Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dumbo Part 19

Dumbo is still tearful after seeing his mother and gets the hiccups as a result. Timothy has Dumbo drink water from the tub the clowns knocked a bottle of champagne into and both of them inadvertently get drunk. Timothy challenges Dumbo to blow a square bubble, and before their eyes (it's a joint hallucination), the bubble metamorphoses into an elephant that starts to blow its own elephant bubbles.

The use of alcohol and drunkenness is very cleverly handled. The clowns have spiked the water purely by accident. Dumbo is motivated to drink by the hiccups and the hallucinations that start here and continue in the next sequence are what cause Dumbo to fly for the first time. There has been no suggestion anywhere in the film that Dumbo's ears resemble a bird's wings, so Dumbo has no logical reason to attempt flight. It's only the alcohol-induced nightmare that provokes his actions and the audience doesn't find this out until after the fact.

The innocent and accidental nature of the drinking excuse it for both the family audience and the Hollywood censors. The film gets to use alcohol for humour while keeping the characters untainted by a moral lapse.

John Lounsbery handles the bulk of Dumbo shots and Fred Moore handles the bulk of Timothy. I have no idea what Lounsbery's relationship to alcohol was, but Moore was famous for his love of drink. You can bet that everyone in the studio considered this sequence typecasting.

Both animators have a lot of fun with the characters' tipsiness. Lounsbery gives Dumbo heavily lidded eyes. Moore has Timothy constantly weaving, using S-curves for the character's line of action. Ed Brophy is just wonderful in his voicing for Timothy. I don't think that Brophy gets enough credit for what I think is one of the best vocal performances in all the Disney features.

There are unnumbered shots between 18.2 and 26. The draft lists 19, 20, 21, 21.1, 22 and 23 as "out of picture," but I suspect that some of those shots were put back in.

Shot 18
There's some bad matching of the water with the top of the bucket in shot 18 before Timothy comes into the shot. I assume budget limitations prevented it from being fixed and I have to admit that it bothers me every time I see this sequence.

Then two shots later in 18.2 (above), the top of the tub is dry. This is small stuff and nobody watches Dumbo for details like this, but there's a clear distinction between the production values of this film and the other pre-war features.


Zartok-35 said...

This is the sequence Bill Peet talks about on Hogan's Alley. Apparently Freddie was at the peak of his alcoholism when this was in production, and Bill Peet re-did some of his drawings because he drew Mickey Mouse in place of Timothy.

It's pretty much a given that Fred and John animate their respective characters in the unlisted shots. The animation is extremley consistent throughout the sequence.

Eric Noble said...

Fascinating. I thought the aimation for Dumbo was done by Bill Tytla. John Lounsbery did some fantastic animation of Dumbo. I guess he was another one of the studio's "caricaturists". Brilliant work all the way around.

Anonymous said...

Zartok -

Link to the Hogan's Alley piece you refer to ?

So , you're saying that Bill Peet actually takes credit for Fred Moore's animation of Timothy in this sequence , as he did for Tytla's animation of Dumbo in the bath scenes ? As much as I respect Bill Peet that strains credibility.

Thad said...

It can be found here. The site is a bit of a mess now but if you change the # in the URL you can get all the info.

Peet's telling of this sounds apocryphal at best. Mind you, Peet worked his way up from inbetweening, so he definitely knew the process of animation, but it just seems so unlikely that he went over these two very different and prolific artists' work on such a tight schedule. Did any Disney artists ever back this story up?

Steven Hartley said...

Yes, Mark I've notced this before in Shot 18, and drips of water on the bucket haasn't been laid out quite right!!

Speaking of Mrs. Jumbo, I wonder why there isn't a Mr. Jumbo in the story??

Steven Hartley said...

I don't think Peet reanimated the Tytla scenes - I think he was just helping Tytla with the drawings.

There's a BIG difference between drawing and animating!

Mark Mayerson said...

Here is the relevant section of Peet's interview about Fred Moore's Timothy:

"I worked on the mouse [in Dumbo] a lot for Freddy. It was his last big animation assignment. Ironically it was the drunken mouse scene. The champagne bottle falls into the tub of water, and the bubble comes up and then the mouse falls into the tub. Freddy just couldn't draw a mouse that didn't look like Mickey. It was so ingrained in him after drawing just thousands of them. The nose was too round, so I went over Freddy's things including the storyboards. Freddy did a fine animation job on it, but I refined his drawings so they looked like Timothy. That was the last thing he ever did and it turned out to be one of his best jobs.

"Walt let him go on for a long time after that until it got to be too much. He went over to Walter Lantz and couldn't handle it over there either. He later died in an automobile accident. "

Peet's knowledge of Moore's history is flawed at best. It was not the last thing Moore ever did at Disney. Moore continued to work on Disney features throughout the 1940s.

Moore left Lantz because the Lantz studio closed temporarily. Most the Lantz crew dispersed. Saying that Moore "couldn't handle it" is just wrong.

Peet also claims to have directed the voices for the crows. "I directed the voice recordings and the point they missed was that the voices were actually done by black men who were just doing their thing. It was caricatured, but it was them." As Jack Kinney is the sequence director and there are publicity photos of Kinney with Cliff Edwards posing as Jim Crow, I doubt this.

As much as I respect Peet, I get the feeling that he was taking more credit than was justified. Maybe he did a drawing correction or two for Moore, though I don't doubt that Moore's assistants were more than capable of following a model sheet. Maybe he was present at the recording of the crows and made a suggestion, but I doubt he could be credited with directing the session.

The entire interview shows Peet to be angry over what he felt was a lack of recognition for his work while at Disney. I think that colours his memory.

Steven Hartley said...

Yes Mark, that was exactly what I thought the other day and I was told exactly that, and Ward Kimball said that Peet got no acclaim for his work!!

Thad said...

Thanks for that summary, Mark. I agree.

I corresponded with Mike Barrier about Peet years ago, and he said that my impression of the man as a very angry one was correct. MB also said that the animators he spoke to thought a lot more highly of Peet than he thought of them.

Steven Hartley said...

I also had an email from Mike Barrier on Bill Peet, Thad.

He was the one who told me about Peet's claims about Peet animating Tytla scenes and he was the one that told me "there's a big difference between drawing and animation." Like I said in one of the comments before!

Peter said...

Another uncorrected error that reflects the low-budget production is the shadow colour used from the unnumbered scene between 26 and 27 through to the end (it is a translucent paint that is lighter than the background - it may be the paint used for the bubble shadows).