Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Vance Gerry: Three Immutable Laws

I've been wanting to post and talk about Disney artist Vance Gerry for a long time. This isn't what I had in mind for my first post about him....I keep typing up tributes to him and that post keeps growing and growing. Plus I want to scan some of his rare artwork to accompany that post. But tonight I'm at a loss for what to post so this will have to do.

Vance was the greatest story artist I ever knew personally. He was the best. His involvement in the studio was minimized by the previous administration at Disney and that was really criminal. Ever since the nice people at Pixar have taken over management at the Disney Studio I think every day about how much I wish Vance had lived long enough to see what the studio will be like now and I know he would have been a major creative force if he was still around. Anyway, someday I will post my giant tribute to Vance and you will hear more about him. I won't pretend I knew him all that well but I talked to him whenever I could. I wish I had made the time to go by his office and talk to him more often.

I cribbed this drawing from "The Illusion of Life". In it, Vance proves 3 immutable laws of storyboarding.

These laws are:

1. Sometimes the best way to sell a character's expression or attitude is to not show their face at all.

Seeing Penny's face would have made this drawing a lot LESS powerful. Yet people always think of the face when they think "expression". Expression is conveyed by the staging, the environment, and the character's whole body language. In other words, the whole story sketch. The face is usually the LEAST important part of the "expression".

2. The more tone or value (basically, the more black and grey) in a sketch, the more somber the scene feels.

3. You can't say "lonliness" or "isolation" better than putting the character small and alone in the middle of the frame with lots of empty space around them.

You don't have to take my word for it. Or Mr. Gerry's. But can you argue with Mr. Norman Rockwell?????

Case closed.


Lee-Roy said...

What a great painting from Rockwell. I've never seen this one. Although, I don't read the guy as being small in the frame or the feeling being somber. He and the bed become sort of one organism, but the activity is nonetheless wonderfully staged and it is the activity itself which is emotive. I certainly can identify with the feeling of sitting up late at night, suitcase as make-shift card table, as I lose game after game of solitaire, determined to win at least once... or maybe twice... before going to bed. The flies in the light are a wonderful effect.

Great points on staging and how it relates to emotion. I'll have to keep this in mind. THANKS!

pbcbstudios said...

yes, yes, yes, more vance, please. i would love to read more.

Scott LeMien said...

a good starting point, mark, in introducing us to him. I like him already! =)

Steve said...

Really wonderful Mark, we were just discussing this the other night, so helpful with visual reference =]

barry johnson said...

Vance's drawings in the Illusion of Life are what made me want to get into Story.

I miss seeing and chatting with Vance, but even today, I have some of his drawings hanging up at my desk and they continue to inspire me.

Skribbl said...

You should get Ed to chime in on the Vance tribute. I'm sure he's got a few stories to tell. I never got to know Vance that well but the handfull of times I talked to him I he was always curtious and just the ever faithful story soldier. I've been lucky to know a few of the guys that worked closely with him and am still learning from Vance through the stories they tell. I too wish he was around to see the new changes. Can't wait for your Vance mega post.

floyd norman said...

I dare say what little I know about animation story telling came from Vance. I was lucky enough to share an office with Vance when we worked on "The Jungle Book" back in the sixties.

Years later, whenever I had the chance I would stop in his office on those special Wednesdays when he came in to talk about my first experience with Walt and the big boys in story.

What a lucky guy I was to have Vance as a mentor.

mark walton said...

So much could be said about Vance by better men than me. I'm just glad people are recognizing his genious these days. It was truly heartbreaking to see his enormous talent, curiosity, intelligence, and kind, generous spirit absolutely wasted by people with no idea what to do with him (he was put on project after project that had absolutely no chance of going anywhere, just to give him something to do, and he still managed to do absolutely beautiful work as good or better than when he was in the prime of his life). The more I learn about his life and his work,the more I am in awe. (I sure wish someone would spend the money to fix the matted pictures of his on display by the staircase, so that the Beast isn't on its side! It really bugs me!)