Carry Tcaiktr onnfidsideof Mickey's hat. Note turn oil brini
He really was a funny little guy, but it was not that he was trying to be funny. It was just that his proportions were cute, like his drawings, and it kind of tickled you to watch him move around imitating someone like Fred Astaire or Chaplin, or trying some fancy juggling act. Even if the stuff dropped on the floor, Fred would always end up in a good pose—-just like his drawings. He could not seem to do anything awkward.
The thing that firmly established him as the top athlete among the artists was the way he could throw-pushpins and make them stick in the wooden doors at the old Hyperion Studio. He got so good that he could throw two with each hand at the same time and make all four stick. This was an incredible display of timing and natural ability, because the average fellow cannot even be sure of sticking one at a time. But everyone was trying to do it, and with all these pins banging against the doors there was an awful racket up and down the hall. The noise got so loud that it carried upstairs where Walt could hear it, and he could not figure out what was going on. Gradually the competition tapered off because Fred had mastered every way he could think of to throw them; so he lost interest except for an occasional toss behind his back or over his shoulder.
Another thing about Fred—you would have to call it a personality trait—he could not laugh at or really enjoy something by himself. He would keep the humor all bottled up inside until the right people were around to enjoy it with him. One night he was working overtime alone on Snow White and discovered how funny the dwarfs' voices sounded when he ran the film backward to rewind it. He probably stayed awake half the night thinking how funny it would be to run the sound backward for us in the morning.
The next day he was there ahead of any of us. waiting out in the hall and about to burst with anticipation. He pulled us into the room where he had the Moviola all warmed up and waiting. "Wait till you guys hear this!" He stepped on the pedal and immediately these crazy sounds started coming out: "Yah. yah. yah, osker baby. (Forward this is. "He never tried, hah, hah, hah.") Then, "manik de middem," which is, "I'm agin' 'em." The laughter that Fred had pent up from the previous evening came out like a dam breaking, and we all doubled up laughing with him.
"I knew you guys would think it was funny," he gasped. And the weird language continued to pour out of the speaker.
Fred was only eighteen at the time he was hired. His art training had been limited to a few night classes he got in exchange for janitorial work at Chouinard's Art Institute. He was given a seat next to Jack Cutting, who was one of the younger animators. Jack said, "Fred would sit there with his arms folded for a min- I utc, then start drawing. He hadn't been there more | than 24 hours, and he was making these great drawings. I couldn't believe it. By the end of a couple of days he was starting to animate something. Everything came easy to him."
"Yes. Fred was just right for the time." Ward Kimball says. "He was the First one to escape from the mold of the rubber hose, round circle school. He began getting counter movements, counter thrusts, in the way he drew. He decided to make Mickey's cheeks move with his mouth, "which they had never done before because you drew everything inside the circle. He squashed and stretched him more and was right at the lime, but Fred was a high school trained animator . . . and he more or less emerged drawing that way. Nobody seemed to remember any development. The rest of us came into this place—it was a strange place—we adapted to it. and we kept trying to improve and change, and we became students of it. Fred never thought of that, he wasn't a student of animation, he was just a natural, gifted animator, whose style and development was perfect, timing-wise, for that point in time."1
Even the old-hand Mickey experts such as Les Clark were amazed at what Fred could do. "Fred was a natural. He had a natural flow to his work. He couldn't make a bad drawing, really." This was because Fred was an intuitive draftsman, and it is questionable whether more formal art training would have advanced him. He just was not as oriented to classrooms and lectures as some of the men were. He would say, "Don Graham can give you the rule; I just say it looks better."
This is probably the biggest thing Fred had going for him: he had the ability to tell when something was better one way than another. It is difficult to recall a "Freddie drawing" that did not have everything in the
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right place. The arms were always related to the rest of the drawing, and even if he put them where they would not be normally, they still looked right. The head seemed to have the right tilt for the shoulders, and when he stretched something out he could make that look correct, too. If Fred drew it, it was pleasing to look at, and it was this pleasing quality that carried his work more than the acting.
Fred could not express himself in words very well, but he had a feeling for what a drawing ought to be. As Larry Clemmons says, "He was such a help to other guys. Guys would come in his room and say, 'Fred, how would you do this?' Fred would say, 'Well here!'—and he'd show them—he didn't lecture, he just did it." Fred could communicate his ideas through drawings better than anyone around, and that is one of the main reasons Walt made him a supervisor on Snow White. It was not that Fred had any special leadership qualities; it was because he had such great charm and appeal in his drawings. When someone was doing something well, Walt wanted everyone to benefit from it.
Walt kept prodding Fred to make drawings for the experienced animators as well as the young ones, so that all the dwarfs would look like his. This was a very difficult assignment for Fred. He would say. "Gee. I can't go into some guy's room and say let me sit down and make a drawing for you. Walt keeps telling me to, but I just can't do it unless the guy asks me to."
It is hard to believe that a man with Fred's talent would ever have any real difficulty with drawing, but about every four months he would have his troubles. For two months he would be happy; then, in the third month, he would be restless and start searching for something to stimulate him, looking at magazines and at drawings by animators whose techniques were different from his. But he was not really studying as much as looking. After that he would spend a miserable six weeks or so trying to incorporate what he had learned. He would have no end of trouble mastering the new ideas that he was trying to get into his work. Sometimes it was hard to tell, during this period, what Fred was talking about or what he was trying to accomplish. But finally he would come out on top and have another period of a couple of months in which he really was happy again.
At times Fred felt that a different pencil would give him a new slant on things. When he could not draw what he wanted, he was inclined to suspect the paper, the color of the lead, or the weight of the pencil. "I
artist. Fred Moore — Snow White.
don't know what's wrong with this pencil; it just doesn't seem to work anymore!" This prompted George Stal-lings2 to say, "You guys are like baseball players; they have their slumps and their superstitions. They think they have to have a special bat— their 'lucky' bat — and you have to have your special pencil. ..."
It was important that Fred be completely sold on his scene and have nothing undermine his confidence while he was working on it, because he could not work until he felt right. The story business had to be right, the layout, the staging, and the footage for his scene. These were all the responsibilities of others, he figured. Then he had to feel right about himself. He had to approach the scene with confidence, get his ego up. He would say, "Tell me how good I am, fellows." We always overdid it and told him that Walt needed only one animator as long as Fred was around, and he would say, "I don't need to be that good, it's only a little scene!" But laughter and the spirit of fun had to be the atmosphere or he could not work.
When he was all square with the world and himself, he would perch on his chair and zip. zip, zip—he would go through a ten-foot scene in an afternoon, and then have time to stand around and joke about how true all those things we said about him were. He hated to make corrections, believing that all one's creative energies should go into the first exciting, complete effort. What came out sparkled and lived and appealed, and if you arc an emotional type this is the only way to go! Obviously, this procedure is based on confidence. The drawings reflected it, and his speed and concentration showed it.
Fred's great facility with his drawing fascinated everyone. It was uncanny the way he could put his line down with such accuracy—short lines or long flowing lines, it made no difference. He could control them artist. Fred Moore — Snow White.
Drawing ofSneezy displays Fred's extraordinary con trol over his line.
The Model Sheet Department had the responsibility for distributing drawings that showed the approved appearance of a new character. Ward Kimball was quick to kid them by featuring himself in this facsimile model sheet. which has better drawings than many on the regular ones, showing plastic shapes, ani-matable forms. and broad attitudes.
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•Aßi «im mmmr ««MI ■■■ <»' wxi pitry animator. Fred Moore— Pluto's Judgment Day.
Pluto appears to think as the expression changes.
animator. Fred Moore— Pluto's Judgment Day.
all. His line was beautiful; it almost had a quality of shading. When he naturally made the line thicker at the bottom of the dwarfs' jowls, it gave them an extra feeling of weight and dimension.
Walt was very aware of the charm and pleasing quality of Fred's drawings and usually brought the important visitors into his room. Fred found that the visitors were particularly entranced with seeing two drawings that could be flipped to show a change of expression, such as going from a frown to a "take," or a shift of the eyes that showed the brows and the face moving, the shapes animating. Fred commented over and over, "They love to see the drawings move and the characters think! Remember that! It's what they like to see in our scenes. It's what they liked with Fergy's Pluto, you know. We should always let them see the characters think!"
It was during this phase that the animators discovered the true importance of seeing the characters think by a change of expression. They were concerned with the principles of acting when they stumbled upon that idea.
It was just the best use of the medium in showing audiences what you wanted them to see. Over the years we have experimented continually, trying to make the most extreme statement of the change between two expressions on the drawings. Ward Kimball seemed to go further in this exercise than anyone else, but Fred's drawings moved just as well. Fred did not think in terms of extreme movement himself, but he was very impressed when he would see it in someone else's drawings. Albert Hurter did a drawing of Sleepy with his mouth wide open in a yawn, and once Fred had seen something like that he could incorporate it into his own drawings, making it look even better with his natural sense of appeal.
The more Fred worked with Mickey, the more he struggled with overcoming the restrictions of a character whose circular head and body the animators had traced from quarters or half dollars. He kept puzzling about why he was not able to make the drawings that would give him the acting he wanted. "Suppose I want Mickey to be cocky, well then I have to make
animator could hubby little pigs solidity found in wings of Fred him chesty—and that means arching his back. To do that I have to push some of the mass of the lower body up into the chest, and I can't do it with that rigid body." As Les Clark also observed, "Using dimes and quarters for Mickey's head was like moving a cut-out across the screen. We found out that if we pulled something out and then brought it back to its normal volume, why it would look good." The animators realized that they would have to be able to shift that mass around, to drop it, raise it, squash it and stretch it for whatever the attitude needed.
The natural evolution for Fred was to a pear-shaped body, replacing the hard circle. Now he could get the flow and rhythm and flexibility. With these new shape relationships, he began to get a very appealing Mickey with stronger attitudes, better acting, and more personality. Mickey could be anything now—sad with sloping shoulders, chesty, or angry with shoulders up. The head and body could stretch out, and the ears, too, for a take or an accent in dialogue. Now the animators could forget about coming to work with all that loose change for the different-sized Mickeys.
Bob McCrea, who was an assistant at the time, remembers that when Fred made some of his changes in Mickey's appearance he was nervous about showing the results to Walt. Fred could not bring himself to tell Walt before sweatbox what he had done, so he was
nted all the animation Fred's model warfs.
perspiring as he waited to see if Walt would notice. When the scene came on the screen, Walt called to stop the projector! Then he had the scene run back and forth several times while Fred sat there and died. Not a word was exchanged; then Walt turned to Fred, one eyebrow down, and said, "Now that's the way I want Mickey to be drawn from now on!"
The squash and stretch of the walks that Freddie animated had more life, felt better, looked better, and probably seemed more real just because of his ability to change the shapes. He had such a simple, clear way of showing the straight leg, the bent leg, the shove off, and the highs and lows of the walk. He did not experiment with a walk in the same way Ham did, varying the timing and the relationships to get something unique, because Freddie's was all feeling. He always thought in terms of a nice, pleasing drawing. He came up with new things, but they were based on what looked right to him rather than an analysis. He had a way of hooking his forms together that gave a nice solid look. No one drew the three little pigs the way Fred did, nor had the freedom that he felt with Mickey. Mickey was not a design based on logic, there were too many cheats. But that kind of problem did not inhibit Fred because he only would pick a view that looked pleasing to him.
If a drawing looks clumsy, or lacks appeal, or no
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