Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The rise and fall of Construction in cartoons Pt 3 - 1950s - Undertures and corners

This is part 1 of the Disney 50s: Undertures
Part 2 will be: stock "cartoony" construction
part 3 will be: UPA influence/ Tom Oreb/Ward Kimball-The Cal Arts New Testament
Part 4 will be: combining UPA with rubber hose-the most successful use (to me) of UPA influence at Disney.


Disney continued making their main characters "undertures", that is - designs that are less cartoony, interesting or individual than live humans. This Prince from Cinderella is the worst of the type, because there is no visible construction in it. The facial features just float inside the inspecific silhouette of his face. This inspecificity of construction makes it very hard to animate. It means the features will have a tendency to float around, because they are not clearly set into specific forms.
Alice is an underture, but her construction is still mildly visible. She is still based on Elmer Fudd/ Preston Blair baby construction.

You can see her cheeks bulge out and her eyes fit into them.

There is no specific individual design to the character. She is pure generic. She is construction alone, with no individual variations on the basic Disney forms.
Wendy is the exact same design (or lack of design) as Alice. She still has a bit of visible construction. She has a definite chin, jaw and cheek. (Today's Disney designs don't. The mouths and eyes just float around independent of the silhouette of the head and jawline)
Aurora is sthe same design as Alice and Wendy, with taller proportions and a slightly more anglular finish. The angles make 3-dimensional sense unlike today's wobbly pointy copies of this style.

She is animated beautifully, with the help of rotoscoping and Marc Davis' fantastic skill, but the most you can say about it is that it is smooth and solid. It's a hell of a lot of trouble to go to for the mere result of not looking clumsy.

No one today could animate humans without the features floating all over the place and the construction shifting and melting as the character tries to turn in 3 dimensions. I don't know why anyone even tries, since the best you can get with "realistic" design is merely: "It didn't look awkward." Unfortunately, today there are no Marc Davis' at studios that spend a lot of money and 20 years training you to do extreme solid animation that isn't clumsy.

Here is an extreme underture animated by the great Milt Kahl. Even Milt himself hated animating this and complained all through the production. He wanted to go back to the old sensible days of animating cartoony characters like Br'er Rabbit.

This is the only male realistic character I have ever seen that is animated smoothly, without melting all over the screen or looking completely awkward. Yet much less capable animators than Kahl in eras that are much less disciplined than mid century America keep attempting it.This looks like Dic took over Disney.

Can someone explain why?? No one likes to animate stuff like this and it only worked the one time-and didn't work at all in the context of the film itself:
Next installment: 50s construction of "cartoony" characters at Disney's. Using the same stock construction for countless characters.