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fleeting smile, the raising of a shoulder as the body leaned forward—these were the precious elements of life revealed by the camera.
But whenever we stayed too close to the photostats, or directly copied even a tiny piece of human action, the results looked very strange. The moves appeared real enough, but the figure lost the illusion of life. There was a certain authority in the movement and a presence that came out of the whole action, but it was impossible to become emotionally involved with this eerie, shadowy creature who was never a real inhabitant of our fantasy world.
Not until we realized that photographs must be redrawn in animatable shapes (our proven tools of communicating) were we able to transfer this knowledge to cartoon animation. It was not the photographed action of an actor's swelling cheek that mattered, it was the animated cheek in our drawings that had to communicate. Our job was to make the cartoon figure go through the same movements as the live actor, with the same timing and the same staging, but, because animatable shapes called for a difference in proportions. the figure and its model could not do things in exactly the same way. The actor's movements had to be reinterpreted in the world of our designs and shapes and forms.
As long as we remembered to use the photostats only as a reference in making our own statement of what should be in the scene, our animation was never tight or restricted. Our drawing ability had to improve, our knowledge of anatomy and acting had to increase, and our judgment had to develop, but. with an apprehensive Walt Disney watching every line we made, progress was automatic—difficult, but expected. Our animation picked up a crispness, a force, and a richness it never had before. This took study and analysis and careful work, but once a movement was understood it easily could be incorporated into cartoon terms. We had made the big break with rotoscope.
No one knows for sure why a pencil tracing of a live action figure should look so stiff and unnatural on the screen, unless there simply is no reality in a copy. The animators had learned this in art classes, but. somehow. studying film of a moving model made them | think that live action was different. The camera cer-i tainly records what is there, but it records everything that is there, with an impartial lack of emphasis. On the other hand, an artist shows what he sees is there, especially that which might not be perceived by others. His drawings can be closer to the true realism of an object because he can be selective and personal in what he chooses to show. From the photostats, the animator chooses only those actions that relate to the point of his particular scene; then he strengthens those until they become the dominant action, with everything else either eliminated or subordinated. What appears on the screen is a simple, strong, direct statement that has clarity and vitality. The spirit and life have been gained by adapting the human form to an artist's own designs, the shapes and forms that he uses in reaching an audience. This is no more than what artists always have done. Michelangelo's magnificent statue of David, for all of its power and beauty, has such distorted normal proportions that David would be a strange looking apparition were he to be met walking down the street. The celebrated Venus de Milo could not even fit into modern clothes, and most of the other classic beauties of art, who have enthralled men for centuries, would attract only stares of amazement at a social function. The point is: a work of art is never a copy; for it to have meaning to people of many generations and numerous cultures, it must be the personal statement of an artist.
The first live-action films we had shot were for reference only, and it was pure chance that something fit either our story continuity or our sound tracks. But it was not long before one of us had picked out an action he liked on a piece of film, synced it up with his sound track, made a couple of adjustments in timing, and then incorporated that action into his animation. Soon we were shooting film for specific scenes or special actions, so that an animator would not have to spend too much time searching for relevant material.
As a director shot more and more of his cartoon continuity in sequence with live actors, he began to realize that this was a wonderful opportunity to check planned business and staging before it was animated. This was also an excellent way of establishing early communication with the animator himself, for here was something tangible to discuss. The action was on film, and the director and animator could build from there, adding or cutting, doing more or doing less,
strengthening or modifying: but. at least, they were starting from the same point.
All of this demanded more care in the planning and shooting of live action film. If the image on the film was right, a weak animator could gel by with it and a good animator could make it even better. However, if the live action was poorly planned, or staged in a confusing manner, it would cause trouble for everyone. and the director would do better to throw the film awav and start afresh with the animator and his story-
board. Essentially, the film should be considered a further step in the visual development of the story material, like an advanced story sketch, and it should be shot with that purpose in mind. Before going over to the sound stage, the director should take a hard look at the scenes he is planning to shoot and ask himself:
Is this material really ready to go into animation?
Does the business fit the story? The character? Is it right for the mood, the tempo, the overall idea?
Is it entertaining? Is it just somebody saying some necessary dialogue, or is it a situation that gives the actor a chance to build and contribute?
If we happen to gel some funny action or new business. will it fit? Can this be used easily and effectively? Does it animate as it is? Will it make a good scene? Would I be excited if I had to animate it?
Am I helping the animator by shooting this, or will it be tough to handle once it is on his board?
And when the director is on the stage w itli the scene rehearsed and the actor ready, he should remember renowned film director Stanley Kubrick's final check: "Is anything happening worth putting on I film?"
Unless a director is exceptionally wise, or an anima-tor himself, he should ask the man who ultimately w ill animate the scenes to help plan the business on the süte Almost always when someone else shoots film for an animator the camera is too far back, or ten) ■ close, or the action is staged at the wrong angle to reveal what is happening, or it is lighted so that what you want to see is in shadow. Occasionally the footage will show only continuity of an actor moving from one place to another, or just waiting, or getting into position to do something interesting later on. The action must he staged with enough definition and emphasis to
The whole production unit often participated in the shooting of crucial actions. In this scene for Sleeping Beauty, from the left, layout men Ernest Nordli. Don Griffith. and Tom Cod rick check their layout continuity; performers Ed Kem-mer and Helene Stanley discuss their roles with the director. Clyde "Gerry" Geronomi; supervising animator and sequence director Eric Larson review s the script while production designer Mac Stewart makes sure the camera position matches the scene that has been planned.
A ctor Hans Conriedportrays Capt. Hook and artist-comedian Don Barclay gives a very imaginative performance as Mr. Smee in this scene from Peter Pan. The prop man rocks the boat, creating an action that would be difficult to animate convincingly, while an unidentified child actor plays the stoical Indian princess Tiger Lily.
telly girl or a hand-pee arc presented ally, they must he d as "straight" n realistically and
Milt Kahl— natians.
pes in the face and be caricatured just he characters will ' to animate and wincing to the au-15 in this scene of \sing his wife Anita almatians.
Eric Cleworth— natians.
ns were the hench-uella deVil in 101 ns but their stupid-them a constant The grotesque deuced the slapstick and semiserious of these second-ins.
be extremely clear, but neither overacted nor so subtle that it fails to communicate.
Great care in the shooting produced scenes on film that were so succinct, so rich, and so well staged that they could be cut into the continuity reel almost like a first rough test of animation. However, they were not the straight pieces of acting one might expect in a live action film, because these imaginative scenes had been carefully planned for the medium of caricature. Usually we used actors whose talents included comedy, inventiveness, and creativity—as well as considerable theatrical experience. As the result of building scenes with such people, incorporating new ideas, searching for a way that communicates better or offers more entertainment. the live action film gave the animator a springboard to go beyond what he could have imagined himself.
We photographed anything that might prove helpful, and soon we discovered that the timing of a clever actor could make a mild gag hilarious, that an experienced stage comedian would offer sure ways of staging a scene's business, that another talent might suggest ways to put life into actions that had been conceived simply as continuity. Some actors gave back only what was asked of them; others were eager to take over and tell us how to do our whole production. In between, there was a group who enjoyed working on a role, building character, and finding ways to make it memorable.
Many times a performer would devise a piece of business so funny, so unusual and appealing, that everyone would be sold on it immediately—blinded to the fact that its length would slow down the pace of the story. Just because some business is funny does not necessarily make it right for that place in the picture. It is very difficult to judge whether a suggested way of doing something is worth the extra footage or whether it can be shortened in animation without losing its value. Comedy routines and personality-building both take time; they cannot be rushed. The director and animator must decide whether they are gaining important development with this piece of entertaining action, or just stretching out the picture.
Usually we did not use the same person for both the acting and the character's voice on the sound track, since we found that actors had a tendency to give the same interpretation to both performances. What we wanted was someone who could add to the physical performance, come up with a new dimension, a way of doing it that no one else had suggested. To get that, we needed an inventive actor fresh to the whole idea, with no preconceptions to limit his imagination.
The sound track was on a record, which could be played over and over while the actor was rehearsing and trying out ideas for timing and character. Then, when the scene actually was shot, a recording was made of the sound as heard on the stage by the actor. After a "take" was chosen several days later, this recording was replaced by the original track, matching in sync what had been recorded on the stage. If new actions had been devised that required more time between lines of dialogue, there was no way of changing the track at that point: so, the needle was lifted from the record and the scene was shot "wild." After the film came back from the lab. the director and the animator juggled the picture and the sound track back and forth until they had the best sync they could achieve. Sometimes a new interpretation would develop
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