Please note: if an earlier link doesn't work, it may have changed following an update! Check the Category Labels in the side-bar on the right! There you can find animator drafts for sixteen complete Disney features and eighty-six shorts,
as well as Action Analysis Classes and many other vintage animation documents!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Let's Make Them Move...

...with Walt Disney's new animation kit! Only $6.95...
This is an ad leaflet with insert from the late 50s. The insert seems to be a later addition, as they may have found that not too many people had any idea what they could use the animation kit for.

The contents of the box have been discussed some time ago, on Jenny Lerew's blog. What I especially liked was that one could turn in ones drawings with exposure sheet at the Art Corner, and get a pencil test on 16mm of it in return! I wonder how long that lasted!
Now - do we know anyone who started his/her career in animation using this kit?


Dinner Time on CartoonBrew

CartoonBrew's Amid Amidi sent me a message to spread the word about a free cartoon on Cartoon Brew TV, Van Beuren's 1928 Dinner Time. Amid says: "I'm sure you already know the story behind this, but this is the film that inspired Walt to pursue making "Steamboat Willie". It was a sound film that Walt saw in New York in 1928 and which made him realize that he could do a better job of combining sound and animation.

"Dinner Time" is specifically mentioned in a letter from Walt Disney to his brother Roy and collaborator Ub Iwerks. Excerpts from the letter are reprinted in the Disney bios by Neal Gabler, Bob Thomas and Michael Barrier, but the actual film hasn't been seen in 80 years.

We're presenting the short exclusively on Cartoon Brew TV. You can see the original short as well as hear a newly recorded audio commentary by Jerry Beck and Mark Kausler. It's free to watch, and feel free to embed the video directly if you're so inspired!

So herewith! I am aware that this for many is Old News by now, but it is important enough to mention. Yes, it IS an awful racket. I thought it interesting that the commentators mention that the film was copyrighted December 1928, so Walt may have seen a preview print at a distribution office...


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Prod. MM8 - The Plow Boy

Remember that I spoke of a box of early Disney goodies in Kentucky, sold off at Christie's East? Here is one of the items sold at the time, the storyboard of the 1929 short The Plow Boy, drawn by Ub Iwerks, the director. I scanned these from Christie's June 9th, 1995 catalog. In lieu of a draft, this has animator assignments on it.

The catalog front page is in color, so I reconstructed it here:
From Christie's front page<< Click On It!

Here are all the pages:

The early Mickeys were made in close cooperation between Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Ub drew the boards, but Walt was never far away. Some of the names may not be in Walt's handwriting, as noted in the description. Read this, though, as it saves me from typing a lengthy, redundant explanation. (Click to enlarge!)

I believe I was told this board fetched a neat $42,000...

(Note: IMDb calls the film The Plowboy, but some contemporary documents I have call it The Plow Boy, and even The Plough Boy!)

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Looking Back...

A quick word before I continue with new postings. If you are new to my blog, I'd like to refer you to the archive pages linked to in the right side bar. Here you can find out how most all of Disney's shorts from 1928 and for some 25 years onwards were timed to a musical beat. You can read who animated which scenes on 60+ Disney short films and five feature films. You can find the technical manuals and transcripts of Action Analysis Classes of the 30s. And let's not forget information on early Disney patents. There are animation drawings, model sheets, articles and curiosa. Most of the stuff in the 433 postings over the last 2 years and a bit has never been published anywhere else.

And then there is some info on my own studio as well! This last week saw the Danish premiere of our feature film Journey to Saturn, based on the 1970s Danish graphic novel by the late Claus Deleuran...


Friday, September 26, 2008

Ecclectic Collectible...

From a recent acquisition, the first post-war 1949 British Mickey Mouse Merchandise catalog, comes this page which sends the mind reeling...
Fun with DDT<< Click On It!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Disney's Lost Chords - Volume 2

You must have heard by now that Volume 2 of Russell Schroeder's "Disney's Lost Chord" is finished and ships!
Read more about it and order it here!

As to myself, I am now residing in Southern California, and moved into a new apartment, which is why I have not been able to update this blog. Too much to see to, and no internet connection! This is now fixed, so there is more to follow soon!

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Bill Garity Remembered...

Last week-and-a-half, I stumbled upon Bill Garity's Disney Legends plaque on one of the pillars on the structure surrounding Legends Plaza (where the reflecting pool was before) on the Disney Studio lot. Since I am nothing if not a completist, I include a picture of it here...
Bill Garity Legends Plaque<< Click On It!


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Still More Multiplane

A few more images of the Archives Multiplane Camera.
I took these last week...

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Musical Beats Revisited  ...Now hear it from an old master...

         Much of animation is simply a matter of doing a job as it should be done. Maybe a scene is no more than a funny walk or a brief dance step. An animator's responsibility is to interpret a track, picking it apart mentally and then making his animation interpret each innuendo, each nuance with drawings that hopefully add life to a scene—even beyond the scope of the soundtrack.
         An important part of a track is musical. The music beat is vital to the artist. On an animator's work sheet, usually referred to as an Exposure Sheet, music beats are indicated in actual film frames. An eight (8) beat would be eight frames of film; a twelve (12) beat, twelve frames of film. It is natural to assume that an artist's plan would be to carefully accent each musical beat, however, astute animators avoid anything so mundane.
         A musical beat is a marvelous thing. An animator can split it in the middle, avoid it completely, or even divide it into three or four parts as a musical composer often does. A musical beat is the skeleton on which an animator builds the muscle of his action. He can plan an accent to happen before, behind or right on a beat, according to how he desires to psyche his audience.

         Art Babbitt, the suave and talented savant of Animation's Golden Years, has a tantalizing way of reaching an accent a twelfth of a second late. It reminds one of a magician catching a coin or a playing card in midair at the very instant you are sure he will not get it. It is maddening, but it is good entertainment.
         An experienced animator has many strings on his bow. Milt Kahl, recently retired Zeus among animators, picks up a beat with the adeptness of Sherlock Holmes pinpointing an important clue in a murder plot. To Frank Thomas, an artist with unusual musical skills, the reading of a beat came naturally and tastefully. He accomplished it with the sang froid of a fastidious gourmet putting just the proper touch of Escoffier sauce to a serving of chilled oysters. Every beat has its special character—its special importance.
         Freddy Moore had a slam-bang manner of animating rough-shod through one beat, then picking up the next beat with the caution one might use in picking up a live rattlesnake. Norm Ferguson, master of all of the elements of animation, could carry three characters through a syncopated sound track and put the right emphasis on each beat so neatly that no one could ever quite tell how it happened. His exposure sheets were more complicated than the musical score for Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
         Bill Tytla was a glittering star among animators, a modern Pieter Brueghel working with living pawns, a wild cossack riding a loco horse over the steppes of the Ukraine. He was a wizard at searching out beats—a fantastic planner and plotter. Sometimes a beat is hidden away in a pile of trashy sound effects, but it is still worth searching for. Bill always found and used a hidden beat. It added a touch of Tabasco to his animation.
         Too often a novice hopes to accent a beat with exaggerated mouth action. Mouths can be funny, but they do little to help an accent—even with funny dialogue. A body accent, a dramatic posture, is The Thing—always. An animator may have a track that is only dialogue or recorded sound. Lacking a musical beat with which to work, he must choose from the track accents on which he can structure his animation.

--Thus wrote master animator Grim Natwick, of Betty Boop and Snow White fame, on January 6th, 1978, in an article or chapter called "Reading Sound." It is not known to me what he wrote this for, but I find it very interesting and in line with my previous postings on beats and barsheets. If you have not yet read these, I invite you to do so, as "animation to a musical beat" has been undervalued for much to long, especially among CG artists who wrongly consider any technique applied to hand-drawn animation to be too old-fashioned or just inapplicable to the CG medium. In the past century, many wonderful artists have pioneered the medium of entertainment through animation, and it would be a crying shame not to at least take notice of their advancements!

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Long Story Short...  ...or: How two sheets of paper got united after some 25 years...

In truth I never thought I would see this draft completed. I had previously posted page one of it (the first image below) and noted that it was the first page of the original typed draft of Prod. CM-10, The Birthday Party, directed by Burt Gillett, released Jan. 6th, 1931. It only goes to show that it's a small world after all:

When director Burt Gillett (1891-1971) was lured away by Van Beuren in 1934 after his tremendous success with Three Little Pigs, he took with him to New York a box of drawings and notes. He gave these to a Jeannie, the 14-year old daughter of a family that Gillett and his first wife Louise had befriended. Years passed, and so did Jeannie - and the box ended up with her sister and her husband, a farmer (and very nice person) in Kentucky.

In the 70s they rediscover the box (and split it into two boxes), and try to find interest in the items, but find there isn't any. Then, in the late 80s, they happen to see an article about a New York collector in a magazine and they contact him - and sell him a stack of papers (for $800), only to read in their local newspaper a short while later that he had sold a single item from those papers at auction for $24,000. Later they find he sold many of the items through Cristie's East, selling for as much as $44,000 for a two-page item. They contact Christie's, and in 1994 and 1995 sell most of the rest of the items - for about a quarter of a million dollars: original Ub Iwerks storyboards for some of the earliest Mickeys, animation drawings and layouts, stills and even original Oswald contracts between Walt Disney and Margaret Winkler Mintz! I am certain that for Disney animation history, this was THE find of decade, though probably not many knew the source of this material.

Late last year the good folks in Kentucky find a box with the left-over materials that Christie's had sent back, as they did not think these would sell, and I am fortunate to have been able to acquire quite a few of these items through eBay - story notes, outlines, scribbles and a short stack of flippable animation drawings from the 1930 short Just Mickey. And one of the items is... page TWO (of two) of the Birthday Party draft!
It matches exactly over page one, even the stains from the paper clip match! Obviously, page one had come to me circuitously through the New York collector's purchase (eventually sold to me by a Florida seller), but both pages unquestionably started out in that same box
in Kentucky. Now, they're united and complete again after some
25 years! How about that?

Christie's did not always know what they were dealing with, as several of the items they sold cheaply had Walt Disney's handwriting on them, and they did not notice this. I now know a great deal more about Walt's handwriting, and I am certain that the red markings on this draft are in his hand. The name Flohri is also his scribble, and I now suspect it was his assignment of background painter Emil Flohri (1865-1938) to this project. Since Walt's work was his life (as Mike Barrier knows but Neil Gabler doesn't seem to, looking at their books), he was a very hands-on producer in this period, actively involved in every phase of production...

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Prod. UM26 - Mickey Plays Papa

First the copyright synopsis, so we know what we are dealing with, if we cannot quickly pull out disc 2 of the Treasures DVD - Mickey Mouse in Black and White Vol. 2.
1<< Click on it!

Directed by Burt Gillett, released 9/29/34, this draft dated 6/18/34.
Animation by Hardie "Little Toot" Gramatky, Marvin Woodward, Johnnie Cannon, Bob Wickersham, Tom Palmer (one scene), Fred Moore, Dick Lundy, Bill Roberts and, of course Ben Sharpsteen, also as supervisor of Cy Young and Roy Williams.

The story is simple and sweet, but somewhat curious. Maybe naive is a better description. The animation shows lapses back to the simpler style of a few years earlier, with speedlines galore, but we are also seeing small glimpses of things to come in the color Mickeys a year later. Hardie Gramatky's figure slinking about the house is very theatrical (but as such nicely animated), while Johnnie Cannon's scenes with a scared Mickey and Pluto even here seem a bit old-fashioned - the same goes for Lundy's scenes of Mickey in the kitchen. Fred Moore and Bill Roberts' business with Pluto is nice, but seems somewhat contrived, and not as "felt" as Norm Ferguson's animation of the time. But most important, the film is character-driven from start to finish, and whatever shortcomings the animation might have, the storytelling holds our interest in the characters, in a way a precursor to Snow White, which at this time had begun its preproduction...
Things are finally somewhat back to normal, and I will be posting more regularly!

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