Sunday, August 19, 2007

Donald's Cousin Gus - constructed bouncy layered animation

Hey, does anybody know who animated the opening scenes to this cartoon? Gus walking to the mailbox and then the front door?

My favorite style of animated motion happened from 1938 to 1943 or so.

Look at Gus' walk in the beginning of this Disney cartoon. Real bouncy, lots of squash and stretch. Fun overlapping actions-the tail esp. - and you can see all the motion. It's not like the zip zip pose to pose stuff that seems to want to favor the poses, but hide the action.

It revels in letting you see and feel the magic and fun of the cartoon movement. You can only do this sort of thing if you really understand the principles of animation. You can't do this with flat characters. You have to be super careful about controlling the construction. You can't use sloppy drawings or the inbetweens will boil and crawl - like in some early 40s Lantz cartoons.

This is a kind of movement and excitement that can only happen in a cartoon. It's not trying to imitate live-action, it doesn't beg to be taken seriously, it's just plain cartoon magic.

Cartoon magic, to me is a completely logical approach to animation. If we can do this and no other medium can, why don't we do more of it? Or how about even some of it? It seems like for most of our history we have been searching for every excuse to not do what animation can do.

Eddie, explain this to me.

The cartoon has a lot of really beautifully animated scenes in it. (Donald running around the table.) Unfortunately, it suffers from not being very funny, but that's Disney for you. The scenes where the characters do bits of "business" or acting drag the cartoon down. Imagine what a clever director could have done with great animators like these.

Disney quickly abandoned this style in the shorts and moved towards a more pose-to-pose style.

Other studios did this bouncy, squashy style for awhile, particularly Warners.

Elmer Fudd has a great happy walk in Jones' Elmer's Candid Camera. Bugs and Elmer in "The Wacky Wabbit". The Queen on the bike in "Coal Black". Brad Caslor's "Get A Job".

Clampett kept the style going longer than anyone else and expanded it. When he left Warners', it disappeared forever and pose to pose took over. Disney Features had developed into an altogether different full-animation style, not alway pose to pose, but a lot less fun.

I would love to see how this approach to motion could evolve in a studio where everyone decided to take it and run with it. I think you could build a whole separate cartoon-film- language with it and take it to extreme heights of fun.

If I can find a dvd copy of this maybe I'll break down the motion in another post.

Here is more fun stuff in that late 30s, early 40s super-construction style.