Mickey from Pluto's Judgement Day Mickey from Pluto's Judgement Day

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.