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Disney Animation and story building – A look into the process

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Over the weekend I ran across this inspiring video. In it, a number of Disney artists walk you through a bit of their process in developing characters and story for their feature animated movies. Whenever I see things like this I marvel at the process and how similar it can be to what we go through as children’s illustrators when we develop a book. Wonderfully inspiring!

And do I dare mention that I now have a huge crush on Eyvind Earle’s painting skills. GORGEOUS! I wonder what you call that? Enjoy!

Guest Post-Tom Bancroft-Disney layoffs, 2D animation, and you

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Recently many were worried for the future of hand drawn animation with the announcement that Disney had no plans for any hand drawn projects in the future. This made many feel that they were witnessing the final days of traditional animation. Things seemed to be cemented with the recent announcement that a number of traditional animators had been laid off by Disney. There was panic in the streets!

Many felt that with Disney backing away from this art form that their dreams of seeing non computer generated imagery onscreen had gone the way of vinyl and 8 track cassettes. Luckily we have industry veteran Tom Bancroft to come in and quell the fires and rage of our passion for a craft many artists love dearly.

Tom Bancroft has almost 25 years of experience in the animation industry, most of which was for Walt Disney Feature animation where he was an animator for 11 years. He is the author of several character design books and his most recent project is a graphic novel titled Opposing Forces.  So join us as Tom reacts to the news and helps to incite hope by giving his perspective of the issue. Enjoy.

A very nervous animation student (he didn’t say, but I assume he is studying 2D animation) asked me about my opinions on the state of animation these days.  What are the companies thinking with laying off all the employees, not doing 2D animation, canceling great TV series, etc.?  Are the business people just evil?  AND the even bigger question: Is John Lassiter a jerk (or worse) for letting all the 2D animators at Disney go yesterday?

MY ANSWER:  I have a slightly controversial (for an artist) perspective on businesses and business people.  Over all, I like them.  At times, I have even been grateful for them.  (Steady paychecks should never be taken for granted.  Wait till you don’t have one one day, then you’ll know!) Remember, we live in a world where businesses are expected to make money to stay alive.  It’s called capitalism. Others call it “business”. That means, the animation world isn’t any different from any other job/company. I see the other side of the equation since I owned my own company for about 8 years. It was a small studio, but until you work “out in the real world” away from mom and dad’s money and/or a companies’ steady paycheck, you have no idea how hard it is to stay afloat as an artist. I don’t suggest it to people right after art school by any means. That doesn’t mean I think that studios are run poorly at times.  They OFTEN are.  Its is near impossible to find a person that understands creative people AND knows business well enough to run a studio.  That person was NOT Walt Disney, as many of you think.  Walt had his brother Roy, to handle the money side of things and make sure Walt didn’t destroy the company.  And he would have.  Imagine a world where Disney animation only made “Snow White”.  That’s the Disney company with Walt as the sole head.  You need both sides and I admit, the Disney company of today (and for years now) is short sighted.  They want quick money and are not looking long term at investments and legacy, as they should.
They say they are, but its obvious they are not.

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Watch the Full Disney Animated Short Paperman

Before the Academy Awards on February 24th be sure to check out this, oscar-nominated, animated short by Disney animation Studios. This short was directed by first-time Director John Kahrs and played before Wreck-It Ralph. When I first saw this short I was really impressed and all I wanted to do was watch it again. So I went home and try to find it on the Internet. Sadly, all I could find was a hand recorded bad version of it. Now before the Academy Awards Disney has released the full short for your viewing pleasure. Read the full Disney YouTube channel description after the break.

Introducing a groundbreaking technique that seamlessly merges computer-generated and hand-drawn animation techniques, first-time director John Kahrs takes the art of animation in a bold new direction with the Oscar®-nominated short, “Paperman.” Using a minimalist black-and-white style, the short follows the story of a lonely young man in mid-century New York City, whose destiny takes an unexpected turn after a chance meeting with a beautiful woman on his morning commute. Convinced the girl of his dreams is gone forever, he gets a second chance when he spots her in a skyscraper window across the avenue from his office. With only his heart, imagination and a stack of papers to get her attention, his efforts are no match for what the fates have in store for him. Created by a small, innovative team working at Walt Disney Animation Studios, “Paperman” pushes the animation medium in an exciting new direction.