Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mickey's Delayed Date Part 2

Before talking about the animators on this cartoon, I want to talk about credits. This is actually the first Mickey short to include credits, and we know from the documents provided by Hans Perk that the on-screen credits are incomplete. Four animators are listed, but there are four others who worked on the film without screen credit: Andy Engman, Bob Youngquist (photos 3, 4 and 5 show him in the 1930's), Harry Holt and Marvin Woodward. This means that we can't really trust Disney's screen credits for animators and there are other credits missing.

Mickey's voice was probably provided by James MacDonald, who took over the voice halfway into "Mickey and the Beanstalk" in Fun and Fancy Free. I don't know who was providing Minnie's voice at this point. Beyond voice people, there are no credits for assistants, inbetweeners, inkers, painters or camera operators. Even with the studio documentation, we can't tell which effects animation was done by Engman or by Jack Boyd. They're listed as effects directors, but did they have a staff or did they just split up the work themselves? Did Boyd get the credit based on footage, which is how animator credits were determined, or did they just alternate?

This cartoon was released in 1947 and by then, Disney was no longer willing to lavish large budgets on the shorts. Charles Nichols later directed at Hanna-Barbera for years doing TV cartoons and the seeds of a TV directing style can be seen here. Most shots feature just a single character, which saves animation. More often then not, a cut is not on a single character's action (which would require planning a hook-up drawing), but from one character to another. Even if a character is in two consecutive shots, the character is often off-screen at the end of the first shot or the start of the second. All this makes it easier to assign shots to animators without them worrying about what's happening in the surrounding shots. It also means that shots can be animated in any order without creating continuity problems.

Another economical aspect of the directing is the heavy re-use of layouts and backgrounds. The first six shots of Minnie use identical set-ups. Scene 2 gets an overlay, but the rest are completely the same. Many of the other backgrounds are used at least twice.

This is quite a change from a cartoon like Mr. Duck Steps Out, made just 7 years earlier. It is full of multi-character shots and often cuts on action. Nichols' approach is far more stripped down than Jack King's. It ain't as pretty, but it's more cost-effective. In the post-war period, with falling movie attendance and rising costs, the short cartoons from all the studios felt the financial pinch and even Disney was not immune.


Anonymous said...

Your breakdown of the styling of this film is accurate and informed. Great job of detailing it and, in doing so, detailing most TV animation. You've gotten to the heart of it with this short.

I wonder if it was a slow economical changeover to these cheapening methods or a thought-out, planned one that evolved over numerous shorts. I assume the latter.

joto said...

Hi mark, very informative blog and useful to anyone in animation. I am definately going to save every dollar once I am working. liked the article on what is and isn't animation. Sad to see pixar isn't doing so well with cars but seems like the public has faith in them still if disney's stocks have gone up after they merged. This is a scary but exciting industry. Congrats on your 100th post. There is alot of great info passing through your site. Just curious on where I can find the Mickey and the Beanstalk cartoon. Been searching and can't find it, or any jack and the beanstalk type cartoons that come to mind. Once again thanks for the info.

Mark Mayerson said...

Mickey and the Beanstalk is half of the Disney feature Fun and Fancy Free, which has been released on DVD and is still available from Amazon.

Anonymous said...

There's another version of it on video... narrated by Ludwig von Drake, with a framing device involving Ludwig telling it to a little bootle-beetle called Herman.

Thad said...

In regards to uncredited animators... Mark, you should post the identifications from the McKimson short "One Meat Brawl". There are no fewer than nine animators on it! That might be more in line with the studio being disorriented with Tashlin and Clampett leaving almost simutaneously though.

- Thad