Sunday, May 25, 2014

The 3D Aspect of Hand-Drawn Animation

People often distinguish hand-drawn animation from CG animation by referring to them as "2D" and "3D." This distinction leads naturally to the thought that hand-drawn animation is primarily concerned with shapes, silhouettes, and other flat graphic qualities.

But really during the Golden Age of Animation in the 1930s and '40s, animators had to be very aware of 3D forms. When Disney animator T. Hee developed the caricatures for the short "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood," he thought of them in terms of dimensional volumes, based on spheroids, and seen from different angles.

The mouth on the Katherine Hepburn model took a lot of special care because it's not just a flat downward crescent; it also goes back into the head, and he notes how far back it should go as seen in profile. 

Here's the Silly Symphony from 1938, where you can see the caricatures in action. Look for Katherine Hepburn, The Marx Brothers, W. C. Fields, Charles Laughton, Spencer Tracy, Laurel and Hardy, Edward G. Robinson, Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, Greta Garbo, Fats Waller and Cab Calloway. Because of the racial and ethnic stereotypes, the film isn't often seen these days.

The model sheets are courtesy Bill Peckman and Michael Sporn.
Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood (1938) Thanks, Christopher


J M said...

The second model sheet makes me think of a Cruella De Vil avant la lettre. Make it a bit skinnier, more protruding cheekbones and that's her!

Rich said...

The movie looks quite experimental to me, with a tinge of dream-like surrealism: Politically correct or not: I like it!

Was that Fats Waller on piano? Or was it ART Tatum?

Tyler J said...

One of the best three-dimensional representations of Mickey I've ever seen was in the scene where he recounts how he killed seven flies in a rather early short:

This still holds up well today, in particular because we are used to seeing Mickey looking rather static instead of so active.

lee kline said...

Love the stuff you dig up on animation from you young years. Every graphic designer in my generation grew up on comic books and Saturday morning cartoons. They and the horror comic books of th early 1950s (and Mad Comics) were a great influence.

lee kline said...
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Mark Mayerson said...

The piano player is Fats Waller.

The animator on the Mickey scene where he describes killing seven with one blow is Frank Thomas.

James Gurney said...

Mark, yes!

And Bill Tytla (of Night on Bald Mountain Fame) did the animation on the giant.

Lee Jerrett said...
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