Saturday 11 May 2019

Making Fables

One of the cartoon series that made the transition from silent to sound was Aesop’s Fables. It started in 1921 with Paul Terry animating. Terry had been making shorts for Paramount and when the Fables studio opened (Pathé was the distributor) he brought along with Farmer Al Falfa character.

Terry got punted in mid-1929 by Amadee Van Beuren after sound came in. Van Beuren carried on making Fables until 1933 when two new series, Cubby Bear under Steve Muffati and the Little King under Jim Tyer, were created. Van Beuren’s studio folded in mid-1936 after RKO stopped releasing its shorts and distributed Walt Disney’s cartoons instead. Terry, of course, went on to his own extremely successful studio that carried on for several more decades.

Let’s go back to 1927. The Brooklyn Eagle printed a story on April 25, 1927 on how the Fables were made; they were still silent at this point. Besides Farmer Al, other barnyard characters were Henry Cat (a knock-off of Felix) and Milton Mouse, who came to look suspiciously like Mickey after sound came in. Paul Terry was the head animator but he doesn’t rate a mention. Nor does Van Beuren or anyone else.

At that time, cartoon making was pretty much centered in New York. The Sullivan studio was making Felix for Educational Pictures, Paramount was releasing Max Fleischer’s Inkwell cartoons and Charles Mintz’ Krazy Kats. Universal had the contract to distribute Disney’s Oswald shorts; they were the only series made in California in 1927. How sound would change that by 1930!

Animated Movies How They Are Made
Describing a Visit to "Aesop's Fables" Headquarters During Which Numerous Secrets Are Bared.

"ISN'T it marvelous how they make those wonderful animated cartoons? I wonder how they do it?"
How many times have you asked that question of yourself or your companion when the amusing, Aesop's Fables are shown on the screen.
A visit to the studios of this enterprising movie concern is a most novel and educational trip behind the scenes. At least 20 artists leaning over drawing boards and busily sketching, as their nimble fingers make the needle-pointed pencils fly, is the first thing that meets the spectator's eye. So as not to get ahead of our outline, let us start with the birth of the idea that forms the scenario for the animated pictures.
A conference is held and each artist has the chance to express his views and suggestions as to the theme and characters in the proposed scenario. All suggestions are taken down by the stenographer and typed, and a scenario is thus formed by the head of the department, who practically boils down the score or more of suggestions into a short story that is filled with humorous situations, or "gags." With the characters decided upon, the scenario is developed in detail. Scenes, actions and, titles are put into proper continuity in the same manner as a scenario for an eight-reel feature.
* * *
Backgrounds are the first pictures to be drawn. These are sometimes exterior scenes showing woodland country or mountains, or, if it is a picture of the Far North, the background is of the icy hills of the Arctic regions. Interiors of rooms are drawn or closeups of windows and doors, as the case may be. After the backgrounds have been made, the artists immediately set to work animating the various scenes. This means that thousands of drawings must be made for each release so that a life-like effect is the optical illusion when the various drawings are shown on the screen consecutively and in rapid succession.
Each animator is assigned a series of scenes and his drawings are made on translucent tissue paper. Thus, the animator may see the line's of the preceding drawing as he places a new paper over each completed sketch. On the new paper he traces the previous drawing, but moves the arm or leg or head, as the case may be up to give the started or completed action of the character. This means that each drawing of the character is made in an entirely different position and the mere action of Farmer Al Falfa taking his pipe from his mouth may mean a series of 40 to 50 separate drawings. After the picture has been completed by the total number of drawings being made on the tissue paper, these pictures are handed to the "tracers," who transfer the drawings from the tissue to celluloid sheets, which are of the same size as the paper. Both the papers and the celluloids, or "cells" as they are more commonly known, have been perforated at the top with two holes. These holes on all papers and cells are of the exact distance apart and fit snugly on two pegs that are at the top of the animators', as well as the tracers' drawing boards.
Tracers then fill in the "blacks," or bodies. As we know, Henry Cat is a black cat and Milton Mouse is also of a very dark hue. Water colors, black and white, are always used so that after the cells have been photographed, they may be washed and used again. The completed drawings are numbered by the supervising artist and the number of photographic exposures necessary to register the desired action is made.
* * *
The ordinary motion picture camera takes 16 pictures or "frames" per second, but the cameras used in photographing Aesop's Fables are so arranged that only one "frame" or picture is taken with each turn of the camera handle, which is so arranged that the photographer merely presses a foot pedal to make the exposure. The entire cartoon release is handed over to the photographers. It usually consists of between 10,000 and 20,000 sheets of celluloid. Then the photographer places the background under the camera eye and fits the celluloid over two pegs that protrude from the camera table. These pegs are, of course, the exact distance apart, as are the pegs on the animator's and tracer's drawing boards. The first action picture is placed over the background and as all pictures of action are made on "cells," the background shows through to give the necessary effect.
Upon the completion of the photographing process, the exposed negative is sent to the laboratory for developing. The negative developed, a master print is made, and after the cutter rearranges this into its proper continuity, the picture is ready for projection.

No comments:

Post a Comment