Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A New Building and Pocahontas (Part 1)...

Into the Hat...

  The ending month of 1994 brought the animation department home after a ten year absence. In that time span I had animated in a trailer and three converted warehouses located on three different blocks in the city of Glendale, CA.

  The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver and Company, The Little Mermaid, Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas were completed at these locations and had out performed our live action movies at the box office.

  With some of the profits from these blockbusters, a building to house the growing animation staff was constructed to bring us home. Not back home as in 'back to the studio lot', but across the street, south of the lot, adjacent to the 134 Freeway. 

  The New Animation Building (also known as the Hat Building because of the iconic Mickey Mouse Sorcerer's Apprentice Hat tower on the building) opened amid much fanfare... at least from the animation executives. I guess they were trying to make sure that we, the animation staff, were happy campers.

 On opening night we were treated to food, drink, a model of the building, a badge, wristwatch and a board directing us on a walk through the three upper floors and lower level of the building.

(Certificate on the bottom of the model of the building)
(The give-a-ways of that night, a wristwatch, model of the building and a badge.))

(Board/map navigating us through the building)

    I was one of the first to sign up for the fitness center located in the lower level of the building:-)
(I could officially work out 24/7)

 Animating on Pocahontas...

    I worked under Andreas Deja on several features before Pocahontas. What a talent he is and his passion and love for animation is infectious. He has had a positive influence on the way I view character animation.

   Eric, Frank, Ollie, Art Stephens, Gary Goldman, Don Bluth, Glen Keane, Mark Henn are other  animators that I could point to as also having influenced me in some way in their unique approaches to animation. Another positive influence for me was the outstanding animator, John Pomeroy.

 On Pocahontas he was the lead animator of the John Smith unit of which I was assigned. John was animating at the studio when I arrived in 1975. He left a few years later with the Don Bluth exit and now he was back to work his animation genius with us.

While working on this production, I had many in-depth, personal and artistic conversations with John. I gleaned a tremendous amount of his knowledge of animation which helped me tremendously in the next steps of my animation career.

  Prior to the end of the year move, the animation on Pocahontas was completed in our Glendale location. We character animators worked at times from live-action reference photostats as the some the scenes were shot using actors in the major character roles.  This technique was nothing new. This technique had been used by the studio on Snow White, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, etc. Anytime human type characters are animated, live-action reference help bring a sense of believability to the drawings and performance.

  Nik Ranieri's raccoon Meeko and Dave Pruiksma's Flit, the humming bird and some of the other characters that did not need the live-action reference.

  There were some scenes I animated that had no live-action reference and had to be worked out the old fashioned way; via thumbnails.

 Below are my thumbnails from the underwater scene with Pocahontas and John Smith and John and shadow during the 'Colors of the Wind ' song sequence.

(Key drawings and timing)
   The business is worked out in thumbnails prior to any animating with key drawings, notes and approximate timing.

(John Smith reacting as the eagle's shadow crosses over his upper torso.)

 We put the finishing touches on Pocahontas and proceeded to move into our new home...

  June brought in the cast and crew screening/wrap party shortly followed by the premier and national release.

Pocahontas premiered a few weeks later at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, CA.

(Brochure announcing the exclusive engagement of Pocahontas.)

(to be continued...)


  1. Thank you for sharing!
    Those John Smith thumbnails, studies are fantastic!
    It was a great thing that Glen Keane and John Pomeroy worked together on Pocahontas, sad that after Treasure Planet, they had no chance to work together again.

    1. People move on in life, Glen went onto other projects and John moved back east to do animation and freelance.

  2. These thumbnails are amazing!
    I always liked that underwater scene.
    I really love your series of posts on your days at WDFA, they're truly inspiring.

    1. Segun-Thanks for commenting, I have a few more things to blog about, glad you are reading along ...if you have an opportunity to read my book, let me know what you think of it from an artist viewpoint.