Sunday, January 4, 2009

Smith & Company

This is the second of two commercials I did with Ed Smith for Brown & Company several years ago.

It was illustrated by Ed Koren, famous for hairy guy cartoons for The New Yorker.

Apologies for the quality. Web compression crushes the watercolor and loses it entirely in a few places.

Ed started in animation while in studying at Columbia College. He would work nights at Lee Blair's Film Graphics (alongside Vincent Caffarelli and Pablo Ferro, amongst others).

Allegedly, he thought it was easy. So he kept at it, moving on to Hubley's Storyboard, Inc. then moving around New York's commercial studios in the 60's and 70's. He met R. O. Blechman at Elektra Films in the mid-60's, but they didn't work together until around 1974 on a series of films for Children's Television Workshop (I might have video copies of a few of these, I definitely have a few 16mm prints).

He got a call from Ralph Bakshi in 1971 to come into his studio. Bakshi was having issues with his animators rendering and animation of Fritz the Cat. So he gave Ed a lightbox and left him alone for a few hours. At the end of the day Bakshi came over and looked at his work. He shouted for everyone in the studio to look at it. "See. This is how you draw! This is how you animate! One person gets it in here!".

So he went home and waited for the call to come back. He never heard from Bakshi again.

Unlike every other animator I've worked with, Ed draws in ink. (To be accurate, Tissa David will draw the Blechman-style in ink -more on that in the future.) Ed draws every style in ink.

This Ed Koren-style line work is entirely his hand -no clean up, no assistant.

When we work together, I'll send him a soundtrack, storyboard, exposure sheets with track breakdown, scene cuts and little -if any -timing, and a few drawings per scene.

We'll then discuss each shot at length. The questions are generally variations on "What is he doing?" All concrete points about gesture and movement. We'll talk about framing and camera and ways of making the animation simpler and making certain shots hook up. We'll also talk a bit about the technical process -although less now, since we don't shoot on film anymore.

As I've mentioned, this is animation done with out in-betweeners and assistants. Generally, Ed animated "straight-ahead". He starts with the first drawing and keeps going until the end of the shot.

He once told me that he just animates until the action is complete and then he writes up his exposure sheet. Considering how messy his exposure sheets are, that's a possibility.

I'm planning on digging up a few scenes from a title sequence we did two years ago which will clearly illustrate the distinct manner in which he works

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