Dumbo and Bambi- A battle between East and West

September 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

At first glance it would appear that Dumbo and Bambi should be very similar.  They were released only a year apart, (Dumbo in 1941, and Bambi in 1942), both are about animals, and constructed by the Walt Disney Company.  However as this article here, by Mark Langer, argues, there is a vastly different animation style between the two movies.  At the time, there were two main ways of animation, “Eastern Animation,” used by the New York animator, and “Western Animation,” used mostly on the west coast.  While both styles were very popular, the different uses of these two styles leave a vastly different impression on the viewer.

The Western style was more based upon realism, animators trying to accurately represent whatever they were drawing.  We saw this in Bambi, when we discussed how accurately the deers were being depicted.  All of the animals and scenes in nature were pretty good representations of the creatures, in the way that they looked and moved.  For me, I just need to look back at the scenes in the meadow when Bambi’s mother stands at alert attention and tries to hear and sense danger.  In my experiences with deer, whenever I come across one, it too will stop what it is doing and look around it, carefully examining everything before deciding its safe to once again to continue on with what it was doing.

Western Style: The deer look pretty real.

The Eastern style is more exaggerated, and “bouncy,” with almost a “rubber quality” to the characters.  The New York animation at this time was not so much about giving an accurate representation of what was being drawn and instead focused on more of a “cartoony” look.  For example, I recall it talked about how in a particular Popeye episode (Popeye was out of animation studios in New York), “Goonland,” released in 1938, in which, at the end, Popeye and his Pappy, go beyond the cartoon, and have the film rip, sending all of the evil goons off of the screen.  The animator then repairs the film and it continues.  There is an acknowledgement of the cartoon as being a cartoon and not worrying about trying to pretend that the cartoon is really real.  I watched this episode during class and again tonight and you can really see how charactiturized Popeye is.  He has unbelievable forearms to show how strong he is, and he is able to puff out his chest at will.  You would not find this type of animation in the style of Bambi.  Western animators would try to make him look like a real sailor.

Eastern: Popeye is very charicuriturized.

The biggest example of the East vs. West animation style in Disney was in the movie Dumbo.  The article touched on how there are many changes in style depending on what Dumbo is doing, (for example being with his mother yields the calm Western Style, while when he is in the circus, the clowns and people are much more exaggerated in the Eastern style).  The Pink Elephants Scene in Dumbo is the example that the article looked at in the most detail.  Dumbo becomes “intoxicated” on bad water and starts to see elephants everywhere.  The animation becomes very cartoony and the elephants rubbery as they bounce across the screen.  The closest to the Eastern style that I could find in Bambi was probably the fight scene where Bambi fights off the other deer, but still during that scene, the two still look like deer, its just that they are darkened and indistinguishable, against a colored clashing background.

Pink Elephants on Parade

The article did provide some reasons for the variation in styles.  We talked about in class how much Walt Disney loved Bambi, and how much he watched over the production.  Dumbo on the otherhand, was almost cancelled entirely when a couple of previously released films turned out to be “financial disasters.”  Disney handed over the primary reins of supervision to another animator, one who was originally from New York.  This would explain why Bambi had a lot more of the Western animation approach of Disney while Dumbo had the Eastern influence from New York animators.

I can say that I did notice a difference in the animation styles between the two movies, because they are so different.  I was talking to Ms. Pugliese today and she told me about how she got scared when she saw Dumbo when she was little and how she hasn’t seen it since then.  I think that I was the same way, except that I reflected on how scary the elephant scene was when I was much older going back and listening to the music from the scene again.  Just from hearing the music from the scene, it brings back memories of the scary elephants dancing around. The bouncy pink elephants do leave quite an image upon the viewer, very different than that of the cute little forrest animals running around.

The effect is vastly different from the two styles.  The Western Bambi stlye leaves the viewer with a sense of connection to the nature around them.  They can relate to how real everything appears and so can relate to the movie.  The Eastern method is used much more for the visual effect to leave an impression or highlight a certain characteristic of a character.  The two methods are both very different and have very different effects but can both be very successful at entertaining an audience.


The Brilliance Behind the Structure

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Many of us see the world built around us every day and pay no attention to the thought put into it. Disney is a brilliant example of how the concept of the company and its creations are directly conveyed through its architecture. The author of Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians addresses the architectural decisions and production of Walt Disney’s theme park.

A very unique part of the design process that Walt chose to do in order to make sure his amusement park is themed after Disney at its core is the use of “imagineers,” animators and illustrators, in place of actual contractors to draw the designs for the park, resulting in brilliantly bright colors with “exaggerated scale.”  I believe that this is the only way something as fantastical and wonderful as a Disney them park can be built, as if it actually were in one of Walt’s very own animated films. It offers an new angle in the design of architecture that truly promotes the creativity behind it, which could not be any more appropriate  anywhere but here.

He later even showed the plans for his park on national television, which I found to be a very unique approach in understanding what kind of reception one’s ideas would receive and what kinds of things people are looking for. This was also a very clever way of making use of an audience in a place where he is already well established. It appears that today’s architects are afraid of showing their ideas and designs to the indirect public, be it through popular websites on the internet or on television programs.

The journal continues to explain that Disneyland is constantly being controlled and supervised, as to the request of Walt Disney. Much of the workings of the theme park are kept hidden either underground or within walls. This ranges from the directed and linear tracks that each attraction is based on to the computers controlling the speed of a flying ship.

Many of us go to Disneyland and see a world of chaos and random activities, but it is impossible to not see all the employees placed throughout the grounds that regulate everything. I have constantly seen people in Disney uniforms at every corner I turn to and every store I enter, and there is always someone watching you to tell you what to do in case you do something wrong, just as there are hidden cameras every twenty feet.

The author closes with a very important argument that I entirely agree with, as an aspiring architect myself, that imagineers and traditional architects are not necessarily two separate entities. More and more of today’s architects are following in the same direction as imagineers in trying to make buildings not necessarily be so conservatively designed, but to be more layered where there can be no straight lines. Of course, although imagineers came up with Disney’s Toontown (you can imagine what the name implies) through this process, architects of present are finding slightly different results for the same goal so that they can normally fit into our society.

This simply illustrates the never ending pursuit of balance between aesthetics and function. Walt, as the artist he is, chose to side more with the appeal of the design of his parks and all his projects. I would like to follow in this same decision, because to every person the balance point between these two categories is at a different point, and for Walt and I, it leans towards aesthetics.

The Influence of Elias Disney

September 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

Walt Disney’s relationship with his father, Elias, was rocky from start to finish. Elias had been raised in a traditional mid 1800s family with conservative values. He adopted these values for his own life and family particularly basing decisions on “his morality and his politics” (The Magic Kingdom, pg 17). The strictness of his own parents translated into his parenting style, preaching the importance of respect and hard work to his children. His moderately unsuccessful business ventures left the Disney family tight for money. Due to this, the Disney children were forced to work and were unable to experience easy going childhood adventures as most children. The smallest escape from their fathers control, such as their mom secretly putting butter on their bread, seemed like a huge deal. Ultimately their fathers cheapness and constant strictness pushed the two eldest Disney boys to leave in search of freedom (The Magic Kingdom, pg 18).

After their departure, it was Walt’s turn to help support the family. Walt was forced to wake up before dawn and deliver newspapers during all seasons. Elias “ran his household with and iron fist and did not shrink from imposing his authority by physically punishment” (The Magic Kingdom, pg 19). The combination of the hard hours and weather of his job and his fear of his dad eventually scared Walt emotionally causing nightmares. With this said, Walt often remembers his dad in a positive manner and still respects him no matter what.

When i was reading about his relationship with his father, i was struck by the question, if Elias was such an important part of Walts life, how does he related to and admire Tom Sawyer so much. I believe that Walts enchantment with Tom Sawyer is party out of jealous of the life he lived. Rather than the strict, work filled and serious childhood that Walt was forced to endure, Tom got to run wild with out much adult supervision. Walt’s confinement is exactly the opposite of Toms freedom. In Marceline, Walt got a chance to live a party free life in nature, similar to Tom’s. Walt Disney ultimately loved Marceline so much because he was allowed to be a child while living there with out having to do the work. The strictness of Elias ultimately drove walt to worship independent free spirits like Tom Sawyer.

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