Thursday, July 01, 2010

What Disney Did Best

I like the look of this transitional period of Disney's. It's between the pure rubber hose cartoons of the early 30s and the feature style that eventually abandoned early cartoon sensibility altogether.
Disney was still taking advantage of cartoony motion in this period. The design of the characters was changing slightly to accommodate the new techniques of motion that the animators were discovering.

Mickey retains the simple design of his rubber hose look, but has become much more pliable or organic.
The Disney star cartoons of the mid 30s have a really nice blend of graphic design with cartoony and fluid movement. It makes them appealing despite the fact that the ideas are so inane.
Here's Pete doing a gag that might work in live action comedy if it was performed by funny comedians. Laurel and Hardy or the 3 Stooges could pull it off. Here, it just plays flat because the characters and the timing don't add anything to the mere fact of the action.
There are a lot of pain gags that would work if they were handled with a sense of humor.

It seems to me that the Disney artists were so consumed with developing their skills that they wrote the stories just as excuses to work on their principles: squash and stretch, getting a feeling of weight into the actions, overlapping action, staging.

They always made room for "personality" scenes in each cartoon, but it feels like they are there just out of a sense of duty. Each character gets cameo moments in the cartoon to do his thing. Donald has to get mad and do his Donald Fist Hop in every cartoon.

I say gags, because that's what they called them at the studio, but they aren't exactly funny. They are just there in abundance.
Lots of exaggerated stretch and squash.

A cartoony walk. It's very bouncy and Goofy's foot spins around impossibly. A cartoon gag that can't be done in live action.

Disney was big on animated props: lots of them. The more the funnier was probably the theory.
The skill in coordinating all this stuff is really impressive. It's done with hierarchy. Hierarchy is what I think Disney understood better than everyone else. Once they had an idea, they'd do it in the most elaborate way with as much detail as possible - but the details were all organized in a hierarchical pattern. It takes a very organized structure to make all this detail read clearly.
More hurt gags...

Inanimate objects are actually alive. This piano for some reason is alive, not with a personality or even humor but just as a motivation for some Goofy business. The film needs a reason to show Goofy being befuddled and dimwitted. A piano that moves around on its own is good enough.
The thing about Disney ideas is that if you actually said them out loud they wouldn't sound like anything at all. "A piano runs over Goofy and it confuses him." doesn't sound very funny or interesting but the execution of it is impressive.

Did someone really come up with "Have him trip over a stool!"?

Stock cartoony flattened body gag. Is being flattened inherently funny by itself? Maybe it was the first time it ever happened. Other cartoons do make it funny. What's the difference in how it's handled?

There must have been a story theory at Disney's demanding that each character with a personality have a sequence in the film to do his thing. Goofy gets an extended sequence, Donald gets a shorter one and Mickey interestingly doesn't have one at all, I assume because he doesn't have a personality trait whereas Goofy and Donald each have one.

You can't have enough ass irritation in a Disney cartoon.

Getting your ass stuck in things is a Disney staple.

Here's a swollen ass for some variety.

The flying ass.
The million plates crashing scene.
I think the characters never looked better than during this period. This design style made for great merchandise and I think carried the appeal of cartoons beyond what the stories deserved.
Lots and lots of flying, falling crashing props.

What's the best way to end a cartoon?

This also has Disney's name on it. Is there a resemblance to anything Disney did?