Labour Saving Animation with Lip-sync
By David Jefferson
Television’s insatiable appetite for new material has encouraged the development of a more economical style of cartoon animation. Typical of such productions are the Hanna-Barbera series. These use far fewer drawings than would be needed in traditional cartoons, and this economy is achieved in several ways.
The characters spend a lot of time standing still talking, and with about twenty cels used over and over, the characters could go on indefinitely. Then there are chase sequences, on foot or in various types of transport, using cycles of drawings that link up to make a continuous action. Some of the sequences are re-used against different backgrounds.
I was lead to a closer study of the TV cartoons when my cine club were looking for a film for the set subject section of an interclub competition. I asked a friend who writes sketches for amateur stage shows if he had any ideas suitable for the set subject theme. The script he came up with seemed to lend itself to the TV-style cartoon because, as with most stage scripts, it relied mainly on dialogue for its impact and was set in prehistoric times. The result was a two-minute cartoon using cel animation made in a few weeks.
I began by drawing up the storyboard. The script was about a caveman who takes home a brontosaurus – only to find that his wife is fed up with brontosaurus for breakfast, dinner and tea and would much prefer some dinosaur.
The scenes were worked out with the idea of getting maximum mileage from each drawing. I wanted to open the film with some lively animation, so the first shot was the caveman dragging along the brontosaurus. This was a walking cycle of eight drawings re-used for a period of six seconds.
The brontosaurus was on a separate cel to save redrawing it eight times. I could have put the caveman’s body on one cel and his animated legs on others, but in that case the upper part of his body would have glided along. By animating the whole figure it was made to bob up and down in a more realistic way.
Shot two showed the cavewoman waiting for the caveman to return home. To give her some movement she was seen combing her hair. Her body was on one cel and her head and arms animated on others. This five-drawing cycle was repeated for four seconds and then her head turned towards the cave entrance in two drawings.