Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Dumbo Part 2
This sequence is pretty much just exposition. The circus is leaving its winter quarters and the animals are being loaded onto Casey Jr. However, the sequence still emphasizes the parent-child relationships. The babies we have seen delivered in the previous sequence are with their parents and all are quite happy to be together and to be boarding the train.
Shot 9, animated by Hugh Fraser, appears fairly straightforward, but actually conveys an enormous amount of story and character information. The lead elephant is as happy as all the other animals we've seen boarding the train. Then comes Mrs. Jumbo, looking depressed. She stands out from all the animals due to her contrasting emotional state and facial expression. She once again looks up at the sky, echoing movements from sequence 1, shot 27, so we know that she's still looking for her baby. The elephant behind her taps her rump. After her surprise reaction, Mrs. Jumbo looks annoyed. Don't they understand what she's going through? Her melancholy returns and the following elephant pushes her into the railroad car. These last bits of animation set up the self-centered nature of the other elephants. Their lack of support will later manifest itself in the ostracism of her child, Dumbo.
It's interesting that Casey Jr. is anthropomorphized. He (it?) is the only object in the film brought to life. The fire engine used by the clowns later in the film is not alive. This could be due to Walt Disney's own fondness for trains or could be due to the popularity of the children's story The Little Engine that Could, a story that went through various incarnations between 1906 and 1930.
The stills below are from shot 19, animated by Poul Kossoff. It's a beautiful layout, with the overlapping hills contributing to the sense of space and perspective. The movement of Casey Jr. travelling down the track does nothing to draw attention to itself, but the animation is devilishly hard. The winding path and the reduction in size need to be carefully done so that the perspective and relative sizes of the cars stay consistent. The drawing problems are of a mechanical nature, but that does nothing to lessen the effort behind them. This is one of those shots whose success renders it invisible, but don't doubt the animator's skill or perseverance.
In the comments to Part 1, Steven Hartley asked about effects animator Cy Young. I know that Young was Chinese-American. According to Alberto Becattini, Young was born in 1900, worked at the Bray Studio from 1924-1934, at Disney from 1934 to 1941 and then finished his career working for the United States Air Force until 1962. He died in 1964. Below is a two-colour cartoon Young made in 1931 of Mendelssohn's Spring Song.