Monday, February 20, 2006
WB Animation: "Rabbit of Seville"
Here's another revised version of an earlier post on WB animation. This is again based on a Greg Duffell post, identifying the animators who animated different scenes in Chuck Jones' Rabbit of Seville (which is available on the first Looney Tunes DVD collection).
- The opening sequence, where Elmer Fudd chases Bugs Bunny out of the woods and onto the stage, is animated by Emery Hawkins. Hawkins wasn't a regular member of Jones' unit; he had animated for Walter Lantz, and then moved to WB to work for director Arthur Davis. When Davis's unit was closed down, Hawkins animated for the three remaining directors at WB, a sort of "rotating" animator, and then left; he mostly worked on commercials after that.
- When Bugs introduces himself as the barber ("How do! Welcome to my shop -- let me cut your mop"), the animation is by Phil Monroe, who worked in Jones' unit in the late '40s and early '50s, and later animated for Jones at MGM on projects like How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Before joining Jones, Monroe had done some work for "wilder" directors like Bob Clampett and Frank Tashlin, and has a slightly looser, wackier style than some of the other Jones animators -- though always keeping closely to Jones's pose drawings (Jones didn't give his animators as much room to improvise as some of the other directors).
- Ken Harris, Jones' star animator (he's the guy who animated all the crying scenes in Feed the Kitty, for instance) animates the close shot of Bugs singing "Although your face looks like it might have gone through a machine." Harris was brilliant at doing these kinds of close shots, especially of characters looking toward the camera. Note the rather pinched, close-together features he gives Bugs and the detail of the wrinkles in Bugs's face.
- The next scene, with Bugs in drag, is animated by Emery Hawkins, with his skinny and fluidly-moving Bugs, and somewhat Disney-esque look for the befuddled Elmer.
- With Elmer back in the barber chair, Ben Washam animates the sequence where Bugs "is massaging Elmer's head and eventually makes a salad there." Washam also animates the subsequent sequence with Bugs as a snake charmer. Washam is easy to identify, at least in Bugs Bunny cartoons, because he always makes Bugs' teeth pointier -- or "chisel-toothed" as Duffell calls it -- than any other animator, as well as his generally angular way of drawing Bugs's head and features.
- The great chase scene where Elmer and Bugs zoom upward on barber chairs is animated by Lloyd Vaughan (who was with Jones through most of the '40s and the early '50s). Vaughan stuck more than most animators to the way Jones drew Bugs in the mid-'40s, kind of short and hunched over and more vulnerable-looking than the sleek way he was usually drawn by the '50s.
- Ken Harris now takes over in the scene where Elmer gives Bugs the barber a tip, Bugs pushes Elmer around in the revolving door, and then dances Elmer back into the barber chair. As Duffell comments: "This is rare animation, the likes of which we may never see again. The subtlety of action and expression...not to mention the analysis of action from the graceful movement of Bugs' brush...to the choreography of the dance with a limp Elmer---all without any live reference I'm sure---is breathtaking."
- Phil Monroe does the shots of Bugs giving Elmer a pedicure.
- Ken Harris is back for the shot of Bugs putting beauty clay on Elmer's face, waiting for it to harden, and then chiselling it off. Duffell again: " Typical of Harris, even in what might seem like a repetitive action of hammering, he subtly modifies each hit, each grimace by Bugs. Bugs seems like a living, breathing character here. What magic!"
- The famous "Figaro Fertilizer" scene, where Bugs applies said fertilizer to Elmer's head (including one shot where Bugs has five fingers all of a sudden) and causes flowers to grow on his bald head, is animated by Lloyd Vaughan.
- Ken Harris now animates the entire final scene of the film: the chase with increasingly large weapons (a perfect visual equivalent of a Rossini crescendo), the marriage sequence, and the final closeup of Bugs saying "next." Note also that Harris has his own preferred way of drawing Bugs's front teeth, sort of as a solid block with a line down the middle:
My personal note (repeated from the earlier post): what's great about Harris's animation -- and the animation of all the great WB animators -- is that it's just so filled with character; every movement made by Bugs or Elmer in this film is perfectly in-character and tells us something about their personalities (Bugs' self-confidence and wit; Elmer's gullibillity and his frustration at being twicked by that wabbit). We're now used to thinking of "acting" in animation as being synonymous with voice acting -- so that the Simpsons voice actors were routinely referred to, in their latest salary dispute, as just "the actors" who play Homer and Lisa and co. -- but acting and characterization comes from the animators too. There is hardly any dialogue in Rabbit of Seville, just one spoken line and a few sung lines, and yet Elmer and Bugs are clearly in character throughout, because of the great actors who were listed as "animators."