bugs-on-a-stick

funny story

when I was in kindergarten, we had stick bugs as our class pet and our teacher let us take them out and hold them during play time. if you’ve never seen a stick bug, they are very skinny and camouflage easily. so one day, i was walking around the classroom with this stick bug and i was going to show my big buddy the cool bug. but i tripped at least 2 feet away from her and the bug flew out of my hand and landed in her long, brown, thick, and knotty hair. her back was to me, so she didn’t see his happen but i panicked because i couldn’t find the goddamn bug. instead of digging through her hair, i just walked away and pretended it didn’t happen

Warner Brothers and Disney: Two Approaches to Two Similar Characters

I watched the Disney short ‘Trick or Treat’ (1952) for the first time recently and I noticed some striking similarities with a later Warner Brothers short ‘Broom-Stick Bunny’ (1956). 

I’d argue Warner Brothers does a much better job at characterisation than Disney and what better way to prove it than to show how the two studios approach two similar characters.

Both have a character named Witch Hazel, both are voiced by the same actor (June Foray), both of the stories involve trick-or-treaters. Fom then on they start to differ. Let’s start off with the designs. 

The WB Hitch Hazel is full of contrasts, subtle angles & curves. Even if she didn’t have green skin the design would still be very unique. She has a large overweight body, very short skinny legs, a big angular bulbous nose. Her hands are very skinny and bone-like (with knuckles, not always common in cartoons). The hat is unique, and so is her hair, it even has individual curls (a nice touch, adds to her character, shows that she’s a bit manic) and the Chuck Jones patented skin tooth.

In contrast the Disney Witch Hazel is a lot more generic. Being the Aryan lover Walt Disney is, the Witch is blonde & white. She has a wart, cleft chin, a couple of winkles on her lip and a bulbous nose (not as large or angular as WB). The big contrasts in her design is that she’s very short and her hat’s very tall. The hands are fairly unique & complex for Disney character design at that time but still nowhere near as unique as the WB Witch Hazel.

Now to be fair, you could argue that ‘Trick or Treat’ was made earlier than ‘Broom-Stick Bunny’ and the stylised, UPA-influenced designs weren’t as prominent in 1952 as they were in 1956 (the year ‘Broom-Stick Bunny’ was made) but even so ‘Toot, Whistle, Pluck and Boom’ (a stylised, UPA-influenced Disney short) only came out a year later in 1953 and Warner Brothers were already making more specific, angular designs in the late 40′s and early 50′s. Even the WB Witch Hazel character was introduced as early as 1954. 

Now let’s look at how the two characters act, starting off with the WB Witch Hazel.  I’d recommend watching the scene again from 2:43 to 3:12. Note how tailored the animation is to Foray’s voice than Disney’s. 

Here she says, “LIKE IT?!? why it’s absolutely HIDEOUS!!!”. Witch Hazel leans back & stretches out when she shouts “LIKE IT?!?”, crouches down & curls up as she says “why it’s absolutely..”, then stretches out again to say “HIDEOUS!!!”. The animator has exaggerated Witch Hazel actions when she shouts, but moves her less when she speaks softly. This kind of animation makes you believe the character you’re watching on screen is saying those exact words. 

There’s plenty of great scenes with Witch Hazel in ‘Broom-Stick Bunny’ (even though this is a Bugs Bunny short, she steals the show) but I really like this  particular scene for showing her character. Notice her hand movements, the way she twiddles her fingers, the way she leans in to talk, blinks slowly, flutters her eyelashes, moves her legs and so on.

Compare this this to scenes with the Disney Witch Hazel.

This would be one of the ‘better’ acting scenes in the short and even this isn’t in the same league as Looney Tunes. All she does in the clip is put her hands on her hips (to show she’s cross), pull a generic angry face (only the eyebrows show she’s angry), and rubs her nose (for what purpose I can’t fathom).

A lot of the scenes with the Disney Witch Hazel involve her moving and jumping around a lot. Which doesn’t add up to describing the character’s personality apart from saying that she’s energetic and happy. 

It doesn’t help that a lot of the camera shots are cut very short. Compare that to ‘Broom-Stick Bunny’ which has an uninterrupted animation scene for almost 30 seconds. Goes to show how much priority Warner Brothers put towards character compared to Disney.

Here she is introducing herself. There is a tiny bit of unique acting here, she does flutter her eyelashes (like WB Witch Hazel). 

Here she says “kids, this piegeon’s a pushover”. All she does is point to him, and flick her hand. Note here how in all of these clips (and when you watch the whole short) how the Disney Witch Hazel hardly makes any facial expressions at all. Meanwhile the WB Witch Hazel has no shortage of different facial expressions.

To sum up then, Disney take a very general, stereotypical approach to characters whereas Warner Brothers made more specific, unique characters and even though they’re more exaggerated than Disney, they’re based off observations of real life people. 

That’s why people remember not only the main characters like Bugs & Daffy, but a whole cast of other characters like Witch Hazel, Tweety, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Wile E. Coyote, etc. 

If you’re into animation and you’re studying animation characters, study Looney Tunes not Disney. 

  • Disney animators making Frozen:Haha let's stick Flynn and Rapunzel in there for a fun little cameo! Won't that be nifty. The kids will get a kick out of this
  • Yall:DISNEY HAS BEEN CREATING AN ELABORATE UNIVERSE FROM THE FIRST MOVIE RELEASED
  • Yall:CAPTAIN HOOK KILLED ARIEL'S MOTHER
  • Yall:POCAHONTAS LIVED IN THE SAME FOREST AS THE BUGS FROM A BUG'S LIFE
  • Yall:FLYNN IS SECOND COUSINS FOUR TIMES REMOVED WITH PRINCE PHILLIP
  • Yall:NEVER AGAIN WILL WE BE FREE UNTIL WE UNRAVEL THE MANY STRANDS OF THIS ELABORATE PLOT

I MEAN, YOU PROBABLY CAN’T IMAGINE IT BUT BACK THEN I ONLY WEIGHED LIKE … THREE? THREE AND A HALF POUNDS, TOPS. SLEEK FUR. ALL MUSCLE UNDERNEATH. PICK OF THE LITTER, YOU KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING? AND I COULD CATCH ANYTHING THAT FLEW. BUGS. BIRDS. THAT LITTLE BALL OF FEATHERS ON A STRING ON A STICK. ANYTHING.

LOOK AT ME, BILLY. LOOK AT ME NOW. LOOK HOW LONG MY EAR HAIR IS. TRY TO FIND MY CHEEKBONES, I DARE YOU. I CAN’T EVEN CATCH MY OWN TAIL WHEN IT SURPRISES ME. THAT’S HOW SLOW I AM.

CATNIP WILL RUIN YOU, SON. YOU DON’T WANT TO START DOWN THAT ROAD. TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. YOU NEED TO STAY IN SCHOOL AND STAY AWAY FROM THAT DEVIL HERB.

Adjectives to Describe Eyes
  • beady:beady eyes are small, round, and bright
  • bloodshot:bloodshot eyes are red in the part where they should be white
  • boss-eyed:someone who is boss-eyed has both eyes looking in towards their nose
  • bug-eyed:a bug-eyed creature or person has eyes that stick out
  • clear:clear eyes are bright and healthy
  • close-set:close-set eyes are very near to each other
  • cross-eyed:having eyes that look towards each other slightly
  • dead:if someone’s eyes are dead, or if their voice is dead, they feel or show no emotion
  • deep-set:deep-set eyes seem to be a long way back into your face
  • doe-eyed:someone who is doe-eyed has big attractive eyes and looks as if they do not have much experience of life
  • hazel:the light brown and slightly green or golden colour of some people’s eyes
  • heavy:if your eyes look heavy, they have a sad or tired expression
  • hollow:hollow eyes or cheeks seem to have sunk into your head, for example because you are tired, thin, or ill
  • hooded:hooded eyes have large eyelids that partly cover them, often giving them a threatening expression
  • lidded:with your eyes half closed
  • liquid:liquid eyes are clear and shiny
  • piggy:piggy eyes are small and not attractive
  • pop-eyed:having eyes that stick out
  • rheumy:rheumy eyes look red and wet because of illness, sadness, or old age
  • shuttered:used about someone’s eyes or expression when their eyes are partly closed, usually because they do not want to show what they are feeling or thinking
  • sunken:sunken eyes or cheeks curve inwards, often showing that someone is ill or old
  • via Macmillan Dictionary - www.macmillandictionary.com/us/thesaurus-category/british/Describing-the-appearance-of-someone-s-eyes