writes little notes on his drawings explaining any mysterious forms created by the movement.
The women who had worked up to the more important jobs continually were looking for ways to make the individual eels look more appealing. They did not like to see crude, barren work going through the plant, even though they knew that probably, in action, these drawings would do the job. Still, if the draw ings could be made to look better, to have a bit of shading, or a smudge, or one more color, or a bit of detail that would really make the work sparkle, they would suggest it.
Looking at a eel of Snow White, some of the women felt that the black hair looked unnatural and harsh, so they tried adding a wisp of drybrush in a lighter grey to soften the edge of her hair. It helped immensely, so they proceeded to add it to every eel all through the picture, with no indications from the animators, and nothing to guide them but their own sense of what looked right. This had to be done on top of the eels, and the only way to be sure the effect was working from one to the next was by flipping the whole sheet of celluloid, heavy with paint. It was tiring and risked cracking the paint, but there was no other way.
No one quite remembers who first suggested the idea of inking the outline of an area with the same paint that would be used to fill in the area, but it revolutionized the appearance of the characters. Each space that is a separate color must have an outline around it defining it from the area next to it. The hat is one color, the hair another, the face still another, and soon. When these outlines are done in black ink. there is a heavy, crude look that is fine for Peg Leg Pete but unacceptable for more delicate characters. Colored inks mt tried on the first color films and were an improvement. but when a look of quality and careful shading was needed, they were still too strong. So someone came up with the idea of inking with the same paint that would be put on the back of the cel. This paint was thinned down to the consistency of ink and made slightly darker to match the greying effect of the thickness of the eel on the color beneath it. Now there was an outline that was scarcely noticed on the screen. The way was open for soft color changes on any form, the delicate shades and subdued values that gave the beauty Walt had been seeking.
This type of refinement was particularly needed on feminine faces whether they were human or animals. A strong outline around any parts of the head changed the feeling, as indicated by this note from a Pinocchio directive: "When Pinocchio is a puppet, before he(^__
comes to life, we are going to have the black line where his neck joins because it looks mechanical, but when he comes to life, it spoils the cuteness to have those lines in black so we just ink this in the same color as his neck so you don't get any hard edge here."
Before long, the characters had more colored lines on them than the black, and they became so involved that the Color Model experts had a whole page of notes on just the inking, aside from the notations of the colors themselves. The name accepted for the colored line became a "self-ink line." and even after the inkers were replaced with duplicating processes, there was still the need in critical areas for this kind of finesse.
Still more refinements were suggested— many more. One that was quite important for a few years was called the "blend," a waxy little crayon that came in various colors and could be rubbed on top of the eel to slightly darken the color underneath. With the realistic painting and strong dimension in the backgrounds, the eels with their flat colors were beginning to look like display cardboards. The self-ink line leading to another shade had helped, but now with a transparent smudge effect available in the blends, a turning edge could be suggested. As with the drybrush. it required flipping the painted eels to be sure the work followed through in both placement and density from eel to eel; it took time and judgment to put on just the right amount in the right places, but it added much to the appearance.
The blend was such a successful addition that even Mickey and Pluto were given a face-lift in The Pointer. Mickey's cheeks were not only round and shaded, but they had a light bit of healthy color: Pluto's wonderfully flat lack of anatomy suddenly sported shading that made him look like a collection of old telephone poles. In the next picture, he had all of his former cartoon floppiness restored.
However, when the blend was tastefully used it created marvelous effects. In some cases, the self-ink line would be rubbed off after the area had been painted. ' and the place where the two colors came together was
covered by the blend so that it became invisible. Walt was as amazed as anyone. "This is very effective! 1 think we are certainly on the right track." Then, remembering his continuous financial problem, he cautioned, "But let's be very sparing with this blend and those things. That is what will hold up the works; all that blend will slow it up." Later he commented again, "I say watch this blend business, and not do a lot of unnecessary work. It is too expensive, too. We must keep from going broke on this picture."
Most of these innovations had been worked out by the Ink and Paint supervisors and the Color Model advisors since the rest of the department was too busy producing the eels to do any experimenting. Walt asked, "Can't we do something here. . . ?" and the women thought back to their art school days, or their childhoods, for any materials that might give a new effect. As the demand grew for this elaborate decora tion, a whole little department evolved, consisting of people who were adept at their own special effects.
When that mammoth scene of the fish from the "Arabian Dance" arrived at Ink and Paint, it was this group who put the transparent paint on the fins, the drybrush on the tips of the tails, the sparkles in the water, the highlights on the bubbles—all the extra work that had to be matched and checked and followed through until finally the cameraman placed them on his pegs, one by one. in successive exposures, to create the mystic and shimmering spectacle of this piscatorial harem. The trails of fairy dust marking the paths of the dewdrop fairies. Tinker Bell in Peter Pan. and every other object glowing with iridescent matter were the work of this specialized crew. Difficult and demanding as it was. it was the essence of fantasy. Story and animation, layout and background, special effects and camera could all create incredible illusions, but the visual stimulation that came from this patience and care and skill added a touch that could not be duplicated by anyone else.
Actually, there was more involved here than just artistic endeavor. The transparent paint that produced the appealing filmy effect on the screen was made from the bile of an Asian ox. and was smelly and unpleasant to use. When this paint was employed for
Fantasia called for the most elaborate eel work ever attempted. This original eel dating from 1939 shows the variety of work done for each frame of film in the' 'Nutcracker Suite'' : colored lines, dry brush, airbrush, transparent paint, stipple—all in addition to the difficult job of tracing the pencil drawings in the first place.
A combination of stipple and inking in a variety of colors was used to represent fairy dust and sparkle effects. Here, Merry-feather shoots a bit of mafic from her wand in Sleeping Beauty.
shadows, it was imperative that no outline be seen, so the inkers had to trace the drawings onto the eels in what amounted to invisible ink. The painters complained that they not only had to work fast but could not even see the line they were working to!
The washoff relief eels had the emulsion on the back of the eel where the paint was to go. and extreme care had to be used or both would come off the eel together. Becky Fallberg, who was later head of the department, says, "Oh. it was horrible! Everybody moaned when they got those kinds of scenes." There even was trouble with the eels themselves, especially when the only ones available were made of the highly flammable nitrate. One shipment would be yellow, one grey, one set would buckle, the next would warp, and all would shrink once they were cut to size.
When the animation on Bambi started filtering through the Ink and Paint Department, a new problem arose. The legs of the deer had to be strong and rigid for the animal to be convincing. The assistants and inbetweeners in the animation building had taken great care in practically tracing the legs during a scene of little movement, but now the inkers found they could
not copy these drawings accurately enough to avoid the jitters and wobbles that always managed to creep in. Since the moves were so small and no knowledge of animation principles was involved, the Ink and Paint artists suggested that they do the inbetweening on the eels, eliminating the extra drawings that were causing the trouble. There were many days during the making of the picture that they regretted ¿aving made the offer, but the results were magnificent.
T his type of dedication, in addition to the ten long weeks of training before anyone even was hired, led to the most beautiful inking ever done. The tapered lines and the sure, deft touch made each eel a work of art. Before the war there were many talented candidates to choose from for this work, and the ones selected were fine artists in their own right. Betty Kimball admits. "The inkers were very good at drawing. . . . T hey had to be, because they had to get that feeling of the animator's drawings in their ink lines, and it's very hard to control a pen on that slippery celluloid."
Mary Tebb felt that the morale of the staff was reflected in the work they produced. "I think that's one reason why the product itself is . . . still beautiful . . . because it was done by dedicated people." There is certainly some elusive reason why the pictures never look dated, beyond the styles and fashions in both art work and humor.
With the second World War came economic problems, and the immense staff of highly skilled special ists no longer could be held together. When peace returned four years later, the concentration was on better ways to achieve the same result that once had cost so much in time and effort. Since no records were kept in that era when procedures changed with each scene, gradually people forgot how things had been done. Before long, the equipment that once produced the great effects—the drum that had cleared the frosted cells, the mechanism that had processed washoff relief eels, the inventions that had held detailed work together under the camera—was all rusting on the back lot. and newcomers walking around the lot at noon wondered why anyone would keep junk like that around. Just a few years later, it was thrown out because the interest was in new procedures.
The primary concern was to free the inkers from the
tedious process of endless tracing, so they could devote their time to things that really counted. There was a drive on the part of the animators at the same time to find some way to duplicate accurately their own crisp, strong drawings on the eels. The women were good, very good, but their work was still a tracing, and tracings never have the vitality of the original. In the late fifties, Ub Iwerks adapted the Xerox process to our needs, creating a great machine that copied the drawings on an electrically charged plate. There was very little delicacy in the result, and a light line was apt to drop out entirely, but the animator's drawing was there, strong and irrevocable in the blackest of lines. In fact, this heavy, black line put us right back into the 1920s, before the refinements of inking had begun.
Other colors that the Xerox Corporation could offer were no better, so we attempted to make the dark outline look more acceptable by using it as the style of the whole picture, backgrounds and all. 101 Dalmatians was the result, spearheaded by the multitalented Ken Anderson; the linear quality of the artwork gave a crisp, handsome look, especially for a film about black and white dogs. The animators were very pleased, but Walt felt it lacked the delicacy and the care that the old pictures had achieved. Many in the audience felt the same way, saying that they missed the elegance of the prewar films. It was not until we had perfected a grey line for The Rescuers that we were able to lose the harsh outline and regain a soft look. That simple change brought raves from critics who claimed we had developed a whole new style for this picture.
bbit children and urtle friend from Hood. The anima-predated the faith-of reproduction us-new Xerox process of hand-inking the it they missed the r in the faces that ink lines had given.
Many stories seem to call for a final shot of the main character walking away into the distance while the camera pulls back slowly—usually up into the sky for a picture of the sunset or the moon or a title that says, "The End." This was always almost impossible to animate, because of the dual problem of making the figure just the right amount smaller with each step while keeping the same spirit throughout. The camera usually pulls up into the sky because the character looks so terrible that he is ruining the whole concept; and, even though the scene needs to continue for at least nine feet, it would be impossible to keep him on the screen any longer.
But with the Xerox machine, all that has changed.
We need to animate only one complete step of the character walking away from us, and it can be any size convenient for us to draw. Once the action is checked and approved, the drawings are sent to the Xerox Department where they are blown down to the correct size for the scene. More than that, the drawings are repeated over and over, smaller each time, so that theoretically our character can keep walking forever. From a practical standpoint, the painters cannot paint him after he reaches a tiny size, but usually that point is not reached until the needs of the scene have been well met.
The one problem that remains to be solved is brought about by the very procedure that saves so much effort.
Bianco from The Rcscucrs. Thin pencil lines and o medium grey loner in the Xerox machine finally gave us the soft appearance once more. Colored lines added to a eel of this kirulrecaptured the delicacy we had enjoyed with the inking, at a fraction of the cost.
Any small, insignificant, hardly noticeable error in the movement is magnified by repetition. A slight limp, agimpy walk, an unnatural roll to the body, a foot that picks up too high, a leg that pushes into the ground, any little thing that would never be noticed in one step of an ordinary scene, becomes amplified with each repeat until the character looks as if something is terribly wrong with him; and as the camera soars up into the sky. most of the audience is wondering if someone should not go help the poor fellow before it is loo late.
There continues to be a need for good inking, but it is in small areas where a self-ink line is used or where some interesting effect is desired. The long hours of endless copying have given way to special work that requires the same skills, but now the inkers can concentrate on just the things that will make the picture look its best while costing the least. With a giant machine to take over the dull parts of their jobs, they now can devote their time to the projects that a machine cannot do.
From time to time, the key creative personnel felt that some of the Ink and Paint artists who had done superb work should get screen credit for their efforts. It would be impossible to mention everyone, of course, but a few. with unusual talents, or that extra bit of dedication, should be recognized. This never occurred for several reasons. First of all. in the early years, no one got screen credit. Walt had known that the audience would respond better to one name—one product that easily could be remembered—than to a long list of unrecognized names. Still, he was appreciative of creative effort and felt the person who did an outstanding job should be given credit for it.
On the comic strip he had tried to replace his own name with those of the men who actually were doing the continuity and the drawings, but he was told by the syndicate that such a change would kill the strip. The public knew Walt Disney and that was the name they wanted to see on the drawings, regardless of who made them. When he embarked on the feature films, however, there was a precedent already set from the live action films that justified the naming of his key people. But by that time, there were over 600 members of his staff putting in long hours, working with complete dedication to the studio and devotion to the films. Most of them were unconcerned about screen credit, preferring to be known as just part of the team.
Still, it was impossible to list even half the number of people who really had struggled to make each film an outstanding experience for the theatergoer.'' Assistants, inbetweeners, cutters, sound men. cameramen, and. especially, the "girls" in Ink and Paint had to be left out. even though the films could never have been made without their sustained efforts. Some people claimed that this work was only a craft and not at all comparable to the creative thinking done by the "men in the main building," but we relied heavily on their skills and their ideas, and they never let us down. We loved those girls. Still do!
Jim Macdonald makes the sound for Evinrude in The Rescuers.
Jim Macdonald makes the sound for Evinrude in The Rescuers.
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