Spacing analysis: a calligraphic path of action

I recently took the time to purchase a copy of Cats Don't Dance online. It's a bit hard to come by, a lovely yet all-too-obscure work.
The animation in this movie is excellent and well worth studying. The storyline is fairly simple (though pleasant, with a nice soundtrack), but the animation artistry is great; it is easy to understand how it managed to win Best Animated Feature Annie in 1997.
So here's another spacing analysis, my third so far.
First the clip, a shot about 100 frames long:
Then my Photoshop magic, to study the spacing:
It's tricky to find a good clip to study this way, though it's definitely one of those "when you see it you know it" kinds of things. This one was quite interesting. I only managed to trace the head and the tail; the hips are doing their own thing inbetween and the feet are well worth a flipthrough to take a look at on their own. Each of these has its own path of action happening that, when traced out, is calligraphic in compexity, seemingly all over the place yet artistically unified. Indeed, the thing that happens at the top of the ladder could very well be taken as an easter egg, someone's initials; but that's pure speculation.
It's all highly syncopated timing-spacing-wise, which fits to the syncopated accompanying sound track, as well as to a general overall animation timing ideal that closely correlates with the same musical ideal. Perceptually, pleasing and interesting. In spacing, note the corners in path as well as the loops; similarly, in timing, there are offsets of holds and the opposite extreme of smear frames. As I said, calligraphic is an apt description. I've wondered about possibly setting animation to the path of a calligraphic pen before, copperpoint style; this is an excellent correlation to that concept, the best I've seen to-date.
This sort of thing is not easy to do.
I thought I'd also include an examination of some of the more interesting smear frames in the sequence:
The first, on the left, is an "impossible" step-up-the-ladder that, in a single step, gets Danny to the fifth rung up the ladder in as many frames, while facing backwards and looking nonchalant. A lovely bit of nonsense that somehow seems perfectly natural in the context of the shot.
The two most extreme, on the right, flip his body through a pretzel-path.
As befitting of a smooth operating-cat.
Smear frames remain one of the greatest points of contention for me with regards to 3D animation. A good rig will be able to handle a degree of the distortions served up by an extreme cartoon style by permitting some stretching or even bending of parts and extremities, but one still tends to run into a brick wall at some point, and I'm not sure whether rendered motion blur could even be capable of pulling off the pretzel example hilighted above (one would need presumably subframe sampling and subframe keys to do it: i.e. a lot of extra work combined with very slow rendering: not an efficient solution). A good smear frame will eliminate strobing and make extreme fast action seem plausible (explicable in part as the mimicking persistence of vision and in part as the emulation of camera motion blur).

If I can manage to identify the animator who did this shot, I'll be sure to update this posting to give the name. (If you happen know, please add a comment with a link for verification) Excellent work!

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