May 16, 2006

All the Cats Join In



Last Saturday I was the grateful recipient of a copy of the drafts from this segment of "Make Mine Music", courtesy of Mike Barrier. Reading these over was fascinating; I know two things off the bat: first, that I'm now officially dying to read Pete Docter's article on John Sibley, an undersung animator, in the upcoming Animation Blast #9. It's Sibley who's responsible for the entire opening of this wonderful short, from the very first bars of music to where Fred Moore takes over, when the pencil starts drawing the "little sister". Fred's animation continues uninterrupted until Milt Kahl, of all people, takes over for the smooth and beautiful action of the girl running to the closet, sliding along the doors and hopping into her shoes after shaking her little sister out of them.

And that leads to the second thing: I'd always wondered just how much, apart from the obvious overall character styling, Fred Moore had had to do in "Cats"; it had been startling for me to read the drafts for "Fantasia" and "Dumbo" and see Fred credited with so little--or so I thought. As it happens, it seems that where he was a supervising animator, or a directing animator, he had duties that precluded doing much footage himself--or at least as much as one might think a star employee would do. But by the time of "Make Mine Music", every book and anecdote makes clear that Moore was far from the pinnacle he'd occupied at Disney in the late 30s. So, how much did he do on this very "Freddy Moore"-looking short? Quite a lot, actually; I was intrigued and pleased to see that he really did a good amount of footage, and all beautifully.
Here are the first three pages(as best I could fit them; only the header/title is cropped off the top)of the drafts; many thanks again to Michael Barrier for allowing me to reproduce this from his collection:
mmm1
mmm2
mmm3

Here's a rough selection of frames from Moore's collections of scenes; the closeup of the kid sister doing her makeup is the last of his stuff; after the cut it's Kahl.

catscomp
I put this together hastily; there are some choice frames I wish I'd grabbed--well, the entire short is beautiful. Go watch it.

Of Moore's long segment excerpted above, I especially love the scene with the girl and her sister in front of the mirror. Staged from behind, the girls move in rhythm to the soundtrack's vocalist humming like a snake charmer--and the graceful, sinuous swaying of the figures matches the feel of the music perfectly. It's real magic.

I am not exactly sure of the production dates of this project, but as noted before, the animation board(the "nine old men"--in other words, the Supreme Court in which the fates of Disney animation employees--hiring, firing, raises and demotions--were tried and decided)fired Fred Moore in 1946, which couldn't have been too long after work was done on "Cats". Interesting, because this is by any measure a stellar performance...it's especially interesting to see how Fred's handling of his own designs differs from his colleagues: even at this late hour for his talents, he still shines and can't be beat for charm. Certainly he had help--perhaps(or probably) crucially supportive help--from his assistant(perhaps Ken O'Brien), but it's a lot of Moore.

21 comments:

Mark Mayerson said...

Hi Jenny. First of all, PLEASE post those drafts. Second of all, I've known that Sibley was great since the publication of Too Funny for Words. His drawings in that book are just fantastic and I'm also looking forward to Pete Docter's article on him in Animation Blast.

I have to believe it was Moore's behavior (or perceived behavior) that was responsible for his firing. His work on the Lantz cartoons is very strong, so it's not like he was no longer able to produce.

We'll never know the truth, but I wonder how much attitudes towards alcoholism and how much class attitudes (college boys vs. the high school kid) had to do with Moore's firing.

Yaxin said...

such a lovely design style WD got back then.
is a pity that this company has become so manierist. :)

milk and cake said...

that was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid!

Starline said...

Where can we see this cartoon?

Brian Growe said...

Wow, that's awesome! This is definitly some of Fred's best work, but I had no idea Milt did work on this too!

Thad K said...

What fantastic animation! You're aware that the current DVD issue of MAKE MINE MUSIC is butchered severely though, right? They retouched up that scene of the girl changing to make it more 'kid-friendly'.

Can't wait to see the drafts though!

floyd norman said...

Trust me, there were plenty of boozers at Disney after Freddie left, so there was more to it than that. Hate to say it, but I think there were a few out to get Freddie, and that might explain his firing.

I had stacks of Freddies scenes on my desk that I borrowed back then. They were awesome. Sure wish I had kept them.

David N said...

Oh, boy ! More drafts ! Can't wait to see them ....
This is one of my favorite Disney shorts .


Starline asked : "Where can we see this cartoon?"

It's on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnc7o5kt4T4

Starline said...

Thank you!

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

I wonder who could have been out to get Freddie?
This is an awesome sequence. One of my all time favorite animated bits from Disney. Blew me out of my shoes when I was in highschool and I saw it on the Disney Channel.

Lee-Roy said...

Wowee wow wow wow! Swingin! Too bad about that young girl's hip replacement, though. This was pre-sir-mix-a-lot and J-Lo, so I guess white boys weren't shouting yet.

J said...

I too am curious as to what lead to Fred's dismissal. Not being an animation historian really, I thought guys like Ollie really admired and revered Moore, as he was one of the men who sort of brought them up. The scene in Frank and Ollie where Ollie talks about having Fred's pencil taped to his window is touching, so I'm confused as to why Ollie would help facilitate his removal.

Jenny said...

Well, I think there was certainly some jealousy towards Fred in his heyday(from the mid-30s to the early 40s)--the same sort that might be directed at anyone at an intensely competitive place like Disney's was. I don't completely agree with Floyd that anyone was "out to get" Fred when he was fired; after all, he was RE-hired two years later by the same people(the 9 old men/aniamtion board) even though his drinking problem by all accounts hadn't disappeared. It was called "an act of charity" that he got a second chance to work at Disney(I think by Michael Barrier, quoting the impression he received through dozens of interviews with the guys who were there)...certainly by the time he died he wasn't a threat to anyone else there.
No, when Fred was fired, the fact seems to have been that in the main the reason he had been retained through many layoffs up til that point was based on his talents, his personal likeability(I have never heard a bad word said about him by anyone, ever), and most importantly his past history at Disney--what he had once meant to the studio--something he himself didn't forget either. In many ways, there's no mystery; all you have to know is that he was an inverterate alcoholic to understand why such a great animator was let go. He was generally doing much, much less work than many other artists(and at a higher salary) who by '46 were probably working harder and doing more, but who had to be let go due to the big financial problems the studio faced in those years. I'm sure it was painful for people like Kimball to have to sign off on that decision; if certainly bugged him 35 years later, when I spoke to him. But they brought him back, and as far as I know(well, perhaps with the exception of Iwerks)he was the only guy brought back into the fold. Clearly, Walt himself must have never lost his appreciation for Fred's contributions--however much he likely hid it, as was his wont.

Marc Deckter said...

Great post Jenny - I've never seen this short but now I'm intrigued to see it! Off to YouTube...

Thad K said...

Wow! Thanks for posting the drafts, Jenny. IIRC - Ken O'Brien animated in a very similar style to Moore. It's even evidenced in their work together on the United Artists era Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda shorts.

BTW - I'm working on getting Acrobatty Bunny up in the next week or two.;-)

Jenny said...

Hi Thad-Ken O'Brien was the first person I interviewed about Fred Moore; Ward Kimball put me onto him in '81(he drawled "Ken's a BIG Fred Moore FAN")--at the time I knew zero about him. He was animating at WED on EPCOT stuff(something for either the chinese or the japanese pavilion, I think--some animation of a crane flying--it was beautiful); we had lunch with Herb Ryman, about whom I also knew zip--man, if I could only turn that clock back! Herb RYMAN?! Wow...anyway, Ken quit Disny's voluntarily when Fred was "let go", and went with him to Lantz; he was definitely Fred's closest animatyion colleague by that time('46), his assistant before that, and I got the impression(which I believe, personally)that he helped Fred enormously on his scenes...finishing them, that sort of thing. He really loved the guy. He may have had quite a bit to do with Fred being re-hired by Disney's in '48--because when Fred went back, Ken went back too. I am inclined to think it may have been a case of hiring Fred with Ken as a contingency--a tandem deal. Ken really did bust his rear to draw "like Freddie", and he'd be proud to see that it showed.

Amid said...

In your earlier post on this segment, I'd noted that Tom Oreb's brother, Frank, had supposedly done a lot of animation on this sequence. That doesn't appear to be the case judging from these drafts, but I did track down the source of that comment. It's on page 205 of Jack Kinney's book, Walt Disney and Other Assorted Characters. It's curious that Kinney would specifically mention that because he's the director of the sequence. Oreb had an animator's credit as early as 1941, so it's unlikely that he was assisting anybody, and I also doubt Kinney would have singled out Oreb's work if he had only been assisting. Sometimes documents create as many questions as answers. Anyway, thanks for posting these.

Jenny said...

Amid, there are 5 more pages of the drafts for "Cats"; the name Oreb isn't anywhere on them. For the record, the remaining footage was done by:
Bertino
Nordberg
King
Engman
[more]Sibley
Justice
Those 6 guys are credited with all the animation after the last page I posted. I'll add the other 5 pages later, probably by Monday if I get the time.
That is a strange thing about Kinney's memory re: Oreb...funny, because I was just reading an interview on Mike Barrier's site, with Babbitt where he mentions that the drafts don't reflect work claimed by Babbitt(who certainly doesn't seem to be fantasizing); one wonders if the drafts were always
accurate, as is supposed(I hope they are!). And also, I myself wonder, watching the very polished and very extensive animation credited to Fred Moore here, how much help he may have had from Ken O'Brien--who's uncredited. But that's pure speculation, based on other stories that are anecdotal.

Hans Perk said...

There have been several instances where draft credits were deemed doubtful, often by folks who worked on scenes uncredited.

The main thing to remember is, what they were used for. They were not historical documents, but road maps to the person in charge of the bulk of the drawing of the scene, so if there were any questions, they knew who to go to.
Payment was possibly also influenced by draft credits - and on the later shorts, screen credits as well (through the elected Screen Credit Committee).

Only few drafts (Fun and fancy Free comes to mind) note the Supervising Animator in charge of a sequence, though he may have even posed everything in roughs.

Not all (earlier) drafts even have all scenes credited. I seem to remember a sequence in Fantasia being 'blank'...

Hans Perk said...

And that brings me to the (off-topic) question: can anyone tell me the reason why - on Sweatbox Memos in the 40s - there was made such clear distinction between Director's Changes ('director changed his mind') and Animator's Changes ('redo as what you did is not good enough')? In other words: was there a financial implication one way or the other? Just curious...

Jenny said...

Hans--I would email Michael Barrier with your questions. from reading his book "Hollywood Cartoons", I think he had access to and went over enough information and internal records at Disney's to perhaps give you more answers. Thanks for all the additional info from you, too.

Mark (Mayerson)--I'll post the rest of the drafts soon--I know I said that before, but give me an additonal 24 hours! ; )
Since Amid was kind enough to mention this post today on the Brew, I should definitely scan and upload the other 5 pages of drafts.