Monday, November 29, 2010

Alice Mosaic and Fantasia Draft

It might have gone below your radar but Steven Hartley is in the middle of doing a Mark Mayerson-style mosaic for Alice in Wonderland based on the draft supplied by Hans Perk.
I have been toying with the idea of doing it myself but am glad to see that someone else has already done it. Hartley who has shown his passion for animation history already as a commenter on Hans Perk's blog also provides insightful commentary to each sequence. Look and see how much he has to offer about golden age animators.

The mosaics are found here and here.

Coinciding with the 70th birthday Bluray edition of Fantasia (reportedly still missing the Deems Taylor narration) Hans Perk has meanwhile started to post copies of the draft for this movie.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Recently I've spent more time studying cartoon animation than color design. At work we talked about scenes that were worth showing frame-by-frame to animation newcomers/students. Naturally I thought of "smears" because they go unnoticed to most untrained viewers.

Then the other day I accidentally stumbled upon this Bugs Bunny scene from Hare Trigger (1945,  noteworthy mainly because it features Yosemite Sam's first appearance) that inspired my blogging about the subject of "smears":

Drawings 4 and 8 are the "smears", versions of elongated inbetweens that are usually only shown for one frame even if the rest of the animation is on 2s. 
Basically they compensate for the lack of motion blur in hand drawn animation.

Frankly, I was surprised to see such outrageous drawings in a Freleng cartoon, but to be honest, I've never looked too close at the animation in his films anyway. [UPDATE 2013: I should have given credit long ago: this shot was animated by the great Virgil Ross who - as Thad explains in the comments - was never given the recognition he deserved, neither by Clampett nor be Freleng.]

When I think of smears, Bob Clampett and Rod Scribner come to mind as well as Chuck Jones' famous Dover Boys (1942).

The character slides from pose 1 to pose 2 with the leading body parts consecutively being elongated which makes for overlapping drawings and prevents strobing (first left leg, then head, then right leg).

 Smears often go unnoticed because they are immediately followed 
by normally timed or even slow animation like reaching inside the coat (above).

Here's an extreme smear. The key element is that 
volumes are not kept consistent.

As a sidenote: in case you thought this rather odd combination of complimentary colors was only used for bad guys, look at these frames from Clampett's Book Revue (1946):

The following framegrabs from To Duck Or Not To Duck (1943) demonstrate how Jones and his animators used this technique in a Daffy Duck cartoon as well. It's early Jones, so Daffy is still loony and playful.
The concept here is basically horizontal elongation.

The Dover Boys style pose-to-pose-inbetweening following an imaginary arc is visible in the frames below:

The following scene contains three different concepts: 
1. Elongation: we see not only elongation but also multiplication (eyes), which has become a staple of Jones cartoons:
The hand (the visual focus) is already "normal" while the face 
is still smeared. The ears provide nice overlap.

2. But not all fast movements are done in smears. Some motion blur is simulated with good old dry brush strokes following the arc of the movement in the character's colors:

 There's some nice anticipation on Daffy and 
counteraction on the legs in frames 5 and 6.

3. Finally there's elongation of a different kind: the dogs' materiality changes for a split second into a rubbery carpet without any strength.

For comparison: Bob Clampett didn't hide these "off-model" drawings only during fast motions, he made a style of using them for the acting as can be seen in Book Revue (1946):

NTSC-pull-down issues prevented me from capturing all frames, but the remaining ones surely show Clampett's attempt of exaggerating almost every motion. Just look at Daffy's arms and hands.

Chuck Jones on the other hand took his pose-to-pose style even further and got more or less rid of real smears as his style evolved. The poses are held longer while the transitional inbetweens are practically non-existent any more (The Scarlet Pumpernickel, 1950):
There's only a bit of dry brushing left.

A motion that would have been smeared earlier is now not even really inbetweened (Drip-Along Daffy, 1951)
The arms just go down from frame 6 to 7 with only the overlapping secondary motion 
on the pants giving a sense of movement.

Daffy is not seen zipping off to the left. It's just the secondary action 
and a bit of dry brushing that implies his sudden exit.

This is practically the same exit action like the famous one by the witch Hazel. Only that her hair pins are replaced by bullets here. It's noteworthy that all the animation in these later Jones cartoons indeed seems to be on 2s, like Ken Harris told Richard Williams. Noteworthy, because this is clearly not the case in earlier Looney Tunes. Here the effects (the vanishing smoke) are on 1s, by the way.

Finally, the multiplication smear is used for strong expression changes rather than transitions of far away poses:
Daffy in My Little Duckaroo (1954).