New procedures were suggested constantly that would make the checker's job simpler and eliminate some of the expense created by needless errors. The "Blue Sketch" was one of the most practical.
One time a background painter was given a layout showing an ominous evening sky with the vague shapes of tree branches silhouetted against the clouds. The color key that styled this sequence showed a greenish sky with an evil look. The background man was intrigued. Here was a good-looking design, simple yet dramatic, and an impressive painting could be made of this. He carefully worked out the lacy fingers of the branches, the contrasting shapes and colors, with subtle shading in the clouds. The whole thing was alive and would make anyone look twice. T he only trouble was that the background painter had not checked to see what action took place in the scene. It was actually a close-up of a large and formidable character who blotted out all the trees and most of the sky—only bits of painting around the edges showed. This was a great disappointment for the painter as well as a waste of talent and time. Something had to be done to keep this from happening again. That was when someone thought of making a "blue sketch" of the scene.
When the action of the rough animation has been approved (what we called "OKed for Clean Up"), the scene is picked up by the Layout Department and checked for all the extremes of movement. A composite tracing is made in colored pencils (predominantly blue) that shows the size of the character, how much ofhim is showing, how high he goes on the paper, his lowest point, his maximum move to the left or right, any contact he makes with parts of the background, as well as the first and last drawings in the scene. These essential movements of the character are recorded so that everyone will know just where he goes and what he does in that one scene. It reveals changes the animator may have made in the whole set-up that the layout man possibly does not know about yet, and it indicates to the background man the main areas of activity and those places that should be painted simply.
Even so, the element of human error will not be shut out. There was a scene in The Jungle Book that is still a mystery to all involved. The boy, Mowgli, was to be shown running through the jungle after he thought he had been double-crossed by Baloo. The feeling needed to be one of desperation, with more abandon and floundering than speed. The animator who was to do the scene remembered a piece of live action film showing a boy push aside some branches as he ran into a thicket. It seemed like a good action that would fit both Mowgli's attitude and the situation, so the film was brought up and the animator studied, made notes, and sketched until he could adapt the action to the restrictions of his scene. The boy threw up a protective arm. ducked his head, twisted his body, then leaned back, all giving him more thrust when the branches were pushed aside and he burst through, continuing his forward progress. It was a good action and difficult to capture, but worth it for the extra quality it would give the picture.
This type of action would not show up on the blue sketch, and none of the people who worked on the scene took note of anything special about it. The effects animator who did the final drawing on the branches stayed as close as he could to the action the animator had defined, but he felt the leaves needed to be bigger to match the new model and even added a few more to increase the overall mass. The layout man. thinking more about dense jungle than the boy's problem, also increased the size and number of the leaves. Finally, the background man, looking at the layout and the effects animation, added a bit of lush growth of his own that was appropriate to the jungle, but by then the action was completed covered! The boy simply ran behind some dense bushes and came out on the other side, still running.
Money and time and effort had gone into shooting the live action, animating the scene, cleaning it up and inbetweening it. making the layout, and painting the background. At this point in the production, which artist should change what he had done? A conference was held and the decision was based on expediency: leave it the way it is; the audience will never know what they arc missing. The best procedures always have a way of breaking down, and only close contact between the individual artists can keep everyone working toward a common goal.
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