Puss in Boots - Who Did What?

One of the fun things in watching animation is learning who is responsible for everything. Animation buffs and people who work in the business are always pouring over this sort of thing. So, continuing our Puss in Boots conversation, I wanted to catalogue exactly who animated which scenes in the movie.

One important thing I should note is the difference between Japanese and American animators. Here in the States, animators will focus on a particular thing - a character, or elements like water - and a scene will be the collective work of many people. In Japan, however, a key animator will be responsible for all the key drawing in that scene. So, for example, the pirate battle in Animal Treasure Island - that was Miyazaki's scene.

Puss in Boots is so much of an animators' movie, because they had the freedom to create, to add new ideas as production moved along. That's much more of an American style, which likely is a reason the movie has such an American cartoon flair. It was also the polar opposite to their previous Toei film, which was Takahata's Horus, Prince of the Sun. Takahata maintained creative control over every single shot, every scene, and he battled the studio heads relentlessly for three years to get it made. You can understand why the mood on Puss in Boots was so free, so much fun, and so creative. It's a tremendous release of energy, and it's seen here, in Animal Treasure Island, and in Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.

Anyway, let's see if we can't put our heads together and see who contributed what to this picture. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.

Yasuji Mori: Mori served as Animation Director and also designed all the characters. His studious efforts at correcting everyone's drawings kept a unified look to the picture, which was essential with all the animators running loose. His most well-known scene is the first song number with Pero the Cat and Pierre. It's not one that he was ever happy with, speaking about this in a 1984 article in Animage magazine:

"That part is awful. I'm so ashamed. I had a hard time getting the skipping right. The difficult thing about skipping is how the legs come up. That's why when I was asked to do another skipping scene for the opening of Heidi, Girl of the Alps. I didn't want to screw it up again, so I filmed some people [Miyazaki and Kotabe] skipping on 8mm and drew it by analyzing that."

Yoichi Kotabe: Kotabe was responsible for this scene, when a lovestruck Lucifer grows impatient waiting, in vain, for Princess Rosa to arrive. Note the giant slide that's attached to his throne. I really wish I had one of those. Ben Ettenger's, on his AniPages site, lists Kotabe as also responsible for the scene where "Pero play[s] the guitar while Pierre and Rose meet;" although Pero never plays a guitar, he may be referring to the Cyrano moment when Pero feeds words to a lovestruck Pierre (why is he always so half-dazed, anyway?), until the cat assassins show up and spoil the party.

Yasuo Otsuka: Otsuka got the first half of the massive castle chase. This is the part where Lucifer transforms into a series of animals to impress Rosa, all the while Pero and Pierre wait for the moment to pounce. There's also a great gag when Lucifer turns into a three-headed dragon, and Rosa faints at the sight. This brings us right to...

Hayao Miyazaki: Otsuka's in charge right until the part when the skull pendant drops onto the small cat's head. Then Miyazzaki takes over and runs with it. There are so many terrific gags and fits of action packed into this climax, the whole final act could work as a movie in itself. Pierre and Rosa crashing through a glass window, just like Douglass Fairbanks; Lucifer's bumbling and bouncing in pursuit; that rediculous cookoo clock with the cats trapped inside; the heroes' climactic climb to the top of the tower; Lucifer's locomotive stampede, and then his ballet jumps to the stairs. Which brings us to an essential topic that we'll be returning to in the future: the Miyazaki riffs.

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