4. Fred Moore

It’s pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t recognize the Disney style: appealing designs, squash and stretch, richness of character, round three-dimensional shapes, cohesive poses that have clarity and strength, charm, sincerity, and so many other aspects make up this wonderful style.  Not only is there a lot of style in the drawing but also in the animation.  The movements, expressions, and acting of the characters are very distinctive and communicate the personality of them in a way no other studio ever has.  Both of these are vitally important to the success and popularity of both the Disney characters and features.  Without a doubt no one was more influential in this area than Fred Moore, number 4 on our countdown and the honoree of today’s post.

Fred Moore will always be the man who defined the Disney style of drawing and animation.  His work had a life, vitality, roundness, appeal, charm, warmth, personality, character, flow, fluidness, and cohesiveness that had never been seen before in animation.  Fred’s characters were alive and believable, something that couldn’t be said about the work done before him. “Fred Moore was Disney drawing,” simply states honoree Marc Davis of the influence the animator had over the studio’s work. “We’ve all done things on our own but that was the basis of what Disney stood for.”  The interesting thing about Moore is that he had no formal training in art, desire to improve, or deep analysis and didn’t have to put in much effort or thought but somehow he was able to do work that was sophisticated, accurate, rich, and had everything in the right place. The man just didn’t do bad drawings and his intuitive draftsmanship is unbelievable.  “Fred was just right for the time,” reflected great animator and close friend ward Kimball. “He was the first one to escape from the mold of the rubber hose, round circle school. He began getting counter movements, counter thrusts, in the way he drew.  He decided to make Mickey’s cheeks move with his mouth, which they had never done before because you drew everything inside the circle. He squashed and stretched him more and was right at the time but Fred was a high school trained artist and he more or less emerged drawing that way.  Nobody seems to remember any development. It just came there and started, but the interesting thing is he never went beyond that part. The rest of us came into that place. It was a strange place, we adapted to it and we kept trying to improve and change, and we became students of it. Milt Kahl, myself, Frank and Ollie. We knew it was a tough art, and there were many nuances of techniques and conceptions regarding the way you drew, and the thing we saw was that there were millions of things of things to be learned yet and to try. Fred never thought of that. He wasn’t a student of animation; he was just a naturally gifted animator whose style and development was perfect, timing-wise, for that point of time of where the studio wanted to go.”  “Don Graham can give you the rule, I just say it looks better,” repeatedly said Fred to his colleagues.   The animator first broke through the wall of the rubber hose in his animation of the pigs in the Three Little Pigs and will always be remembered for the brilliant designs and animation he did on the dwarfs in Snow White but he also redesigned Mickey Mouse (the new, superior design was first applied in the Pointer and Sorcerer’s Apprentice) as well animated all of Lampwick in Pinocchio, a lot of the centaurs and centaurettes in the Pastoral Symphony in Fantasia, Timothy in Dumbo, Donald and Jose in Saludos Amigos,  the All the Cats Join in segment in Make Mine Music, Katrina in Ichabod and Mr. Toad, some of the mice in Cinderella, some of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, and the mermaids in Peter Pan.


Robert Fred Moore was born on September 7, 1911 in Los Angeles, California.  He was born naturally with exactly the sensibilities in drawing that would later make him thrive at Disney animation: appeal, cohesiveness, fluidity, and just about every other fundamental needed for great animation.  Moore knew exactly where to place everything to make a good drawing and could intuitively tell what looked appealing as well as what didn’t.  Even at this early age the flow and control he had over his pencil was staggering.  Not much has been written about Fred’s back story but from what we do know neither his situation nor education was very sophisticated.  Although he was rather charming nobody remembers him being deeply educated, intellectual, critical, analytical, or hard working.  His talent was natural and it just seemed to be there.  In high school Moore did take some art classes and that’s where his talent really matured.  It’s likely however his training here was pretty basic and there is little to suggest that he got any very advanced teaching.  After high school Fred went on to work as a janitor at the Chouinard Art Institute in exchange for drawing classes.  As limited as this training was he did show great talent at this point and soon the event came that turned his life around.  There are a couple of urban legends as to how Fred Moore started at the Disney studio.  Some say that he was never really hired and just showed up in the place of somebody else. Others say that the people at Chouinard were so impressed by the drawings he did as a janitor that they brought them to the Disney studio.  Some have even said that the drawings Fred submitted to the studio were on grocery bags. However, the story that is most likely true is the one that his close friend Chuck Couch explained here: “I encouraged a friend to apply for a job at Disney but that friend suggested Fred as a substitute. I took some of Freddy’s drawings over to the studio and Walt flipped right away.”  In any case of scenario Moore started at the Disney studio in August 1930 at the age of only 18.

Right from the start of Fred Moore’s career at Disney people were blown away by his drawing ability and the amazing natural talent he had as well as sensibilities that were perfect for Disney animation.  “Fred would sit there with his arms folded for one minute then start drawing,” remembered Jack Cutting, an early Disney animator who eventually became in charge of the foreign translating department at the studio. “He hadn’t been there for more than 24 hours and he was already making these great drawings. I couldn’t believe it. By the end of a couple of days he was starting to animate something. Everything came so easily to him.”  While it’s clear that no one remembers much development in Moore’s style and that everyone thought he was unbelievable from the start he actually started rather low on the totem pole and it took some time for him to proceed up (this defies the urban legend that he was immediately amazing and didn’t improve over the years.) When he first came to Disney he was put as an assistant animator to honoree Les Clark, a brilliant animator who had previously been Ub Iwerk’s assistant and now had taken his mentor’s role as the key Mickey Mouse specialist in the studio.  In terms of the arc of their career at the Disney studio the two men were opposites. While Fred was a superstar who was seen as a standard but didn’t stay there for an awfully long time Les was a good animator but not necessarily a top animato rand one who was very consistent for a career that had immense longevity.  Also their approaches were very different (while Fred could write something up and just intuitively animate a brilliant scene Les constantly worked to improve, learn more, and put his best in a scene.) However in regards to sensibilities there were quite a bit of similarities between the two men.  Both drew very appealing drawings, had rather sentimental animation, and put tons of charming personalities into their work.  Clark quickly grew to have large respect for Moore and was amazed by his talent. “Animation came too easily to him,” reflected the mentor. “He didn’t have to exert any real effort.” Although Les was Fred’s mentor another animator proved to be the one that really inspired the young man. The animator was Dick Lundy, an animator with an amazing gift at timing, staging, and draftsmanship.  Lundy had learned under the legend-in-making Norman Ferguson and by this time was one of the best animators in the studio.  In October 1932 Moore began to be given little scenes to animate alongside being an assistant and his first time animating in a significant role was on the short Santa’s Workshop. It would however be the second short he worked on as a full-fledged animator that would show his full potential and really be the short that started the development of the Disney style. That short was the Three Little Pigs.

In the early 1930s most animators suffered from the severe handicap of the rubber hose.  Rubber hose was the very first animation style to become the standard in the animation industry and it was named because the style usually had limbs and parts that moved and felt like a rubber hose. They lacked solidity or construction, felt very flexible, weren’t very believable, and moved in a way that was very mechanical and lacked any lifelike vitality.  Another issue that was prevalent in the work of many animators was the fact that the vast majority of characters animated in cartoons were animated very generically and not given any specific characteristics to reflect the feeling, acting, or personality. Movement was only used to have the character move just enough to keep the story going and nothing was done to really make them feel alive.  However then there was Fred Moore’s animation of the Three Little Pigs. While Dick Lundy was the lead animator on the pigs the other man did the most important scenes: the ones where the pigs were introduced to the audience and their personalities were made clear.  Unlike what most animators at the time would have done Fred animated each pig a different way giving them characteristics, mannerisms, expressions, poses, and movements that clearly defined their personality and distinguished them from the other pigs.  There also is a vitality, life, energy, use of squash and stretch, poses that read in silhouette, and all the animation has all the parts put in the right place.  Those characters were believable to the audience and this made it arguably the most successful animated short ever made.  Although the animation of these pigs in the scenes that Moore did seems rather simple and standard today at the time it was incredibly groundbreaking and work that had great distinction.  Never before had a character that was a drawing had come to life the same way.  Never before had a character actually seemed real and alive in its world. Never before had an animator done something so appealing and used technique in a way that was put in exactly the right way.   Overnight Fred had become arguably the best animator in the world and the one who for some time would be used as one of the front runners of the Disney animators setting an example and influence for all the rest of them.

Fortunately Fred Moore’s distinct sensibilities and appealing style of animation lead to his work becoming the basis of the Disney style and soon the other animators at the studio began to adopt his techniques. After the success of Pigs a lot of his animation was on Mickey Mouse, a character that he animated very well.   Fred’s animation even when using the old Iwerks design had a great amount of personality, sincerity, appeal, and counter movements. His version of the character is always believable and he truly is arguably the greatest Mickey animator ever.  Moore’s work during this period stood out for a bunch of reasons. One important one was that it was graphically much more defined and flexible than the work of the other animators. It had none of the rubberness and awkwardness in movement that some of the other animators used but it also wasn’t stiff and his animation had great flexibility.  Another important one was the way the poses were structured and how the drawings were used to communicate.  The majority of animation done in the early to mid 1930s just simply used generic expressions and actions that were just plausible enough to make the story move along and showed enough to show the idea visually.  Things only moved when they were required to communicate the gag and the actions as well as expressions were indifferential to the character in the scene.  Everything felt very flat, awkward, and stiff.  Fred’s work on the other hand was all but generic to the character. Every design and pose was tailored clearly to the personality and everything about the animation was used to enhance the characteristics of the character. There isn’t a Fred Moore drawing out there that doesn’t tell you exactly who the character is and what their personality is.  This doesn’t just apply to the drawings but also to the acting and performance.  A really good example is that Fred was the very first animator to define the fact that the pose and action of the body should define the acting while the facial expression should communicate what the character is thinking.  This makes a lot of his poses and action much more dynamic and believable and the work of an average animator.  Some animators just communicate with the expression making the body feel stiff while others just communicate through the action and body which makes the inner thoughts and feelings of the character completely absent.  It’s absolutely crucial that both are present and communicate in the right way which is really proven true by Moore’s work and animation.  He also proved it was very important to have these two things on the same page and be connected with each other. His work was always cohesive and stayed away from the problem many animators have about the details moving independently of each other. Also another virtue to Moore’s style is that although it was more complex and lifelike than most designs it was simplistic and not overly complicated or realistic. Oftentimes really realistic and complicated drawings become grotesque, completely destroying the believability. Fred’s drawings never had this problem and they always had appeal. Last is that the animator was one of the first to pay much attention to using poses that read in silhouette as well as one of the first to really pay attention to using walks and movements to define the character.  All of Fred’s poses read so clearly and he truly inspired animators everywhere to master the art of making a pose read in silhouette. “Fred’s great facility with his drawing fascinated everyone,” wrote Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. “It was uncanny the way he could put his line down with so much accuracy. He could control them all. His line was beautiful; it almost had a quality of shading. When he naturally made the line thicker at the bottom of the dwarf’s jowls, it gave them an extra feeling of weight and dimension.”  ‘At that time we were talking about cute things- cute poses, cute this, cute that,” recalled honoree Eric Larson. “You never had anybody stand up straight; they always bent at the waist, leaning forward, leaning backward, sideways- attitudes that would give a rhythm and movement to the drawing and throughout the picture. This was Freddy’s big influence; he never did anything that didn’t move or flow.” One of his most influential pieces of animation was the dialogue scene in the short the Flying Mouse. This is an example of how much he revolutionized lip sync in Disney animation and was really the first to ever do it in a believable way.  Here finally there were actually cheeks on the character and when the mouth moved the rest of the head did as well instead of the rest staying still and the mouth generically and oftentimes awkwardly moving as it was standard to do at the time. Another short that shows Moore’s true genius is Pluto’s Judgment Day, where not only did he do a lot of the best stuff on Mickey but also did tons of great scenes with Pluto. The scenes he did with the latter character show how he really knew how to put everything in exactly the right place, what was an appealing drawing, and what is a pose that reads clearly as well as affectively. Among all this success however there was one assignment he was given that turned out to be a failure.  It was a short called the Golden Touch, where he animated the charming elf who gives King Midas (animated by Norman Ferguson) the ability to turn everything he touches into gold. This short was an experiment to see if whether or not human cartoon characters could be believable to an audience. The short was a miserable artistic failure and one that Walt Disney was rather ashamed of. However this would not be a road block for the Disney studio for long.  Walt was quickly developing his first full length animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and in December 1935 Moore was the second animator assigned to the picture (Ham Luske was the first.)

Fred Moore and Bill Tytla (who was recently hired to the studio to help make the studio talented enough to make a feature) were assigned to be the supervising animators on the animation of the Dwarfs in Snow White.  In every way the two men were worlds different. While Fred was a natural talent who had childlike sensibilities, relied on intuition, and could just write things off Bill was a man who had experienced the world (he was already 30 when he was hired by the Disney studio in late 1934), had extensive training in art, saw himself as an artist rather than an animator, thought deeply about every single thing that he did, used deep emotions and advanced acting skills to make his characters believable, and was the most versatile and brilliant draftsman in the history of animation.   While Moore had been nutured at Disney and only knew what he knew Tytla had just come to the studio and because of his experience outside the studio knew how to appreciate everything at the studio and make the most of it. Walt hoped that the two would work together extensively on using their skills to make success but this never happened. It was too humiliating for either men to have to ask for a drawing from someone and the two worked rather independently although the two visions did come together well.  Tytla would do his experimental animation on a musical sequence involving the dwarfs washing while Fred took up the task of trying out the bedroom sequence.  This proved to be a most difficult scene.  Not only was it extra important that the dwarfs were clearly defined as distinct personalities since this was the scene where they were introduced but it also had the heaviest use of dialogue that had ever been animated before.  Back then animators tried to stay far away from dialogue scenes and lip syncs were very hard for many animators. Before this animation could be successful Moore first had to solve the problems related to the designs of the dwarfs.  In the story sketches done early on the film the dwarfs looked a lot like gnomes: they were unappealing and unattractive old men who were very short and looked almost exactly alike.  While in the original story the dwarfs are indifferential and don’t have individual personalities Walt knew that making the dwarfs individual, strong in personality, and appealing was vital to the success of the film.  Unlike the other human characters such as Snow White, the Queen, and Prince Charming who had to be animated straight the Dwarfs could still have the roundness, life, and appeal of the typical Disney style.  Although Fred’s original model sheet wasn’t too significant of an improvement or solution to the challenge the one he did in September 1936 proved to be one of the most important model sheets in animation history. Here all of the Dwarfs are distinct, appealing, round, cartoony, believable, and have the lifelike vitality that he did best.  Unlike the unappealing old men done before the dwarfs are drawn much younger (the white bears were added later), were given simplicity in design, and best of all allowed expression and movement.  “They designed the dwarfs so they had the potential of move in all parts of the body,” wrote Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.  This is very important because giving them this ability allowed the cartoon acting to reach a level never reached before and for the characters to be believable to the audience in a way only fathomed about before.  Also this new model sheet communicated the distinct personalities of the dwarfs and made them differential. By far the character that was most significantly changed during the new model sheet was Dopey, who was now given baby proportions and drawn with great charm. The only one that wasn’t given as much Moore flavor was Grumpy, who very well matched Tytla’s sensibilities (Bill also did as much if not more than Doc than Moore did.) In a nutshell these designs were a turning point for the film and were largely responsible for the visual development of the film.  After completing this model sheet Fred returned to doing rough animation on the film and resumed tackling the bedroom scene.  This very challenging scene turned out to be a huge success.  Every dwarf is clearly introduced to the audience and the acting of the characters is flawless.  I personal recommend studying this scene because it’s a good example of how poses, movements, acting, and dialogue can clearly define characters to the audience.  The key poses are incredibly cohesive, appealing, and clear (most read in clear silhouette.) Moore also did a ton of great animation in the Heigh Ho sequence (Dopey’s introduction, Dopey goofing around next to Doc, Dopey throwing in the sack), the Silly Song sequence (Dopey and Sneezy posing as a tall man), and of the dwarfs leaving the cottage.  At the very least the animator’s work on this film is brilliant.  There isn’t a substandard scene he did in the film and the charm he gave to the dwarfs as well as sincerity made them able to drive the picture in a way that made the whole film work.  It is through the dwarfs’ love for Snow White that the emotional perspective of the story is told and the one that really drives the plot.  This made it essential that they were incredibly appealing and entertaining but at the same time sincere and dynamic.  The work done by Fred, Bill, Frank Thomas,  Fred Spencer, Les Clark, Dick Lundy, and many others on the character made this able to be a reality.  Although his animation was phenomenal Walt was extra sure to be extremely critical of the animator not only because he wanted the best results possible but also he was using him as the standard and wanted to make him look good inspiring the other animators at the studio to take influence from his work.  You can make the argument however that the best and most important animation on the dwarfs wasn’t done by Moore but rather by Tytla.  It is undeniable that their styles on the film were incredibly different.  Although Fred was the more influential one in terms of design and sensibilities there isn’t always a lot of strong distinction and defining done in how their personalities are different and their acting is sometimes on the simple side.  They’re all cute cuddly jolly men who have simple feelings and moods even if very expertly done.  On the flip side Bill made the distinctions between the seven men incredibly strong, used very advanced acting technique, and made the feelings of the dwarfs not only very strong but very specific to the personalities of the dwarfs.  In all of his scenes with the characters they all have very distinct personalities (e.g.- Doc is the leader, Grumpy is the cynical one, Dopey is curious and naive) and have very specifically tailored character relationships (e.g.- the way Grumpy makes Doc very nervous and intimidated.) The most significant example however is the character plot that Tytla created himself where Grumpy eventually turns out to have the strongest feelings for Snow White and to really be in love with her. The psychological precision and strong emotions Grumpy felt so brilliantly animated by Bill just weren’t in Fred’s vocabulary (the promising young talent Frank Thomas also did some animation of the dwarfs that exceeded anything Moore had done acting and emotional wise.)  The one that closed the gap between the two men’s visions of the dwarfs was honoree Ollie Johnston, who was the head assistant on the dwarfs. He was able to make the two men’s dwarfs mesh together to become united characters on the screen. Thanks to this in the final film the work of the two men goes together exceptionally well and the two if anything complement each other.

Fred Moore’s influence and success during Snow White made his stardom at the studio go to the highest possible level.  Everyone wanted to emulate him and everyone wanted to do work that was just as good as what he was doing.  To spread his talent Walt personally selected him as well as honoree Ham Luske to spend most of their time mentoring the younger animators at the studio.  Ultimately this didn’t turn out to be necessarily the right decision. While Luske took the task very seriously and soon was working as a successful director at the studio Moore just goofed off during this time period and as Ollie Johnston remembered, “just fooled around with the secretaries.”  He just couldn’t handle the position and this made him fall apart.  It was animating that Fred loved to do and felt most comfortable doing, not being a teacher and taking a role of leadership.  “Supervising animators was a responsibility Fred couldn’t accept,” explained Ollie Johnston. “He just kept leaving earlier and drinking more and horsing around more and next thing you know he got divorced. He had to be disciplined. If he’d been left animating he might have lasted longer.”  However during this time period he did do some of his best work on a few shorts. One was the Brave Little Tailor where he designed Mickey Mouse and supervised the animation of the character. This is one of the all-time best Mickey shorts and one where his personality is in its prime.  Unlike many other cartoons where he is pretty passive this one shows him as this boy who is very naïve and wants to prove himself. Although he didn’t do much animation Moore did one phenomenal scene where Mickey says goodbye to the people and then after showing he’s nervous slowly says I hope.  This scene is excellent because of how it shows the change of emotion and in the way it defines the character. Here is this character that wants to prove himself but really is very shy and a bit of a worrier.  Fred clearly shows this in the way Mickey walks and the posture in his body.  Soon after however things were going to change in regards to the character.  The more he worked with Mickey the harder time Fred had at the handicap of the mouse’s body and the limitations it gave.  The character’s design hadn’t evolved and felt out of place in the Disney universe by that point. To solve the problem Moore decided to redesign the character making him have eyes with pupils, a pear shaped body, and all of the other aspects that make up the face of the character we know and love today.  The design was accepted and was the for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a piece originally intended to be a special short that turned out to be a segment in the feature Fantasia.  Fred did some great animation of the new-look Mickey in shorts such as the Pointer (1939) and Little Whirlwind (1941.)

Because of Fred Moore’s nonchalant attitude towards being a supervisor and wasting his time a furious Walt Disney decided to bring him back to animation.  The film was Pinocchio and unlike before he had a ton of competition among the other top animators (not only was there Bill Tytla but also Frank Thomas, Ward Kimball, Milt Kahl, Art Babbitt, and Wolfgang Reitherman among others.) While originally assigned to design and animate Pinocchio Fred’s version ultimately got scrapped for Milt Kahl’s and he ended up doing no animation of the character on the film. Although he did some scenes of different characters the main focus he had on the film was animating all of Lampwick, Pinocchio’s naughty brat for a friend on Pleasure Island.  Although only a minor character Moore did an excellent performance on him.  He clearly communicated Lampwick’s severely flawed personality and the performance is genius because of how archetypical he is. In many ways he’s like a character in a Charles Dickens novel or William Shakespeare play: one that is exaggerated to the point of being unrealistic but is even more believable because he represents a real personality trait and emotion.  We’ll never meet someone who is as snotty and uncaring as Lampwick but he is very real to us because we all know people who have that type of personality and we recognize it because he represents an emotion that is very real (we all feel very nonchalant sometimes and want to just do whatever we feel like on occassions.) I’ve always particularly loved the poses Fred gave to him; they’re just so simple but yet clear and containing so much personality.  In addition to Lampwick he also animated some of Geppetto (he was brought on to help make the character cuter) and even some great ones of Jiminy Cricket.  After Pinocchio Moore moved on to Fantasia where he was a supervising animator on the Pastoral Symphony.   He designed and created the centaurettes, a new mythological creature created for the sequence that had centaurs that were half horse and half woman. For the woman side the drawings were taken from sketches of the famous Fred Moore girls, sexy drawings the animator did of women. They were out of control popular at the studio and were incorporated into those designs to give sex appeal to the centaurettes.  One particularly sincere and heartfelt scene done by Fred on the segment is the one where the cupids set up the lonely centaur with the lonely centaurette. The expressions on their faces and the sincere joy they feel when they see each other is clear and very affective. You feel for these characters and the intuitive animation done of them really communicates this.  The centaurettes ultimately work because they ultimately move like horses and not like people (something that wasn’t successfully done with the centaurs.) Another great scene to study frame by frame is the sexy walk the centaurettes do when they come out.  It so communicates their character and makes their sex appeal very prevalent.

After Fantasia Fred Moore was considered by Walt for being a lead on Bambi but ultimately instead ended up working as the directing animator on Timothy Mouse in Dumbo while doing some work on the boy in the Reluctant Dragon in between.  Dumbo proved to actually be quite a hard film for the animator.  For one it was a film that relied so heavily on cartoon acting, character relationships, and strong emotions; all things that were pretty hard to excel in when you have a simple approach like Moore’s.  While he had if anything receded since Snow White Tytla on the other hand had gotten significantly better (therefore making there quite a gap between the two men) and was doing arguably the best animation ever done at the studio with his animation of the very emotionally strong character relationship of Dumbo and Mrs. Jumbo.  Also, and more importantly, this was the production where Fred really started to write everything off, have lousy working habits, and drink constantly.  Even Ward Kimball, then his closest friend at the studio, had admitted he had severe problems by this point.  Although his animation on Timothy is relatively good it can be argued that his scenes can be somewhat shallow, predictable, and weak in character.  On the flip side it’s only the genius work done before that makes it feel that way.  While his most famous scene on the film is the one where the mouse gets drunk my favorite has always been the one where Timothy makes the realization Dumbo can fly.  The passionate, exaggerated response to that really gives you the feeling of the scene and clearly communicates what the character is thinking.   The technique used for the jump and the gestures are also pretty top notch.  This is a scene I try to use to challenge the common belief that Fred’s work wasn’t sophisticated and that the reason he receded was because his work wasn’t good compared to current standards and that the Disney style had moved past him. I feel that even as he wallowed in his personal troubles that his style was the foundation of Disney drawing and that when everything went right he was capable of doing work as good as anyone else’s.  After Dumbo was completed Moore went on to animate on Saludos Amigos, where alongside Bill Tytla he animated Donald Duck and Jose Carioca. I love the animation he did on this film and the timing done in his scenes is pretty amazing. After that then came the Three Caballeros) where he again animated on Donald Duck and Jose), Make Mine Music(where he animated some sexy Fred Moore girls in the stylized All the Cats Join In segment), and Fun and Fancy Free(where he received his last directing animator credit and animated Mickey Mouse.) Although still a good animator everyone at Disney had used up all their patience on Fred and most of his colleagues by this point were completely alienated by his bad habits and behavior. While some like Ollie Johnston and Cliff Nordberg stayed loyal to him because they felt they owed so much to the man in August 1946 the decision was reluctantly made to fire Moore from the studio.  Even Walt himself felt terrible doing this and even told his secretary that letting him go was the hardest thing he ever had to do.

While Fred Moore’s habits and behaviors had disturbed so many people at the Disney studio to people at other studios he was simply a legend and talent anyone could want making him quickly find work as an animator at Walter Lantz. There he did some animation on Woody Woodpecker shorts and other cartoons. Although some of this stuff is pretty good a lot of it only shows small traces of his Disney greatness.  Feeling sorry for Moore the studio decided in 1948 to hire him back, although in spirit it was pretty much just an act of charity.  Surprisingly the animator made quite a triumphant comeback on his first film back, Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  In the Sleeping Hallow segment he did tons of excellent, beautiful footage of Katrina as well as a few of Ichabod.  His animation on the girl is subtle, appealing, and for the lack of a better word sexy.  Katrina is a girl who everyone would love to have and this is clearly communicated by the subtle way with a taste of sex appeal Fred gave in his animation, particularly in the song where he animated pretty much every scene with her.  Up next came Cinderella where he animated some of the mice as well as the Court Announcer. Although he did some great drawings on the film for the most part on this film Moore returned to the quality he was producing when he was let go and making it seem as if his work on Ichabod was in a sense a fluke.  On Alice in Wonderland he animated some of the scenes with the White Rabbit in the later parts of the film.  Fred’s last film at the Disney studio was Peter Pan, where he animated some of the Lost Boys as well as the mermaids.  On November 22, 1952 tragedy took place when Fred Moore was killed in a car accident on his way home from watching a football game with colleague Jack Kinney.  Sadly some have tried to make up versions of the story where he was killed by drunk driving. Personally I feel this is terrible and that it is wrong to assume that someone died from a flaw like that.  Although he left us so soon in a way Fred Moore will always be with the Disney studio at his prime because of the influence and inspiration he has on the Disney style and on the animators who work there and will continue to work there.

In terms of style Fred Moore is all about character and appeal.  When he made a drawing he knew exactly where to put everything so it was exactly in the right place and made the most appealing drawing possible.  All of his poses and drawings have great life, personality, charm, sincerity, cohesiveness, clarity, and simplicity.  In every sense of the word Fred was and still is the Disney style. Like I said before everything done since is pretty much just an expansion or tweak of the foundation and principles his sensibilities set up.  This exceeds design and goes into characters: he really defined giving life and believability to the characters, which completely elevated what Disney was able to do.  Design wise Moore’s drawings are very round and have a lot of S-shapes, giving them a nice fluid feel.  Pretty much every Fred Moore drawing is great to look at and all really communicate the character as well as the thinking. “They love to see the drawings move and the characters think,” he always told people. “Remember that! It’s what they like to see in our scenes. We should always let them see what the characters were thinking!” In terms to his approach to animation Fred was very intuitive and relied on instinct rather than intellect to make the magic in his scenes happen. Instead of spending lots of time analyzing and thinking deeply about a scene he just would time it out on an X-sheet (his timing was top-notch) and just draw what he thought would look good.  The key poses are always very strong in his scenes and really inspired animators to try to find strong poses that read clearly.  To sum this up here are some points of animation Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston wrote down that they felt were important to Fred and his approach: 1. Appeal in drawing. 2. Staging. 3. Most interesting way? 4. Is it the most entertaining way? 5. Are you in character? 6. Are you advancing the character? 7. Is it the simplest statement of the main idea of this scene? 8. Is the story point clear? 9. Are the secondary actions working with the main action? 10. Is the presentation best for the medium? 11. Does it have 2 dimensional clariy? 12. Does it have 3 dimensional solidity? 4. Does it have 4 dimensional drawing? 14. Are you trying to do something that shouldn’t be attempted?

Fred Moore had more influence on the Disney style of drawing and style of animation than anyone ever has and ever will. He redefined it and really established all the qualities that make up the style graphically.  So many of the key aspects of Disney animation come straight out of Fred’s imagination and pencil.  In terms of characterization he really established that an animator’s goal is to make a character appealing, believable, and sincere.  All of this opened up a whole new level of possibilities for the medium and even today is very important in how it influences the style of the Disney films.  I would say almost anything done at the studio since has in some way been directly descended, refined, or expanded from the foundation Moore set up.  Last is the fact that his talent and sensibilities really inspired so many animators to excel and really do the best they could do.  Among this list included Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Milt Kahl, Marc Davis, Art Babbitt, Cliff Nordberg, and yes even Bill Tytla.  They were able to really push the boundaries of Disney animation because of what Fred had done in breaking away the handicap of the rubber hose.  Without that animation would just still be rubbery and generic with nothing special or unique.  It saddens me that so many people try to undermine the influence and greatness Fred Moore had by saying his animation wasn’t timeless and didn’t have the sophistication needed to have what it takes. In many ways it’s incredibly sophisticated and advanced. There’s just so much character, personality, and gerniusism there.  I’m also saddened by the fact that people try to use his problems with drinking to make this point and portray him as a washed up talent.   Like one great Disney animator once told me: “It’s important to try to just remember the good things.” I feel this statement is very true with any great animator and Fred is no exception.

Personally I feel I’ve taken a lot of inspiration for Fred Moore and that I’ve learned a ton from studying and analyzing his work.  As anyone with taste is I’m an absolute nut for his style and sensibilities. The roundness, life vitality, expressiveness, personality, charm, sincerity, clarity, appeal, and honesty in his work is amazing and something I can only fathom about emulating.  I’m always reminded when I see Moore’s work that he really is the one who set the standards for everyone else and showed everyone else the way. When I study the work of other animators I almost always see qualities that come straight from Fred’s pencil and a lot of the aspects are just refinements of what he did.  In terms of drawing I feel that his work has really been a source of knowledge for me. The most important lesson I’ve personally learned from his work is that you need to use the facial expression to communicate the thought process while the body should be used to show the acting.  I also realized that it’s important to make your poses clear and to have everything cohesive to each other instead of all over the place. Last I’ve learned from Moore that it’s important to always make your drawings look the best they can and to really communicate the personality of the character.  It’s amazing to me how talented he was and I’m a huge fan of his work. Thank you Fred Moore for your contributions to Disney animation and for the great influence you’ve had on me as well as many others!

6 Responses to “4. Fred Moore”

  1. You know, i always thought Fred Moore’s later work was a desperate attempt to branch out. Some of his timing seems almost like a copy of Kimball in ‘all the cats join in,’ and in ‘The Illusion of Life’ they show a deleted scene piece from ‘The Three Caballeros’ where Jose attempts to show Donald how to break a Pinata with his umbrella. and if not for a few bits of sweep in the legs, you’d have a hard time telling me it wasn’t Bill Tytla – it has all the odd movement and physical pliability of Grumpy and a great deal of volition in the movement. (The scene he did for the same sequence of Donald stopping his pinata-stick in mid-swing is so incredibly cynical and angular it almost looks like Frank Thomas, i might add.)

    A very informative piece; although i feel as if some of his shorts-work is slighted. (One of my favorite pieces in all of animation (in the top 10 anyhoo) is the opening run he did for ‘Pluto’s Judgement Day’ of pluto turning a corner and skidding.)
    The fact that i agree with Mike Barrier on how ‘feed-sack’ he made the dwarves in his scenes doesn’t mean i like them less (although i consider ‘bluddle-uddle-um-dum’ the apogee of volitious personality animation).

    • Thank you for the informative post. The impact that Fred Moore has made on animation as a whole is insurmountable. I hope someday he will get the recognition he deserves. There should be a book written about the pioneers before the “9 Old Men”.

  2. Please note that Fred Moore is not credited with any animation on The Pointer (prod. M-27 or 2227). See http://afilmla.blogspot.com/2006/05/prod-2227-pointer_26.html for animation credits for each scene. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, both trained by Moore, and Preston Blair animated Mickey in this film.

  3. I think its telling how all the other big animators that became the 9 old men like to bash Fred Moore with back handed compliments and criticize his lack of sophistication. They must have been jealous. After all, they did spend their entire careers aping the style that Fred Moore created.

  4. Very good article. I will be facing a few of these issues as

  5. Maria Saenz Says:

    This site has been very interesting and insightful. I have an original drawing by Fred Moore made for my father in law in Cuba as a gift after the successful distribution of Los Tres Caballeros in Cuba. I was trying to obtain information regarding Mr. Moore and this site has given me much information. I would appreciate any direction you may be able to provide me, with regard to obtaining more information on this artist and/or my particular drawing.

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