Check the Category Labels in the side-bar on the right! There you can find animator drafts for sixteen complete Disney features and eighty-five shorts,
as well as Action Analysis Classes and many other vintage animation documents!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The How To of Seeing Double

When television was acknowledged as a threat to the cinema, all producers were looking for gimmicks to attract audiences, and one of the ways they lured them into the dark was through 3-D movies, which had their heydays in 1953. "A Lion in your Lap" ...or was it a girl? Anyway, 3-D movies were subsequently blown out of the water by the very wide screen 2-D CinemaScope, that was easier to project and didn't need glasses to view—but not before some very interesting experiments had taken place.

Disney produced An Adventure in Music: Melody with Professor Owl, Ernie Birdbrain, Penelope Pinfeather and the Canary Sisters, a bird and a cricket and a willow tree, and later Working for Peanuts with Donald Duck, Chip'n'Dale and Dolores the elephant...
Melody was released 05/28/53, Working for Peanuts 11/11/53.
Both were shown in Disneyland from 06/16/56 within the recently restored live-action Mouseketeer vehicle 3-D Jamboree.

The system to actually make these films is described in Disney's engineer Bill Garity's patents, the first describing the Methods and Means for producing the films. It is a really simple system, based on punching the artwork differently for each eye...
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[Note: Garity made these for Walter Lantz' studio. It would not surprise me if the Disney system was somewhat similar, but I have not seen any evidence of this, or to the contrary.]

...and the second a more specific description of the paper and cell punching device used. The animation is produced in the usual way, and the cells are inked and painted. Then, using this special punch which registers to the original three holes, four new separate holes are punched. Two holes are used to register the cells for the left eye and two for the right. The distance between these holes can be varied between cel levels, which results in different apparent distance from the screen when projected using 3-D projection systems. When the holes are centered, the drawing is in center, and the image is in the screen plane. Turning the knob moves the two sets simultaneously, but in opposite directions. Move the two sets closer together, the image seems to be behind the screen; when moved apart the image appears to be in front of the screen.
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A little calculating based on the drawings of the punch: we know the standard "old" Disney pegs to be 3.75" apart. [Though, of course, these were Lantz pegs, probably 4" apart.] The "new" 3-D peg sets, two pegs for each eye, were this same distance apart, and the sets are spaced 1.5" from each other in neutral position. It seems they could move about 1.4" further apart and 0.7" closer together. This seems logical, as the displacement for the area in front of the screen needs to be larger than that for images appearing behind the screen. The center lines for the new pegs were obviously parallel to the original pegs, but half an inch further away from the edge of the cel.

The two patents were filed in 1953. When they finally were granted in 1957, 3-D was a thing of the distant past, and would stay that way for another 50 years.

We have previously seen other Garity patents for Disney, including the ubiquitous click track. He also held the patent for Walt's Multiplane camera, which I intend to come back to later.

During the last 3-D Expo at the Egyptian in Hollywood, during the "specials" screening, not only was 3D Jamboree screened to many wet eyes (Annette in 3-D!), but a film strip was shown for the first time that to me was one of the most exciting experiments of the time:

Though normally the 3-D screenings used two regular film strips and polarized lenses and glasses, this was a SINGLE strip IB Technicolor film with one eye printed POLARIZED on one side of the film, the other eye on the other side. It was generally considered impossible to print the thin polarized lines on film, but here it was! This was a test strip from the Land corporation, and it used Disney's Melody as its subject. And it worked! It proved that a single-strip polarized synchronous 3-D film was possible!But it was too late: when they made this test, Fox had already introduced CinemaScope.
The test was shelved, and not seen until 2006...

Note: I updated the List of Feature Production Numbers!

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Nice Try, Bill...

Bill Justice is known to the world as quite an all-round animator, and though he neither invented nor designed them, his name is for all time connected to Chip'n'Dale, whom he imparted amazing amounts of life into. Later he made, with X. Atencio (and designed by Tee Hee) the short film Noah's Ark (1959), and their intro for The Parent Trap is also a classic, as is their work on Symposium on Popular Songs (1963). They can be seen in the 1961 Walt Disney Presents segment Title Makers. I am glad to have met Bill Justice a few times—it is nice to have had the chance to thank him for his contribution to my "upbringing."

That Bill Justice invented a forerunner of the Xerox process in 1942, patented in 1944—well, I had not heard of it! His system was based on drawing with a special pencil, and using pressure, transferring it to a cel, then fixing it. Already here we find reference to wanting to remove the inking phase from the animation equation in exchange for a more artistic look. I do not know that this was actually used. Maybe in a war-time film?
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Walt and Ub Sharing a Patent

Did you know there is one patent that has Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks as shared inventors? Well, now you do!

On the date of the very first anniversary of Disneyland, Walt and Ub filed the patent application for a method of filming a 360 degree panoramic film using eleven 16mm Kodak Cine-Special cameras (and projecting them in 16mm). The first showing of Circarama was on opening day July 17th, 1955, a "Tour of the West", followed in 1960 by the glorious "America the Beautiful".
The patent was granted June 28th, 1960.

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Later the system was altered to utilize nine 16mm Arriflex cameras, projecting 35mm blow-up prints, and renamed Circle-Vision 360°. From 1967 until 1984, "America the Beautiful" was shown using this system, followed by "American Journeys" and "Wonders of China". The Disneyland show building was used for displaying this system until 1996—where now you can shoot up Evil Emperor Zurg with Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters.

A note!
I corrected part of my previous posting, on the recording on Sleeping Beauty's score! Remember to check it out, as this is new info!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Click Loops

In my quest to futher the case of musical timing in animation, I have previously mentioned click-loops. Here now are a few images and a quote to underline the historical importance of this material.

Please turn to page 88 of Bob Thomas' The Art of Animation (Simon & Shuster 1958), basically the book on the Making of Sleeping Beauty. If you haven't got one, you can still buy one. We read:

>>The animation composer has two indispensible companions in his office—his piano and his moviola.
   The moviola has long been used in the motion picture industry as a fast method of viewing film. It is a machine that stands waist-high and reproduces film action on a small screen. But the composer's moviola is different from other ones.
   At the end is a reel on which can be played a continuous loop of film. This is called a click-loop, and it provides the sound of whatever tempo the composer desires for the sequence.
   The click-loops are kept in a series of cubbyholes above the piano. They are numbered in eights, from 6, 6 18, 6¼, 6 38, etc. up to 30. [See my note below the photos. HP]
   What does all this mathematical mumbo-jumbo means [sic] to the animation composer?
   Simply this: musical beats must be measured by the film frame, so the animator will know when to draw the action that corresponds to the beat. The fastest tempo is six frames to the beat; the slowest thirty frames to the beat. Since there are twenty-four frames per second, slowest beat is one every one and one-quarter second.
   Higher mathematics comes in when the beat is varied. "It becomes too mechanical to use the same beat throughout the passage," Paul Smith remarks. "I like to vary it. I might start a chase with 9, then switch to the beat of 9 3/8."
   To begin his operation, the composer runs through the moviola a rough treatment of the action (or the finished version, in the case of post-scoring). With the aid of a stopwatch, he figures out what beat would be suitable for the composition.
   Perhaps it is a march that calls for a 12-beat. He tries the 12 click loop on the moviola. If that doesn't jibe, he tries the 12¼ or 12 3/8 and so on until he gets the proper beat. With that established, he starts to sketch out the music in more or less sketchy form.<<

As I have mentioned earlier, the whole timing-to-music started with Steamboat Willie and changed the face of animation - and of the Disney Studios. In the beginning, the director decided the tempi aided by the musical director (Bert Lewis, Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline, Paul Smith). They would choose whole beats, as these would be easy to copy from bar sheets to exposure sheets. The counting in eigths of frames apparently started around 1936. During Fantasia they also found that "wild beats" could be used: beats dictated by the music recording. I suggest, if you are interested in reading more about this--in my mind VERY important and interesting--topic, to read more in my older postings about barsheets etc.

Since Sleeping Beauty was the subject of Thomas' book, I can mention that (like for pretty much all of Disney's production) some of the music cues for it were recorded using a click track, another Disney invention. In the case of Sleeping Beauty the tracks were first recorded March 4th, 1957 at the studio in Burbank, Disney's very first true stereo recording. A year later, September 8th to 15th, 1958, it was completely re-recorded on four tracks with a 66 piece orchestra at the UFA studios in Babelsberg, outside Berlin, Germany.
Vocals were then re-recorded in Burbank, with a 22 voice choir using John Rarig's arrangements, replacing Walter Schumann's earlier 28 voice arrangements.

Composer and historian Alex Rennie adds: "Composer George Bruns did not always work to a click track as in the case of Sleeping Beauty where several of the cues were conducted to stopwatch (where Bruns used a clock with a sweep second hand to guide his tempo). In addition, composers at Disney, and elsewhere, often used "built" or "variable" click tracks -- tracks with tempos that sped up or slowed down to suit the needs of the animation. Paul Smith was a prime mover behind the development of this technique and Oliver Wallace in particular was famous for his use of built click tracks.

Two of the sequences for the film were initially recorded in the states: Flora, Fauna and Merriweather bake a cake/make a dress for Briar Rose and the Dragon Fight. (Both were rerecorded in Germany.)

The reason the score was ultimately recorded in Germany was because of a strike by the American Federation of Musicians that prohibited the possibility of recording in the states (not because of recording equipment that was uniquely available in Germany -- multi-channel recording was already taking place on a wide scale in the United States by the early 50s).
" [Thanks, Alex!]

Of course, nowadays moviolas belong in a museum and film as intermediate work-media has been replaced by computers.
Yet - the METHOD can still be used, and, as I mentioned before, it need not sound like a crutch. If used well, it gives your story a backbone, and can add to making your film exciting and entertaining!

The first two photos show Ollie Wallace "in an expansive mood" in front of his piano, from The Art of Animation. Note the moviola on the left, and a metronome on his table in the second image. The third photo shows George Bruns in front of his piano with Roy E. Disney, from an Annual Report in the 70s.
Above the pianos: the box of click-loops...
Ollie WallaceOllie WallaceGeorge Bruns & Roy Edward Disney
For the sticklers among you, yes, there is a cubbyhole missing! The boxes of loops above the pianos are 24 across, 8 high. I would suspect they would start at 6 top left, in eigths down - next one to the right would be 7, then 8 etc. Now - that would mean that the last one would be 29, and the last hole bottom right would hold 29 78. No room for a 30 beat! Is this why both Wallace and Bruns have a loose loop on the piano? Does anyone but me even care?

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Disney Version

Something completely different...

Richard Schickel's The Disney version came out in 1968, and I read it in 1980. I read it in one go - and then could not remember anything.
I know several people who will say "you didn't miss much, then..."
Like Neil Gabler's bio, it does not give a very positive picture of the man Walt Disney. At least Schickel had met Walt, as can bee seen on this picture, from an in-house publication of 1966...
Dick Schickel<< Click Here!
This image shows Walt, in the last months of his life, aware of the importance of PR until the end.

If you want to read a good book on Walt Disney, read Mike Barrier's The Animated Man. Mike knows that Walt the man and his work are not to be contemplated separately!

As I write this, some of my friends are attending the NFFC sales show in Garden Grove. Although I hear that there has been better "stuff" many years ago, I still wish I could have been there, as I have found some nice things there at the previous shows...

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hearsay - Sleeping Beauty at the Academy

As I noted elsewhere, I was not able to attend yesterday's first public screening of the newly restored print of Sleeping Beauty at the Academy. I have spoken with some of my dearest friends who attended, and I value their opinion greatly.

They found that the image was beautifully crisp, actually so much so that a few scenes seemed to be originally shot out of focus. Also, this restoration was made from the original three black and white Technicolor negatives, and there seemed to be some color variance, as some characters seemed to have slightly different colors from scene to scene. The fish that King Hubert fights with is beautifully blue, though, and when he put it back in his belt, it got a bigger laugh than ever before.

The sound was gorgeous, though for the cinema mixed by folks who are used to mixing realistic 5.1 mixes, while this film originally was produced with a kind of "fantasy stereo," a sort of caricature of real life sound. My friends recall the screening of the 1979 release (and following panel discussion which I believe included Frank, Ollie, Milt, Woolie and Marc!), and the mix there was more surrealistic. But the new mix is not bad per se, and the sound quality is amazing! The Once Upon a Dream number ended with a chord that they did not remember ever hearing...

Putting together a restoration of a Technicolor film with multichannel sound means making ethical decisions that are going to be based more on taste than on science, and with this in mind, my friends gave this restoration a "both thumbs up." Everyone will have things they would have done different, but in all, the new release seems to still be a good reason to finally invest in a Blu-Ray player! I for one am certainly looking forward to it - and also to seeing it in the cinema at the El Capitan later this year!

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Rounding off Sleeping Beauty

Going out on a limb, I would think the perceived flaws in Sleeping Beauty's storytelling can be traced back to the film being quickly pushed into full production. Walt saw the costs rising and just wanted the film over with, especially since he had divested in so much else, including Disneyland. The story has been told somewhere that, in Bob Thomas' The Art of Animation (1958), the final photo of Walt in the corridor with Eric Larson was the moment he said that the film was growing way too expensive and something needed to be done, putting quotas in place and effectively relieving Larson of further supervising directorial duties and pushing the film out with the seemingly quite disliked Geronimi and "GI-Joe" Reitherman.

[Comment by Mike Barrier: "Actually, Hans, what Eric Larson told me and Milt Gray back in 1976 (in an interview I made available to John Canemaker) was that Walt was saying, when that photo at the back of The Art of Animation was taken, was this: "I don't think we can continue, it's too expensive." See p. 559 of Hollywood Cartoons." Thanks, Mike!]

Read John Canemaker's book Walt Disney's Nine Old Men on Eric Larson again for more on this. It seems he was not only a great animator, but also a very nice person, a stickler for details. I often found personally that the best directors weren't necessarily the best draftsmen, because they would not see the bigger picture.

The main critique of the film says it is cold, it lacks heart. This can well be by people who do not like Eyvind Earle's design style. But those who give it half a chance (and those who have studied the Duke of Berry's Tres Riche Heures) find it an appealing look back to the late middle ages and early renaissance, where they can find warmth in the love of the fairies and the humor of the kings, as heart-warming as any other film, save maybe Dumbo. As I said yesterday in a comment, Sleeping Beauty is a bit of an acquired taste. Let's hope, with the new Blu-Ray discs, a new audience will be found that acquires this taste. Sleeping Beauty deserves a loving audience!

Today seeing the first public performance of the newly restored Sleeping Beauty, and having finished the posting of the draft, I thought it nice to end this string of postings with a document that was stuck in the back of my draft. It is the film's "Character & Effx Sequence Preference Schedule" of 2/5/57. It shows the order and dates that the sequences were expected to be OK for Inking.
A05<< Click Here!

This is the time I urge everybody who uses this material to step up and comment. What did you learn you didn't know? Were there surprises? Did you expect someone to have animated something, and found it was correct - or not? Let's hear from you. To be honest, that is what makes it all worthwhile for me! You know, I COULD just sit in a corner and leaf through these by myself! It is my opinion that we ALL can learn from each other. So bring it on!

By the way, have you visited our homepage lately? You can find our showreels and clips from films in production. If you look around carefully, you can find a nice list of the 39 (THIRTY-NINE) theatrical feature films we have worked on since we started our studio in 1988, ten of which are completely our own productions! Yet we are largely ignored by the world around us, as "only" a Danish studio.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Prod. 2082 (Sleeping Beauty) - Seq. 21.0 Girl Awakens and Ending

Directed by Gerry Geronimi, laid out by Tom Codrick and Ernie Nordli.

Animation by Milt Kahl (Prince, King Hubert), Marc Davis (Aurora, Queen), John Lounsbery (Kings) Jerry Hathcock, Ollie Johnston (Fairies), Bob Carlson (court crowd), Ken O'Brien (small Aurora and prince).

This sequence immediately starts with scenes by four of the "Old Men." Where they were lacking in the scenes before, here they are used in abundance.

Ken O'Brien was left with the unenviable task of being in charge of Aurora and Prince Phillip slowly descending the stairs - and waltzing in the last scene. The cleanups were blown down to a small size and inked. The re-registring of these alone must have been an awfully tedious task, of the kind where, when it is finally ok, nobody notices it, while the tiniest glitch can send a director through the roof. But he did it and therewith sends Sleeping Beauty off into the ages.

This FINAL draft of 7/1/58...
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Tomorrow marks the latest reissue of the newly restored film, with a sold-out performance at the Academy in Hollywood (which I sadly cannot attend). Look forward to the upcoming Blu-Ray disc, folks, as you will get to see - and hear it as never before, mixed from the original four-track stereo masters originally recorded in Germany. You can now see it and know who animated what. Remember, you saw it here, first...

Finally, lets not forget that today is the 53rd birthday of Disneyland, and its landmark Sleeping Beauty's Castle, one of the most famous buildings in the world. Congratulations, Disneyland!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Prod. 2082 (Sleeping Beauty) - Seq. 19.0 Fight

Directed by Woolie Reitherman, laid out by Basil Davidovich.

Woolie was at first considered an action director, which becomes very obvious here. We also see more of his time-saving reuses, which became his hallmark, quite infamously at times. And where the previous sequence was brimming with star animators and "Old Men," this one seems to use what then was considered the second string, though of course still very accomplished artists. It is quite impossible to pinpoint exactly who did what, as some of the artists did a bit of every character, it seems!

Animation by Ambi Paliwoda and Dale Barnhart (Maleficent), Ken Hultgren and Dick Lucas (prince & horse), Bill Keil (prince, horse, fairies, dragon), George Goepper (prince, horse, fairies, Maleficent reuse), Ted Berman (prince), Eric Cleworth (dragon). Effects by Dan MacManus and thorns by Al Stetter.

This sequence has a slew of famous images - it has so much we all grew up on, as it was shown so often in Christmas shows and the like. At least now we can read that the famous scene of Maleficent growing into a dragon is by effects animator Dan MacManus. It is interesting to see that a sequence as ubiquitous as this was not considered "worthy" of even one scene here or there by Milt, Marc, Frank or Ollie. Yet it works - it does the job - and we know it so well.

This FINAL draft of 11/5/58...
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[Oh! I see I already posted this 7/6/06!]

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Prod. 2082 (Sleeping Beauty) - Seq. 18.0 Maleficent's Castle. Meeting of Maleficent and Prince. Escape from Castle.

Directed by Gerry Geronimi, laid out by Tom Codrick and Ernie Nordli.

Animation by Fred Kopietz, Les Clark, Frank Thomas, George Nicholas, Ollie Johnston, Bob Youngquist, Don Lusk (Fairies), John Sibley, John Lounsbery (Goons), Marc Davis (Maleficent), Milt Kahl (Prince), Jerry Hathcock (Raven, Goons, Prince, Fairies), Ken Hultgren (Prince on Horse), Jack Bailey, Cliff Nordberg, John Kennedy, Blaine Gibson (Raven). Effects by Dan MacManus.
And lots of "Music Room, Scene Planning..."

This sequence shows, like no other, the division between Acting and Action specialized animators. Or at least it shows how animators are cast that way. We find six of the "Nine Old Men", and such long-time Disney staples as Youngquist, Lusk and Nordberg, each of them deserving an article like the great one on Sibley by Pete Docter.

We also find Fred Kopietz, born in 1909, who started with Ub Iwerks in 1930, worked for Walter Lantz on Oswald and Andy Panda from 1933 to 1940, and for most of his life was assistant at Disney, with a few animation credits to his name, including on Jack King Donald shorts in the early 40s. Demoted to assistant again during the round of firings after Sleeping Beauty, he actually tendered his resignation in 1960, seemingly feeling that he was worth more than he was credited for. It seems he convinced the powers that be to at least raise his wage as Assistant Class I. He retired from Disney in 1971 and passed away in Sedona, AZ in 1992.

It certainly is very hard to make great pictures without good artists like Kopietz to assist the star animators, and they also deserve our attention. (I am thinking back on some great assistants I have had in "my days," like Søren Larsen and Jens Leganger...)

This FINAL draft of 7/2/58...
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Mike Sporn posted storyboards and screen grabs from this sequence!

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