An Open Letter to Glen Keane An Open Letter to Glen Keane

An Open Letter to Glen Keane

Dear Glen,

Since last Friday’s news that you’re leaving Disney, you’ve launched a new parlour game What Will Glen Keane Do? Everyone is wondering: Will he jump to another studio? Will he work on his personal artwork? Will he attempt to create a feature film independently as Richard Williams is currently doing? This letter humbly offers my suggestion for what you should consider doing.

If the outpouring of sentiment surrounding your departure is any indication, you’re one of the few verifiable superstars in animation. Over five thousand people reblogged the news of your resignation on Tumblr alone. You’re riding a wave of decades of built-up goodwill, and fans are invested in your career as they are in the work of few other animators.

Animation and Disney lovers are clamoring to see what you do next, and more than anything, it seems they want to see you make a personal animated film. It doesn’t seem to matter what that film is, or whether it’s a feature or short subject–just so long as you’re directing it. This is your moment to blow our minds. You can reset the animation world with the most stunning animated film we’ve ever seen, a no-holds-barred work of pure artistry without restrictions or interference.

The timing could not be more ripe. Right now we are witnessing a paradigm shift in which artists increasingly receive their funding directly from fans, not business investors and corporations. Crowdfunding has taken off in the last year in all areas of creative culture. Video game designer Tim Schafer (Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango) recently concluded a Kickstarter campaign to fund a “point-and-click” graphic adventure game. He aimed to raise $400,000 and ended up with $3.3 million. Comic artist Rich Burlew raised $1.25 million on Kickstarter to reprint his webcomic Order of the Stick. Comedian Louis CK self-produced his latest special and sold it online, reaping over $1 million in just a couple weeks. He ended up donating more than a quarter-million dollars to charity.

No animator has yet to pull in the kind of crowd-funding numbers as the examples above, but then again, no animator with your name recognition has attempted the feat. By forming a direct relationship with your fans, it’s a virtual guarantee that you can do whatever you want. That includes raising the money you need to create a personal animated film, and more than enough to pay for a healthy crew of assistants, clean-up artists, and others. And, if like, Louis CK, you already have enough money to produce the work independently, just know that there are many fans waiting to see your work.

Few Disney animation superstars, past or present, have created personal animation projects. Among the Nine Old Men, only Ward Kimball ever created an animated short on his own time, and that film was only a few minutes long. You have the unique opportunity to change that history. In your resignation letter, you wrote that, “I am convinced that animation really is the ultimate art form of our time with endless new territories to explore. I can’t resist its siren call to step out and discover them.”

Everyone supports you in your desire to discover the art form’s new vistas. I sincerely feel that your best opportunity for exploring that creative vision is to do it independently–with the backing of your thousands of fans and admirers.

Best of luck,
Amid Amidi

  • Kate

    New York Magazine wrote about this as well and the cats in the comment section knew about him. Quite cool. :)

  • Azz


    • No pressure indeed! Ha ha… Hopefully Glen does create something that will set our minds ablaze.

    • Lala_Marin

      He’s Glen Keane, e can take it. (Because he’s awesome)

  • wait wait wait – Richard Williams is making a feature?

    (agreed on everything else)

    • Hopefully it’ll turn out better for him than the last one did.

    • Yeah, isn’t Richard Williams working on a short subject with the working title “I Hope To Finish It Before I Die”? I know he came out with a short film recently (in 2010 I believe – if anyone knows where to see it, PLEASE let us know!) which was a finish-up of something he started in the 1950s… but everything I’ve heard about the film he’s working on now has indicated that it’s a short. Or isn’t it? Amid, elaborate please!

      • …no elaboration? Oh well, I guess Richard Williams isn’t working in a feature after all then.

  • Jorge Garrido

    Class act, Amid! Good luck, Mr. Keane!

  • Rod Tejada

    Great ideas, Amidi… Hope Mr. Keane has something on the works already and, if he decides to do a Kickstarter campaign… I want to collaborate!

  • TStevens

    Hopefully Glen gets to take some time off from the mouse. However, I think a lot people are pinning their own hopes and dreams on to Glen in a way that is somewhat unrealistic. A lot of the lifetime Disney animators seemed to be very interested in animation in the same way that most actors would be interested in acting. For some reason we seem to think that animators have a natural inclination to direct, produce, or create their own original content. I suspect that had Mr. Keane really wanted to produce a very personal peice of animation at Disney, they probably would have let him. While it is not unrealistic to think that Glen might have an artistic epiphany after his departure, he probably won’t. The person who will carry animation in to the future will be an unknown kid sitting in his bedroom sketching doodles of his characters on the insides of his text books.

    I see Glen using his talents to teach the future animators what he has learned over the years but I don’t see him producing, directing, or starting his own studio. I’m not sure those are headaches that he would want to take on approaching his sixties.

  • PJ

    4 things:

    1. Yes, yes, yes.
    2. Yes.
    3. Glen Keane, if whatever you do next could benefit from the work of an animation-obsessed web designer / developer, I am here and I am ready.
    4. If Glen Keane does indeed crop up on Kickstarter, it will make the perfect project for my first backing :)

  • Ug

    Mr. Keane has earned the freedom to pursue whatever form of creative expression he chooses. But suggesting that he publicly solicit money is like asking Bill Gates to dive for a spent cigar.

    • The Gee

      “…. is like asking Bill Gates to dive for a spent cigar.”

      Oh, c’mon! You know you’d pay to see that.

  • Martin

    It doesn’t have to be a big-budget feature. If all he wants to do is animate scenes the way he’s always wanted to animate them, I’d be quite happy watching pencil tests on a blog for the next 30+ years. We’ll get inspired and we’ll get to the next stage.

  • Um…

    I can’t help wondering what the point of this post is. The man is 57, he’s earned to do whatever he damn well pleases!

    Sure, we’d all like to see more of his work. If he’s ever planning to do another project I’d love to hear about it, but there’s no sense in pressuring him via internet, if this post DOES even make it to him, at all.

    There have been eight Keane-related posts (or just posts where Keane’s name was shoehorned in for no reason) in the past week. Ease up on the guy!

    “This is your moment to blow our minds. ” I think it’s Mr. Keane’s moment to do what he wants, not what we want him to do.

    • A Painter

      whoa calm down there buddy. Amid being a fan of his was just SUGGESTING what to do. and this is a animation site so of course a legend like Glen would have 9 articles about him smh

      • Um…

        My point is this: I think we should spend more time supporting young and/or emerging artists and less time pressuring people like Keane to “save animation.” There is too much focus on our heroes of yesteryear. We should be nurturing new talent, not sending the message that animation is dead, or 2D is dead, the good old days are over, or they should leave the country if they want to find good work, just because a some really talented people have retired or left Disney.

        I don’t mind if there’s any REAL Glen Keane news, but we’re going a little overboard. I didn’t need to see his resignation letter, or the twitter posts, and the author even tied his name into a Japanese Disney ad somehow. The man isn’t dead, thankfully, so let’s just move on. Put the focus back on people who are working and producing. If Keane DOES do anything new, I’ll be first in line to see it.

      • I actually applaud Amid for the open letter. But, it’s not because I feel that Keane should do what we want, but rather that Amid seems to see what I see. Which is a legend who still is young (it’s not like he’s 80 or something!) and clearly stated in the resignation letter that he’s still excited to explore the “the ultimate art form of our time”. Additionally, IF Keane decided to go on his own, think about what that would do to the animation world, how much that WOULD inspire young animators. Most young animators are not that different than young musicians who still feel that they can’t make it unless they’re signed with a major label.

        I applaud Amid’s passionate suggestion, which seemed to me came from the heart of someone who loves this art form and has deep respect for Keane – and sees a unique opportunity for the animation world.

        Keane, whatever you do, I support you, but damn, I’d be happy as hell if you went on your own and showed the CGI folks how its really done! :)

  • Patch

    Reading this letter two things became painfully obvious to me. The almost willfully naive idea that someone like Glen Keane has had a career plagued with people telling him how to animate (a fact that is true of almost all animators, but given the “superstar” status Disney created for Glen Keane, I highly doubt he’s experienced anything other than utmost respect for his animation since Fox and the Hound) and the completely idiotic notion that if someone animates competently then it follows that they are also capable filmmakers.

    This is almost never the case; practically everything Bluth and Williams directed are unwatchable- and before people go nuts about “thief and the cobbler”, even the recobbled cut is an endurance test in wrongheaded directorial choices. Beautiful though it may be to look at, it’s like having dental surgery to watch.

    Animation is acting. It doesn’t dictate story, it doesn’t even necessarily have to be amazing (heck, South Park: The Movie showed it didn’t even have to be good!). It just has to work. I point to two films that illustrate exactly what I mean:- Keanes last Hurrah “Tarzan” (let’s forget Treasure Planet) and “The Iron Giant” They came out the same year- I saw them one day apart. Tarzan had all the gaudy bells and whistles of latter-day Disney, which for all its “tree-surfing” was about as satisfying as a cheeseburger. Iron Giant clearly struggled with its budget and was low on the bells and whistles side of things- but it had some very clever people making very clever choices (take a well deserved bow Tony Fucile). And it makes me cry. Every. Time.

    Keane was given his shot at directing at Disney- Rapunzel, and frankly it was the best decision to pull him off the project. He had the support of people who’ve known and admired him for his entire career. He had a studio bank-rolling him, and he blew it. It was going absolutely nowhere. Slowly. I’m sure there would have been dazzling scenes, but so what? A director has to know what he wants to say. And after nearly six years in pre-production, a director also has to know how to actually *make* a film.

    I am not mourning the loss of a great talent, he’s not dead. History will consider him, justifiably, one of the greats. Isn’t that enough? He is not the underdog, he is not without inordinate success. The animation industry is thriving in a way that few, if any, thought possible even five years ago. We don’t need Glen Keane to save us from the nasty people who pay our wages and employ us for years on end, allowing us to have careers, and houses and send our children to school.

    • Michael

      What he said.

    • Eso. That.

      I have a question though (sarcasm unintended)

      It’s the same to work either for Warner Brothers or DIsney, right? They have like, the same kind of executives? Or did they have more limits in Tarzan than on Iron Giant?

      Osmosis Jones is a good movie, came out quite silently, just like the IG. Tarzan, on the other hand, was a “let’s throw the dice and choose whatever comes out first and let’s plot everything together once and for all”. (thankfully they gave Tarzan time to learn english, not just like, ho-hem Pocahontong)

      Although- some people will fully disagree, but the low-budget Alladin and the King of Thieves is actually a fun, good movie. Makes me laugh more than Hercules or Beauty and the Beast, that’s for sure.

    • Josef

      How old were you when you saw Tarzan and The Iron Giant? I bet you were likely part of the older crowd. I would also bet kids would say the Iron Giant was as enjoyable as a bologna sandwich, whereas Tarzan was fun and made them laugh many times throughout.

      You just can’t compare the two films. Kids don’t care about politics, the cold war, etc., whereas adults don’t care much for silly things like gorillas trashing a camp and making music. Both films are great to different people. The both still stand up today for what they are.

      Your rant just makes you sound jealous that people are looking up to Glen and expect him to do something great for animation in his free time. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s harmless. Let them enjoy it.

      • Hi Josef,

        the kids are learning.

        That’s what made Disney “special” from the beginning, (although they lost the whole point a long time ago).
        That’s why they should apply the “Betty Edwards technique” to the children since they are kids and that’s why parents should make their children watch Tarzan AND Iron Giant.

        Imagine that no restaurants (Iron Giants and Goofy Movies) existed and only McDonalds & Burger Kings (Tarzans & Hercules’) were all over the place. No variety of food, just hamburgers and chips.
        The parent tells its child “EAT” but the Burger is terrible for a kid, specially if it’s the boy/girl is a fat one (a.k.a a boy who only saw Disney movies over his whole life).

        The only problem nowadays (specially nowadays) is that burger king is the faster way for the child to eat and be entertained (and Hercules is the faster way for the child to learn and be entertained).

      • Josef

        Hi Caty,

        I wasn’t saying that children and adults should only watch certain movies. I’m just saying that they prefer certain movies over others.

        I try to expose my children (and their friends) to all types of animated films, including Tarzan and The Iron Giant. The younger ones prefer Tarzan over The Iron Giant, although my oldest son appreciates The Iron Giant more now that he has a better understanding of such matters. To be perfectly honest, they all prefer Studio Ghibli films over anything else.

        And I wouldn’t put Tarzan in the same boat as Hercules. Disney’s version is a lot better than the original source material, in my opinion. It’s a classic, but it’s a hard story to read. The Disney film has a lot going for it. It has a great sound track, great animation, decent character development, good humor, and a good story. After reading the book and trying to sit through a few live action film adaptations, I think Disney took a mess of a story and made it into a great family film.

      • But Josef… how people move nowadays it’s something impossible for them to eve take a peek on Iron Giant.

        I’ll tell you one thing.
        My sister (10 years old) watched Fantasia 2000 on music subject at school. She said that none of her friends never knew F2 existed except 2 guys who’ve seen it because they practise ballet.

        I know what you say about Greek mythology, but it’s as Patch said up there. Iron Giant makes you cry. Hercules doesn’t. (I love the Hydra tho). It’s OVERLOADED of Genies from Alladin. Note, I love the genie from Alladin). But it’s hyperactive, Hollywood.
        Pinocchio is a nightmare to read, and it’s defintely not for children. (I already hated it reading only 2 pages at the age of 7) Disney managed to make that book consumable- and this happened, well 70 years ago, right? With BGs that look like they could exposed in the Louvre.

      • Josef

        I was defending Tarzan. I love Greek mythology, but I’m not a fan of Hercules. Sorry, I should have stated that more clearly. Tarzan was Disney’s last good 2d movie, in my opinion.

        I enjoyed Fantasia 2000, but I’m not surprised that people haven’t heard of it. It’s a bit artsy and people don’t appreciate classical music like they once did. Both Fantasia films are great.

        I get what you are saying about the hyper activity in Disney films and their TV shows, but I don’t think Tarzan fits in that category as much. There’s a lot of action, but there’s also calm moments throughout. I agree a lot of the stuff on the Disney channel is unbearable to watch.

  • Sarah J

    First off, Richard Williams is working on another film? WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED OF THIS?!

    Second… I too am curious as to where Mr. Keane is going. He’s worked on a lot of great Disney films, even the ones that weren’t all that great at least had some great animation. I’ll be keeping my ears open, if he does start working on something new I’ll definitely check it out.

  • A Painter

    2 days later…

    “Glen Keane joins Dreamworks”


  • dude, you guys seriously need to chill out about this Glen Keane stuff

  • Shpickle

    Glen, please listen to Amid. He has a crystal ball & has fortold the future & demise of all animation many times on this blog.

  • droosan

    “Few Disney animation superstars, past or present, have created personal animation projects. Among the Nine Old Men, only Ward Kimball ever created an animated short on his own time, and that film was only a few minutes long. You have the unique opportunity to change that history.”

    I seem to recall this fellow — name of Don Bluth — who made a half-hour TV special on his own time, back when .. which spring-boarded him and several others into a feature film.

    But apparently, this didn’t have much effect on animation history.

  • Uli Meyer

    There are these very naive calls for Glen to set up a studio. I don’t think that people realize that opening a studio means that you do not have the time to draw any longer, even if you do hire a capable producer. Glen is so well loved for the characters he has animated and not for directing or writing. The fans associate Glen with Ariel, the Beast and many other Disney characters they love. Should he ever make a short film that isn’t based on that, I think anybody that isn’t an animator would possibly be disappointed. Richard William’s recently completed short is an example of how a master animator delivers incredible shots of animation but the film as a whole is completely underwhelming. You are putting unfair pressure on an artist who has done so much already to inspire so many young artists. Give the man a break.

    • Doug

      Hello Uli – Where have you seen, and where can we see Richard Williams “recently completed short”. I’d love to see it.

      And I fully agree with your post above. Thanks!

    • Uli….I may be an idiot but I was OVERWHELMED by Dick’s film. It is an extraordinarily beautiful film to look at. I saw it as Dick made it and not the way I EXPECTED him to do it. I found it gracious and light as a great work of art should be. Beautiful!…..I didn’t feel quite the same way after seeing “The Frog Princess” or “Tangled”….A matter of taste, I suppose!………

  • I’d rather spend $1000 helping Glen Keane make his own movie than spend $15 watching the latest disaster from Disney.

  • Mr. Keane, you’re like a super hero and the world of hand-drawn animation is in peril. We need your help! I’d empty my life savings into Kickstarter if it meant you could continue to dazzle us with your incredible artwork.

  • I seem to recall that Glen Keane acted as “consultant”–whatever that truly means–on the brilliant independent short “Adam and Dog,” which was superbly directed by Minkyu Lee. If that’s the level of quality that we can expect from projects that include Glen’s involvement, I think we’re all in good shape.

    The projects that he chooses, however, are entirely up to him and not our business.

  • Adam

    Glen does not need anyone telling him what to do. He knows exactly what he is doing.

  • Chris Roman

    Amid, this letter seems disingenuous coming from you; typically you’ve shown a strong dislike for any animator who’s style tends toward traditional. Are you hoping for him to suddenly break away from traditional animation and become an experimental animator? Do you think that someone who’s worked traditionally for decades has secretly been harboring a desire to experiment outside of that box?

    • What do you mean by “traditional” animation? I hope you’re not labeling Glen’s work ‘traditional’ simply because he does character animation. There’s nothing more wonderful than an animator who can bring a character to life convincingly, and Glen does it as well as anybody nowadays.

      • Steve

        Im not certain, but I think Chris means “traditional” as in the safe/Disney style, which, Cartoon Brew and the UPA/John K crowd seemingly despise. Maybe that’s untrue, but that’s a very common perception around the industry.

      • Chris Roman

        That’s about right, Steve. I’m not labeling Glen’s work ‘traditional’ because he does character animation. I’m labeling it traditional because his animation tends to rely on a consistent model, weight and volume in his characters, whereas it’s always been my impression that you, Amid, prefer animation that stresses more abstraction, broad expression, or or simply more unique and perhaps even challenging to the viewer. I don’t begrudge you to support an important animator even if you don’t prefer his animation style. And no where in your letter do you say you are a fan of his work, which seems like an honest and deliberate omission. I do not believe you are a fan of his work, or at least his animation work, and perhaps that’s only my perception and it’s untrue. So then my real issue with your letter is that it SEEMS that, in urging Glen to “discover the art form’s new vistas” you are hoping that he may suddenly begin to animate in a more abstract/ expressive way that you appreciate more. To me it’s like expecting Norman Rockwell to paint like Picasso.

      • Chris – It seems you’ve already formed some definite opinions about my personal tastes as well as reached some broad conclusions based on these assumptions about me. You’re entitled to whatever opinion you like and I don’t really care to change it, but just for the record, I have an appreciation for Glen Keane’s work and also what you label “traditional” animation.

      • Chris Roman

        Fair enough.

  • Barney Miller

    I love it. Amid get’s criticized on here quite a bit for his opinions and supposed negativity. He writes a positive letter as a fan of animation and Glen Keane, and people rip it apart.

    And Patch, I’m not sure what insider knowledge you have about Tangled, but several friends of mine who actually worked on the film thought that Glen and Dean’s RAPUNZEL was actually quite good. I understand that the studio felt it was more dramatic than they wanted and decided to steer it into a standard romantic comedy.

    Oh, and wait a second there was that other thing that caused Glen to step down as director, what was it…? Oh, I remember, he had a FUCKING HEART ATTACK!

    No one’s asking him to save the industry, they’re just excited about what he might do on his own.

    • Steve

      I dont know who Patch is, but I worked on both Rapunzel and Tangled and it seems to me he (she?) knows what they are talking about.

      • Me

        You know that’s something I’m so curious about — what was Glen’s version of Rapunzel? You people who know, is there anything you can tell us, anything we can look at, footage or description? I don’t care about flaws or villains, I want to see for myself what he was after.

  • alonso

    how bout this: Glen and Andreas get together and write the next essential animation book

  • Maya

    If Glenn Keane started a Kickstarter campaign to fund a film he’d probably raise like 50 million dollars in a week. I highly doubt that’s the kind of direction he’s going for though. Probably going to join Dreamworks.

  • OtherDan

    That would be an interesting choice if he decided to raise money for an independent film. And, I’ll bet you’re right that the funding would be through the roof. But, the whole idea you offer Amid seems farfetched to me. I can’t imagine he has the interest or drive to do that at this point. I’d bet that he’s quite exhausted from serving a the Disney Company for all those years. If I had to bet, I’d guess he’s going to enjoy some real R&R with family and probably spend some time traveling or staying in France. I think it’ll be a while before he’d want to get back on the saddle and work on a “masterpiece” of his own. That fan base he has isn’t going anywhere. If he chose to, he’d be able to drum up support for a large endeavor. If he does a personal film, I’d bet that he’d do a short and probably do most of the work by himself in an expressive style.

  • Well, I certainly agree with Amid on this. I’d gladly give to a personal project that you were doing, Glen. I suspect you’re a bit weary as you’ve already given us all so much. I’m sure you’ll let us know if you choose to create something.

  • Personally, I hope Glen Keane creates a short using the painterly animation style he was attempting to achieve with Rapunzel/Tangled. I’d love to see his paintings come alive.

  • Does 2D animation NEED to be saved? Don’t we have shows like The Legend of Korra?