Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Andreas Deja Lecture Notes

On Friday, April 4th, Andreas Deja came and gave a lecture at CalArts. Oddly enough, he and Glen Keane were some of the very first names I knew when it came to animation(just about 5 years ago). Chuck Jones, Richard Williams, The Nine Old Men, etc. quickly followed, along with CalArts and character animation being the career for me, but he definately helped set the idea in my head. So it was really something to meet Andreas Deja. His work has certainly had an impact on my childhood. So yeah, really fantastic lecture---not especially focused on the technical aspect of animating, but instead, he talked about Disney's Nine Old Men and shared some very inspirational work with us.
A little background on Andreas Deja: He has been at Disney since The Black Cauldron and has been a supervising animator on characters like, King Triton, Scar, Gaston, Jafar, Lilo, Hercules, and also worked on Roger Rabbit. He never gave up on 2D animation when the medium was declared "dead." He kept working on tiny projects and recently did a lot of animation on the new Goofy short, "How to Hook-Up your Home Theater." He's still very much at Disney and is currently working away on the villain for the upcoming 2D Disney film, The Princess and the Frog. Anyways, onto the notes:

The basic premise of Andreas' lecture was "What makes a scene stand-out." A key note he touched on was, "Make it personal, find a way to express yourself." Animation can't be purely technical, you've got to feel your characters out to give them life. An example he used was playing a violin. How one could just pick a violin up and strum away, mastering every last note, however, for a violinist to really stand-out, they put emotion behind the notes. Give them meaning. Animating requires the same thing. Can't always focus on the 12 principles of Animation, amazing draftsmanship, and in recent cases: perfect splines(I added that 3D reference)--an animator needs to put feeling behind a character.

He then kicked off the lecture by sharing some of his favorite Nine Old Men quotes. Here are a few that really stood out to me:

"Don't animate drawings, animate feelings."-Ollie Johnston. In reference to, "draftsmanship is secondary. The acting comes first."

"You need to be sincere in your work!"-Ollie Johnston. Further along in this post, look for Ollie's animation on Penny---that's a fantastic example of sincerity and really conveying a feeling.

"Why are you still studying my animation..Do your own thing!"-Milt Kahl. This references an event where Richard Williams was thoroughly studying Jungle Book and Milt Kahl's Shere Khan animation. While the Nine Old Men were flattered to have so many people study their work, they wanted the next generation of animators to do their own exploration. And a note that Andreas Deja brought up, "Not every animator works the same." Everybody has their own method. Andreas shared a lot of pencil animation from various Disney characters and it was very evident that each of the Nine Old Men had their own approach to a scene--whether technically or emotionally, even somewhere in between.
A similar quote was said by Walt Disney, "These films are here to inspire and be outdone!"

"Observation! Observation! Observation!" -Eric Larson. Emphasizing how important it is to pay attention to the world around you. Nowadays, what with so much technology in our faces(cellphones, iPods, etc.) it's especially important to put all of that away and just go out and just watch. Then draw. Look at various things to bring into your animation.
On that same note, here's a similar quote, "Learn so much about your subject. That you don't need the reference anymore." -Milt Kahl.
"It if doesn't look natural, it's no good!"-Milt Kahl
"You owe it to yourself and the medium."-Milt Kahl. Really referencing the importance of working hard and not settling for second best.

And finally, "Don't forget, this is supposed to be fun!"-Roy Disney

For a little while, the lecture focused on Staging Characters. Andreas showed lots of original artwork that really defined fantastic staging. Here are some sadly pixelated(thank you YouTube screenshots)examples of some of the work he showed:

Everything leads to that focal point of Kaa and Shere Khan.

A side note that came up: Look at Pinocchio's right hand as he searches for a wall--anything to distance himself from the horror in front of him. Great little gesture.

This one is interesting on a silhouette note. Normally, it'd be best to stage Robin Hood's finger/hand action AWAY from his body/face so the audience can read his little finger that's wiggling through the hole of his hat. However, this is not the case. Look carefully at how it's staged with clean-up in mind. The dark brown coloring of the finger against Robin Hood's white muzzle. Reads perfectly despite the unique setup.

All of these, and the several others he showed, looked so much better in person, and as rough drawings---no clean-up. Anyways, after discussing staging, Andreas showed a lot of material from the Nine Old Men. Lots and lots of gorgeous rough animation. Here are a few examples of some of the scenes he shared with us(that I can find on YouTube):

This segment from Sword in the Stone, was played from the very beginning of this clip actually, all the way until just after Madam Mim wilts the flower, twirls and bows. So much fun to watch:

Another bit of animation: The sequence of Penny and Medusa talking together(0:09-1:20). Ollie Johnston animated Penny(talk about sincerity and feeling) and Milt Kahl animated Medusa(those eyelashes!):

Later, the lecture shifted to Andreas' own work. He started by showing a reel of his own animation, primarily Jafar and Scar. Learned a lot about how Andreas approaches a character and animates a scene. He usually animates VERY roughly(shapes really) during his first pass at a scene. Often times straight ahead. Then starts working out his arcs and timing while cleaning-up a character on the 2nd or 3rd pass. So pretty often we'd see a scene with Jafar go from basic shapes that roughly defined Jafar, to a still rough, but beautifully animated 2nd or 3rd pass. I can't find a good example of Jafar animation on YouTube, but I found some Scar stuff. While Andreas Deja didn't show this actual clip, he showed a lot of Scar material from the "Stampede" scene. Anyways, here's a video I love to watch, despite the poorer quality:

The Scar Scenes in particular that he showed: The part where Scar says, "Mufasa! Quick! Stampede. In the gorge" Before it cuts to a different perspective(he might have animated the second half of that dialogue, but he didn't show it during the lecture) A story he shared with us while his reel played: He animated that entire line only to be told to animate it from a higher angle, so it's from Mufasa's view. The second bit of animation he showed was when Scar is walking along the cliff watching all of the action below.

After discussing the various Disney villains he's worked on, Andreas moved onto what it was like animating Lilo. While this clip wasn't actually shown, Andreas Deja shared some of his kid studies from when he went to Hawaii and sketched kids at a school. He picked up on the wild gestures they made and used such observations in this little scene with Lilo describing why she's wet/late:

He wrapped up his lecture with more original drawings showing the development of his own characters and then also Nine Old Men animation stills. It was now approaching 11:30 at night and pretty much ended the night on this quote, "Make it personal from now on!"

Really great lecture and really wish I could share everything he showed on Friday, I walked away with my head stuffed and spinning as I digested everything he talked about. Anyways, that was the lecture and now I need to get to bed.