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Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Books and News

We have come to the end of reading week, an interesting Sheridan custom of allowing students a break from classes at mid-semester. So Week Eight of classes is actually in Week Nine (at least that is the way I reckon things to keep my class plans straight.) Faculty continue to work during the break of course; I spent the week working on new presentations and attended two faculty meetings. I do lectures in three different classes in the coming weeks, and have been determining what to do and where.
The power boats are now out of the harbour, sitting on the bank for all the world like a child's toys newly removed from the bath. A huge crane with bands like the ones they use to lift horses, got the boats there. I hope to get a picture.
The sailboats are often winterized in Bronte harbour, but some are still here in the water. It remains to be seen how many will winter in the club's parking lot. I saw the huge crane nearby so the decision must be taken soon.
I've gotten a fitness assessment at the club and will be exercising there this winter to try to keep some sort of activity going when there is no chance of riding a bike or walking around--the bad weather is just around the corner. There was snow a bit to the north of us and I even saw some flurries on campus.
Winter preps are nearly done; I've got the right coat, hat and hopefully boots for the year and all the summer clothing has been mothballed, and winter clothes taken out.
Two interesting books have arrived: THE ALCHEMY OF ANIMATION: Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age by Don Hahn and DIRECTING THE STORY by Francis Glebas.
Don Hahn's book is a very reasonably priced, easy-to-read guide to how feature animation is produced. It's beautifully illustrated too. Hahn explains the differences between the production of stopmotion, hand drawn, and CGI feature films with succinct and well written text and illustrates it with preproduction artwork that in many cases has not been published before. The layout is generally good (some pictures might have been larger but all are clear and printing quality is high.) This book is highly recommended for students considering animation studies who might want to know more about the different techniques.
Here's a heads-up: I helped get Francis Glebas' DIRECTING THE STORY published and worked as a copy editor on the text. So I'm pleased to see such a handsome book resulting; but I haven't had time to read the finished version as of this writing.But, as Boss Tweed said, I can look at the pictures.
And guess what? They are all rough boards! Yes, that's the way story artists do it--and DIRECTING THE STORY will be an eye opener to people who try to do presentation boards on the first pass. Glebas' illustrations are rough, but they tell the story--and since boards are reworked, and reworked, and changed again and makes sense to keep it rough until the story is straight.
Francis has mucho story experience on a raft of Disney features and has directed one feature for Disney and a sequence from another, so he knows what he is talking about. This book is best suited for a more advanced student (and it probably helps to read my book first, since the two volumes complement each other. End of commercial plug.)
For it makes no difference if you work in CGI, stop mo, or hand drawn animation...the storyboard is always the starting point. If you do not have the story set when you start animation production, the picture can flounder, run over budget, and join all the animated feature shipwrecks that have struck the reefs of poor planning.
Check out the chart on Page 38 of THE ALCHEMY OF ANIMATION to see how long storyboard changes go on (hint: they run from the near-beginning to the near-end of the picture, longer than any other department's input)
Also received: Volume 6 of the Looney Tunes GOLDEN COLLECTION. This one is more for collectors than the casual animation fan (who else but an animation collector would know, or care, about BOSKO and FOXY, the original Warner Brothers animated 'stars'?)
The Warner shorts were the birth of the music video, since they were created solely to plug music that played in the feature films that these shorts originally preceded. SHUFFLE OFF TO BUFFALO, SMILE DARN YA SMILE, are the titles of the music and the cartoons themselves; they consist of vignettes, characters singing the lyrics, rather than solid stories.
But collectors will have a field day. Hear the original 'trombone gobble' in YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOIN'! And I just hope they put in the 1931 cartoon that features--I kid you not--a chorus line of Donald Ducks rowing boats across a stage! Yep, I got the date right at least, and this cartoon is three years older than THE WISE LITTLE HEN. Now I just have to find out if a fellow named Freddy Spencer worked at Warners in 1931. (Ken O'Connor told me that this was the man who designed the Duck at Disney's.)
Some very rare cartoons are on this disc, including the disturbing FRESH AIREDALE. Listen to Greg Ford's commentary to find out why Chuck Jones made such a bitter cartoon.
But the biggest treat on Volume Six is the Leon Schlesinger Christmas Party, with 'sole survivor' Martha Sigall telling us who those people all are! Meet the Warner Nuts and see how they were just as crazy as their cartoons...the spirit of that long gone studio is beautifully caught in this ridiculous footage, in which management actually gets into the act satirizing themselves!
(I can't imagine that sort of thing happening now, at any studio, anywhere. Tell me if I am wrong.)
RUSSIAN RHAPSODY and HERR MEETS HARE, two wartime cartoons that at one time were relegated to the 'do not show' bin, are also included along with one of my favorites, Bob Clampett's HORTON HATCHES THE EGG and the first Tex Avery Warner cartoon, PAGE MISS GLORY. (the only period cartoon designed in the then-contemporary Art Deco style).
But I will wait in vain for the wonderful Road Runner/Coyote cartoon WILD ABOUT HURRY. It is not included here, and there will be no more compilations. But at least we have the six sets to play with. Thank you, all who made the sets available to all of us who love the Warner cartoons.
I'll have an update on the Corny Cole fundraiser sometime soon...the Creative Talent Network's fundraiser ended on Friday. Thank you to all who helped spread the news and to those who contributed to the fund. May we all be there for each other in times of trouble.

It's raining here today so the planned trip to Niagara on the Lake will keep til next week.


Bill Robinson said...

Hi Nancy, Thanks for the heads-up on the story book. I will have to check that one out. Too bad about the rain - Niagara on the Lake is a beautiful little town. Have fun there!

Nancy said...

Hey Bill,

Both books are worth a look, and there's also one called STORY coming out next month from Disney that will have a lot of period you know what your Christmas presents are going to be!
We're supposed to go to Niagara on the Lake next weekend. Rain or shine, (perhaps not if it snows.)
I hope you're well!