There has been more than enough said about about the cost, laboriousness and complexity of the hand drawn animation on the whole and pro-Disney animation in particular. Just few seconds of character's life may require as much as a week of laborious work! It is no wonder that pro-Disney full length animated feature is a luxury that only big animation studios armed with a lot of trained artists and decent financing can afford. The production of the first Disney animated feature demanded close to three years, more than 500 artists, and one and a half million dollars. By the modest estimations such amount of money is equivalent up to forty million in today's dollars (this article was written in 2005). And one must take into account that at that time Walt Disney used to pay less than he should have and usually he did not pay for the overtime work.
Is it possible to reduce task complexity? Sure! There are a lot of ways to do that. For example one can reduce the number of characters that are presented on the screen simultaneously or break the character into parts (that is to change only part of character's body leaving the rest unchanged) or just slacken off the rigid requirements to quality of animation. Finally the essence of pro-Disney and other classical types of hand drawn animation presupposes way to simplify the task, reduce the labor expenditure and avoid the most routine work. We talk about reuse of the material that has been created earlier. It is hardly a secret that in the basis of classically fashioned animation lays a principle of picture's composition from layers (which can be layers of glass, celluloid or virtual layers in computer memory) and one can do anything with each of them irrespective of others. The freedom of combination and changes of separate layers give a wonderful opportunity to shoot (to photograph, to render etc) the same sequence above (or inside) the different background and thus to reuse the art. Try to find the producer of commercial animation who neglects using of such cloning. There is countless quantity of limited animation examples!
Still it is necessary to give due to Walt Disney – in the late thirties he used to agree on such compromises with reluctance. In many respects thanks to this reluctance his early animated features are avowed masterpieces of animation. Of course even Walt Disney could not keep up such a level of quality always and everywhere. For example in the propaganda short SEVEN WISE DWARVES the whole animated sequences from SNOW WHITE AND SEVEN DWARFS were reused. Later during the war times Disney studio tried all possible methods of limited animation. But in the full-length animated features Walt didn't fall so low and avoided any temptations of making a follow-ups to his features.
Nevertheless there is no reason to expect that Disney animation is free of examples of cloning. They are a lot! Be sure, no one would advertise them. Some can be noticed by even inexperienced audience while others are unnoticeable even by an expert! While I was doing a research for this article I had a lot of fun in detection of the examples shown below. I dare assume that you will enjoy seeing them also. I will reserve for myself the right not to discuss the ethical side of topic. The cloning in Disney animation was a common thing and we must live with this fact.
I will begin with the examples of hidden cloning that were typical for Disney animated features of the sixties and the seventies. It is hard to point exactly what stage of production the decision to reuse some old material was making at. Even more difficult to say was it intentional to storyboard the sequence very much alike to the one already done. In such cases it was enough to do just a little update. Anyway I can show a lot of instances which tell us about the tendency to reduce animator's efforts. Why animator's efforts? Because, the so-called "update" could be done by an assistant of animator. Just look and think is it really difficult? Despite this the common practice was to add reused animation to the animators footage.
So here you can see the pictures from THE SWORD IN THE STONE at the top and corresponding pictures from JUNGLE BOOK under them. The number of characters, their movements, the order of events and the timing are the same in both cases. The character's design and backgrounds are the only differences.
It is funny that some years later Mowgli became a model for another boy – Christopher Robin. In 1977, when three independent shorts about Winnie the Pooh were combined into THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH, about 10 minutes of a "new" animation were produced to link those different parts and conclude them. The studio had been looking for the simplest (the cheapest) way to do it. As a result Christopher Robin repeats every actions from sad Mowgli's walking. He slips at the same places as Mowgli, brushes away his hair at the same time as Mowgli, picks the same twig, flungs the same two pebbles.
I will show later that Pooh cartoons are crowded with examples of cloning. However it is important to understand that other more prestigious and expensive projects have not managed to avoid the economy measures as well. Above I gave the example from THE JUNGLE BOOK. And here are some other examples, this time repeated within the films they originated from. The first one is from THE SWORD IN THE STONE while the second is from THE JUNGLE BOOK.
It is easy to show the examples of reused sequences, which do not required any changes in drawings at all. Such became possible because of invention of the photocopy process by Xerox. Xerox provided a way for coping drawings on cels unchanged and almost eliminated the inking by hand (though Disney Productions used to have 12 people to perform Xerox processes). Henceforth the amount of copied drawing on different cels or within the same cel became practically unrestricted. The process was used successfully in the production of ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS and since then became an irreplaceable tool in animation production.
Keep in mind that Xerox operators could multiply animated sequences with phase shift. Imagine that at the beginning of the empty stairs appears the puppy. When it crosses the third step of stairs the second instance of the same pup appeares in the beginning of stairs. When this "second" pup reaches the place of the "first" pup, another copy of our pup appears in the beginning of the stairs, while original pup reaches the middle of the stairs. All three copies move absolutely identically (since this is the same pup all the time) but in different phases of movement.
Probably you have already guessed that some pups in this shot are another instances of the same pups actually though they are shifted not only on a phase, but also on a position. This way three or four animated pups make an impression of a big troop of puppies.
The scene from WINNIE THE POOH AND THE BLUSTERY DAY, where two heffalumps use their trunks like an accordion, is good (though more primitive) example of phase shift. The right instance of Heffalump lags behind the left instance for just one frame. Add alternative colors to this and the same characters seems different enough. But much more often Xerox was used for plain copying without any phase shifts at all.
And here you can see the examples of cloned sequences. There are no changes in them. Look, these scenes are identical to each other up to trifles. What is so special about this twig, Mowgli? By the way, there is an another instance of this scene in the short THE SMALL ONE(1978).
In MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH, besides other examples, there is an example of unreserved overuse of cloning. Each of the shorts which makeup the full-length anthology includes a scene, where Christopher Robin hurries up to help his friends. The animated sequence is the same in all cases though in one case it has been mirror-reflected (in the last case the boy also changes clothes, while the chewing donkey was out due to the absence of the grass).
And still Disney's ROBIN HOOD is the absolute leader in cloning. The makers of ROBIN HOOD made multiple copies of hares, badgers, elephants, rhinoceroses and others.Those cloned scenes stuff the picture trying to fill up the holes. It is impossible to list all these scenes but we can recollect some of the scenes that were borrowed from previous animated features. A good example is the scene at Robin's camp with Maid Marian's dance adopted from the dance animation of Snow White. One should note also that the dancing of Little John and Lady Kluck matches precisely with the dancing of Baloo the Bear and King Louie.
It will not be out of place to say that the dancing scenes in ROBIN HOOD differ greatly from SNOW WHITE's scenes on a matter of picture details. One may notice that SNOW WHITE's scenes feature translucent shadows and certainly win in terms of color and design. And the animation is done on 1's (means a new drawing per each frame or 24 drawings per second). So please feel the degree of animation cheapness in ROBIN HOOD! It is a lot like a low-graded reproduction of the masterpiece's original animation.
Do you want more? No problem! The second part of the article is waiting for you! Unfortunately it is only available in Russian.