Fred Moore and the Moving Silhouette

Among the most important things an animator must keep in mind when animating is making sure that drawings read clearly to the viewer. By using strong keys, solid staging, and clear silhouettes, the audience can understand the actions that a character performs onscreen.

Legendary Disney animator Fred Moore, known for his broad yet overwhelmingly appealing drawings, took that idea one step further in his animation. Not only did he have strong silhouettes in his keys, but he ensured that his animation had strong silhouettes throughout a scene. The clarity of his silhouettes remained even in the breakdowns and inbetweens.

In this scene from Pluto’s Judgement Day, Moore animates Mickey struggling to regain order after Pluto, covered in mud, chases a kitten into his house and wrecks havoc:

Despite how frantically Mickey is moving around in this shot, as well as being obscured by Pluto and the mud effects, his action is still clear because Moore kept the silhouettes intact from drawing to drawing for most of the scene. The negative space between Mickey’s limbs, head and ears as well as the kitten’s paws, ears and tail help bring out the poses. Further, he exaggerates his poses for readability, especially during anticipations. Moore also uses strong arcs, both in Mickey’s torso and his arms, to visually guide the viewer where the actions is going next.

I went over the whole scene and blacked out Mickey and the kitten to show their silhouettes more clearly:

Disney story artist Mark Kennedy talks about silhouettes in greater detail on his blog.


  • Gio Renna

    Great article Mike!

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.persing Stephen Persing

    Very interesting. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/jenhurler Jen Hurler

    Great observations, Mike! And it’s wonderful that you went over the whole scene in black to emphasize your point; it must have taken a little extra time. It’s very much appreciated. :)

  • Toonio

    Keep those great articles coming Mike!

    Love the addition of this column to CB.

  • Roberto Severino

    Awesome post, Mike! Fred Moore was an incredible draftsman and a favorite animator of mine. Drew really organic and loose. I also liked his work at Walter Lantz’s studio in the 40s.

    Maybe you can do a post examining an animator like Irv Spence, Jim Tyer, or Rod Scribner in the future. I really like Marty Taras and Johnny Gent too for underrated animators of the Golden Age.

  • http://twitter.com/tommy_toons Tommy Mann

    Fantastic article! Definitely sharing this. :D

  • Paul C.

    Wow! That’s amazing. How very analytical you are in the Mickey animation Freddy Moore did.

    Say, have you ever tried reversing the order of the positive and negative shapes?

    Thanks Mr. Ruocco.

  • Kirby

    Thanks for the Article. I really need to keep this in the back of my mind when I set my keys.

  • Paul Naas

    Showing these side by side would be a great way to demonstrate to students the importance of silhouette. Great post!

  • Everlasting Concubine

    Very educational, thoughtful, and cool. Fred Moore was fantastic, and this is a great breakdown of one of the many reasons why. I love it.