Checking

One of the best ways to keep work flowing smoothly is to have each scene checked carefully before it moves on to the next department. Once the animation is completed, it should be checked for technical problems. The drawings may have worked well in test camera, but someone has to adapt them to their final form on the eels. Are the characters on the right levels to match the other scenes in the sequence? Should some of the levels be combined? Will the pan moves and trucks work smoothly? Is the action completed out to the field borders? Will it work under the camera?

Before we had checkers it was up to the cameraman to keep a close watch on the drawings on his stand as he was shooting, but that usually was too late. Typical of this situation was an incident on Mickey's Kangaroo. After shooting nearly half the scene, the cameraman noticed that Pluto was snarling as if he were guarding his dish, but in a peculiar way he was standing in it—though not quite in it. His foot covered part of the dish, but it did not match the curve or the shape of it. The clean-up man was called over to explain what was intended, and he immediately cried, "Someone has moved the dish! It's supposed to be over here right under Pluto's teeth, not back where his foot is!" A call to the background man produced his copy of the layout sketch and his notes on the scene. He was blameless.

Another call; this time to the layout man, who came with all his drawings to prove that the dish always had been in the same place. Now the animator joined the assembled group, and after more discussion he recalled moving the dish so there would be room for Pluto to run in and leap into this defensive position. He had made a tracing of the location of the dish and marked it on his copy of the layout. It was surprising to him that the layout man did not know about it, and he wondered why the final animation had not been checked before going ahead.

They all stared bleakly at the completed set-up on the camera stand. The eels then went back to the production rooms where adjustments were made until the scene worked properly, but much time was lost in all departments through mistakes that somehow slipped past everybody. Rather than establish blame it seemed more important to prevent it from happening, so the position of Checker was created.

Very soon it was discovered that one checker was not enough. In addition to the check for mechanics and technical problems, there had to be a check for missing detail, for clear instructions to the inkers, for missing lines around color areas, for registry of one character to another or to an object on the background. In Ink and Paint they needed additional checking before a scene was painted, and still another afterward to make sure everything was on the eels and following through perfectly. Some of the amazingly complicated scenes from Fantasia even required a specialist in checking, since the components were so involved and interrelated that hardly anyone even knew what was supposed to happen.

Only certain individuals should be checkers. The job calls for a special personality makeup more than an artistic talent, and not everyone can adapt to the demands. Complete concentration and an "eagle eye" are needed hour after hour to ferret out the smallest errors—but in the process a huge one should not go by unnoticed! The checker must be a detective, completely dedicated and above personal involvement. Such individuals scarcely can be blamed for screaming, "ah-HAA-aa-a-a!!!" when they discover a mistake, but that outburst docs little to endear them to the person who made the error. No one does sloppy work on purpose, and somehow a distressing air of recrimination seems to hover around a visit to the checker's room. For some reason, the feeling is reminiscent of being called to the principal's office.

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