Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Balmy Swami Anecdote - John Gentilella

Below is a clip from the 1949 Popeye cartoon ‘A Balmy Swami’ animated by maestro Popeye animator Johnny Gent. (John Gentilella) I love the amazing feeling of power Gent could get into his animation as illustrated by this clip. He knew the exact amount of displacement to put between each drawing to get the maximum effect of power and impact in the action.

When I met him back in the 80’s Johnny recalled working on this cartoon. He said that de facto director Tom Johnson gave him this construction elevator section (I may have cut it a bit short) of the cartoon to animation direct. The first thing he did before starting work was to meet with composer Winston Sharples and discuss the music and tempo for the animation. In hindsight I wish I had asked Johnny about the technique of choreographing animation and music. Today that method of timing animation is a lost art.

For those that have this cartoon and the ability to single frame, you can see that Gent has used a Jim Tyer technique in his animation. (Trivia moment – Tyer and Gentilella were close friends) As Popeye goes to punch out the building girder he pops off the screen for 1 frame. It's not a shooting error. It's done with purpose - the popping effect creates a feeling of shock on the screen and the flash effect animation further enhances the feeling of impact. Tyer used that technique in his animation in some of the Famous Studio cartoons that predate this one. Some modern animators hate this sort of thing - I say as long as it feels right it works for me. I’ve always thought it was a cool technique.

Too bad Cartoon Network had to poo in the corner of the screen.