Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dumbo Part 6

As I watch this film in chunks, I am struck by how much the film relies on contrast. Each sequence seems to contrast with the last and there is contrast within sequences as well. This sequence follows the raising of the big top during a thunderstorm. Where the previous sequence was dark and grey, this one is bright and colorful. The music here also contrasts with the roustabout song.

Within this sequence, there is the contrast between the excitement of the parade itself and the boredom of the animals. Those open-mouthed animals in shots 4.1 and 8 are yawning, not roaring. There's also contrast between the gorilla's seemingly ferocious demeanor in shot 7 and his embarrassment when one of the bars comes loose. Van Kaufman animated the shot. While he not well-known, he certainly gives a good performance here.

Hicks Lokey's animation of the band in shot 3 is broad, energetic and full of stretch and squash. Similarly, his animation of the clowns in shot 11 introduces them and also establishes that while they're colourful and frantic, they are not particularly funny. There are no gags taken to completion.

Alberto Becattini's listing for Lokey has no credit between Dumbo in 1941 and Lokey joining Hanna Barbera around 1958. Based on Lokey's work in this film, it's a shame that he had no further opportunities to do work of this caliber.

The final shot of Dumbo, unfortunately uncredited, is an excellent piece of character animation. Dumbo is happy to be trailing behind his mother. The crowd distracts him and he shows some nervousness. He overcomes the nervousness with a smile and then runs to catch up to his mother, tripping on his ears and landing in a puddle. Finally, he looks sad over his situation and the laughter of the crowd. This is a textbook example of what's known these days as the "gear change," where a character's thoughts are expressed through changes in facial expression.

Because the elephants in Dumbo are so well done, it's important to realize what an animation challenge they are. Characters on four legs don't have arms to help communicate. Elephants, in particular, don't have fingers. Because they are so bulky, their spines can't be used to express emotion the way that Pluto's spine can. That pretty much leaves their faces and the way their bodies move overall. The last shot here and shot 9 in sequence 3 (animated by Hugh Fraser) are both examples of the use of the head and face as the focus of elephant acting.

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