--The two Disney patents of Mary Louise Weiser
The Pinocchio Blu-Ray really brings home to us the amount of work that went into the creation of the beautiful imagery. The characters have a rounded look that adds dimensionality and realism to the otherwise flat surfaces. The technique used to accomplish this look is generally just referred to as "The Blend." On the Special Features one can hear noted historian J.B. Kaufman refer to it as such.
I recently found this image of Mary Louise Weiser, head of the Ink and Paint Department at the Walt Disney Studios in 1939, during the period when the techniques for painting Pinocchio and Fantasia were finalized. Ms. Weiser has two patents to her name, assigned to Walt Disney Productions: one for a formula for grease pencils (filed Nov. 14, 1939, granted Apr. 28, 1942, nr. US 2,280,988), and one for a method of adding roundness and texture to characters - in other words, "The Blend" (filed a week later, Nov. 21, 1939, granted Sept. 2, 1942, nr. US 2,254,462).
As you can see in the following, the actual patent, the "discontinuously associated translucent modifying areas adapted to impart depth to the underlying areas" - is basically just this: on the cell with the character, or on a new one on top of this, dab with a sponge, apply a lacquer or draw with grease pencil, to get an effect of roundness. In other words, The Blend just means "paint the effect on top of the cell!" No witchcraft! This is basically what they did on Snow White over two years earlier, when they applied rouge to Snow White's cheeks. The patent does go into different ways to accomplish this effect, in itself an interesting insight...
Ms. Weiser's patent for grease pencils directly refers to the above patent, and she sees these as an integral part of reaching the goal of getting a good blend-effect on the cellulose-based cells. In the wording of the patent, it would "not only permit the artist to work directly on the cells but in addition permit the artist to produce pastel effects, textures, stipples and stains capable of creating the depth and roundness referred to in the co-pending application" above!
The use of grease pencils in animation has been very well established during the 70's and 80's. I remember the quest for good pencils "as used by Richard Williams in Soho Square" during the making of Børge Ring's Anna & Bella, which we cleaned up directly with cell pencils.
(I would like to see that application by Bill Garity
that was co-pending with this, on a photographic process to create the characters' lines!)
The Blend has previously been referred to as a "technique that was used:" we just knew they used "The Blend," without getting into the details. It seems clear to me now that there really were no details
! In some scenes of Jiminy Cricket, we see a very smooth blend, possibly airbrushed on, or lightly applied with a small sponge - in others we see heavy clear light lines either made with a paint brush or with grease pencil. Just a lot of work, all done by hand, by "dedicated professionals."
Nowadays, of course, CG animation has this roundness built in - at times even too much of it. Hand-drawn animation gets its help from paint programs that may have the possibility of adding a shading effect like the Blend. Still, I hope that the above will give some insight into the considerations and elbow grease that went into the creation of the masterpiece that is Pinocchio. Give a kind thought to Ms. Weiser next time you watch the fruit of her labor!
[Addition: on page 189 of The Illusion of Life, you can find another image
of Mary Weiser!]
Labels: Other Disney, Patents