Friday, 7 January 2011

Fantasia Mosaic (III)

I know, another small sequence today - but at least it has classical animation by Art Babbitt.

This is arguably the most famous sequence in this segment, the music is memorable, the animation is brilliant, and it's staging is superb. The timing is on target to the music, and it's about everyone I love about this sequence, as I explained at the above.

Although the draft is only credited for three scenes, and Art Babbitt's animation is only 96 feet long in this small sequence, but this 96 worth of animation is pure gold. One of the best in the Golden Age of Hollywood Animation. This is probably Babbitt at his best - or probably his most famous animation in the film, as he's produced many memorable animated scenes to the Disney films and non-Disney films, such as Richard Williams's The Thief and the Cobbler.

There is a brief bit mentioned in Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston's Book The Illusion of Life: In the "Nutcracker Suite," Walt did not want to waste footage on showing the Nutcracker and the girl watching this series of dances (as was done in the original ballet), but instead, he was looking for something in each section interesting in itself. "It's the fairyland thing we are picturing."

He had thought of the Chinese dance as something with a group of lizards wearing flowers in the shape of coolie hats, and the Russian dance as more comic, using turtles with their heads going in and out. Several of our finest artists were working on this and were, daily, presenting ideas and drawings, everything  from the characters' appearance to the whole visual concept. Although Walt liked many of their suggestion, there was still something mussing; just handsome artwork was not enough.

He had often said, "When I'm interested in something, I want to see what's going on," and that expressed as well as anything this dissatisfaction with these early drawings. These was not enough "going on." There was not enough of an idea, yet, for a picture to be started.

Then, one day he saw a drawing of a mushroom that Elmer Plummer had made. Walt immediately saw a potential that far surpassed anything that could have been done with the lizards. He started talking of how a mushroom even looked Chinese, how it could do a certain type of dance, and soon he had added another mushroom who was always out of step and causing trouble for the whole group. This did not happen in a day, or all in one meeting, but it did become a solid, unified idea that even without a story would hold anyone's interest. Walt said, "...people will remember it--every time they look at a mushroom after that they'll try to see those Chinese."

At the time, it seemed that Walt didn't think the music for early concepts didn't have much effort, and was looking for something that would have the spark. It seemed that Elmer Plummer was responsible the concept designs and character model sheets. There were hundreds of these designed before and it helped a tiny idea to become one of the greatest moments in a Disney film.

From earlier, the fairies make a crash and then glitter lands to the grounds, and then it looks as if that it brings the fungus to life, and they do their Chinese dance. I must say, I've always found the little mushroom who doesn't seem to do the dance right, is pretty amusing. Although, I've always found him as if he was the leader of the dance or something, because the taller mushrooms go on two rows and line up, and the little mushroom walks past the line, and at the very end the mushrooms bow at the little fungus. It's cute.

What I find fascinating, is that fact that Art Babbitt's animation during the Dance, and that they're in the spotlight, and at various times they get larger, and then they get smaller. The spotlight gets bigger and smaller at times, it's amazing! Although, in my guess I'm guessing it was Frank Follmer doing the spotlight of the mushrooms dancing, and Tom Barnes doing the fungus' shadows.

Here is a frame grab for shot 16 and it's not the entire scene, just a few frames but an action scene, that I like best in the film.

What I like best here, is that the scene is about 30 feet, and just look at these pile of drawings that were animated, and look how weight the mushrooms have here, it produces a great, monumental weight here, and they certainly have character, and they move just perfectly, and look how much Art Babbitt has produced his squash and stretch here, what a miracle.

Take a look here at this YouTube video, and just see how much character these have, and the brilliant amount of animation that Babbitt produced, like I've said: it has weight, brilliant timing and staging, and try and study it if you are being influenced.

Like I've said before in previous postings, I find The Nutcracker Suite the most memorable in terms of music, why not; parts of the music is used a lot for adverts on the television, and in films, and I've heard the music a lot in British adverts on the TV. Of course, Tchaikovsky is Russian, and the music and also known to have composed the Sleeping Beauty Ballet, as well. It was premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892, and as Deems Taylor mentioned before, it wasn't a big success when it was first performed, and Taylor mentions that no-one performs you, (I can assure you Deems that it's been performed hundreds of times after it's release).

I know it's only one page of the mosaic, but in the next posing it will be two sequences in one: The Dance of the Reed Flutes and the Arabian Dance.


Eric Noble said...

Fantastic!!! Wonderful mosaic. That is something I've always remembered from Fantasia. Art Babbitt did a fantastic job on the animation.

Steven Hartley said...

Yes indeed, Babbitt did a fantastic job, and we see him come back again on the Fantasia mosaic...