Sunday, October 21, 2012

Funny Feet: The Art of Eccentric Dance

I've always loved dance animation.  Whether it is Mickey in Thru the Mirror or Donald in Mr. Duck Steps Out or the dancing in Rooty Toot Toot, when expressive movement joins with music, you get an energy that leaves ordinary animation in the dust.  Dick Lundy, Les Clark, Ken Harris, Preston Blair, Ward Kimball, and Pat Matthews are just some of the animators with a genuine flair for dance.

Animated dance built on what was happening in live action films, and that was built on what had been done in Vaudeville and the English music hall.  Chaplin, Keaton, Stan Laurel, Groucho Marx, and James Cagney all used dance in their stage performances.  Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ray Bolger, Buddy Ebsen, and the Nicholas Brothers were all influenced by the same tradition.

Betsy Baytos has worked as an animator and dancer and is making a documentary called Funny Feet: The Art of Eccentric Dance.  Her promo is below:

She's using Kickstarter to fund a trip to England to research music hall performers who fall into the eccentric dance category.

In addition to interviewing performers for the last 20 years, she has also interviewed artists Chuck Jones, Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Myron Waldman (Betty Boop/Popeye) , Joe Barbera, Joe Grant and Al Hirschfeld (NY Times caricaturist).

Here's a clip from a Buster Keaton two reeler for Columbia.  Keaton and Columbia were not a good fit.  The studio was much more at home with the lowbrow knockabout of The Three Stooges than it was with Keaton's deadpan irony.  Elsie James, the woman in this clip, is a pretty crude performer with a tendency to mug.  However, I'm including this clip because after the three minute mark, there's about 20 seconds of sublime dance by Keaton, where he transcends Columbia's limited view of comedy.


I'm excited about the subject matter of Baytos's documentary and looking forward to seeing it.  Read more about it on her Kickstarter page.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Animation on TCM Reminder

If you receive Turner Classic Movies, remember that this Sunday, October 21, they will be screening an evening of animation co-hosted by Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew.  Films include the two Fleischer features Gulliver's Travels and Mr. Bug Goes to Town; a selection of UPA Jolly Frolic cartoons; a selection of silent animation provided by historian Tom Stathes; and The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which is the oldest surviving animated feature as well as the first animated feature directed by a woman, Lotte Reineger.  You can find the complete schedule here and Beck has posted artwork associated with Gulliver and Mr. Bug on his site.

If you are interested in hearing about how Beck connected up with TCM and learning more about the early days of film collecting, you can hear him on a podcast called The Commentary Track.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

More Loomis

Andrew Loomis' 1947 instruction book Creative Illustration has been reprinted.  One in a series of instruction books by Loomis, a Chicago-based commercial illustrator of the 20th century, this book might be described as his magnum opus.  It's the first of his books to deal with colour and composition.

Sections include line, tone, colour, and creating ideas.  It is by far the thickest of Loomis's books and before this reprinting, copies sold for over $100.

Titan Books will reprint Fun With a Pencil next April, Loomis's most basic how to draw book.  All that will remain, should Titan continue, will be Three Dimensional Drawing, an expanded version of Successful Drawing which they have already reprinted, and The Eye of the Painter and the Elements of Beauty, a book published after Loomis's death.  Used copies of that start at $141.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Manolito's Dream

 I wrote about Txesco Montalt's work before, and here is a short that he created with Mayte Sanchez Solis.  Both of them worked on Pocoyo, one of the few pre-school shows I can watch without falling asleep.  Like Txesco's earlier work, it synchs beautifully to the soundtrack and while done in Flash, has lots of subtle shape-changing that gives it wonderful flexibility.

I'm also in love with the simplicity of the design.

The two are partnered in a company called Alla Kinda, and even their logo

exudes charm.  Their site is worth checking out.