The quickest way to see how a scene is going to play is to shoot what we call a "pose test." While the animator is setting up his scene, figuring the size, the movement, the acting, he is making rough drawings that will become the basis of the actual animation. Now, instead of refining those drawings and relating them to each other, he sends them to camera just the way they are. They are the key poses for the scene and show how the scene is being planned. By shooting them at no less than 4 frames apiece and no more than 24, both the director and the animator can see if the action will be strong enough, or too strong, and if the amount of time allowed for the scene is going to be right. When a series of pose tests are cut together in a reel, there is
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quite a good feeling of how that part of the sequence will play.
There is also a possibility that the scene may look funnier and more interesting in poses than it ever can in full animation. Fred Moore had a famous scene in Snow White that always worked far better in the pose test. The scene showed Dopey and Happy very concerned about the magical powers of the evil queen. Grumpy had just informed them that she might be in their room "right now!" Fred used about eleven poses to show Dopey looking from side to side, then glancing at Happy's beard, lifting it, searching under it, then receiving a "bonk" on the head. When this pose test came back from camera, it had a surprising crisp-ness that gave excitement and a feeling of nervous apprehension. There was a big laugh the first time it was shown in sweatbox, but that was the best the scene ever looked. From then on it went down hill. Fred made new and better poses as he animated the scene, but the crispness was gone.
After several unsuccessful tests, in desperation he went back to his original poses and tried to work between them, hoping to recapture the sparkle that was in his first pose test. That was even worse. He never did find the right combination of timing and spacing and regretted ever having posed the scene in the first place. The sweatbox note shows Walt's effort to get more life in the scene:
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Be closer at the start of this scene, and as you pan up, come back at the same time. The minute Dopey looks under the beard, have Happy turn right around and hit Dopey, taking out
dialogue that had been recorded was excellent; the story sketches showed clearly what great entertainment there would be in the situation; it would be a wonderful sequence to animate.
A meeting was scheduled to make the final deci
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