Check the Category Labels in the side-bar on the right! There you can find animator drafts for sixteen complete Disney features and eighty-five shorts,
as well as Action Analysis Classes and many other vintage animation documents!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ring on Huemer on Timing

My friend and mentor Børge Ring commented on my posting of Dick Huemer's lecture on timing:

      « "Dick Huemer on Timing" is one of the best pieces I ever read on a blog: Huemer debates precisely all the brass-tack problems that make up the wonderful game of chess that lively action animation can be. It is wonderful to hear about all these things from a fine animator who also happened to be a creative storyman (e.g. Dumbo) and a director with a clear vision of the totality of a picture (e.g. The Whalers).

      Don Graham's remarks reveal that he had learned a lot about animation from the animators to whom he taught drawing, and it is a helpful luxury to have immediate access to the drafts of two of the films that are talked about.

      Huemer does not pontificate; instead he gives an honest answer to questions for which the solutions are not immediately obvious. "Test it, then you will find out." He dampens the timing of a very active scene to secure a clear accent to the next just as active scene containing an important story point. "Dick Huemer on Timing" is a wonderful document! »

Thank you, Børge! I hope your comment will inspire more people to read this important document...

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Timing Animation on the iPhone

Here is something else to do with timing:
Disney animator Randy Cartwright has written an application for the iPhone called Animation Timer (AnimTimer); basically a stopwatch, you tap (or shake) the phone, and it will register the time between these (max. 20) events, and show this in frames (at 24, 30 or 50 fps), feet-frames or seconds. For sale at the iTunes store for $2.99.

The downloadable version must not be the latest, as the site shows the correct 25 fps for PAL video, and not 50 fps...

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dick Huemer on Timing - Feb. 20th, 1936

Thirty-seven years before the event covered in my previous posting, Dick Huemer was asked to give a talk on timing for Don Graham's class, less than two months after Walt Disney's famous inspirational and visionary memo to Graham.

Discussed are the then just-released Mickey's Polo Game (beginning with Huemer's own scene 32) and the 9-months old Water Babies [mentioning Huemer's own toreador and bullfight sequence], but examples are also found in Alpine Climbers which would not see daylight until five months later, as well as The Band Concert, On Ice and The Tortoise and the Hare, all released the previous year.
Among the people asking questions are Al Eugster and the feared but not very respected George "Flop-ears" Drake who headed the inbetween department.

Note especially the interesting snippets of information on animation to music, the use of "twos" and extremes vs. straight-ahead animation on pages 5 and 6. Later on we get Huemer's take on Speed Lines. This was a period of learning by doing, the pioneering spirit still permeated the studio, and you feel the openness to exchange ideas and the eagerness to get to the bottom of the craft.

That said, I feel I need to point out that the things discussed here still hold true today, also in computer animation. A principle is a principle, whatever the medium. If we do not learn about the successes and failures of yesterday, how can we be sure we make the right decisions today? Don't mistake these documents for "funny old stuff." If you are employed in the animation business, know that they are part of the groundwork of what pays your salary today!
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As always, I welcome comments wholeheartedly!

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dick Huemer in the Penthouse Club 1973

Here is another photo taken at the Penthouse Club, the men-only club at the top of the animation building on Disney's Burbank lot.
Richard Martin Huemer (1/2/1898-11/30/1979) received a Mousecar, the Disney Studio's Oscar in February 1973, and among the invited were (l. to r.) Jack Cutting, Bill Cottrell and Les Clark...
Cutting, Cottrell, Huemer, Clark<< Click On It!

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

T. Hee and Friends

T. Hee (Thornton F. Hee, born 03/26/1911, died 10/30/1988) was well-known for his caricatures. Here we have him in the back, with his friends Norm Ferguson, Fred Moore, Bill Cottrell and Dick Huemer, a 9-foot penguin and a maître d' at the Brown Derby. It seems he had some back and forth running gag about this penguin with Bill Cottrell - as if it was the end-all-be-all fun story idea...
T Hee and Friends<< Click On It!

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Les Clark's 30th

Had a look at Didier Ghez's blog? Author Pierre Lambert sent him a great picture of the celebrants at Les Clark's 30th anniversary with Walt Disney's company. John Canemaker mentions that Clark started work February 23rd, 1927, though in a list of Disneyites of November 1967 his hire date is listed as March 15th.

Here is the memo inviting the members of the Penthouse Club to celebrate Clark's anniversary on March 14th, 1957...
Les Clark 30th memo<< Click On It!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Steamboat Willie Exposure Sheet

[Don't forget to read the posting below this: "Congrats Børge!"]

Courtesy of Leslie Iwerks' great film about her grandfather Ub, "The Hand Behind the Mouse," as found on the Disney Treasures DVD set for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, here is a composite of two frame grabs of a shot of the exposure sheet of the first public close-up of Mickey Mouse in his role as Steamboat Willie. Who knew this still exsisted?
Steamboat Willie Exposure SheetSame with added detail
You will find that the beats are marked with dots every 8 frames, the lyrics are written in as guide for the animator (Ub), and that a beat was cut out at the cross (no more or less, I checked it with the film).

Curiously there are 46 frames to a page, not 48 (3 feet or 6 beats), which could lead one to speculate that this maybe was a page from some random ledger. In any case, in the animation, Mickey's head, arms and hands are on the top level, his body and feet on the next (which also has him completely for a few drawings), then the wheel by itself. Interestingly, the scene actually starts 2 feet (32 frames) before the line indicating the start of the scene, so I suspect this was a later addition to be able to see him "normal" before he started whisteling.

This may well be the first "sound animation" done at Disney's, maybe around June or early July 1928. It seems to me that the title of the page and the instruction "Start scene here" are in Walt Disney's handwriting, while the lyrics of the song are not...

On the second image I filled out the bottom of the left two columns as they are missing, just in case you want to have a look for yourself. By the way, I thank David Gerstein for an interesting resource for the study of the song Steamboat Bill.

This leads me to another question: obviously the sound films were made for a projection speed of 24 frames per second. But what about the earlier silent films? What about Oswald? I can step-frame through it and see things on ones, having one drawing per frame, on a 24-like frame per second DVD. But was this not, as most silent films, made for 16 frames, or one foot of film per second? For then all the silent films have been misrepresented and are all running too fast on DVDs! Anyone?
[Addition: the VERY interesting first comment answers this!]

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Congrats, Børge!

Today marks the 88th birthday of Børge Ring, whom I am proud to call my mentor. He lives in a rural part of Holland, but though he feels slowed down by age, his mind is as sharp as always. He sent me following as follow-up on my mentioning of Steamboat Willie's timing:

      « As Hans justly states: A tempo of 2-16 aka 4-8 is the simplest and most manageable of tempos.
David Hand timed his Disney shorts by metronome and beat. He gave this advice: "If you make changes in your timing - making an action slower or faster - never add or subtract anything less than a whole beat. That way you stay within the pattern and you do not bring the musician into weird difficulties."

      Dave was not intimately conversant with music techniques and his musician Bert Lewis gave him this rule of thumb; "Write your timing in bars of 4 beats. Always put strong accents on 1 or on 3 in the bar. Then you will never get me into trouble."
I contended that a musical accent can have much more sock when placed on 2 or 4 in the bar - as often used in jazz. Dave answered that "You can do anything as long as it makes sense musically."

      During the making of the short ON ICE Goofy exchanges whacks with an obstinate fish. Walt Disney suggested to director Sharpsteen that Ben give the sound effects the rhythmic pattern of (what he called) a "Dixieland Ending" [the old "Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits"]:
Dab dabbedy dab dab uhm dab dab.
1 2 3 4 1 2 3
      The result on the finished film is amusing to listen to. Sharpsteen seems to have sweated and the piece of sound film must have contained a great number of splices, old and new. »

Børge mentions Dave Hand telling to never add or delete less than a whole beat, which means a measure can have e.g. one or three beats, even though it originally has two beats (if it's a 2-12 as in the example from The Pointer that I show here). This always posed an interesting challenge to the musician...

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Question on Traveling Mattes

Here is a question that I have wondered about a lot:
Ub Iwerks received an Academy Award for his groundbreaking work on Traveling Mattes, for combining live actors and animation in Mary Poppins. Ub had worked with this since 1923, when he figured out the technique to combine Alice with her Cartoonland.

The actual 1963 camera used a beam-splitter prism to record the live actors on black on one roll of film, and the matte on another. My question: why not have both on the same roll, and eliminate the possible difference between the two rolls, like shrinkage etc.?
Having the characters and the bright yellow sodium matte area on one reel and then separating them by filtering them in an optical printer seems to be a more controlled solution. Then why split it in camera instead? Were optical printers not precise enough?
Did the colors bleed? Was it hard to separate if all was on one roll?
Anyone with a definite answer is welcome to comment!

Below three images of the retrofitted three-strip-Technicolor camera, dubbed Traveling Matte Camera #1.
First Ub with Bob Broughton, who passed away a few weeks ago, then Ub alone with the camera, and finally a shot of the open camera, the front flipped down exposing the special prism, of which there seems to have been only one, very closely guarded for many years...
Ub Iwerks & Bob BroughtonUb with Traveling matte CameraUb with Traveling Matte Camera open
[Note: I rephrased my question in a comment...]

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Thoughts on Small World

As if there has not been said enough about this, here are my two bits on this oh-so-controversial subject.

I rode the new It's a Small World attraction in Disneyland twice last Tuesday. My "verdict:" I loved it! I was thoroughly entertained! Basically there isn't more to it than that!

Of course, I will say a few more words about it...
Before, there were holes where things used to be, taken out by maintenance seemingly not caring. It had become a shell of its former self, from what I had seen of old footage and remember seeing for myself back in 1978 and 1991. We are now presented with a full show. Everything that used to move now moves. There is more to see, which means the lands have been condensed, as well.

So what about the new additions? To me, they were not intrusive at all, even though I get the impression they are still playing with lighting, set dressing and sound levels, because there are a few things that could be tweaked, certainly. The additional Disney characters in most cases are not characters at all, but kids of the world dressed up as characters, as kids do nowadays. Or as in the case of the Three Caballeros, pinatas made to look like the characters. And as such are more eye candy, something to look at - and for - than an eyesore, as feared by many.

Luckily, the sound-scape is still the beautiful Buddy Baker score that was re-found in stereo in 2001 during the research for the upcoming wonderful World's Fair CD set. In all, it's a more modern, updated experience, one that kids of this age will relate to on a much broader basis, much as the kids of 1964 embraced the original version. If you don't like that, you may not be "getting" what Disneyland is about.

By the way, if you do NOT agree with me, HA! on you, as Disneyland is MY land. Walt said so himself in the dedication.

The following video isn't great, but it shows the entire attraction from first to last rooms, without the 1970s cardboard cutout kids, so see for yourself...

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Prod. 2138 - The Sword in the Stone  - Seq. 12.0 - "Ending" (II)

More Milt Kahl and Hal King, a scene by Fred Hellmich, and the final scenes by Ollie Johnston and Hal Ambro...
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This ends the draft for The Sword in the Stone!
Remember where you saw it first, folks...

Did you already check out the other feature drafts here?
- Pinocchio
- The Three Caballeros
- Alice in Wonderland
- Sleeping Beauty
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians
And did you check out any of my 75 Disney short film drafts?

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Prod. 2138 - The Sword in the Stone  - Seq. 12.0 - "Ending" (I)

Animation by Dick Lucas, Eric Larson, Eric Cleworth, Cliff Nordberg, Milt Kahl, Hal King and a scene by John Sibley.
This FINAL draft dated 7/25/1963...
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Music Behind the Magic in Hemet

As readers of this blog have noticed, I am especially interested in the timing of the Disney films, from Steamboat Willie onwards. Southern California readers can now "Discover the magic of Disney music at the Western Center Museum February 6th – May 10th, 2009. Disney: The Music Behind the Magic (organized by the Experience Music Project, Seattle) is the first museum exhibition to tell the story of how Disney has used music to engage audiences, drive its timeless narratives, and succeed in cartoons, television, theme parks, live-action films, on Broadway and the Billboard charts."

Western Center Museum in Hemet, CA!

You will find the very first score for Steamboat Willie there, as well as Frank Churchill's score for the Three Little Pigs, Ub Iwerks' original 1929 drawn script for The Karnival Kid, and much, much more (ok, all the way up to Miley Cyrus and High School Musical 3...)
By the way, if you like mammoths, well, they have those, too!
It's certainly worth the hour-and-a-half drive from Burbank, folks. There will be special events, as well - more on those later!

By the way, Steamboat Willie clearly is 2-16 all the way through, though you could call it 4-8 as well. The easiest, most dividable beat possible. And if you still don't know what that means, you need to read up on your beats and barsheets!

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Prod. 2138 - The Sword in the Stone  - Seq. 14.0 - "Wart Becomes Kay's Squire - Off to London"

This Seq. 14 is wedged inbetween Seq. 10 and Seq. 12 ("Ending").
Animation by John Ewing, Eric Cleworth, Hal Ambro, Dick Lucas, John Lounsbery, Hal King, and the last half by Ollie Johnston.
This FINAL draft dated 7/24/1963...
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Comments anyone?

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