Mar 6, 2006

From the horse's mouth


Last week I was happy to finally find the restored DVD of "Lady and the Tramp" waiting for me in my mailbox(the same version I saw last month at the El Capitan).

Of course it's a must-have, with some very interesting extras--we plunged right into Disc 2, sampling such things as original boards from a 1943 version of the film that was leagues apart from its eventual incarnation; most of an episode of the "Disneyland" television show with Walt introducing his new film, and giving a not-bad description of the production process that for once didn't short the story department. One minor peeve I had was the completely unnecessary "juicing up" digitally of the old story panels: while the story sketches was pitched offscreen, the decision was made to "animate" characters to simulate movement during pans, and there was an overuse of the Ken Burns effect: constantly drifting or zooming into and across the panels, some of which might have worked but in the main was(for me, anyway)distracting, giving the thing a slightly seasick presentation. There was also some head-scratching material featuring Kevin Costner talking about how important storyboards are to his projects. That's great, but I would have liked less of a live action focus and much more material about the specific artists who did story on "Lady and the Tramp".
I also wondered why, apart from a few fleeting shots that are already years old of various recent Disney story crews engaged in pitching(no one identified), more time couldn't have been spent with the present-day story artists I know are over there, with plenty of hard-won experience and I'm sure plenty to say re "Tramp" or just story in general. Maybe next time?

Anyway, there was one wonderful moment where Walt, about to describe the storyboarding phase of the film, looked straight into the camera and told us what it's all about.

"At the Disney studio, we don't write our films; we draw them".

Allow me a brief moment here while I get up off the floor and back into my chair.
Seldom has the essential difference between the live action and animated film production process been put so plainly and directly. Keep in mind that the Disney studio certainly used written material--Bambi, Pinocchio, Alice--even "Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog", one of the sources "Tramp" sprung from--was a written story first. But the job of making the story work for animation was best served by the storyboard process.
So go check out this film again, and those extras, and see what you think.

9 comments:

Paul said...

My reaction was largely the same. I was similarly baffled by the Kevin Costner material. While I don't dislike him per se his comments were barely lucid.

Rod Bennett said...

I noticed the same thing, Jenny: the story dept. gets much more of its due this time around. Maybe things really are changing over there. Back in the 60s Gilbert Shelton's Freak Brothers had a motto: "You can get through times of dope but no money easier than you can get through times of money but no dope." Well, I say an audience can get through an animated film with a good story but bad art a lot easier than they can get through an animated film with good art but no story. (Better to have both, of course!)

Matt J said...

Hey there Jenny, thanx for the comments. Grangel's design work on CORPSE was stunning - everything drawn on the back of cereal packets. He's one of the best in the world , I wish he had a blog?

LADY & TRAMP is awesome dvd- great suff on Milt & how Joe Grant gio forgotten. Your blog is extremely interesting - Smook pointed us to it couple months back - keep postin'

Anonymous said...

Lady and the Tramp's DVD bonus material is most valuable. Leave it to Disney to save so much good stuff, they remain the exception to the Hollywood rule of forgetting institutional memory. One quibble about the all-new digital restoration: coming off of a print rather than negative, focus and color saturation are not as sharp as they might've been. Compare the look of the restored film on Disc One with that of the original negative material seen in the Disneyland TV color elements in Disc Two and you'll see exactly what was lost. True, the contemporary tech software rids the film of dust specks but also loses a fair amount of its soul. Focus should matter when dealing with graphic imagery.

barry johnson said...

I watched the bonus disc tonight and really enjoyed it.
Wow, a segment on storyboarding!
You're right, there was too much time talking about live-action but when they actually do talk about storyboards in animation, it's hard to complain.

Jeff Pidgeon said...

Did you get the original DVD of Lady? How does this release compare?

Jenny said...

Jeff, I didn't--but there's an example on the DVD of how changed the "cleaned-up" version is; I can tell you it screens--on the big screen, that is--like gangbusters. : )

Jenny said...

Hey Barry--well, you're just too nice a guy, that's all. I am greedy and want MORE! Moremoremore! It's ALLLLL about the boards!
Well, okay, and the, uhhh, animation, I guess,. ; )
Just kidding!
This was a big improvement for the Disney DVD releases, the "Masterpieces" or classics or however they're called by marketing--it's true. I thought "Home On The Range" had some nice board-to-film features on its DVD, but the older films have gone lacking, for the most part. That's one thing I am certain will change even further for the better with the new management.

Ward Jenkins said...

I don't have this DVD yet! *shock!* It's killing me that I don't have it in my grubby little hands just yet. When I get paid next Friday, you know that I'll be in line to buy it pronto. It's good to see that they put out some great bonus materials in this one.