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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Steamboat Willie Exposure Sheet

[Don't forget to read the posting below this: "Congrats Børge!"]

Courtesy of Leslie Iwerks' great film about her grandfather Ub, "The Hand Behind the Mouse," as found on the Disney Treasures DVD set for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, here is a composite of two frame grabs of a shot of the exposure sheet of the first public close-up of Mickey Mouse in his role as Steamboat Willie. Who knew this still exsisted?
Steamboat Willie Exposure SheetSame with added detail
You will find that the beats are marked with dots every 8 frames, the lyrics are written in as guide for the animator (Ub), and that a beat was cut out at the cross (no more or less, I checked it with the film).

Curiously there are 46 frames to a page, not 48 (3 feet or 6 beats), which could lead one to speculate that this maybe was a page from some random ledger. In any case, in the animation, Mickey's head, arms and hands are on the top level, his body and feet on the next (which also has him completely for a few drawings), then the wheel by itself. Interestingly, the scene actually starts 2 feet (32 frames) before the line indicating the start of the scene, so I suspect this was a later addition to be able to see him "normal" before he started whisteling.

This may well be the first "sound animation" done at Disney's, maybe around June or early July 1928. It seems to me that the title of the page and the instruction "Start scene here" are in Walt Disney's handwriting, while the lyrics of the song are not...

On the second image I filled out the bottom of the left two columns as they are missing, just in case you want to have a look for yourself. By the way, I thank David Gerstein for an interesting resource for the study of the song Steamboat Bill.

This leads me to another question: obviously the sound films were made for a projection speed of 24 frames per second. But what about the earlier silent films? What about Oswald? I can step-frame through it and see things on ones, having one drawing per frame, on a 24-like frame per second DVD. But was this not, as most silent films, made for 16 frames, or one foot of film per second? For then all the silent films have been misrepresented and are all running too fast on DVDs! Anyone?
[Addition: the VERY interesting first comment answers this!]

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7 Comments:

Anonymous ramapith says...

Hans,

Most Oswalds were transferred to DVD at 24 fps; considering that they were made at the very end of the silent period, this seemed correct.
Then, though, one month before production locked, we managed to locate TALL TIMBER, and it came with an original 1920s FPS indication label, advising an 18 fps run speed. The decision was taken to transfer this one properly, even though it was by then too late to do anything about almost all of the others; they'd already been orchestrated, at great expense.
The exception was the unedited BRIGHT LIGHTS, which we nailed even later, and thus went in at 18 fps too.

The SAGEBRUSH SADIE pencil test runs at 30 fps, apparently by mistake.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 10:45:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Hans Perk says...

Thanks, that is INCREDIBLY interesting!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 10:59:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Mark Mayerson says...

There was no silent standard for camera or projection speed. There were times when features had several different projection speeds within the same film.

See this article by silent film historian Kevin Brownlow (http://www.cinemaweb.com/silentfilm/bookshelf/18_kb_2.htm). Also, take a look at this comment by Rodney Sauer of the Monto Alto Orchestra, which accompanies silent films (http://groups.google.com/group/alt.movies.silent/browse_thread/thread/2594d1a047e7f4c0/dd6ffdaf447f8601?lnk=gst&q=projection+speeds#dd6ffdaf447f8601)

Projection speeds were very much up to the individual theaters and projectionists, who might alter the speed due to their own taste or to squeeze in another showing. There is no "correct" speed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 5:04:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Michael Sporn says...

My gosh, what a post! You take the prize, Hans. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 5:04:00 AM PST  
Anonymous ramapith says...

Mark, I wasn't trying to imply that TALL TIMBER's 18 fps run speed was characteristic of all silent films (or that all silent films were consistent); just that as this was the info given out by Universal at the time of TALL TIMBER's first release, it would be an educated guess to apply it to other Oswalds.

It's a shame about the unedited BRIGHT LIGHTS; it was acquired so late that there was no time to electronically fix the transfer, which jiggles around the screen a lot (the source print had major sprocket damage, and we had to work with a Digibeta transfer over which we'd had no input).
An oddity about the unedited print is that a sequence in the middle clearly has the drawings mistakenly filmed in reverse, as Oswald and the two stage hands grope around in midair after climbing up the rope.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 8:25:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Whit says...

It's amazing how animators of silent cartoons made the mental adjustments required in going from 16 or 18 frames per second to a full 24.

Friday, February 20, 2009 at 3:22:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Christopher James Doyle says...

It's understandable the variations in projection speed between theaters but at what speed did the animators, actually animate to?
If they animated at 16-18 fps maybe that would explain why they animated so much on ones, ie. less drawings needed per second.

Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 5:11:00 AM PST  

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