Disney School of Acting and Mime
"When I hear 2D animators today talking about acting in hand-drawn cartoons, I ask, what kind of acting? Are you talking about the old fashioned acting that animators have always done? You know… the hand on the hip, finger-pointing, broad action, lots of overlapping action, screeching to a halt--all that turn-of-the-century old fashioned mime stuff. Is that what you’re talking about?"—Ralph Bakshi, referring to this type of acting, although in a context that discourages its use.
An animation style, exemplified by the Disney Animated Canon and hence generally considered Disneyesque, which is characterized by a kind of fluid body language and facial expressions that feature realistic poses and movements which are, however, executed in an exaggerated manner, very expressive, often with sweeping gestures of the arms and hands. Characters act and emote not primarily with their faces but at least as much with their arms, hands and legs and move smoothly from one overly expressive pose to the next. In between poses, there's a notable acceleration and subsequent deceleration of the emoting limbs or facial features, making even small gestures and changes in stance or facial expression feel very pronounced and reminiscent of pantomime. Because of the accelerating and decelerating that occurs in every movement, those movements can take rather long and can hence feel a little like Slow Motion.
This animation style can focus on the poses (and have the characters zip from one pose to the next) or on the movements (drawing them out and never quite stopping) to distinguish between emotional states or different characters.
Note that Hamming it Large 101 is a required class at Disney School of Acting and Mime - after all, gesturing plentifully is a great way to convey emotion silently. The realistic but overblown movements hark back to Silent Film and Vaudeville when actors had to emote more visibly. The style is rooted in visual realism while many younger animated works (after the migration of cartoons from film to TV) are more stylized and hence easier and cheaper to animate as not the whole body of a character has to move from one frame to the next. This also sets this style apart from Anime.
Recent movies like Tangled manage to transpose the style, which is largely associated with 2D animation, into CGI.
Historically, this often went together with Mickey Mousing, accentuating a character's body language even further.
Also see The Twelve Principles of Animation.
Please don't list individual examples if they belong to a larger group of works that use this style (list that larger group instead)!
- Disney Animated Canon: Trope Codifier.
- Looney Tunes, although they do have plenty of non-mime acting at the same time.
- Fleischer Studios used this in Gulliver's Travels and Mr. Bug Goes to Town.
- The movies of ex-Disney animator Don Bluth use this, and as such are unfortunately why his films get mistaken for Disney ones. Bluth idolized the style, and wanted to keep it alive through his work at a time when Disney was moving away from it.
- The Swan Princess films use this.
- Tom and Jerry uses this out of necessity, due to the characters having almost no dialogue. Same for the movie.
- The Legend of Zelda CDI Games are an example of this trope getting far out of hand. The Russian animators allegedly modeled the poses off of pantomime.
- Explicitly avoided in John Kricfalusi and Ralph Bakshi cartoons, since they feel it's stale and cliche. Ralph even spoke out to young animators to stop using this and try and experiment with new types of acting.
- Fern Gully, Once Upon a Forest, and The Pagemaster use this.
- The movies done by Amblimation used this.
- All of Dreamworks Animation's hand-drawn animated films use this.
- The Thief and the Cobbler uses this.
- Interesting because the other company involved in the games, Square Enix, averts it.