Sketches by 0 What makes and appealing tor tries to di: sketching fro for Aristocats
The Rescuerl bulge coming up, or a joint moving under the skin much more clearly.
Many people get the idea that production stopped for six or seven weeks while everyone learned to draw a new character. That would have been a lovely way to gain knowledge, but it was not economically feasi ble. Other than a special class that might start at 4:30 I'M and go until 6:00 (one hour of our time against a half hour of Walt's), all of this research was done while keeping up our footage on the current production: after hours, weekends, noon hours, whenever we could squeeze in some extra time. Each man wanted to do
his best, and when he saw others drawing better he quickly tried to learn what they knew.
This sharing of knowledge speeded up the whole learning process and kept a stimulating atmosphere alive. If one of us started to fall behind. Walt might say. "We can do better than that!" as if the individual were not as important as the whole team effort. However. he was more apt to say, "Why don't you go sec Marc Davis? He's got some nice drawings of those deer. Y'know, he doesn't get all tied up in the anatomy; yet they look real, and they've got an appeal and a personality. You oughta go look at them; Marc might be able to help you." And Marc would, and so would Milt, and Eric, and any of the sketch men working ahead of the animators, developing ideas.
Of these men, Bernard Garbutt had the most perplexing talent. He knew animals and how they moved and how they did things, but he never drew from an action standpoint. There were no thrusts, no muscles, no coiled springs, just a clear, simple outline of the animal in movement. We would go to him with a specific problem: "I've got this deer getting up. and I know
,1 r the hind end comes up first. Then 1 put out his front legs. ... I think that's right, but what happens to the head at that point?"
Garbutt would perch on the edge of the table, more like a bird than a draftsman (he never seemed to sit in a chair), and start explaining, and while he talked his pencil would start making a thin line that seemed to meander aimlessly across the paper. We would turn our heads first one way. then the other, trying to see what he was drawing, but the lines resembled a tangled cobweb as much as anything else. Then, suddenly, we saw a deer in the precise phase of the movement we had described; only Garbutt was drawing it upside down so it faced us.
While we were blinking and trying to absorb that combination of rendition and explanation, he would continue: "Now with a camel, he'll put this leg out first and keep his head down. ..." When he had finished drawing a camel getting up, he would go on to the buffalo, just so we would have a thorough understanding of what was unique about the deer in this particular action. In ten minutes we had a whole i
Typical nard accurate.
course in comparative anatomy, illustrated with gentle little contour drawings that had no boldness or vigor, just surprising accuracy.
We had another unique talent in Retta Scott, the first woman at our studio to have an interest in animation. She had an astounding ability to draw powerful, virile animals from almost any perspective and in any action. At one point in Bambi, we needed some convincing and frightening hounds to chase our heroine Faline, but none of the animators was advanced enough in his understanding of hounds to tackle the assignment. Rctta could draw the dogs in any position, and she knew the attitudes and the mood, but she was inexperienced in the art of relating one drawing to the next. So the supervising animator, brie Larson, set the scenes up for her and showed her what needed to be done. With typical modesty, Eric says. "I worked with her on the timing, but she did it all; she worked and worked on it." However it was done, between the two of them there appeared on the screen one of the most chilling and exciting picccs of action ever to be animated.
Another imaginative bit of problem-solving called for in Bambi was the drawing of the stag's majestic antlers. To follow through the perspective of each bony prong as the head moved about was just too complicated for even the most mechanically oriented artists, and the first filmed tests of the animation drawings revealed rubbery, wandering antlers—a distressing loss of majesty in what should have been the stag's crowning glory. So. a miniature plaster model was made of the stag's head with the full complement of antlers atop, and this was placed beneath the glass of the old roto-scope machine. Up on the drawing board, the artist
had the first drawing of a scene with just the head of the stag carefully drawn in. He slowly turned and tilted the model underneath until the head lined up exactly with his drawing. This done, he simply traced the horns. That drawing completed, he moved on to the next: with a slight change in the model, more horns were ready to trace. The result was perfect—a bit tedious, but not nearly so demanding as the attempt to draw it all in perspective from imagination.
Rico Lebrun had been hired as we began to work on Bambi because of his knowledge of animals and his ability to teach. He felt strongly that the only way to learn all about an animal was to get your hands on it and move it about and feel how the parts worked. He started a search for a young fawn, but since none was then available we contented ourselves with studying what film we had and observing older deer at the zoo. One day. Rico got a call from a ranger in the Forestry Service who had come upon the carcass of a very-young fawn, no more than two days old. It was still in good condition, and he could have it! Rico was ecstatic.
That night in class, we crowded in close to watch the movements of the legs and the back and the head as Rico turned the body round and round, testing the articulation of each joint. He was enraptured with his model; we were a bit more reserved—after all. it had been dead for three or four days. Excitedly, he announced his plan to remove the outer layers, a little each night, so we could learn all the intricate workings right down to the skeleton. The whole procedure might take ten evenings in all.
The next night, we stood farther back as Rico animator. Don Lusk— Bambi.
Drawing problems were more of a threat to the majestic stag in Bambi than the bullets of the hunters. No one could draw the imposing antlers so that the volume and perspective were constant from drawing to drawing. The accuracy seen here camefrom tracing a plaster model that could be turned in any di-rection to match the animator's drawing.
The fawn that had been the model for so many inspirational sketches had grown up by the time the animators started on the picture. Here. Rico Lebrun shows Frank Thomas how the head fits onto the neck. Also watching are Retta Scott and Bob Youngquist. (Man in foreground is keeper for the deer.)
The deer showed more interest in Ollie Johnston s drawing than in her job of posing for the class. In background. Milt Kahl. left, and Bill Shull.
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