Donnachada Daly, a directing animator on MADAGASCAR, has started his own blog HERE. He writes on the site: “Almost every day I’ll try and post up a doodle for no other reason than I just love drawing. Nothing quite like putting pencil to paper and getting that tactile touch. Expect to see a mixture of traditional and digital drawing.” I’ve been enjoying the work he’s been posting so far: the drawings are spare in detail, but have an animator’s touch with plenty of vitality and a search for elegant combinations of shapes.
Here’s some random art from 1950s cartoons which appeal to me for different reasons. To start things off, below are four details from UPA background paintings. The complete BGs will be printed in my upcoming book on 50s animation design (pre-order at Amazon). From top to bottom, the paintings are by Paul Julian, Jules Engel, Bob McIntosh and Herb Klynn. I was prepping these particular paintings for print this weekend, and was marveling at how utterly great all of them are. The paintings really drive home the point that there was no house style at UPA. Artists at the studio were free to paint in whatever style they desired, and when that luxury is allowed to artists of this caliber, you’re bound to end up with some gorgeous stuff. Bonus points to anybody who can identify which films these paintings are from.
A lot of people create ‘stylized’ art to hide weaknesses in their drawing skills, but the best designers are invariably excellent draftsmen as well. These two concept drawings for SLEEPING BEAUTY are the real deal and leave no doubt about Tom Oreb’s drawing skills. It’s all there: an understanding of drapery, anatomy, perspective, and an uncanny ability to create appealing designy shapes while maintaining solidity of form.
Here’s a few model sheet drawings of the sun character created by UPA for the Bell Science special OUR MR. SUN (1953). The entire model sheet, which has a lot more of these sun-heads, will be included in the book. It’s a very decorative approach to character design, but it’s also an interesting design solution that makes a character who is a basic circle look interesting and unique. I haven’t been able to solidly identify who created the model sheet though I’ve narrowed it down to director Bill Hurtz or designer Lew Keller (I’m leaning towards the latter artist because of the drawing style). If anybody knows for sure, please drop me a line.
CARTOON: THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ANIMATION is currently accepting pitches for its next issue, which will be published in December. The magazine is the revamped version of the ASIFA-NEWS magazine and is edited by the Ottawa Animation Festival’s Chris Robinson. Chris writes about what he’s looking for:
As usual, we’re open to articles about ANY aspect of the animation world from TV animation to hardcore abstract films. We want pieces about animators, characters, techniques, schools, business. Whatever ya got. And it doesn’t have to be words, if you’ve got a cartoon idea, a strip, I’ll consider anything.
The deadline for pitches is soon, so best to send them off within the week. Chris asks that article pitches be no more than a few sentences. The magazine pays for articles. Send pitches and questions to robinson (at) magma (dot) ca.
Something about the character designs for Tim Burton’s upcoming stop motion film THE CORPSE BRIDE have annoyed me since I first saw them. The extreme deep-set eyes, flat cheeks and awkward definition of the mouth area look, well, rather wrong, for lack of a better word. The main characters look Burton-esque, but they lack the distinctive graphic shapes and raw charm of the designs Burton created for THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Yesterday, the NEW YORK TIMES explained why CORPSE BRIDE looks the way it does when they published a profile on the film’s character’s designer, Carlos Grangel. Burton apparently did rough character concepts for the film, but then handed off final design duties to Grangel, who is a regular character designer at DreamWorks, and has designed on films like THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, THE ROAD TO EL DORADO and SPIRIT. After realizing this connection, it becomes pretty hard to miss the design similarities between CORPSE BRIDE and late-90s hand-drawn DreamWorks cartoons. And believe me, that’s a connection I hoped I’d never have to make for a Tim Burton film.
Animation Meat notes that animator Eric Goldberg (the Genie in ALADDIN, animation director of LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION) is working on two how-to books about animation. No word on when they’ll be published, but certainly something to look forward to.
SUPER TIBETAN RACER is an animated short best described as Tibetan monks meet Super Mario Kart. Like another film we plugged here a while back, LE BUILDING, this is a student film project produced by the insanely talented students at the French animation school Gobelins, and it was used as one of the opening films at this year’s Annecy animation festival.
John Canemaker’s opinion piece in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, documenting the demise of hand-drawn animation at Disney, can now be read on-line HERE. Canemaker, who is one of our foremost historians on the art of Disney animation, is succinct and doesn’t mince words. He writes, “…for me, as an animation historian, Disney’s decision to eliminate hand-drawn animation for its features is sad. It implies on the part of management disrespect for the studio’s history and a lamentable lack of flexibility and vision.” Canemaker is the first to say that he thinks Walt Disney himself would have been excited by computer animation and would have explored everything the technique had to offer. But Walt would have done so in a dignified manner, without dismantling the entire legacy of the studio:
But somehow I doubt he would have thrown the baby out with the bath water by abandoning hand-drawn animation. Walt was known to spend years trying to find the best way to deploy the talents of certain of his artists, and perhaps he would have found new ways to use the unique qualities of the hand-made moving image–its inherent warmth; the happy accidents of the human touch; the immediate intuitive link between brain, hand and drawing instrument; the special flexibility and style that is so different from the dimensionality, essential coolness and realistic imagery of CGI.
Another bit of Canemaker news worth noting: Part Three of the interview with him has been posted at Animation World Magazine. It is an excellent read wherein John speaks candidly about his multi-faceted career as indie filmmaker, historian and educator. Be sure to check out parts ONE and TWO as well.
For my money, these recent celebrity caricatures by John Kricfalusi are some of the most outstanding examples of caricature I’ve seen in a long time. We tend to overlook the quirks of people’s facial features, but John picks up on these slight differences in our human architecture and exaggerates them to achieve a grotesquely beautiful comic effect. This is not the generic exaggeration of facial and body features that typifies most caricature work today (eg. almost anything in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY); these drawings have an intensity and specificity that truly comes from another place. It’s the same reason I love the work of Ronald Searle and Expressionists like George Grosz and Otto Dix: these artists, like John, don’t rely on the stereotypical images of beauty that have guided artists for centuries. Rather, they draw from the gut and search out their own truths, and the resulting work is infinitely richer and more honest.
Bill Robinson, an animation student at RIT, sent the Brew some thoughtful comments about Disney’s appearance at SIGGRAPH ’05. Here’s what he has to say:
I was at Siggraph last week and I saw that same clip that the AICN guy was so excited about. I saw it a couple of times (once in the “Legacy of Disney Animation” special session and another on a tour of the Disney Studio given to students). It’s amazing! It seriously is that Fragonard painting in three dimensions. I have no idea how they did it, but I assume it worked off their Deep Canvas technology as it looked like real oil paint. The other clip, the animated one, was also very promising. I’m not sure that the story will be anything too wonderful (it involves a lot of shape shifting and people being turned into animals and such) but the visual style is going to be great.
I was amazed at the presence that Disney Feature Animation had at Siggraph, way overshadowing tiny little Pixar’s booth. They had one of the largest booths on the floor with three computer stations showing off the versatility of the characters from Chicken Little and Wilbur Robinson. There were Disney animators and technical artists teaching Maya Masterclasses, as well as the Disney Legacy special session and the tours they gave of the studio. They even brought Glen Keane in and introduced him as the face of the future of Disney animation. I can see from this massive effort that they are trying to put themselves on the map as the place to be for the top talent to work at. Pixar barely made a peep at the show, handing out some plastic teapots and hocking its Renderman software. I am happy to see that Disney only made the switch to CG after finding ways to do cartoony 2D animation in 3D. They showed some of their rigs for the Chicken Little characters and these things were terrific – squash and stretch, bendy arms and legs, fully sculptable silhouettes, smear controls on the mesh, the ability to literally break the rig into separate pieces and stretch things as far as you want in any direction…it’s all very promising.
Bill also wrote about other aspects of the SIGGRAPH experience on his blog HERE. The report includes photos and is a fun read.
In his latest article, Jim Hill writes about how impressed he was that Glen Keane was willing to get down on his knees at SIGGRAPH. No, it’s not what you think… you perverts. Hill also explains why he’s more accepting of Keane’s decision to switch to CG for his Disney directorial debut, RAPUNZEL UNBRAIDED.
Ain’t It Cool News has video clips from SIGGRAPH of test animation from Disney’s AMERICAN DOG and A DAY WITH WILBUR ROBINSON. You can view the clips HERE. The same AICN entry that hosts these clips also has a ridiculously over-the-top, and quite possibly fabricated, “fan report” on Glen Keane’s RAPUNZEL UNBRAIDED. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney is trying to get some positive buzz out in front of this one, because RAPUNZEL sounds and looks like the weakest (and most exec-mangled) project among their upcoming CG films. At least one former Disney artist has already proclaimed online that the film is “a big f###ing mess.” (Thanks, Jeff Hunsel)
EARLIER ON THE BREW: The promise of AMERICAN DOG.
Ottawa animation festival director Chris Robinson, aka “The Animation Pimp,” has penned a short and sweet piece at ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE about how best to view abstract/camera-less/scratch animation. He writes:
People don’t know how to react to these films. They think it’s a riddle, that there’s a deep dark mystery to be uncovered. In some cases, sure, that is trueâ€¦ but if you take a look at, for example, the work of [Steven] Woloshen, Richard Reeves, or Theo Ushev’s moving new film, TOWER BALLIHR, these are films about making you feel something. They convey the jumbled up emotions of their creators….they simply want to evoke emotions. You don’t need to seek out deep mysteries, you just need to shut up and let the images and music take you over.