Friday, 27 May 2011

Snow White Mosaic Part 1

"Magic Mirror on the Wall,
What is the fairest Disney animated feature of them all?
-Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the fairest of course!

Sorry if I've been away for two weeks - I was at my camping trip last week which was "far away from computers and bloggers". But as promised, here is a new feature length mosaic which I going to be presenting over the next few months and that's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

We are all familiar with the fact that this was Walt Disney's first ever animated film and it was the biggest peak of his career at that point. This is what led him to go on and produce dozens of animated pictures throughout his career, and tons of over films. This was the picture that started it all (well not exactly), but the animated feature that started it all.

You'll be surprised to learn that these drafts that I'm going to be posting will not have any director credit, or layout credit - and you may come across a layout artist or art director on that film. You'll just have to wait and see.

Imagine, back 73 years ago and you are attending the premiere of Snow White at the Carthay Circle Theatre, the curtains rose and the motion picture began. We first start of with a little prologue of a book cover telling the introduction to the Grimm brother's fairy tale. It gives us a detailed explanation of the Queen jealous of Snow White - as she got older, she got more beautiful. So, she was dressed in rags and placed as her scullery.

As the real movie gets going, we see a long shot view of the Queen's castle on a quiet morning, and it's placed by a lovely coast - and as we truck in through the window. We see the Queen's throne room and it was a typical day for the Queen, and every day she would go to her Magic Mirror and say the usual question, "Magic Mirror on the Wall - who is the fairest of them all." The Slave of the Magic Mirror would tell her in a rather deep voice the same results as she gets usually, "Snow White is the fairest of them all." Here, the Magic Mirror tells her name by giving blues with colours - "lips read the rose", "hair black as ebony", and "skin white as snow". The "skin" clue obviously gave it away for the Queen as she reacts to the name in disgrace and mutters "Snow White!".

It was a rather short sequence that was animated by Art Babbitt, who animates the Queen and the Magic Mirror animated by Woolie Reitherman. I wasn't sure for the fire effect scene was done by either John McManus or Dan MacManus, but the iMDB credits lists it as John McManus as an uncredited animator.

Both animators, Babbitt and Woolie are given very stiff characters to animate. Of course, the Magic Mirror doesn't move or twtich at all - the only movement that that Magic Mirror is doing is moving his lips while talking to the response of the Queen's daily repetitive question. This was one of Woolie Reitherman's hardest assignment and the Internet Movie Database says that it took Woolie roughly 9 times just to get the timing and the animation just correct. To get the staging and the shape of the Magic Mirror's face correct - he had to fold the paper in half - and he'd draw the face in the half edge of the paper, and draw the head on the other half of the folded paper. It probably took him months and months for him to finish the Magic Mirror animation, by folding up the paper thousands and thousands of times. This took a lot of knowledge and thought to get the animation just right.

Notice how the shape of the Magic Mirror is shown on shot 5 - and in shot 7, when there is a close-up of the Magic Mirror responding to the Queen. The detailed shapes of the mirror shapes slightly, and the background colours appear to be darker and much more gold. The colours of the Magic Mirror also changed in Shot 7, with the top of his head much more darker blue - and the bottom of his face had a much more yellower colour, compare that to Shot 5 - when the colours were much more brighter - and in my opinion much more appealing and suitable.

While the flames rise up as the Queen orders the Mirror to see her - the rim of the mirror as the flame reflecting in shot 5, and that is some very good effects animation for back in the 1930's - and interesting how very, very little people would've noticed that.

Art Babbitt's animation of the Queen is also just as stiff as the Magic Mirror, except that she would move slightly while standing - and that was what made her difficult to draw. Both Woolie and Babbitt were regular Goofy animators at the time - and yet again they were assigned to animate such stiff characters. That's some strange casting here for the unknown director to do - I have to say.

Moving on to the next sequence, which is a larger portion than the first sequence. It is the first time that we reveal Snow White. The audience know that it's Snow White. But hang on a minute, she's not wearing her pretty dress, she's dressed in rags and scrubbing the back garden. What is she doing there. Well, it still shows that Snow White is the Queen's scullery - due to her jealousy. She seems to have a group of bird friends who like to keep her company. While she sings at the wishing well, the Prince is riding along minding his own business and notices a beautiful singing voice.

Snow White is singing at a wishing well, and she tells a secret to a group of turtle doves, that if you make a wish into a well - and hearing it echo - your wish will have a very high probability that it will come true. So, she wishes for her love to find her and take her away from the Wicked Queen. As the echoes come, the Prince just happened to come in the spot and Snow White's wish comes true as she sees him. The Queen looks through the balcony and knew that Snow White as a scullery wouldn't last long. She closes the curtains for a "Plan B".

Once she sees the handsome Prince, she is embarrassed to see that he's arrived while she's still in rags. She runs back into the castle in embarrassment, and the Prince sings to her while Snow White confronts her fears and look down at the Prince from a view at the balcony. She's flattered by the Prince, and they both have a connection. Even the doves admire the Prince, since he looks buffed up - he's very gentle with animals and they also admire him.

We first see Snow White with her scrubbing the steps, and Shot 1 of Sequence 2-A is very well animated by Jack Campbell, even though he very well could've done that all on rotoscope. Each of the Snow White animators have some specific casting on the scenes. Jack Campbell animates the early scenes of Snow White washing and at the wishing-well - those scenes were the scenes he was long time credited for - despite his mystery. Paul Busch handles some scenes of Snow White's reflection from the wishing well - for some reason, when I was very young watching it, those scenes used to scare me. Grim Natwick immediately takes over the animation when Snow White encounters the Prince, and animates the rest of the scenes of Snow White and the Prince from the very end. There is also a scene each given to assistants Marc Davis and Hugh Fraser. That's odd - for Hugh to be animating a scene of Snow White, since he was a squishy and expressive animator. The draft for scene 2 is credited as "FRASER" and I thought it was Marc Davis as in "Fraser Davis", but they would've labeled that as "DAVIS", so it seems that Hugh Fraser is a possibility then. He probably must have done that scene before he did cartoonie stuff - he was probably one of the assistants for Jack Campbell.

The doves are animated mainly by the main animal animators of the film, Eric Larson and Milt Kahl. Both men were just animators at the time - and this was before they had successful careers in animation and before they were dubbed as the "Nine Old Men". It appears to be that Milt Kahl animates a lot of the scenes where the doves have character, and personality - for example: Shot 30 of the blushing dove is a clear explanation to what I have said. Eric Larson just handles a lot of the background scenes of the doves, with a lot of realism and study to the timing of the doves. Shot 12 of the dove scattering from the echo sound of the Wishing well is just excellently timed. It's really believable to an audience - and that's why Eric was known as "the bird man".

Is that Eric Larson doing effects on shot 16A and 19? It couldn't have been Paul Busch. Neither of those animators were effects artists. I don't know what Eric could be doing there - unless there was another effects animator called Eric.

You'll be surprised to know, that a lot of people have always said that Milt Kahl animated the Prince in Snow White, and that he was always stuck on the Princes. Well, he was really only stuck on a Prince like Sleeping Beauty. Here, the Prince are by the Snow White animators: Jack Campbell and Grim Natwick. Grim Natwick shows a rather more realistic and human-like prince than Campbell. Shot 17 of the Prince climbing through a wall - just feels strangely drawn, not the sophisticated look of the Prince - as Grim Natwick does.

Grim Natwick also does a better Snow White than Jack Campbell does. I'm not saying that Campbell is a bad animator, he certainly is good. He did some good animation of the wishing-well stuff. But what I'm saying is that, Grim Natwick gets the good stuff in there - he makes Snow White much more human in his scenes. Shot 23 is another example, she is standing behind a curtain and she's in love with the prince, and realizes what a terrible state she is wearing. This is way Grim was the main guy that lead Snow White - he was more experienced than the other animators, and he certainly did a believable princess. As with Jack Campbell, his scenes with Snow White at the wishing well, didn't really require much emotions or much at all. Shot 1, has some good emotions and acting by Campbell when she pours the rest of the bucket of water on the ground. But that said it, Campbell didn't need to do much - except animate her singing at the wishing well - and making a wish at a wishing well.

I hope you have enjoyed my commentary on an all-new animated feature mosaic that I'm doing. I'm hoping for a larger audience, as Snow White is a very popular Disney animated feature. With no director or layout credit - I hope the animator's work is at least helpful.


Carolina BĂșzio said...

Thank you so much for all the information! I've been following your blog for a few weeks now, and I am really enjoying all of these detailed bits about animation.
But I am curious, do you find all of the information online? Or do you have other sources?
Thanks once again,

Steven Hartley said...

Thanks for asking, Carolina. All this information on the animators were based on the drafts posted on Hans Perk's site (A Film L.A.). He's posted many drafts and without him - it wouldn't be possible for me to make these mosaics.

Eric Noble said...

Excellent mosaic Steven. I will certainly be tuning in for this one. As for the early animation of Snow White, I think it's rough quality stems from the fact that Roy wanted to get the film out, and they didn't have anymore money to finish it. That and it's quite difficult to animated the human body with realism. I'm sure if given the proper amount of time, Jack Campbell could have produced something of much higher quality.

Steven Hartley said...

I knew that Roy and Walt had some disagreements, and supposedly that Campbell's animation had high quality due to his rotoscoping.

I will be looking forward to your comments.

John V. said...

I think "FRASER" is probably (Marc) Fraser Davis, if he used "Fraser" as a first name at the time. Often the animators are identified by first name on the draft.

Also, perhaps Paul Busch was an effects animator while Snow White was in production, and switched to character animation when they were working on Pinocchio?

Steven Hartley said...

That's a good theory, that maybe Paul Busch did effects - but later on - he has some scenes of Snow White which he probably co-animated with Ham Luske.

You could be right with FRASER as Marc Davis, but his names on the draft were DAVIS. Hugh Fraser was later typed for animating a Cinderella scene when she runs away from the ball.