Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gary Trousdale Guest Lecture

Have some spare time now so time to finally post that guest lecture!

Gary Trousdale came on Friday to talk primarily about character. As a little history: he was a student of CalArts and broke into the industry by doing various effects animation on Black Cauldron. He later moved into storyboarding and worked on Oliver and Co. and the Little Mermaid before being hired as a director on Beauty and the Beast. He's also directed Hunchback of Notre Dame and Atlantis. Currently, he's over at Dreamworks directing the upcoming "Mastermind" movie. My notes are pretty brief, he showed a lot of clips from the movies he's directed and then had an in depth Q&A that I listened to more than wrote down. So as far as notes:

What makes good character:
"The secret to great acting is sincerity"-George Burns
Characters must believe in themselves and stay consistence in their actions throughout the movie. Classic examples of consistent, sincere, characters who believe in themselves can be found during the black and white comedy days. The 3 Stooges and the Marx Brothers are prime examples of the above. Don't know who they are? A lot of the Marx Brothers' films are on YouTube(I've been watching them a lot for inspiration) along with the Three Stooges. They each have their own distinct personality and stick with it. Here are a couple examples that I found:

Harpo is hilarious in this. For the entire movie he's running around cutting things, etc. Very consistent and for instance, his thigh gag is in a lot of other Marx brothers' films. Plus, he never talks among his many character traits.

Creating a strong distinct character enables the ability to easily put that character in different situations and respond in their own unique way.(Create an in depth background or back story helps one "become" that character). Again, just look at the classic comedy stars.

The rest of the lecture he shared various clips from Beauty and the Best, Little Mermaid, Atlantis, and Hunchback of Notre Dame to illustrate the points he mentioned before and to touch on a couple various topics.
One topic that really stood out was putting exposition in music. Having characters sing their intentions, personality traits, etc. help immediately establish the film. Here's are some clips I hunted down that he showed during the lecture:

First up is this chef sequence from Little Mermaid. He didn't direct this movie, however he storyboarded this entire song/action sequence. Just flat-out describes Louie and through visual means, how Sebastian reacts to such a horrifying situation.

While this one comes towards the end of the movie, this one shows more about the crowd rather than Gaston(he's really defined during the aptly titled,"Gaston" song). The crowd was treated as one organism rather then individual personalities(which makes sense). However, the villagers are not truly evil, Gaston is the ultimate villain, the crowd is just highly reactive and are easily swayed into action and Gaston pushes the right buttons to get them up-in-arms over the Beast. This song is Gary Trousdale's personal favorite by the way.

This next segment doesn't have any singing, however it brings up a point that I hadn't paid any attention to when it comes to a lot of animated movies made in the 90's at Disney. The Silly fight vs. the serious fight. Think back to any movie and you see this situation where the serious, main fight(in this example, Gaston fighting the beast--which comes shortly after this segment) with the cartoony lots of jokes fight(furniture battling the villagers). He said it helps keep the overall tone of the film from getting too downhearted or serious. Just an interesting point he brought up.


Another example of silly fight vs. serious. Also check out that wicked James Baxter animation of Quasimodo running up the walls with the 3D background/camera move(all 2D animation animated by him up until Quasi finishes yelling "Sanctuary!")
Serious Fight really takes place in this next part, if you're curious.

This one is the king of musical exposition. No need to describe why---you know exactly what's coming, who these characters are, etc. Very quickly gets the audience into the film. As Gary Trousdale actually said, "If you sing it---you can get away with murder." As a side note, apparently that opening sequence of the camera coming down from the clouds, through the village, and up to the bell towers crashed Disney's super computer(the one that government officials routinely checked on it was that super) twice.

That's pretty much it. Like I said earlier, my notes are pretty brief. He did share some clips from Atlantis, but it had more to do with atmosphere than singing or silly fights vs. serious fights. He shared the clips more to illustrate his experiences being a director on that project(Like the alternate opening sequence on Atlantis that's not on YouTube, but is on the DVD bonus features). So enjoy the clips and now to bed...


Janine said...

Wow! Thank you for this Jen!!! It's a really long post lol
Must've taken you a long time!!!

amelia said...

Yeah thanks for the great lecture!

Jennifer Harlow said...

You both are very welcome! =) Soon enough you guys can enjoy the lectures in person!

These posts actually don't take very long, plus I do enjoy doing them. They're a good reminder and really reinforce the lectures in my head.