UM 1 “Mickey’s Nightmare”

Hans Perk has posted the animation draft to Disney’s 1932 film ‘Mickey’s Nightmare’. If you are into animation and haven’t taken a little time to look through Han’s site you are missing out on some great information. ( )

As a means of studying this classic film, I converted the draft into a spreadsheet and have it shared online for those interested (Note: You can save Google Docs out to pdf files for easy reference):  The Draft converted into a Google Docs spreadsheet

Looking through some of the information we see:

9 Primary Animators worked on the film (unknown number of assistants)
10004 frames were drawn/created for the film. That is 625-4 feet of animation at 16 frames per second for a running time of 06:25:04 (6 minutes, 25 seconds and 4 frames). Add approx. 28 seconds for the title cards/intro and 10 seconds for the end of the film and we have about 7 minutes 30 seconds for the whole film.

The draft is dated 20 Apr 1932 and the film was released 13 Aug 1932 for a 115 day turnaround time if the math is to be believed. At a rough guess that works out to about 3 months of production time for the animators.

Let’s see how the math keeps holding up (some checking has already allowed me to correct myself in a few particulars (for instance, I originally thought there were only eight animators assigned to this draft):

(Disclaimer: Hans likes to remind us that just because a draft says a particular animator is listed in the draft does not mean they actually were the one that animated the scene)

1 Ben (Total) 1350 Frames 84.4 Seconds
2 Cannon (Total) 452 Frames 28.3 Seconds
3 Dave (Total) 2536 Frames 158.5 Seconds
4 Fergy (Total) 2366 Frames 147.9 Seconds
5 Frenchy (Total) 352 Frames 22.0 Seconds
6 Hardy (Total) 384 Frames 24.0 Seconds
7 King (Total) 305 Frames 19.1 Seconds
8 Les (Total) 1596 Frames 99.8 Seconds
9 Tom (Total) 663 Frames 41.4 Seconds

According to Hans those animators are:  Norm Ferguson, Jack King, Tom Palmer, Johnny Cannon, Gilles Armand “Frenchy” de Trémaudan, Ben Sharpsteen, Les Clark, Hardy Gramatky and Dave Hand.

(Approx.) Total Runnnig Time: 625.25
That validates with our time from before so I’d say we are on the nose. I’ll stretch a little and suggest that the .25 is 25% of 16 frames which will match our previous total of 6 minutes, 25 seconds and 4 frames exactly.

A little reading in between the lines and guesswork:
Now there are some things that I’m still curious about in this draft. Apparently there were 4 scene added and 5 scenes not utilized in the draft. They are:

Scene 2 There are two scene 2s listed in the draft:
2 Fergy 295 18-7 Pluto gets in bed.
2 King 305 19-1 Mickey kisses Minnies’ picture – goes to sleep

I’m going to guess this scene was collaborated on or refined later to show Mickey’s affection for Minnie because without it the film loses an important (romantic) affect.

Scene 3
3 Fergy 64 4- Pluto hears Mickey snore – exits.
3A Fergy 272 17- Pluto sneaks into bed with Mickey.

3A was apparently added to demonstrate affection between Pluto and Mickey and set up the next scene.

Scene 4
4 Fergy 246 15-6 C.U. Pluto licks Mickey’s face – Mickey Dreams
4A Fergy 98 6-2 Wedding bells.

This scene provides the transition into the dream/nightmare in a very economical six additional seconds.

(Scenes 18-21 are not indicated in the draft)
In between pages 2 and 3 of the draft there are four scene missing but they apparently were dropped as the pages themselves are sequential even without them and the story flows from scene to scene.

(Scene 25 is skipped over in the draft)

Scene 29
29 Ben 72 4-8 Kids throw knives
29A Ben 150 9-6 Knives landing around Mickey

By way of speculation I’d say a decision was made regarding how the knives were going to play out in the scene. Pure speculation… they needed to make sure the audience wasn’t left guessing about where the knives ended up that Mickey wasn’t really in danger(!) Sure, why not.

I have some other screen grabs of some artwork etc. from the film and if anyone is interested I can be easily convinced to post them. Just put in a request in the comments.

All in all a very fun study and I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of this film.

Many thanks to Hans Perk for the posting the draft. He is performing a great service for everyone interested in animation. His blog again:

About Rodney

Cartoonist and Animator! I'd tell you more but then I'll have to debrief you.
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4 Responses to UM 1 “Mickey’s Nightmare”

  1. Hans Perk says:

    Hi Rodney,

    Interesting way of looking at things. I guess the second scene 2 would actually be 2A, in analogy with scenes 3 and 4…
    Now, 115 days between draft date and release date are no indication of how long it took to animate. The animation took at most three to four weeks! Remember, this unit did twelve of these per year! The draft would be begun when animation begun, but the date on it may be any date, begin date, end date, or date of last count-together of frames for footage – whatever. The number of days between draft and release dates may only be an indication of, how far ahead of the release schedule the animation was done. Some films in 1930 (a tough year for the studio because Ub Iwerks left in January) were released (later than scheduled) THREE WEEKS after they were animated! So three weeks for ink&paint, camera, lab, shipping… Now THAT is cutting it close…

  2. rodneyabaker says:

    Thanks Hans,
    Even as I was typing about the 115 days I knew I was getting in over my head. I should be embarrassed at my lack of fact checking but given that you’ve taken the time to shed more light on the matter I’m glad I went there with it.

    Three weeks is outrageous, even given the black and white nature of the drawings. Do we even see that kind of work being done today on the same level of quality? I suppose if we count the work shipped to Asia as being similar the schedules might be similar. One of these days I’d love to do a comparison between the productions of this timeframe (early 30s) and that of early television (Hanna Barbera). Perhaps especially in light of how this early workflow transferred into what we refer today as ‘limited animation’. I’d love to see more interviews with the ladies of the Ink and Paint and inbetweening departments as well but the nature of those repetitive tasks tends to convince people it wasn’t a big deal. The work those folks did was a very big deal!

    Needless to say, I remain very curious about how much time was involved in animating these productions… and you’ve made me even more curious. I’ve read a lot of animator interviews over the years and don’t recall a single one stating ‘It took us X number of day to get that thing animated.” I probably just need to go back and read Shamus Culhane or some of the other folks who were more apt to talk about these things. That was the kind of information that when I read them the first time was unnecessarily technical to me.

    It’s an honor to have a comment from you here.

  3. Hans Perk says:

    You might look into a posting of mine about average animator footage at Disney in 1938.

    It is an honor and a pleasure to have something to comment ON!

  4. rodneyabaker says:

    I was considering your response again today Hans and my interest keeps returning to what you said:

    “The animation took at most three to four weeks! ”

    This is a timeline I really need to let sink in.
    Three to four weeks for an animated short of this nature really clues us in to what we should be able to produce today (esp. with all the modern technology we have available).

    I enjoyed the post you had on the average animator footage at Disney in 1938 very much. Thanks!

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