Thursday, 4 April 2013

Shadow of a Mouse - Chapter 1

Iv just finished the first chapter of Shadow of  Mouse by Donald Crafton. The chapter is call Performance in and of animation.

There is much to discuss about the chapter on a whole but i am going to list the parts i have highlighted. They are mostly based on the discussion of Figurative (extroverted) performance and Embodied (introverted) performance. 

Figurative Performance

Pg. 27-28 

'Betty [Boop] is in part a star by association. She shows us how she is a figuration of "the star" by importing celebrity charisma into her Tooniverse. Her personality is an infectious composite of acquired details, more like a collection of poached traits than a complex expression of inner drives and motives. As a figure, she lacks an interior core of emotion or individual expressivity.'

Pg. 28

'Alongside Disney's mid-1930's quest to endow cartoon characters with personality, individual character, and what the animators likd to call the "illusion of life," other studios continued introducing characters that they hoped would compete with Mickey but also continued to produce figurative performances.'

Pg. 29

'Standardized character model sheets not only helped the animators working in the figurative mode to maintain a consistant look in scenes, but they also provided a formulary of poses and facial expressions. The studio apprentice system, whereby experienced animators taught standard practices to the newcomers, perpetuated ways of signifying character through pantomimed gestures that had been current for a century in theatre and painting. The need to establish nonverbal techniques for expressing emotions and meaning was linked to the material circumstances of dramatic presentation. Without electric illumination of the stage or amplification of the voice, actors learned that they must communicate with their bodies. furthermore, the range of these gestures had to be of limited number and easily understood by audiences. Actors and theatergoers absorbed these somatic signs. As it had been practiced in gaslight melodrama, the actors move from pose to pose, conveying throughts through conventional broad gestures of face and limbs. Audiences grasp the message by training or by intuition. ... The name of associated with this approach is Francois Delsarte.'

Pg. 30

'Figuratively performing characters don't try to hide that they're manufactured beings; they are happy to show us the process of their making and how they got to be cartoons, often in a funny, self-mocking way.'

Pg. 33

'The term re-performance was inspired by performance theorist Richard Schechner's claim that all performances are "restored behaviour." Discussing social practices and rituals, which include organized public performances such as plays, performance art, and films, he deploys a cinematic analogy: "Restored behavior is living behavior can be rearranged or reconstructed; they are independent of the casual systems (social, psychological, technological) that brought them into existence. They have a life of their own. The original 'truth' or 'source' of the behavior may not be known, or may be lost, ignored, or contradicted-even while that truth or source is being honored and observed." ... They are "arrangements," that is, materials that have been transformed from ordinariness by repeating a prior behavoir/performance with a different purpose, by declaring them to have a special significance, or by calling attention to their arranged status by framing, marking or heightening them, or through other means. Schechner might describe the animators' use of repetition as a rehearsal. It is the work of rehearsals to prepare the strips of behavior so that when expressed by performers these strips seem spontaneous, authentic, unrehearsed." ... The idea of rehearsing in order to create the appearance that a behavior is unrehearsed describes another distinction between performance in and of animation. One of Schechner's conditions for a performance is that it is not extemporaneous original behavior or improvised gesturing but instead adheres to some agreed-upon map, scenario, or pattern. The conditional performance seems spontaneous, authentic, and unrehearsed, like any other screen performance. Nonetheless, the on-screen actions follow the templates designed by the animators.'

Embodied Performances

Pg. 36

'Embodied acting is introverted. It is the philosophy and practice of creating imaginatively realized beings with individuality, depth, and internal complexity.'

Pg. 40

'Director Dave Hand advised young animators, "We have been pretty stock-minded in the past. We always made a walk in the same way. That is one thing Don [Grahams] action analysis classes are doing-at least did for me. A few years ago there were only two walks-a regular walk and a felix walk. Then we began to think and now we find a walk for every different kind of person."'

 Pg. 42

'Embodied performers have discernible interior as well as extrinsic traits - idiosyncrasies, Mauss might say. This completed character, as Graver described it, "is the body that western audiences are trained to look for first and gaze at most intently. Its ready display of both inside and outside makes it pleasing object of contemplation..."... The studio's self-analysis made it clear that personality drove the narrative.'

Pg. 42

'[Don] Graham taught that the timing and clarity of these commutative moments in the animation were part of the conceptualization of the work: "Gestures don't happen in animation; they are purposefully drawn."' 

Pg. 44

'Eventually Disney conflated the embodied acting approach with narrative. "I look for a story with heart," he told Bob Thomas. "It should be a simple story with characters the audience really can care about. They've got to have a rooting interest...Everything should be related to human experience in storytelling."'

Pg. 47

'The story [Clock Cleaners], then, shows neoteny, a reverse evolution from fully embodied to disembodied characterizations. Mickey, Donald and Goofy travel back to the days of figurative performance in cartoons. The system itself has become a figure clockwork industrialization of the animation process that asserts its own implacable regime under the ironically opposed signs of time and liberty.'

Pg. 48

'The animators and Graham were pursuing a Stanislavskian ideal of embodiment, trying to inject human thought, motion and emotion into their formerly figurative hieroglyphs, but the result was more complicated than they intended. They constructed lifelike movements and gave their characters the illusion of sentience, free will, and human frailty without the visible strings to the animators or their techniques. Inadvertently, though, they introduced ambiguity and increased the likelihood of unintentional meanings.'

Pg. 53

'Conditional performance - one might even call it pre-performance - thus involves not only imaginatively experiencing the drawing' movement before they're projected to an audience, but it also involves the animators ability to see the audience's reactions in their mind's eye. This is highly theatrical.'

Pg. 54

'The Tooniverse is a meeting place where the performances of the toons (the characters "there," on-screen, but also off-screen as my imagined beings), the animators (also "there," but off-screen and in the past), and my embodying performance (physically "here," off-screen, and cinesthetically"there," on-screen, in the present)...'

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