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Busby Berkeley


Busby Berkeley

Best known for his kaleidoscopic dance sequences, Busby Berkeley (1895-1976) was a highly-influential director and choreographer of movie musicals. Born in Los Angeles, California as William Berkeley Enos, he served in World War I as a director of parade drills; most credit his involvement with the military for the patterns that would categorize his later work.[1]


An example of Berkeley's work

Berkeley was known for his single-camera takes, which he developed during his first stint as a director. Unsatisfied with the protocol wherein choreographers created dance sequences, but had little control over camera placement and editing choices, Berkeley convinced film producer Samuel Goldwyn to allow him to try his hand at directing. The result was so visually stunning that Berkeley was given a seven year contract, and would continue to contribute musical numbers to almost all of the major productions coming out of Warner Brothers during the 1930s. Some of his most famous works include 42nd Street (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), and Footlight Parade (1933). In all of these films, Berkeley used hundreds of dancers to create awe-inspiring, geometric spectacles.


Another example of Berkeley's work

Influence on Animation[]

Many popular animated films, particularly those from Walt Disney’s production studios allude to Berkeley’s dance sequences in their own animated choreography. For instance, the end scene of The Three Caballeros (1944), set to the tune “You Belong to My Heart” features live-action footage of chorus-line dancers displayed in several kaleidoscopic positions.


An example of Berkeley's influence on Beauty and the Beast

Berkeley’s influence can also be seen with the dancing animals during Simba’s “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” sequence in The Lion King(1994) and with the dancing dinnerware in the “Be Our Guest” sequence of Beauty and the Beast (1991).


An example of Berkeley's influence on Disney's The Lion King

Most recently, Pixar used the concept of spectacle and kaleidoscopic dance patterns to shock and awe audiences in Happy Feet (2006), an animated musical about a tap dancing penguin.