Monday, October 28, 2013

Stretching out into Illustration...

1989- At my animation desk

...Animation was on an upward climb, the last two films the Great Mouse Detective and Oliver & Company had made a profit at the box office and now Mermaid had topped them both as a money maker for the studio. John Musker and Ron Clements who directed Great Mouse and Mermaid were making quite a name for themselves as young directors....

 Below is the invitation to the wrap party.These parties got to be more and more elaborate as the films brought in more and more profits. To the right is the Mermaid crew photo taken in a park in Glendale.

The crew got letters from Roy congratulating us on the success of the film. Management was getting the hint that animation was making a come back in a big way...


As for me, I was still stuck in 'crowd scene purgatory.' I even got a note from the director and management commenting on my time spent there. They too realize it is not something one aspires to do...


As stated earlier,  I started doing pen and ink artwork at home in my spare time in an attempt to keep my frustration level at work to a minimum. One day at work I saw a piece of work that Ruben Aquino had done for a class on humorous illustration he was taking at the Art Center College of Design (now located in Pasadena). Ruben's art made such an impression on me that I signed up for that same class the next semester. I found it a fun and enlightening class. The principles taught in the class were the same or similar as what I had been working in the animation field: staging, solid drawing, gesture, using a story telling drawing(s). I soaked up the information like a sponge.

Here's my first assignment for the Humorous Illustration class done in pen and animal illustration of the alphabet.


 The information I obtained in class was put into use as I prepared portfolio samples to send to book and magazine publishers. After a couple of years of rejection notices I got my first assignment. I was able to contribute artwork for the Sunny Day Studio, Children's Playmate Magazine, Kid City magazine,Cricket magazine, and several assignments for Publications International Books to name a few.

A few more illustrations I've done for birthday cards, (saves me money and makes the recipient feel really special) wedding invitations, and my personal stationary to augment my portfolio...

...a friend's wedding announcement...

my niece's wedding announcement...

my daughter's wedding announcement...

my son's wedding announcement...

  ...personal stationary.

 Glen Keane introduced me to his dad, Bil Keane of 'Family Circus' fame, and I wrote him to get his insights as I prepared to teach a class on humorous illustration at a local college...

I continued to push my creativity venturing into sports themed large illustrations (30x40) done in pencil or pen and ink, commissioned for individuals, donated to colleges, and for my personal satisfaction. I also did commissions for businesses.

 Here is my daughter Melissa standing next to a sidewalk sign(30x60) commissioned for the 'Sweet Georgia Brown' restaurant in Monrovia. Only after the owner put it on display outside his establishment was he informed the city had an ordinance against sidewalk signs.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

CTNX 2013

Please join me November 15th thru November 17th at CTNX 2013 where I will be the  official sketch artist, chronicling the 5th Anniversary of CTN in line.

For.more.information on CTN and the expo, visit -

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.

Monday, October 14, 2013

1984 Olympics

The 1984 Olympic games were held in the USA. The athletes stayed in Olympic Villages at USC, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. Athletes from the United States  and foreign countries came to Southern California weeks before their events, They would train few hours, then, what do they do for the rest of the hours in their days? The host country provides activities to ensure the athletes have some entertainment to ward off boredom. Disney led the way in providing films and live animators to entertain the athletes. I along with Ruben Procopio, Joe Lanzisero, Andreas Deja and Mark Henn were sent to those three venues.

Photo to the right is of me, sketch book in hand sketching athletes at the UCLA Olympic Village  amphitheatre one evening.

Our group with Brett Thompson and guide about to enter the UCLA Olympic Village.

 Over a period of a couple of weeks we had visited the villages at USC and UCLA, drawing and answering questions about animation. Ruben even prepared a talk on animation one night.

On this beautiful, warm, California sunshiny lets go to the beach kind of day,we put on
our shorts( except for Ruben
who had a dream the night before that this picture would show up on a blog twenty-nine years later) and headed for the UC Santa Barbara OlympicVillage.
 Mark Davis and his wife Alice joined us at UCSB...

LaVonne under the 'disco' sign...think back, mid eighties the disco sound is 'in' and all these young, foreign athletes can't wait to get a taste of American culture through disco dancing .

 We see and hear this commotion in the distance... it's Princess Ann visiting the village. The guys in the suits are heavily armed security.

 "Disney animators are in the village and they are going to draw our pictures!" word spread fast and the athletes lined up waiting their turn before the pencil.

We drew and drew and drew and drew and drew...

and drew and drew and drew and drew and drew...

...drew and drew and drew and drew some more.

The athletes went away with a  momento on paper and came back with flags and pens from their native countries to present to us.

After about four hours straight of drawing, our Olympic Village adventure was about to end, but I had one more drawing to do. Kristen had just won a gold medal that morning and after drawing her she let me hold her medal. An experience I'll never forget.

for us to participate in the athlete's relaxation time by utilizing our talents to entertain them

The experience ended with a document from the Olympic committee thanking us for our participation.  We thought what a great honor and priviledge it was for us to participate in the athlete's relaxation time by utilizing our talents to entertain them.

One more Olympic outing for me. Glen and his Dad had tickets for the track and field games held at the Coliseum. For some reason his dad couldn't make it that day, so Glen invited me to come along with him, so we dropped our pencils and headed down the freeway.

Me with sketchbook in hand as the stadium starts to fill up...
the stadium is filled  and the games begin, got to see a great womens mile that featured a duel between the two best at the time, Zola Budd who ran without shoes and Mary Decker. Mary was leading at 330 meters but got tangled up and tripped, never finishing the race.

Glen sketching between sessions.

(Got an advance copy of 'Quick Sketching with Ron Husband' last Monday and the publisher said it should be available shortly.)