Saturday, 3 September 2016
Animating Cartoons, 1935
Feature stories in newspapers answered that question over the years. One of them was courtesy of EveryWeek Magazine, one of many Sunday supplements found in papers.
This one was pulled out of the Ogden Standard Examiner of May 12, 1935. It’s interesting to see the reference to (and picture of) La Verne Harding, the only woman animating in Hollywood. For whatever reason, there’s no reference to the Fleischer studio, though the Paul Terry-Frank Moser operation makes the list (Van Beuren is snubbed as well).
It’s surprising to see Ed Benedict’s name in the list of the top animators. I don’t know if anyone could pick out Benedict’s animation in a cartoon. He spent the majority of his career in design and layout, first on industrial/commercial shorts in the ‘40s, then at MGM and Hanna-Barbera in the ‘50s. Ham Hamilton’s name is mentioned. Hamilton’s work has been praised by a number of people, including Chuck Jones, but I gather he had some personal difficulties.
The artwork that accompanied this story looked great in a broadsheet but it a little difficult to cut up for blog use, so you’ll see a lot of dead space.
Meet Hollywood’s Men of Action
By Dan Thomas
GET the bathing beauties out of the way—here come a flock of artistically inclined young gentlemen who just know that Hollywood has been waiting for them with open arms and bated breath!
These fellows, hundreds of them, indicate clearly the ever-increasing scope of the movie industry, the widespread appeal of today's animated cartoons.
In former days Hollywood was overrun with beauty contest winners from all parts of the world. The demand then was for beauty, not artistry. There was a premium on feminine curves. Consequently, the moment a girl was adjudged to have the prettiest dimples, loveliest legs or most alluring curves in Kokomo, she hopped a rattler for the film colony.
Today there still is the same kind of premium placed on curves—but they must be of the drawing board variety. Those of a strictly feminine nature, the kind which make men bump into lamp posts while looking in the opposite direction, are a dime a dozen in filmland now. But carefully drawn curves which, fitted together, form an animated cartoon, aren't so easy to find.
Hence the demand for animators and the constant influx of artistically inclined young gentlemen. Fresh from high school, college or an art institute, they flock to Hollywood to gain fame and fortune via the pencil route. They are the youths who used to hie themselves to the nearest metropolis to start making their marks inthe world as newspaper cartoonists and comic strip artists. Today, however, they aspire to become animators of "Mickey Mouse," "Oswald the Rabbit," "Silly Symphonies," "Merrie Melodies" or other screen cartoons.
AND they come with all the confidence and assurance that marked their forerunners who invaded newspaper offices, certain that they will presently be earning at least $200 weekly in one or another of the studios turning out animated cartoons. It never occurs to them that only through years of hard work and study can they become first-rate animators, just as years of hard work are necessary before a comic strip artist can become a topnotcher.
Generally speaking, Hollywood offers a considerably higher wage scale than an artist can expect in the newspaper field unless his work is good enough to be syndicated. Animators draw as high as $250 weekly. However, only the most talented animators ever receive the maximum salary and it takes them from five to seven years to reach that figure.
A survey of the Walt Disney studio where "Mickey Mouse" and "Silly Symphony" cartoons arc produced gives a rather accurate description of the whole animated business. With very slight variations in procedure, the same rules have been adopted by Universal, Leon Schlesinger, Charles Mintz, U. B. Iwerks, Harmon and Ising and Paul Terry, producers respectively of "Oswald the Rabbit," "Merrie Melodies," "Krazy Kat," "Flip the Frog," "Bosko" and "Terry Tunes."
Receiving on an average of 20 applications a week, with a considerable increase in that number during the summer vacation months, Disney is forced to reject most of the applicants. Only those showing genuine talent are given trials.
These men are given two weeks in which to prove their worth. They draw no salary during this time. Their duties consist of redrawing characters from old cartoons. If their work is satisfactory, they are given contracts as apprentices at $15 a week.
As a rule this class is composed entirely of young men. Seldom is a girl found among them. For some inexplainable reason, women don't make good animators. At the present time there is only one in the entire business—-Verne Harding who works on Oswald at Universal.
"I don't know why girls should be poor animators but they are," Disney declares. "Very frequently they are better artists than men but for some reason they lack the knack of getting smooth action into their drawings."
The first duty given to an apprentice is the last, step in drawing a cartoon. From him the drawing goes to the girls in the tracing department to be traced on a celluloid sheet for photographing. His job is to clean up and ink the characters as drawn by the animators and their assistants.
As the apprentice progresses he is given bits of inconsequential drawing to do. For instance, if Minnie Mouse's hat were to blow off, the apprentice would complete the drawings by showing the hat being blown away. If Bosko had to climb a stepladder, the animator might draw everything but his feet, leaving them to be put on by the apprentice.
After successfully serving his term as an apprentice, a man is promoted to the post of assistant animator. In this spot he does whatever the animator leaves unfinished. Hence, before we can go very thoroughly into his duties, we'll have to jump over and find out what the animator does.
HE is the real hub around which the making of animated cartoons revolves. Once the story is completed and the continuity handed to him, he puts the action on paper in a series of drawings.
There are 16 drawings or frames to each foot of film. However, the animator does not make each drawing. He plots the action and then sketches intermittent drawings. He may make "every other one or possibly only every fourth or sixth one, depending upon the difficulty of the action and the capabilities of his assistant.
DISNEY has about 30 animators at work. Each of them is given a certain character to draw for a particular sequence in a film. But none of them draws the same character all the time. Ham Lusk, for example, is a wizard at drawing Pluto. But to avoid letting him become too highly specialized, Disney makes him draw other characters in two out of every three films on which he works.
The theory of this is to keep every animator familiar with each of the characters used by the studio. In this way any one of them can in an emergency fill in anywhere he is needed.
As the animator completes his master drawings, he passes them over to his assistant who tackles the easier job of making the drawings to fill the gaps between them.
After the entire set of rough drawings has been completed, they are photographed and run off on the screen to make sure there are no jumpy spots in the action. Three times each week the Disney animators, assistants and apprentices are required to attend classes for the study of animation. Sometimes living models are used to demonstrate body construction and movements under all conditions. At other times motion pictures showing both humans and animals in action are run off one frame at a time to show exactly how each muscle of the body is brought into play for any given action.
This knowledge is extremely important it the animators are to inject convincing and smooth action into their drawings. For instance, if Mickey is playing the piano, it isn't sufficient to show his arms and fingers moving. Ordinarily his whole body would move to some extent and this must be shown on the screen. Disney is the only producer who conducts such a school for his employes.
“I've often been told how lucky I am not to have any stars to go temperamental on me,” Disney remarks. "It's true I never have any trouble with Mickey, the three pigs or any of my characters. But don't ever think animators can't be temperamental. Say, they can be just as bad as any star you ever saw.
"Occasionally one will have an off day on which he can't draw anything worth while. Then he has to be pampered and pulled out of his slump with all the diplomacy that would be used on a star."
Altogether there are about 150 animators, twice that many assistants and a like number of apprentices in Hollywood. Salaries for animators range from $75 to $300 per week, with the vast majority being in the $150 class. Assistants will receive anywhere from $40 to $75 and apprentices in every studio get $15 weekly.
DISNEY is said to be the only one who pays as high as $300, although all of the other studios pay their top men around $250 per week. Assistants receive about the same salary wherever they work.
Among the topnotchers in the business are Ham Lusk, Norman Ferguson and Fred Moore (all working on Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies), Walter Lantz, Verne Harding and Ed Benedict (all of whom draw Oswald the Rabbit), and Rolland Hamilton (chief "Merrie Melodies" artist).
"The business of animating is the most peculiar one in the world," declares Walter Lantz. "I have known artists who could draw circles around any of us but they couldn't earn their salt as animators because they had no dramatic sense.
"An animator must be more than an artist. A good artist will draw a man crossing a floor. But a good animator will put action into that walk which will bring laughs from his audience. That's because he has a sense of acting."