Animation exercise: A bad death scene

A Wild Hare, Tex Avery, 1940

I am always looking out for fun animation exercises. Very few student animation demo reels actually make me laugh. There are too many fight scenes or parkour shots that can demonstrate skill but are rarely entertaining.

Here is a new challenge. Animate a bad actor doing a death scene. It’s all about overacting, so it’s perfect for exaggerated animation. I have collected several video examples for inspiration. All but one of these use guns as the weapon, but other methods of death could work just as well. Poisoning would have its own special contortions. Multiple arrow strikes could inspire other ideas.

We’ll start with what might be the best bad death scene. There so many things wrong with this. The crazy expressions, the bad framing, the cheap and badly timed effects. The guy gets shot several times and drags it out way too long. The final look to the camera. If you’re not entertained by this, quit now and go do something else.

I am going to focus here on live actors as inspiration, but there is, of course, one very famous example of an overacted death scene in cartoons. At about 39 seconds, note his left hand as he weakly covers his cough, then the delicate finger action, before it hits the ground with a heavy slap. From A Wild Hare (1940)

As you can see, the death scene can involve being cradled by the killer while last words are spoken. Jim Carrey followed up with this in The Mask.

This one is short and sweet. It’s funny for the one expression the guy has before falling out of frame. Extra points for the ninja star.

This SNL short gets laughs with common tropes found in murder scenes. Repetition makes it ever more ridiculous, with variations thrown in for good effect. They almost underact the moment of getting shot, like it’s more shock than pain.

Overacted death scenes appear to be quite popular in Indian film making. Here are three great examples.

The video I opened with is so popular, it is has spawned parodies. This one brings a different energy and shows how much room there is to play with this exercise.

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