Shirley Temple and Buddy Ebsen: "At the Codfish Ball" from Captain January 1937
Music and Dance are sisters. They go together. They both know how the other one moves. And they're able to seamlessly meld together to create something that communicates on a level far below conscious thought. How do you go about describing the way a melody makes you feel, or how a dancer's attitudes convey joy or heartache or excitement? The great thing about art is that it can take a million words to describe it in detail, yet you still haven't communicated its meaning as well as just viewing it.
When I share great old stuff with young people, inevitably someone in the crowd will pipe up with "How come only old stuff is good? New stuff is good too!" Well, it may be true that there is great new art being made here and there, but this kind of talent and artistry isn't as common, and it isn't in the mainstream media the way it was in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Case in point: Shirley Temple. Here's a little kid whose dancing is just as good, if not better than anything on "Dancing With The Stars". Buddy Ebsen just plain kicks ass in this clip and even he is hard pressed to keep up! This freakin' 8 year old makes Beyonce look like a tired old nag! They weren't alone. Check out MGM's That's Entertainment for more… and the other studios too- Fox, Columbia, Warner Bros… every studio was loaded with talent like this.
Animators need to study great dancers and learn from their techniques. I sat down with a couple of my interns at the archive and analyzed this particular clip. It has a lot of interesting things to teach animators and entertainers of all types.