INSPIRATION: Rubbery Cartoon Dancing
Warning: Long Post Ahead
One of the reasons I love the cartoons from the 30's is because there is so much attention spent on characters dancing.
I realize, of course, that there is dancing in cartoons from the 40's and on - but I specifically like the rubber hose jazzy dancing of these earlier ones. Many of my favorite cartoons are the ones with no real story - just songs, rhythms, often times surreal imagery, and dancing. Some of my favorite sequences include......
1) The waiter, Bimbo, in the Fleischer's "Dizzy Dishes" (1930)
This is my favorite cartoon ever, by the way. The waiter does so many cool little moves as he "glide dances" to the hungry customer's table! I believe that these dance sequences were animated by the great Grim Natwick (please correct me if I'm wrong). Part of the reason this sequence is so successful, in my opinion, is because Grim is such a solid draftsman that he is able to draw this waiter in practically any pose and at any angle. Grim captures every little twist and turn and weight shift convincingly - thus creating this really beautiful, believable and fun dance walk. And even though the dance is animated on ones and the moves are pretty quick, all the poses and gestures read instantly - nothing is unclear.
And to top it all off, the poses are all so fun and full of energy! What a masterpiece!
2) The nightclub entertainer, Goopy Geer, in the Merrie Melody "Goopy Geer" (1932)
3) Flip the Frog in Ub Iwerks' "Fiddlesticks" (1930)
Notice how at first Flip is hopping just like a normal frog...
But then the real fun begins!
"Fiddlesticks" was the first Flip the Frog cartoon ever made, and boy - it sure doesn't get any better than this! This first scene of just Flip doing his dance is really all I need in a cartoon. Perfection.
4) Cab Calloway rotoscope animation in "Minnie the Moocher" (1932) and "Snow White" (1933)
What I love about this animation is that the timing of Calloway's movements is all maintained realistically (through rotoscope), but the character designs are so cartoony! The result is almost creepy - very cartoony characters moving not like cartoons, but like real people. And then on top of that - the animators add in all these crazy surreal metamorphosis type things throughout the performance! This beautiful combination of realism and imagination creates pure magic . The result is timeless - I never get tired of watching this stuff.
5) The scarecrow in Ub Iwerks' "Big Bad Wolf" (or "Little Boy Blue") (1936)
More rotoscoped dance movement. We don't get the crazy metamorphosis additions in this performance, but it's still really fun just seeing this pumpkinhead move so cool.
6) Noah and all the animals (and even his chair) dance in this Van Beuren Aesop's Fable "Noah Knew His Ark" (1930)
7) Dancing birds in Van Beuren's "A Romeo Robin" (1930)
More fun cartoony dancing.
On a side note - these last two Van Beuren frame grabs are taken from the amazing "Aesop's Fables" DVD produced by Thunderbean. I would just like to mention that I am eternally grateful that Steve Sanchfield releases these DVD's - without his effort I would most likely never get to see all these amazing cartoons! I have bought every one of his Thunderbean DVD's so far and none of them dissapoint - you can find his website here:
One of the great things about volunteering at the ASIFA Animation Archive is that I have access to lots of these cartoons with great dancing in them. There's Harman and Ising's "Swing Wedding", Freleng's "Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land," Fleischer's "Swing You Sinners" and many of the black&white Terrytoons have great rubberhose dancing as well.
Here's some notes I took at the Archive while studying Isadore Freleng's "Hittin' the trail For Hallelujah Land" (1931). It's a dancing duck!
So what are some of your favorite dance sequences?