Work from the UPA studio was noted for its use of color, abstract patterns, stylized drawing and limited movement. Watch “Rooty Tooty Toot” in it’s entirety. Describe how it uses color, patterns, drawing and movement. Do you think it is effective and tells the story using these means? Why?
Yes, “Rooty Tooty Toot’s” use of color, abstract patterns, stylized drawing, and –somewhat– limited movement is effective in being able to tell the story. As for the reason for this… first, I want to talk about the usage of color. The background color — should I say background color? since when the main “color” is changed, it seems to flood the entirety of the space — changes drastically and intensely to match the emotion and meaning of the current scene and even “foreshadow”/tell of approaching outcomes without this hinting ever becoming obnoxious and instead easily being acceptable as an understandable fact of the story. Such is, as an example, the redness of the scene when Frankie is announced as “not guilty”. The sudden shift to red; red everywhere, in the background, the lights of the characters — since the “shadows” of this style of “rendering” seem to be only represented as blacks whereas the actual colors of everything are depicted as the current background color –, all of the “abstract” spaces that appear, etc., are incredibly startling and in no way feel quite exactly joyful. Even though it is apparent that — taking additionally into account the exuberant and even overwhelming music — everyone (save for the prosecutor and the witnesses) is blatantly overjoyed at the ruling, the deeper meaning of this scene shows that this is not quite the case. In fact, it’s quite obvious that something is wrong. The choice of red, which — in an American society, at least — is a color that symbolizes [extreme] madness & anger, as a background color for this scene is already a red flag (pun intended). This and the sudden explosion of deafening big-band music is enough to make the viewer feel like they had just accidentally opened the wrong door in a building and walked straight into a huge and overwhelming rave with hundreds of people dancing, complete with a DJ, ear-splitting bass that penetrates through your bones, and bright flashing lights that make you shut your eyes and fill you with a sense of dread and panic, giving you a migraine instantly. (Well, that’s what that experience would feel like for me. I’m an introvert and have extreme social anxiety, so… I hear people actually enjoy whatever kind of sweaty, crushing, steaming, heart-pounding, explosive nightmare that is a “party”, so maybe the situation I’m describing is only absolutely horrifying from my perspective.) But anyways, it gives that vibe, most definitely. And so it seems to be no surprise when Frankie gets angry — again, we can see she’s ANGRY due to the COLOR association — and shoots her gun at the very man who defended her after seeing him dancing and acting close with the witness. All of the din and chaos, the red and sound, the cacophony of shapes and unraveling madness, is leading up to that moment, to the point where it is already quite duly expected.
This color and musical theory to express emotion and more specifically “vibes” exists throughout the entire animation as well. When the female witness describes her experience, she sings it rather than speaking it (just like the other characters in the animation, if you play close attention), and the sound of her song is that of a slow and drawn out lament, classy and silky, which gives even more life to her very figure, as she is drawn tall and slender, with slow and coiling movements like that of a snake or some other sleek and elegant creature. In fact, SHE EVEN WRAPS HER ARMS AROUND EACH OTHER like a snake coiling itself up — which of course isn’t possible in real life, but then again, everything is possible in animation. The blue and purplish background during this woman’s scene really draws out the elegant and slick vibe even more, giving off the vibe of a high class blues or jazz club with connoisseurs in the seats, drinking high-class wine and listening to a classy piano performance (that mental scene in itself is even hinted at within the animation, as during the witnesses account, we can actually see the victim playing the piano for her — which was a surprise, to say the least, since I’m sure that I’m not the only one who thought that they would be doing something else in there).
I could give countless more examples — every scene is coded with color, music, and character proportions/appearance to tell the story; one more example is the white color which defines the defendant’s “account” of the story, in which he describes her to be “pure” in fantastical detail, and white is often used as symbolism of pureness — but I would then be going on forever, and ever, and ever, I’ll reckon. (You can see how much I’ve typed already!) I must say, although I think this is already quite obvious, that I’m a big fan of this use of color, musical, and proportional symbolism, although the use of color is, out of these three, undoubtfully my favorite. I believe that the animations of today — as 2D animations are struggling to survive — should take more inspiration from this style of animation, learning from their predecessors to put more detail into their work like this, because it can produce incredibly clever results.