“A man’s true character comes out when he’s drunk.”
Charlie Chaplin found his first fame playing a drunk. An intoxicated individual has lost his inhibitions and is, therefore, more interesting to watch. Like smoking, In Pixar’s Ratatouille, there is a very entertaining scene of Linguini rambling on with slurred speech after imbibing a bottle of wine. Bender from Futurama seems to be pretty much the same drunk as he is normally.
Back in the day, drunkenness was far more accepted in entertainers. Remember Timothy Mouse and Dumbo in Pink Elephants on Parade? Looney Tunes would sometimes have its characters get drunk. Hiccups seem to have been the common behavior. The drunk stork delivering the wrong baby was a great way to set up a comedic situation. There was quite a bit of drinking in Tom & Jerry. This example shows Tom staggering around with some very precarious steps with no apparent trouble.
Creating a convincing alcoholic performance is difficult for actors, and probably even harder for animators. Looking for reference on youtube almost exclusively leads to people who are falling down drunk, and while it’s funny in some ways, a character in that condition is virtually useless in telling a story. So you need to see professionals who do entertaining imitations. Of course, I should start with Chaplin in his virtuoso solo performance in One A.M.
One of Chaplin’s lessons was that the lush doesn’t want people to know he (or she) is drunk. He continually tries to act sober and maintain his dignity. Here are some other tips for creating drunk characters:
- Relax the character, keep him loose.
- Play with balance. The character should not look stable. He should be exerting obvious effort to remain upright. Steps are short and wobbly.
- Struggle with simple things. Like balance, they should have to put extra work into things that would normally be easy.
- Break boundaries. Drunks are less inhibited and will move into places and spaces they wouldn’t when sober. They are often overly friendly.
- Slow him down. See the video of John Lasseter below.
Here are two good instructional videos on general drunken acting from actor DW Brown. But I would recommend visiting THIS BLOG POST For his text version.
Brown also describes four different kinds of drunks. If you are animating a drunk character, be sure to understand which kind he is.
- The Aloof Drunk. A person like this is so busy trying to appear sober they can’t really interact with others.
- The Happy Drunk. Someone who has lost all inhibitions, and wants to share his good feelings with everybody.
- The Angry Drunk is belligerent and ready for a fight. This kind of drunk could motivate some great comedy by picking fights with the wrong person.
- The Maudlin Drunk. Sometimes people indulge the sadness in their lives when they get drunk.
And finally, here is an interesting lesson in this sort of behavior. This is “Drunk John Lasseter” He’s not really drunk. It’s just the video is slowed down, but it has the remarkable effect of making him appear to be. The inebriated brain runs slower. Drunken characters should do everything a bit slower than a normal person would.