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:
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.
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.
Labels: Fred Moore