Commentary &Daily post 05 Jan 2013 08:20 am

Animator names?

I’ve been an animation fan forever. Back in the fifties (when I wasn’t yet in my teens) I wrote fan letters to Joshua Meador, Bill Justice, and Art Riley. I don’t know if any of them ever received any of my letters, since I always got back a 4″x6″ postcard from Walt Disney thanking me. Mind you, these cards were always interesting and different, so I’m not sorry to have received them.

In the sixties, Mike Barrier‘s Funnyworld Magazine opened the world to interviews with some real animators. Then you’d start to see similar articles in the likes of Millimeter or Film Comment. Chuck Jones and Tex Avery got lots of attention. I saved and cherished those issues. Hell, I just about memorized them. ASIFA East brought Bob Clampett and a dozen other animators from Yoji Kuri to Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston to our little New York corner of the world.

The point is that we got to know who a lot of animators were.

I could tell what scenes Ollie Johnston had done from those that Milt Kahl had done; I can easily identify Bobe Cannon‘s work from Ken Harris‘. (Can anyone but Cannon have drawn with such beautifully rounded lines as can be seen in the lion on the right?
No, that’s purely his work, and it’s there from the earliest right through to Moonbird. Just brilliant!)
{Check out this whole post on John Kricfalusi‘s site in 2006. Gorgeous.}

It became, really, the era of the animator. Many of them were deified by others like me, and deservedly so, even though others remained in obscurity. Watching stars like Dick Williams bring Harris and Hubley and Babbitt to London to train his staff brought fame to the little British studio. Dick soon brought as many famous animators to Raggedy Ann in New York. A star-studded staff assembled, for the first time, for their celebrity and ability and personality. (Star animators rather than star voices. Too bad there was no star writer.)

And Jim Tyer! There’s a whole cult of people who rally around Tyer’s work, and that pleases me. No one I knew, when I was a child, had any idea who Tyer was, but I searched every Mighty Mouse show on Saturday morning TV for a cartoon that had something of Tyer’s work on it. And of course, if you’re going to mention Tyer you have to talk about Rod Scribner. Bob Clampett wouldn’t be the same without Scribner’s scenes. One was East coast, one was West. One distorted the character off all semblance of drawing rules, the other distorted beyond belief (but probably – in his own way – kept the masses the same.)

We can all spot his work a mile off.
It’s Jim Tyer

This same rise to fame continued with some of the new guard. Glen Keane and Andreas Deja led a league of youngsters such as Eric Goldberg and Ruben Aquino and many others to small fame within the industry as the new golden era came to the Hollywood studios.

Meed I identify? Glen Keane & Andreas Deja.

Any good student can list off dozens of such names and can tell you what scenes they’ve done. The point that I’m ultimately getting to is that they’re all 2D animation. Where are the cgi lists of names? Where are the heroes from Toy Story and Monsters Inc. Not the directors. We all know who Brad Bird and Pete Doctor are; we know John Lasseter from Andrew Stanton, but who actually did the animation of some of those many scenes.
The names are on the credits just as Frank Thomas‘ name is on the credits of Bambi. But I can tell you immediately that Thomas did the scenes of Bambi ice skating, yet I don’t know who did the scene of Woody getting resentful, as Buzz Lightyear gets attention from the other toys. I know that Fred Moore did the scene of Lampwick turning into a donkey in Pinocchio, but I don’t know who did Merida’s mother, Elinor, in Brave. The scenes where the mother is transformed into and acts as a bear are beautifully animated, but the origin of those scenes seem anonymous. I don’t have the slightest clue as to who did them.

Grayson Ponti is one of the few who have sites that have praised some excellent cg work, and I can’t be thankful enough for his attention. Check out this post for a sample, but that was written a couple of years ago. We need more frequency and more currency.

I’ve made this complaint before. I talked about Glen Keane‘s work and got lots of hate mail. I said I was trying to learn who did which scenes so that I would know the better animators from the average ones. There were a couple of people who commented on my site and led me to a name or two. But not much changed, not really. I’d very much like it if some of you would comment here and tell me of animators I should be watching. Give me names of people who you think have done some brilliant work in cg films. Tell me the animator, tell me the scenes and I’ll try to offer some appropriate attention.

I don’t have access into the world of the cg artists and animators. I do know a few 2D artists who are working within that world, but it’s the animator who works exclusively in the medium I want to notice and give a little attention to. I need your help. I cannot do it if I don’t know who those animators are at Pixar, Dreamworks, Blue Sky, Disney, Sony and other places. If I don’t know their work I can’t give them credit.

Honestly, for me this year the best animated scenes were many of those of Richard Parker in The Life of Pi. Rhythm and Hues did the work.

This scene knocks me out every time I see it. Pi is trying to
train the tiger, Richard Parker, and the tiger kneads the wood
of the boat (as any house cat would knead a blanket or its
owner, while accepting the comments of his teen overseer.

I’ve contacted the EFFX house offering to give them any attention on my Blog that they’d like from me. Publicity is publicity. (Of course, there’s been no response, surprise, surprise.) Regardless I’m going to continue promoting this film. I love it. But I’d like to add animator names and key art people responsible for the great work. I need them to contribute to get that part right.
I was also equally astounded by most of the work of the Gollum in The Hobbit. One is straight cgi; the other is what used to be called “motion capture” and is now something much much more. There’s real feeling in both those films, and in both those films those characters exist. There can be no question of it.

Now, I’d like to know who is actually doing the creative work. behind the Pixar, Blue Sky and Dreamworks films. I want to talk with people from SONY or other studios. I have a lot of questions and I want to give focus to some individuals who deserve it.
Curran W. Giddens worked on Horton, Cars 2 and Monsters University. What can he tell me about animation?
Raffaella Filipponi worked on The Croods, Shrek and Over the Hedge. She’s freelanced a lot and is that how theses studios work?
Dave Hardin worked on I am Legend, Alice in Wonderland and Turbo. Can he learn the “art” part moving from job to job?

These people were chosen at random. I don’t know their work even though I’ve seen it. Is there a point when THAT will turn around? Do you have to keep on the move to keep working? Is it time to start promoting responses? We’re not working at Disney on a 15 year job that allows you to move from feature to feature without it hurting you attitude, never mind your work?

Perhaps you think (as I sometimes suspect) that no single person can be given credit for “animating” since so many people have their hands on the steering wheel trying to move those characters forward. If so, say that. If you think there’s a team of people that work wonderfully together, I’d like to know. Essentially, I’d like your help continuing this post. If you don’t want it to be in the comment section of this article but would like to add to the follow-up post I’m going to do, email me. is the best address; it’s the place I check most often. Write as short or as long as you like. If I have to edit it I will, and I’ll let you know when it’ll be posted so you can see it as soon as possible.


22 Responses to “Animator names?”

  1. on 05 Jan 2013 at 9:28 am 1.Mark Mayerson said …

    Hi Michael. I have no idea if studios are enforcing non-disclosure agreements for their employees or if artists are just so nervous about their futures that they think it’s better to not risk studio anger by publicizing themselves.

    In any case, we’re back to animator anonymity. The designers at least get credit in the “making of” books that inevitably accompany animated features these days, but the people who bring the characters to life are invisible to anyone outside a production.

    I think that the studios are still burning from the bidding wars of the ’90s, when DreamWorks and Disney started throwing large sums at people to secure their services. Publicizing animators might lead to a recurrence of that.

    The Nine Old Men only really started getting publicity after Walt Disney died. They were substitute Walts for publicizing films. With living directors, there’s no need for anyone but the director to do interviews.

    Maybe someday someone will liberate an animator draft for a cgi film and we’ll start recognizing people’s work again.

  2. on 05 Jan 2013 at 10:57 am 2.Michael said …

    Director and to the point, Mark. I’d obviously thought of what you articulate, but was hoping that a plethora of comments of folks outing animators of specific scenes. That would, of course, end such thoughts I’d had, and you’ve, correctly stated. (It’s hard to believe that it could be any kind of conspiratorial move by the studio heads, but I have to admit it looks like a good possibility.)

    When THE INCREDIBLES was released, I suggested that there was a well animated scene in the film, and that I wondered if anyone could tell me who had done the scene. i did get a name, , and I wondered if I should start requesting the names of artists who had done specific scenes. I never did quite follow up, but perhaps I should.

    There are a number of on-line interviews with animators on this film: Victor Navone and Andrew Gordon and here is an article comparing the computer animation of this film with the MoCap work on POLAR EXPRESS.

  3. on 05 Jan 2013 at 12:30 pm 3.Richard O'Connor said …

    Richard Williams makes the point that 2D animation is an extension of drawing whereas 3D animation (CGI included) is an extension of puppetry.

    I think this ontological distinction goes a great way in explaining the difficulty of putting human names to the animated faces.

    To take it one step further -the assembly line of a CG feature is vastly more inflexible than the process of a drawn film. The pipeline inherently minimizes fingerprints. From designer to modeller to rigger to texture painter to animator to lighting tech to camera tech (et cetera or otherwise) one scene is the rightful artistic property of a half dozen hands who have made equal contribution.

    On the flip side, the drawn form funnels down from the “ANIMATOR”. S/he is the lead voice and the rest of the pipeline follows.

    The CG process can still birth auteurs just as the drawn process has (Chris Landreth being the immediate obvious example) but the feature film may not be venue to see their work.

  4. on 05 Jan 2013 at 3:27 pm 4.Justin said …

    A stream of thoughts…

    What helped me tracking down names was when AnimationMentor first opened up. I would search for websites of the mentors listed on their site and the students on a webring. Watch their demo reel if posted and make notes. Since then Animschool & iAnimate have opened up and their sites list who their mentors are as well.

    So I could aggregate lists of names but are there some specific scenes or movies you’re interested in finding the teams for? Or is it about forming some sort of census from the readership here on who the elite animators are?

    Through the AM alumni site I can contact just about anyone who graduated. So that’s one option and I have no qualms utilizing it for this. Good work needs to be promoted. Remains to be seen if there will be a good response rate from them.

    I see reels on Vimeo & Youtube all the time and you can contact people through the internal messaging systems of both sites once registered. I’ve had a good response rate when using them.

    As for Pi, I’ve sent a message to one of the leads I attended AM with saying you’re interested in interviewing him and promoting the work they did. Gave him your email and link to the Splog. I did my my best to share my admiration for your site and keen eye for quality work. Hopefully something good comes out of that.

    Let me know how I else can help

  5. on 05 Jan 2013 at 4:02 pm 5.Michael said …

    Thank you, Justin. You’ve gone quite far in helping out. What I’m ultimately hoping for is learning who some of the better animators are and know what to look for when searching for their scenes. Searching through sample reels is not really something I plan or want to do. I would expect there to already be a pipeline of names known within the industry. Just as a Louis del Carmen brings a specific style to his design work or a Bill Frake brings something else. The same must be true of animators within that industry. Yet when I pick out a name from the credit list I generally find someone who has worked on wildly different and varied films – not to mention scenes. Someone who goes from Alvin & Chipmunks to a SONY film to some Dreamworks project. The random work of the free lancer makes for a professional animator but usually doesn’t make for an artist.You’re spending more time trying to feed the master rather than developing the medium. That’s what was so special about a place like Disney (once upon a time) where people worked for years and crafted their medium with plenty of opportunity for trial and error. That doesn’t exist in a job that hires free lancers on a per job basis. It’s why so much of the Japanese animation is crafted well but doesn’t have the rich artistic spark. (This is something that seems to be changing, at least at Ghibli.)

  6. on 05 Jan 2013 at 4:19 pm 6.James T. Nethery said …

    Hey Michael! I don’t have time right this second as I’m about to head out the door but I can give you a big list of all my CG animation heros if you want and links to their work. I may even make a post about it on my personal blog/website and link to it here since it’s been silent for a while now.

    These people are all incredibly talented and revered within the CG animation community in a similar way the traditional guys like Glen Keane and Eric Goldberg are.

    In fact, I think these guys SHOULD be revered as much as Glen Keane or Eric Goldberg by everybody regardless of what medium they work in/prefer but maybe that’s just me haha.

  7. on 05 Jan 2013 at 7:20 pm 7.Fraser MacLean said …

    Hey there, Michael, it’s possible that I may not have read your post in great enough detail (my apologies if that’s the case) but the following is my own understanding of the situation with regard to the shifting role of the lead character animator – or “Sup” as I believe some people used to refer to them – now that the characters are CG “puppets” hovering in digital space, rather than pencil-drawn figures on so many different sheets of peg-registered animation paper; perhaps this has something to do with the failure to give (or take) credit for specific “scenes” (bearing in mind also that an animated “scene” has itself been a shifting idea from era to era): on pencil-animated feature films (on which Disney really had the monopoly until the late ’90s) the major challenge for the character animation teams was to get – and keep – one specific character “on model”. Because there was a danger of unfamiliarity (and of resulting variations in the proportions, volumes and general style of the figures) if key animators, assistants or inbetweeners moved from one character to another, the studio tended to “cast” a lead animator for the duration of a feature production, matching them (and their team) to one particular character for the whole movie. However, by the time the Pixar artists got around to working on “A Bug’s Life” (if I have understood the DVD commentaries and subsequent accounts) it had become clear to everyone that particular character animators seemed to have a talent, not so much for putting one specific character through ALL the required emotions and situations of a 90-minute story, but for choreographing entire groups of characters in scenes (or sequences, as Disney would originally have described them) that had a comic, dramatic, romantic or slapstick “feel” to them (if that makes sense?). Some character leads were great at prat-falls, others at CU 2-header conversations, others at car chase scenarios. The whole question, too, of the process required to animate more than one character in a certain dramatic situation is markedly different when you’re working in the x, y and z axes of the virtual world – rather than “trading” entire 2-character hand-drawn scenes between (for example) Ken Duncan’s Jane, animated in Burbank with Glen Keane’s Tarzan, animated in Paris. The pipeline AND creative logistics are entirely different for the two animation media – hence (perhaps?) the appearance of “anonymity”. Sorry again if I’ve simply failed to tune into the specific question you’re asking or if I have misunderstood your post in some other way – but my own understanding is that this, in effect, is what CG “puppets” allow character animators to do these days: they can relax, for the most part, and forget about keeping one solitary character “on model” because, to some extent, the final CG character model, fully rigged and skinned, is “absolute”, much like a physical stop-frame puppet, complete with armature and costume. This means that a CG character animator may find her- or him-self being “cast” according to the kind of situations she or he really shines at portraying and staging. Perhaps, in turn, that has eroded the slightly more “auteur” idea of the “star” character animator (or “Sup”) that has stayed with us, understandably, since the original lionisation of the 9 Old Men? When we now look at the credit “crawl” at the end of a CG feature, we don’t tend to see the character animators listed beneath specific character names, as was the case all the way up to movies like “Tarzan” (which I was fortunate enough to work on). And – if you listen to Brad Bird’s commentary on “The Incredibles” DVD, you will hear, for example, how he talks of Andy Schmidt’s specific contribution to the performance of the row between Bob and Helen Parr in the “Bob sneaks” sequence, the implication being that Bob and Helen were put through different dramatic “paces” in different sequences by a wide range of different character animators. Once again – my apologies if I have simply gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick here…!

  8. on 05 Jan 2013 at 7:36 pm 8.Fraser MacLean said …

    One other suggestion….! If you haven’t already listened to it, Clay Kaytis posted a truly wonderful character animators’ commentary for “Tangled” on his Animation Podcast website at the end of October 2012. The specific listing is: Show 32 – The “Unofficial” Tangled Animators’ Audio Commentary (and, if you look closely, you’ll see yet another long, rambling comment from yours truly beneath it – arguing for something not-too-dissimilar in terms of letting the world know who did what, but allowing for the fact that there ARE other task, crafts and processes involved in addition to the amazing character animation on a movie like “Tangled”). You do, of course, need a DVD or BluRay copy of the movie to run in synch with the Podcast audio…..

  9. on 05 Jan 2013 at 8:46 pm 9.Michael said …

    Many thanks for taking the time to write all that wonderful material Fraser. I will look into (listen into?) the podcast you mention and the links you suggest.

    James, it’d be great to read what you have to say about some of the greats of cg animation. I look forward to it.

  10. on 06 Jan 2013 at 5:42 am 10.Fraser MacLean said …

    It’s a pleasure, Michael – on the contrary, I’m grateful to you for maintaining such a detailed, varied and inspiring blog; for students in particular it’s a real goldmine. Anyway – having recalled the comments about how the character animators worked in a new and different way on “A Bug’s Life”, I went back to the DVD this morning, only to find that the information was not actually in the commentary after all. My own recollection had been that Lasseter and the team discussed it over the “sombrero” sequence where the grasshoppers are all kicking back and getting drunk. Since it wasn’t on the disc commentary, I went over to the bookshelf and, sure enough, on page 95 of Jeff Kurtti’s magnificent “A Bug’s Life: The Art & Making of an Epic of Miniature Proportions” (published by Hyperion, ISBN 0-7868-6441-9) I found the information – immediately below a couple of stills from that sequence. With apologies to anyone in the legal department at Hyperion (and allowing for the fact that your Splog surely counts as an educational context), this is what Kurtti says: “Unlike traditional feature animation, where a lead animator and team are assigned to a specific character for an entire film, the animators on A Bug’s Life were assigned entire scenes, animating all the characters appearing within each shot in the scene.” He then goes into a little more detail about the process – it’s a really stunning and informative book, well worth tracking down, particularly as it covers every area of pre-production, design and animation. Lead character animator Dave Burgess (who went from hand-drawn feature work at Disney to CG at DreamWorks) was also kid enough to explain a little about all this when I interviewed him for “Setting The Scene” and you can find the relevant excerpts on pages 154 to 155 and also on page 228. Thanks again for raising all this – and best of luck in getting some of the animators themselves to come out of the shadows and talk about it all…!

  11. on 06 Jan 2013 at 6:33 am 11.Michael said …

    Mike Barrier has a very good artcle/letter about this style of animation as pertaining to Brad Bird, who worked with this method whe directing The Iron Giant. It was the modus operandi of WB production in the making of their shorts, and Brad Bird followed suit on his feature. Barrier compares the two, while reviewing Bird’s film (negatively) in comparison to Star Wars. Pesumably he worked this way at Pixar, as well.

  12. on 06 Jan 2013 at 12:02 pm 12.Thad said …

    Only one comment for now, but someone else could draw lions like that scene in HOLD THE LION PLEASE. The phone scene is by Ken Harris; it has all of that great use of volume and perfect lipsync indicative of Harris. Bobe Cannon did do some brilliant (and far more angular) animation in that cartoon as well – notably that inane contest of facial expressions and Bugs’s sarcastic freakout earlier in the picture.

  13. on 06 Jan 2013 at 2:47 pm 13.Michael said …

    Thad, you make my point exactly. You probably aren’t able to name any cg animators never mind the scenes they worked on. Why is that? Shouldn’t we know who the better people are? You can tell me who did what angular vs what curved lion in that one short done 60 odd years ago, yet the animators of yesterday – literally yesterday – you’re most probably completely unaware of.

  14. on 06 Jan 2013 at 7:45 pm 14.Thad said …

    Well, the whole point of computer technology is to remove all traces of the human hand, or artificially replicate it. Isn’t CGI animation just an extension of that? Brad Bird says he can pick out all of the animators in THE INCREDIBLES, but I doubt anyone else who didn’t work on it could.

  15. on 07 Jan 2013 at 8:09 am 15.Fraser MacLean said …

    Could it not also be argued that, from the audience’s point of view, the very last thing you would want would be readily-identifiable, “signature” character animation in a feature film? Taken to the extreme, would that attitude not encourage character animators, working together on a feature, to compete with one another, to “grandstand” in the performances they created? In effect elbowing one another around the screen for 90 minutes? If we think of it like a symphony orchestra, are there not important similarities between the job of an orchestral player (or session musician) and the work of a good character animator, lead or otherwise, in any animation medium? Reduce the size of the ensemble to a quartet, for example, and it would be perfectly understandable – with only one violin player, only one cello player etc – for listeners to enjoy the music itself, relish the ensemble playing – AND – to celebrate the brilliance of each individual player at the same time. But is that not one of the important differences between the old 7-minute short format and the feature animation format? One is chamber music, the other a symphony..? Go ahead and enjoy the fact that, as an expert, you can distinguish a Ken Muse scene from an Ed Barge or Irv Spence scene in a “Tom & Jerry”, but would that actually be appropriate in a feature? Even with the hand-drawn process, it’s important to ensure that a “Sup”/Supervising character animator can work well with the other lead animators on her or his team so that consistency is achieved and maintained. That striving for “anonymity” is something that all members of a feature crew, from the Directors and Dept. Leads to the Ink and Paint or Compositing crew should be aiming to achieve, just as players in an orchestra should be mindful of the difference between their role and the role of the soloist out front. The whole clean-up stage in hand-drawn animation is a part of that process too – a process which begins with the Directors’ “buy off” on the Model Sheets: to establish an overall “look” to a movie so that the illusion is not broken for the audience. It may be an undeniable effect of computer animation technology, that it tends to “remove all traces of the human hand” but I don’t agree with Thad that it’s “the point” of computer technology (or the aim of those using it) to do so. To me that suggests some kind of wicked corporate conspiracy. Mark is right, I think, to cite Richard Williams’s comments about CG and puppet animation – the digital toolkits that Pixar, Blue Sky, Sony and others are currently using to make their features were never designed or expected to “artificially replicate” drawing techniques. I feel as strongly as anybody about the pressing need to continue encouraging artists in all areas of animation design and production to draw, but are we really likely to accomplish anything useful if we don’t compare like with like? Any one of the “Art of” books for any one of the Pixar features will show clearly the individual “identities” (if you like) of a Ralph Eggleston or a Lou Romano. But – beyond their work on a colorscript – they’re not being asked to put their specific individual styles of rendering or image-making on the screen. To that extent – yes – the “hand” of the individual artist is less visible in a completed CG movie. But does that mean that the world is somehow a heartless place today – in a way that it wasn’t in the Golden Age of ’40s and ’50s American short animation? If anybody is seriously worried about the robust health of hand-drawn animation, I would encourage them to track down “Ernest & Celestine” or “Arrugas”. But I would also encourage anyone who’s moved/inspired by all these issues to see Jean-François Laguionie’s “Le Tableau” as well – a CG-animated feature that nevertheless revels in (and explores) the whole artistic process, both in the “fine art” and (unavoidably, because you pay to see it…) the commercial spheres. It’s a very thought-provoking and valuable discussion – but surely we’d be missing the point if we allowed it to degenerate into yet another “computer-versus-pencil” brawl? The production pipeline and people’s working patterns within it have changed along with the technology, yes. But I don’t think that necessarily means that anyone, anywhere is seriously trying to turn either the artists or the audience into robots, simply because they’re using digital – rather than “traditional” – tools and techniques.

  16. on 07 Jan 2013 at 8:47 am 16.Michael said …

    My goal and my thought process on the matter is simple. Just as Ty Wong shaped BAMBI via his own delicate and beautiful style, just as Eyvind Earle shaped SLEEPING BEAUTY through his own inimitable style, just as Hans Bacher shaped MULAN in his own powerful and remarkably beautiful style, I would like to see cgi pull the same off.

    This is something rare to cg films, and I don’t understand why. I’m not looking for unattractive little dolls that are like every other film on the market (see SHREK and its clones.) In a quiet way, THE INCREDIBLES attempted this whereas CARS 1 & 2 just tried to look like a faked version of live action. The BGs had no real style other than “clean” in the one-note Pixar work. (I believe this was also the first film to use a live action DP to help style it. That tied it down to boring. It’s animation/drawn not live action.) Elements of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON were headed in that direction, and I would have liked seeing where they might’ve gone had they been daring enough. Lord knows Chris Sanders did it with LILO & STITCH (Hans Bacher again.) ROBOTS certainly did it, but William Joyce‘s style has no bearing on the unattractive RISE OF THE GUARDIANS.

    Stylistically my favorite of the cg features is OPEN SEASON. They had an original cartoon look that went toward art rather than ordinary. DESPICABLE ME looked like CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS which looked like a dozen others. It’s time for these films to start distinguishing themselves.

    SNOW WHITE & THE 7 DWARFS did not look like PINOCCHIO which did not look like BAMBI. Those were the first three.

    If the style can distinguish itself, there’s no reason why the animation – the acting – isn’t able to do the same. The animators just have to put their soul intoo it by loving their work and trying to do their best.

  17. on 07 Jan 2013 at 9:07 am 17.Fraser MacLean said …

    That’s certainly an interesting question, no matter which medium (hand-drawn, stop-frame or CG) is being used: to what extent can the chosen Art Direction style for a feature influence the work of the character animators? I’m sure a close look at any one of the Xerox-line Disney features, from “One Hundred And One Dalmatians” to “The Rescuers”, could turn up some interesting comparisons, particularly if you were to look specifically at the different ways in which Milt Kahl’s approach to animating The Prince (within Eyvind Earle’s forest on the pre-Xerox, hand-traced “Sleeping Beauty”) differed from his approach to animating Madame Medusa (against the more generic painted swamp and riverboat BGs). Maybe also a comparison between Marc Davis’s work on Maleficent (also within Earle’s world) and his work on Cruella deVil (within Ken Anderson’s ’50s/’60s England, so strongly influenced by Ronald Searle)? I think Andreas Deja has looked at some original rough character artwork on his Blog that might inform your detective work on that. Oddly enough there was a quite deliberate effort on “Open Season” to tap into Eyvind Earle’s work also. Something which, if memory serves, is discussed in the background material on the DVD.

  18. on 07 Jan 2013 at 9:15 am 18.Fraser MacLean said …

    For what it’s worth, I’ve always been fascinated by the way in which the Lou Romano/Teddy Newton “cut paper” or collage techniques seemed to have a powerful influence, both on the early development and on the final design of the characters in “The Incredibles” (particularly the boldness of the non-reaslistic figure proportions). If you then factor in the influence that Maurice Noble had on both of those artists (along with all the other “Noble Boys”, including Ricky Nierva, Scott Morse and others), I guess it also goes to prove the extraordinary versatility and influence of Maurice Noble in particular: he started out in the background painting team on “Bambi”, working to Tyrus Wong’s design style in watercolor, he then went on to put his stamp on the Roadrunner cartoons (and on a whole generation of TV animation designers), using cel paint to create color keys for the BG painters, before having direct input, through Ric Sluiter’s interviews with him, on the “retro” styling of the scenic artwork in “Lilo & Stitch”. Makes me look forward even more to Tod Polson’s up-coming book on Noble……

  19. on 08 Jan 2013 at 1:29 pm 19.James Nethery said …

    “Brad Bird says he can pick out all of the animators in THE INCREDIBLES, but I doubt anyone else who didn’t work on it could.”

    Hey Thad,

    Just like any other type of animation, it’s possible to pick out CG animators if you research, analyze, and know what to look for. For instance, I’m not as familiar with a lot of the Terrytoons, Lantz, or Famous Studios animators so it’s harder for me to pick out the animators from those cartoons.

    But I can pick out a Ken Harris WB scene or a Milt Khal Disney scene no problem because I’ve studied the cartoons and know the animator’s work and what scenes they did.

  20. on 08 Jan 2013 at 2:56 pm 20.Thad said …

    So what exactly are you looking for to determine a CG animator’s individuality? Certainly not drawing style, but are there timing, phrasing, volume, emphasis, or posing distinctions with the various CG animators? I liked the animation of Remy puppeteering Linguini in RATATOUILLE; it was reminiscent of the comic John Sibley animation of Goofy in THE ART OF SKIING. Could you tell me who animated the scene in the Pixar film? How can you tell? What other scenes did the animator do? And how are the different scenes similarly approached so you can identify it as being by the same animator?

    How does one differentiate animators in CGI, beyond “this scene is better choreographed/acted than the rest of the picture”? Inarguably, those distinctions do not present themselves like the best of hand-drawn does. It’s not rocket science; I was picking out animators in the Warner, MGM, and Famous cartoons when I was nine years old (though of course I had no idea how to put a name to any style). True, the distinguishing characteristics that prove (outside of documentation) the same guy animated Grumpy, Chernobog, and Dumbo aren’t as ostensible, but they’re there.

    This isn’t meant to be confrontational – I, like Michael, would just like to know.

  21. on 08 Jan 2013 at 3:15 pm 21.Fraser MacLean said …

    I feel very indebted to all the dedicated, hard-working animation bloggers like Thad and Michael (and so many others) for the tireless work they do – to draw our attention to so many important issues and details that might otherwise be forgotten or overlooked. But I do wonder if maybe we’re all asking a little too much from an animation toolkit that, in historical terms, is still in its infancy. Roughly 20 years separate Felix the Cat’s “Feline Follies” (1919) from Disney’s “Snow White” (1937) and there was a comparable gap between “Toy Story” (1995) and “The Incredibles” (2004). When Michael says, “I’m not looking for unattractive little dolls that are like every other film on the market…” I reckon it’s important to remember that the underlying “two circles” (draw round a dime and a quarter….) design for Felix The Cat was very much the template for Mickey Mouse – and Oswald before him. Those flat, hand-drawn “dolls” were around for quite a while, as was “rubber hose” character movement. I fully appreciate (and share) Michael’s longing for the style in CG animated features to “distinguish itself” more – and for the character animation in contemporary CG animated features to do likewise. But one of the underlying problems about the CG technology (versions of which all the main studios share) is that it mostly derives from “simulator” systems that were originally intended to be just that – simulations of reality. What Disney achieved with “Snow White” was a bringing-to-life of the very best in 19th and 20th Century children’s book illustration. But the artistry of the illustrators and animators who helped bring that “moving illustration” dream to life was all then placed in a cinematographic context that owed far more to theater design than it did to the real world outside everyone’s window. Surely CG, by its very nature, is a poor medium for “theatrical” artifice because – in the spirit of Masahiro Mori’s “uncanny valley” – when the human eye encounters computer-generated images, the human brain can’t help but expect something that is “realistic” in terms of both appearance and physics. By comparison the early Disney (and Fleischer) features – those designs, those characters – were all a parody or a caricature of reality. Ocean water is a particularly good example: Peter DeMund’s effects team on “Tarzan” and Marlon West’s effects crew on “Atlantis” were all able to follow the design brief for that specific project and produce water which conformed to the Art Direction style of the entire movie (same with the beautiful effects work in “Mulan” and “Aladdin” which both re-stated the chosen motifs of the Chinese spiral or the Arabian arabesque in the effects line artwork). But any attempt to do something similar with the ocean water in an “Ice Age” movie, for example, would seem immediately contrived or phoney, wouldn’t it? It would draw attention to itself and break the illusion. In other words – at the present time this is still a “big ask”, is it not? Which, again, is why I would encourage everyone who’s interested to go and see “Le Tableau” – but also to bear in mind that CG maybe needs to re-trace its historical steps a little and be less afraid to use one or two of the “old school” theatrical techniques. If it doesn’t – if people keep following the notion of “could’ means “should” when they use those particular animation and rendering tools – I reckon we may be stuck for a long time with that “dolls in the forest” syndrome where we see enormous (seemingly) injection-moulded plastic characters rampaging around, squashing and stretching their way through startlingly (or rather – stubbornly) realistic-looking environments and sets.

  22. on 08 Jan 2013 at 8:53 pm 22.James Nethery said …

    “So what exactly are you looking for to determine a CG animator’s individuality? Certainly not drawing style, but are there timing, phrasing, volume, emphasis, or posing distinctions with the various CG animators?”

    I think you hit the nail right on the head here. Since CG animators aren’t drawing their scenes (at least the final scenes, most CG animators at least thumbnail) it would be their timing, phrasing, posing etc. that you’d want to get familiar with. Stop motion is the same way.

    “I liked the animation of Remy puppeteering Linguini in RATATOUILLE; it was reminiscent of the comic John Sibley animation of Goofy in THE ART OF SKIING. Could you tell me who animated the scene in the Pixar film? How can you tell? What other scenes did the animator do? And how are the different scenes similarly approached so you can identify it as being by the same animator?”

    I’m unsure who animated those scenes, I haven’t really researched “Ratatouille” that much but I can try and find out for you!

    I’m no expert on picking out CG or stop-motion animators, I assure you haha. I’m just saying it is possible if you know what you’re doing. It’s harder then picking out hand-drawn scenes, but it’s possible.

    “This isn’t meant to be confrontational – I, like Michael, would just like to know.”

    No problem!

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