Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Book Report - Disney Archive: Animation

I don't like giving the D Corporation any money.

They've been nothing but jerks in all of my dealings with them.  I understand "business" and trying to get the most product for the least possible (although that's not a mantra I personally adhere to), I don't understand arrogance, stupidity, or insulting your contractors.  I don't understand, as in one of our projects, refusing to give away nothing for something.  "Nothing" is what the potential of a project has.  If there's no series, the "back end" or whatever is nothing.  If the show's a hit, there's more enough money to make everyone richer -that includes the people who make the show.

But enough of my grousing.

The "Archive Series: Animation" book they've just published under the Disney Editions imprint is beautiful.  I can't recommend giving them any money, but I would recommend stealing it from your local theme park.  The night in prison and the 40 hours community service are worth it if you get to keep the book.

I'd never seen Ham Luske's "Goddess of Spring".  Beautiful drawings!

The further along the production pipeline a Disney film progresses, the more the art degenerates.  This is true of most drawn animation (John & Faith Hubley's films are a great exception) but it's especially pronounced in this studio's work.

It's a commendable book, crediting animators for their drawings, including drawing by Art Babbit who's legacy has been shamefully neglected after his rancorous departure from the company line.

One can see the general style of animation evolve through the generations of animators, as well as the individual hand of each artist.  To me, the work from the late 30s through the mid 40s is the most appealing.  This is where they did humans well -humans as humans, not cartoons.  Grim Natwick's Snow White may be a little stiff in comparison to Hal Ambro's Wendy from "Peter Pan" but I just like it better.

The same can be said for Robert Stokes' Queen from "Snow White" compared to Marc Davis' Cruella de Vil.


The latter is probably the most appealing villainess after the Queen and the drawing is great -I'd take it in a second -but I'd take Snow White first.

As the book showcases current work, it's interesting to see the looseness the animators give their drawing.  The assistants are handed a lot to figure out.  This comes, in part, from the busyness of the character design -look at all that stuff on John Silver's face!  Look at the musculature visible on his hand!  The collar, and the apron, and the cuffs!

Seeing how these animators work, it's a wonder why they're working on films in this 1940s style.

Glen Keane's "Beast" from "Beauty and the Beast" (I'm a snob, I know, but I always think how superior Cocteau's telling is) has a passing resemblance to Tytla's "Night on Bald Mountain" -but Tytla's drawing is restrained.  It fits with the process used to create the film.  It's like a running back picking up a free blitzer so that the other guys can execute their assignments.  The looseness and vitality of Keane's drawing, which I love, feels like it has little to do with what the drawing will ultimately look like on screen.  It's as though he's making another film.

For the record, I think I would prefer his version probably not over Cocteau's, though.

The most creative successful Disney films of recent times are, in my opinion, "Mulan" and "Lilo and Stitch".  It's no coincidence that these two drift from what the Corporation has defined as "Disney style" towards a method that was closer to the process of the studio in the 30s and 40s.  In those times, the films were developed with the animators voices, catering to their draughting styles.  In the modern "princess" films, great animators are trying to fit into a 60 year old mold that is hardly appropriate for their work.

I hadn't meant to go on and on like this.  It's a good book and evokes a lot of thoughts even on the passing glance I meant to give it before posting.


Michael Sporn said...

The book is attractive. One of the drawings in the first half of this book is worth more to me than all the completed product of Pixar. (Talk about being a snob.) There's something so wistful and elegant about a hand drawn bit of artwork.

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