How Disney Made Cartoons, 1930

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Fibber Fox
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How Disney Made Cartoons, 1930

Postby Fibber Fox » Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:48 am

Here's a little piece from the Kerrville Daily Times, Aug. 28, 1930. Probably no one will be surprised to read the part about how cartoons were made. Certainly it would have been interesting in 1930.

There's no byline I imagine it's based on a studio news release.
The picture of Mickey came with the story.

What's a little surprising about the longevity of 'Steamboat Willie,' still playing in theatres this late. Nice to see a mention of Carl Stalling this early.

Drawing “Mickey Mouse” Cartoon Requires Large Amount of Work
Many Operations and Great Mathematical Precision Necessaryto Success
Walt Disney and his gang in Hollywood are making the public rock with laughter with the strange antics of “Mickey Mouse” in a series of single reel animated cartoons released by Columbia. They are being shown at the Arcadia Theatre regularly. The next to be shown is entitled “Steamboat Willie” and comes to the Arcadia Theatre on Sunday and Monday.
A crew of cartoonists and orchestra working under the supervision of Walt Disney turn out the work. The studio is run in an informal manner. The artists get together on each film and work out the details. Each voices his opinion and occasionally they get into good old fashioned vocal scraps, but in the end they get their difficulties ironed out and have something of which they are all proud.
The motion picture cartoons are drawn with the artist working over aglass board with a light underneath it. It takes about 5,000 different sketches for each of the symphonies.
These are reproduced on celluloid.
A camera transfers the sketches to the motion picture film. On another film the music is photographed and then the two films are worked in together.
The cost of each “Mickey Mouse” is about $7,000. The biggest expense is the salary of the artists. The musical director, Carl Stallings, is responsible for the music and sound effects. He writes all the scores.

F. Fox
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Postby Fibber Fox » Sun Oct 30, 2011 6:00 am

And this is contained in Harrison Carroll’s ‘Behind the Scenes in Hollywood’ column, syndicated by Premier Syndicate, Inc. I found this and the ad attached in a paper of July 1, 1930. Notice the ad mentions Disney; his name seems to have started appearing in the popular press about this time.

Cartoon Craze
It is the rage in Hollywood right now to praise the Mickey Mouse cartoons. Douglas Fairbanks tells me he thinks these amusing shorts are the only real talkies that have been made, and that no great feature films will be forthcoming until directors catch the rhythm of these cartoon comedies. Charlie Chaplin has substantially the same opinion. And now Sergei Eisenstein, Russia’s most famous director, sings the praises of Mickey Mouse to the assembled newspaper writers of the film colony. He qualifies this, however, with the statement that it is ruinous to give Mickey a voice.

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Postby Fibber Fox » Sun Oct 30, 2011 6:30 am

This syndicated Sunday piece (hence its length) is dated November 2, 1930. The screen shots are from the article.

No, the writer isn't producer Quinn Martin.

More to come...

Art and Science in Complicated Studio Teamwork Draw And Photograph 7,000 Movie-Talkie Figures for Single Reel
Requires Six Weeks to Complete 600 Feet of Film, Which Also Has a Musical Side.
By QUINN MARTIN.
WITH the introduction o£ sound and speech in motion pictures, no department of production has increased in popularity more than that of the animated cartoons. Those weird like-like, little figures in black and white which skip across the screen in short subjects supplementing the feature picture have become so favored a part of the exhibitors’ programs that no bill is considered complete unless it has its MickeyMouse, its Frolicking Fish or its Cannibal Capers.
So closely do these comical creatures approximate the movement and the manner of human beings that one wonders by what process they are evolved. Walt Disney, whose Silly Symphonies are among the most widely applauded subjects, has taken time off to explain.
In order to understand the method of producing the animated cartoons it must be realized that all motion pictures are, in the last analysis, merely a series ofsmall still photographs whizzing past a shutter. It would be impossible [sic] to gain the identical effect of animated cartoons if one were to flip rapidly the pages of a book containing drawings in black and white. The basis of making these cartoons in the films is the drawings by artists of thousands of separate little figures, each figure graduated slightly, with the idea in mind of presenting definite movements when these separate figures are flashed before a camera, photographed, and later projected upon a screen. As an example, if Mickey Mouse’s tail is to move but slightly, that movement may represent as many as a hundred drawings, all leading up to the complete shifting of the tail.
It requires from 6,000 to 7,000 drawings, Mr. Disney tells us, to make one reel of Silly Symphonies. A reel is some 600 feet long. An animated subject is not created overnight. From two to three weeks’ work goes into each of them.
The process of actual production differs little from that of production in the feature film studios where real men and women act before the camera. Preparations are made in Mr. Disney’s comparatively miniature studio for the making of a subject exactly as they are made at the Paramount, the Fox or the United Artists’ studio. The idea is the same, but it is a fact that the method differs.
In the animated cartoon, to begin, there is the necessity of capturing an idea or a story. This is written into scenario form. The scenario is broken up into scenes and sequences with the usual “long shots,” “medium close-ups” and “close-ups.” The sets, or backgrounds, are designed and roughly drawn and these are turned over to the scenic department to be painted. These are prepared, of course, to fit the action. The action of the various characters moves and plays against these stationary backgrounds or sets.
A “gag” meeting is held, attended by the studio staff, and everyone submits ideas for comedy actions. The musical director suggests tunes for the running picture. The idea is born. From this nebulous idea the story in detail is written into a scenario. This is broken down into sequences and scenes and each scene is handed to the various artists, with instructions as to the action to be drawn. As each scene is plotted and laid out for the animating artists, the musical accompaniment for that scene is arranged, so that the artist knows not only what he is to draw but what the music will be.
As each frame, or small one-inch square, of film must account for a certain position of action, the music and the action synchronize perfectly, and along with the music and sound, interpolated speech (used in many of the animated subjects) is recorded also on the edge of the film, precisely as is done in the regular pictures plays.
When an artist has completed the drawing of a scene, which is done with pencil on white sheets of paper, these are in turn handed to the inking and painting department, where each line is traced upon a transparent celluloid sheet. This is done with India ink. These tracings are painted In various shades of white, black and gray and are then ready for the camera. Along the edge of the film containing the images are recorded, in terms of light the music, and the speech and the sound effects. The speech, of course, is supplied by one of the studio staff, and the record of the speech is grafted upon the picture film.
Mr. Disney explains that the cameraman’s job is perhaps the most monotonous of all. He can only click, or photograph, one frame, or square inch, of film at a time. At this rate he cannot exceed 50 feet a day.
After the photograph is completed the film is developed and printed, and there you have an animated cartoon.
We learn that the musical director, under ordinary circumstances, completes his score after the action picture has been made. He then has his orchestra play the score, which is made to synchronize perfectly with the passing events of the story, and this score is recorded upon the film electrically with light. From the picture negative and the music and sound negative there is then taken what is termed acomposite print, which is to say the action, the music and the sound, and this is the end of a day’s work in making the animated cartoons with sound effects.
Naturally, the artists employed in this highly technical field must possess a keen understanding of the movement and mannerism of persons and animals. Every angle, every situation in which the human, animal or insect body can find itself must be known to them.
Mr. Disney adds that his artists are trained to cause their characters to move and react to a rhythm timed to the second.
In the production of animated cartoons, we are given to understand, there is little waste, practically no lost motion. When a picture isfinished there is no cutting to be done on it.
(Copyright, Press Publishing Co.)

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Postby Fibber Fox » Sun Oct 30, 2011 6:45 am

This syndicated column is dated December 21, 1930. Yes, censorship back then (so please don't be misled to think the 1934 Production Code was the start of film censorship).

Screen Life in Hollywood
By HUBBARD KEAVY
HOLLYWOOD — The popularity of the simple, but lively, movie cartoon character, Mickey Mouse, is surprising even to his creator, Walt Disney.
Two years ago Mickey was just an idea, eventually an experiment; today his once-a-month adventures are shown in nearly every country in the world.
The reason is that his appeal is not limited; persons of every age and nationality understand pantomime, a feature most motion pictures lost when talkies came along.
Mickey talks but not often enough to slow up the action or to make unclear to audiences who do not understand English what he is doing.
The music that accompanies his ventures is suitable everywhere, as are the necessary squeaks, grunts and “plops.”
Liked in England
In England the mouse’s rating is high. Theaters there sometimes put his name in bigger letters than they do some of Hollywood’s human stars.
Manufacturing Mickey is a complicated and tedious process. Six thousand pictures are necessary to make one reel. Each is drawn separately—in fact—each picture is drawn twice, once on paper and once on transparent celluloid.
Forty-five artists spends [sic] two weeks out of every four on the Mickey series; the other two are given to “Silly Symphonies,” also created by Disney.
Severed hundred thousand pictures of the odd little characters have been drawn by hand in the last two years.
Each cartoonist averages about 50 pictures a day, depending on the number of characters and the complications of the action, in each succeeding picture the position changes, nut the change is slight—it takes from 10 to 15 pictures to make Mickey open his mouth.
When the drawings are completed they are photographed by a specially constructed camera.
They’re Censored, Too
Mickey’s pictures, like those of other stars, have run afoul of the censors.
Germany objected to a scene showing an army of invading rats wearing helmets, so it was cut out. Oddly the helmets were copied after the visored caps worn in the Civil war.
Canadian censors eliminated a sequence in which a playful fish slapped a mermaid, and in Ohio there was official protest because a cow was shown reading “Three Weeks.”

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