Friday, December 19, 2008

Kahl Rabbit Fox

I'm guessing this is Kahl, but am not 100% sure. The drawings are very solid (like McKimson) but have more elaborate design details than WB characters. The drawings aim at doing all the acting while remaining appealing - cute that is. Having to remain cute at all times can be somewhat of a handicap when it comes to acting.
The motion and control in these scenes is amazing. Ultra smooth. Lots of squash and stretch, overlap, secondary actions - a million things happening at once while at the same time having to keep the audience focused on the story.
I think the pure Herculean task of keeping all these elements under control is what impresses so many animators and cartoonists - including myself. It's very humbling.
Look at those great hands! They are 40s cartoony style, while at the same time suggesting some knuckles and anatomy underneath the cartoon-skin.
Brer Fox is a very handsome design and extra hard to draw from different angles because of his long snout, snarly lips and lots of teeth - yet he moves very easily and never loses form, no matter what angle we see him from.

You really have to understand construction and hierarchy of forms and details to control all that information without having the character melting all over the place.
As I said in another post, the stories in Song of The South are told better than most Disney features, mainly because Peet tells the stories straight and succinctly. He doesn't add a lot of non-essential Disney filler.
So, in my opinion the story is staged and cut very well. And the pantomime animation is genius. In an earlier scene when we see Brer Fox coming in to greet Brer Rabbit stuck in the tar, his cocksure shuffling walk is extremely clever and cool. I'll put it up in another post.
To me, the cartoons have one flaw that cause a big disconnect between the story and the animation. The voices. The voices are so obnoxious and unintelligible that it gives the animators a big disadvantage.
When the characters talk, the animators have to come up with animation and business that matches the timing of the acting-even though the acting is bad. I think that's the origin of Disney's flailing arms and jittery acting. Walt's ear for voices wasn't always tasteful and he would stick his animators with voices that are grating or just plain weak and without character, forcing the animators to make up a bunch of arbitrary business just to try to keep the scenes alive.
Lots of twins by the way in Rabbit's posing!
Great drawings!
This bit of the rabbit stammering is very uncomfortable for me to watch. It goes on too long and seems completely inane. I think what makes me like Warners animation so much more than Disney's is it's much more character-oriented. I can identify with the characters in WB cartoons. They have motivations and personalities that I recognize. It didn't hurt that they had Mel Blanc doing the voices - a keen observer and satirist of human types. All the voice talent at WB was better suited to cartoons than the Disney voices, and that gave WB another advantage over Disney in creating convincing characters that seem to really exist.
Disney himself must have had a really naive ignorant understanding of human nature because his voices just tend to be silly and juvenile. His animators had to evolve a style of acting that wasn't very natural because they didn't have anything to hang any natural animation on. The voices and written characterizations just aren't very intelligent. It's like trying to wrap sophisticated animation around baby-talk.
Maybe another problem facing the Disney animators is their low weekly output. While McKimson was pumping out 25-50 feet of animation every week, Disney animators were expected to do 5. Working that slowly on each scene had to tempt them to keep going back and adding layers of needless secondary actions, more overlapping fur and ears and stuff that doesn't contribute to making the point.

When I watch a Disney cartoon, I always feel like there are 3 stories happening at the same time. One that the storyboard artist wrote. Another one that the voice actors are reading from, and then another one that the animators are telling. The animation is fascinating, but it feels like there are people talking in the other room trying to distract me from watching the flowing movements. They don't connect except technically in the timing.

This kind of stuff is perfect for little kids and adult animators. It misses the mark for regular folks. That's who WB, Fleischer and Avery are for.