Sunday, October 18, 2020

Ollie Johnston in his own Words

I am going to post a few comments by Walt Disney artists that were originally published in an issue of Storyboard Magazine from 1993. The topic is mostly about their relationship with Walt.

At the time these essays were submitted to the magazine by the artists, and as far as I know are unedited.





Ollie drew these charming sketches at his home in Flintridge around 1963.









Drawings: Howard Lowery Auctions


Monday, October 12, 2020

Lady & the Tramp Pencil Test Sequence



Classic Disney pencil tests are treasures. The characters seem to be even more alive than in the final color footage. You are reminded that someone drew this stuff with a pencil on paper. It represents the animator's art in its purest form. No color or rendered backgrounds to "distract" you, just a bunch of lines on the screen. But those lines have an explosive magic, because they reveal imaginary yet real life.
Steve Stanchfield just posted the complete Siamese Cats sequence in pencil test form. 
Before the release of Lady & the Tramp in 1955, Disney presented a TV program featuring Peggy Lee, Woolie Reitherman, Frank Thomas, Milt Kahl and others. 
I believe this pencil test sequence was supposed to be a part of the TV show, but was ultimately cut.

John Sibley animated the cats. They had originally been assigned to Ward Kimball, who animated some if not all of the sequence. His footage apparently did not fit the realistic style of the film.

This is a real treat, and I'd like to thank Steve Stanchfield for making it available to everyone on Vimeo.


 





Here is the link: https://vimeo.com/466013616


Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Power of Vintage Disney


 
Walt Disney's animation studio didn't invent character animation, but it elevated it to unimaginable artistic heights. 
Here are a few random thoughts that help illustrate just WHY this studio was the industry's leader:

APPEAL
You can't take your eyes off classic Disney characters. There is a visual magnetism in this Timothy drawing. You want to look at him, you want to get to know him.


RESEARCH TRAVELS
They realized that by studying local folklore on site gave the films great authenticity.





THE STUDY OF REAL ANIMALS
This added believability to the characters which no other studio came close to. 





PHENOMINAL STORY SKETCHES
They reveal not only story continuity, but also staging, camera angles and personality.




THE WILLINGNESS TO START OVER
When something didn't feel right it had to be revisited and redone.
Frank Thomas' early Pinocchio animation moved nicely, but the footage was tossed because the character design lacked appeal.




THE GUTS TO GO DARK
Even though animation was full of likable cute characters, Disney did not hesitate to put them into highly dramatic situations. These guys were risk takers!




PHENOMENAL LAYOUTS
Mickey is looking up at a giant's castle. Camera angles like the one take highly skilled artists to draw such an up shot convincingly.




SMART USE OF LIVE ACTION REFERENCE
By hiring outstanding character actors for animation reference the scenes were practically half done by the time the animator got started. (Not all animators approved of this working method though.) 




LET FUNNY ANIMATORS DO THEIR THING
The balance of realistic characters combined with comedic ones added a great dynamic. Particularly in the feature films.





GLORIOUS COLORS
All of Disney's animated films have stunning color models for their characters. From Technicolor extravaganzas like "Alice in Wonderland" to more subtle color palettes like "101 Dalmatians", they all work beautifully. 






LET THE STYLE EVOLVE
What started as rounded sculptural drawings evolved into sophisticated artistic graphics.
This challenged some artists, but audiences embraced the change eventually.





ECONOMIZE BUT DON'T COMPROMISE
Evan after Xerox was introduced to save money, the studio was still capable of producing masterful animation. The overall look changed again, but character animation maintained its very high standard.




A GROUP EFFORT
When all disciplines like animation, effects and background painting come together on the highest level possible, visuals like this one were achieved. This is animation for the ages.