Monday, May 7, 2012

Character-Rich Staging

It was Frank Thomas who said that if you have two characters in one scene who think alike, you have a problem.
Of course he is right, it is the contrast in what the characters are thinking that brings a scene to life.
Here are a few examples done by different animators that help illustrate the point.

Fred Moore scribbles down his poses as easy as handwriting. 
Simple action lines that communicate instantly. (This scene was not used in production). Here Jose Carioca introduces himself as a parrot with an attitude that says, Don't you get it? The Gouchito seems doubtful, his hand covering his mouth. He is thinking this over.

In this animation drawing Marc Davis depicts Maleficent and her raven with an almost equal attitude. Yet there is a subtle difference. Maleficent was  about to leave the royal scene when the queen addresses her again. The bird though keeps his eye contact toward the king and queen, he seems even more hateful and disgusted than the witch.
Note all the spiky shapes in the design, even in the raven's wing feathers. This is a couple to reckon with.

Baloo is about to demonstrate to Mowgli what a big bear growl sounds like. In this Frank Thomas scene he is leaning back in anticipation of a big move toward the boy. Mowgli is curious and his attention is with Baloo. He doesn't know what to expect next.
A "friendship building" moment. 

Ollie Johnston animated this scene with Penny and Rufus, the old cat. 
Penny is staged back view, and we don't see her face, but her body language signals resigned sadness very clearly. Rufus approaches her from screen right and tries to offer some comfort.
One character in need of affection, the other one intending to help emotionally.

This is a somewhat unfinished animation rough by Milt Kahl. 
Penny is trying to resist Snoop's forceful pull, she doesn't want to search for that diamond. Snoops is lecturing her one last time before lowering her down into the cave.
His body mass and strength overpowers Penny, who is brave enough for trying to stand firm against this bully.

It's still so much fun to learn from the masters. Every step of the way they make you think about personality.


  1. Awesome - great examples of something to definitely keep in mind! n.n Thanks!

  2. That first drawing is crazy. The left arm doesn't even look anything like an arm but it communicates the gesture so easily.

  3. Lesson learned. Thanks, Andreas!

  4. I love Fred Moore's rough contrast. Nothing more than scribbling bundled together, yet there's the expression coming out clearly!

  5. Great & thanks for sharing:)

  6. This is very interesting. I love how different each animator's style is and how magnificent they are in their own way. Great post!!!

  7. My brain just exploded from too much cool raw drawings. Thanks for explaining the drawings to us, tons of help.

  8. Andreas,
    I think these are my favorite of your posts. Not only where you show the drawings of the old masters, but explain why they work so well. This is the kind of teaching that makes blogs so wonderful.

  9. Andreas,

    I know you have alot of fans. And I realy anderstand that you get manny letters. But I still waiting on that drawing of Scar. It is not that I bouder you too gife it too me. I have hear of Floyd that you have promise too do it. I hope you anderstand what I mean.

    I am a verry special fan. Diane Disney Miller is a good friend of me. And she hase gife me a treusere of a book. A Snow White book with the augraffe´s of manny femous Disney anematoirs that have work on the film (there are all past awey) There is ONE book with those augraffa´s so that is verry kid that she gife it too me. What The Jungle Book means for you, that means Snow White for me.

    There are more of this story´s. That I love too share with you. PLEASE gife me a comment back.

    Your work is amazing!!


  10. Thanks for the drawings! (I especially liked the Maleficent one. I would have never noticed the raven's attitude and expressions much before!) :D

  11. Wonderful analysis on the Character Staging Andy.

  12. Thanks for the drawings! They look fantastic! :-)

  13. Back views are fascinating. Only the best of the best can convey emotion and attitude with the back turned.

  14. This drawing looks like it was animated in pen, could that be true, usually these guys use pencils.