Sunday, September 4, 2016

Atlantis:The Lost Empire...part 2

   Feb. 1998...

"Atlantis Moves Full Steam Ahead" announced the newsletter (below)...



and the 'lead' animators were introduced.

                                               Me and Dr. Sweet at the animation desk...

First assignment...
The directors wanted to see how CGI (computer generated imagery) elements and traditional animation would work together as there were a lot of trucks and machinery interacting with animated characters in the picture.

I was given photostats of a automobile driving towards the screen at 24 fps (frames per second).
A soldier meets the vehicle and at some point has to come in contact with the vehicle.
Workbook sketch I was given to work from...
(Workbook sketch)

 A little thought...why not have a little fun and add a measure of entertainment to the mix:-)

Thumbnail sketches (below) to work out the action:
Here is what I came up with-

The soldier sitting, hearing the auto approaching, gesturing for the vehicle to stop, put one foot on the running board of the car (contact between CGI and traditional animation), dialoguing with the   occupants, point in the direction it should go, takes notes on his clip board and gets his foot run over as the car leaves the scene. Simple enough, lets do it.

This piece was cleaned up, went to color and shown in 'dailies'.
Never to be seen again, but assignment "accomplished" as these two elements, CGI and traditional, can be believed to exist in the same world.  
(Thumbnails of the envisioned action)

(More thumbnails to help visualize the action)
(Refining the action through thumbnails)

Voice Talent-

Phil Morris,(son of Greg Morris, Barney on the 60's TV program Mission: Impossible) voiced my character, Dr. Joshua Sweet.

Though slight in build, Phil's rich, deep voice was a perfect match for the Doctors large physical stature.

Phil's rapid delivery of lines gave my pencil a daily workout as I attempted to come up with interesting mouth shapes that didn't look 'mushy' or weird.

(Phil Morris and me prior to a recording session)
With all the preliminaries out of the way I was now ready to not only make drawing move but as Walt  Disney envisioned, make "drawings that live".

 First I must say a word about all the people that make this art form happen...

Disney Animation would not be the entertaining and engaging art form that it is without a crew of    people behind the scenes. These behind the scenes folks do not get enough credit for the final results  that are seen on screen.

In team sports for example,  quarterbacks in football and pitchers in baseball are highlighted as the 'stars' of the show. So it is with animators on a film as we get a generous share of credit for the production.

Most do not realize that it takes a great many people to get a film to the big screen (upwards to a thousand people are listed in the screen credits of Atlantis!) and it would take me and a crew of people to get Dr. Sweet to the screen

 My crew attended periodic 'chalk talks' where I would go over how to draw Dr. Sweet and address any problems that may have developed as the production progressed.

(Flyer announcing crew gathering for chalk talk)

These are the crew members that helped my Dr. Sweet animation 'live'...

(Me and Dr. Sweet crew)
From left to right: Don Parmele (assistant), Marianne Tucker (lead key), Susan Lantz (key assistant), Suzanne Hirota (inbetweener), Mary Measures (assistant) and Mary Jean Repchuk ((clean-up).

Planning out a scene...
I would first have a discussion with directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale concerning the intent of the scene.

This is the first meeting of Milo and the Doctor....
The directors supply me with the who, what, when, where, why and how questions concerning the scene.
Why is the scene here at this particular point in time, who is being addressed, where is it taking place, what are we trying to accomplish or say about the character(s) are just some of the questions that have to be addressed as the story unfolds.

Context of the scene...
Some light comedy moments had occurred earlier and after shaking hands, the Doc walks over to his medical bag and pulls out a bone saw and his dialogue is..."well, no time like the present"....

Workbook/story sketch drawing depicting the of the action, position and size...
(Workbook drawings top and bottom right)


Thumbnail drawings to work out the action...
(Thumbnail drawing to visualize the action)

Rough animation key poses (without inbetweens)...these drawings would be rough inbetweened,  and if/when approved all drawings would be cleaned-up, colored, background and any effects added (the sword sound as the saw is drawn out of the bag) and scanned.

(Key poses in rough animation, drawing #1...'W' mouth shape)-

(drawing #3...'E' mouth shape )

(drawing #5...'L' mouth shape, notice tongue)

(drawing #7...mouth between well and no)

(drawing #9...'O' mouth shape)
(drawing #13...'T' mouth shape)
(drawing #27...'E' mouth shape-with timing chart)

The Timing Chart- 
The chart (upper far right) deals with the total body and bone saw, drawings #27 to #45.
Key drawings such as this one are charted to guide the inbetween artist as to where their drawings should be placed. Drawing #27 and #45 are the key drawings in this scene. The chart provides the inbetween artist with information that they need to do a drawing (#31) half way between #27 and #45.
After drawing #31 there would be a drawing between #27 and #31=#29. The other side of the chart would have drawing #33 half way between #31 and #45 and so forth to the end of the scene.

Mouth Chart-
Since the Doctor is talking, a separate chart is used for the mouth. He is saying the word 'present' and in drawing #27 has an 'e' mouth shape and drawing #29 should favor or be like #31. A note is included with the chart to remind the inbetween artist that 'teeth' are to be shown like in #31.

(#31...'S' mouth shape-with body, mouth and eye charts)

 (#45 last drawing in scene)


 What every animator wants to hear (below), is that his scenes are communicating positively to others.

(Note from the producer giving Dr. Sweet animation a 'thumbs up')

Until next time...


  1. Hi Ron,
    thanks for another great Atlantis post.
    I really enjoy your detailed workflow breakdowns.

    I believe the soldier test you did is somewhere on the Atlantis Collector's Edition DVD special features disc. I remember seeing it there, I'll try and look at the disc again and revert with its exact location in a few days.

    In the photo of you at your animation desk, I noticed a clipping with an inscription stuck to the bottom right corner, the inscription is a little fuzzy for me to make out. Please if you don't mind me asking, what's written on it?

    Thank you and best regards,

    1. Segun, over the years I have taped saying to my desk for self motivation and change them as I find new inspirational words, the one you mention I cannot make it out or remember it but the one in the upper left corner reads- 'Success-the execution of the fundamentals'... lower left below my left hand "Use everything the genius of man and the providence of God has given us to communicate the Gospel"-Cecil B. Demille and this is what was in the lower right corner when I animated my last scene at feature (Treasure Planet) a three fold quote, "Art is the gift of God and must be used for his glory. That is highest which aims at this".-Michelangelo..."I invent nothing. I rediscover".-August Rodin..."A true work of art is but a shadow of divine perfection".-Michelangelo hope that sheds some light on your inquiry.

    2. Hi Ron,

      'hope you're staying safe and healthy...

      Sorry my response to this is really late.
      The animation test of the Soldier you mentioned is on the Atlantis Collector's Edition DVD; on Disc 2, it is shown in the chapter titled: "Digital Production", around the 6:30 mark. Don Hahn talks about the purpose of the test...

      Thanks and best regards,

  2. Hi Ron,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question,
    those are excellent words of inspiration.
    Have a great day!

  3. Hi ron i have a 20 years and i cant draw.i dont have any idea.i dont practice because i dont have motivation because i had a permanent problem wich is personal of sometimes i feel scared and i dont know what to do.i know i love drawings and you have any advice???

    1. Z, I don't have the solution to all your challenges as I do not know the whole of your situation, only what you revealed so from that- "love drawings and animation"put that love of drawings into practice by looking at and taking inspiration from what others have drawn, painted and sculptured as well as other forms of artistic expression, view your favorite animated pieces and appreciate the art, these are some of the things you can do, don't put so much emphasis on what cannot be done, easier said than done by one on the outside looking in on your personal situation, but moving out of ones comfort zone can be 'scary', but exciting and eye opening at the same time, give it a try:-)

  4. well,i really apreciate the fact of your quick answer,really!!
    because i also send messages to andreas deja on his blog,glen keane,ruben aquino,aaron blase (the last 3 in their personal facebook).but no one of the 4 replied thank you for answer me ron.
    oh,a personal question.when did you start drawing and animating?
    send you greetings.

  5. My earliest recollection of drawing was at 4 years old and I did not start animating until I was 25 years old.

  6. Thanks for answer mr husband.i wont bother anymore.send you greetings and the best.i really enjoy your blog im from angentina and i understand the english bassicly but anyway i really enjoy it.
    Until the next comment!! :)