Friday, August 13, 2010

Dumbo Part 18

The clowns are still celebrating and decide to raise the platform that Dumbo jumps from. On their way out to ask for a raise, one of them knocks into the table, spilling a bottle of champagne into a bucket of water.

This is a very curious sequence from a graphical standpoint. Like the previous clown sequence played in silhouette, the layouts are credited to Al Zinnen. However, that sequence was animated by Berny Wolf and this one was animated by Art Babbitt. This sequence is quite a bit busier graphically. The characters are not as well defined by the negative spaces around them and their silhouettes are not as strong. The clowns' hair is far more complicated here. There are more clowns on screen, which also clogs up the graphics.

Did Zinnen lay out both sequences or was he supervising two different layout artists? Did Berny Wolf make a conscious decision to streamline the layouts he was given? Did Babbitt add more detail and characters? Personally, I find Wolf's sequence more attractive than Babbitt's. Babbitt's is a bit of overkill.

I also wonder about Babbitt being assigned to this sequence. He's the animator who did the Queen in Snow White, Gepetto in Pinocchio and the mushroom dance in Fantasia. He animated the stork earlier in Dumbo. Why put an animator of Babbitt's caliber on this sequence? Were his union organizing activities affecting the assignments he was given? It may simply be that he needed work and this was what was available, but it's a rather dry assignment.

According to the draft, the sequence opens with the clowns singing. I assume that what the sequence currently starts with was the end of shot 4, with the clowns laughing at their lyrics.

While shot 18 is separate on the draft, there is no cut from shot 17. It's only the addition of Josh Meador animating the bottle and the liquids that justifies giving it a separate shot number.


Eric Noble said...

Interesting. Absolutely fascinating. I guess Babbitt could have just needed an assignment, since I don't think he worked on Bambi at the time. Interesting how history works out.

Steven Hartley said...

Yeah - interesting that Josh Meador was credited on scene 18 in the draft doing clowns and bottle, and I thought he only did the bottle!!

Art Palmer does the liquid water turning into alcohol!!

Josh Meador seems to have done little effects in the film, and during the first scenes in the Stork Sequence, did Josh animate all the rain??

Steven Hartley said...

I know info on Art Palmer, he was born in November 27, 1913 in Chicago, Illinois; he had an older sister named Ida G. Palmer (older), and his father died when he was ten I believe.

He worked for Disney in 1936 to work on Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi; and left in 1942 (probably during the strike - or serving in the military -I don't know), he married to Elizabeth A. Palmer in 1937, and its unknown when they divorced.

Art Palmer died in July 7, 1982 aged 68 in Woodacre, California.

This info was based on Joe Campana who e-amiled me!!

Zartok-35 said...

You can always tell when Art Palmer animates water.

"Donald's Tire Trouble" and "Lake Titicaca" were among his last jobs.

Peter said...

Scene 17-18 appears to be a curious case of something presumably unplanned working despite itself.

The shadows in these scenes are DX or ‘partial exposure’ shadows – the shadows are painted solid black, but when they are put under the camera, on top of the background painting, the aperture of the camera is stopped down so that the frame is underexposed.

Then the shadow cel is removed, and the background is shot at another partial exposure so that the two exposures add up to one full exposure. This leaves a partial exposure of the background in the black areas of the shadow; i.e. the background is darker where the black areas were. (Usually all the animation is shot on the first run, then the film is run back and the scene is shot again without the shadow cels for the second run, to save constantly changing the aperture each frame. The 2-tone effect of the silhouettes could have been achieved by using three exposures, but I’m inclined to think that they probably painted the shadow cels black and dark grey.)

However, scene 17 requires some real cel animation when the bottle falls over and pours into the water tub. (The beauty of these clown scenes, besides the great saving in paint and trace that it provided, is that we are kept from getting emotionally involved with the characters by this distancing device – we don’t enter their world, only overhear them. But the bottle of champagne intrudes into the real [i.e. Dumbo’s] world, moving from shadow to substance!)

And here an error seems to occur. I’m guessing that originally the corner of the table and the appearing bottle were going to be matched-back to the static background showing the gap in the tent. But that the animator felt that the hard edge looked wrong, that the canvas needed to move with the bottle. So the end stripe of the canvas was traced and painted on cel, to match the background, so that the edge could animate with the bottle (while the other side remained matched to the static background.

The animating flap had to be on top of the held cel of the table, and the shadows of the clowns had to pass behind the exposed table (was the decision taken not to trace and paint the parts of the clowns that should have been visible passing the opening, or was it another oversight that only the shadows are seen through the gap?)

This arrangement under the camera meant that the shadow cels were under the end stripe animating overlay, and so do not appear as shadows across the first stripe of the canvas flap.

This ought to be a glaring error, but in fact it works, because it makes the end of the canvas more solid and 3-dimensional and focuses us on the bottle, where a literal rendering of the shadows across all the stripes would have seemed too flat.

But was this an unplanned accident that actually worked in the film’s favour, or was it a quick fix to overcome an unnatural flatness evident in the first shooting of the scene (or test of the set-up)?

Peter said...
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