Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Expressionist Walt Disney

The French Exhibition "Il Etait Une Fois Walt Disney" showed how Disney was supposedly influenced by the German Expressionist movies, like Dr. Faust and the like. It was mainly remarked the use of character's shadows, elongated and creepy, suggesting the action, without the character being visible, like, for instance, in "The Sorcerer Apprentice". Watching again "Plane Crazy", I realized that Disney was expressionist much before that time; much before he had the opportunity to be influenced by the German cinematic expressionism. The part that Minnie's mouth, screaming in fear, occupies the whole screen is not just expressionist- bringing to mind "The Scream", by E Munch, in its vibrating environment emphasizing the screaming open whole on the figure's face- but utterly modern in the way the close-up, like in contemporary films, aims at putting the viewer practically inside the action, in this case, almost inside Minnie's body, or fear. Becoming bigger and bigger, her screaming mouth gets closer and closer until nothing but the darkness of its whole is seen, putting the viewer before a shapeless depiction of Minnie's inner body as if he, figuratively, has become a part of it. Expressionism concerns a certain use of caricature for dramatic and tragic, rather than comic ends. Always a man of extremes, always putting opposites together, Disney managed to use expressionism in humorist contexts, and to mix it with cuteness as well. In Plane Crazy, Minnie's scream of horror happens in between cute and funny scenes, turning, because of that, cute in itself, whereas in Snow White, another good example, the sentencing shadow of the murderous hunter is projected by the round, endearing little bird the princess is helping, followed by the close-up of the trembling sacrificial knife, that is succeeded, on its turn, by the round, doll like face of Snow White in fear.

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