Thursday, February 26, 2015

February- dedicated to African-American History...

 In 1926 Carter G. Woodson headed a movement to highlight the contributions that African-Americans had made in society. A week was set aside to recognize these many achevements. Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany also recognize this time which has now grown from one week to a whole month.The next few days will close out the this years celebration, but before this months end, I'd like to share an article written by Amy Booth Green highlighting African-American Animators.
 Words of encouragement and advice are chronicled in her interviews of those working in Disney animation at the time.
 
                                                                 





                                             

  "I meet young people who say they want to get into animation and the first thing I say is go to school, get training and discipline yourself. Sharpen the talents you have. The road to animation is narrow. It takes talent, initiative and drive."
                                                                                                                               Ron Husband

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Happy Birthday to my Chocolate Drop...


February 15, 1977...
  How time flies, fortunately we have cameras to freeze a moment in time so we can look back and reminisce. I looked back and this is what I saw...

 a few days home from the hospital in the arms of your first visitors. Linda, with her husband behind the camera.



















I saw your first birthday, complete with a sheet on the floor to catch any and all crumbs from your cake...


















I saw your fourth birthday anniversary celebrated at The Big Yellow House. You had graduated to the table but not to
silverware.




On Christmas day I saw a measuring to see how much you, Mikel and Jai had grown from the last year...

















Mr. Bill came along a couple of Christmas's before this picture was taken. Opening the box he came in you exclaimed "a fur coat!". He has and continues to serve you well, as we shall see.


(Melissa, Mr. Bill and Cabbage Patch)
Before you took your present job at the Humanitarian Center of Excellence in Disaster Management and Assistance you worked in sales...while your mother and I were at work, the entrepreneur bug had bitten your brothers and they sent you curbside to man the Kool-Aid stand in front of our home...


(What I saw as I pulled into the driveway)


Food and animals were always dear to your heart, in you I see a wonderful cook and animal lover...

(Homemade Halloween costumes and preparing breakfast)

(Bentley, Gretchen. neighbors and Homer)

















You have always held education high on your list of  'things to do'...

  I saw your first day of school...

(Jennifer and Melissa on their way to Allen Ave. elementary)















high school brought out Miss Personality in you as I watched you participate in track, student government, three years of prom nights and voted a real princess at homecoming...
                                                 


                  I saw your high school graduation from the tip of my pen.

                                                                                   
















On to college...




a tearful goodbye as we left our Choc-Drop in Atlanta...

not totally alone, Mr. Bill to the rescue, a old friend in the dorm.












College included a semester in Paris, giving Mom and I a place to visit and see you...
                                                                           
(Luxembourg Park in Paris)
(Melissa in Venice)
  traipsing all over Europe at Spring vacation (where you couldn't be seen nor did we hear about it until years later) included a stop off in Venice...















 I saw you graduate from Spelman...and years later while taking chemo and radiation treatments, obtaining a Masters Degree from the University of Oklahoma. I am not amazed to see anything you set your mind to do.














Transportation through the years...

I saw you pushed around Disneyland in a stroller...


chauffeured Mom around Tomorrowland in a red car and
took the red car to work at Disney Studio to a job in post production and other departments.

  I saw you take a trial run down the aisle, preparing for the real thing...
















years later I proudly walked you down the aisle to the real thing...


      and to the real man, Johann.




                 I have been...
                                     

                                                                                  and will always be...















there for you to lean on.



Happy Birthday My Chocolate Drop
Love, Dad

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hercules...


Summer of 1996...

  Came to an end with the launch of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The animation newsletter, the Twilight Bark heralded the Passing of the Torch to the production Hercules which had been in the works for some months.










Yes, there was a figurative and literal torch being passed from completed production to the next in line :-)






   At that time multiple productions were being done concurrently with the aim to release a Disney Feature film every year.  Fantasia 2000 was in development. It was then known as Fantasia Continued ( and Fantasia '99) and Disney's first venture into 3D Animation, the Dinosaur Project was perculating.
 
But, for now it was Hercules' time to take the spotlight.

Coming over from CGI training for the Dinosaur project (more on this later), I was asked to 'lend a hand' to help Hercules to the finish line. By this time much of the primary animation had already been completed. I got a screen credit for the Titans and Cyclops, but in reality, I did a variety of characters (and none of the Cyclops:-)


(Chariots and animals  of the gods)
Thumbnails of various scenes I animated...

(Fans climbing gate to get to Hercules residence)






(Storyboard for series of scenes where running horses are frozen by one of the Titans)










(Thumbnails working out the action of the horses)






























  Lending a hand to finish a production was nothing new for me. On my first feature Rescuers, everybody pitched in as that feature came to an end. We animators did clean up, effects and anything else needed to complete the production.

  On Fox and the Hound my primary animation was on Chief and some adult Copper. After all the character animation was completed, I, like the other character animators did whatever else was needed to finish the film.  I did some clean up and special effects animation. We tried to avoid cleaning up our own rough animation, though it was not always possible.

  I added the leaves effects to a Big Mama scene...The one where she is carrying out a pile of leaves and dropping them to the ground with one leaf settling on Todd's head.

I also animated the close up of the stick and bear trap being set off by a close up of Amos' hand and some ground being splattered by shotgun pellets.  And if you're wondering, Yes...I do remember pretty accurately each scene I've ever worked on (got the thumbnails to prove it).

 As the years passed, helping out in other areas became passe as the animation department expanded with an abundance of specialized personnel in every department.

Also during the time, Ebony Magazine ran a short article about Wes Sullivan (rough inbetweener) and my contributions to Hercules...

(Ebony Magazine article title)

(Wes Sullivan and me)



















The invitation to the Hercules screening and wrap party signaled the productions' end...and the beginning of the next. (Up next... (for me - Fantasia 2000).



Monday, December 8, 2014

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and more...part 4

February 1996...





 The animation for The Hunchback of Notre Dame comes to a conclusion...


Then, in April 1996...

The company newsletter informs us there will be a Super Premier at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana for Hunchback.




May 1996...  The animation crew and their families are invited to the Big Easy for the Premier and other festivities...



June 1996...

The traditional cast and crew party was held here in Los Angeles...
    




(LaVonne and me with Quasimodo at the cast and crew party)


Three days later we boarded a chartered plane for New Orleans...


(Melissa, LaVonne and me as we are about to board the plane)

The crew and our families at LAX.







LaVonne, my daughter Melissa, and me as we boarded the plane. Melissa, back for the summer from her freshman year of college at Spelman, was the only one of our three kids still at home...


My sons; Jai, coming from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA and Mikel, from Howard U in Washington, DC, met us in New Orleans.

(Me, Jai and Mikel in the hotel lobby)
Let the fun begin...























Above left, our day-to-day guidebook to the fun and festivities in New Orleans...And above right, anticipating the heat, a fan to cool off from the sweat worked up from the planned activities. 

First up, dinner at the Gallier Hall (old Mayors Mansion) with it's beautifully decorated rooms, and delicious food prepared by chef Paul Prudhomme.  And then...

(About to enter the Gallier Hall)
we walked, led by a small band, to the Spanish Plaza where we boarded  the Riverboat Cajun Queen for dessert as we floated on the Mississippi River.

(About to walk to the riverboat)

 The next day...


 
 We were bussed to Jackson Square for The Hunchback of Notre Dame Parade..





(Jai, Melissa, me and Mikel in the grandstands)

(Our point of view from the bleachers)



Finally, we were bussed to the Superdome to join 60,000 plus animation fans for the Pre-Show, Premier screening, and Reception.

The Bark spotlighted our time there.




The month of June ended with a news article focusing on the contributions of African-Americans in the making of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. To some it may not seem like anything to make a fuss over, but there is not a lot of exposure to art in general in the black community. Sports and entertainment (singing, dancing etc.) yes. The Arts, no. Even in the sports field the list is short in certain arenas. Can you name a black swimmer? A black golfer, chess, rodeo? One or two at the most.


Exposure is one way to get the word out that there are avenues to creative careers in the arts to diverse communities.

  Though we are all listed as animators in the headline, each one of us played a separate part in the production of the film.

 Lillian Chapman in the clean-up department working on my character Djali.

Serge Michaels painted backgrounds.

Marlon West is credited with visual effects and
Marshall Toomey was Lead Key in the clean-up drawings of Quasimodo.
                           


The Bottom Line...

 After all of the fanfare ushering in the production, the focus then becomes, "How well will the feature do at the box office when released? Will it make back production costs? Will it turn a profit? Can the studio afford to make another animated feature?

 These are big questions that can only be answered by the public.  And the public did answer...



 Seven months later we all celebrated the worldwide success of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.



 A job well done...


Everyone wants approval of what they do. Visual artists are no exception. We animators put our characters through an acting performance.  The question is, will the character's personality communicate to the audience and do so in an entertaining way as the story being told unfolds? We sure hope so...

Over the thirty years of animating at Disney I got my share of fan mail. This letter is from a family who attended the premier screening at the Superdome in New Orleans.



Regardless of the profession, one of the by products of a job well done is the positive effects it has on others.  I'm humbled and blessed to have had an opportunity to positively influence others via my art.