A Dreamer Walking

Fred Moore – Animator – Snow White

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 17, 2014

Fred Moore 1You can’t get much more appealing then this. In fact, appeal was Fred Moore’s signature trait. Ollie Johnston, one of his pupils, claimed beautiful stuff flowed out of Moore’s pencil like water. Those working under him claimed, “He couldn’t do a drawing without appeal”. He was a young prodigy responsible for Mickey Mouse’s classic design. He went on to define nearly all the characters we think of as Disney classics from the 30’s and early 40’s. He was responsible for the final look of all seven of the dwarfs in Snow White (1937). Both Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas studied under him during the feature’s production.

As talented as Moore was his actual life story had a bit of a tragic ending. Some claim his decline was due to the fact Moore was untrained and bloomed so young. He was in his mid twenties when he was assigned to be the lead for the Seven Dwarfs in Snow White. Disney hired him at age 19 with no formal training. It is said he submitted drawings drawn on paper grocery bags. At the beginning animation just seemed to come naturally to Moore. Every one of his animations had a charm to them. As you can see in this drawing there is nothing unattractive about it. The arcs are perfect and the situation humorous.

Moore needed to be inspired in order to animate and at times he had difficulty finding inspiration. Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas talked about him sitting at his office unable to draw for hours. They needed to prompt him and trying to get him excited about a piece of animation before he would start to animate. However, when he began to animate he wouldn’t stop. He could produce several feet of animation in a single day and each drawing flowed together to create beautiful motion.

With every new film Walt Disney demanded his artists to push the medium of animation. Walt began to lean towards more realism and designs that required a greater deal of draftsmanship. Fred Moore wasn’t able to keep up with the new Disney look. Legendary animator Marc Davis said, “In the early days Fred Moore was Disney Drawing”. However, with movies such as Bambi (1942) and much later films such as Sleeping Beauty (1959) and The Jungle Book (1967) Fred did not have the ability to keep up with Disney style. Moore also had problems with alcoholism and it was one of the reasons he was laid off in 1946 with a group of other artists.

Fred Moore going over Ollie Johnston's drawing.

Fred Moore going over his then Pupil Ollie Johnston’s drawing.

Ollie Johnston and a few other animators were able to hire Fred Moore again in 1948 with Walt’s blessing. Moore brought appeal to some animation in the 1950’s, most notably the mermaids in Peter Pan (1953). However, he went from Walt’s top animator to working under his one time pupil, Ollie Johnston. In 1952 Moore was involved in a tragic freak accident when his wife, who was driving, ran into another car while trying to make a U turn. Moore died the next day in the very hospital Walt would pass away in a decade and a half later.

Ollie Johnston kept a pencil of Fred’s taped to his window. In his 1995 documentary Ollie said he kept it there to, “remind me of how great the guy was and how much he meant to me”. He found there was a little lead left in the pencil and Ollie said he was going to save it for something special.

Ken Anderson – Art Director – 101 Dalmatians

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 6, 2014

Ken Anderson 101 DalmationsThis drawing comes from the artist Ken Anderson, one of Walt’s most loyal artists. He worked for Walt from the 1934 short Goddess of the Spring all the way to the day Walt died just before the release of The Jungle Book (1967). It really is amazing seeing Ken talk about Walt, the devotion he had to that man was just astonishing. He said, “I wanted to be close to Walt, because Walt was where things started”. Walt drove creativity and thus many people were driven to work along side him and get involved with his passions, even if this meant coming in on weekends or working to the late hours of the night.

Anderson came to Disney as a student of architecture. Walt called him a man of all trades. Indeed, through out his career Anderson worked as a writer, architect, animator, character designer, and art director for Disney. Anderson was one of the first people to help Walt plan out Disneyland and work on some of the attractions, far before anyone thought Disneyland could be made. Anderson said he did not just want to work in animation. His contributions are seen everywhere in Disney’s history – live action film, animation, Disneyland, and Walt Disney World – however, the place he was given the most responsibility in was 1961’s 101 Dalmations.

Anderson was both the art director and production designer for 101 Dalmations. The movie represented the first time Disney Animation used what was called a Xerox process. This allowed the artists to bypass inking and painting the animation cells for the final picture. What this meant is you would see the actual line drawings projected on the screen rather then drawings painted over. The main reason for this change was to bring down the budget. And though there were a lot of people who lost their jobs because of it Ken Anderson tried very hard to embrace the new style. The new style of animation actually went well with Ken’s style of drawings. There is a sketch quality to almost all of Ken’s art. In the drawing above he embraces the business of the line and throws us into an extremely lush detailed world.

Walt did not like Anderson’s design of 101 Dalmatians however. The fact Walt didn’t like it greatly distressed Anderson. In fact soon after Anderson suffered a severe stroke. When listening to Anderson talk about Walt’s disapproval you don’t get a sense he thought Walt just didn’t understand, you get the sense Anderson felt like he failed Walt. I don’t know if I should be in aw of or concerned with someone who has such power over a follower. Yet, this is the very power Walt held over many of his artists through out his career. Anderson did talk about seeing Walt during the making of The Jungle Book. He along with many other artists remember that last day Walt came to visit the studio. They remember it because Walt wasn’t interested in talking about any projects with the boys. All he seemed to do was look around a little bit and see how the artists were doing. Anderson said when he met Walt that day, two weeks before he passed away, Walt brought up 101 Dalmatians. He said, “You know that thing you did on Dalmatians”. And that’s all he said, but Anderson felt like Walt forgave him right then and there and Walt thought maybe Dalmatians wasn’t that bad of a movie.

Well of course 101 Dalmatians wasn’t a bad movie. Sometimes even Walt Disney had a hard time understanding or accepting good art. Look at the atmosphere Anderson is able to create with the design of the apartment. He happens to be a talented character designer as well so Pongo and Roger are well characterized; Pongo with his restless pose climbing the chair and Roger with the posture of a man deep in thought. Instead of the busyness detracting us I believe it allows the eye to drift toward the center part of the picture and concentrate on the characters. However, this is not an art piece meant for the public to see. Anderson probably never thought any of his art was going to be acknowledged thirty plus years after he died. What he is doing here is exploring. He wants to see how much detail will add to the scene and how much is too much. This I believe is a little too much. But it sure is rich with interesting stuff; like the music notes tied to the center light, the stacked dishes on top of stacked books, or the clock being caricatured like a human head because of the hat. This drawing really just shows a portion of Ken Anderson’s talent and hopefully I will be able to post more of his stuff in the future.

Joe Ranft: Part 2: A Dedicated Artist

Posted in Animation, Film and Filmaker Studies by Jacob on October 19, 2010

In part 1 of my Joe Ranft series I talked about Joe Ranft’s struggles, both in his personal life and as an artist; one of Joe’s greatest struggles being his hardships at drawing. This is not to say Joe was bad at drawing. No, he actually became a very good storyboard artist. He was able to communicate an idea in the simplest way possible. Many artists claimed Joe’s drawings were deceivingly simple; he created the impression that anyone could do it. However this was not the case. Joe was good because of his constant devotion as an artist. He made up for his inability to draw complex figures through his ability to express a clear image. Like most good storyboard artists Joe was able to simplify a drawing, only leaving the bare minimum needed to get the point across to the audience. Joe’s greatest strength was what most of his drawings represented so clearly. Joe was known for putting heart into his art, a talent that is rare even among the best of artists.

During his first years at CalArts Joe tried to make up for his weaknesses in draftsmanship by attempting to copy other students styles. T. Hee (a professor and mentor to Joe) kept pushing Joe to express himself through his drawings. T. Hee encouraged Joe along with the rest of his students to figure out their own unique ways of expressing themselves and their ideas. Joe began to run with T. Hee’s philosophy and created some very unique pieces of work as an animation student. He created a short called Good Humor, where a blob of ice cream comes to life and tries to persuade a human not to eat him. Joe tried very hard to think outside the box. He often hung out with the experimental animation students trying to use them and their unique ways of thinking to push him to think of story ideas so he could push the medium of animation and storytelling to whole new level.

Joe began to find inspiration, both in the art profession and in the world he lived in. The professors at CalArts claimed the greatest tool any artist could have is their own unique experiences in life. The professors tried to push their students to experience life outside their art form. Joe was encouraged by T. Hee to take different routes to work every day and to never get caught up in a formula either inside his personal life or animation. Joe also found inspiration from the storyboard artist Bill Peet. Peet was one of Disney’s greatest storyboard artist, working for Disney from the late 1930’s through the 1960’s. He had a magnificent energy in his drawings. They expressed the action perfectly and inspired great pieces of animation. Joe knew what kind of storyboard artist he wanted to be after seeing some of Bill’s storyboard work for the movie Song of the South ( 1946). Joe could see how the drawings created the world of the movie and were full of character personality. Animators often said about both Joe and Peet’s work that the illustrations lead themselves to animation. The staging and action were so clearly expressed the drawings made the animators job simpler in a way.

Unlike Bill Peet, who was known to be a solo storyboard artist, Joe was huge on teamwork. Joe loved bouncing ideas off others and strengthening story through the combined efforts of artists working together to chisel away the unneeded parts of a story until they created a perfect piece of art. The friendships Joe created in CalArts, with artists such as John Lasseter, Tim Burton, John Musker, and Ron Clemens benefited Joe tremendously later in his career. Joe helped storyboard films such as The Great Mouse Detective and The Little Mermaid, for John and Ron. He helped create and storyboard the masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas with Tim Burton. And Joe created a powerful friendship with John Lasseter and was asked by John to be head of story on his directorial debut Toy Story, for the up and coming animation studio Pixar. Because of the huge success of Toy Story and his great relationship with John Lasseter Joe never left Pixar. He became head of story for Pixar’s next movie A Bug’s Life and was a major contributor to every film Pixar created from that point until his death in 2005.

Many of Joe’s storyboards had a tendency of being so strong they stayed the same all the way through a films production. For Toy Story, a movie that went through several revisions, Joe boarded a sequence where a bunch of green toy army men go out to spy on a birthday party going on downstairs. This sequence is magical and was hardly changed through out the entire production. The army men sequence also established the whole idea to what everyone wanted the film to be about – where toys come to life and think their job is to observe human life without ever being caught moving.

Joe had a mind of a student through out his life. He was constantly working on his drawing and communication skills. Joe pushed himself to become a better storyboard artist in every way possible. He believed a storyboard artist needed to have a whole slew of abilities to do their job well. They needed to be good draftsmen. They needed to know how to use and move a camera and how to compose a shot. They needed to know the basics to animations, meaning the ability to do squash and stretch, how to stage action, an understanding of timing, etc. Joe was a student of the performance and he took several classes on acting. Joe wanted to create feeling in his drawings. He wanted to provoke emotions that made the audience feel affection for his characters and the animator want to animate his drawings. Joe talked about being most at home when he was trying figure out a character. This seemed to be the reason why he was a storyboard artist; to figure out these characters who are not real in reality but real in the artist’s and audiences’ minds.

I have learned a lot from Joe Ranft’s devotion toward his art form. His example brought out the best from those around him. Joe was a very humble man, he just wanted to create the best film possible. He had a servant’s heart. He helped many first time directors, including Pete Doctor (Director of Monsters Inc. and UP) and Andrew Stanton (Director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E), become the great artists they are today. It was not a vast amount of talent that made Joe a great artist it was his passion. A passion that only got stronger through struggle and hardships. And it was this passion for the great medium of animation he was able to spread to those around him.

(To Be Concluded…)

Depressed

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on August 17, 2010

This is a drawing I did about a year ago. It was a quick sketch but I ended up liking it quite a bit. Just lines from a Precise V5 pen that created a sort of mood and feeling that has the potential to impact a person.

Film Mediums: 2D Animation!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on June 16, 2010
Glen Keane Drawing of the Beast!

Glen Keane Drawing of the Beast!

2D animation is a very magical medium of film. As I said in my last post, there is nothing more magical to me then seeing simple drawings come to life. Another thing that 2D animation can do is show the hand of the artist through the actual drawings on screen. This drawing to the side was done by a masterful animator called Glen Keane. He has a very interesting style to his animation, different from any other artist.

One of the beauties of 2D animation is that there are so many different drawing styles. Each animator has his or her own way of going about a scene. During the rough animation you can definitely see a huge difference in some animators styles. In this Glen Keane drawing you see very dark lines, Glen is known for physically digging into his paper with the pencil trying to feel the emotion of the character he is drawing. However if you look below you can see a drawing by another masterful animator Ollie Johnson. He had a much lighter touch. Johnston was said to have barley kissed the page with his pencil, slowly trying to figure out the right look and movement for his characters.

Ollie Johnson Example

Ollie Johnson Example

In 2D animation you are constantly trying to clean up drawings so you can create a film that looks singular, as though one artist had created it. This is where Clean Up Artists come in. A Clean Up Artist is someone who goes over the animators original drawings and creates a fluid drawings that can match the other animation done for the character. A character like the Beast in Beauty and the Beast would have many different animators working so they could have the Beast’s performance done in reasonable time . It can take weeks for an animator to do only a few seconds worth of motion, thus each character calls for multiple animators.

You can not be a good 2D animator without studying the principles of movement. A animator needs to know how to draw well and have a feel for acting. Some animators plan out every detail of their shot before they go about animating. If you look at an animator like Milt Kahl (some say he is the greatest animator ever to live) you will see a pain staking amount of time that goes into planning out each shot. Milt Kahl tried looking at a scene from every angle.  He would thumbnail different ideas until he found something that would squeeze out the most entertainment possible. Milt knew exactly what he was going to animate before he even put pencil to paper. However, if you look at a animator like Glen Keane, he will be the first to tell you that he does not know what exactly the result of his animation will be. This is not to say he doesn’t put in the preparation, there is a lot of study Glen does into his character and how his character should move. However, Glen likes to animate based on feeling, he tries to get into his character’s skin and feel the movement of the character flow from pencil to paper. All the way through Glen’s animation process he is digging into his character’s head wondering what the next move should be and whether or not he could express that move through his drawing.

With 2D animation you need to simplify everything. A character is simplified to its basic roots. This often makes the artists put a lot of thought into who the character is and what shapes express the character the best. The audience eye is allowed to pay attention to the action instead of getting distracted by unnecessary details.

This field of animation also lets us look at a movie like a painting. It literally takes hundreds of paintings to create all the background for a story of a film. When 2D animation is at its best everything is painted to highlight the characters. The artists have the ability to dramatically change the color scheme in order to push an emotion. There are times where we only are allowed an impression of a location, like the Forest in Bambi for example. If you go back and study the backgrounds in Bambi, you will find that the paintings for the foreground and background are only impressions of what a real forest looks like. However, the feeling the forest in Bambi creates can be more real then a actual forest.

Some of the feelings I have gotten from 2D animation films like Pinocchio, Lady and the Tramp, and Bambi have never been matched in any other film medium. In 2D animation I am allowed to see the hand of the artist, the only devices the artists need to make the medium work is a pencil and paper. It is a personal field of study and you are allowed to see the sweat and blood the artist put into making the drawings come to life. The actual power of 2D animation is that you start with a blank piece of paper and are able to create anything you can imagine.

(Here are links to the rest of the posts for this series, Film Mediums, CG Animation, and Live Action)

Contrast

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on April 19, 2010

One of the keys to making good stories and good characters is contrast. You will not watch a good movie that does not have both goods and evils.

I am a big fan of movies that have good in them. I actually want the core of each of my films to be built out of something good. But my films would be very poor if all I had was good things happen.

Let me use this self-portrait I did to help make my point. If I only used dark shades and did not go any lighter then gray, my picture would not be as interesting. We would have hardly anything to contrast the black with and the dark would not stand out as being anything special. The same principle applies if I only had white through gray with no dark. The drawing would be hard to read, the shapes would lose their strength and nothing would pop.

The point of the drawing is made through contrast. The drawing is trying to say something with one half of the face being light and the other dark. We see some powerful dark lines in the eyes and shadows that contrast the highlights of the hat and face, well.

The same thing applies to any character you make or story you create. Yes, I am a big believer in good winning out in the end, but I need to contrast the good with something evil. We do not know how special the good is until we are able to see what it overcame or what it is fighting.

If you want to make a good villain, do not just have him be completely evil. Give him some good qualities and let us see the light in him. Look at a villain like Darth Vader from Star Wars. Vader is a very evil man (some would call him a monster) who killed many people (Including children). The reason to why he was so interesting however, was the fact that there was some good in him. The idea that Vader was once a good man makes his crimes all the more horrible and interesting. The idea that Vader is not completely evil, gives us as an audience a reason to keep watching him and hoping that he might choose good one day.

Sometimes you might need to sacrifice an interesting villain for an interesting story. Take the Joker in Batman Dark Knight for example. I think that the Joker was played very well, and he was actually a perfect villain for the Batman movie. The only interesting thing about the Joker however was the ways he could test Batman and Gotham. The Joker by himself would not be interesting, he had shown that he was completely evil. The only reason to why the Joker was doing what he was doing, was to test people and blow things up.

The Dark Knight was interesting because of the contrast between the Joker and Batman. In the first Batman movie, we saw that Batman had shown that he was mostly good (light). So what if we tested that goodness with the evil (darkness) of the Joker? The extreme light that Batman was, and the extreme darkness that the Joker was, created a very powerful contrast. For me that contrast was what made the movie interesting.

So in any story contrast is key. The darker the story gets, the more clearly we see the light.

(The picture is a self Portrait I did of myself about 4 years ago. I touched it up a little on Photoshop, so that I could get a bit more contrast. I am very happy with how it turned out, it was one of those drawings that made me first begin to think I could be good at art)

Eric Goldberg

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 8, 2010

Eric Goldberg is an animator/artist that I really admire. He Has done some great stuff for animation, including being the lead animator for the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin and Lewis in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. I  respect what he thinks of animation in general and more importantly, what he thinks about telling a Story. His characters always seem to be pushing the story forward.

His greatest piece of advice is to believe your character exist. It is not about imitating the voice acting or imitating yourself, it is about expressing your character. The way Eric works is to do an extreme amount of studying on his characters before he even puts pencil to paper.

Eric also talks about the warmth of a character. Eric talked about the Genie and how so many people loved his off the wall actions, but Eric made it clear that what grounded the Genie and made him real for others, was the warmth you saw in him. When the Genie talks about being free, you can see that he believes in what he is saying with every action he makes.

Feeling the emotions is a big thing for Eric. When Eric animates he thinks more about the emotions of the character then the actual dimensions. Because of this we are able to see some really powerful extreme poses where you completely understand how the character is feeling. Any type of actor should be realizing what their character is feeling at all times. Too often I see movies (both animated and live action) where a character is walking or moving without any thought process to why he/she is moving the way he/she is. Because of the detail that Eric puts into the thought process of his Characters, I find almost every frame of movement entertaining. It gives me a reason to go back and watch it again.

On top of being the lead animator on the Genie and Lewis for Disney, Goldberg has also co-directed Pocahontas and directed two sequences in Fantasia 2000, The Carnival of the Animals and Rhapsody in Blue. His style of animating is truly unique. Eric went to Pratt Institute and Majored in illustration, he then went into the animation business in the mid 70’s and studied under legend animators such as Art Babbit (Lead animator of The Queen in Snow White, and Geppetto in Pinocchio), and Richard Williams (Director Animator for Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Eric’s knowledge of animation is outstanding and he has more importantly been able to express his knowledge through his work.

Here are some links to some interviews and lectures he has made on animation. VERY GOOD STUFF!!!

Animation Mentor Interview

Academy of Art University Lecture

Animation Podcast