Saturday, April 03, 2010

Direction 4: Accents: Staggered Accents with variations


Part of a director's job is to draw attention to the important parts of the story and actions. He does this with every tool at his disposal: staging, acting, timing, color, music and animation accents.

All animators and directors use accents. Today, we have a kind of formula you see for almost every action. The characters anticipate every action, overshoot it and then settle into the final pose. That's only one of an infinite ways to accent something and I think we lean on that formula too much. It gets monotonous and predictable. Robotic. When every action gets the same treatment, none of them stand out as anything unique or important.

Accents come in many varieties and intensities. They are partly functional and many old-time directors tried to make them invisible-just enough to point to the pose. Clampett liked all his tools to be part of the entertainment. It was not enough to be merely functional. He really liked accents. This scene has some variations on one type of accent-a big stagger and settle.

That thing that looks like a dollar bill is going to magically turn Hook the sailor into a civilian. The animator (McKimson) could have done it all in one quick motion and still made the story point, but Clampett instead chose to break it up into a bunch of individual parts and make it fun to watch.

Strip the Man With Magic
First, the war bond sweeps his wand across Hook and strips him.
The accent here is mostly the special effect radiating from the wand.
Add Socks
Then he starts zapping individual parts of Hook: first, his feet. When the wand hits the naked feet, they expand really big to draw attention to the fact that they now have socks on. Then the feet stagger back to a held pose.

Hook's head also does a take that shoots up and arcs over to the other side and looks down at his toes to add to what happened so we notice it with him.

The wand follows the action by putting shoes on top of the socks.
Hook does an even bigger take.

The stagger takes a variation, when the bond zaps pants onto Hook. This time the stagger is vertical, rather than horizontal.

These drawings are fantastic, aren't they? My Heaven.McKimson's solid drawings really help make the exaggerated action believable. They give weight and power to the crazy actions. It makes it look "on purpose" rather than just sloppy accidental animation.

Boob Job: Biggest Accent in Scene (of course)
The main gag in the scene is that the War Bond accidentally gives Hook some breasts. So, of course this action has the biggest accent.
It also has more than one direction to the action. First, the breasts shoot out and up,
then they bounce in and out until they come to a stop.

Boob Job Reduction
To contrast with the previous wild action, this action is smaller and different. There is no accent for the breasts reducing. Instead the wand waves back and forth as the breasts shrink. All this variety keeps the scene alive and spontaneous, rather than being a series of repetitive actions that are all the same kind and size.

Zoot Suit
By this time, the audience is feeling the flow of what is happening, so Clampett can pack more actions together faster.
When you watch the clip, listen to the music that accompanies the actions and you will feel the rhythm of each transformation.
He gives a big accent to zapping the suit jacket on Hook, then follows with quick successive shorter accents

these are quicker actions

Hat Brim
Each of these actions is -similar enough to each other to give order to the scene...and..

Different enough to feel natural or organic instead of repetitive
and each action fits in its own part of the overall hierarchy of the scene. Not each action is equally important and gets the same amount of attention.

Hat Top

Clampett tops off the scene with a favorite WB timing finish. After a bunch of fairly quick and large actions, there is a pause to make us think the scene is over, and then the scene is topped by a tiny action at the end-PING! This gives us a feeling of closure. Clampett leaves us satisfied.
All these accents and actions are tightly choreogreaphed to not only tell us what is happening, but to give us sensory pleasure. It's visual music, rather than mere information.

Watch the clip and see how it all flows together as one coherent and rhythmic little number.


Looney Tunes - Golden Collection, Volume Five


RooniMan said...

All that attention to detail and the timing, and it all goes by in little seconds.

Simply incredible.

Zartok-35 said...

Tokyo Woes!

Elana Pritchard said...

You can tell Clampett thoroughly loved and enjoyed his work- that's important for being a director too I think!

kurtwil said...

Nice clip!

Perhaps all the emphasis on Disneyesque "naturalism" has contributed to the current and predictable formulas for character motion?

Rusty said...

The timing is what is essential otherwise everything goes wrong. This is very well executed but no one in my opinion was better at timing than Tex Avery.

Animators should use this film as an example every gag is important to break up into great creative bits.

Martin Juneau said...

This is pure magic! Very well timed and the music is incredible! Clampett sure having fun to directed this Navy picture.

JohnK said...

No one but Clampett...

Sherm said...

Great breakdown of all the little CHOICES that contribute to the whole effect.

And THIS line: "A DIRECTOR DRAWS ATTENTION TO WHAT HE WANTS YOU TO SEE...AND FEEL" sums up SOOO much. Great piece...thanks!

Calvin said...

Bob Clampett is the best!

Pedro Vargas said...

Really cool post!!! Clampett was too awesome! These posts on directing are very well thought out! Really great and useful information! Thanks for sharing!!

-jjmm- said...

The blog is greener than usual or it´s me?

Yowp said...

I've always liked the fact the bonds have a little sailor hat, and during the surprise take, it temporarily flies off. A little, but appropriate, detail that's not forgotten.

There's so much great stuff in this cartoon; the best part is when the demure Tokyo Rose goes to the microphone (bypassing a flower growing on the floor) and suddenly goes into an unbelievably manic series of poses.


James Sutton said...

This scene looks like Jello.

Hey John, I wanted to ask if you could help me identify this?

I'm looking at it and it looks like it's maybe someone from Dexter's Lab and that they outsourced it to Rough Draft. Weird clip.

Pedro Vargas said...

I'm really lovin' how McKimson did the stagger animation, especially when the pants pop up onto Mr. Hook. Looks so cool.

Seeing it frame by frame really encourages you to understand how these animators worked out a certain type of timing and/or movement. No one does that type of timing and movement now or do any type of original animation for that matter.

Everything now is the same and bland, or trying too hard to make something move realistically like in that new dragon movie. It looks so strange on a semi-cartoon character.

Scrawnypumpkinseed said...

So much detail put into every aspect of animation like this.

Not like modern animation where things like walking are just a means of moving a character from point A to point B. Snore!

Thanks for another great post

kurtwil said...

Pedro and others; what about the "Mighty B"? Saw clips of this yesterday and was pleasantly surprised (echos of Ren and Stimpy there). Hopefully it signals the third dawn of cartoony animation!

As for HowToTrainYourDragon and most 3D movies of late, their visuals suggest George Pal with more complex FX and motion blur. Or perhaps a 3D version of Anime?

Luis María Benítez said...

I've just watched the clip. Really good old days...

Kasey said...

I would've loved to see McKimson's reaction when Clampett described to him the scene he had to animate. "In this scene, Character B accidently gives Character A giant boobs".

bunnywabbit said...

helloo Mr. John how are you Sir?

Am a fan of you, your ideas and your work and have sumthing for you, i think u might like to see.

Here it is


Varun Rampal

Munchanka said...

Great analysis! It almost animates as you scroll though the beats of the business.

akira said...

thanks, john! i love to hear your animation/timing advice/criticism! i know you've got a spumco book on the way, but i'd LOVE a more instructional book from you, too! we've got richard williams, eric goldberg and frank and ollie's advice, but as far as down and dirty cartoon animation, i don't think there's been anything good since preston blair, right? anyways thanks so much for sharing your expert cartoon observations! (that would be so cool if you could get something like animation mentor going except for cartoon animation)

:: smo :: said...

this is fantastic! i love these fast actions! when i first looked at it i thought "hm i wonder if this video captured at 12 fps or something..." then i realized it's just really fast. i always seem to get in the habit of putting everything on twos, but there's a great mix here and it adds huge texture and detail and definitely helps this scene read with how fast it is.

i seem to get impressed by this a lot, i remember a scribner clip you posted [where daffy was behind a haystack faking his death by throwing ketchup everywhere] where i was equally blown away. but here the dollar[?] is waving his wand on twos, then he'll go for the quick sweep on ones, and back to twos, while hook is still vibrating on ones into his settle. they're moving in different rhythms but still keeping tempo if that makes sense. as nerdy as it is i might have to go in and try and make a chart for this scene.

i hate learning from books instead of having something like the old [essentially] apprenticeship based system. you could learn so much by just inbetweening this scene!

fandumb said...

Actually I think he looks more like a pop tart.

TParker said...

In spite of the fact that Tokyo Woes does have some great animation, it's still an awkward, embarrassing cartoon.