Saturday, August 01, 2009

Cinematic Cutting and Accents For Punctuation and to Tell the Story

I always loved this chase sequence from "Eatin' On the Cuff". It's full of great ideas - like the character ziping off screen and leaving a ghost image of himself and then the ghost follows.
It's also full of great cuts and contrasts. Clampett weaves the shots together to build suspense and excitement - and does it with musical pacing and comedic timing - which is very similar to being a drummer.
Starting from tiny characters and running towards camera from a 3/4 up angle delivers a punch to the screen.

The characters weave in and out all around this scene creating wild chaos, but then ends with an added gag.

Another dynamic shot and action wth tiny characters.

Now we have strict left to right chasing, but with great accents in the runs.

Wo is this animator? Manny Gould?

When the spider lady sids to a stop Clampett feeds us a quick succession of accents in the actions, which aren't gags in themselves, but are a great use of filmic punctuation to let us follow the action and enjoy the rhythms -while incidentally - helping us follow the story.

Contrasts in timing: After the wild actions, he punctuates by having a slow bit - the hair floating up on a bubble
then a fast pop and the hair snapping and floating for a beat, before falling again and hitting the water. These are all great cartoon cinematic techniques to keep the pacing exciting. Without them - if he just merely told the story straight, it would all just float by and nothing would stand out against anything else. All story points would be indiscernible from connecting bits of continuity - like a Friz cartoon from the same period.

another pause to let the audience take a breath and to see the spider lady thinking up her next plan of attack. This is using punctuation both for entertainment and musical good feeling - AND to tell the story. To make these 2 things work together is what a good director should do. You can't just merely illustrate the story points in continuity - as most writers expect you to do.
Then, after the pause....ZAM! up fast and shake the butt vigorously to announce more action or a gag coming

another contrast - into dialogue. Notice the dialogue is completely musical, and the actions between the phrases have accents and beats to match the rhythm of the dialogue reading.

This pause below accentuates the rhythm of the previous poetry and reenforces the evil of the character. Again using timing for fun and to tell the story. Entertainment and functionality perfectly blended.
I love this animation by Bob McKimson. Even the flames are solidly drawn and animated.

Amazing stuff! McKimson has a superhuman ability - totally unique from all other animators. He just inventde his own way of animating and drew his poses and actions straight ahead with unbelievable directness and confidence. No bullshit about it.

Another great shot
followed by speed, dynamic angles and acents

Something Clampett never gets credit for is his mastery of cinematic technique. I think this is what makes him the best cartoon director in history, not just that his ideas and gags are funny or wild - it's his approach to filmmaking that enforces all the crazy ideas and lines them up in a perfect hierarchy of rhythmic accents and dynamic contrasting scene cuts.


Spider Lady as Veronica Lake


Jack G. said...

John, would you critique this:

I'd sincerely appreciate it.

As for Eatin' On the Cuff:
I never took notice of it when I saw it. I'm going to have to watch it again.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Woooooowww!! Nice post! True enough, you can't do this kind of pacing when you're chained to a writer's script that's carved in stone. Only directors with authority to choose the story and make make changes in it can hope to practice filmmaking at this level.

Niki said...

Some of the techniques you described I remember learning about in my film class.

Rick Roberts said...

Sometimes I really ponder if the acting in Clampett cartoons contain delightful mistakes. I just can't comprehend someone actually making these drawings on purpose, I swear.

MLP said...

Who does the voice of the Black Widow?

HemlockMan said...

Yeah, who did that voice?

That's another cartoon I've never seen. Or else I saw it so long ago that I forgot it.

Pilsner Panther said...

As much as I love the oddball genius of Bob Clampett and Tex Avery, I think that the Fleischer animation team was every bit as great. And they did some amazing work a few years earlier than the Termite Terrace guys, who were still groping for a style in the late 30's.

Why do I think so? Someone gave me the second Popeye DVD set for "me boithday."

So I picked a Fleischer Popeye cartoon to watch, at random. It turned out to be "Mutiny Ain't Nice" (1938), one where Popeye is a sailor, on a carefully rendered and detailed 19th-century sailing ship. A Herman Melville set!

Not every Popeye cartoon presents the sailor in his real seagoing element the way E.C. Segar intended, but this one does.

Here, everything works with incredible smoothness: animation, script, dialogue, voices, backgrounds, and music. A rare occasion for anything at all that's produced by a team and not by just one person to come off so well.

Watch it if you can... you won't be disappointed.

paul etcheverry said...

Black and white animation is an art form in itself, going back to Winsor McCay, and Eatin' On The Cuff - which was a favorite of mine way back when this cartoons actually got airplay on television - remains an especially entertaining and ingenious example. The positioning of the characters - in the frame, in relationship to each other and in perspective - is consistently inventive and supports the storyline.

Thanks, John, for the shot-by-shot breakdown.

Trevor Thompson said...

She's voiced by Sarah Bernhardt and it's an impression of Cobina ( of the pair Brenda and Cobina ) from The Bob Hope Show.

David Germain said...

Who does the voice of the Black Widow?

It sounds like Sara Burner, who did most of female voices at the studio around that time.

I've heard that Bob Clampett would always go over his cartoon with a proverbial fine-toothed comb looking for any lulls that could be filled in with some extra bit of entertainment. It's no surprise that he would include these kind of film techniques into his work in order to improve things. Of course, Frank Tashlin was the first to start experimenting with cinematic devices in animation. But, Clampett certainly worked wonders with this as well.

Bob said...

I wonder if Chuck ripped Pepe Le Pew's walk/music off of the spider when she's on the ice cubes?

Jizz Wad said...

The moth being spun around frames are interesting too, as is the choice of shadow silhouettes in the next shot.

The old 'tell them what you're gonna do, do it, show them that you've done it'.

Do you suppose having the rhythm in the animation acts as a foil to exagerate further the craziness when the character breaks from the rhythm?

Rick Roberts said...

Sara Berner is her name.

Sven Hoek said...

WoooW is right Eddie! That is amazing animation. And there are so many gags packed into such a small space.

Most of the dialog in this cartoon is a song, Mel Blanc sings with The Black Widow and her voice is really funny. Then cut to the Flame luring the moth. That's hilarious.

I love that gag with the Black Widow on the end of he cigar, "Play your Jack!" The perspective is great, and the timing and accents are so well performed. Carl Stalling weaves all the music together so well in those cartoons, that guy was an amazing musical director. Such a great sense of humor and timing.

The black widow looks kinda sexy when she puts on that wig, until her nose pops out.

Near the end, the Lady Honeybee comes to the moths rescue and there is a sword fight between the two chicks. Women's Lib of the 40's right there in the cartoon. They did so much stuff you couldnt get away with these days. They probably wouldn't even let you get away with a moth de-furring a fox stole into the image of Hitler these days, I'll bet ya.

Then the cartoon concludes with a Three Stooges-esque, "...piano player/Narrator gets his trousers eaten by the moth, he jumps up and runs off the set", gag. Priceless.

That is a great cartoon, thanks John.

Sketchtacular said...

Hi, John here's my crack at drawing the spider lady if you would like to see it.
Thanks for all the free lessons by the way.