Monday, April 8, 2013

Animated Acting: Sporn on Tytla

Vladimir Tytla was one of the great Disney animators. He was just before the era of the so-called "nine old men," but is arguably better than any of them. Michael Sporn has a post where he examines two scenes Tytla did, one in Dumbo and the other in Night of Bald Mountain (from Fantasia), with frame grabs and drawings. In general Sporn observes:
animation, there was animation technique and styles. These rarely had anything to do with acting. However, there were a number of animators at the Disney studio who wanted to put the focus on their acting and actually studied Stanislavsky and Boleslavsky so that their characters would give a great performance. Tytla was certainly a leader among the animators to do this.
Of the Dumbo performance, which Sporn believes to be one of the greatest ever, he says: "Dumbo was gentle, all truth. The honest performance meant keeping everything  above board and on the table. That is undoubtedly the performance Tytla drew."

And of the devil in Night on Bald Mountain:
The devil’s motion throughout this piece is very slow, tightly drawn images of the devil lyrically moving through the musical phases. It’s pure dance. Any distortion is done via the tight editing that Tytla has constructed. Very close images of the hands with the flame shaped dancers moving about in tight close up as Chernobog’s large face with searing eyes closely watching the fallen creatures dancing in his hands. It’s distortion enough. 
Tytla has constructed the most romantic sequence imaginable, and the emotion of the dance acts as the climax for all of Fantasia, and it succeeds in spades. All hoisted by the animation, itself. No loud crushing peak, just a dance done in a tightly choreographed number completely controlled by Tytla. It’s the ultimate tour de force of animation, and we’ll never see the likes of it again.
My own verdict on this scene: "There’s a heft and grandeur in Chernobog that is worthy of Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost. Without Tytla’s powerful acting, his powerful realization of Chernobog, Night on Bald Mountain would only be a magnificent swirling freak show. Tytla gave it the weight of Greek tragedy."

Read Sporn's post and examine the frame grabs and the drawings. Then look back through the other three posts in this series.


  1. Night on Bald Mountain. First time I have seen it. I liked the end, he had created life but had to let it go and would be left with only the ghost of a memory of the movement. Its how I would read it.

    It is stunning.

  2. I grew up watching "Night" on TV–Disney's TV show would feature segments from Fantasia from time to time. When I was a kid I thought it was scary. But I also took it for granted. It was simply there.

    It was and remains an astonishing piece of work. Nothing else quite like it.

  3. "It was simply there." That's as it should be I think. I have always read the film as I have read you're work on the subject as an exploration of a mind and its imagination. I think it is attempting to say this is what you can do rather than this is above all a very difficult thing.

    On first look I think it may be playing with stylistic difference. Chernborg's moves remind me in places of the non-method older classical style. Moves look familiar.

    Method and Classical are just styles (classical is a pure stage style, developed before new mediums of t.v and film) but I think particularly with large screen, you would be looking at what folk are doing in life, on set and see how the moves they make convert to that vast size. Work on the hoof from observation using what works rather than any conviction to a particular style.