Saturday, July 26, 2014

Xavier and The Lion King...

 My trip to Xavier...

Between the release of Aladdin and start of The Lion King, I took a trip to Xavier University in New Orleans, LA.  Bill Matthews was leading the animation trainee department at Disney during this time and was always on the lookout for the next Frank, Ollie or Milt. He traveled around the country interviewing talent and selling the Disney brand of animated film making. In his many travels he had made friends with Charles Graves, the art department chairman at Xavier.  (For those of you who may not know, Xavier is an HBCU/Historically Black College and University. The HBCU's were started in the east and southern United States in the 1800's to afford blacks the opportunity to further their education during a time when blacks were not admitted elsewhere.)

With the growing success of Disney animation in the 1990's, we and other studios got our share of portfolios from hopefuls wanting be a part of this form of entertainment.  Student portfolios which came from schools like Cal Arts and Long Beach State who taught animation had a decisive advantage on schools with talented students but with no formal instruction in the art of animation.

  Bill saw an opportunity to share some animation knowledge to those intuitions which had limited or no knowledge at all. He approached me with a proposition: Would I be willing to teach a series of workshops geared toward sharing the knowledge of animated film making and bringing the students up to speed as to what it would take to become a Disney animator, telling story through line and music?

"Yes, of course!" was my answer.

 I and several others had been representing animation through Disney for a number of years, traveling to elementary, junior high, high schools and colleges. The studio even had an animation lecture kit with examples of the various steps it takes to make an animated film. These kits made our presentations visually easier to follow.

 Instead of the usual twenty minute presentation followed by a short Q&A session, this visit to New Orleans would last two weeks...10 days of intense training and dispensed information on my part.

 My first objective was to develop an outline to present to Bill so he in turn could make a presentation to management to justify the expense.

 First I needed some film clips from the great "vault". They were much easier to take along than a bulky lecture kit that measured at least 30"x40" and weighted a ton.

I chose the following animated film clips for the workshops...

These short snippets of animation were going to help me explain to the students how important each section (color, music, dialogue, etc.) contributed to the whole of the animated film making process.

My outline would consist of:
  -A general talk on animation
  -Introduction to the various kinds and purposes of animation
  -Getting Specific (the process of Disney animation)
  -Drawing Board Exercise
  -The Objective
  -Teamwork for Results
  -Action Analysis
  -Class Project
  -Life Drawing Classes
  -Open Class Discussion (after all sessions)

Armed with this proposal, Bill had no resistance in getting the OK for the trip.

  I stayed in the French Quarter of town in a hotel across from the canal. My only automobile driving was back and forth to the school which was about ten minutes away by freeway. The narrow, one way streets were enough to discourage me from driving. Walking was far better to see the many sights to be seen there.

  The food in New Orleans is magnificent, whether a hole-in-the-wall or five star restaurant, the food was good. I indulged at a different restaurant every night after classes and on the weekends took a trolley to the outskirts of town to sample the eats.

 Itinerary for my time at Xavier.
(Me with student from their campus newspaper.) 
  The workshops went great. The students were enthusiastic and I already mentioned the food...

The students and faculty were appreciative of my contribution to the Xavier experience and I made new friends in the Big Easy and got to spread the word about animation...old school.

Two weeks later I was back to Glendale and onto our next production The Lion King...

  Going into the next production The Lion King, I got the opportunity to be assigned to the Andreas Deja led crew animating the dramatic villain character Scar. I finished the film animating the comedic Pumbaa and Timon led by Tony Bancroft and Mike Surrey.

 Thumbnails always a leaning post of mine...
(Scar thumbnails for scene from song Be Prepared

(Scar thumbnails from song Be Prepared)

(Scar Clean-Up drawings by Johan did I know it was Johan after all these years?, the CL artists would sign their names in the far right hand corner of  the 'ruff' drawings they Cleaned-Up:-)

  One of the highlights of animation (for me) is the time spent in preparation, observation and the study of what is about to be animated. This has always been a strong point in Disney's history going back to the early days of feature work. Having a basis of reality to launch out from brings believability to what is being animated.

  Everybody could not be sent to Kenya, Africa like the art directors.  So, the studio did the next best thing...we animators boarded a bus for a trip to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. From the flat bed trucks we got to see the animals we would be drawing up close and personal.

  From there we visited the San Diego Zoo and got behind the scenes tours of the animals, spent the night in San Diego, and then back to Glendale for more in depth African animal research before we picked up a pencil to animate.

  Live African animals were brought to the studio for us to observe and draw.
(Me at one of the many 'live' drawing sessions.) 

( Some of the animators with male lion and trainer.)

A star-studded cast and crew screening was held at the Disney owned El Capitan in Hollywood, CA...

followed by the Wrap Party held at the Arden Estate in Pasadena, CA.


As a thank you, Management reminded us of the opening of the film with this communication and presented us with a book, The Art of the Lion King, one of a series of "Art of"  books chronicling our productions...

Disney animation had hit it's stride and unfortunately it's ceiling where the only place to go is down...

  On another note, Quick Sketching with Ron Husband continues to make waves on the international scene, along with the Japanese translation, a Chinese version is being negotiated for the summer of 2016!

 Thank you everyone who reads this blog, I really do appreciate you taking the time to do so. My readership increases daily.

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