Note from Aimee: These are notes for Didier's interview with Glen Keane. 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/


Do not reproduce or redistribute!

Interview with Glen Keane
Walt Disney Feature Animation France, Montreuil: May 2, 1997
by Didier Ghez

Notes

(1) John Musker and Ron Clements are two of the most talented artists of the new era. Among their most prominent achievements, they are credited with writing the screenplay of The Little Mermaid and directing both Aladdin and Hercules.

(2) "Indeed, in Br'er Rabbit's terminology, Glen Keane the cartoonist was "born and bred in the briar patch." His father, Bill Keane, created and still draws the comic panel, "The Family Circus", and is a winner of the Reuben, the Oscar of Cartooning, awarded annually by the National Cartoonists' Society. In the spring of 1992, Glen received the award, presented by his father.

Keane grew up in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where his father exposed him from early childhood to the best examples of art of all kinds." (from Disney's Aladdin, The Making of an Animated Film by John Culhane; 1992; page 68)

(3) The California Institute of the Arts was founded in 1962 by Walt Disney with the merger of Chouinard Art Institute and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music to train artists in all art fields.

(4) "During the production of "Robin Hood" Disney finally began to recruit new animators. For more than two decades, the studio had been relying on a small corps of experimented artists. The Disney staff was generally acknowledged as the best in the world, and there was little impetus to search for new talent. (Disney was not the only studio that failed to recruit young animators; very few artists entered the field between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s.)

Even the death of Walt failed to shake the comfortable assumption that this skilled team would continue working indefinitely. But as members of the group began to retire and die, it became necessary to find and train new artists to replace them.

Disney hired twenty-five new artists between 1970 and 1977, including Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, Glen Keane and Don Bluth. "The Rescuers" (1977) represented the first real collaboration between the two groups of animators." (from The History of Animation, Enchanted Drawings by Charles Solomon; 1989; page 268)

(5) Don Bluth and John Pomeroy left the Walt Disney Studio in 1979 with about a dozen colleagues to create their own studio that produced among other things The Secret of Nimh and an American Tale. In the early '90s, John Pomeroy rejoined Disney.

To quote The History of Animation by Charles Solomon: " Bluth had been an assistant animator on "Sleeping Beauty" for two years during the mid-'50s. He left the studio to pursue other interests, then returned in 1971. After working on "The Rescuers", he served as director of animation on "Pete's Dragon" (1977) [...]. He also produced and directed the saccharine Christmas featurette "The Small One" (1978).

In September 1979, Bluth resigned from Disney; Goldman and Pomeroy went with him to found their own studio. Fourteen other animators and assistants - a substantial portion of the new Disney artists - also left to join the nascent studio. The split reflected the divisions within the animation department, and the parting was not without recrimination on both sides. Bluth compared the situation to the gentlemanly rivalry that might exist between two baseball teams. In fact, it was more personal and more bitter." (from The History of Animation, Enchanted Drawings by Charles Solomon; 1989; page 269)

(6) Andy Gaskill joined Disney in 1973, worked on The Rescuers, The Fox and The Hound and Pete’s Dragon. He then left the company and rejoined it in 1992, when he became art director for The Lion King and then Hercules.

(7) "Lasseter constructed a model of Max's bedroom and the adjoining hall in the computer's memory. After the artists calculated the rates of movements for Max and his dog, the computer produced simple models, showing where the characters would be in each frame. Keane animated the characters, using the computer printouts as guides. When his drawings were entered into the computer and colored, the characters were placed in the computer-generated environment.

In the resulting footage, the camera seemed to follow Max as he chased the hapless dog around the bedroom and through the hall, jumped over the banister and pursued his pet down the stairs. Keane's animation captured the personalities of the characters, and made them seem alive. The computer made it possible to use the complex tracking shot, which would be virtually impossible to do in convetional animation, as it would be too difficult to draw everything in perspective. This experiment helped lead to the use of a computer-generated environment for the climax of The Great Mouse Detective." (from The History of Animation, Enchanted Drawings by Charles Solomon; 1989; page 295)

(8) "In 1983 [Keane] animated an experimental film based on Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, which combined hand-drawn animation with computer generated backgrounds and camera movemants for the first time. Then he left the studio. "I worked at home, just freelance, but I was no longer an employee of Disney." he said.

Keane's freelance credits during this time included numerous remunerative animated television commercials, but his heart was in the fifteen-book series of Christian allegories which he continues to write and illustrate.

He came back to Disney to do The Little Mermaid." (from Disney's Aladdin, The Making of an Animated Film by John Culhane; 1992; page 69)

(9) Three of the Nine Old Men.

(10) Eric Larson, one of the Nine Old Men, was instrumental in setting up the training program that started in the early '70s to teach to those artists that would replace the "old school" (composed of Walt's Men).

(11) "The scene with the bear is the most dramatic moment of the film, and is powerfully rendered by Glen Keane. While the other animators used live-action footage and ball-and-socket models in order to help them capture the motions of the various animals in the movie, Keane went as far as to have a scale model of the bear's skeleton standing by his easel! His attention to detail was worth it." (from Encyclopędia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters, From Mickey Mouse to Aladdin by John Grant; 1993; page 302)

(12) "I always have my sketchbook with me, and wherever I go, I draw. I may not remember what they wore - but I remember something about a person that my wife, Linda, will never remember. Linda will remember what the lady wore, what her shoes were, what color eyes she had - but I'll remember what her body attitude was, the tilt of her head - I'll remember her air of security, of confidence, of insecurity, of fear, or nervousness. Those things I notice.

I watch people in the mall when Linda's shopping, or at airports while we're waiting. There are times when I can sit in the backseat of a car and sketch.

I think I've really learned from Hirschfeld. He said he'd draw little sketches and then write words next to those drawings - you know like "chicken fricasse" for somebody's flabby arm, or spaghetti" next to the hair. Then, months later, he can do a drawing based on that little sketch and the words that bring him back to the impression that this image gave him at the time." (Glen Keane in Disney's Aladdin, The Making of an Animated Film by John Culhane; 1992; page 66)

(13) "Keane assisted Johnston in animating the little orphan girl [in The Rescuers], Penny, as Johnston had long before assisted Freddy Moore in animating the Dwarf Dopey.

Keane learned fast and moved up fast. After animating on Pete's Dragon, a combination of animation and live action starring Mickey Rooney, he became a supervising animator himself on The Fox and The Hound. Keane's animation of the climatic fight in which the fox saves the hound from a grizzly bear was widely regarded as the most memorable animation anyone in the new generation at Disney had yet produced. When New York City's Whitney Museum of American Art held its milestone retrospective "Disney Animation and Animators" in 1981, the sequence was shown continuously on a small screen in one of the galleries." (from Disney's Aladdin, The Making of an Animated Film by John Culhane; 1992; page 68)

(14) "A lot of times, the scenes that are the most difficult to do are the ones where there's the least amount of action, where the internal struggles are going on, and where the animator has to animate from the heart. The people who animate from the heart can usually do the broad as well as the subtle. They can usually do anything.

The danger for an animator is the trap of your animation becoming an intellectual exercise of just moving drawings across the screen. You become a puppeteer, moving marionettes with strings. The effect for the audience is that somebody's controlling the character on the screen.

But with the guy who animates from the heart, it's him up there. It's not a puppet; it's him. He's up on the screen, and he's alive and it sparks." (Glen Keane in Disney's Aladdin, The Making of an Animated Film by John Culhane; 1992; page 72)

(15) "If you can time the way they move in one scene, every other scene can relate to that, even if the movements are much different. [...] For example, how does Aladdin run around a corner? What is the timing when he turns his head? What is the attitude of his shoulders? Is his chest pushed out far enough? If you get the right flavour to that scene, you can have that for a comparison in all the other scenes." (Glen Keane in Disney's Aladdin, The Making of an Animated Film by John Culhane; 1992; page 72)

(16) ""It was a weird time at Disney, and some things slipped through the cracks", Burton notes [...]. Burton admits that "it was nice for a couple of years to just sit in a room and draw whatever you wanted." It gave him a chance to explore and play with some ideas. But, he adds, "After a period of time, it felt like I was locked in the room." (from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas by Frank Thompson; 1993; page 169)

Interview with Glen Keane