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Worker Studio's Michael Hemschoot: Top 5 Animated Performances - #1
Introduction to Michael "Ffish" Hemschoot
Worker Studio's Founder & CEO, Michael "Ffish" Hemschoot, is the studio's animation director, or Minister of Motion. Ffish picked five brilliant animated performances that influenced him creatively, with these unforgettable moments from master animators. It is these very animated performances that left an indelible influence on Ffish's youth, setting forth his own career in animation and filmmaking, which includes 18 years as an visual effects and animation veteran, working on Academy Award-winning films such as The Matrix and Master & Commander.
Read his first pick below, about Disney animator Bill Tytla and the animated performance he created for Chernabog in the Fantasia segment "Night on Bald Mountain."
Chernabog - Disney's 'Fantasia' (1940) from Animator Bill Tytla
Chernabog dominates the final segment of Disney's Fantasia, as the demonic force conducting pure evil, set to "Night On Bald Mountain." The character's name, from Slavic, means Black God, and Bill Tytla, could easily be considered a god of animation, creating performances for Grumpy in Snow White, Stromboli in Pinocchio, and Dumbo, among many more.
Aside from perhaps Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer's Apprentice, Chernabog's performance is immediately identified with the power of Fantasia. Walt Disney had legendary horror actor Bela Lugosi model for the role of Chernabog during production, but Tytla was reportedly dissatisfied with the results of Lugosi's poses. Tytla instead turned to a fellow animator working on the "Night On Bald Mountain" segment, Wilfred Jackson, to pose shirtless for Chernabog. (Disney Theatrical Animated Features)
With the inspired persona of Bela Lugosi, famed at the time for his role as Dracula, and Jackson's pyshical performance, it was Tytla who conjured Chernabog's emotional expanse. To his fellow animators at Disney, Tytla was known for being a creative ball of emotion, and we see a prolific range of emotions conveyed in Chernabog's short screen time. From the yearning desire to awaken into the night, his hubris in wielding dark powers, surprise, anger, and finally his cowering at the breaking of dawn, Chernabog expresses a lifetime in one night.
You can see a clip of Chernabog's animation and original sketches by Bill Tytla on worker-studio.com
Like most of the characters in Disney's Fantasia, Chernabog's performance was without dialogue and completely reliant on the music. This particular piece directly referenced the Slavic devil in classical composer, Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. Inspired in 1867 by dreaming up a witches sabbath, Mussorgsky later composed an unpublished and never-performed composition titled: Glorification of Chernobog.
The music we hear in Fantasia, and know so well, is based on an adaptation of Mussorgsky's music by fellow Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov completed in 1886. From this music, Fantasia resident conductor, Leopold Stokowski, prepared the adaptation used in the feature's soundtrack.
About Bill Tytla
Animation can have an awe-inspiring affect on a young mind, even to change the course of one's life. Just as Tytla's Chernabog deeply influenced Michael "Ffish" Hemschoot in his youth, Tytla was impacted by seeing Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur - one of the first animated films ever made. This new and playful art form sunk deep into the ambitions of a young 9 year-old Tytla, and he set forth on his life's artistic voyage.
It is Chernabog that is often considered Bill Tytla's animation masterpiece, even with all the great characters he gave life in Disney's universe. While Tytla is not one of Disney's Nine Old Men, a formative group of Disney animators that defined the art form, he was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1998.
After a complicated departure from Walt Disney Studios, Tytla returned to animation at Terrytoons (A studio best known for Mighty Mouse, among other cartoon classics). He also worked at Paramount's Famous Studios, where he took on directing animation. One short he directed is "Sudden Fried Chicken," seen below.
History reveals, in Tytla's many letters to Walt Disney Studios, that the animator regretted leaving Disney and sought to return. While he was always a welcome visitor, the studio did not extend an offer to employ Tytla again. He passed away on his farm in December, 1968, at 64 years old.
Bill Tytla's "Sudden Fried Chicken"
Bill Tytla's Animated Characters at Disney
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
"Night on Bald Mountain" - Fantasia
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" - Fantasia