Staging for Visual Comedy

Staging is one of the principles of animation, and the word gets used for both scene layout and character posing.  I have created a new video about staging for visual comedy, and it is primarily concerned with scene layout, or composition and motion in shots. There are many great books and videos about composition in film. Most are filled with beautiful examples from famous cinematographers, and we can all learn a lot from them. But there is precious little available on comedic staging.  Are there funny ways to arrange and move your characters in a scene?

I have spent a lot of time watching comedies, and I have identified several kinds of staging that re-occur in live action and animated films.  These are shots that rarely happen in dramatic films.  These are upstaging, peek-a-boo, pass through, awkward sets, and crowded spaces.  Please watch the video, and in the comments below I would love to get more suggestions.  If and when I get to revise the Comedy for Animators book, I will include a new chapter on this topic.

I would very much appreciate subscriptions to my YouTube channel.  I hope to start producing these videos more often.


Lessons from runway models on how to be funny.

I was a sailor on one of the first Navy ships to have women serve on board.  One evening I was hanging out with some other guys in the machine shop when a cute girl came through, back from her evening out on the town.  She was nicely dressed in civilian clothes, and as she passed by we all took in the sight.  She strutted past with a smile on her face.  When she reached the hatch at the other end of the compartment, she caught her foot and fell right to the deck.  Hilarity ensued. Runway model fails are pretty much the same thing.

Beautiful, important, and serious people have long been the target of physical comedy. Runway models delicately perched on high heels are primed to be brought down to earth.   There are some lessons to be found.

It’s all about the ankles.

If you are beginning to fall, and want to be even funnier, struggle to maintain your balance for a really long time, recover, and then fall.

While most models try to recover instantly, you can also get to an awkward balancing pose, and hold it there for comic effect.

This one is simple and direct. Catch the foot, big key pose, go down,

If you fall once, falling a second time isn’t funny.  You have to go all the way to 3 or more falls.  Single falls are best when the model drops completely off the stage and disappears.

Or, like this woman, wear a giant headdress and appear to vanish under its weight.

Seriously, just look at these shoes. What monster designed those?

If you fall, having a cute smile and laughing at yourself about it is the best way to look less stupid.  Just own it.

This savage literally steps over the body of a fallen comrade sprawled on the runway.

Here is probably the best compilation of runway model fails.



The Team of Hanna and Barbera

Fred Seibert of Frederator Studios makes use of the text sharing service Scribd. He has uploaded several hundred documents including quite a few storyboards. I’ve been looking through them, and will post some relative items here. Here is one of a few pages created by Bill Burnett, creative director at Hanna-Barbera.

What Makes A Team?

Jackie Chan Master of Silent Comedy

I am thrilled that Jackie Chan gets so much appreciation from film fans and makers of YouTube video essays. His work is being studied and there are many lessons for animators to soak up. Here is a recent video that makes a case for Chan as the fourth great silent comedian. It features some excellent examples from Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin. Chan studied their work and applied it to his own.

I have other posts about him on the topics of TIPS FOR ACTION COMEDY, HOW TO DO ACTION COMEDY, and the ten video extravaganza JACKIE CHAN’S TIPS FOR ANIMATORS. All these are worth watching more than once.

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