A Dreamer Walking

Bill Peet- Storyboard Artist- Song of the South

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 23, 2014

Song of the SouthThis is a drawing from the great storyboard artist Bill Peet. He is considered by many to be the greatest to ever live. In all honesty he is a storyboard artist from a time long past. With most features today you don’t see this kind of detail, composition, and character work in storyboards. Most storyboard artists in animation still try to express character and work with composition, but they need to make literally hundreds of drawings to complete their scenes. Because the director wants to see more detailed action from the storyboard artist they do not have as much time to work on the fine detail of any one drawing. In the 1930’s and 40’s, when Bill Peet came to Disney, storyboard artists just drew a few dozen drawings for an average scene.

Bill Peet believed in telling stories through visuals.  Walt saw Peet’s talents early one. He sent Peet to the story department for Pinocchio (1941) and he mostly stayed there until his work for The Jungle Book  was denied by Walt for a lighter version of the story in 1964. Walt and Peet had fights through out their careers. Peet considered himself one of the only people who actually was willing to stand up to Disney. In the mid fifties through the sixties Peet began to grow concerned that Walt wasn’t as in tune with animation because of all the other things on his plate (Walt was in the middle of creating Disneyland and developing live action movies and television shows). I believe Walt also understood he was growing busy because he gave Peet more authority over his stories. 101 Dalmatians (1961) and Sword in the Stone (1963) movies were story boarded entirely by Bill Peet, a feat unheard of in today’s animation world.

Peet claimed Walt always saw storyboard artists like him as expendable while over idolizing the great animators at Disney. Some say Walt did this because he knew how to tell stories but could not animate worth a darn. I do believe Walt was the best storyteller in the Disney studios, but I don’t agree with Peet when he suggests Walt didn’t value his talent. I understood just how much Peet was valued by Walt when I learned about Peet participating in the 1941 Disney strike. Whether it was justified or not Walt considered all the people who participated in the strike traitors of his generosity and friendship. None of the big animators who participated in the strike continued to work for Disney. Walt even named some of the lead strikers at the House of Un-American Activities Committee when he was called as a friendly witness. The strike hit Disney hard and he was never the same afterword. However, for Walt to accept Bill Peet into the studio after the striker suggest he had a tremendous respect for his storytelling abilities. To have Bill Peet constantly confront Walt and Walt resist firing him also suggest a respect.

In terms of this feature Song of the South, Bill Peet was given the time to develop each drawing. He was allowed to make every one of his storyboard drawings be an inspiration for the character designers, layout artists, and animators work. Look at the way Peet captures these characters personalities. The action is clearly expressed. The world feels completely formed. Even though this is a simplistic pastel drawing, it feels much more detailed. Peet drawings in a way that allows the imagination to fill in the rest of the action. He doesn’t direct the animation by giving a pose for each second of movement but rather inspires the animator to find a movement that best fits the feeling you get from looking at the drawing for the first time. This shows Bill Peet at his most playful and the final animation for the film is just as inspired.

Ub Iwerks – Animator – Steamboat Willie

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 18, 2014

Ub IwerksThis is from one of the very first Mickey mouse cartoons and it comes from the original drawer of Mickey Mouse, Ub Iwerks. Contrary to common belief it was not Walt Disney who originally created the design of Mickey. In fact Walt wasn’t really ever good at drawing Mickey. Frankly he wasn’t a good draftsmen in general. Ub wasn’t the greatest artist either, but he was a magnificent animator for his time. During the making of this movie (1928) a sign of a great animator was not about draftsmanship, squash and stretch, timing, or character development, it was about speed and gags. In animation’s history there might not have been a faster animator then Ub Iwerks. He literally animated the first two Mickey Mouse shorts (Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie) by himself, during his off time. This was unheard of for the time and is considered almost impossible to do today. However, because he created a simple enough design Iwerks was able to work with Walt and their wives on finishing the first Mickey mouse short “Plane Crazy” right after Walt was released from obligations from Universal Pictures for the cartoons of “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit”.

“Plane Crazy” was not a success but the next short “Steamboat Willie” completely revolutionized the animation industry. The key ingredient, you ask? SOUND! Walt Disney and his now small creative team dubbed the Mickey short with all kinds of fun sound effects which brought life to both Mickey and the many gags in the short.

This drawing might not seem very special to you. However, I think you can find substance in the simplicity of the design. When you break down animation to simple designs like this, it feels like anyone is capable of doing it. The action is very well placed. We know exactly what is going on; the protagonist and antagonist are clearly understood and gag is clearly staged. This is one of the drawings that started it all and for that I can’t help but admire it.

(Copyright Disney)