Saturday, 16 April 2011

Fantasia Mosaic (XXII)

Here it is - a new sequence and a new segment. Let's give it up for Poncheilli's The Dance of Hours. Here is Deems Taylor's introduction to Dance of the Hours. Which is probably my favourite segment of the film that I enjoy watching. Each sequence is divided into different times of the day. For example, the ostrich ballet sequence is in the morning, the Hippo ballet takes place in the afternoon. Elephant ballet in the evening, the Aligator ballet at night, and the finale of the "somber hours of the night."

Rise and shine - this is the first ballet of the Dance of the Hours segment. I really like the segment in Fantasia because it gets some time for some comedy and laughs into this. Although, it would've been difficult to get gags into the music. But T. Hee and Norm Ferguson are the heroes for this segment. Of course, seeing ostriches doing ballet would be extremely ridiculous and who would think of seeing hippos wearing a tutu. Although, it would be cute seeing that but not in reality.

The sequence is a great place to start of with - the morning. That's why the piece is called Dance of the Hours because it shows ballet dancers dancing throughout the hours of the night. However, here the Disney studio decided to use animals for the segment which would be more interesting than just ballet dancers. This is a good chance for the comedy and expressive animators like Hugh Fraser or John Lounsbery to be working there and see what they bring on the screen.

It starts off inside when the closet gates open and then we truck down the hall and the curtains rise. It's morning time - a good time for the ballet dancers to start off their day. But, of course what do we see? Ostriches. Mmm, this would be strange for an audience looking at an ostrich - so let's see what they would have to do for the morning.

The ostriches wake up and they start to do some ballet exercise before they go and grab some breakfast. The leader of the ostrich (with the pink ribbon) grabs a cornucopia with fruit inside and feeds it for the hungry flightless birds. The ostriches turn greedy, and they try to snatch some of the fruit inside the cornucopia. They head outside to the pool which appears to look like Ancient Greek gardens to me with.

Of course, the mosaic may look short and some of the animators may not have a lot a shots. Although, it's the footage output that gets a Disney animator in the credits and to see that their animation is Disney standard. There are a lot of long-footage scenes that are more than 20 feet on the screen which is more than 300 frames on the screen. All the animation of the ostriches is well animated and it makes the audience believe that they could dance like ballet dancers. However, the animators used a lot of ballet footage to study the movements for the ostrich animation. Here, we have Howard Swift, Hugh Fraser, Norm Tate and Jerry Hatchcock doing the ostrich animation with one minor scene by George Nicholas.

Each animator is cast to animating different actions on the sequence. For instance, Howard Swift animates the acting scenes of the ostriches waking up and warming up. He later comes back and animates the ostriches with the fruit and trying to snatch it off. Hugh Fraser handles a lot of the dancing ostriches here, and he gets a lot of footage here. Norm Tate animates one scene of the group of ostriches gathering up and playing their feathers on top of the leader ostrich. Most of the ostriches here seem to have blue ribbons, while the main ostrich has a pink ribbon on it's head. I can't judge on if they are males or females.

Everything I like about shot 17 here - it was animated by Norm Tate here, and Norm is another unknown animator but he went on to have a career in advertising. He was another Pluto animator and worked with Gerry Geronimi on some Pluto shorts and we have seen him before on Pinocchio animating Honest John and Gideon. We will see him animate more on the Finale sequence later on this segment.

Here in shot 17, the animation of the scene is just brilliant - excellent staging and timing. It all fits well and it's a beautiful scene. I've done some breakdown here on that scene. It's a great scene - and it looks really real, even though it's impossible for ostriches to do that - since they are flightless birds.

Here, I've created two pages for the scene because I wanted to analyze it a bit more and it see the movements here. Between panels 1 and 6, the ostriches gather around the ostrich leader in a circle. By panel 7, the ostriches begin to spiral around the ostrich leader. By panel 15, the main ostrich is hidden only showing her pink ballet shoe. On panel 17, the main ostrich shoots out and into the sky with feathers springing out (animated by effects artist Brad Case). The ostrich continues to keep on springing up until the final shot. What makes the scene so believable and weight into it is the fact that ostriches are flightless birds, and the ostrich doesn't fly off - it falls back down. Kudos to Norm Tate!

Shot 18 is an amusing shot with the ostrich's legs reaching to the ground and does a split in the ground, with a drum bang. That was a sound created by the Disney Studios, and it's not in the original Poncheilli piece. It would have been deliberate to make it work, but it's sort of editing the piece. The animation in it is amusing with the legs hitting the ground. Hugh Fraser and Howard Swift animate the ostriches a lot like Donald Duck.

To be honest, I don't really know what Jerry Hatchcock is animating in the scenes. He seems to be animating scenes shared with Howard Swift, Hugh Fraser and Norm Tate and not animating a scene of his own. Which I find odd. Was Jerry Hatchcock animating the ostriches in the background or was he probably inbetweening the ostrich poses in the animation papers. I don't really know why he would end up in the draft if he was an inbetweener. But in the first shot of the ostrich (shot 15) there is only one ostrich here animated by Howard Swift and Jerry Hatchcock. In that case, then he was going through the poses. That's why he was an uncredited animator. Although, he may have gone through a scene. I assumed that he animated the ostrich's feet in 20, and Hugh Fraser animates the ostrich in the background.

I don't know Jerry's style well in the animation, but he was another squishy and expressive animator who worked on the Crocodile in Peter Pan and animating on Pluto. Although in his Sleeping Beauty work he seemed to have animated scenes of the Prince, which would be surprising. I don't know what he animated on Lady and the Tramp though.

If I'm not mistaken - Hugh Fraser also animated the ostrich in the El Gaucho Goofy sequence in Saludos Amigos.

That's my talk done - more to come, and I hope to see some comments!!


Anonymous said...

Hi Steven. I only saw Fantasia (VHS version) once in the early 90's. Dance of the Hours is my favorite segment. I have to give a lot of credit to the animators that did a very good job on animated the cute ballerina ostriches in the morning section of the Dance of the Hours.

Anyway, I'm looking forward on your future review of my favorite Merrie Melodies cartoon that makes fun of Fantasia three years later (A Corny Concerto - 1943) on your newest blog (Likely Looney, Mostly Merrie) in the many months to come.


Steven Hartley said...

Hi Sterling,

Thank you for your comment, and keep popping by at my new blog to find a review on that. Even though it will probably take me a very long time.