Monday, October 21, 2013

Animation leaves the lot...

In 1985, I'd been on 'the lot' for ten years. On breaks we would peek in the sound stages to see a movie that was being shot, being careful not to enter if a red light was blinking (try that today:) or take a stroll around the 'berm' as we called it. 'The berm" was overgrown vegetation on the back lot that could be used for a jungle or woods scene in a motion picture.  There was also a paved avenue with house 'fronts' that was used in filming 'The Shaggy Dog' (the original).  If you made a right turn south, it took you through a western town. Another right turn parallel to Riverside Drive,walking past the pond (see  Dave Spafford tossing a rock in the pond below with Steve Starr seated next to him) to the west, was the set where 'Zorro' was filmed in the '50's. The present parking structure there pays homage by being named after that TV program.

This year also saw the release of 'The Black Cauldron'. We had already seen the parking lot and the field we used to play vollyball in, in the north west corner facing Alameda, demolished and replaced by the Roy O. Disney Building. To make room for the live action/movie people, the animation employees were moved out of the  building that was designed in the 30's to house the animation department to a series of converted warehouses on Flower Street, Air Way Street, and even a trailer, a few miles away in Glendale.

Disney continued to reach out to the public, sending me to the High Desert area of Hesperia, Ca. where I talked to elementary students at their authors conference. The studio was seeking ways to increase interest in our pictures. Back then there was not the interest in animation that there is now.

 I had a few ideas about how to get people, especially teens to see our films and I shared these thoughts with management.  We made and released a picture every 2 to 3 years and they were not all that profitable but all this was about to change.

Young animators like myself with a few pictures under our belts were given a chance to animate in a feature, but with less time...'Turn this out in about a year instead of the normal two,' was the new goal.

First up was 'The Great Mouse Detective' then 'Oliver & Co.' We did both on time and on budget. The animation got better and the department started to grow and bring in profits to the studio.

The crew who worked on 'Great Mouse' in front of the building on Flower Street.

Left and  right: Crew invitation to 'wrap' party after completion of 'Great Mouse..'

Publicity photo and LaVonne and I with Ratigan at wrap party and ticket to family screening to Great Mouse... 

Crew of 'Oliver & Co.' in parking lot in back of Flower Street building in  1988.

During this time I got 'pigeon holed' doing crowd/multiple character scenes. Ask most animators and these kind of scenes are not at the top of the most popular things to do list. I was even told by management "crowd scenes are all you are going to do from here on out"...a bit frustrated but never down in the dumps, I turned my attention to pen and ink illustration, something I had always enjoyed. From the positive responsives of others, I had found another outlet for my artistic talent.

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