The Hockey Champ

Barks drew most of the story sketches for this cartoon, specializing in action scenes. No other set of storyboards shows Barks' mastery of motion gags and broad physical humor so well. He helped transform Donald from a squat, awkward-looking fowl to an elastic character with great squash and stretch, key elements in dynamic action. One sketch elongates Donald across the entire frame to show the centrifugal force exerted on his body when the duck executes a flashy stop on the ice.

Looking back over Studio model sheets from the 1930s, Barks once complained in a May 29, 1973 interview by Donald Ault, "I couldn't get any action with that kind of a duck [the old cartoon Donald] in my comic books. That's why I stretched him out a bit. He was too awkward, even in animation."

Barks' mastery of caricature is also evident in Donald's mimicry of skating star Sonja Heine. To parody the lady skater, Barks exaggerated Donald's eyelashes and drew him performing fluttery pirouettes on the ice. Barks even gave the duck feminine hand gestures for this sequence. Unfortunately, most of these touches from the storyboards did not make it into the final cartoon, where Sonja Donald appears as a puffy-cheeked yokel.

The rest of the time, however, the animators followed Barks' drawings closely. "After all," Barks has commented in April 29, 1987 notes, "the whole theme of the gags and the idio-syncracies of the action were planned and staged and partially timed on the storyboards. Many of the story-men were one-time animators who understood that a clearly presented story scene was a great help to the guy who had to animate it."

As testimony to Barks' skill, the animators followed his sketches more closely than those of other storymen. In fact, artist Arthur Fitzpatrick created what was then the longest pan background for any Disney cartoon to accommodate the greater sense of movement Barks and Reeves had developed. When the animators departed from Barks' art- as in the case of the Sonja Heine parody - the cartoon was inferior to the original conception.

Often Barks' drawings would give precise indications of the direction and kinds of movement the characters should make. For instance, he would sketch multiple poses to show how a character looked in different stages of an action. In one drawing, Donald shows off his skating prowess by twirling so that his muffler unfurls; the next sketch shows him spinning in the reverse direction, with the muffler wrapping back around his neck. In the latter sketch, Barks drew a second pose of a satisfied Donald off to one side, looking as if he has just watched himself perform. This technique allowed him almost to animate a scene himself. It was rarely used by other storymen and became one of Barks' trademarks.

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