical world. They can only bend so far before breaking and their limbs are a fixed length; drawn characters face no such limitations. Computer characters are more flexible than stop-motion puppets, but they go through a process called rigging, where the character is wired with virtual bones and the influence of each bone on the character’s surface determines how the character will deform when moving.

This rigging process includes the face, so how the mouth and eyes move is heavily determined by the rigging work. It’s quite possible that an animator will be frustrated at being unable to create the facial expression or body pose that he or she is looking for. While the way a character looks has an impact on the audience perception of a character’s personality and how it should move, the physical limitations of stop-motion puppets and the process of rigging computer characters can act as a limiting factor on an animator’s control of motion.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Six Authors In Search of a Character: Part 4, The Changing Nature of Production with the Coming of Synchronous Sound

The need to synchronize animation with speech and music had a major impact on the way that animation was created. The assembly line approach developed in the silent era was not thrown away; rather, it was modified to take sound into account.

The only way to maintain regular releases while dealing with the added workload of creating and synchronizing to soundtracks was to plan each film in more detail than was done in the silent period. This led to an expansion of pre-production processes that were aimed at pinning down as much of the story, timing and character behaviour as possible before the animator started work.

In the silent era, animators collaborated with each other on the actions of characters like Felix the Cat or Mutt and Jeff. However, in the sound era, animators would not only collaborate with each other, but also with directors, voice actors, musical directors, character designers, story artists, and layout artists, all of whom were focused on behaviour to some degree. These new collaborators attempted to shape a character’s behaviour in such a way that animators would produce the desired interpretation with as little revision as possible. Animators would also rely more heavily on assistants to draw certain details on characters and animate secondary motions. This placed animators in a sandwich situation, located between behaviour collaborators on one side and artistic collaborators on the other.

The expansion of pre-production led to better films and animation. The assembly line in the silent period had focused on efficiency through a division of labour, but it hadn’t focused on artistic control. In the sound period, synchronization was impossible to achieve without control being centralized in the hands of a producer or director. Because of this, the creative role of the animator was significantly reduced. Rather than create a role from a script and with input from a director as a live actor would, the animator was handed a set of parameters that established the limits of the character’s behaviour. Rather than an actor reaching into his or her own experience to find the truth of a role, the animator had to take other people’s experiences and combine them with personal experience and still hope to find a way to create a truthful, consistent character.

This is the nature of the collaboration that an animator faces. An animator is never alone with a character; there are always others who are there as well.
Within the following pages, I wish to examination how the coming of synchronous sound reshaped the methods of animated production and, in particular, the creation of a character's behaviour. To do so, I shall in order examine its impact upon the following distinctive but integrated practices:

Character Design
Sound, Bar Sheets and Timing
Voice Acting
Assistant Animators and Technical Directors
Animation for Television
Rotoscoping and Motion Capture

Shane Glines on Animagic

I don't know anything more about the Animagic layoff and the production of Nate the Great than I've read at the link below. I also don't know Shane Glines, though I think he's a very good designer and somebody with excellent taste. Unfortunately, the story that Glines tells is all too typical about the way many animation projects are run these days. Read the thread on Animation Nation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Six Authors In Search of a Character: Part 3, The Historical Roots of Animation Industrial Practice in the Silent Era

The creation of coherent behaviour in animation got off to a slow start, as did animation itself. Regular production of animated shorts didn’t begin in earnest until 1913, more than a decade after live action studios were releasing films on a regular schedule. By the time regular animation production existed, the larger film industry and its audience had well-developed expectations regarding costs, film lengths, and release schedules. As animation always comprised a minority of film releases and didn’t generate enough box office revenue to influence the motion picture industry, the animation industry had no choice but to adapt to prevailing conditions if it was to survive.

Those conditions had a major impact in how animation production was organized, that in turn had a major impact on how character behaviour in animation developed. While there was a unity between performer and character in live action, this unity was discarded in animation as soon as it became a studio-produced medium. This lack of unity continues to be a fact of life in animation, though the industry has taken steps to control its effects.

In its initial, pre-studio, stage, animation was presented to audiences purely as a novelty. The fact that objects could move of their own accord or drawings could come to life was sufficient to satisfy audiences.

There are at least two surviving Edison films from 1905 that feature object animation. How Jones Lost his Roll utilizes animated title cards and The Whole Damm Family and the Damm Dog has a scene of stop motion where the dog’s body assembles itself (Crafton, Emile 130-31).

J. Stuart Blackton’s Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906) is the earliest known example of drawn animation. Blackton was one of the founders of Vitagraph in 1898, a major early film production company (Musser 253-54). His background included time spent as an artist for the New York World newspaper and he himself was the subject of several Edison films in 1896 that photographed him drawing (Musser 120-21). These films led to opportunities for Blackton to perform a sketching act in vaudeville (Musser 121). Blackton continued to use his art skills at Vitagraph, including a film called The Enchanted Drawing (1900) that did “not use frame by frame cinematography, but instead borrows Mèliés stop-action tricks” (Crafton, Before 52).

In Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, the film’s title draws itself on the screen. This is followed by Blackton’s hand sketching a man on a chalkboard. When the man is complete, a woman character is drawn on screen without the evidence of a human hand. The man’s eyes animate to look at the woman and he wiggles his eyebrows. She winks at him. Eventually, the man smokes a cigar and the smoke obliterates the image of the woman. Blackton’s hand then re-enters the frame and erases the chalkboard.

While the behaviour here is extremely rudimentary, the characters do interact with each other and the audience has no trouble understanding their behaviour. Blackton is the first known case of a film animator creating character behaviour through his drawings. As he was the sole artist working on the film, the behaviour is undiluted Blackton.

Humorous Phases also includes a man tossing an umbrella and a clown and dog that appear to be chalk drawings but on closer examination are actually animated cut-outs. There is another drawn animation segment of a man and a woman that appear to have been shot in reverse. These other segments don’t contain much in the way of emoting.

The film, as a whole, has no narrative. It is similar to vaudeville sketch acts where the audience watches an artist draw, but adds the novelty of the drawings coming to life.

Despite Blackton’s history as an artist and his experiments with animation, it was clearly a minor part of Vitagraph’s output. By August 1907, the studio was releasing at least two new films a week, most being half reels (Musser 473). While Blackton was also involved with the 1907 release The Haunted Hotel, a film that used stop motion animation of objects (Musser 471), animation was simply one genre of many at Vitagraph, and nowhere near a majority of its output.

As Donald Crafton writes,
“Between 1908 and the first world war animation was gradually defined as a cinema genre by Emile Cohl and Winsor McCay…. Before then it was a “special effect” and not unlike other effects such as irises and lap dissolves. But with these artists, the technology began to be associated with recurring dramatic situations, narrative structures, iconography, and expectations concerning content” (Before 9).
Vitagraph would play a role in the distribution of animation by Winsor McCay, perhaps the most influential of the first generation of animators. McCay, like Blackton, was a newspaper artist. At the time of his first animated film, he was working for the New York Herald, where he was the author of several comic strips: Little Sammy Sneeze, Hungry Henrietta and Little Nemo in Slumberland (Crafton, Before 93-98). Also like Blackton, McCay had appeared in vaudeville, doing a sketch act entitled “The Seven Ages of Man” (Crafton, Before 98).

McCay’s animated film Little Nemo (released by Vitagraph in 1911) is similar to Humorous Phases in that it has no narrative and is built on the novelty of drawings coming to life. Indeed, the first drawn image of the animation is the character of Flip from the Nemo comic strip with the words “Watch Me Move” written over his head. The character of Impy is assembled out of falling cylindrical pieces and Nemo is assembled from lines that animate in from off-screen. Nemo draws the Princess character, who then starts to move.

A live action prologue was filmed, showing McCay making a bet that he could do 4,000 drawings to make an animated film, perhaps the first time that an animated film was publicly defined by the amount of work necessary to create it.

(This is not a complete copy. Sorry.)
McCay used the film in his vaudeville appearances (Crafton, Before 98) as he did two later animated films, How a Mosquito Operates (1912) and Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) (Crafton, Before 110). The live action prologue to Mosquito is lost (Crafton, Before 107) but the prologue for Gertie survives. It once again shows McCay taking a bet that he can bring a dinosaur to life through a series of 10,000 drawings. In the vaudeville version of the act, McCay stood to the right of the screen and interacted with Gertie by barking orders that she (usually) followed. For the filmed version, McCay’s commands were used as intertitles.

Gertie is perhaps the first successful animated character. She comes across as easily distracted and somewhat stubborn. She exhibits fear and sorrow with personality touches like scratching her head with the tip of her tail. Except for her size and strength, she behaves in a manner familiar to anyone with a house pet, alternately cute and stubborn.

Blackton and McCay both had day jobs, so to speak, so animation was not their main occupation. Neither ever attempted to do a series of animated films with a regular release schedule. The one animation pioneer who did attempt this was Emile Cohl.

Cohl was an established illustrator in France who also wrote poetry and two comedies for the stage (Crafton, Before 64). He was associated with a group known as The Incoherents, whose philosophy was “iconoclastic, antibourgeois, antiacademic, and violently antirational” (Crafton, Before 64). His first contact with films seems to have been in 1908, when he started contributing scenarios to the Gaumont company in Paris (Crafton, Emile 93). Those scenarios were for a variety of genres, including chase films, comedies and fantasies (Crafton, Emile 119). He was promoted to directing at Gaumont, and his output included comedies, documentaries and dramas, though he specialized in animation. In late May or early June of that year, he completed his first animated film Fantasmagorie (Crafton, Emile 93).

Like Humorous Phases, Fantasmagorie begins with the hand of the artist creating a drawing. Fantasmagorie appears to be an improvised film, with images succeeding each other with very little logic. There is metamorphoses animation, with objects turning into other objects. A man turns into bottle that turns into a flower and then the flower’s stem turns into an elephant’s trunk. While the character of a clown appears throughout the film, Cohl is clearly more interested in the transformations and the succession of images than he is in having the clown or any of the other figures on screen emote.

All three of these animation pioneers attempted to find short cuts due to the amount of work animation required. Blackton resorted to using cut-outs in Humorous Phases in order reduce the amount of drawing that had to be done. Cohl exposed each drawing in Fantasmagorie for two frames, not one, in order to only do 8 drawings per second instead of 16 (Crafton, Before 61). McCay developed the use of “reverse and repeats” and “cycles,” both techniques for using drawings more than once in order to create more footage.1 In addition, he hired an assistant named John A. Fitzsimmons who traced the background McCay created onto every animation drawing of Gertie the Dinosaur (Maltin 4).

As Donald Crafton points out,
“By far the greatest disadvantage was the length of time required to complete a film, which seemed, in 1908, like an eternity. In November Cohl had less than 200 meters of released film to show for seven months of hard work. [At 16 frames per second, this is less than 11 minutes of screen time.] This amount normally represented three to five days of shooting for a typical Gaumont film. And the three films had netted only 750 francs for the artist” (Emile 140).
After his initial three films of drawn animation, Cohl “could no longer sustain the heroic effort that their production demanded” (Crafton, Emile 141) and was forced to shift to other animation techniques such as object animation, puppet animation and cut-out animation in addition to padding his films with live action. Using only a camera operator as an assistant, he completed animated segments for “about four films each month” (Crafton, Emile 120). By using these techniques, he was able to create over seventy films in a three-year period, almost all of them containing animated sequences (Crafton, Emile 151). This level of productivity separates Cohl from Blackton and McCay and prepared him to produce the first animated series with continuing characters, The Newlyweds.

Traveling to Fort Lee, New Jersey, to work for the Éclair company, Cohl completed thirteen films based on George McManus’s comic strip The Newlyweds between March 1913 and January 1914 (Crafton, Before 83). While this is a prodigious output for an animator working alone, Cohl failed to meet Éclair’s release schedule of a new film every two weeks (Crafton, Before 83). Unfortunately only one film in this series has survived, and it shows that the series was made with both drawn and cut-out animation (Crafton, Emile 164).

The use of continuing characters was a natural outgrowth of the star system that was developing in live action. While actors did not receive billing in early films, audiences still came to recognize them from their repeated appearances. Performers and studios began to capitalize on the audience’s interest by using actors as a marketing tool. Years before The Newlyweds series, the IMP company lured both Florence Lawrence and Mary Pickford away from Biograph with the promise of screen credit and then advertised the presence of these performers to the movie going audience (Mast 122).

Lacking live stars, animation’s equivalent strategy was to use continuing characters. Newspaper comic strips featured characters already known to the movie-going audience in their original drawn form and in live action movie adaptations. In 1901, Edison made films based on Happy Hooligan (Musser 316) and in 1904 based on Buster Brown (Musser 357). The newspaper strips also provided gags and a drawing style, so they were a logical source for animated films.

The use of continuing characters was a turning point in animation’s popularity. As Donald Crafton notes, “A survey of the trade press shows that before the 1913 Newlyweds series [sic] animated films were sporadic novelty items; after the commercial success of the Éclair films animated series popped up like mushrooms" (Before 86).

The problem was that an animator working by himself could not maintain a steady release schedule. The answer was to create animation studios. In the period immediately following The Newlyweds, two studios sprang up, both focusing on series with continuing characters.

Raoul Barré and Bill Nolan opened a studio in the Bronx that produced a series for the Edison studio called Animated Grouch Chasers starting in 1915.
“Assembly-line techniques were developed in which employees were trained for one specific task. Barré himself eventually acted only as coordinator and supervisor. With many apprentices working on a single cartoon, it was necessary to schematize the drawing style to maintain uniform consistency. To save time, each drawing was sometimes photographed three or even four times to “stretch” the footage, often resulting in jerky and repetitious movements on the screen” (Crafton, Emile 177).
This was a seminal moment for animation. Rather than follow a theatrical performance model, where an artist would be cast as a character for the length of a film, the studios followed an industrial model where the character’s activity was broken into parts so that it could be produced by many hands on an assembly line. This decision, made almost one hundred years ago, has shaped animation production ever since.

In general during this decade, animation studios were preoccupied with the creation of technology that would aid them in production. Barré is credited with the invention of pegs and a punch system to register drawings (Crafton, Before 194). This allowed the spatial relationship between successive images to be fixed, whether on an artist’s drawing board or underneath a camera. Bill Nolan figured out how animation could simulate a tracking shot or pan by moving a long piece of background art under a character that was walking in place (Maltin 11).

John Randolph Bray opened a studio after he showed Charles Pathé his initial film The Artist’s Dream. By 1916, Bray was delivering 1 film a month with a crew of 9 cartoonists, 30 assistant artists and 4 camera operators (Barrier, Hollywood 17). Bray created the character of Col. Heeza Liar, a blowhard adventurer, to star in the cartoons that debuted in 1914. The character ran for about five years and was then revived in 1922 (Canemaker, Bray 28).

Bray also saw animation in industrial terms; Donald Crafton has described Bray as the Henry Ford of animation (Before 137). He patented several animation processes and combined his patents with those created by Earl Hurd. The two controlled the process of tracing characters onto clear celluloid, so that the background art did not have to be redrawn on a frame-by-frame basis, as was the case in Gertie the Dinosaur. Instead, the background showed through the clear celluloid anywhere not covered by an opaque character. It was responsible for speeding up production and allowing for more elaborate background art.

The industrial model was adapted due to one of the hard economic lessons of the film business. Film was paid for by the foot, regardless of what images were on the film (Crafton, Before 28). Because frames of animated films were produced more slowly than live action, the studios were in a more precarious financial position. With a fixed income per foot of film, studios were focused on developing efficient ways to produce and deliver films more than they were focused on creating characters who behaved in a consistent fashion.

Dick Huemer recalled working under Barré in 1916 at a later studio that produced Mutt and Jeff cartoons. The studio had a staff of five animators who turned out a 450 foot film per week. The creative atmosphere was relaxed in the extreme.
“We were given a portion of the picture, over a very rough scenario. Very, very sketchy, no storyboards like we have today, nothing like that. The scenario would probably be on a single sheet of paper, without any models, sketches or anything. You made it up as you went along. You were given a part of the picture and you did what you wanted. If it was a picture about ice skating, you took a scene of somebody on ice skates and you used your own gags and made it all up” (Adamson, AFI 12).
The casual nature of creating the films was not restricted to one studio. Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst opened a studio in 1916 to create animated cartoons from his comic strips. Walter Lantz was an animator there at the time.
“We didn’t have any theories that we discussed in those days. I’d just animate a scene, and say to Nolan, “Look, Bill, I’m taking ‘em up from the left and you pick ‘em up from there.” And he’d animate a scene and tell the next animator, “I’m taking ‘em out from the right and you pick up the action from there.” And that’s how we turned out cartoons” (Peary 193).
I. Klein was hired to work with animator George Stallings at the Hearst studio in 1918. The lack of concern for how films were put together even affected individual scenes. Klein recalled that animators left important details of their own scenes to be done by other artists.
“The drawings that Stallings flipped were in pencil. My job, he explained, was to ink them. Offhand, that sounded as if I were to trace over his pencil lines. It was not that simple. The faces and bodies were without features or any other details beyond the animated action. I had to ink in the features of the characters directly, without further pencil drawing. I was given a model chart of the Captain, the Inspector, Mama and Hans and Fritz” (Klein 30).
The use of assistants changed somewhat in the 1920’s. Rather than have assistants add detail to an animator’s drawings, their jobs were shifted to creating drawings from scratch. In the animation process, the drawings that define the shape of a movement are referred to as “keyframes” or “poses.” The animator would be responsible for these. They might be drawings 1, 5, 9, etc. Other drawings serve to connect the keyframes together and these drawings are referred to as “inbetweens.” They would be drawings 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, etc. Starting in the 1920’s at the Fleischer studio, Art Davis was assigned to draw inbetweens for animator Dick Huemer. The job classification became known as inbetweener and Huemer estimated that Davis would do 75% of the drawings in a scene (Adamson, Fleischers 25). Huemer was the Fleischers best animator and Davis was assigned to help increase Huemer’s productivity.

These tight deadlines, division of labour and the casual approach to story and characters worked against any kind of coherent characters in the films of the time. While studio animation existed for 15 years before sound altered the production processes, only one character emerged from the period who can be said to have developed a consistent personality: Felix the Cat.

Felix was the work of Otto Messmer, an employee of the Pat Sullivan studio. Messmer started in the animation business in 1915, just as studios were getting off the ground. He was working for Sullivan by 1916, when he contributed to a dozen animated cartoons based on Charlie Chaplin (Canemaker, Felix 38). Messmer recalled that, “Chaplin sent at least thirty or forty photographs of himself in different [poses]…and we copied every little movement that he did” (Canemaker, Felix 38).

By 1916, Chaplin had already enlarged film comedy’s vocabulary and would continue to do so into the 1920’s. Perhaps Chaplin’s greatest contribution was acting that was far subtler than earlier performers who mugged and waved their arms. It’s significant that Messmer spent time attempting to match Chaplin’s gestures in animation as Felix would later achieve the reputation of the best character in silent cartoons.

Messmer created Felix in 1919, though the cat wasn’t named Felix until his third film (Canemaker, Felix 56). In the film, Felix woos a female, despite the attempted interference by humans. Canemaker describes Messmer’s style as having “a coolly detached yet determined protagonist, who uses his brain and the magic of metamorphosis to solve problems; the simple, direct pantomimic acting; dry wit expressed through visual puns” (Felix 18).

Initially, Messmer was able to avoid the assembly-line nature of the studio as he was the sole animator on the Felix series until 1924. In that year, when the release schedule was doubled to a cartoon every two weeks, guest animators were brought in to help. Bill Nolan and Raoul Barré each worked on Felix at separate times as guest animators (Crafton, Before 310-12).
“The crew worked on only one film at a time, on a two-week schedule, but naturally there was a lag between the various phases of production. The animators were ahead of the inkers and blackeners, and the cameraman might be behind half a film, or even finishing work on the previous one. This system differs from, say, those of the Terry or Fleischer studios, where subcrews worked on two or three films simultaneously. The reason is evident: The Assembly line was essentially an extension of Messmer. It was linear so that he could control the operation completely and efficiently” (Crafton, Before 314-317).
Crafton should have added stylistically as well. Messmer’s tight hold on Felix provided him with a consistent personality, perhaps the major key to his popularity with audiences. Felix was the first merchandising phenomenon to come out of the animation industry; there were Felix toys, dishware, comic strips, clocks and popular songs (Canemaker, Felix 4).

In many ways, Felix was the prototype for what animated characters would become in the sound and TV eras, especially in terms of presenting a coherent persona to audiences. Because Messmer controlled his character more tightly than the filmmakers who made Mutt and Jeff or Krazy Kat, he was able to counteract some of the fragmentation introduced by the assembly-line system. This was still a far cry from the unity of a theatrical or film performance, but Messmer demonstrated that with a strong guiding hand, a small crew of artists could be made to work in a consistent fashion, giving the appearance of a character having a unique, individual mind.

This approach continued to be used in the sound era, though at times the creative force was the producer, the director or a lead animator. However, while a variety of approaches evolved, they all involved someone leading a crew. The speed animation was produced prevented the possibility, in most cases, of a single person controlling a single character’s behaviour in a studio setting.

Three other issues affected the status of character behaviour in animation during this time period: source content, artistic lineage and the length of films.

The content of live action film was based on a variety of sources. Some were based on comic strips, such as Porter’s Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend (Edison, 1907), but others were based on historical subjects (The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots; Edison, 1895), novels (Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Lubin 1903), plays (Passion Play; Lubin, 1898) operas (The Barber of Sevilla; Mèliés, 1904), and popular genres (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Vitagraph, 1905 and The Great Train Robbery; Edison, 1903). By contrast, the content of early animated films was based on the vaudeville genre of the sketch act (Humorous Phases of Funny Faces and Fantasmagorie), comic strips such as The Newlyweds and Mutt and Jeff, and the circus, with McCay playing an animal tamer in Gertie the Dinosaur.

I mention this specifically because the range of content that live action drew from had a more developed sense of characterization than the source material for animated films. Because the source material for animated films was based more on novelty and gags than live action films, animation prior to Disney was not nearly as concerned with characters behaving in a consistent fashion.

There is also the issue of artistic lineage. Many of the actors for live action came from vaudeville and the theatre, so playing a role was their stock in trade and they entered films as experienced performers, though they had to adjust their technique for the camera. In the theatre, they had the benefit of working with more experienced performers and had the entire tradition of acting to draw on. Most importantly, they had direct contact with an audience, allowing them to gauge their success as performers.

Many of the early animators had worked as cartoonists for print media. They were not academically trained, so they were ignorant of art history. They were not used to creating narratives longer than a Sunday comics page. They found themselves in a medium where art now had to move, but there was no tradition to draw on and no predecessors to learn from. They had no experience of an audience’s presence, so relied more on personal judgment.
As a result, their goals were more modest than experienced actors’. The animators’ only goal was to get a laugh. This is why a Mutt and Jeff cartoon could be split among several animators with no concern for the lead characters behaving in a consistent fashion.

At the time the animation industry was developing the capability of hitting a regular release schedule, the live action industry was increasing the length of films. Where one and two reel films had been the standard in the first decade of the 20th century, the succeeding decade saw many producer, directors and stars move into films longer than two reels. Dramas by D.W. Griffith (The Birth of a Nation), Thomas Ince (Civilization), William S. Hart (Hell’s Hinges) and John Ford (Straight Shooting) are examples of this trend.

Comedy, as a genre, was slower to expand into longer lengths. While Mack Sennett directed the feature Tillie’s Punctured Romance in 1914, it really wasn’t until the 1920’s that comedians like Chaplin, Arbuckle, Lloyd, Keaton and Langdon moved from one and two reelers into feature films.

During this time period, animated films stayed at less than a reel in length. The shift to longer films put pressure on live action narratives and characterizations to be more complex in order to hold the audience’s attention. Because animated films remained short, they did not experience the same pressure.

At the same time film lengths were increasing, the live action film business was migrating away from New York and New Jersey and moving to California. The animation industry remained in New York, physically separate from the major part of the business. In addition, while major live action studios were growing in the 1920’s (the merger of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Warner Bros. buying Vitagraph and First National Pictures), animation studios remained small and independent. The artistic advances being made in live action acting and storytelling had little effect on animation, as animation studios were separated by distance and the lack of close business relationships (except for distribution) with the larger film world.

Given all these things, it isn’t surprising that characters in silent animation were underdeveloped and that animators were not concerned with the lack of unity in how a character behaved.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Six Authors In Search of a Character: Part 2, Introduction

In live action film, we think of the actor as being central to a role. Marlon Brando is Vito Corleone in The Godfather. We understand that the script, direction, lighting, costuming, etc. all contribute to our perception of the character, but while we can’t quantify how much Brando contributes, we have a gut feeling that he is responsible for the majority of the impression that the character makes on us. Replace him with another actor and the character is different. It’s Brando’s body, voice and movement whenever the character of Vito Corleone is on screen and most of all it is Brando’s brain driving it all.

In other cases, such as the James Bond films, we can easily see how changing the actor affects the character. Sean Connery is different than Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, etc. If you use the TV series Bewitched as an example, two different actors, Dick York and Dick Sargent, both played the role of Darren Stephens yet nobody confused them. They were different while playing the same character.

Imagine watching a dubbed film. The on-screen actor has performed the role in the usual way. The voice actor, adding his or her voice after the visuals have been created, is constrained in several ways. The timing and the emotions are dictated by what’s on the screen. The voice actor has no control over the visuals and has to work within their limitations if the dubbing is to be successful. The on-screen actor has no control of the sound that will come from his or her character in the dubbed version. Neither actor has control over the character; the unity of actor and character which audiences take for granted has been broken. The single character has become a collaboration.

While dubbing is fairly common, let’s extend the problem. Assume that a production has a tight shooting schedule. In order to meet the schedule, a producer hires several actors who closely resemble each other to play the same character. This way, several scenes can be shot simultaneously on different sets. As the actors will be photographed simultaneously, how can the character’s behaviour be defined? If the actors are each allowed their own interpretation, it’s unlikely that their various scenes will cohere into a consistent whole. The only solution would be to establish the character’s behaviour before the actors step before the camera, but while that may minimize the variations, there is no longer any hope of unity.

While this is a ridiculous way to shoot a live action film, it is the standard method of creating an animated feature or television series. It stems from a basic difference between the two forms. One of the fundamental aspects of live action film and video is that motion is observable in the real world and recorded in real time. Ten seconds of continuously recorded film or tape captures ten seconds of motion. In animation there is no observable motion to record. The motion is constructed from still images a frame at a time. The illusion of motion only exists when these images are displayed rapidly. As the creation of these images does not occur in real time, ten seconds of animation might represent a day’s or several week’s worth of effort.

By itself, this fact would not necessarily change the nature of creating an animated character. One animator could be responsible for a character for the length of a film much as a single actor performs a role in live action. However, because animation is forced to fit into formats and release schedules that were created for live action film and TV, animators rarely have this luxury. The speed at which animation must be created to accommodate the marketplace has, to a great extent, determined the structure of animation production and defined how animated characters are realized.

Producers have found it more efficient to spread a character among several animators in order to speed up production. As this inevitably leads to a lack of consistency in a character’s behavior, much of the control of characters has been shifted to pre-production, further eroding the animators’ influence. The contrasting needs for efficiency and coherence in the portrayal of animated characters are irreconcilable and continue to shape the creation of animated films.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pinocchio Part 9A

I mentioned in Part 8A that Stromboli's orchestra is suggested by just showing the bell of a horn and remarked how economical that was. I've since stumbled on a model sheet at that shows the decision to economize was not the initial approach.

This sequence, where Geppetto leaves his home to search for Pinocchio, is short and deceptively simple. It actually is important for defining what the movie is about. One of the main questions every filmmaker has to ask is, "What is important?" What needs to be shown and what needs to be left out? This sequence, due to its brevity and humour, definitely establishes that Geppetto's problems are not what concerns this movie. Pinocchio is the focus.

It doesn't have to be this way. One Hundred and One Dalmatians downplays the puppies to focus on the adult animals. The puppies don't really become a part of the story until they're found by Tibbs the cat, an adult involved in the search. In this way, Dalmatians resembles The Searchers, where we don't see Debbie after her capture until Ethan and Martin find her. It is possible to make a film that concentrates on both parties in a separation, which is what Finding Nemo does by following both Marlin and Nemo.

Pinocchio fudges things about Geppetto in this sequence. We never see him leave the house until he decides to search for Pinocchio. Yet we can tell by the dinner, including cake for Cleo, that Geppetto must have gone to the market during the day. Realistically, Geppetto must interact with the rest of the village at some minimal level, but for the purposes of this story, he must be seen as a recluse to justify the creation of a wooden son and the decision to abandon Pinocchio at the front door.

Animation-wise, this sequence is cast by character. Except for scene 2, where Jack Bradbury and Fred Madison appear, all of Geppetto is done by Babbitt, all of Figaro is by Larson and all of Cleo is by Lusk. Geppetto's sadness is conveyed by his bent back, but the scene is dominated by Larson's Figaro. The cat's anticipation for dinner, his lying about his intentions and his disappointment at being thwarted are all vividly realized by Larson. Scene 15, in particular, is an excellent piece of acting.


There's an article in the N.Y. Times about Paprika, the Japanese animated feature that will open in N.Y. and L.A. on May 25. The article quotes director Satoshi Kon, whose other films include Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers.

“In Japan not just children but adults in their 20s and 30s will chose anime and manga as a means of escape from their real lives,” Mr. Kon said, referring to the thick, novelistic Japanese comic books. “But I think there is a danger too. If you go into that world, it is very vivid and colorful and seductive, but there are big traps within that, particularly if you let your real world deteriorate as a result.”

“On television and through the Internet people are being seduced by the sweetness of illusion and the sweetness of dreams,” Mr. Kon continued. “It is necessary to have that relief, because without it life is too difficult. But I think the amount of fantasy that people are being fed through the media has become disproportionate. I believe in a balance between real life and imagination. Anime should not be just another means of escape.”
You can see the trailer for the film here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Six Authors In Search of a Character: The Collaborative Nature of Performance in Animated Films (Part 1)

I'm going to start printing my Masters thesis here. Except it isn't a thesis anymore, it's an MRP (Major Research Paper). The difference is that an MRP does not have to be defended. The switch was made because family business took me away from Toronto and I wouldn't have been available to defend until the fall, which would have cost me additional tuition.

I'm starting with a list of works cited. I don't expect anybody to read this, but when I print the body of the paper, I can link back to this entry for anybody looking for more information about a quote or a piece of information. Some of the weblinks in this list have expired but some are still active.

Works Cited

Abel, Glen, “Raging Bull.” The Hollywood Reporter, 3 February 2005.

Adamson, Joe. “Chuck Jones Interviewed.” The American Animated Cartoon: A Critical Anthology. Ed. Gerald Peary and Danny Peary. E.P. Dutton: New York, 1980.

---. “Joe Adamson Talks With Richard Huemer.” AFI Report Summer 1974: 10-17.

---. “Working for the Fleischers: An Interview with Dick Huemer.” Funnyworld Winter 1974-75: 23-28.

Alda, Alan. Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and Other Things I’ve Learned. New York: Random House, 2005.

Allan, Robin and Dr. William Moritz. “James Algar.” Walt’s People Volume 3. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

Bailey, Steven. “Interview with Chuck Jones.” Chuck Jones Conversations. Ed. Maureen Furniss. University Press of Mississippi: Jackson, 2005.

Barbera, Joseph. My Life in ‘toons: From Flatbush to Bedrock in Under a Century. Turner Publishing, Inc: Atlanta, 1994.

Barrier, Michael. “Art Babbitt.” Walt’s People Volume 3. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

---. “David Hand.” Walt’s People Volume 1. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2005.

---. “The Moving Drawing Speaks,” Funnyworld Summer 1978: 17-37.

---. “Frank Tashlin.” Walt’s People Volume 2. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

---. Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford University Press: New York, 1999.

---. “What’s New.” Michael

Barrier, Michael and Bill Spicer. “An Interview with Chuck Jones.” Funnyworld Spring 1971: 4-19.

Blair, Preston. Animation. Foster Art Service: Tustin, undated.

Blanc, Mel with Philip Bashe. That’s not all Folks! Warner Books: New York, 1988.

Beck, Jerry, ed. Animation Art. Flame Tree Publishing: London, 2004.

Cabarga, Leslie. The Fleischer Story. Revised Edition. DaCapo Press: New York, 1988.

Canemaker, John. Paper Dreams: The Art and Artists of Disney Storyboards. Hyperion: New York, 1999.

---. Felix: The Twisted Tale of the World’s Most Famous Cat. Pantheon Books: New York, 1991.

---. “Profile Of A Living Animation Legend: J.R. Bray.” Filmmakers Newsletter January 1975: 28-31.

---. Treasures of Disney Animation Art. Abbeville Press: New York, 1982.

Cawley, John and Jim Korkis. How to Create Animation. Pioneer Books: Las Vegas, 1990.

Cohen, David S. “New techniques make visual effects more actor-friendly: Actors' chops meet techno shop.” Variety. 11 December 2006.

Crafton, Donald. Before Mickey: The Animated Film 1898-1928. MIT Press: Cambridge, 1982.

---. Emile Cohl: Caricature, and Film. Princeton University Press: New Jersey, 1990.

Culhane, John. Disney’s Aladdin: The Making of an Animated Film. Hyperion: New York, 1992.

Culhane, Shamus. Talking Animals and Other People. St. Martin’s Press: New York, 1986.

Dobbs, G. Michael. “Billy West: The multi-talented star of Ren and Stimpy and Doug.” Animato Spring 1994: 41-42.

---. “Face Behind the Voices: Don Messick – Man for All Toons.” Animato Winter 1995: 27-28.

---. “Sid Raymond: The Return of Baby Huey.” Animato Spring 1994: 38, 63.

Finch, Christopher. The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms. Harry N. Abrams: New York, 1973.

Furniss, Maureen. Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics John Libbey & Company Limited: Sydney 1998. Reprinted 1999.

Ghez, Didier. “Andreas Deja.” Walt’s People Volume 3. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

Giddins, Gary. Natural Selection: Gary Giddins on Comedy, Films, Music and Books. Oxford University Press: New York, 2006.

Gray, Milton. “Perspectives on Animation.” Funnyworld Spring 1971: 43-45, 54.

Hanna, Bill with Tom Ito. A Cast of Friends. Da Capo Press: Cambridge, 2000.

Harryhausen, Ray and Tony Dalton. Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life: Adventures in Fantasy. Aurum Press: London, 2003.

Jones, Chuck. “Animation is a Gift Word.” AFI Report Summer 1974: 27-29.

Jurgens, Joe. “The Inner Daffy: Chuck Jones and the Creative Process.” Chuck Jones Conversations. Ed. Maureen Furniss. University Press of Mississippi: Jackson, 2005.

Kaufman, J. B. “Friz Freleng.” Walt’s People Volume 2. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

Kaufman, Sarah. “Tapping A Gold Mine of Motion: Dance Form Gives 'Happy Feet' a Boost -- And Vice Versa.” Washington Post. December 17, 2006.

Kaytis, Clay. “Show 016 - Burny Mattinson, Part One.” The Animation Podcast.

Kerr, Walter. The Silent Clowns. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1975.

Klein, I. “A Vision of Katzenjammers.” Funnyworld Spring 1972: 29-31.

Korkis, Jim. “Bill Justice.” Walt’s People Volume 3. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006

---. “Jack Hannah.” Walt’s People Volume 1. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2005.

---. “Ward Kimball.” Walt’s People Volume 2. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

Lyons, Mike. “Mushu Debut: An Interview with Mulan Animator Tom Bancroft.” Animato Spring 1998: 96-98.

Maltin, Leonard. Of Mice and Magic. Revised Edition. New American Library: New York, 1987.

Mast, Gerald. A Short History of the Movies. Pegasus: New York, 1971.

Musser, Charles. The Emergence of Film: The American Screen to 1907. History of the American Cinema Volume 1 to 1907. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1994.

Neuwirth, Allan. Makin’ Toons: Inside the Most Popular Animated TV Shows and Movies. Allworth Press: New York, 2003.

Peary, Danny. “Reminiscing with Walter Lantz.” The American Animated Cartoon. Ed. Gerald Peary and Danny Peary. E.P. Dutton: New York, 1980.

Peet, Bill. An Autobiography. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, 1989.

Province, John. “Bill Peet.” Walt’s People Volume 3. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

Rasmussen, Thorkil B. “Eric Larsen.” Walt’s People Volume 3. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

Rowley, Stephen. “Serkis Performer.” Cinephobia. January 15, 2006.

Scott, Keith. The Moose That Roared: The Story of Jay Ward, Bill Scott, a Flying Squirrel and a Talking Moose. Thomas Dunne Books: New York 2001.

Serkis, Andy. The Lord of the Rings Gollum: How We Made Movie Magic. Collins: London, 2003.

Shale, Richard. “Ward Kimball.” Walt’s People Volume 5. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2007.

Solomon, Charles. Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1989.

---. “The Penguins and People Look Great, but Are They Animation?” New York Times. January 7, 2007.

Strzyz, Klaus. “Art Babbitt.” Walt’s People Volume 3. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

Sullivan, Wes. “Dale Oliver.” Walt’s People Volume 3. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

---. “Volus Jones.” Walt’s People Volume 3. Ed. Didier Ghez. Xlibris: Philadelphia, 2006.

Thomas, Frank and Ollie Johnston. Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. Abbeville Press: New York, 1981.

White, Tony. Animation From Pencils to Pixels. Focal Press: London, 2006.

Andrew Loomis in German

Andrew Loomis was a commercial artist who worked in the 1920's to the 1950's. In addition, he was a teacher and the author of a much sought-after series of art instruction books such as Fun With a Pencil, Figure Drawing For All It's Worth, Creative Illustration, Three Dimensional Drawing and Drawing the Head and Hands. The books are all out of print and command high prices on the used book market. There are two Walter Foster editions that are highly abridged versions of the books, but they are disappointing to anyone who has seen the originals.

It turns out that Figure Drawing For All Its Worth is still in print in Germany and can be ordered from Bud Plant for $29.95 U.S. Definitely worth owning and a bargain to boot.