Wednesday, July 18, 2012
One of the most fun aspects of working on Fantasia 2000 was coming up with ideas for stories and choosing interesting music to accompany them. We listened to all kinds of classical music searching for ones that would create the right mood and narrative structure to support a visual story.
My interest in classical music actually began with cartoons. The Warner Brothers cartoons are filled with snippets of classical music. These snippets got stuck in my brain. As a young adult, I would go to the library and borrow a new composer each week. This is how I discovered that there were other giants of classical music besides Beethoven and Mozart. Some of my favorites were Debussy, Mahler and Sibelius.
One of the challenges of Fantasia is that the story has to be told purely visually. It was kind of like watching silent movies. The other challenge was that when we needed to make changes to the story, we had only so many frames to make the change within because we were locked in to the timing of the music. Sometimes these constraints can stimulate creativity. Other times they’re just a pain.
One of my favorite pieces was Stravinsky's The Firebird Suite. I thought what if Goofy were a ballet dancer starring in the Ugly Goofling, a play on the Ugly Duckling story. Well, unfortunately the idea never went anywhere but it was fun to work on and dress Goofy up in a ballet costume. Here is the design and the beat board that I used to pitch the idea.
(CLICK TO ENLARGE)
One other tidbit about the music of Fantasia 2000 was that we occasionally had to edit the music for length. We picked which parts of the music we wanted to use. And don’t tell anyone but we even added some extra percussion to make the animations sync better. In the capable hands of legendary conductor, James Levine, these extra flourishes were completed in a very musical way. That was a real treat for me to get to work with him and even have him like Pomp and Circumstance.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The clocks ticking on my new book, The Animator's Eye. Finally, everything is off to the publisher. Over 6000 drawings and 100,000 words. Hmm, let's see, if a drawing is worth a thousand words then that's 700,000 words. Focal Press looks like they're on schedule for an August 2012 publication date. I've seen the proofs and they're doing an awesome job. The flip books along the side of the page look great. You get to see animation in action in a book.
This book was a killer. For my last book, Directing the Story, I created about 1900 drawings but since it was on storyboarding most of them were rough. For The Animator's Eye I completed a three and a half minute animated short to demonstrate the whole process of making an animated film. Scared Bunny, my co-author, keeps asking me why I didn't just make a 15 second film. I guess I'm too impulsive like Iggy.
Wait till you hear the incredible score by film composer, Hans Karl. You can check out his music on his website- http://www.hanskarlmusic.com/
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Fantasia 2000 was one of my favorite movies to work on. But it was also dangerous for me. I was working on an early version of Beethoven's Fifth and wanted to find a way to look at the score while hearing the music and seeing the storyboards to link it up. This led me to discovering MIDI and computer music. Using Notator Logic an early version of Logic Pro I could watch the score while hearing the music. It really helped learn more about the music which had 20 or 30 instruments playing at one time to follow the lead melody lines and sync up with the storyboards. The dangerous part was that it rekindled my old love of playing music and lusting after unaffordable synthesizers. Computers could now recreate the old synthesizers leading me to spend a lot on music equipment and software.
Anyway back to the Duck... I came up with an idea to cast Donald Duck in the role of Icarus Duck set to Wagner's music of the Ride of the Valkyries. Some of you might know it as the helicopter theme from Apocalypse Now. Donald wants to impress Princess Daisy Duck but feels small compared to the other majestic birds like swans and cranes. So he tries to top them flying up to the sun. Big mistake. You know the rest.
This is also featured as one of the bonus features on the Fantasia box set. Disney animator, Terry Naughton helped storyboard this sequence. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
These were completed in the pre-digital age with pastels and grease pencils. The storyboards were pinned with pushpins to a 4x8 sheet of cork board and hung on the wall. You pitched the story using a 3 foot long wooden "pitch" stick.
Friday, July 6, 2012
When I wrote Directing the Story: Professional Storytelling Techniques for Live Action and Animation, I had a problem. I had all of these storytelling ideas that I wanted to demonstrate but each time I was coming up with generic examples because there was no context for the ideas. Then I thought, WHAT IF I created a storyboard for the book? That way I could demonstrate the concepts in the context of a real story so you could see how they worked.
Luckily, I had already created some stories and I chose a story called Dumb Love which was kind of like Romeo and Juliet meets Hatfield's and McCoy's but with monsters. Having a real story made it really easy to come up with demonstration lessons and I think a more valuable learning experience.
Here's some of the storyboards from Dumb Love. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Which Doctor? This was a small project that was created to combine 2D character animation with 3D back in the 1980's. I was using one of the first 3D programs ever created at Dr. Alexander Shure's NYIT Computer Graphics Lab by Garland Stern's to model the backgrounds. The user interface was a UNIX command line and to create 3D objects you had to input the 3D coordinates for each point. A box would consist of 8 points. For spheres you had to use pi. Simple renders would take minutes for a simple piece of furniture. You guys don't know how easy you have it now.
The project was never finished but here's the animatic I created for it. The wonderful voices were performed by Dante Barbetta as the psychiatrist and Joan LaPallo as the cleaning lady witch.
Below are the storyboards for Which Doctor? And below that are model charts created for the short. On the last page of the storyboard you can see the original wireframes created on the computer to be used as the background. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
This storyboard was part of my portfolio that helped me get into Disney Feature Animation in 1990.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
In my very first Director's Notebook post, I'm going to show you some real film magic. I used the children's game- Mousetrap, originally designed by Hank Kramer of the Ideal Toy Company to demonstrate a film trick using his Rube Goldberg-like mouse trap. Later the game was sold by Milton Bradley.
Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who drew these elaborate contraptions which are deliberately over-engineered machines that involve many chain reacting steps to complete a very simple task. Search the web and you can find wonderful examples where people have actually created these machines.
I wanted to compare the differences between shooting a scene in one master shot and shooting the exact same scene using a series of continuity edits. Here's the film. Watch and see how you feel watching it. Then I'll explain the magic.
Below is the full master shot. In this version we can see everything as if we're a bird looking down on the scene. Nothing is hidden from our view. Our eye is directed by the movement on the screen.
I find that with the continuity edited version you are much more engaged emotionally. The master shot version feels distant and, because you can see everything in front of you, there's really no surprises. In the continuity edit you get right in there with the action, with the camera guiding you where to look and providing you the most clear view of each step of the action. Because of your limited sight, you don't know what will happen next making this version much more suspenseful. Music also helps create this illusion.
The master shot version is 13 seconds long. The continuity edit version is 24 seconds long, some of the actions are overlapped thus repeating them. Now, here's the real MAGIC, the continuity edit feels shorter even though it's twice as long! That's because you're more involved with the plight of the mouse thus time goes faster. The lesson here is to keep your audience fully engaged by all of the filmmaking tricks you can.
Special thanks to my son, Ryan for being the cameraman on this shoot.
Here are storyboards comparing both versions. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Thanks for reading my first Director's Notebook post. Feel free to leave a comment if this was helpful or other topics that might be of interest. It will help me make the blog better. Thanks.
As part of a story artist's job, you're sometimes called upon to create storyboards for marketing the film with teasers, trailers or for product tie-ins. These can often be fun and allows you to take the characters a little out of the box. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Sometimes you know that an idea is doomed from the start but it's worth a try. As most creative people know all it takes is one stupid idea to lead you to a great one.
Unfortunately, this was the stupid one.
In this following one, Blu, again, sneaks out for a midnight snack.
Here's a sampling of storyboards from Walt Disney's Dinosaur. I thought we could have made the story more interesting by starting in the middle and slowly finding out how a dinosaur hooked up with a bunch of lemurs. This would have added some mystery.
In this first sequence they find water out in the desert with the help of big feet. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
We were going to have a volcano erupting and Aladar has to rescue Neera but this sequence was cut. A common occurrence in storyboarding.