Animation Techniques: The Smear
When Disney released The Dover Boys at Pimento University in 1942, it introduced a novel animation technique that would be later known as the Smear. This would be a turning point in animation history in regards of looks, style and time required for production. You must be wondering what is Smear.
First you must understand the traditional approach to animation. Traditionally keyframes are used. This plots starting and ending points along with in between points. To give the illusion of movement, a subject is drawn in dozens of poses frame by frame. The stills are played with such a speed that you will think the subject is moving along. There are typically 24 frames in each second of animation. The speed does not let us register each frame separately but our brain sees a cohesive picture.
Unlike traditional animation techniques, Smear uses a single frame or short run of frames and depicts one quick blur. With the smear frames, the blur gives an illusion of frantic pace. You will also be surprised to know that smear is not an artificial creation for cartoons alone but also a natural phenomenon. Try throwing a baseball, fidget a pen or throw a dart at a fast pace. You will see real life smear in each of these actions. Just like animations, in real life too your brain cannot recognise individual frame of fast moving objects and you see smears. These are known as motion blurs.
Animation Smears have become an overtime signature style of classic cartoons from Warner Bros house. At the time of the release of The Dover Boys of Pimento University, the director Chuck Jones was criticized for being lazy and the executives at Warner Bros were grossly displeased with him. However, the lack of replacement saved Jones’ job and provided time enough for The Dover Boys to succeed. Jones will eventually go on to use smear animation technique into some of other famous Warner Bros cartoons like One Froggy Evening and What’s Opera, Doc. and create iconic characters like Marvin the Martian, Pepe Le Pew, Wile E Coyote and many more. Smear is now recognised as a favourite of all Looney tunes animation techniques.
Look at how fast this character “moves” with the smear technique. He’s a literal blur that the bartender’s eyes can barely follow.