Animated Acting: Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

Gene Wilder was a tremendous comic actor. I have assembled a few videos, with some text for animators to add to their understanding of comedy. This first one focuses on Wilder’s mastery of timing. While a fast pace is often conducive to comedy, knowing when to pause can help build a laugh.

Stories are about revealing character. Therefore, it goes without saying that characters are not always what they seem to be. Often they learn and grow and change. Other times, they are simply misunderstood. Wreck-It Ralph is misunderstood. He’s the “bad guy” who wants to be a hero. But sometimes, characters present themselves in a way to intentionally mislead those around them. It has become rather common in Disney films to have the real bad guy be someone nobody suspected. In Wreck-it Ralph, King Candy seems relatively harmless until it’s revealed he is out to destroy other games.

Wilder’s Wonka is a good example of a good character who misleads. He is extremely controlling, and this is one way he controls his interactions. He doesn’t want to be vulnerable. Wonka’s sudden explosion of anger at the end of the movie is a turn in the character arc that is just plain shocking. Of course, he reveals his true motives at the end of the same scene. It is not in the original book and is a brilliant moment added by the filmmakers. I assume nearly everyone reading this has seen Willy Wonka, and remembers Wonkas first appearance, when he limps out towards the crowd, then stumbles and does a flip. You can see it in my 10 Types of Comedic Entrances video. In this animated video, Wilder explains how his entrance into the movie was part of this character’s style.

For a kids movie, Wonka’s outburst is really strong and I am impressed by how he didn’t hold back. This remixed video highlights Wilder’s animated acting.

This next video observes how Gene Wilder didn’t always have to be the center of attention. He could share the spotlight in the interest of the story.

Gene Wilder died in 2016, and every television network devoted time to remember him. Here is just one of those memorials.

If you want to learn more about comedy and animation, click the image below.

Comedy for Animators on Amazon

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