I was studying this clip from Tex Avery's Bad Luck Blackie some more and I noticed that the musical violin beats match the cat coming out of the hole onto the 'X', then looking left, then straight ahead and then the dog releasing the rope to start the violin cascade. They all seemed perfectly timed. So I used a digital metronome to tap out the beats for the cat's head turns. From that I found that the head turns were on (roughly) a 9 beat. (a new beat of timing for the action & music occurs every 9 frames. This comes out to 160 beats per minute musically). Anyhow I guessed that this 9 beat was consistent throughout the clip, so I set out to see if my guess was correct. Oddly enough it was. Here is the result...
right click and Save to download as Quicktime
I replaced the music with the 9 beat click track and added a flashing indicator to show where the beats are. It's hard to catch the beats exactly when you play it, but if you download the Quicktime movie and frame step through it you'll find that most of the actions for the character occur on the beat frame, or within 1 frame of it. And you'll notice that if you step forward every 9th frame has a new beat. Often you'll notice that a pose drawing (as opposed to an inbetween) for the dog hits right on the beat frame. This timing is so pervasive that it comes right down to the shot cuts as well. You'll notice that the cut from the two shot of the dog & cat to the falling safe happens right on a beat frame.
The director settled on the timing (and passed it along to the animator) before the music was composed and the motion was created to allow the composer the opportunity to match it perfectly without breaking stride in the musical beat. This connection between the motion and the music within a structure is a primary characteristic of classical golden age cartoons. This too seems to be a disappearing skill. Animators today generally don't think musically (unless we have pre-recorded music that we are animating to). Timing-wise we animators usually do whatever we want and leave the composer with a mish-mash of actions that lack a strong timing structure. While the shorts being done today are good, they lack this underlying structure for the most part. I think it'd be really neat to see this employed more- if only to know that the skill of musical timing to animation is alive and well.
Seriously cool stuff, man.