Jonathan Winters

I just heard the news that Jonathan Winters has died. It is a blessed life when you can bring joy and laughter to so many people.

When we lived in southern California, my wife and I went into a furniture store on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. Jonathan Winters was there, holding a pillow and talking to an invisible person in one the beds on display. The invisible person was a relative he was fed up with. He proceeded to use the pillow to smother this “person”. I remember it very clearly. He was doing comedy, with an audience of about 5 people. The guy can not turn it off.

I used to watch Jonathan Winters on TV as a kid. My family loved him. A documentary about Winters, apparently made in 2007, is just now being released. Here is a link to the film’s web page.

Certifiably Jonathan

Winter’s great genius was improvisation. Here is a clip of him from 1964. With a plain stick he can easily create a character using it as a prop. His voice, expression, body position and the prop all instantly fall in place, and he makes it funny. And not just one character, but a series of them.

If you are having a hard time thinking up a character to animate, try to remember Jonathan Winters.

The World of Commedia Dell’arte

Here is an excellent set of youtube videos to educate you on commedia dell’arte. In this first video, she refers to the British TV show, Fawlty Towers, which helps to understand the characters.

This next video describes how the commedia traditions carry on to Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. She also mentions The Lion King.

This “character shape” video is great for animators, who often need ideas for creating specific characters walks. The “rich old man” is a character in Commedia, and the instructor mentions Mr. Burns, the Simpson character.

What I like about this next video is the approach to scenes. Have the character enter with a strong emotion already in place. And have them leave changed. When teaching animation, I get students describing their character as “just standing there, then something happens.” That doesn’t grab the viewer and bring them in at all.

This next video was included in my sub-verbal characters post.

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