“His name was Goliath the Second, and he was hardly any bigger than one of his father’s toenails.”
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, with story by Bill Peet, this 1960 short film is not only an amusing lesson that size isn’t everything, but was a grand experiment by the Disney animators using the new Xerox process, effectively ending an era of old-style romantic animation. The short is narrated by Sterling Holloway, and stars Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran as Goliath II.
Goliath I is the leader of all the elephants, by virtue of being the biggest and the strongest of them all. His only source of disappointment is his son, Goliath II, who is only five inches tall. Try as Goliath II might to make his father proud, he ends up only squeaking when he tries to trumpet, and getting knocked over by the flower he tries to push over. Goliath’s size is also a problem for his mother, who has a hard time keeping an eye on him, especially when the tiger Raja wishes to try the “bite-sized” elephant. Not wanting to be treated like a baby anymore, Goliath runs away from the herd. Although he is saved by his mother when Raja almost eats him, his troubles get worse, as he is marked as a rogue elephant and branded a traitor, disgracing his great father.
Goliath gets his chance to prove his worth when he is “left alone to face the terror of all terrors” for elephants – a mouse. Through an epic battle with the pugnacious mouse, with a crocodile hungrily licking its chops to devour the loser, Goliath wins, spares the mouse and wins the respect of the rest of the elephants. He is awarded the highest position in the herd, and a place of honor on his father’s head as the elephants lumber through the jungle.
Although the Xerox process was used in the dragon scene in Sleeping Beauty, the animators used Goliath II as an experiment to see if it would work on screen. Quite simply, the Xerox process is a way of transferring the animators’ pencil drawings directly to cels, bypassing the inking and painting process. The process, after it had been successfully used in the feature film One Hundred and One Dalmatians, was used in practically every Disney film through The Little Mermaid, when the use of the computer to create the ink lines replicated the old style of inking and painting at a lower cost. The newer process also left more of the feeling that the animator tried to convey before the cleanup began by the inkers and painters.
Sleeping Beauty became the end of a style era, particularly because it had been a very expensive film to create and had not made enough money back, leaving the studio in a dire situation. Ub Iwerks, who had come back to the studio in 1940, had been thinking of ways to lessen the cost of animation. He had been fascinated with the idea of Xerox copying, wondering if he could transfer the animator’s sketch straight to the cel, instead of just a piece of paper. He did a few experiments, and concluded that it was a valid solution for the financially strapped studio.
In the early days of the Xerox process, one machine took up three rooms. With a lens and an electrostatically charged plate, the lens took a picture of the drawing, and transferred it to the plate, which would then be dipped in toner. The toner would then be transferred to a clear cel. It dramatically cut costs when it came to animation, but at a price: the beautiful artwork created by the inking and painting department was no more, and the department itself was closed. The style not only replaced the more fairy-tale look of the Disney animated films, but brought in a new modern American art look to the studio.
The Xerox process had mixed reactions from those within the studio. Animator Floyd Norman remarked, “I think we did lose something because the Xerox line lacked the subtlety of the ink line which was incredible…so I guess one could debate those points back and forth. Was Xerox a step forward, or a step backwards?” But animator Andreas Deja argued that “Xerox didn’t cut the quality of the animation. They didn’t do limited animation. It’s still a fully animated film. The acting is still there, it’s still subtle.”
Although there are many opinions of the process, there is no denying the impact it had on the look of Disney films from the 1960s to the 1990s, and it was a good way to save the legacy of animated films. Without Iwerks’ invention, there may not have been The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, or even The Little Mermaid. Goliath II, although most people may not realize it, helped bring about a turning point in animation history, and did it in a delightful way.