Development Program : Staging as Applied to Presentation of Story and Gag Ideas

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From the collection of Hans Perk at A. Film L.A. and reprinted here with his permission.

[...] look at the hand pointing and then follow the direction of the hand and find the fire. To be extreme, a dog's reaction would be just to look at the hand. This is just an illustration of the fact that we are dealing with different mentalities, which we should always take into consideration.

The only source from which I could obtain any lead at all on the matter of staging as we treat it was from a magician's book. It was interesting research, because I found the magician's technique to be one of misdirection, exactly the opposite of ours. The magician deceives the audience by making, for example, a big flare with the arm that is not doing the trick. The art lies in his being able to move the other hand unconsciously, manipulating it in so natural a manner that the eye does not catch the movement. The unnatural action which he is doing with one hand attracts the eye away from the hand doing the trick. The only trick in the magician's art is to deceive the eye. I find it very interesting, because our art is not to deceive the eye, but to be sure it is where we want it to be.

In writing on the magician's art, the author made the point that the hand is not faster than the eye as we might believe when watching a magician. The hands do not move so quickly that you don't see the action taking place. It is simply "misdirection" - getting the eye where it should not be. That is their art, and a successful magician is perfect at misdirection. Therefore, we would say that a good animator would be perfect at direction.

I think the Charlie McCarthy technique is a very good one to study -- the illusion created by having the dummy moving his head and slapping his mouth up and down, causing you to watch him instead of Bergen. The little fellow is so fascinating that you actually believe the illusion that the sound is coming out of his mouth. Bergen's art is in directing the eye where he wants it to be -- the same problem we have.

There must be a sureness of controlling the focal point. Some of our gags nowadays are getting so subtle, with eye expressions and little quirks on the body, little hand movements and facial expressions that if the animator misleads the audience to any extent away from that one central focal point, the whole gag is lost. Gags that have been built up over a period of months are lost just by a slight misdirection of the eye. [...]