Thursday, June 30, 2011

Old European Masters

Occasionally when I travel  back to Europe, I revisit the great museums over there
and sketch the work of old masters. Particularly the periods of the late Renaissance
and Baroque are interesting, because figures in sculpture and painting show movement.
I find it useful to study classic art and to absorb the sense of anatomy, composition
and general aesthetics.

The funny thing is that when I was living in Germany as an art student, I took all this art for granted. I had always been there and it was always close by.
After moving to LA and spending years away from  "Old World Culture",
I now look at Bernini, Barye and Michaelangelo with American eyes.
With a bigger sense of Awe, I suppose. And that's a good thing.

The following sketches were made in places like the Musee d'Orsay and the Vatican Museum.
I often use a brush pen, which somehow helps to avoid stiffness in your sketch,
yet bad drawings on the whole are entirely possible.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Marc & Milt

Marc Davis and Milt Kahl were the best of friends.
Milt often raved about Marc's incredible draughtsmanship and his artistry in general ("He makes me look sick"), while Marc admitted that his favorite animator was Milt Kahl.
But the two got along on a personal level as well.
Together with their wives Alice and Phyllis, they socialized, went to ball games,
and they all shared an interest in fine art.
Marc once said of his friend: "Milt is the kind of guy who , if I would go up to him and say, Milt I need $20.000, would not ask me why or what for, I know he would just give it to me."

The two often animated characters that interacted in the same sequences.
Milt did the Fairy Godmother to Marc's Cinderella, he did Peter Pan to Marc's
Tinker Bell, and Roger and Anita to Marc's Cruella de Vil.

It must have been in 1975, when Milt gave Marc this amazing oversized drawing,
which celebrates their friendship. It shows a caricature of the both of them in a 
sort of Picasso-esque drawing style. 
It's a very unique piece, and Marc treasured it.
I want to thank Alice Davis for letting me post the drawing. (She is also kind enough to let me show you some of Marc's gorgeous animal sketches in a later post).

Following are scans of animation rough keys  with Aurora and Prince Phillip ,
(I'll let you guess, who animated who).
Can you believe how tight these are drawn ? When you enlarge them you can see wonderful subtleties in their faces, hands etc.
They were animated on two different levels, I combined them here on to one.

Enjoy the pose test as well. There is an animated camera move toward the end of the scene, that's why they seem to pop over toward screen left.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ollie Johnston

Almost everybody who knew Ollie Johnston wanted to adopt him as their grandfather. He was kind and patient with everybody who wanted to talk to him.
But make no mistake, when asked for his opinion about drawing, animation or filmmaking, he would tell you very honestly and clearly what he didn't like about it,.....but still in his nice friendly voice.

I made a habit of always asking Ollie as well as his esteemed colleagues what they thought about any animated films I had worked on (then I  mentally ran for cover).
Ollie and Frank particularly liked "The Little Mermaid", they had a problem with a scene from "The Lionking", when young Simba sits by Mufasa's dead body.
"We wouldn't have done that" I remember Ollie saying. "Remember Bambi? We never showed the dead body of his mother."  I silently disagreed with them on this point, I think these moments in both films work very well as they are.
Their criticism didn't go into animation that much, more often it was about character development and story. Or things like we overused the camera in "Rescuers down under", and "Roger Rabbit"  really wasn't their cup of tea.  Animated characters banned to live in a Toontown ghetto?  Oh no!!

Once in a rare while you would get a compliment on your work, which was brought up in passing. I remember Ollie, Frank and Marc Davis kind of liking Jafar. When I heard those words I thought, I am so going to run home, write this down and frame it!  And call Mom and Dad, and my old art teacher and.........
Well, I didn't write it down, but it felt awfully good for a while.
And before I forget, Milt Kahl did tell me that he enjoyed "Great Mouse Detective" very much.

Back to Ollie. As you can see in the drawings below, Ollie put a lot of love into his animation. "When I was doing Pinocchio" he told me once "I thought of the character being real, a living person, not a drawing." I know that's how he felt about all of his characters.
Sometimes Ollie supervised a character along with other animators.
Pinocchio and Bambi with Frank and Milt. Alice with Marc and Milt. Other times he gave knock out solo performances like Smee, Baloo or Prince John and Sir Hiss.

Have a great weekend everybody and enjoy this Ollie Johnston gallery.
(More pencil tests to come later....I promise).