In the course of reading up on Glen Keane, I ran across this extensive gallery of Glen’s figure drawings and sketchbook studies. They’re available for sale at the Galerie Arludik in Paris, but at $2,500 per drawing, all I can afford is the JPGs.
Thirty-seven years! That’s the length of time that Glen Keane worked at Disney Feature Animation and it’s the figure that stood out to me in yesterday’s surprise announcement that he was leaving Disney. How does that length of employment compare to the Nine Old Men and other famous Disney artists? The list below shows a cross-section of well known Disney artists, past and present, and how long each of them worked (or more appropriately, survived) at the studio.
LENGTH OF EMPLOYMENT FOR FAMOUS DISNEY ARTISTS
|John Hench||64 years|
|Burny Mattinson||59 years|
|Eric Larson||52 years|
|Les Clark||49 years|
|Woolie Reitherman||48 years|
|Ken Anderson||44 years|
|Frank Thomas||43.5 years|
|Ollie Johnston||43 years|
|Marc Davis||43 years|
|Milt Kahl||42 years|
|Ward Kimball||40.5 years|
|John Lounsbery||40 years|
|Ron Clements||38 years|
|Ham Luske||37 years|
|GLEN KEANE||37 years|
|Mark Henn||31.5 years|
|Andreas Deja||30.5 years|
|Ruben Aquino||30 years|
|Joe Grant||28 years|
|Bill Peet||27 years|
|Fred Moore||20.5 years|
|Eric Goldberg||15 years|
|Art Babbitt||9 years|
|James Baxter||9 years|
|Bill Tytla||9 years|
(Note: Many artists, like Keane himself, left the studio and returned. I’ve tried to take those departures into account while compiling the list, but if you find inaccuracies, please let me know.)
Last year Huston Huddleston, son of late Disney songwriter Floyd Huddleston (“Love” from Robin Hood, etc.), released several vintage song demos to the internet that were collecting dust in his closet. The songs – Peoplitis, Sittin’ In My Favorite Position Doing Nothing, Misery I Never Had I So Good and an alternate Rescue Aid Society theme song – were originally written for Disney animated features of the 1970s. I posted several of them on the Brew. Then, Huston heard from Disney legal…
Huston explains what happened next:
“About a year ago I posted some songs from Disney’s Aristocats and Rescuers with Louis Prima that my father had written that were either different versions or never used. I included artwork I’d found from Disney books and compiled them for all to see on Youtube. I heard from a Disney lawyer at the time asking me what right did I have to release these on Youtube, and I told him “Why the hell hasn’t DISNEY released these in any form, DVD, Blu-Ray or CD? These songs should be heard and if you guys put it out, I’ll happily take it down, but in the meantime, this is celebrating my father’s work”
Months went by, and Huston remained firm about keeping his father’s work alive. The Disney lawyers retrenched – and yesterday called Huston back:
“Having seen my video on You Tube, I just today got a call from Disney saying they are releasing the COMPLETE version of “Peoplitis” (only half the song was on Youtube) with Original animation done at the time (that I’d heard Andre Deja speak of months ago) as well as the other Louis Prima songs for an upcoming release, as well as other goodies for The Aristocats. They WERE going to send me a “cease and desist” letter until they realized who I was. The videos are now OFF LINE from Youtube but will be in stores later this year! FIGHT THE SYSTEM people – it can work!
Just like a Disney movie, this is a happy ending; a rare win-win for all concerned: Floyd Huddleston, Disney – and all of us who enjoy the company’s history.
The Twitterverse reaction to Glen Keane’s resignation from Disney is all over the map. Many fans are wishing him well and excited to see what he’ll do next, while others are bawling their eyes out and some are blaming Disney for his departure. Here’s a sampling of the animation fan reactions on Twitter:
It’s the end of an era. This is the full text of Glen Keane’s letter sent out to his Disney co-workers within the last hour:
March 23, 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends of the Walt Disney Animation Studio,
After long and thoughtful consideration, I have decided to leave Disney Animation.
I am convinced that animation really is the ultimate art form of our time with endless new territories to explore. I can’t resist it’s siren call to step out and discover them.
Disney has been my artistic home since September 9,1974. I owe so much to those great animators who mentored me—Eric Larson, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston—as well as to the many other wonderful people at Disney whom I have been fortunate to work with in the past nearly 38 years.
Over these four decades I have seen so many changes, but the one thing that remains the same is that we all do this because we love it.
I am humbled and deeply honored to have worked side by side so many artists, producers and directors during my career here at Disney, and I am tremendously proud of the films which together we have created. I will deeply miss working with you.
With my most sincere and heartfelt good wishes for your and Disney’s continued artistic growth and success,
People posting on Twitter have independently verified our original story. Glen Keane has left Disney’s Feature Animation studio. He worked at Disney for approximately 37 years. Disney artists received an email late-Friday afternoon LA time with the text: “Glen Keane has decided that the time has come to take the next step in his personal exploration of the art of animation.” (UPDATE: Cartoon Brew has the exclusive full text of Glen Keane’s letter to his co-workers.) Keane had worked at Disney since 1974, though he left the studio in 1986 and worked as a freelancer for a period of time. If you have more info, please contact me.
All Luciano Foglia wanted to do was create an animation app exploring the “visual geometry containing the non-explicit description of sexual organs or activity.” Apple rejected it from their App Store on these grounds:
Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected. We found that many audiences would find your app concept objectionable, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.
Foglia’s piece suggests the power of abstraction in art. When placed in a certain sequence, even the simplest marriage of form and color can be considered “objectionable” and “crude.” Mason Gentry on Vimeo suggested a way for Foglia to extend his experiment:
“I think you should make it slightly more abstract, then resubmit the app. And if it gets rejected again, make it even more abstract. Continue the process until we have a definitive example of what Apple thinks is and isn’t porn.”
Mickey Mouse re-teams with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in the video game sequel Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. Game creator Warren Spector talks about the new game in this video, saying the sequel is more of a musical. I never played the first game, but anything involving Oswald Rabbit has my interest. Here’s the trailer:
(Thanks, Matthew Gaastra)
It’s the time of year when many of our student readers are finishing up their student films, and inevitably there will be lots of questions: Should I submit my film to festivals? Should I post my film online? Will posting my film online hurt my festival chances? Avner Geller, the co-director of the Student Academy Award-winning short Defective Detective, has shared his personal experiences dealing with these issues in this must-read blog post. He addresses the myth that festivals disqualify filmmakers if a film is posted online, however, Avner points out that both the Student Academy Awards and SIGGRRAPH’s Computer Animation Festival require filmmakers to keep their films off the Internet. Take heed of that advice if qualifying for either of those events is part of your gameplan.
Also, I shouldn’t let this moment pass without pointing out that Geller’s film debuted online last year as part of Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival. It has been the most viewed film in our festival with over 425,000 views to date. We’ll be launching the 2012 edition of the student animation festival shortly–stay tuned to Cartoon Brew for submission details.
Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox) returns to animation – stop-motion animation – to cleverly illustrate a child’s conception of how Sony’s Xperia smartphone works. The animation, created at Laika/house, was directed by stop motion veteran Mark Gustafson, who also directed the animation in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Tiny bits of behind-the-scenes footage here. Or just watch the commercial.
It’s an international trailer. Watch it at WorstPreviews.com.
Easy Way (Camino Fácil) by Juan David Velasquez Bedoya is from Bogota, Colombia, a country where CG animation is just starting to emerge. It’s about 8-minutes and well worth a look. It’s a metaphor for life, as Juan David explains:
Easy Way is the story of a man who, from childhood to adulthood, is prepared to follow a specific path. When he begins his travels, he discovers that it is more difficult than he thought. He decides to change course to a path that seems easier, but the travel is equally difficult – and he’s unprepared for this new challenge.
Disney has kept The Sweatbox locked out of sight for the past decade, but the 2002 documentary was posted online yesterday by an eighteen-year-old cartoonist in the UK. First, a little background on the film from Wade Sampson:
In 1997, musical performer and composer Sting was asked by the Walt Disney Company to write the music for a new animated feature called Kingdom of the Sun. It was to be directed by Roger Allers who was basking in the success of his work on The Lion King. Sting agreed, on the condition that his wife, filmmaker Trudie Styler, could document the process of the production with their own production company, Xingu Films…Sting’s wife was given unlimited access when it came to Production No. 1331 (aka “Kingdom”). She and her camera sat in on story meetings for the movie, rolled while actors auditioned as well as taping Sting while he recorded the score. No one expected two years into the production, it would shift direction drastically.
The Sweatbox is at turns infuriating, hilarious and enlightening. You’ll cringe in sympathy with the Disney artists as you see the gross bureaucratic incompetence they had to endure while working at the studio in the 1990s. The film not only captures the tortured morphing of the Kingdom of the Sun into The Emperor’s New Groove, it also serves as an invaluable historical document about Disney’s animation operations in the late-1990s. If any questions remain about why Disney fizzled out creatively and surrendered its feature animation crown to Pixar and DreamWorks, this film will answer them.
UPDATE: I just checked another copy of the film and it appears that the version of The Sweatbox posted on YouTube is an earlier cut of the film. The final theatrical version was 86 minutes long with a significantly different opening. I haven’t watched both side-by-side to draw further comparisons between these two versions.
Discussions of government tax subsidies tend to be fairly dry affairs, unless they involve Wallace and Gromit:
Aardman Animations, the studio behind Wallace and Gromit, Arthur Christmas and the upcoming The Pirates! Band of Misfits, had earlier threatened to leave the UK if it did not receive a tax break for TV productions. It would follow in the footsteps of other UK TV producers who had already left the country, including Bob the Builder (now produced in the US), Thomas the Tank Engine in Canada and Noddy in Ireland. The new corporate tax relief scheme announced this week will benefit UK-based TV animation studios as well as video game production companies. You can read more about what this means at the Guardian website.
To fully appreciate Opus III by German filmmaker Walter Ruttman, it’s worth it to first look at a typical cartoon from 1924, such as this one:
Now, here is Ruttman’s short from the same year:
This is not to claim that Ruttmann’s short is better. Rather, it’s an illustration of how abstract animation doesn’t become dated as quickly as representational animation because its creation is not predicated upon the stylistic trappings of its era. Eighty-eight years separate Ruttmann’s work from animation today, but the graphic forms used in his film are the same building blocks–raw and unadorned–used by artists today.
A largely neglected figure in animation history, Ruttmann’s work influenced many who followed him, including Oskar Fischinger, Hans Richter and Norman McLaren. He holds the distinction of being the first filmmaker to publicly screen an abstract animated short–it was on April 27, 1921 when he presented Lichtspiel Opus 1 in Berlin’s Marmorhaus. Fischinger was in attendance at the theater that evening.
Shortly after he made the short Opus III, he animated on Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which was the first European animated feature. Reiniger said of Ruttman: “[He] invented and created wonderful movements for the magic events, fire, volcanoes, [and] battles of good and evil spirits.” Ruttman also made significant live action films, such as Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927).
Ruttmann’s personal history is fascinating and far too complex to be covered in such brief space. A trained architect and painter, he worked as a graphic designer prior to becoming involved with film. He fought in WWI, suffered a nervous breakdown and spent time recovering in a sanatorium. Historian Giannalberto Bendazzi labeled him a “contradictory intellectual” because he was “a follower of the left [who] later unconditionally supported Hitler.” Indeed, Ruttmann was involved in the production of Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda film Triumph of the Will in 1935. He died in July, 1941, from wounds suffered on the front lines as a war photographer.
UPDATE: Stephen has followed this post with an excellent write-up about Opus III that places Ruttmann’s work in the context of art history and painting.
(Hat tip, @FezFilms)