Wednesday, July 09, 2008

101 Dalmatians: Part 13A

The Colonel and Tibbs see Cruella's car head to Hell Hall and they go to investigate. Cruella aggressively bullies Horace and Jasper to kill the puppies that night as the police investigation is heating up. Tibbs smuggles the puppies out of the room where Horace and Jasper are watching TV.

If Jasper was aggressive with Tibbs in the sequence before last, Cruella is far more aggressive here. She blows smoke in Jasper's face, yells at the two of them, throws Jasper's bottle into the fire and slaps both of them.

Marc Davis pulls out the stops on Cruella for this sequence. She starts out frantic, but once she tosses the bottle in the fireplace, she loses control. Her dialogue about killing methods leaves little to the imagination and her rage makes it plain that she is fully capable of killing the puppies if her henchman won't.

The follow-through elements of Cruella - her hair and furs - really get a workout as Davis has her thrash around the room as she yells.

Eric Cleworth and John Sibley handle Horace and Jasper. While Sibley has gotten some attention in recent years (particularly through Pete Docter's Animation Blast article), Cleworth is a virtual unknown. However, in this sequence, he gets the juicier shots. He animates the Baduns throughout their discussion with Cruella, including some strong bits of physical comedy when Horace gets his face knocked into a can and Jasper gets soaked when Cruella grabs his bottle. He also animates a very interesting take in shot 41. For 10 frames, each eye alternately lacks a pupil.

The effect is a fast oscillation that certainly draws attention to Jasper's eyes. While the Baduns are clearly frightened by Cruella, Cleworth immediately has them revert to their lazy, apathetic selves once she leaves. The TV is more important to them than any job.

Speaking of the TV, Art Stevens deserves kudos for the bulk of what's on it. From a story standpoint, the need is for Horace and Jasper to be distracted while Tibbs hustles the puppies out. It's a tribute to Bill Peet and Stevens that what's on the TV is so enjoyable. The show is an obvious parody of What's My Line, and the caricatures of various British types and manners are really amusing. The criminal's reactions to the presence of the policeman are priceless. Here's yet another case where characters who are seen briefly and are not central to the story are still very well defined personalities and are fun to watch.

Eric Larson handles the majority of Tibbs in this sequence. He starts out with Tibbs and the Colonel, and Larson's Colonel is drawn differently. In the image below, animated by Cliff Nordberg, the Colonel has a beard.

In this later scene, animated by Eric Larson, there's no beard.

Drawing differences aside, Larson's animation of the Colonel scrambling towards Hell Hall is nicely loose. There's a good solidity and physicality as the Colonel fights to get traction in the snow.

Larson animates Tibbs witnessing the argument between Cruella and the Baduns, realizing what their ultimate goal is. Once Cruella exits, he starts the puppies moving towards the hole in the wall, herding them as best he can. Larson has Tibbs working efficiently, racing the clock as the show draws to a close.

Larson draws Tibbs with enormously long arms in shots 88 and 89 when Tibbs catches Lucky.

Tibbs is the most heroic character in the film after Pongo and Perdita, and unlike them, he's not motivated by family. He risks his life twice, first to get information and second to get the pups out of danger. He's an intelligent character, gently maneuvering the Colonel into the proper actions without damaging the Colonel's pride. It's a shame that the studio never did more with this resourceful character.


Pete Emslie said...

I recall back in the early 70's when the Global TV network was just starting up here in Canada, we got a British quiz show called " Joker's Wild", which had a roster of panelists that included people like Kenneth Williams, Arthur Askey, and Clement Freud (grandson of Sigmund). I used to love this show, even though I was just a young teen, because these "veddy British", erudite and witty panelists behaved exactly like the animated panelists in the "That's My Crime" sequence of "101 Dalmatians". I realized then just how beautifully the Disney artists had satirized this staple of early British TV.

Yes, I agree with you on Sergeant Tibbs, Mark. He is a truly heroic character and therefore such an appealing and admirable little guy. As I described him over on my blog in my recent character analysis of those three anthropomorphic military types, I am so impressed with the way Disney's animators caught the essence of a young officer, eager to please his superiors. Not only the way they had Tibbs always at the ready, saluting and with his little chest out, standing at attention, but also the style of quick staccato movement they gave him, which showed what an alert and earnest little fellow he was. I consider both Tibbs and the old Colonel to be two very richly developed characters, and I'd have to add that Tibbs is actually my favourite character in the film.

Jenny Lerew said...

"...Tibbs is actually my favourite character in the film."

Mine too.

Michael Sporn said...

Your focus on that eye take in sc 41 is completely amazing. I had to go back and watch that section of the film since I'd missed it. I'm surprised that the people who xeroxed the scene didn't try to "fix" it - or at least the checkers. As they say in animation, nice catch, Mark.

Sorry, I'm not drawn to Tibbs. I loved Pongo from the second I saw him in 1961.

Pete Emslie said...

Well, my fondness for Tibbs has everything to do, I suppose, with his being another of Disney's tiny heroes. I think he ranks alongside such other small characters with big hearts as Jiminy Cricket, Jaq and Gus and the more recent Sebastian the crab. I just naturally love those little characters who put their life on the line to help or rescue somebody, even when faced with what looks like an insurmountable challenge from other characters or obstacles much larger than they. In Tibbs' case, the situation is made even more special by virtue of the fact that he's a cat helping to rescue dogs!

Michael J. Ruocco said...

"...Tibbs is actually my favourite character in the film."

"Mine too."

Me third. He's such a great character, from beginning to end.