Thursday, February 15, 2024

A masterful Performance

This section from the 1938 short The Brave Little Tailor is often accredited to Fred Moore. Not so. Fred did work on later scenes where Mickey leaves the castle reluctantly, and when he is fighting the Giant.

But this extraordinary performance by Mickey in front of the King and Princess Minnie was animated by Frank Thomas. At the start of the film Mickey had proclaimed that he "killed seven in one blow". The audience knows that he was talking about flies, but everyone else believes he meant giants. And so this misunderstanding gets Mickey in trouble as he tries unsuccessfully to rectify the situation. 

It is the level of acting, feeling of weight and appealing draughtsmanship that completely captivates me. Most of Mickey's previous (and later) performances had roots in vaudeville. Physical, broad gags that made the audience laugh and connect with his personality. But this is  different. As close to an award winning performance as an animated character can get. 

I had the good fortune to discuss these groundbreaking scenes with Frank Thomas years ago, when I asked him wether Walt Disney had any specific reaction to his work here. I was sure that Walt saw this as a new artistic breakthrough for Mickey, and that he possibly complimented Frank. But no, Frank did not remember any particular praise from the boss. Just the fact that he liked and approved those scenes. Then again ....Walt was not known or handing out compliments very often.

I came across these rough animation drawings just recently, and I am trying to find more. If I do I will of course post them here. Frank ended up doing just about every drawing for the animation, he had full control over the performance. 

This is animation history worth studying.