Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Simple Gifts - The Great Frost - A Walk

It's hard to say "The Great Frost" is the centerpiece of "Simple Gifts", only because each segment has extraordinary merits.

There is something particularly special about animating a sequence from Virginia Woolf's "Orlando".  There's something brilliant about having Seymour Chwast design it.  Something outright sublime in Tissa David animating the sequence.

I'll post the video of the whole thing in a few days, but first I'd like to look at some specific scenes.

This is the second shot of the film.


A woman walking through the snow.  On twos.

Once again, apologies for image quality.  This is taken from a VHS.  Shockingly all the dirt is from the transfer.  Something like this wouldn't get past broadcast engineers today.


This was the first project Tissa David worked on with R. O. Blechman.  They would go on to have a very fruitful 20 year relationship.

She started on Columbus Day 1977.  Every year I worked with her, she'd mention that.  Since she had to cross the parade going down Fifth Avenue.


She also found this to be a difficult style, she confided.  The lines are very hard and unexpressive. Compare to Hubley, Blechman or even Raggedy Ann and you can see what she means.


Chwast's characters demand a rigid draughting.  That's something which can be very difficult for someone who excels at animating delicate characters with a light touch.


Nevertheless, it's that conflict that helps breathe life into this animation.  The animator pushes the character design to it's expressive limits and the design reigns in the bravado of the animator.


This is a simple walk.  8 frames per stride, 16 frame full step.

There's no such thing as a "standard walk cycle" every situation is different.  Drawing 9 (I started this cycle on this position of the other foot - I hate when people only show 8 drawings of a 16 drawing walk) shows the balance of a woman walking in snow.


She's more "down" than "up" from her passing point (drawing 7).


I might have asked that she make smaller strides and have more of down emphasis on the front foot.  But the drawings here keep balance.  She leans forward pretty far, but never topples past her knee.


The long strides and light lift make her sort of glide over the snow.  This is also an effect of limited animation -animation based on cycles, pans, reused drawings and getting the most out of a pose.


A few months back we saw Bakshi go all out on some walks.  "Simple Gifts" was clearly operating under a different economy.   To give this walk more "trudging in the snow" you'd need to add at least 4 more drawings, probably more.  

As you'll see in later scenes, it would be wise to put those resources elsewhere.

The details, like the hand holding the skirt, also speak to how each walk is unique.


I see this scene as a great animator struggling to find the language of an idiosyncratic design under tight circumstances.

It's still a good piece of work.


and a movie

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