Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Finding a home in Fantasia part five...

On to the University of Nevada Las Vegas...

  I did not travel much as a kid. 30 miles west to Los Angeles and 40 miles east to San Bernardino was the extent of my travel experiences from my hometown Monrovia, CA.  Yet, I found myself living in a new state...

Newspaper article announcing my and Danny's arrival in Las Vegas...

The hills just north of LasVegas. Apple core in one hand, pencil in the other and sketchbook on the rock.

1971 brought the opportunity to broaden my horizon beyond the town I grew up in and experience a series of firsts in my life...

    I took my first airplane rides on recruiting trips to San Francisco State University and UNLV...

    I saw snow for the first time (remember, I'm a southern California kid). We played Northern Arizona in Flagstaff AZ. It started snowing the morning of the game and by kick-off (8 pm) that night the sky was still dropping snowflakes. I got a unique introduction to the elements and a memento from the game.

(Game time weather conditions...)

(Memento from that night.)


Weather at game time showed no mercy...Due to the lack of visibility down field, the quarterback threw to the halfbacks, a lot.. thus my memento from the game.

 I also got to fly across country for the first time. The UNLV Rebels were opponents of the Miami Hurricanes. We played them in Orange Bowl Stadium. The stadium was torn down in 2008.

(Me in Orange Bowl Stadium)

    My first year (1971) we played our first home games at a local high school. By mid season  the Las Vegas Stadium was finished and I played my first game on it's artificial turf.

Though I did not witness it personally, ( we were in the locker room at halftime plotting strategy for the second half) UNLV crowned its first Black Homecoming Queen. Not a big deal in today's world, but this was newsworthy in the early 70's.

1972 football season...
My summer job this year was making fire hydrants at the James Jones Company . I can't walk
past a fire hydrant in southern California without looking for the name 'Jones' stamped on it (see top).
After a 6am to 3pm shift and a quick shower, on to my second job as recreation leader at Huntington Elementary school. Board games for the kids and wildly exciting volleyball for the older crowd:-)

(below) Wayne Nunnely and I prepare to ride to LasVegas in his VW.   Wayne, a junior had gotten a scholarship that year and I was entering my senior year at UNLV.  Wayne went on to graduate and entered into a stellar career in coaching at the high school, university and professional levels, retiring from the Denver Broncos after spending over a decade with the San Diego Chargers.


The Citrus connection...
Wayne #34, myself #26 and James (Wildman) Branch #70 were recruited from Citrus Junior College in Azusa CA. Over the years I've kept in touch with Wayne but lost track of James since school.

(#26 in action at UNLV)

My football life comes to an end. 
Through competition I learned a tremendous amount about life, had unique experiences and met a lot of great people along the way.  Through discipline and exercise I gained an appreciation for taking care of my body and this carried over to my understanding of  it's movement, balance and anatomy which is so important in the field of animation which I would eventually enter. 

    The last game for we seniors (#26).

Student Athlete...with the emphasis on student-                                                                                    
  Not everything in my life at this time revolved around sports. Along with classes I had two and at one time three part time jobs.  I had married my childhood sweetheart LaVonne. She was back in Monrovia working and raising our two boys.  I was on my way to getting a diploma but it was going to require me to take 18 units the first semester and 19 the next...oh yeah, while working two part time jobs...

(Drawing for The Yell UNLV's newspaper)

One, as an artist for the school newspaper...
and the other as a model for the photography and drawing classes.

  Leaving Las Vegas...

 I left the University of Las Vegas with a BA degree. . I did not walk in the graduation ceremony. After my last final I literally took off for home to look for a job. The university mailed the degree to me.

    My aim was to be a commercial artist, illustrating books and magazines. Little did I realize there were no commercial art jobs in southern California, not any that would be willing to give a newcomer to the field a start. I came to realize Chicago and New York were best suited for a rookie like myself  as those two cities had much of the publishing work.

 After weeks and weeks of job hunting I started at Honeywell in their technical illustration department. The gentleman who hired me said "I'm not hiring you because you have a degree, I'm hiring you because you stuck it out for four years and I feel you can handle any assignment we give you".

  The department had one person who got all the 'gravy' technical illustration assignments (exploded views, equipment diagrams etc.) The rest of the crew were given block diagrams and flow charts to do. Not very creative for a guy who had visions of illustrating magazine spreads.

 This stifling of my creative outlet led me to take a class at an art school, which led to a path to the Disney Animation Studio and the rest, as the saying goes, is history... my history.

(To read about how I got my start at Disney, see my previous post here).

 That is how I got on the cover of the Spring 1997 UNLV magazine...

Now, on with Finding a home in Fantasia :-)


Friday, May 8, 2015

Finding a home in Fantasia...part four

Leading up to High School Graduation...
 The things you do and decisions you make in the 'now' affect circumstances later in life...

 Junior year in high school...
  Driving my Mom's car I pulled into McDonalds for a burger. Rick Harrison, center on our football team, was at the window taking orders (no drive thru in those days) ..."Want a job?"..."Sure".
Rick had a quick talk with the manager, I got handed an apron.  "Fill out the paperwork tomorrow."

Next thing I know, I'm at the window taking orders.  A worker did not show up and it was the '10 pm rush' and the crew was short handed... instant employment.

 The manager took a liking to me and saw that I got training to move up the ladder within the franchise. From taking orders to 'french fry man'. Then on to "the grill" cooking burgers and steaming the fish fillet sandwiches. After a few months I had advanced as far as a 16 year old, part timer could go. A five cent an hour raise went with my rise to the top.

I made $1.25 an hour - minus 10 cent per hour (they figured you would eat that much on your shift break) plus a 5 cent per hour raise = $1.20 an hour.

I worked part time and summers through high school....Made good pocket money, but working 'closing' during the week left me barely able to keep my eyes open in first period geometry class. Came that close to getting an F.

I also saved enough money to buy a '57 Chevy for transportation my senior year. This was 1967:-)

 The McDonalds job was part time for the manager. His first eight hours was spent at Consolidated Electrodynamics. Knowing I was graduating he asked if I wanted a summer job at the company. Without hesitation I said..."yes".

(Summer employment 1968)

  While filling out applications for college I discovered I had not done my research. What my high school counselor, family and friends failed to tell me was that I needed SAT scores. I had already graduated when I took the tests at the University of Southern California in early June.
Art Center College of Design could not make a decision about my admittance until they got the test results.

I would have to wait.

The graduation ceremony was on a Thursday, that next day I started at Consolidated running a machine that made blueprints for the draftsmen. The machine was powered by ammonia and the fumes were overpowering. My brother Lennie gave me a gold plated watch for graduation. By the end of summer, the fumes had worn away the gold plating:-)

After work...

(Note Mom left for me.)
  Mom had left me a note..."call this tonight".

Walt Gurney was the head football coach at Azusa high school. We had played them my junior year and the coach said he remembered me from the game.

(What Coach Gurney remembered about that night...)

Coach Gurney was coaching the East San Gabriel Valley All-Star football team against the West team. They had already started practice and a player got injured. There was an open spot on the team..."Would you  be interested in playing?..as an alternate you'll probably play defensive back"...my answer "YES, of course."

(East team, me between #51 and #80. Rocky Long #10 quarterback and presently head football coach at San Diego State Univ.)

 It only took a few days of practice to erase the alternate status...

Summer ends...

 My summer job ended, still no word from Art Center. Too late to enroll at the local Junior College. I found employment at the perfume maker Avon Co. I was a dishwasher in their cafeteria waiting to hear from the art school. To keep my creativity alive I took a class at night at Art Center's campus.
 The long wait had had it's effect on me. I had gotten discouraged about attending art school and registered at Citrus Junior College.

Around Christmas time I got word from Art Center. They had gotten my test results and I was accepted into their program. I had already made up my mind to attend Citrus, besides I did not have nearly enough to pay for tuition to a top art school.

Citrus College- Art and Football...
  I knew I wanted to do something in the field of art, just what specifically was the question I had to answer.

I had been carrying a sketchbook since high school.  My constant sketching gave me a partial answer.  I took classes in medical illustration and found it was not my creative outlet.  Drawing, painting, drafting, sculpting and illustration at Citrus helped fuel my fire for art.

(Me #23 in action...)

I played football for the Owls of Citrus and after two years I left with an AA degree and was offered a scholarship to play football at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Getting closer to explaining how I got on the cover of  UNLV magazine.

 to be continued...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Finding a home in Fantasia...part three

Lesson learned from football...have a plan...

At Clifton Jr. High, art was starting to be a part of my identity. I joined the art club and got to draw cartoons for the sport page in the Cliftonian, the school yearbook.

(Pages from my Jr. High school yearbook.)

I played on the flag football team. We played for the district championship in the Pee Wee division.
 A picture was taken of the team after the game.

From the look on our faces, you can see we lost the game.  My  frown is not because we lost the game, the sour expression is because I did not play. Not one minute. Wasn't late, didn't miss practice, not a discipline problem...just not good enough.

(That's me #14 scowl and all...)
Like my desire to play little league baseball years before, my goal was to play football in high school. How could I play tackle football at the high school level if I could not even compete in flag football in Jr. High?

My Plan - October 22, 1963...

 I determined or it was determined for me by coach Wilbur Brown, that I did not possess the skills to play football. I needed a plan to get stronger and faster.
 My little mind went to work formulating a strategy.
Like a mad scientist, I documented these steps in a 3"x 4 1/2" memo pad what I must do.

 On the pages I outlined a regimen of jogging around the block,  jumping jacks and stretching a bicycle inner tube (in place of weights/barbells). On the seven pages I drew pictures of the exercises to be done and signed it, binding me to my own pact.

1967 football season...

I faithfully followed this routine.

In high school a weight room took the place of an inner tube and joining the track team helped me be a faster runner.

I've always liked this photo, it has the big "M" over my left shoulder. The symbol of my hometown, Monrovia CA, the Gem of the Foothills.

Running hurdles gave me my first introduction to one of the building blocks of my career in  animation. 

Coach Dink Walker explained to me the difference between jumping over a hurdle and mechanics of hurdling. Being only 5'-9" it was important that I have proper form going over the hurdles.

On the dirt track the coach had me to sweep in front of each hurdle with a broom. Then...
'Boom' went his practice pistol as I whizzed over the obstacles.

In the dirt were my footprints. He pointed out my big toe. It was pointed at a 45 degree angle towards the sideline. If the toe is going in that direction, the body is also. Both should be pointed straight toward the finish line. Between each hurdle the body would have to compensate and get back to running straight down the track. Each time that happened, fractions of a second were added to the final time.

 I would learn years later this study of the body in motion would be an important link in animation known as action analysis and the subject of one of the chapters in my book, Quick Sketching with Ron Husband.  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/041582334X/ref=s9_simh_se_p14_d10_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=auto-no-results-center-1&pf_rd_r=0NFG4DBD32V5VAJMEETD&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_p=1263465782&pf_rd_i=quicksketchron

The results of my vow of '63?

My senior season ('67) at Monrovia High I was co-captain of the team...

 Then, Most Valuable Player, All-League and I made the San Gabriel Valley All-star team.

I had had a plan for athletics, but none for my talent in art.

In high school...
 Art had been an on and off affair for me.

Like most budding artists I doodled on my homework assignments.


  My artistic talent came so naturally for me that I took it for granted, not appreciating nor utilizing it.
I did not take art as a freshman. My sophomore year the teacher let me take the second year class, though I was supposed to take the freshman class.

All the students took turns modeling for the others to draw.
(My turn to model.)
  Too long a story to tell but half way through my junior year I was kicked out of art class (deservedly).

  Prior to being kicked out of the class, a pen and ink piece of mine was entered in the Scholastic Art Awards project sponsored by Scholastic Magazine.

150,000 entries were narrowed down to 7,500 regional finalists and sent to New York for national judging. I was one of 412 award winners.

  The award came to the school and a publicity photo was taken by the local paper, The Daily News Post , of me, principal Leonard Morris and art teacher Ms. Dorothy Clemmons silently smiling.  I say silently because she never spoke to me after booting me out of her art class and this occasion was no exception.

(Ms Clemmons, me and principal Leonard Morris-another pen and ink piece of mine stood in for the award winning artwork. It was still on display at the Union Carbide Exhibition Hall in New York.) 

   I did not take art my senior year- all art classes were taught by Ms Clemmons...and she was through with me:-)

  Yet, that year and a half in Ms Clemmons art classes were to have a monumental effect on the rest of my life. She encouraged her students to carry a sketch book and chronicle their experiences in pen/pencil. I have no idea how many took up her challenge, but I sure did.

I had been drawing sporadically in sketch books long before this time (today I have sketch books dated 1962). Her challenge was to sketch constantly. Fill one up with sketches and immediately start on another. How else are you going to sharpen your talent as an artist?

 This habit picked up in a high school art class has made me a better artist. Sharpening my skills in observing and capturing the actions of both human and animals in motion. It has enhanced my illustration work by bringing a feel of movement and design to the projects.

 I was hired by the Walt Disney Studios Feature Animation department not because I knew anything about animation, but because I understood movement and could capture those actions on paper. My initial interview with the studio consisted of presenting a portfolio of finished art samples. They  wanted to see 'quick sketches' of which I had many filled books by this time. Seeing my sketches, I was hired which led to a thirty eight year career with the studio.

 This passion of mine also served as the genesis of a book about what to look for in subject matter and how to sketch with a purpose.  Though she no longer lives, Ms. Dorothy Clemmon's memory influences each page of my sketch books.

(Last game of the season my senior year in high school.)
  On the bus home from the last football game of the season I remember thinking, "this would be the last time I would have a football uniform on".

I had dreams of going to an art school but no plan on how to get there.

Stay with me, I'm still trying to explain how I got on the cover of the UNLV Magazine:-)

to be continued...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Finding a home in Fantasia...part two

"It is a common mistake to look at someones career from the outside and assume from its apparent success that it was a path paved with ease and direction from the beginning."  
                                                                                                                                            - Jai Husband

Spring 1997...

  A lesson learned from many years ago during Little League baseball: Don't give up...

  Often times where we end up is a result of decisions we make along the journey...How I ended up on the cover of the UNLV Magazine is in part because of a decision made as a ten year old. The decision to not give up on my dream, to continue along the journey, even though it was not what I first envisioned.

  At 10 years of age my desire was to play little league baseball. Actually it started a year earlier. You had to be ten to play little league. My 9th summer I played minor league at the local Recreation Park. For a dollar we got a hat, the color of the team you were on. Games were played with a rubber coated ball, not the rawhide balls the 'real' little league used or the full uniforms they wore. All the more reason to long for next year when I would be 'of age'

Spring of 1960...

Tryouts for Monrovia Youth Baseball League were all the buzz at Santa Fe elementary school in Monrovia, CA. where I attended. You were not assigned to a team, you had to 'try out'. Show the coaches what you had to offer athletically. Can he run, hit and catch?, that was what the try outs were all about. All the ten year olds from all the elementary schools in the district gathered at Clifton Jr. High to show off our skills. I was picked/drafted by the Elks, the winners of last summers' championship. I finally was on a little league team.

 I don't remember a whole lot about the practices leading up to the start of the summer season. But, this I do remember, as it is seared in my mind. Before the third practice the coach read off the names of some of the players and said,"If your name isn't called, you can go home."
 My name was not called. Stunned, in shock and disappointed, I went home and cried (like a baby).
 Back to the minors and Recreation Park for my 10th summer. With hopes of next year.

The next year all the 10 year old boys from the last year were 11. You were on the same team all three years of your little league life. Though I tried out, I was not drafted.
Back to another summer of minor league baseball.

 Spring of 1962...

  All those years of minor league ball were about to pay dividends.

Prior to the tryouts, my friend Calvin Bourne's team the Optimist,were having impromptu practices. He told me one of the 12 year olds was moving out of the city and there would be an opening on his team. "Come with me to practice"

...I did.

  I stood behind the fence in back of the catcher and watched the coach hit balls to the players. Time passed and getting bored, I started to play catch with a kid behind the fence. I heard a voice say, "who do you play for?"...it was the coach, Lou Moody.
"I don't play for a team". The coaches face showed a slight grin.
"Wanna practice with us?"..."Yes,sir!"
(The Optimist of 1962-Calvin:second row, first on left, me: standing/third on left)
After practice the coach gave instructions on when the next practice would be and ended it by saying, "Calvin, bring your friend with you."

Almost there...

  I still had to 'try out'.
Per the coaches plan...I had to "look bad, so nobody else will want to draft you".
So, at the try out I purposely dropped balls, struck out and over threw balls to the bases.
I was at the drinking fountain as coach Moody, under his breath whispered, "I gotcha," as he walked by.

My dream of playing little league baseball, though delayed, finally became a reality, if only for one year. At the end of the '62 season I tied for the league's highest batting average and made the all-star team. I made a lot of great friends and had adventures that would not have happened if I had let momentary discouragement dash my dream.

Similar episodes along my life's journey into adulthood would resurface and give me further opportunities to give up or keep trying.  These early life lessons helped me navigate through some trying times at the studio.

  to be continued...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Finding a home in Fantasia...

May 1996...
  After animating on Hunchback and prior to Hercules, my curiosity got the best of me and I trained in CGI in preparation to animate on the then called Dinosaur Project (released as Dinosaur). Thoroughly enjoyed the training experience, but after about six months I missed 'pushing a pencil' . After a conversation with director Eric Leighton in which I explained how much I missed drawing on a daily basis, I left the project.

(Me training on computer for The Dinosaur Project...)

  During this time I continued being a spokesman for Disney animation. My first opportunity to do this came while animating on The Black Cauldron. I spoke to an elementary school for their career day in Victorville, CA. As 'Guest Speaker' I would get many more chances to talk about my passion and love for this art form. These speaking engagements would help hone my skill and quiet my nervousness in years to come:-)

(Me as 'guest speaker'...)

   Attached to no production I wandered aimlessly around the studio in search of a project to latch on to.  Hercules, in need of animators to complete the feature brought me on board.

January 16th 1997...

  The animators who worked on Hercules started off the year with an appreciation luncheon in celebration of  the features' run in the theaters the past few months.

January 20th 1997...

  After my brief venture into and out of the world of CGI and the short stint animating on Hercules, I was once again without a production home. Wandering through the hallway of one of the many buildings Disney occupied on Flower St. in Glendale and looking at storyboards of the then called "Fantasia 99", Paul Brizzi walked by.We engaged in a conversation about the boards. The storyboards outlined Stravinsky's Firebird Suite which Paul and his twin brother Gaetan were preparing to usher into production as directors of this segment of the newly revised Fantasia.

  Released in 1940, this piece married classical music with animation. The original intention was to take out a piece and replace it with another musical number every few years. By this time there should have been all new segments in place. Things did not go as planned as other studio priorities came to the front of the line. But, now it was time.

    Paul walked me through the story boards and my interest peaked. John Pomeroy was to animate the Firebird and Tony DeRosa the Sprite; the only other character was the Elk. I wanted to animate the Elk and voiced my desire. Paul wanted to see what I could do with a four footed character before he would consider me animating on this ungulate. I dropped off my reel of Djali tests done for The Hunchback of  Notre Dame for the brothers to look at. A few days later I got a call welcoming me on board. I found a home:-)

The Elk...

  As ruler of the forest the Elk was to show strength, majesty, courage, encourage another (Sprite) and be regal at all times...without dialogue. Body language and timing would be the rule.

  In addition to these spiritual qualities, the Brizzi brothers had a particular physical kind of elk in mind. Of the three kinds of elk in North America, the largest of the species, the Roosevelt Elk, embodied the brothers vision.

Getting started...

  My research of articles, video and photographs had yielded plenty of information.

(Information from books and articles.)

(Hoof placement of rear right leg in walk)

(top:Thumbnails of first rough test)

 Thumbnail studies gleaned from video and photographs.

No substitute for the real thing...

   Stepping away from the books, a trip to the local LA Zoo would finalize my information quest and then I could start animation.

   A couple of problems emerged. There were no Roosevelt elk locally and any in California zoos had already shed their antlers (they would grow back at a rate of 1/2 inch  a day for months producing a 50"+ rack).

 How could I draw live elk with full antlers; observe them in their natural habitat and touch them up close?  Simple, go where they are. Unfortunately, calls to zoos and wild life habitats in Southern California were fruitless. Northern CA, same results. Up the coastal states of Oregon and Washington, nothing there.

  Finally we hit the jackpot...the Nybee Elk farm...in Montana...in January...28 degrees below zero.

Bundle up, here we come.

  Paul Brizzi, Fred Herrman and I flew out of  Los Angeles to Denver, CO. From there we took a small plane to a small airport in Idaho. A car was rented and Fred drove us across the state line to Plentywood, Montana where it was 28 degrees below zero at night (it warmed up to 14 below during the day:-)                                                    
(Our small plane and Fred and I on board)
(Elk outside the van.)

    A van was rented with big side windows. The elk were fed outside the vehicle so we could get a good look at them. With the heat going full blast, I sketched away.                                                                
(Up close and personal...)

  These antlers would be harvested (cut off) while still covered with a furry skin referred to as 'velvet' which has a blood supply to support the fast (up to 5 ft. in two months) growing antlers. They were then sold, usually to foreign markets for medicinal and other purposes.

Our newsletter, The Twilight Bark chronicled our visit in pictures.

(A little below zero humor and I did bring back an antler)

  My cartoon, which was included in the article, is based on true events. We'd walked across the street from the hotel where we were staying to get breakfast. We entered the restaurant and the diners are all in short sleeve shirts and we are dressed like Ralphie's brother in A Christmas Story. They had a good laugh on us as one guy asked "Where you boys from...Florida?"

to be continued...