Commentary &SpornFilms 30 Jul 2011 06:54 am

Grab bag

- A month ago, I did a post on the use of the multiplane camera in Peter Pan. Thanks to some comments and questions by Milt Gray, I was made to question whether the flying sequence from the feature was done with multiplane or many-leveled out-of-focus-painted clouds. One quote in Bob Thomas’ original book, The Art of Animation, settled the question for me. In listing some of the great sequences done using the multiplane, Thomas lists this flying sequence: “Another memorable sequence: the flight over London in ‘Peter Pan,’ with the runaways (or flyaways) sailing through the clouds. The scene was painted by Claude Coats.”

But now, Hans Bacher, on his brilliant site One1more2time3′s asks the question again. This time Hans, in his stunning way, has reconstructed the enormous Bg of this scene, then reconstructs the layout of the scene (with its many complicated rotations and pans), and finally details why he believes it did not use the multiplane camera. This is an amazing post and is throughly deserving of a long look at what Hans has constructed. I’m in awe.

A layout posted on Hans Bacher’s blog

But that Thomas quote still keeps me questioning it. After all Thomas would have been writing the book in 1957 or 58, and surely the people involved in this scnre were among those Thomas spoke to. In fact, Claude Coats is given some strong attention in the book. Would he have gotten it wrong to call the scene a multiplane camera scene? I’m not convinced.


- Leo Sullivan and Floyd Norman have teamed together to work on an animated short about the Tuskagee Airmen. The short, titled The Tuskegee Redtails, has just been posted to Kickstarter; the film makers are seeking to raise $55,000 for the production.

Some of the description given on Kickstarter reads:

    The Tuskegee airmen were so called because most of the African American pilots were trained at Tuskegee University in Alabama during the 1940s. Through their bravery and actions, the Tuskegee airmen joined the ranks of other patriotic Americans who defended the United States of America against the Axis military powers during World War 2.

    The animated short will take a snapshot in time of the Tuskegee airmen obstacles and achievements.

The film will be “an animated short in 2D combined with CGI animation approximately 20 minutes.”

    Leo Sullivan‘s bio reads: “Leo Sullivan is the President/CEO of Leo Sullivan Multimedia, Inc. a California S-Corporation which produces educational and entertaining media for children ages 5 to 17 years. Prior to incorporating his company, Leo worked in the animation industry as an animator, layout and storyboard artist, director, and producer for various companies which included Hanna-Barbera, Warner Brothers, Spunbuggy Works, Campbell/Silver/Cosby and others. ”

    Floyd Norman‘s bio reads: “Floyd has contributed his talent to motion pictures, television shows and comic books for over fifty years. He has the distinction of having worked with the Old Maestro himself when the boss recruited him for the story team on what would become Walt Disney╩╝s final motion picture.

    A veteran story development artist, Norman has worked as an animator and story artist on at least a dozen films for both Walt Disney Studios and Pixar Animation Studios.”

I’d recommend that everyone take a look at their proposal and help out if you can. You can give as little as $5, if you’re able and would like to.

It’s interesting that just today George Lucas’ film, Red Tails, announced its opening. On January 20, 2012 the film will open, according to this NYTimes article. I hope the announcement brings added attention to Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Norman’s film.


- This week some attention was paid by the animation community when they learned that the comic srip, Mutts, has been singled out to become a future feature with cartoonist/author Patrick McDonnell writing the script with his brother, Robert McDonell. This was the story from The Hollywood Reporter.

We had the good fortune a couple of years ago of doing a one minute animated piece for King Features Syndicate. We followed the look of the strip very closely and had a lot of fun doing it. Patrick McDonell was quite involved in the production asking for a number of good changes. If ever there were a strip made to be a 2D animated film, Mutts is it. he film will be made by 20th Century Fox. Does that mean it’ll look more like the Blue Sky films’ Horton Hears a Who, or will it be like Marmaduke and Garfield? (Meaning a live action film with animated characters.)

Hopefully, Blue Sky will do the animation if it’s cgi. At least they bring a little dignity to their work. Though we all know it should be a 2D film, but the Republicans are dominating the conversation in D.C. and cgi is dominating the conversation in animation.

All stills, here, are frame grabs from our spot.

Matthew Clinton did the bulk of the animation on this spot.

12 Responses to “Grab bag”

  1. on 30 Jul 2011 at 8:34 am 1.Nancy Beiman said …

    Hi Mike,

    Ken O’Connor was the layout man for that ‘flight over London” and he told us, when he taught at Cal Arts, that the big shot was indeed a multiplane; “all ten feet” of the camera’s height was used. But it only occurs at the end, when they truck over London and up to the second star to the right.
    I hate to disagree with Hans, who did a marvelous job recreating the pan…but I heard it directly from Ken.

  2. on 30 Jul 2011 at 8:39 am 2.Nancy Beiman said …

    and I would love to see that MUTTS spot you produced…any chance?

  3. on 30 Jul 2011 at 11:28 am 3.Rudy Agresta said …

    Hi Michael,

    If you read Hans’ description, he, too, does state that the multiplane was used only at the end of the sequence as Nancy states. I don’t see where there should be a disagreement. Nancy, Hans, correct me if I’m wrong. By the way, Hans’ recreation is simply brilliant!

  4. on 30 Jul 2011 at 12:38 pm 4.Michael said …

    Actually, Rudy, Hans says “it is not multiplane” except for one cloud level at the end. That’s not the same thing as saying that all the cloud levels were shot multiplane.

  5. on 30 Jul 2011 at 1:36 pm 5.Floyd Norman said …

    The “Multiplane Controversy” had been going on for years. I was with Don Iwerks at the Walt Disney Family Museum earlier this year. I wonder if he could shed any light on this fascinating discussion? I regret I didn’t ask him so we could settle this thing once and for all.

    By the way, thank you, Michael for your kind words and support for our project.

  6. on 30 Jul 2011 at 10:29 pm 6.Nancy Beiman said …

    I am willing to bet they used multiplane for the entire shot. Probably only the upper two or three levels were used for the beginning, then they ‘pulled out all the stops’ for the ending. The shot breakdowns may have survived.

  7. on 31 Jul 2011 at 4:48 am 7.hans bacher said …

    of course I believe what ken o’connor has said. the only thing someone should explain is – how were the shadows of the characters animated? they are following precisely the shape of the clouds below. it would have been a nightmare if they had animated them in a ‘dry run’ directly on the multiplane camera. anyway – to me a much easier way would have been the way I explained. besides that peter pan did not have a very high budget and as far as I remember there is no other fancy camera work. I have seen original pan-BG’s in the ARL normal painted in half, the other part airbrushed looking out of focus, to make camerawork easier.

  8. on 31 Jul 2011 at 6:27 am 8.Nancy Beiman said …

    Well, there may not be anyone left alive who can explain this…but they got some remarkable effects with atrocious amounts of blood sweat and tears…and unpaid overtime. Mary Alice, Ken’s wife, said he’d often work late.
    I am willing to bet he mapped out the ‘volume’ of these clouds on the layouts and an effects animator followed them for the shadows when drawing them.

  9. on 31 Jul 2011 at 6:28 am 9.Nancy Beiman said …

    I still have my notes on how they got some of the effects in the PINK ELEPHANTS scene…should you want them. It involved a beastly amount of work that would now be rather effortlessly pulled off in After Effects.

  10. on 31 Jul 2011 at 10:18 am 10.Pierre said …

    I am in agreement with Nancy. My best guess is that the beginning of the scene was done on the top levels of the multiplane camera. Despite its length and the complexity of the layout, it would have been a fairly straightforward scene to film.

    The big cloud reveal is then done using the lower levels of the multiplane camera, either as part of one continuous shot or else in two sections with the “Peter Pan cloud shadow” portion used to mask the change in backgrounds and additional levels of depth.

    Peter Pan’s shadow sequence may have been pre-filmed using the layout drawings. Photostats could then be used by the special effects animators to lay out the size and position of Peter Pan’s shadows against the clouds. Again, that’s just my guess. To me, it seems to be the easiest solution, though no doubt a costly one, and certainly not without its own set of complications.

    Interestingly, Peter Pan’ shadow appears to be opaque and not transparent, so there would have been no need a second “shadow” pass under the camera. The shadows were either painted directly on Peter Pan’s cel or more likely, on a cel level underneath him.

  11. on 31 Jul 2011 at 10:43 am 11.hans bacher said …

    yes, you are right. I have to correct myself – it is absolutely possible. the precise movement of every single level in the multiplane camera had to be planned anyway. the shadows were just connected to each of the cloudlevels where they had to appear. the animation was done according to the layout of each cloudlevel
    and was laid as a cel-overlay on top of each them. a little bit complicated in the planning stage, but the same department had managed more complicated assignments, like the truck through about 12 levels with animation in pinocchio
    ( the daybreak sequence ).

  12. on 31 Jul 2011 at 10:21 pm 12.Scott said …

    And the levels were painted softer (and harsh contrast avoided) to limit the visual “stuttering.” I’ve not yet run across Disney doing timed exposures using the Multiplane Camera. But that would have been cool here.

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