Learning From Great Cartoons
What Transparent and Opaque Does For Window Cleaners (1940)
Must one be an artist to properly appreciate animation? Maybe not, but it sure helps. I drew lots as a child, even did flipbooks, which is sort of ersatz animating, no? (my flip, circa 1966, had Batman tied to a Pit/Pendulum device by the Joker) What counts is knowledge of paint as applied to canvas, or paper. Veteran artist Stewart MacKissick (he did the Blu-Ray covers for Gulliver's Travels and the 3-D Rarities one-sheet) gave me a tutorial at Cinevent last month. I had asked about terms he used in describing cartoon backgrounds, like transparent watercolor and opaque gouache. He explained these, and I continued inquiry at You Tube upon return home, goal being to overcome ignorance of at least these art concepts and enjoy better what Classic Era craftsmen achieved. It's made a difference alright, for much as I love backgrounds in 30's Disney cartooning, there's now rudimentary grasp of technique brought to bear on shorts too many (certainly me) take for granted.
Window Cleaners is no laugh fest. Donald had quacked long enough by 1940 to shed novelty if not tail feathers he (again) loses here. There's a menacing bee to get best of the duck, an always condition whenever Disney characters defied nature or its denizens. I wanted Donald to swat the thing and be done with it, even for knowing he'd be defeated as always (DD had real basis for temper loss, a reason I often feel sorry for him). Now about those transparent watercolors: They are all over Window Cleaners. Transparent means by which paint is applied permits white light from surface paper to come through, result a glisten, "alive" finish to the background. Window Cleaners gets this across in cityscapes that lend illusion of sunlit detail and, most vividly, heights from which Donald dangles. Several have observed that it was cartoon equivalent to thrill comedy Harold Lloyd did. Window Cleaners is just another WD cartoon on the one hand, but something remarkable for high-up illusion it creates. I'm finding Disney shorts a lot more rewarding for relax of humor expectation and greater focus on polish and beauty of backgrounds. Window Cleaners can be had at You Tube, and as part of The Chronological Donald: Volume One on DVD.