Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Virgil Ross Through the Ages

In an earlier post about great WB animators, I wrote that the animator Virgil Ross was great at "expressing emotion and personality with small but carefully-executed movements." One thing I didn't mention much was that Ross's style of animating was probably the most consistent -- some might say repetitive -- of any animator; he was at WB for many decades, under at least three different directors and many changes in taste and reductions in budget, yet he kept on drawing characters more or less the same way (his Daffy Duck in the '50s and early '60s looks a lot like the '40s model, who was smaller and had a thinner beak) and resorting to the same gestures: leaning over to one side, sticking arms and hands out sideways, stamping on the ground to express dismay, etc. A Ross scene from 1957 looks a lot like a Ross scene from 1937, no matter what the changes in writing and background design.

I thought I'd illustrate the consistency of Ross's style by highlighting a few scenes that show how his style remained the same in different decades, and with different directors. There's a basic Virgil Ross style of animated acting that is easy to spot once you get to know it; look at the pig director getting upset and crying in "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" (1938) and then Sylvester getting upset and crying in "Snow Business" (1953) -- different directors, different times, but very similar acting because it's the same guy animating.

A Virgil Ross scene from "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" (1938) directed by Tex Avery:

Bugs meets Beaky Buzzard in a Ross scene from Bob Clampett's "Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid" (1942):

Ross didn't last long in Clampett's unit, as Clampett didn't like Ross's subdued style of animation, and Ross went over to Freleng's unit, where he stayed until the studio shut down. Here's a Ross scene with Tweety and Sylvester in "Snow Business" (1953):

And finally, in front of UPA-influenced backgrounds and with reduced late-'50s animation budgets, Ross is still using his trademark poses and hand gestures in "Gonzales' Tamales" (1957):

While these are good scenes that, taken together, give you a good idea of the way Ross worked, I wouldn't say any of them are among his very best work; for an example of Ross at his very best, see this scene from Freleng's "A Bird in a Guilty Cage".


Mr. Semaj said...

The way Sylvester analyzes something does look similar to Beaky's thinking poses.

P.C. Unfunny said...

Virgil Ross definetly had a subtle style of animating his characters, it was very smooth and not exagerrated.I also noticed how he made the characters "talk with there hands".

Anonymous said...

Yes, I especially liked the hand poses, even if he didn't exaggerate much with the overall body forms. The Sylvester example is nice, though.