Io How to Get It on the Screen

"It's possible to do darn near anything if we figure out certain definite things. . . . We can do anything we think of with this." Walt Disney

Shortly after The Rescuers was released in 1977, a friend remarked, "I love those characters! I think they are probably the greatest Disney has ever done." Undeniably the animation of the characters is what attracts an audience, but many other elements play a vital role in a successful picture: the colors, the beauty, the visual effects, the locales, and the music. The crealion of our fantasy worlds took as much dedication and knowledge in the other departments as it did in the animation, and it occupied much of Walt's interest as mil.

When he sat in those first meetings looking at the glorious color sketches from the stylist or the inspirational artist, an image was forming in his mind, a total concept of what this picture could become—how all the parts would fit together, how it would look, how it would sound, and how it would make people feel. It was a slowly developing concept, but all the parts were closely related right from the start.

He began to see a place that was real, inhabited by characters that were real, whether they were dwarfs living in a land of magic, or a wooden puppet being chased by a monstrous whale, or tiny fairies spreading drops of dew at night. In his imagination it was all coming to life—mythical, but believable. This was not a dull, humdrum type of reality but one that sprang from dreams: a land where one could feel at home, yet where everything was fresh and new and different. To achieve this on the screen, great attention has to be given to the locales—the size of the furniture, the props, the trees, the animals, the shadows they cast, the air they breathed, the clouds that floated over them, the rain—it all had to be right, just what you would find in such a place.

The inspirational sketches often had shown much of this, but they were only a handful of still drawings, usually done in a medium unsuited to production work. One question always had to be faced, "How do you get it on the screen?" This major question broke down into a myriad of little ones: how can we get that soft

Disney Layout Background Drawings

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edge?; how can that brilliance of color be attained?; how can we get that elusive feeling of glowing light everywhere?; how can that overall effect be captured in our crude medium?

While the background man thought mainly of color and the layout man of drawing, Walt was always think-aw- ing 0f a different approach that might open up some-thing entirely new. At the start of Snow White, he (Uj(l studied the first drawings of the dwarfs searching ent. through their house for the unknown intruder. Great shadows were shown on the walls, adding to the spooky effect, but Walt saw more than that. When the dwarfs were grouped together there was not a Hal row of seven cartoon characters, it was more of a painting, with the figures in the foreground in darker colors, giving interest and definition to the group. He wondered if his staff could do something like that. He wondered if the men would get fresh ideas on lighting in general if they actually could see a replica of the dwarfs' home.

Albert Hurter, the sketch artist whose imaginative drawings inspired the style and appearance of many Silly Symphonies, had earlier been assigned the job of drawing all the nooks and crannies of this special house. His Swiss heritage and keen powers of observation made him ideally suited for capturing the storybook charm of a cottage that dwarfs might have built, and now he had so many drawings of the stairs, the beds, the windows, the fireplace, and even the kitchen sink, that the whole structure almost could be visualized.

Walt said. "Someone could probably build a model | of that house just from these drawings. Y'know. that model we had of the old mill was a big help to every- | body in visualizing that picture, and in planning the scenes and camera angles. Let's get Ken Anderson in here." Ken already had been transferred from animation to layout because of his architectural knowledge, and now his formal training would be put to further use. Walt asked him to build the model on a scale of one inch to the foot, interpreting Albert's inspiring sketches into real shapes and distances. With Wall's enthusiasm and curiosity clearing the way. the dwarfs' cottage soon emerged as a reality, complete with furniture and props.

Everyone crowded around to see how it looked all

Disney Animation Background Drawings

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