Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chuck Jones


Like most of you I am a HUGE fan of Chuck Jones. Over the years I’ve  had the pleasure of meeting him on a number of occasions. On New Year’s day of 1990 Chuck invited a small group of Disney animators to pay him a visit at his home in Corona del Mar, California. 
It turned out to be a wonderful afternoon with an animation genius. Chuck had been impressed by the film “The Little Mermaid” which had just been released. As he complimented us on our work, we couldn’t even begin to find words that described how much his work on the Looney Toons meant to us.
We were in such awe, I don’t think anybody thought of taking a photo with him. Bummer…

It is such a joy to study Chuck’s drawings. I can see a little influence by Fred Moore and Searle, but mostly Chuck Jones drew from his own life experiences. He comes up with the most amazing character designs, and the way he developed Bugs, Daffy, Porky Pig and all the others -graphically and personality wise- is simply incredible. 
It is difficult to pick any favorites among his many outstanding films, but these three would be amongst them:

“Bewitched Bunny”, because the way Hansel and Gretel are portrayed with limited German vocabulary makes me laugh hysterically. (“Ja, ja, is gut…und yummy!”)
“A Bear for Punishment”, because Ken Harris’ animation of that bear family is hilarious and unmatched.
“What’s Opera, Doc?”, because…well, because!

Here are some of my favorite drawings, published in his 1989 book “Chuck Amuck”. 

















© Chuck Jones Enterprises, Warner Brothers

Monday, August 25, 2014

Quotes

…from Disney artists, who knew what they were talking about. In the past I have shown these and other “quote cards” during lectures on classic Disney animation, and sometimes they started off an interesting discussion. 
I can certainly came up with more of these statements, based on interviews I have seen and what these guys actually told me.
Here is one, I forgot to add, by Milt Kahl:

“My wife (Julie) and I saw a review of ’The Black Cauldron” on local TV (in San Francisco). It was pretty bad, and I knew the film would be a prize stinker, so we didn’t bother watching it in a theatre. Later we both did enjoy ‘The Great Mouse Detective’ though, it looked like something fresh.”



Don Graham was head of Disney’s internal training program from 1932 - 1940. Chuck Jones called him the greatest American art teacher.
The closest you will ever come to his teachings is through his excellent 1970 book ”Composing Pictures”. It is in reprint and available at Amazon:





In other words, if it's not based on real life: Forget it!



It took me years to fully understand this.



Ward’s answer to a student’s question, referring to why the Disney classic films are so good with a quality unachievable today.





Yes…Marc did say that. And I respect him for it.
I wonder what he’d say about today’s animated features.



...as he did with Shere Khan. No rotoscoping, just a lot of live action film studies.





Saturday, August 23, 2014

Medusa's Pivotal Sequence


By many moviegoers and critics Disney Animation during the 1970s wasn’t hailed as the pioneering medium it once was. But there were still groundbreaking achievements in character animation being made, and this sequence is on one of them. 
How on earth would you as an animator even dare to draw scenes in which a villainess takes off her make up during a conversation with a little girl?! This kind if business would seem too subtle for animation, and much more suitable for live action. 
But if you are Milt Kahl, you live for challenges like this. He said he got a kick out of working out these scenes, partly because he had never seen anything like this done in animation before.
“I wanted to push the contrast between her eyes with the false eyelashes, and then without them. When she removes an eyelash there is’t any hair left at all. On the cels we had the inkers use a skin-tone outline (instead of black) around the eye, which gave a certain pale, vacant look.”

I consider this sequence as amazing and inventive as anything that was done during Disney’s Golden Age. What a statement in character acting!!




Ollie Johnston animated Penny, holding her Teddy bear while interacting with Medusa.
Milt was somewhat disappointed, because he had envisioned Penny holding on to the doorknob. The idea being that this thing is almost a friend to her at that moment.
I would go with Ollie’s version on this one, because the Teddy Bear is more important to the girl than a doorknob. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Greek Mythology


I just got back from a screening of Disney's Hercules, a film I had not seen since it came out in 1997.
And I have to admit, that I had forgotten how funny it was. Way back in 1997 the movie's satirical humor and its graphic styling might not have been everybody's cup of tea, but watching it today with an enthusiastic audience was a lot of fun.
I'll have more on Hercules in the near future, some material (my pencil tests) I thought was lost just resurfaced. So stay tooned.

In the meantime here are a few beautiful book illustrations depicting Greek Mythology. The artist is Wilhelm M. Busch, and the 1968 book is called "Olympische Liebesspiele" (Olympic Love Games).
I love everyone of these drawings, and if I could draw like this in my next life, that would be ok with me.











Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Exploring the Possibilities


Milt Kahl used those words when he tried to explain his process for starting a new scene.
Most of you know that Milt and many other Disney animators produced a number of thumbnail sketches in preparation for the actual animation. This research can center around finding certain expressions, an acting pattern or -like in this case- a simple pose.

In this scene Robin is stirring the soup while daydreaming about Maid Marian. 
The image above is a frame from that scene, but check out how much work Milt put into finding this one pose. He came up with a ton of variations, until he sold himself on one position that looked natural to him. 
I think that Milt actually struggled a little to get to a satisfying result. But remember what he said one time: “I actually don’t draw that well, I have to work like hell to make a drawing look good!” (At the same time he thought that he drew better than anybody else at the studio.)

It’s fascinating to see his mind in action, exploring the possibilities.