Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Legacy Panel, Part Two

Okay, more of my notes from the "Legacy Panel". For an explanation, see "Legacy Panel, Part One".

Mark Henn mentioned that someone (Eric Larson?) used to say: "Bring the audience up to your level. Don't go down to their level". Mark mentioned that a lot of entertainment today seems to do the latter.

Ron mentioned that Frank Thomas was always striving to do better work and was never content or satisfied with his scenes. Frank apparently used to say that there were only 3 or 4 scenes in his entire 50+ year career that he felt had turned out well. I think all of the Nine Old Men probably had the same quality - a relentless pursuit of perfection.

I found this story fascinating:

Glen Keane (lead animator on Ariel) told a story about walking out of the Mermaid premiere and seeing Ollie Johnston standing there. Glen asked "So, what did you think? Did you like the animation on Ariel?" Ollie said "Yeah, it was good". But Glen could tell that Ollie was just being polite, so Glen pushed him for the truth. Ollie admitted that he was bothered that Ariel had made several "unattractive expressions" and he felt that she looked ugly at times.
In studying film of contemporary actresses and their performances, the modern animators had noticed that actresses, even when they're pretty, make a lot of unattractive faces (usually for just a few frames) as they emote. In the search to make Ariel's acting as convincing as possible, real won out over pretty - and her prettiness was sacrificed briefly here and there - to make her acting more powerful (and, I think, bring a modern sensibility to it). The era of the 30s, 40s and 50s, when Ollie was animating, was an age of idealism and the Disney heroines always remained pretty drawings, no matter what. The 80s, when Ariel was animated, was an age of increasing realism, where people expected to see a different style of acting.

Now, please don't get the wrong idea - nobody is saying that Ariel's animation is "better" than that of, say, Cinderella. Only that tastes change - look at the performances of say, Marilyn Monroe, as opposed to those of Julia Roberts. I would have loved to get some frame grabs of Ariel and Cinderella to compare, but that would have taken forever, and anyone with a DVD player can see this easily on their own. I wanted to post this stuff ASAP.

Above all, the Nine Old Men used this word a lot: sincerity. Their films were always honest, not tongue-in-cheek or sarcastic. They were always focused on the believability of their characters. They wanted their films to be wholesome, yet imaginative, clever and always with a freshness, an originality.

Always observe real people and the way they behave. Pick up the truth about who people are. Real characters are based on these truths.

*I know I promised more Milt Kahl drawings with this post...more to come with the next Legacy post. Also, regarding the part of the previous Legacy post where I talked about the line of the eyes, elbows and knees - I was confused about that but I will clarify that part soon.

8 comments:

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Great post! I definitly seem to think that acting has changed over the years. It's become a lot more real-based. Take Jim in Treasure Planet, for example. He's really a prime example of "modern" animation as opposed to the "old". Even though still pose-based, I feel like they're much more based on how a teenager acts than on clear communication (although of course it is very present still).

Glen and Andreas Deja touch upon this in the extras of the Frank & Ollie DVD as well... they're looking at a drawing from the Fox and the Hound where Todd gives a flower to the girl fox, and it's very "communication-based", sort of speak. Very clear composition, very simple clear poses, everything's focused on one thing.

Steve said...

A friend of mine who worked at Disney for several years, and worked closely with Glen, shared with me a conversation he had with Glen about the nine old men, and the relationship they all had with Walt...

The way he described it, it was really more like they were all small children looking for approval from their father... And if you think about it, that is probably the same reason Pixar is so successful today as well...

I mean, Walt was an incredible man, and it seems the team he assembled was well aware of this, and tried with every ounce of there being to impress him as often as possible... Of course he required that, but they really saw what an amazing thing they were a part of, and by impressing Walt, they were earning his respect and at the same time, making films that would last forever...

The same with Pixar today, the folks that work there, really believe in Lasseter and the founding members' brilliance and they want to impress them with there ideas and accomplishments, and in so doing, make wonderful films that will last a lifetime...

I don't know... your sentence about Franks pursuit of perfection reminded me of that conversation, and it reminded me that I never thought of the nine old men the same way again... They were incredible, but it was really Walt, and his style of management that brought that out of them...

Anyway, Great Post!!!!! and enough of my rambling =]

chris ure said...

Hey Mark! You're my new favorite animation blog. Great info. I check it every morning to see what golden nugget of wisdom you have in store. I'm bummed I missed the Legacy Panel, but your posts are like the next best thing to being there. Keep up the great work!

Jenny said...

If Ollie was referring to Glen's scenes....I'm kind of at a loss. It is possible to go so far as to make an unappealing face for a young girl, but no matter what Ariel did, what grimaces she made, I can't recall any with lack of appeal. Nor Mark Henn's either(nor anyone's). To me, "not so great" animation would be exactly the opposite: a "pretty face" that's nothing more than insipid, has nothing going on inside. But I feel certain, for all Ollie's incredible expertise, that there are some animators who might be able to better get inside a girl character's head. Glen was one of those, for sure.

And say--whatever happened to Chris Ure, anyway?
; D

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

If I can be irreverant and borderline disrespectful for a second, I was never that impressed with the way the old guys handled girls. The women in early Disney movies are stiff, their acting is trite and they have maybe 9 expressions altogether. They were too precious with the pretty girls. I think that Glen and Mark and Ken Duncan have done far better acting on the recent Disney women because they weren't so precious with them. They allow them to furrow their brows, scrunch up their nose and look "unglamorous".
The first time I think that anyone ever animated a woman the way a woman REALLY acted was Milt's animation of that ugly woman in "The Rescuers". THAT is a real woman! If only Milt had handled a cute in the same way.

mark kennedy said...

wow!!! Great posts! keep it up!

Great post Robo. Your honesty and insight is very refreshing.

So glad I busted my hump to type this stuff up. I knew it would mean a lot to get it out there.

Cholki said...

Wow great stuff. Thanks for sharing your notes. The "idealized" characters such as the prince and princes in 9 old men animation were always very flat in character to me.
For example Prince Phillips father was far more entertaining than the son. How many of us rather see Lucifer and the mice go at it for another few minutes than see beautiful people dancing and singing. YAWN.In the end an entertaining story is remembered not whether its modern or old. I agree on observation of real people. Unfortunately Medusas( I believe based on MIlts first wife)are not the norm.

Nicholas Burns said...

That's one of the problem I had with "The Incredibles." Dad and son had lots of 'unattractive' expressions as they emoted. Mom and sis were generally animated more like dolls --idealized with not so much push into 'real' emotions.