Thursday, 23 December 2010

Alice Animators

As we are reaching the end of our Alice mosaics; I do feel the need to talk a little bit about the animators on Alice in Wonderland; those who animated the "title character" Alice, and I'm going to take a look at how they handled the character; and the fact that some animators controlled the character rather differently.

Of course, Alice is the main character from Lewis Carroll's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and the character was modeled from one of Carroll's "child friends", Alice Liddel. She seems to be portrayed as a very young girl, and I'd estimate in the book, she was roughly aged 7, while in the Disney movie, she looks like she's around 12 or 13 years of age, which is a difference between age. That's a change that the animators did, the character has been altered many times, and very few people from the public have suspected that. I've even noticed that some shots she looks really young and the other shots she's older.

Perhaps we shall take a look at it:

 Les Clark.

Firstly, I want to look at Les Clark, who animated a lot of the character early in the film. Here is an example of his work in this scene where Alice first encounters the Mad Hatter and March Hare during the Mad Tea Party sequence. Clark animates Alice how she is was designed and doesn't add anything to it. It's simple, easy to follow; and the acting scenes Clark got to do is wonderful. Here, Clark doesn't exaggerate the character a lot, but he certainly makes the character believable, and in that scene where Alice notices the teapots, you can really tell that she's amazed with something unusual that she's never seem in her life, and her eyes slightly widen, and it's brilliant. Clark doesn't exaggerate at all, and animates the character JUST right. That's what I like.

Marc Davis.

Marc Davis handles the shots where he animates Alice is just wonderful to see. She has appeal, and is also really believable, and the acting and poses are wonderful. I like how Davis animates her eyebrows, really neat. Animators who like to animate a lot of zany stuff like (Kimball, Woolie, Lounsbery, Nordberg), they would use a lot of exaggeration on the eyebrows and have a lot of fun on it; while Marc had to be careful with the character, with the acting and that's why rotoscoping was brought along. Although, compare this from Les Clark's Alice in the last frame; this is a close-up of Alice and she does look slightly older here, or taller perhaps. Well done Marc, you did a fine job of Alice here! ;)

Don Lusk.

Don Lusk's animation is interesting, very interesting indeed. In the scenes he was assigned to, he doesn't take too much control of the character even though he animated a lot of scenes. What I mean is, that Lusk animates a lot of minor scenes and often shared scenes with characters animated by different people, and even animates the character in the same scene, but doesn't show up the camera PANS towards her. Here, Don animates the character rather young looking, and animates Alice differently, he makes her shorter, and makes her look younger. I don't know if Lusk was trying to follow the original John Tenniel illustrations, but we should ask him what it was like animating the character, since he's one of the fewer artists in that era that is still with us.
 Don Lusk.

Don Lusk mainly animated a lot of long-shot scenes of Alice (long-shots mean that they show a character but from a long distance), and Lusk does a lot of Alice but really small, I've shown an example up here. Lusk also got some big scenes like Alice going down the Rabbit-hole, but other than Alice. Don animates a lot of minor scenes of Alice throughout the picture, and is in the backgrounds throughout the entire picture, which is annoying because we don't see a lot of what he can do.

 Ollie Johnston.

Ah, now here is Ollie Johnston who animates quite a portion of her in the picture (even though he animated a few scenes of the King). Now, I have to admit: I was pretty disappointing of how Alice turned out to be, as she was animated by Ollie. Ollie was such a great draftsman; and a tender guy in real life, but I just thought he could do better than this. Now I'm not going to be too critical, because there were scenes of Alice done by Ollie that were great. But, in most of the Alice shots done by Johnston, and he does it in his own way. He gives the character a rather more round head; and she just looks stiff, and it just doesn't really look appealing. But that's my opinion.

Ollie Johnston.

In another shot, that I saw Ollie handle that puts me off, and when Alice grows and grows and becomes taller than an oak tree; what puts me off is that he draws the character with a rather small head and gives the character a very LONG neck. It's mostly everything that puts me off about the scene. The face is just not shaped right, the hair just feels too shape and two-dimensional, and even the long neck! Urgh, no wonder she's a "serpent"!
Milt Kahl.

I must say, Milt Kahl animates a brilliant Alice, probably the best one I've seen in the picture, he uses so much appeal in the character, she's believable, appealing, movable, etc. But, in this scene where she hears a voice from the Caterpillar as a butterfly off-screen, and that frame of Alice is a bit clumsy, it's really the face, she seems too round and rubbery, and I always thought she looked a little bit like Betty Boop, there. Although, Milt handles her hands there pretty good.

Milt Kahl.

Now here, that's a better drawing of Alice, that was animated by Milt Kahl. Although, he did do animation of the Dodo earlier in the film, but that was only a few scenes, and I was never really a big fan of his animation of Dodo, but I must say that his animation of Alice in the Croquet and Trial sequence really fits well; and in this frame of her standing in court, I love her smile there, the lips have appeal and Milt uses a lot of strong appeal. I think he got the best Alice scenes in the film, which is the Croquet game. Although, Milt never really seems to be talked a lot of his animation of Alice, but talked a lot about his animation like Prince Philip in Sleeping Beauty, Madame Medusa in The Rescuers, Madame Mim in The Sword in the Stone, Shere Khan in The Jungle Book, the title character in Pinocchio, and a few others.

That's all I'll review about the Alice; sure I've excluded Hal Ambro, Eric Larson or Harvey Toombs, but these were the five people that I thought were more interesting to review.

Watch out for tomorrow as we are going to see the final entry for my mosaic for Alice in Wonderland.


Eric Noble said...

Very nice analysis. My favorites are Marc Davis and Milt Kahl's versions of Alice. They give her the most appeal and vitality. I adore that one frame of Alice from the Courtroom scene you posted. It shows such a giddy delight in her eyes and body. Milt struck all of the right notes there. I never cared much for Milt's animation of Mim or Prince Philip. Then again, I don't find them as interesting as Alice or as human.

Steven Hartley said...

Well, I like "The Sword in the Stone" a lot and I like the Madame Mim animation a lot:

There is an anedcote between Woolie Reitherman and Milt Kahl about "The Sword in the Stone", and Woolie said "These drawings are beautiful, these should hang in a museum", and Milt replied "Aww, you're FULL of it!" (Have I said that already?)

Same here, I never really cared about the animation of Sleeping Beauty; it never really amazed me.

Although, I think Milt Kahl's work on "The Rescuers" was excellent, he got to do Madame Medusa and Mr. Snoops to do all by himself, although he retired during production and his long-time assistant Stan Green did the rest of stuff with Medusa driving in her car and swamp mobile.

Eric Noble said...

The Sword in the Stone is my dad's favorite Disney movie, but that's because it was the first one he saw as a kid. I personally think it's a bit disjointed as a narrative. It's a bit weak as a film.

The animation in Sleeping Beauty is good on a technical level. However, it just doesn't connect to me on a human level.

Steven Hartley said...

I wouldn't say the narrative is weak - it's a rather complex structure, and the end is a confusing ending - but I think you have to listen carefully when you watch the film.

I thought that "Sword" had extraordinary sequences like the Squirrels, or the Higitus Figitus sequence.

Torgo25 said...

Marc Davis' Alice is my personal favorite. He animates the character just right. His animations during the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Cheshire Cat, Mad Tea Party, and Tulgey Wood sequences are brilliant.

Milt Kahl's Alice was very well done. The animation of Alice struggling with the flamingo is some of his best work in my opinion. It's a pity he got stuck mostly animating princes.

Les Clark did a good job. I especially like his animation during the scene where the flowers are examining Alice and pondering what she is.

I can safely say that Don Lusk can live comfortably knowing that he animated some of the most amazing Alice sequences. The Down the Rabbit Hole sequences continues to amaze me even to this day.

Ollie Johnston's Alice is my least favorite. The awkward-looking face is what puts me off the most. However, the growing and shrinking animations were very well done. I wonder if Ollie handled the growing and shrinking animations from The Three Caballeros?

Steven Hartley said...

I have to say, I don't mind Don Lusk's animation of Alice at all - although I think Lusk's greater achievements were the Arabian Goldfish in Fantasia.