Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Late Scribner

One of the many great posts at Thad Komorowski's Classic Animation Blog is the one with clips from Rod Scribner's 1950s animation for Bob McKimson. He joined McKimson's unit in 1950 after he'd been away from the studio for several years, and the new unit -- as well as the new atmosphere at the studio -- wasn't particularly congenial for him; the studio was less freewheeling and less willing to tolerate his wildness (Lloyd Turner recalled that Scribner's idea of a practical joke was to tip over a phone booth with somebody in it), and McKimson was less tolerant of Scribner's wildness as an animator, constantly after Scribner -- and all his animators -- to practice self-control and stick as closely as possible to the director's pose drawings.

And yet, as Thad shows, Scribner's style was still distinctively his own even in the button-down '50s, and while he doesn't include some of the really broad scenes McKimson gave to Scribner (like the scene in "Of Rice and Hen" where Foghorn Leghorn sees a character leap off a roof: his body practically flies apart in all directions), the scenes he includes shows how much character and individuality Scribner could create even in "little" scenes.

Or look at McKimson's "Hoppy Go Lucky" (one of the better Hippety Hopper cartoons, mostly because of Stan Freberg as the voice of Sylvester's Of Mice and Men-ish sidekick). In the middle of the cartoon, Scribner handles the scene between Sylvester and his sidekick Benny after Sylvester has first encountered the "giant mouse"; the way he bends Sylvester into all kinds of shapes is funny, but just as funny is the relatively non-exaggerated acting of Benny as he reprimands Sylvester ("Shame on you, George!"). The way Scribner manipulates a character's body and face, even in "quiet" moments, gives the character a kind of expressiveness and specificity that you can't get by just following the director's pose drawings -- which is what many of McKimson's other animators were doing by this time, and what Chuck Jones's animators were doing nearly all the time.

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