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Yawning Man with 27 Faces created and used by George Pal for Animation

Yawning Man with 27 Faces created and used by George Pal for Animation

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Description (Brief)
This elf known as The Yawning Man is wearing an orange and brown suede suit with a hood. Originally, Pal made his figures out of wood, which required thousands of individually carved figures just to make a few minutes of film footage. To cut back on time and expenses, Paul made the form of the elf out of wire and his body from latex to make it pliable. The feet, hands, and ears were made of foam rubber and covered with latex, allowing the parts to be used interchangeably. The set includes 27 wax heads with different states of yawning. The elf was used in the motion pictures Tom Thumb in 1958 and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm in 1962. Pal won Oscars for both productions.

George Pal was one of the pioneers of stop-frame animation, a painstaking process achieved by moving figures and shooting each change on a single frame of motion picture film in a series of progressive steps. For each frame shot, the head, arms, and legs of the figures were changed according to the motions needed to create the illusion of movement. Pal was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1944 for "the development of novel methods and techniques in the production of short subjects known as Puppetoons".

George Paul (1908-1980) nee George Marczincsak, was born in Austria Hungary and educated at the Budapest Academy of Arts where he studied architecture. Limited job opportunities encouraged Pal to further his interest in human anatomy, and he attended a local medical school where he studied kinetic motion—the energy of motion and the interrelationships between moving parts. This sparked Pal’s interest in animation and his studies served him well when he went to work at a silent film company where he became the head of the cartoon department.

By 1933, fascism was on the rise and the Nazi regime was spreading its influence in Europe. Pal fled to Prague, and where he was known as an animator, special effect designer, and producer and then Paris where he opened his own animation studio. He disliked the flat two-dimensional looks of the early cartoons and he began to create three-dimensional figures using carved wood with wire limbs that made for easy movement. Pal created replacement parts, such as heads, arms, and legs, that could be used interchangeably to create the impression of continuous, flowing movement. These puppets with no strings were named “Puppetoons”, a combination of the two words puppet and cartoon. Pal finally settled in Eindhoven, Netherlands were he produced short films and commercials for products that were sold in England, France, and the Netherlands.

On average, the animated shorts lasted about eight minutes, and for each film, Pal created as many as 9,000 puppets with as many as 200-300 heads and appendages. One of his first advertisements included dancing cigarettes.

In 1939, while Pal was traveling in the U.S. lecturing at Columbia University, the Germans invaded Poland. Pal, his wife, and his son were granted asylum in the U.S. and in 1940 he was hired by Paramount Pictures.

Pal had a long and successful career in Hollywood, and his work with the Puppetoons addressed a wide variety of subject matters, including politics, fairy tales, and music. Pal was also well known and respected for his work in feature films and was the first producer-director to combine animated puppets with human actors. He was awarded several patents for his creations and he was awarded eight Academy Awards for his work in film.

Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
figure, animation
maker; producer
Pal, George
user
Walter Lantz Production
maker
Pal, George
place made
United States: California, Los Angeles
Physical Description
rubber, foam (overall material)
vinyl (overall material)
suede (overall material)
wood (overall material)
leather (overall material)
wax (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 4 3/4 in x 10 1/2 in x 5 1/2 in; 12.065 cm x 26.67 cm x 13.97 cm
ID Number
1983.0361.10
accession number
1983.0361
catalog number
1983.0361.10
Credit Line
Gift of Elisabeth Pal
subject
Animation
Motion Pictures
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Entertainment
Movies
Movie Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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