Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Society of Illustrators Website Sticker

Artwork from Steamboat School will be on display in next weeks opening of The Original Art 2016 exhibition of Children's Book Illustration.
My and other illustrators artwork will be on display from October 26 - December 22, 2016.
until next time...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Atlantis: The Lost Empire...part 3

Introducing Dr. Sweet... 

Directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale issue the first scenes of Dr Sweet... After meeting with them and hearing their input as to how they envision the sequence, I'm ready to start.

Dr. Joshua Sweet...

The first time the audience is introduced to the Doctor we get all his vital information:

His stature: an upshot from Milo's point of view (pov) to accentuate his height...
His voice : deep, smooth, rich tone and rapid delivery of lines...
His thought process: quick brain process as he evaluates the situation that got Moliere upset...
His personality: humorous, peacemaker (Milo/Moliere), father figure (scolding Moliere), proud of his tools (bone saw) jokester (beakers) and at the same time the audience gets information about Moliere's quirkiness...

Workbook sketches and thumbnail sketches prior to animation...

The workbook (WB) sketch gives the animator basic information- camera angle, background, character size in relation to camera field size, camera move(s) if any, and other information the animator may need to know to bring to life a successful scene.

In this sequence... 

Milo is ushered by Moliere into this mountain of a man...
The WB gives his ending pose from Milo's pov, the animator must figure how he got there (ending pose).

I started with the head in the up position with the dialogue "Uh, oh.." ending in the WB pose... "sat in the dirt, didn't you"...

Thumbnails to work out the action for the dialogue "...Moliere...what did I tell you about playing nice with the other kids?..." Tony DeRosa (Moliere) and John Pomeroy (Milo) would be responsible for the animation of the other characters.


"...I got soap..."

"...and I'm not afraid to use it..." 

 Thumbs to work out action of the towel snap...

Exposure sheet (X-sheet)- 
In written form it gives the animator information about the scene:
A synopsis, scene length, starting and ending field sizes and camera moves.
There are columns for character(s), overlay, underlay, background and  effects.
A column marked DIAL is for dialogue in which words are broken down into the syllables just as the voice actor said them and how much time between the words spoken.


I used the third column from the left to pose out small drawings to get  a rough idea of the timing of the action.

(Under this old system, in my era, there were limits to the number of 'cels' in a scene before the bottom levels were out of focus. With the elimination of cels, any number of levels can be compiled in a computer without compromising the quality or color of the final product.)

until next time...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Atlantis:The Lost Empire...part 2

   Feb. 1998...

"Atlantis Moves Full Steam Ahead" announced the newsletter (below)...



and the 'lead' animators were introduced.

                                               Me and Dr. Sweet at the animation desk...

First assignment...
The directors wanted to see how CGI (computer generated imagery) elements and traditional animation would work together as there were a lot of trucks and machinery interacting with animated characters in the picture.

I was given photostats of a automobile driving towards the screen at 24 fps (frames per second).
A soldier meets the vehicle and at some point has to come in contact with the vehicle.
Workbook sketch I was given to work from...
(Workbook sketch)

 A little thought...why not have a little fun and add a measure of entertainment to the mix:-)

Thumbnail sketches (below) to work out the action:
Here is what I came up with-

The soldier sitting, hearing the auto approaching, gesturing for the vehicle to stop, put one foot on the running board of the car (contact between CGI and traditional animation), dialoguing with the   occupants, point in the direction it should go, takes notes on his clip board and gets his foot run over as the car leaves the scene. Simple enough, lets do it.

This piece was cleaned up, went to color and shown in 'dailies'.
Never to be seen again, but assignment "accomplished" as these two elements, CGI and traditional, can be believed to exist in the same world.  
(Thumbnails of the envisioned action)

(More thumbnails to help visualize the action)
(Refining the action through thumbnails)

Voice Talent-

Phil Morris,(son of Greg Morris, Barney on the 60's TV program Mission: Impossible) voiced my character, Dr. Joshua Sweet.

Though slight in build, Phil's rich, deep voice was a perfect match for the Doctors large physical stature.

Phil's rapid delivery of lines gave my pencil a daily workout as I attempted to come up with interesting mouth shapes that didn't look 'mushy' or weird.

(Phil Morris and me prior to a recording session)
With all the preliminaries out of the way I was now ready to not only make drawing move but as Walt  Disney envisioned, make "drawings that live".

 First I must say a word about all the people that make this art form happen...

Disney Animation would not be the entertaining and engaging art form that it is without a crew of    people behind the scenes. These behind the scenes folks do not get enough credit for the final results  that are seen on screen.

In team sports for example,  quarterbacks in football and pitchers in baseball are highlighted as the 'stars' of the show. So it is with animators on a film as we get a generous share of credit for the production.

Most do not realize that it takes a great many people to get a film to the big screen (upwards to a thousand people are listed in the screen credits of Atlantis!) and it would take me and a crew of people to get Dr. Sweet to the screen

 My crew attended periodic 'chalk talks' where I would go over how to draw Dr. Sweet and address any problems that may have developed as the production progressed.

(Flyer announcing crew gathering for chalk talk)

These are the crew members that helped my Dr. Sweet animation 'live'...

(Me and Dr. Sweet crew)
From left to right: Don Parmele (assistant), Marianne Tucker (lead key), Susan Lantz (key assistant), Suzanne Hirota (inbetweener), Mary Measures (assistant) and Mary Jean Repchuk ((clean-up).

Planning out a scene...
I would first have a discussion with directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale concerning the intent of the scene.

This is the first meeting of Milo and the Doctor....
The directors supply me with the who, what, when, where, why and how questions concerning the scene.
Why is the scene here at this particular point in time, who is being addressed, where is it taking place, what are we trying to accomplish or say about the character(s) are just some of the questions that have to be addressed as the story unfolds.

Context of the scene...
Some light comedy moments had occurred earlier and after shaking hands, the Doc walks over to his medical bag and pulls out a bone saw and his dialogue is..."well, no time like the present"....

Workbook/story sketch drawing depicting the of the action, position and size...
(Workbook drawings top and bottom right)


Thumbnail drawings to work out the action...
(Thumbnail drawing to visualize the action)

Rough animation key poses (without inbetweens)...these drawings would be rough inbetweened,  and if/when approved all drawings would be cleaned-up, colored, background and any effects added (the sword sound as the saw is drawn out of the bag) and scanned.

(Key poses in rough animation, drawing #1...'W' mouth shape)-

(drawing #3...'E' mouth shape )

(drawing #5...'L' mouth shape, notice tongue)

(drawing #7...mouth between well and no)

(drawing #9...'O' mouth shape)
(drawing #13...'T' mouth shape)
(drawing #27...'E' mouth shape-with timing chart)

The Timing Chart- 
The chart (upper far right) deals with the total body and bone saw, drawings #27 to #45.
Key drawings such as this one are charted to guide the inbetween artist as to where their drawings should be placed. Drawing #27 and #45 are the key drawings in this scene. The chart provides the inbetween artist with information that they need to do a drawing (#31) half way between #27 and #45.
After drawing #31 there would be a drawing between #27 and #31=#29. The other side of the chart would have drawing #33 half way between #31 and #45 and so forth to the end of the scene.

Mouth Chart-
Since the Doctor is talking, a separate chart is used for the mouth. He is saying the word 'present' and in drawing #27 has an 'e' mouth shape and drawing #29 should favor or be like #31. A note is included with the chart to remind the inbetween artist that 'teeth' are to be shown like in #31.

(#31...'S' mouth shape-with body, mouth and eye charts)

 (#45 last drawing in scene)


 What every animator wants to hear (below), is that his scenes are communicating positively to others.

(Note from the producer giving Dr. Sweet animation a 'thumbs up')

Until next time...

Monday, August 29, 2016

Steamboat School continues to float...

(detail from 'In the grey fog'... artwork below)
The art of Steamboat School...          

The Artwork from Steamboat School has been honored by being accepted into the 2016 Society of Illustrators Original Art show held at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators in New York.

The  exhibition will run from October 26 to December 22.
The reception and awards ceremony will be held on October 27.

( Letter of Acceptance from the Society of Illustrators)

 Original artwork from Steamboat School that will be on display at the exhibition in New York...

(Mama readies James for school- original pen and ink 14" x 29")

(detail of Mama and James)

('In the grey fog'...original pen and ink 14" x 29")

(Detail from 'In the grey fog'...)





If you're in the New York area, stop by and see the exhibit!
Until next time...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Atlantis:The Lost Empire and more...part 1

(Atlantis-The Lost Empire logo)

November '98...
Three months before Beauty and the Beast-Encore Edition was put to rest John Parker and I were recipients of the Mwalimu Award.
(The word 'MWALIMU' is Swahli, meaning someone who is held in the esteem and respect.)

The award is presented yearly (since 1992) by the Monrovia-Duarte Black Alumni Association to graduates of Monrovia or Duarte high schools.
 John and I played football together and after high school he received a scholarship to play basketball at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo. He too is an artist and a life long Monrovian. Our friendship spans our lifetime:-)
(John and I at the award ceremony.)

February 10,1975 was my first day in the Disney Animation Trainee Program. I had no idea I was entering the ultimate experience in storytelling.
For me, with no animation experience, everyday was a mind expanding adventure in learning. This was the way Walt Disney who died in 1966 wanted it.
The program, headed by Disney Legend Eric Larson, was patterned after similar training classes Walt had instituted for his artist back in  1935.
 The studio at that time was working on the first full length animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which was to be released two years later.

Walt knew that better trained artists make better storytellers...
and part of Walt's goal was to make fairy tales 'entertaining and believable" through animation.
To achieve that dream he felt his artists needed to become more knowledgeable.
To Walt, "animation drawings should live, not just move".

Walt took the steps to make this a reality.

(in part Walt's memo to Don Graham)

In an eight page memo addressed to Don Graham, (Don was associated with the Chouinard School of Art and had conducted drawing classes at the studio.) Walt outlined what he wanted to see in his artists and the classes that would help them towards that goal.
Walt called on Don to head a program designed to teach the basics of good drawing, action analysis, acting, staging, caricature and other related skills that an animator would need.
In the memo Walt  described the qualities a 'good animator' should posse:
Good draftsmanship
Knowledge of caricature, of action as well as features.
Knowledge and appreciation of acting
Ability to think up gags and put over gags
Knowledge of story construction and audience values
Knowledge and understanding of all the mechanical and detailed routine involved in his work, in order that he may be able to apply his other abilities without becoming tied up in a knot by lack of technique along these lines.

These classes were beneficial in 1935 and now four decades later they would return.

In 1975 Walt Stanchfield told us "there will be an attempt to to reinstate the learning atmosphere that once permeated this studio" and "there will be no attempt to return to any particular era of the past, but to incorporate a composite of all the great accomplishments of the past into a future product that we can all be proud of".

Along with an animation desk, paper,pencils, field guides,exposure sheets etc. we were issued a three inch folder with the title Disney School of Animation.

The folder contained  much of Walt's philosophy about a number of topics-"Naturally the first and most important thing for any animator to know is how to draw"..."The first duty of the cartoon is not to picture or duplicate real action or things as they actually happen - but to give a caricature of life and action"...
"Only if he knows the reality of things can he create a fantasy, an illusion or a caricature convincingly".

  encouragement and challenges to animators-"to be and do the best we can- to observe, analyze and interpret- to learn and apply-to draw and act like professionals- to be imaginative, entertaining and communicative".
  in it Eric Larson asked "Are we happy with mediocrity? Are we making use of only a portion of our abilities?"...

There were sections on orientation, terminology, materials, standard procedures, production planning, music room, layout/background, scene planning, x-sheet, camera, simplification, life drawing, animation, ink and paint, clean-up, effects and a section devoted to a book Don Graham planned to write on animation.

Along with this wealth of informative information there were plenty of blank pages to take notes of the classes and lectures attended.
(Notes from anatomy class taught by Glenn Vilppu)

This was the learning environment that permeated the studio in the '70s and continued throughout my tenure there.
This exert from an article entitled The Old Disney Magic Can the nine new men recapture it? by Shamus Culhane,  reprinted in the studio newspaper Disney Line (1976). It captures the heart of the  animation department at the time.

                                                                                                                                                           February 1999...
 this learning/teaching, enthusiastic atmosphere still existed at the studio as we embarked on the next feature project Atlantis:The Lost Empire...

Directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale contacted me to talk about supervising a character on the picture. In Kirk's words, "if this is Disneyland, we're going straight to Adventure Land, explosions action and adventure".

This description brought a smile to my face and I wanted in.
I looked over the characters still available as some characters had already been cast. There were about three of the ensemble remaining and I said I'll give some thought to which one to take on.

While pondering which character to latch on to, as usual I sat outside on the Northside studio patio and quick sketched on breaks. My sketching attracts a crowd or at least a curious onlooker or two. Why would an artist carry a sketchbook and sketch in it?...seems so strange:-)
One day I was quizzed on the topic of quick sketching which led to this article which appeared in the studio newsletter (below).

One fateful day as I sat outside the Northside animation building sketching, Don Hahn producer on Atlantis, approached me and says "Ron, we want you to animate Dr. Sweet"...I had been leaning toward him from the beginning:-) now it's official.

 Dr. Joshua Sweet...
Kirk and Gary had Mike Mignola of comic book fame (Hellboy) do preliminary design of the  characters after his style. Small heads in proportion to big bodies.
A stylized look of the background/layout with hard sharp edges through out was the look of the film and this applied to the characters too.

When I joined the team there had been some preliminary drawings based on Mignola's design for Dr. Sweet. He was to be one of the largest of the group. The villain Rourke was as physically imposing but not as athletic looking.

(Preliminary character design for Dr. Sweet)
I took the design had already been done and attempted to make the Doctor more appealing and animatable, (if there is such a word).
The studio provides enough time for the artist to acquaint themselves with the character(s) they are animating. This time given by the studio to research is one of the activities I have enjoyed over the years.

This being a period piece it is important that the the medical bag  and the contents within be designed to fit in that time period (pre-World War 1).
I contacted several medical schools (Howard University, Wash. DC and Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond,VA) and they were extremely helpful in supplying useful information and photographs.

(one of many pages of documents and photos)
(animation drawing of  Dr, Sweet with bone saw)

No doctor's equipment (above) would be complete without a bone saw of which Dr. Sweet makes mention of in the movie. The stethoscope which he wears is authentic too.

Character Design... 
 I was asked more than once did I model Dr, Sweet after Michael Clarke Duncan (1957-2012) actor in the movie The Green Mile (1999). The answer is no.
 We had gone through this approval process six to nine months before the movie's release and I had no knowledge of Michael at the time.
 Dr. Sweet was modeled Woody Strode (1914-1994), former UCLA(teammate of Jackie Robinson) and LA Ram football player turned actor(Sergeant Rutledge, Spartacus etc,).

(Newly designed Dr. Sweet)

In order to sell the newly designed Doctor I did drawings of the head, mouth shapes, him in costume(s) and action to show the directors.


With Kirk and Gary's approval I'm ready to start animating.

until next time...

( below- For those not familiar with my Facebook account- this arrived last week , though dated 3/16, certificate and pin for Steamboat School being named a Junior Library Guild selection for 2016.)