Friday, November 8, 2019

Gold!

Today by accident I came across a lecture given by animator Chuck Harvey at California State University in 2017. Chuck talked about his own work at Disney and other studios.
I was beyond thrilled when he showed and discussed several Milt Kahl thumbnails for Madame Medusa. Copies of this kind of exploratory sketches for certain sequences for The Rescuers by Milt are all over the place, I posted some myself.
Yet I had never before seen thumbnails for the Holy Grail, the make up removal section.
A frame grabbed these images from the video, no HD here, but it is still a thrill to be able to study them. 






Chuck was already an accomplished animator when I started at Disney. He had worked on The Small One, Pete's Dragon and The Rescuers.

You can find his lecture here:


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Big Cat Staging

This story sketch showing how Shere Khan extends his claws in front of Mowgli is by Vance Gerry.
Its gets a little tricky when a four legged big cat needs to act human like with its front paws.
The pose tends to look unnatural and even off balance when the acting is shown as a full body shot.
Milt Kahl knew this. So whenever Shere Khan rubbed his paw against his chest or clapped in applause, he chose a medium close up in his animation. 
The animal character becomes human for a few moments, and it looks more believable in this type of fielding. 
This is a general rule and there are exceptions. Earlier when Shere Khan first approaches Kaa, he pulls the snake's tail down to the sound of a door bell. It's a funny gag, and the tiger is shown in a full body long shot.







I became aware of this staging issue when animating certain scenes with Scar.
Here he is talking to Simba about a "Father/Son......Thing".
I animated his left paw rotating as if Scar is looking for a certain word: "Thing".
On that word he flicks his paw, to show a sense of banality and slight disgust.
I love working this kind of stuff out.
This scene wouldn't have looked right if we had chosen to show his full body.



Saturday, October 26, 2019

Roger Rabbit Problem Solving

This was my first scene that involved a character's eye to pop out a la Tex Avery.
I remember paying attention to the technical aspects for the scene. Roger's eye pops and then there needed to be a stagger, a subtle back and forth, back and forth, animated on 1s (like the rest of the movie).  I thought the pencil test looked pretty good until Dick Williams pointed out that during the stagger the eye still has to follow Bob Hoskins' movements.
I adjusted the animation, but there still seemed to be something awkward with the way Roger was placed into the live action scene. A lot was going on with the pillow and the blanket. They seemed to have a life of their own.
I tried a couple more times to make Roger fit into the bed, but it didn't look perfect.
Guess what, ILM placed a shadow over the screen's lower right corner to take the edge off this combination issue. It sure helped a great deal.







In the following scene Roger exits the bed before jumping back on it. It turned out that Bob Hoskins' eye line was too high before the rabbit arrived in his upward position. The solution was to stretch out Roger's arm, so Hoskins looked at the hand, and a few frames later the head.
There were times when we all had to be creative in order to make the animation/live action combo believable.
Great times!!



 '




Wednesday, October 23, 2019

From Vance Gerry to Milt Kahl

Story artist Vance Gerry boarded Medusa's introduction sequence from The Rescuers.
You can see that Vance was still kind of hanging on to her classic depiction, in which her hair mass is actually a bunch of snakes.
Milt Kahl who animated the villainess didn't go quite as far and drew her hair more conventionally.
This of course makes  complete sense since we are not dealing with Greek mythology here but instead with New York during the 1970s.

But Milt kept Vance's overall idea for the character's staging.
He mentioned in an interview that Medusa treats the phone's hand set as if it were Snoops. She is mad at him for not being able to control Penny. So she shakes the hand set, pokes it with her finger etc.
That thing represents Snoops to her. A fun way to approach this scene from an acting and animation point of view.






A few terrific thumbnail sketches for this section of the film.



A felt pen sketch that shows Medusa's unusual and entertaining body proportions.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Mickey Mouse, 90 Years

This is a reject for a proposed illustration to help promote Mickey's 90th anniversary.
Theme park Mickey and Steamboat Willie take a selfie together.




Friday, October 18, 2019

Flying Horses

I have always loved the design and animation of the Pegasus pair in Fantasia.
Beautiful simplified anatomy combined with an elegant art deco style. And did they ever work out perspective challenges of those wings. I don't know who drew these construction model sheets, but Eric Larson did a fair amount of gorgeous animation with these flying horses.
By contrast the juveniles in this sequence look a bit too cute and cartoony to me. Their overall animation is fine, but a certain solid body structure is missing.

To me it's the adults that steel the show.






Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Appeal, Flair & Magnetism



For some reason I have a difficult time finding those attributes in recent as well as upcoming animated feature releases.
Look at how Donald Duck's world was presented in this 1944 ad. So incredibly charming and inviting. You can't take your eyes off this -I believe- Hank Porter illustration.

I could give you hundreds of other examples from the past that tell me something is missing in today's animation offerings. Not that I expect animation today to look like 1940s Disney. It's just that there was integrity and artistry to cartooning. A higher standard!
I am reminded of what Joe Grant told me, what seems like just a few yers ago: "We had the same problems making animated movies back then. It's just that we drew better."

I could argue that the advent and influence of video games has been toxic on animated features from an artistic point of view. Call me crazy, but I kind of believe that.
Yet box office success speaks for itself. Like someone said: "You can't argue with money in Hollywood."

Anyway, tons of appeal in this James Bodrero sketch for FANTASIA.




The master of appeal, Fred Moore.



I remember that these were the first Disney animation drawings I saw as a kid. This photo of Kimball was included in a small brochure that came with a Disney Super-8 film clip.
I kid you not, my heart was racing. Magnetism on a grand scale.



I am confident though that eventually more artistic "left-turns" will be made in animation. 
Art has a way.....