Category ArchiveFrame Grabs
With Snow White in the back of his mind, Walt Disney placed close attention to what was going on at his studio. He had to be completely aware of his artists’ abilities in how they’d be able to handle the task of creating strong emotions in animation, something that wasn’t too risky on a Mickey Mouse cartoon, but might prove difficult when tackling tears for the climactic moments of a feature about a realistic looking princess and her prince.
The Golden Touch was a task given to his two best animators, Fred Moore (who animated all of “Goldy”, the elf who bestowed the magic touch on the king,) and Norm Ferguson (who animated all of the king and his black cat.)
Walt Disney gave himself the task of directing the film. This would be the last screen credit he would ever get for direction. After the film was completed, Walt admitted that the film was “a real stinker.”
This film was the first to use extensive use of dialogue throughout. When Billy Bletcher was recorded as the voice of King Midas they filmed him reading the lines with his lips painted white so that the animator, Ferguson, could easily work with the frame by frame study. The film does get a bit talky.
Other critics have given it as negative a review as Disney gave himself. I actually like a lot of it. The animation throughout is interesting. Neither animator has found a positive character, but both bring a peculiar touch to the two protagonists. “Goldy” is one of the creepier characters ever in a Disney film. Fred Moore gave an indication of how odd the seven dwarfs could have been. The king is very similar to “Old King Cole” done only a year earlier in 1933. He looks and acts similar, although the animation is tighter and more experienced.
I think the backgrounds in “The Golden Touch” are spectacular and well designed, color-wise. The art direction is first rate, as might be expected. The watercolors of the castle and its surroundings are beautifully painted. Even though cross cutting between the king and “Goldy” the variation in backgrounds isn’t jarring but firmly appropriate. “Goldy” has a bright gold color behind him, the king remains has gold behind hi until he returns to reality, now with Gold’s magic touch. Then he gets the blueish-gray of the castle as his Bg color.”
Artistically the film is very rich, as might be expected of any “Silly Symphony” of this period. Handsomely produced, of course.
Finally, here is a video representation of the Silly Symphony in motion.
- In 1930, the animation in the Fleischer studio (as evidenced by Michael Barrier in his great book, Hollywood Cartoons) was pretty much controlled by the timing department. They supported a very even sense of timing and would expose everyone’s animation in the house meter. This virtually destroyed the timing within the studio. Their idea was that every drawing had to overlap the drawing before and after. It was done to such an extreme that it caused the even timing throughout their films.
There was at least one animator free of the timing department. Grim Natwick was the key guy in the studio, at the time. His animation was built, back then, on a distortion, a freedom of expression, that very much resembled what Bill Nolan was doing in Hollywood. The difference was that Natwick could draw, so his artwork was planned, designed to look that way. It wasn’t just a matter of straight ahead animation causing distortion. It allowed distortion with scenes going back to square one every so often to hold off the appearance of distortion. The inbetweens distorted and, in a way, smeared always to come back to a nice, tight pose of an extreme.
The film “Dizzy Dishes” is the perfect example of this style. This was actually the first Betty Boop cartoon, and Betty, a plump dog sings broadly. She really goes wild as she sings a song on top of a table à la Marlene Dietrich!. Here are some frame grabs from a couple of connected scenes to give you an idea of what was going on.
If you jump ahead to Fleischer’s “Barnacle Bill”, also from 1930, you’ll find this wild scene where Betty is seducing Bill, you’ll see all sorts of distortion in the inbetweens which Grim has maneuvered for Betty’s movements on the couch. Note how well posed his extreme positions are drawn despite the distorted inbetweens, when she is moving.
Look at the beautiful drawings (above) of this character in some of these extremes from this film. The character of Betty isn’t moving whereas Bimbo – I mean Barnacle Bill is all over the place. Yet your eyes are on Betty in that held position.
Now, let’s look at what the inbetweens are doing as Betty gets from one pose to the next. It’s really funny. Grim has found a way to create a sympathetic, adult and female character, yet he keeps her funny with the surface of the animation.
At times in the animation, Betty’s hand may turn into a claw, but that might be that Grim delivered a rough which was poorly cleaned up by an assistant. Or perhaps the inker just inked from a rougher drawing, perhaps a Grim “clean up” if there ever were such a thing. He worked ROUGH. In fact, that distorted claw of a hand doesn’t matter. It’s the extremes that counted for Grim, and he was experimenting with this animation to see if that really were true.
I’ve remembered over many years an interview with Dick Huemer,* who worked alongside Grim on some of these films. Huemer gets credit for inventing the inbetweener to use in the animation process. It allowed him to turn out more animation and not worry about the many drawings that would paste the scenes together. In that interview, Huemer said that it didn’t really matter what the inbetweens looked like. You could draw a “brick” and it would still work. They actually may have believed this, at that time. Grim is using the inbetweens to get somewhere else in putting the scenes together.
(Tomorrow, I’ll post, again, a scene Grim did for Raggedy Ann with Dick Williams’ clean ups alongside so you can see the variance.)
* In Recollections of Richard Huemer interviewed by Joe Adamson, [1968 and 1969] Huemer said:
- And i decided that I would save all that work of inbetweening by just having a bunch of lines or smudges, just scrabble, from, position to position, When something moved fast. To prove it, I had an alarm clock flying through the air, and right in the middle of the action I put a brick. And vhen they ran the finished
film you didn’t see the brickl It proved that you didn’t really see what was in the middle. But I overdid it.
- I wrote about this stylistic animation device not too long ago. I was leading up to the master, of course, Bill Tytla. He distorted things, alright, and in the way he did it, he changed animation forever, as far as I’m concerned.
But I started that story by writing about traditional animation and where it came from and where it was going; leading to a sort of rebellion as animators started distorting things, generally, in working closely with their unconventional directors. I purposely skipped a step there, and I should go back a tiny bit and talk about a couple of animators from the silent/early sound days. Today I have Bill Nolan in my sights; tomorrow, Grim Natwick. It’s kind of important before going on to Bill Tytla.
In the animation community in 1927-1930, there were two key animators who were considered the leaders in the business:
Ub Iwerks at Disney (until he left to open his own studio) and
Bill Nolan (at first with Pat Sullivan & Felix the Cat, then with Mintz’ Krazy Kat, and then onto a series of topical gag films called “Newslaffs.”
Both were considered the fastest animators in the country, and it was debatable as to which was quicker, though Iwerks was probably the guy. When Disney learned that Iwerks was leaving, he interviewed Nolan in New York to see if he were interested in replacing Iwerks. Disney offered a high salary of $150 per week for the job. It didn’t work out; Nolan was doing an unusual series, but ultimately went to ________________Nolan’s Krazy Kat looked original.
Oswald the Rabbit after Universal had taken
charge of it. Nolan just about ran the studio under Walter Lantz and allowed them to turn out an enormous amount of footage.
Nolan had developed a style known as the “rubber hose” style in that the limbs of a character were like flexible hoses and joints would be broken wherever the animator wanted. The style also featured very circular drawings. Stylistically, this fought the angularity of some other films that were being made and allowed Nolan to turn out many more drawings than usual. The roundness offered a faster line, and there was also quite a bit of distortion in Nolan’s drawings. Quite often the characters, Oswald, for example, didn’t even look like the character on the model sheet. In fact, you’d have to wonder if there was a model sheet, given the look of the animated character. Both Nolan and Iwerks were straight ahead animators, which meant they could easily go off model. Iwerks was better at holding things than Nolan, who seemed to enjoy being wild. Nolan would go back through his wild drawings and correct a couple of them, but would leave any other changes to lesser artists.
Nolan’s work was somewhat similar to the work of Jim Tyer, but I don’t think Tyer was drawing/animating that way to turn out faster work (though he was a very fast animator.) Nolan had to push the work out, and the rounded, distorted drawings enabled him to animate very quickly. As he went on, the artwork grew more and more wild, and it varied somewhat from the other animators’ work. Tyer tried to get his art to distort, as it does; Nolan just ended up there.
I’d chosen a lot of stills from several of the
Universal/Lantz Oswald cartoons, animated by Nolan.
“The Hash Shop” was about as crazy as the animation and the gags went. Here’s one that ends the film.
By 1930, Bill Nolan seems to have settled down a bit. He still abstracts and distorts his animation, but he tries to fit in a bit more with other animators who aren’t drawing their animation quite so abstractly.
After Disney’s “The Three Little Pigs,” other studios tried to catch up with this new type of animation. Nolan and, to a lesser extent, Lantz, didn’t try very hard to change. They liked the way things were going. However, it didn’t take long for Lantz to move for a change in Oswald’s design. They went cuter and whiter on the rabbit.
Here are some frame grabs from “My Pal, Paul.” In it Oswald wants to play music with jazz conductor/musician, Paul Whiteman. As it happens, Whiteman’s car breaks down while he’s driving through the woods, and the two get a bit of a duo as Whiteman plays the steering wheel like a clarinet. (Maybe that’s abstract enough.)
- Casino Royale (the 1967 original) was the fourth credit sequence animated by Richard Williams‘ Soho Square studio. Prior to this he’d directed What’s New Pussycat (1965), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1966).
Continuing the presentation I’ve done of other title sequences by Williams, here’s Casino Royale. The other Williams credit sequences of the period are generally rambunctious items with almost too much happening on screen. It often gets hard to read the credits – in a theater, never mind trying to do it on TV. (God bless imdb.)
Theses are all frame grabs off a TV airing. My apologies for the horrendous quality. It aired on one of those cable channels that adds plenty of promos at the bottom of the screen (which I cleaned out of these images) overlapping many of the cards. They might have taken a bit more care to try to eliminate some distortion on the screen. The image skews, and the type gets distorted. I did my best with what I had. If I ever get my hands on a good dvd of the show, I’ll correct these images.
Dick Williams’ version of the opening titles
And for the sake of amusement here are
The credits from the 2006 version of the film
Designed by Daniel Kleinman
- Today marks the 80th birthday of RIchard Williams. To celebrate, I’ve chosen to post these images from the credit sequence of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. My first introduction to Richard Williams and his work came by way of a BBC documentary from 1965, The Creative Person: Richard Williams. It aired on WNDT’s ch 13 in New York (PBS before PBS existed.) Within the sequence there is once scene of a girl smelling a flower. (The Annette Andre credit.) I remember this as part of that doc, and Richard said that at times you should slow down the animation of a character if you want it to seem more real. There’s a dissolve animation going on here.
This is a great theatrical show and a mediocre movie. Despite the great cast, the brilliant people working behind the scenes (from Tony Walton‘s sets and costumes to Nicholas Roeg‘s extraordinary photography; from the incredible song score by Stephen Sondheim to Ken Thorne‘s excellent incidental music), somehow it all doesn’t really work.
However, animation enthusiasts would be primarily interested in the animated credit sequence by Richard Williams‘ fine animation. This was a sequence that brought Williams out of the cartoon world and into the more serious fold. Suddenly, his studio grew up.
Since we didn’t get to see his brilliant ads in the US, we had to seek out his title work. Credit sequences for future films such as The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Pink Panther sequels and What’s New Pussycat easily demonstrated how he really lifted his studio into the big time.
I’ve made frame grabs of the sequence from my recording, and thought I’d post them for your amusement. Sorry that the copy I have isn’t the most pristine and that the frames available are a bit soft. But I guess the idea comes across.
______________________________________(Images enlarge slightly by clicking them.)
The sequence starts at the end of the film. Buster Keaton runs on a circular treadmill, and dissolves to an animated version of himself.
Dick talked with me about this scene in the film. He felt that to create realistic
characters in animation one had to slow everything down. He did it with dissolves.
It’s a technique he came back to often, quite noticeably in The Charge of
the Light Brigade.
A very large cast of shilhouettes runs around this credit for Ken Thorne. There is no cycle here. This is a Dick Williams piece, so they’re all fresh drawings. They turn into flies for the next credit.
The animated Buster Keaton runs toward us on one side
and away from us on the other side.
I’m always fascinated by the credit the designer gives himself. No sign of anyone else
who worked on this sequence. Titles have changed since then.
This card, the least significant one, comes back several times.
Of course it’s overanimated though it looks like a cycle.
Happy Birthday, Richard. Thanks for all the wonderful gifts you gave animation, not the least being the obvious: a new respect for a medium that was dying when you stepped up to the plate. You restored its dignity at least once.
- On the DVD of Alice in Wonderland, there’s an extra little short that supposedly gives you a tour of the studio and a lesson in how animated films are made. (Do you think we’ll ever see one about Dreamworks or Pixar? I’d like to get a video tour of either studio.)
Since I’ve been focussing on Alice’s Milt Kahl scenes, I thought it’d be interesting, as an accompaniment, to post some frame grabs from this theatrical short that was done to promote Alice.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
If anyone can identify any of those I couldn’t, or if you think I’ve mistakenly identified anyone, please leave a comment.
There’s an art gallery of images, many of which are by Mary Blair (and I’ve already posted her pictures a while back.) I’ll finish this post with some more of the images on the dvd.
Mary Blair in B&W.
To see more Mary Blair designs for Alice go here.
After posting the book, Piccoli, a week or so ago, I’ve grown more interest in Paul Julian‘s work. He’s known predominantly for the Bgs he did at Warner Bros and the art direction he did on The Tell Tale Heart. However, there’s more film work he did independently.
The Hangman was a short film he did with co-director Les Goldman. Maurice Ogden’s poem is read by Herschel Bernardi in a very earnest tone. The artwork by Julian absolutely saves this film which was nomainted for the Oscar.
Roger Corman also used Paul Julian for a number of opening title sequences for the low budget films he did in the 60s. I’m going to try pulling some frame grabs from a number of these title sequences so that I can place some focus on Julian’s work in these forgotten films.
I start here with The Terror a film Starring Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson. Julian uses a couple of pieces of artwork that he works over the course of the sequence with lots of lateral camera moves. Quite expressive work, though certainly not on a par with Tell Tale Heart.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
You can watch a grayed-out version of this video on YouTube. The credits come on about a minute into it.
- Back during the black out of Hurricane Sandy (when we had no electricity or heat), John Canemaker invited us up to his apartment to use his computer so that we could check email etc. I spent a nice couple of hours with John that day, and one of the things he pulled out was the DVD of the Mickey Mouse Club. (One of those expensive, tin boxes I didn’t own.) On the extras of the program was a colored version of the animated opening to the show. The original Mickey Mouse Club aired in B&W, which is how I remember it. It was fun sitting through that piece of animation, and I was charmed by a somewhat abstract section, a musical interlude that was rarely shown in the B&W version. It reminds me of Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom in its styling.
I recently bought a copy of that DVD and went directly to that extra. I’ve pulled some frame grabs of the center sequence and will post those here. But then I couldn’t stop there. I went back and did the entire piece. The abstract sequence stands away from the poorly designed Mickey, Donald & Goofy. Those thick outer lines against the thin inner lines reminds me of the bad imitation UPA art that was going on at the time. It was their idea of “modern art,” I guess.
I wonder if Ward Kimball had anything to do with this.
Ken O’Connor was the Art Director for Kimball including:
Mars and Beyond, Man in Space and Man and the Moon
Victor Haboush was the Asst. Art Director, and he had an important role
in the Mr. Magoo TV show as well as the Dick Tracy show back in 60s.
He was also the Art Director on Gay Purr-ee.
- Yesterday was the 72nd birthday of Hayao Miyazaki. Most people found out through his Facebook page. He has a lot of friends. In celebration, I’ve chosen to post frame grabs from one of the most exhilarating film sequences ever made – animated or otherwise. It’s from Ponyo, a film I absolutely love. The treat of seeing it in a theater a couple of times is just a veritable high when this sequence rolls around. Here. I cut it short a bit, since I felt I’d gotten the point across by the 100th frame grab, and it was also a perfect place to cut out.
But you can’t go that way . . .
The bridge is out!
Happy Birthday, Hayao Miyazaki
- The Gerald McBoing Boing Show, in the 1950′s had a number of animated pieces on poets, painters and other artists. Of these the most famous film is probably The Invisible Moustache or Raoul Dufy. Another interesting film is one on the Post-Impressionist artist, Henri Rousseau.
Just the same, the art is stunning as is the art from the film.
My copy of the film has no credits though no doubt Shirley Silvey
was the designer and my guess is that
Ted Parmalee was probably the director.
The video credits three animators for the three films on the video:
Fred Crippen, Frank Smith and Phil Duncan.
The animation is so limited that it might have been anyone.
I’d have guessed that Phil Duncan would have done more movement
as an older animator in the group.