Note from Aimee: This is an interview with Glen Keane by Didier Ghez! The article is used with Didier's permission (thanks Didier!). Be sure and check out more history-orientated Disney info on his site: http://www.pizarro.net/didier/
Interview with Glen Keane
When he started his career at The Walt Disney Studios in 1974, Glen Keane probably had no idea that he would someday be considered among the best artists the Studio ever had. A leading force of the "new generation", he is one of the few people who can be credited as being at the origin of the animation Renaissance.
The "mind-blowing" Bear fight scene in The Fox and the Hound is his. Ratigan, Sykes, Fagin, Ariel, Marahute, the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas and Tarzan would be totally different without his mastery.
But Glen also worked on some less known but crucial projects like The Wild Things, a computer animated experience that he initiated with John Lasseter in the early '80s, more than 15 years before Toy Story and that was at the origin of the current animation revolutions.
Glen decided 2 years ago to settle in France for what was to be a one year sabbatical. His leave from Burbank has become longer than expected as he started working on Tarzan in Montreuil six months ago.
The occasion to meet one of the current leaving legends of the Studio was too good to miss.
DG: Have you been working on your own project during this sabbatical;, as it has been rumoured ?
GK: No. I did this sculpture over there (Glen points toward a beautiful woman statue), but actually I found out that my project was... trying to rest (laughter).
I wrote down a lot of ideas for my project but I never started working on anything resembling a deadline.
DG: Can you tell us more about that project ?
GK: I have not completely focused on really what I want to do, except that it would be involving much more of a figurative approach to drawing.
I would like to do it probably in a style with charcoal and possibly using the computer too to keep the hand-drawn look, instead of using the computer to make it look like nobody touched it. I would like to use the computer to duplicate the effect of smudging with your thumb, similar to the scene in Pocahontas where she is being formed by the wind. I animated that scene in charcoal, then we put colour into it. It had a very ethereal tactile feel to it that I would like to keep. I would like to try and do a film that way, a short piece.
DG: So it's more the technique that you would use than the subject itself that interests you ?
GK: Oh no. The subject of my personal project is very important, that's why I have not done it. It is to animate to the 9th symphony of Beethoven. I have been wanting to animate to Beethoven's 9th since I heard it. But it's such an incredibly amazing piece of music that I think I am intimidated by it.
So, I just want to make sure that I am ready to dive into it. The problem for me too is that I was going to do this personal film instead of doing Beauty and the Beast, but Beauty and the Beast came along and it was just too tempting to do that, so I did it. Then I was supposed to do this film and Aladdin came along and I could not resist working with Ron [Clements] and John [Musker] (1) and doing it.
Then I said: "Now I am going to do it". But Mike Gabriel came along suggesting Pocahontas and it seemed such an interesting character for me to explore and I loved the idea of that subtle animation. So I said: "OK, I'll do that!" But after I'll take a year of to do my film.
And then I arrived in Paris and it was like: "Wow! Life is so different! I don't have time to do a personal film! It's just enough to be here with my family, to help them adjust. It's so different than the Californian way of life." So I thought: "Well maybe after my sabbatical I will have time to do that."
Then Tarzan was presented and it just felt like this is what you are born to do. So now I am doing Tarzan. I am afraid that when Tarzan is done there will be an other movie coming along that I will feel that I was born to do. Some of these days it will be the right time. I do not know when.
DG: Why do you want to achieve that project ?
GK: It is just something that I have to do. There is something inside of me that has to come out, that will someday happen.
It's like me being here in France. People keep saying: "Why are you going to Paris, why are you doing that ?" I don't know. I just feel as if that's where I need to be. When I stated studying French, I did not have any plans of being here at the Disney Studio. Way back when I started coming to Paris for a year off, it was before Disney had the Studio here, it was to really get away from Disney. Then when I got here, there was a Disney here. Things just all worked out.
I look at my life and I see that there was God's design working things out. So I trust that it's going to all fit together here one of these days.
DG: Before we talk about the future, let's talk a bit about the past and what you did before entering Disney.
GK: I don't even know if there was anything before (laughter)!
I started when I was twenty at the Studio. Before that I was raised in a family where dad is a cartoonist (2). I'd always wanted to draw ever since I remember. I grew up in Arizona, out in the desert. There are five kids in the family. Living in the desert, you tend to have plenty of time on your hands and I would spend a lot of time drawing and making stories and doing different things for my brothers. I was always drawing. But then I also fell in love with football - American football. By the time I was eighteen I had a choice to go play football for University or to go to an art school. That was a tough choice for me, because I really enjoyed playing football. That was something that made me feel like I was accomplishing something.
Art was a much quieter voice calling me, but it was a lot deeper.
I felt that football was something I would love to do, my art was something that I couldn't not do. So I sent my portfolio to CalArts (3) to get in the school of painting. I had never heard of animation. My portfolio was paintings and I wanted to be a fine artist. I wanted to be an artist. Even now, I think that the biggest compliment you can give somebody is to call him an artist. When I sent my portfolio, it arrived by accident to the school of animation and I was accepted into the school of film graphics which was a fancy way of saying animation or cartoons.
When I got there I discovered that animation was a combination of all the arts together and it just felt so natural. I loved the idea of drawing things that would move.
DG: :And then you entered Disney.
GK: Yes. It was at a time where animation was really kind of limping along. There was some really lousy stuff being done on TV. As a matter of fact, after my first year I had heard that Disney was a completely closed door.
There was very little communication between Disney and CalArts at that time. Disney had pretty much written off CalArts, as a place that was not turning out artists who had the classical training that they needed. And I had thought: "Oh great! I will be at CalArts and then I'll enter Disney!" And then I heard that no, they were not interested.
So I went over to a place called Filmation where they had done Fat Albert and really limited animation, Saturday morning stuff. I worked there for three months. I just struggled, really struggled. I was 19.
You would go in and there was this test where you would draw Fat Albert. I saw the model sheet and I did these drawings and the guy who was the head of the Studio said: "Oh! These are great! Wow!" He took me around, introduced me to everybody, praised me as if I was going to be some fantastic addition to the studio.
It was fine as long as I could have a free hand to draw this character. But then I realised that that was not what my job was. It was to do walk cycles or do planes and very limited, restricted kind of movements and... I was lost. I did not know what I was doing. After the third month the head of the studio said: "You know Glen, you draw like a three year old and if you were not going back to school I would fire you!"
So I left and went back to school. I was really wondering "What am I doing?" This guy's words were ringing in my ears and I wondered if he was right. I saw other people that seemed to know much more about animation than I did and I was really intimidated by all the other students at CalArts. You just really wonder about yourself, about where you are going to land and question your own abilities.
Then, there was one day at CalArts, when a group from Disney came up (4). It was the young guys: Don Bluth, John Pomeroy (5), Andy Gaskill (6) and I think even Ron Clements who had just started at that time. They showed rough animation tests. It was the first time I had ever seen real rough animation. I had only seen limited finished stuff. When I saw how loose it was...! It was like "gribouillis". That was the way they drew: scribbles and fun and life. I thought: "That's exactly how I draw! I know I can do this!"
As soon as June came I started working on my portfolio, submitted it to Disney and fortunately I was accepted and started training there. That was in September 1974.
DG: There is one project that always intrigued me, which is the one you started with John Lasseter (director of Toy Story), called The Wild Things. Can you tell us more about that project ?
GK: John and I had just seen the film Tron. We were working on Mickey's Xmas Carol at the time. John had just become an animator there. We both came back from the theatre right across the street really questioning what we were doing with animation. I remembered coming back to my office and being kind of depressed. I felt like they were doing what was really exciting and we were doing dumb, flat drawings. There the computer was moving in three dimensions, you could go in the world, it was all so real and motorcycles were moving around and it was just... wow! It was eye-candy!
John and I talked the same way. We were saying: "I just wished we could do something where the background was giving us the opportunity to bring the cartoon character into that world. That would really be cool." So we started thinking about an idea for doing that.
John had read this story Brave Little Toaster. He showed me this book and he said: "Wouldn't this be a great project to do for an animated film all using computer?" I said: "Wow! This is really cool! Maybe we can do the backgrounds and then we can animate the characters and solid kind of shapes..."
We figured we better do a test first and we came up with this idea of Where the Wild Things Are. We both liked that story by Maurice Sendak.
We did a little test where the kid Max is drawing his name on the wall and the dog is watching him. Actually the dog is under the bed and when Max finishes drawing on the wall, the camera follows him as he looks under the bed at this little dog upside down.
The dog raises towards the camera, looks at you. The camera lifts up as the dog runs down the hall and he runs after the dog and there is this chase of the little boy and the dog down this staircase. We were just willing to try and explore how we would do all this and to try and colour it, to try and put shading, so that it would look like these characters were fitting into this world. Nobody had ever done that before. That was the first time computer backgrounds had been combined with animation.
And we went to that company in New York who had worked on Tron and it worked. It was just a nice little short piece, a wonderful film (7). After that we started to develop Brave Little Toaster and John really went on to work much more in depth on that and I started to work on Great Mouse Detective. That was the first time when we actually brought the computer into our film, at the end in the big chase up in Big Ben.
John, meanwhile went on and left Disney. By that point, his interests went completely into computers and he ran off in that direction. Disney at that time was also really struggling financially and Brave Little Toaster became a project that was sacrificed. There were a lot of political problems at the time. I am not going to go into all of that.
So John left to develop computer animation and I kept focusing more and more on hand drawn animation. I guess it was at a time when I had explored enough with the computer to know where my heart was. It was in drawing. I loved the feel of the graphite on the paper (8).
For John, drawing was always a frustrating thing. It was a necessary evil. For me it's the greatest joy. Animation is never as good as when I am sitting at that desk drawing. That's the best. Even when it's up on the screen, it's never as wonderful as the moments when it was drawn, to me.
DG: How was The Wild Things received by the Studio ?
GK: We showed it to the Studio executives and everybody and they were all very excited. They thought it was really cool and interesting. But animation was at such a point there, and there was not much of foresight in management at the time to see how to implement it at Disney.
Today, with a whole different spirit in animation, here, a test of that magnitude and a discovery like that would just be eaten up and incorporated into a film. In that days, it took a lot longer. Still, it was the beginning of it. The clockwork stuff was beginning to develop in The Great Mouse Detective and on from there. It planted the seed. It took a while to get it going.
DG: Was there anything from The Little Toaster that was actually animated or did the project stop with concept art?
GK: I think I did a little test of the toaster hopping around. I did some design on that and then we did a lot of story board work on it. I did not do any of the story board work: Joe Grant and John did. But then, that was it, at Disney. Jerry Rees actually ended up doing Brave Little Toaster in Japan but not with computer animation. It would still be a good project for a computer animated movie someday.
DG: When you arrived at the Studio in the mid-'70s you worked with a lot of the old timers, from Frank and Ollie to Wollie Reitherman (9). Can you tell us about your work with them?
GK: They had a lot of energy. That was my first feeling. They loved what they did. It was not simply a thing that they had learned how to do and that they were blasé about. They had passion for it. And you could not help but be caught up in that when you were talked to by Eric [Larson] (10) who had this ability to believe in the character and to communicate that constantly. He was always telling me: "Glen, you have to animate with sincerity." OK. What is it? How do you animate with sincerity? What does that mean? You push harder on your pencil or what?
My first scene that I got then, on Rescuers, was this little tiny scene of Bernard, where Bernard is just a speck in the scene and he is sweeping the floor.
But I wanted to make it a great moment. I was struggling with the mechanics of how do you draw a sweeping action. Bernard's hands on the broom and pushing the broom. I was struggling with it during a whole week and a half and then I finally went to Eric and said: "Eric, can you show me how to do this?" I figured that he would show me some technical secrets, some principles or formula of animation on how to move a broom convincingly.
And he said: "OK. What kind of guy do you think Bernard is?" I said: "I don't know what you mean." "He thinks he must do a good job, don't you think?" I said: "Yes, yes..." "He puts his whole heart in everything he does doesn't he?" "Yeah, I guess so..." "That's the kind of a guy he is, he really loves his job..." and he started talking about Bernard and you could see this light in his eyes.
This is a speck, no one will see in the film, but he got caught up into the character Bernard and he became this little guy. I could just see what he was talking about: sincerity. He believed in the character. He did not tell me any secrets about drawing or animating, but he showed me how to feel.
So I came back to my desk and the scene just popped out. It was easy. It seemed to me that this was always the point that I had to get to when I was struggling: to believe in the characters and to make them really personal for me. Every character I am working on, that's the first step: find something that you can almost touch about that character. I mean, sometimes it is a really physical thing: I have to actually go and... Like with Pocahontas, when I went to Virginia and stood on the ground where she was. When I was doing the Beast, it was going to the zoo to draw gorillas and buffaloes and really feeling all of that (11).
With Tarzan , I went to Uganda and studied the mountain gorillas, hacking my way through the jungle with machetes. And there was this family of thirteen gorillas closer to me than me to you. I was next to them. You can animate with conviction once you felt that.
For Little Mermaid, it was thinking of my wife as I was drawing her. It was just a natural thing to draw Linda. So, when I was drawing Ariel, I was actually drawing somebody I already knew.
So you caught this sense from those guys, when you walked down the hall and saw them. From the way they talked, you understood that this was not a job, it was a passion and it was contagious.
DG: Who was your biggest influence at the time within Disney?
First it was Eric. Eric will always be the one that opened up the door for animation to me. His patience and constant encouragement! He explained things so simply, he was always available.
He was in the room next to us: myself, Ron Clements, Andy Gaskill and several other guys. We were all sitting in a room together and Eric was in the room next to us. Any time I needed help I could just go in and show him my scenes, he would correct them and we had a mentor/menti relationship.
Then Ollie was the one that really started to show me how to take the things that Eric had been teaching and apply them to a film, put them into a production situation where you got to convince the director of it, you have to animate towards a very given goal. You have one idea to get across the scene and say it clearly. Eric taught me a lot of things about doing some things from my heart and Ollie really had me focused on communicating ideas simply and clearly in the context of a film.
DG: And outside Disney, whose art, most influenced yours?
GK: It's constantly changing, because I am constantly changing myself. Right now, there is a French comic artist, Janry, who does Spirou, I've got every book of his stuff and I just look at his work and I think about what he is doing. He draws with a sense of fun and anatomy and there is this solidity, this tri-dimensional feeling that he has got in his drawings... But it's mainly the fun.
I want Tarzan to have that fun. So last night I went to bed and before going to bed I looked at a book of Spirou and Fantasio and was thinking of Janry's hand and all the drawing he does. Right now, he is a big influence for me.
In terms of a classical artist, though, there is a guy named Augustus John, an English artist, who has such a sense of dimension and sensitivity in the way he puts the lines down. I just love it.
I have always loved animation, but I've never felt like this is really what I am supposed to be doing. My portfolio was sent to the wrong place and I have always animated, but I also always wanted to do something that allows you to express yourself very personally.
I always figure out to make all the characters I animate a real personal artistic expression, because I always wished that my portfolio hadn't been sent out to animation and that I had become a fine artist.
But maybe, in these days, animation is the only place where someone who loves the classical arts can really express himself. I am becoming more and more convinced that that's true.
But I would love to see us do a thing that wouldn't be necessarily just for entertainment, to really explore and say something that has a lot of passion to it and not necessarily designed to sell products. Not that we do that. We do not design our films to sell our products, but it is never going to get the green light, if it is not going to be a commercial success.
There are things that I would like to say in my work and someday, I plan to do that.
DG: Do you have other "side-projects" like this film or that sculpture here that you undertake in your free time?
GK: There are those little sketchbooks that I always keep of my family. Wherever I go I am constantly just drawing people. I guess that's what my side-project would be: always to keep my sketchbooks alive. I would like to do a book of drawings that would have nothing to do with Disney, about my personal artwork (12). The biggest part of my time, when I am not at the Studio is really spent with my wife and kids. Raising an 18 year old daughter and a 16 year old son takes absolutely every bit of creative energy that I can muster and more. When I am home, work is definitely second place.
Someday, I might have some more time. Keeping a good marriage is number one. That's the source for my work too. Having a wife, outside of Disney animation. Because if I don't have that, it is hard for me to draw upon. It's amazing how many things I draw from my family.
When I was searching to see how Tarzan would move, I noticed what my son was watching. He is really in all these skateboarding and snowboarding and extreme sport videos. Max is jumping and doing those wild things on the skateboard. And I say to myself: "He is going to kill himself. Why would people want to do that?"
So I started thinking of Tarzan as this kind of person. What if, instead of jumping on vines, he was a kind of surfer, surfing on the branches. This idea of him as a surfing guy, a surfer in the trees came and started animating him as if he was a snowboarder and he was sliding down the branches. It really opened it up.
And at one point I animated this part where Tarzan grabs this vine with his feet. He uses his feet like hands. I was sitting at home, my wife was sitting on a couch. I was massaging her feet and she says: "So what have you animated today?" and I said: "Well, the scene where Tarzan is grabbing this vine with his toes, but I don't know, maybe I am pushing the idea too far. People are not going to believe that." And then I looked down at her feet and said: "Wait a second! You've got Tarzan's feet. You could shake somebody's hand with these toes." So I grabbed the camera and started taking some pictures of her feet. Here are some on the wall here. And I made her move her feet, so that I could get different angles.
There is so much that I have been able to draw from life outside Disney here. I guess that was what those guys were teaching us too: that you've got to find you expression in the world around you and you are not going to find it in the Morgue of the old things done by Disney. You find a lot about drawing techniques and formula for doing things, but I really try to break away from formula things.
One would break animation into those formulas so easily, and students learn those formulas and they forget that somebody once observed something. Everything that works is based on real life. It's not because Frank and Ollie's book says it.
If you learn it because you have observed it, you can animate with conviction and it's a spark of life in your drawings. If you animated it because you had studied it and took a formulaic principle and put it in there, it's hollow. Like the difference between Mozart playing his piece and somebody who would have programmed it into a computer.
DG: How did your goals evolve since you entered Disney. What were they at the time? What are they now ?
GK: Back then, when I started, my goal was... not to get fired (laughter) for doing lousy drawings. The next was to draw exactly like Ollie so that he couldn't tell the difference between my in-betweens and his extremes. And once I started to do that, I got really used to his style, then I was beginning to get enough confidence to think that maybe I could animate.
My goal then was to become an animator. If I could just become an animator, I thought I would be happy for the rest of my life. I mean a Disney animator. After two years at Disney I became an animator on The Rescuers. That was just like... wow! ... what an incredible thing!
Then, my idea was to become what today you would call a directing animator (we referred to it as supervising animator at the time). I did not ever think that I would become like them. My position just grew in a very natural kind of way.
We were on The Fox and the Hound and I had some sequences to animate and I wanted to convince the director that this was the way to do it. The way I saw Frank and Ollie do it was to thumb nail up this whole sequence. So I did that, suggested it. He liked it and said "that's good". Gee, I've got way more than I could animate.
I'd seen those new guys from CalArt that had just come in: Chris Buck, Henry Selick [director of Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach], John Lasseter, Tim Burton, John Musker. I said: "Hey, why don't you go ahead and animate some of these scenes and get this thing done." So I started giving those other guys - they were not yet animators, only in-betweeners - scenes to animate. I never checked this with management or anything. I just started giving them scenes to animate. I did not know there was a protocol.
Then management called me in and said: "What are you trying to do? Are you trying to build your own kingdom or something?" I said: "I don't know, I am just doing what Frank and Ollie taught me to do. You know: find out what you have to get done. You give some to other people and it just sort of happened very naturally." (13) And those guys did great work and they could not deny the fact that the film was looking better. So they left them as animators.
Pretty soon Don Bluth left the studio and we were down to a very very small core group of us and more responsibility was thrown on our shoulders.
So, anyway, the idea of wanting to become a supervising animator was a very natural thing and happened very naturally.
As I said, what I had always wanted to do was to become an artist as well. The world in general does not give to animation the credit that a serious artist would get.
Andreas Deja went to the Musée d'Orsay here one day and went to the entrance where you get a discount if you are an artist. He went there and showed them his Disney ID. And they laughed like: "Who do you think you are? This is for artists. you work in cartoon, you know." That really is hard, when you consider that people here in animation have studied anatomy and went to the same path that Michael Angelo and Leonardo Da Vinci followed. I mean in terms of observation and study and the disciplines of art. So much greater in fact for animation. People don't really see that.
So my aspiration, what I would still like to do is to create something in animation that would say to other people that this has as much credibility as any other art form possible in the world.
DG: What is your favourite scene? The one you animated best in your whole career?
GK: Probably the moment when Beast transforms, because that was so much an expression of my own art and what I felt spiritually is important in my life: a transformation from the inside out and by animating that, I really felt that I was expressing everything about myself.
DG: Did you feel like you were transforming at the time?
GK: Yes and I still feel that. I think that my goal in life is to become the person that I was created to become. It's not something that just happens in an instant. But it's frustrating. You want to see yourself be that person.
Then there was the Mermaid scene where she is singing. But probably also the moment where Pocahontas is first seen by John Smith and she is looking at him and her hair is blowing. It was just that the girl in the scene was difficult and I think that it succeeded in what it had to do. To say that this girl... there was a depth to her... something incredibly intriguing about her, but you could not move her (14).
I've always been telling people that animation is not about moving drawings, it's about drawings that move people. In that scene, the movement of her head is just so incredibly delicate and tiny. She just drops her head slightly and the head and the movement of her hair is describing her spirit. There were just these very very difficult things to put across and it worked. I was just so happy with what happened.
DG: Today, with Tarzan what are you trying to achieve?
GK: A couple of different things.
One is that I want Tarzan to be like Edgar Rice Burroughs imagined him. The way he imagined him in his mind is unlike anything you have ever seen.
As a baby he learned to move as a gorilla, to move like a panther. All of his muscles have grown in a special way. He is more flexible than any human being that ever lived. And he also got no fear. How is he going to move, to act, what are going to be his gestures? He is not going to point. We can't do gestures like that. You really have to go back and rethink everything about why he does what he does. If we can communicate a whole new character like that, I mean... that's my goal right now (15). The other part is just being here in Montreuil with the artists.
I was talking to them today about Frank and Ollie. Because I have invited Frank and Ollie to come here as they have never been here. The studio is like children that they have never met. All of these animators know their work so well and they need to shake their hands and have some contact with them. In some sense I am trying to do that in a way here. Maybe it is just to say: "You guys are incredible here!" The level of the animators - the artists - here is second to none. They have every right to go on and animate their own feature. Everything that they need in terms of skills is here.
An other goal is to help the studio here become a full fledged animation studio.
Because the talent is here and I am just awed by the fact of working with people as talented. And I thought that to learn French would be nice too at the same time.
DG: You worked with Tim Burton. How was work with him?
Tim was an incredibly creative guy. He had sketchbooks like this one, except that his drawings were very bizarre, weird people and... Oh gosh, they were just the funniest strangest things: people he would see in the street, big fat fat fat people, skinny skinny people. Everything was sort of dark and twisted.
He was working with me on The Fox and the Hound, animating Vixey, this little female fox and he was having a nightmare trying to animate this character. He was struggling. He was not meant to do Disney character animation. So he was constantly depressed.
Chris Buck was in a room next to me. Tim and Chris were good friends. I would come in and open up the closet - it was just like a little wardrobe, big enough to hang up your coat - and Tim would be standing there. He would just stare at me and I would shut the door. I would come back to my office and work, come back later, open the door to check and: "Yes. Tim's still there!", shut the door do some more work, come back in and Tim would be sitting up on Chris' desk, facing Chris, just staring at him, just staring for hours. I would come back and Tim would still be there. It was absolutely crazy (16).
He is an inspiring guy. His ideas were just the most refreshing, wonderful things. He drew ideas for Black Cauldron that were so far beyond the director to use. The film would have been an amazing film had Tim's ideas been given a chance but he ended up being kicked out of the film as were myself and also Ron Clements and John Musker.
DG: So you originally worked on The Black Cauldron?
GK: Yes, we were developing character designs and different things. We were trying to push it, to make it go and explore horizons that Disney was not willing to stretch to yet. Tim was a very frustrated guy at that point.
DG: Can you tell me about this work on The Black Cauldron that you did?
GK: John Musker was working on a sequence which was in the witches house. He was designing it so that all the backgrounds were optical illusions like M.C. Escher.
Now, Tim was doing these character designs, a lot like Nightmare Before Christmas type characters. At what point he designed the gwythaints. The gwythaints were like pterodactyls, which is what they look like in the film now, pterodactyls. But Tim designed them so that their heads were really hands and he put their eye right there between the thumb and the forefinger. So they looked like, you know, when you make little silhouette figures on the wall. These things would come flying at you, but then could also grab and they had a snake-like tail and wings. Wild, great ideas!
The Horned King was more of a psychotic, schizoid guy. You heard his two different personalities by puppets. He would have these two different puppets and he was a ventriloquist. One puppet would say... like if he was considering killing somebody, one puppet that was like a psycho clown would say (loud, crazy voice): "Get him! Get him! Yes! Yes! Get his head off! Get his head off!" and the other head puppet would go (soft, squeaking voice): "No! No! let him live! let him live!". The Horned King was just a completely twisted, bizarre character. Now, he is just what we call the Evil Bonehead (laughter).
DG: What were the scenes that you worked on?
GK: I was doing some animation of fairies. I designed a lot of different characters on the thing. I did some animation of Gurgi, Eilonwy and did some experimental animation on them. This is a scene of Eilonwy, where she is picking things out of Gurgi's hair. She is talking.
I loved the voice of this character. I came upon a whole different kind of design on her, but the director did not want something that was so cartoony. Everything I did was being thrown out. They just did not like anything I was doing. Eventually the directors asked me if I would just leave the film and go do something different.
So I did Mickey's Xmas Carol. I worked on the Giant. Ron [Clements] And John [Musker] were also being kicked out of the film and they went to work on The Great Mouse Detective.
DG: What is the animation you admire most?
GK: To me it's: The Man Who Planted Trees by Frederic Back. He is doing what I want to do. He is saying something personal, because he believes it and his drawing is a passion for him. You look at his work and it's a moving impressionist painting with the light dappling across characters.
This is what I want to do. I would like to be him. The only thing is: he works by himself and I have not quite figured out how can you be that. How can you still enjoy this incredible relationship you have with all these artists - it's like a family, it's a great inspiration to be here with other animators - how can you still do that and then go off and do something on your own. That's probably why I have never done my personal film. You can't replace other people. That's the most exciting thing of animation. It's a group effort. You do some things bigger than anyone could do by themselves.
DG: You should create your own studio.
GK: Why should I create my own studio when I have got all these great people here? I would not do that at least for the next several years anyway.
DG: Thank you Glen.
Notes about Glen Keane interview