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.