The Apache Dance

I had heard of the “Apache dance”, but didn’t know much about it, until I ran across this youtube video:

It’s a humorous setting for a dance that isn’t meant to be funny. But the acrobatic moves do give it a circus-like quality. I saw some other versions on youtube that were done by professionals, but with less energy. It’s interesting that the rougher they are with each other, the better it is.

From wikipedia;

Apache is a highly dramatic dance associated in popular culture with Parisian street culture in the beginning of the 20th century. The name of the dance (pronounced ah-PAHSH, not uh-PATCH-ee, like the English pronunciation of the Native American tribe) is taken from a Parisian street gang, which in turn was named for the American Indian tribe due to the perceived savagery of the hoodlums. The term came to be used more generally to refer to certain vicious elements of the Paris underworld at the beginning of the 20th century.
The dance is sometimes said to reenact a violent “discussion” between a pimp and a prostitute. It includes mock slaps and punches, the man picking up and throwing the woman to the ground, or lifting and carrying her while she struggles or feigns unconsciousness. Thus, the dance shares many features with the theatrical discipline of stage combat. In some examples, the woman may fight back.

There are quite a few versions on youtube. This next one has a great twist; Jimmy Durante in drag playing the woman’s part. (clearly, the long shots have a stand-in)

Buster Keaton also played the female part in this example.

Here is yet another twist, with the roles reversed, and the woman is beating up the man, in this case, the clownish Ben Blue.

It seems like this should be animated, and indeed it was.   Here is Popeye and Olive Oyl, and of course, Bluto cuts in.  It’s a great interpretation.

Here is another one.  The dance starts just after a minute, but it’s fun before hand too.

Kenny Delmar – Foghorn Leghorn

Here is another example of a live comedian as inspiration for an animated character’s voice. Kenny Delmar was a radio personality, and actor, and his character of Senator Claghorn eventually became the model for Foghorn Leghorn’s verbal delivery. Here is a youtube clip from the movie “It’s a Joke, Son!” which was one of his catch phrases.

Here is a thoroughly researched article that details the development of Foghorn Leghorn, and Kenny Delmar’s contribution.


Animated Acting: Lose Control

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Suppose you are given a choice of animating one of two scenes.

The first is a serious conversation between two people.

The other is a character who is enraged and clashes physically with everything around him.

If you chose the latter, then this post is for you.  You probably would love to animate Popeye gulping spinach and going ballistic.

Consider this scene from Charlie Chaplin’s great feature “The Kid”.  Charlie has taken care of a boy he found abandoned as a baby.  The authorities have come to take the child to the orphanage.  Charlie is having none of it.

Wow.  It’s an extremely dramatic moment, isn’t it?  Charlie manages to be both violent, and throw in some of his trademark silly movements.  As with any performance the challenge is to maintain what is specific about your character.  In comedy there may be no better way to create a performance that is both funny and dramatic.  The contrast within the scene makes the violence more surprising and the comedy even funnier.

In planning a performance I tell my students to answer 3 questions.

1. What is the character doing?  In this instance, getting extremely angry and perhaps fighting.

2. Why is the character doing it?  This comes from the story.  It’s the motivation.

3. How is the character doing it?  Here’s where the acting starts.  What makes this version of rage specific to this actor/character.

This next scene from the Three Stooges features one of Curly’s great freak outs.  Something sets him off, in this case it’s a mouse, and the only way to subdue him is with the smell of cheese.  It’s a way for him to lose his mind and overcome the more powerful bad guys.  Throughout the scene, he remains Curly through and through.

If you haven’t seen “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,”  it may be Hollywood’s greatest all star feature.  It features lots of great actors in stressful situations who have to deliver matching performances.  Here is Jonathan Winters going nuts:

While considering animated characters who do this, not so many sprang to mind.  Popeye, of course, conquered Bluto/Brutus with his spinach powered outburst.  And each time it was a fresh twist on the same idea.  Here is Roger Rabbit having a drink.

And few characters get angrier than Ren Hoek.

Think about other characters, animated or not, who lose control, and please leave a comment to help me build up the collection.


Walter Lantz on directing cartoons

Here are some fun videos of Walter Lantz describing the method of creating animated cartoons.

Here is a fun look at Lantz working with new characters.

And finally, this fun documentary made to show the public how cartoons are made.

Invisible Instruments

I just read about Jerry Lewis performing a musical scene in the Tashlin film “Cinderfella”. It’s him alone in a kitchen miming to an instrumental track.

I was going to post just that video, when I noticed this next video by Rowan Atkinson. He’s doing his popular “invisible drum kit” act.

Hopefully you can see the amount of character that is put into the performance, making it about the performer, and not the music. For contrast, here is a real drummer mimicking his art for a mildly entertaining music video.

So that made me think about invisible instruments, which of course lead to air guitar. I found this short montage of the top three performers at the 2011 World Air Guitar Championships. I appreciate how some of them inject some character into the act, rather than just pretending to shred. Of these three, the third person was the winner. I liked the first two better, but what do I know about this.

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