Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Dumbo Part 6

As I watch this film in chunks, I am struck by how much the film relies on contrast. Each sequence seems to contrast with the last and there is contrast within sequences as well. This sequence follows the raising of the big top during a thunderstorm. Where the previous sequence was dark and grey, this one is bright and colorful. The music here also contrasts with the roustabout song.

Within this sequence, there is the contrast between the excitement of the parade itself and the boredom of the animals. Those open-mouthed animals in shots 4.1 and 8 are yawning, not roaring. There's also contrast between the gorilla's seemingly ferocious demeanor in shot 7 and his embarrassment when one of the bars comes loose. Van Kaufman animated the shot. While he not well-known, he certainly gives a good performance here.

Hicks Lokey's animation of the band in shot 3 is broad, energetic and full of stretch and squash. Similarly, his animation of the clowns in shot 11 introduces them and also establishes that while they're colourful and frantic, they are not particularly funny. There are no gags taken to completion.

Alberto Becattini's listing for Lokey has no credit between Dumbo in 1941 and Lokey joining Hanna Barbera around 1958. Based on Lokey's work in this film, it's a shame that he had no further opportunities to do work of this caliber.

The final shot of Dumbo, unfortunately uncredited, is an excellent piece of character animation. Dumbo is happy to be trailing behind his mother. The crowd distracts him and he shows some nervousness. He overcomes the nervousness with a smile and then runs to catch up to his mother, tripping on his ears and landing in a puddle. Finally, he looks sad over his situation and the laughter of the crowd. This is a textbook example of what's known these days as the "gear change," where a character's thoughts are expressed through changes in facial expression.

Because the elephants in Dumbo are so well done, it's important to realize what an animation challenge they are. Characters on four legs don't have arms to help communicate. Elephants, in particular, don't have fingers. Because they are so bulky, their spines can't be used to express emotion the way that Pluto's spine can. That pretty much leaves their faces and the way their bodies move overall. The last shot here and shot 9 in sequence 3 (animated by Hugh Fraser) are both examples of the use of the head and face as the focus of elephant acting.


John V. said...

It's a shame that we don't know who animated sc. 12, as the elephants are drawn quite strangely here.

Steven Hartley said...

I think its a rather colourful sequence, and yet no animation credit on Dumbo the elephant, probably John Lounsbery did him, since he worked for Norm Ferguson, and that he did some Dumbo shots!

Eric Noble said...

Very interesting. I love your in-depth analysis of these Disney films. Incredible post. Whenever I saw this sequence, I always felt a Milt Gross influence on the clown, mainly in their design. Milt Gross was always much funnier than those clowns. Hell, the Joker is funnier than they are.

Zartok-35 said...

Indeed, it's not too hard to come to the conclusion that its Lounsbery doing Dumbo. Comapred to the rest of the film, it's quite transparent.

Eric Noble said...

"Indeed, it's not too hard to come to the conclusion that its Lounsbery doing Dumbo"

How do you figure that?

Zartok-35 said...

Those scenes look just like his other listed works later in the film.

Steven Hartley said...

And also, John Lounsbery's Dumbo often appeared in Norm Ferguson's sequences, and (Pyramid Act, Hiccups and Cure, Pink Elephants), and its pretty much John Lounsbery doing the last scenes.

The only animation in the film with John Lounsbery's animation not a Norm Ferguson sequence, is Sequence 14.2 "Timothy and Dumbo Visit Jail", directed by Bill Roberts and John Elliotte.

Steven Hartley said...

Hello all,

Just to tell you, that I've started my website, "Blabbing on Arts and Culture", and I would be doing some posts in the weekends (weekdays, too busy), and I'm hoping to start posting on Sunday.

I'll be talking about the Dumbo draft and the animators and some other culture like films, books, etc. I'm really looking forward to my postings!