Last September, I was fortunate enough to be in attendance today's for Andy Beall's lecture on "Walt Disney's Influence On Animation Priorities Today," at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Surprisingly the speech that was given was nothing that I had prepared in my notes. I thought it would a somewhat retelling of Walt's approach towards filmmaking, and how he created the most successful animation studio in the world. Basing my thought's on the rollout of WGBH's American Experience Documentary that aired earlier this month. However, what I experienced was an intimate look at the way in which the personality animation that Walt's Nine Old Men pioneered during the Golden Era of animation, is still alive and well within the filmmaking process at Pixar Animation Studios.
First things first, just who is Andy Beall? Andy Beall has worked in animation since 1995, starting out in classic animation as part of Warner Bros. Animation division. His resume includes Space Jam, Quest for Camelot, Osmosis Jones, and The Iron Giant before transitioning into the realm of computer-generated animation at Pixar Animation Studios. Part of the team staggered up from SoCal to the Bay by Oscar Winning Director Brad Bird; assembled to work on The Incredibles. Since his arrival at Pixar, Andy has worked the short film Jack-Jack Attack, Ratatouille, WALL-E, UP, Brave, and Monsters University.
Mr. Beall's role as Senior Animation Supervisor at Pixar was the surprise that I had not known about, prior the purchasing tickets. Overall, the lecture consisted of a "how did we get here" explanation on the craft. He referenced Pixar's Internship Program, his personal development, and the keys to putting together the type of animation reel he looks for; when selecting student animators for the internships. One clear takeaway for me, at least, was the mention of Doug Sweetland and Tony Fucile's impact on the medium (more on these two animators are coming in my November posts.)
Both animators are legends in their right, yet share a strong connection with their ability to create strong dynamic poses. Capacity to build suggestive poses forces the audience to think more. During my first semester here at CCA, my Animation 1 professor Ed Guiterrez gave an excellent lecture on watching your character's silhouette. Ed pointed out that even if the character is facing the viewer head on, you still need to pose her/him so the audience can see what the character is doing. And it doesn't stop with the silhouette, watching the line of action, making design choices with the understanding of an animator and that it has to move.
Mr. Beall summarized that everything he looks for in a reel could be found in every single keys ( poses driven drawing) within this one shot. We looked at a scene from Pixar's Toy Story 3, animated by Doug Sweetland; which Mr. Beall highlighted during his 90-minute lecture.
Mr. Beall continued to explain how subtleties work in an animators performance, and that the magic lived within those brief seconds of believability.
Once home, as I began to log my notes from the lecture, I found myself looking for more answers to fill in the gaps I had missed in my note taking. At times like those my focus to continuously turn towards three of Walt's Nine Old Men; Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnson for guidance.
Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnson
Through books like John Canemaker's Nine Old Men one can get a vivid look into the men who crafted the animation priorites that we use today. So much can be gleaned from these three masters of the field of acting in animation, that their... why am I trying to summarize their collected 100+ years of animation knowledge into a few pages?, lets let them speak for themselves.
Below are a couple of videos that was screened on the Disney Channel back in the mid 1980s called the Disney Family Album. All but one of the Nine Old Men completed a two part segment, Les Clark being the exception for he died in 1979. If any one wants to do additional research theirs a wonderful film called Frank & Ollie that covers the two mens working relationship from their days in college to their retirement in the late 1970s.