Thursday, October 19, 2006

Eric Larson Speaks! Again!

So here's part deux of my conversation with Mr. Larson....

Eric Larson: I think you do have to figure that what you did on "Snow White," plus the work on the mutli-plane camera on "The Old Mill" was all experimental. The work on "Pinocchio" was the first time the multi-plane camera really got its challenge, I think. And you had some on "Bambi," but there you were just panning along on a beautiful sylvan setting and the trees came in, and the characters came out of the background, but you didn't have the camerawork of "Pinocchio."

Albert Hurter designed the screwy little chairs and table legs and clocks. He was the guy you depended greatly upon for the imaginative quality, so you could go into the layouts that Phillipi and Hugh Hennesy did...

On early conceptions, you had an old Italian woodcarver who, every time he picked up a piece of wood, something had to happen. And this is what Albert wanted to do, and what Walt wanted to do, of course, but Albert was the key in determining it. Albert gave all the carvings in Geppeto's house a life and personality of their own. Everything in that house that Gepetto had would have some...figure or would have something in there. It woud have to be part of the armchair of the detail on the table leg or the clock on the wall or the door or whatever.

But when you come to that kind of original thinking...Hurter was the key. I can't say that a lot of other people didn't contribute. I can imagine fact I can remember quite clearly...looking at some old things, and he'd just go hog wild and give Albert a lot more things for Albert to work out.

But Albert drew as he pleased, as the book on his work is titled. And this is what he did. He'd come up with the most imaginative things. He'd just sit there all day and scribble. He didn't want to be involved in detailed layouts or the detailed this or that, but he wanted to be an inspiration.

Albert wasn't social. He just came in and worked and worked and worked. He lived in a little old hotel down in the middle of Los Angeles on Main Street. And on weekends my wife and I would meet him out on the desert someplace, all alone, driving like fury across the desert.

Philippi was the key on the street scenes. He used to render all that stuff in black and white so it would be absolutely beatiful. Paintings in pencil, really. And there was I.A. Mosely, and Ken Anderson did some of the stuff, I think. Walt brought back kid's books from Europe, but he also brought back all manner of clocks, and music boxes and that kind of thing. And that was an inspiration to us. And of course, Albert was born in Switzerland. But you just can't hand it to any one person, because everybody's hands were in it. Claude Coats was a very key man...very involved in clolor. I think you'd find that he led off, color wise.

Steve Hulett: What were you in charge of in "Pinocchio?"

Eric Larson: I did some Gepetto, but mostly Figaro and Cleo and that group. The marionettes, the gals form Holland. Some of the chorus girls that came in. I did some Pinocchio.

Walt just fell in love with Figaro and said "just do what you want." So we ran about...I don't know how many hundreds of feet over. All that sutff inside the whale. We developed more gags and things going on. FInally we cut out enough to make two shorts. But Walt fell in love with it. Even so, he cut a lot of my footage. But there's so much of Figaro I really like. My choice stuff, of course, that I liked tremendously, is when Gepetto's going to bed. Figaro wants to go to sleep, and Gepetto doesn't want to go to sleep. He wants to look at his star. He asks Figaro to get up out of his bed, and go across his bed... I had a lot of fun with that particular little sequence. Then, when he's told he can't eat his dinner and he's got to wait untilGepetto goes out and finds Pinocchio, so he gets into all this tantrum. But we tried to give him to personality of a four-year-old kid in the anatomy of a cat. But that's the charm of all of our animal characters. You can identify them as individual human personalities that people know. Other studios don't worry about that. They just moved the characters around.

Freddy Moore worked on Lampwick, and I think that's about all he worked on (According to Kimball, Fred also worked on Gepetto -- Hulett). He worked some on "Fantasia," and then he went over to "Dumbo." I did some stuff on Pinocchio turning into a donkey. Nick Nichols animated the coachman. And I'm not sure, but maybe Freddy keyed the children. He wouldn't have animated them.

Frank Thomas did such a beautiful job on the marionnete, when Pinocchio was a marionette. His head would drop and you just knew that there was a guy up there working the strings. We just worked our fool heads off to get that timing. There's a job of timing that people who haven't been in animation can't appreciate.

It's quite a fallacy to think that the old animators animated from pose to pose. I started animating in 1934, but the thing is that you always work stuff out, working out poses that would suggest the action you wanted. You'd figure they'be be strong enough, but by the time you got working through them and making the action convincing, and putting the additional drawings you wanted to put in to carry that action before it went to your assistant, then the drawing you thought was srong enough or had enough attitude was weak, or might be too strong. And you'd have to cut it down. So actually, I think you'd have to say that you worked pose to pose, but you also worked straight ahead.


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