Saturday, February 14, 2009
The Bandmaster Part 3
Above is the complete version of The Bandmaster, directed by Dick Lundy for the Lantz studio. It's available on The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection.
There are several bits of animation I'd like to talk about. The first is Les Kline's trapeze artist, which is around 3:03 into the cartoon. When we think of animators who create funny movement, we tend to think of people like Rod Scribner or Jim Tyer - animators whose movements are very broad. The shot of the trapeze artist is the opposite; it's a quiet piece of motion that could actually be accomplished with a cut-out. The idea of a cartoon character defying gravity was already old by 1947, yet the way this character moves to the music is somewhat hypnotic and always breaks me up. There is something otherworldly about it; a loopy grace that glides along the clarinet solo. The second shot of her is an anti-climax that breaks the spell. The gag with her hair is not particularly good and the decision to animate her in perspective also breaks the mood. For me, though, that first shot is unforgettable.
Pat Matthews is one of the great unsung animators. Take a look at this 30 frame cycle of the dancing elephants. It's beautiful in many ways. Click to enlarge.
First, there's a lot of action jammed into a second and a quarter. Second, the are great rhythmic lines in many of the poses. Take a look at frames 15, 18 and 22 for example. The paths of action for the body and trunk are also strongly rhythmic and graceful. There's some expert spacing between the drawings. The leap (frames 12-15) is only four frames after a lengthy anticipation. The leg kick on frame 18 really pops relative to the preceding drawings. The spacing between drawings 22 and 23 is also quite large. Of course, all of this synchs well with the music.
This animation is also very efficient in that it is cycled with the characters moving to the right and then it is flopped and re-used as they move to the left. Because each drawing is used at least four times, Matthews could afford the time to make sure that each drawing was attractive and that the animation worked.
Both of these bits of animation are grace notes in what's really not a very good cartoon, but both show the power of movement itself to entertain.
The last piece of animation I want to mention is again by Les Kline. The animation of Andy pushing the tub of water at the climax does a great job of conveying panic and furious action. The posing and movements are broad; the timing is fast. There's a genuine sense of desperation coming from the character. The cartoon hasn't really built up to a climax in terms of content, but Kline's animation pumps energy into the end of the cartoon that really gives it an extra kick. Again, the power of movement to emotionally affect an audience.