Gerald Potterton


Until writing this post, I could not have told you who directed the cult classic animated feature “Heavy Metal”. But now I know it’s Gerald Potterton

First I discovered Potterton’s short film “The Ride”

Then I found he directed another short featuring an elderly Buster Keaton, “The Railrodder”, which I had read about but never seen.

Clearly, this is an animator who appreciates slapstick comedy.

Also, Heavy Metal came into the trending topics recently because of the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, that put the Tesla roadster into space.  This image was made by someone online. I believe the illustration was actually from the print magazine and not the movie,

Massage comedy

I had noticed that massage was something that turned up regularly in physical comedy.  Of course, it’s pure physical interaction, usually involving an aggressive masseuse or masseur.  Patients, or clients, can be incredibly pleased, awkwardly uncomfortable, or bent into pretzel shapes.  Often, the person giving the rubdown is not who they think they are and are behaving badly. I had been keeping a list of YouTube videos with funny massage scenes for future reference.

Recently, master animator Richard Williams posted this tweet about the upcoming Aardman film Early Man.

If Williams thinks it’s a stunning comic achievement, he’s got me even more excited than I was already.  It appears the massage happens in the bathtub, judging by this promotional image.

Early man massage

I had time today, so I assembled a dozen or so clips of funny massage scenes from movies, TV, and cartoons.  I hope you like it.  If you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel please do.  And check out some of my other video essays on comedy in animation.

 

Animated Acting: The Drunk Character

“A man’s true character comes out when he’s drunk.”

Charlie Chaplin

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.

  1. The Aloof Drunk. A person like this is so busy trying to appear sober they can’t really interact with others.
  2. The Happy Drunk. Someone who has lost all inhibitions, and wants to share his good feelings with everybody.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

 

Osamu Tezuka’s Broken Down Film

Here is Osamu Tezuka’s short “Broken Down Film.” I saw this way back in college, and now I think it’s a little dated. I wonder how many kids would understand the joke about the hair in the gate of the projector.  There are some pauses that run a little long for short attention span types. Still, I think this is a must see for anyone for appreciates silent comedy and animation.

 

Animated Acting: Emotion Changes

At the Academy of Art, one of the assignments I gave was to show a character going through emotion changes. It is a simple way to get students to work at producing a couple of good poses and expressions. I have already encouraged them to try to avoid cliche acting, and make things feel motivated.

Generally, the students try to set up a situation that makes sense for the change to happen. And I found a great example which got me thinking about creating funny situations and timing. It is from the minions of Despicable Me fame.

If you watch this Banana mini-movie, you’ll notice that nearly every shot involves a minion having some rapid change of thought. In some cases it’s emotion, in many cases it’s the sudden hunger for the banana, in others it’s simply recognizing something important has happened. From the first one agonizing over whether to eat his lunch banana to the guy at the power switch ( at about 2:00) who seems to go through a half dozen different reactions to what’s happening around him.  These are characters who go through extremes. It’s dramatic comedy!

Many students do fine animation with a human figure going through some fair acting. It would be great to see something with a cartoon energy.

%d bloggers like this: