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Alladin's Genie's book of tricks
Eric Goldberg was turned down by Disney when he first tried to get there. Years later he was called to the studios. And he went about creating such classics as Alladin and Pocahontas. In this interview with ANIMATION REPORTER's Nikita Banerjee, Goldberg speaks about his book that distills his experiences of over 30 years in the business, his top 24 animation films and his tips for those wanting to be animators
You belong to a tradition of Disney artists who have written about the art of animation. However, you are not a life-long Disney hand. Is this a book on animating the Disney-way or about animation including the Disney-way? I love all types of animation, from big studio product to small independents. Of course, this includes Disney, but also includes Warner Bros., MGM, John and Faith Hubley, Pixar, Fleischer’s, UPA, and Ren and Stimpy, among many, many others. The information in the book is really my own distillation of the information I’ve gathered over the years, both from great mentors and my own personal study and experience, channeled toward the understanding of what we know as “classical” animation - primarily hand-drawn but also CG - for the purposes of creating great, entertaining characters. Could you tell us a little about your background and interest in becoming an animator? I was a 1950’s “baby boomer,” hopelessly hooked on the new medium of television, particularly the cartoons. When I was growing up, we had the first televised animation in The Mickey Mouse Club, the Disneyland program, Looney Tunes, Popeye, Betty Boop, Woody
Woodpecker, and even young upstarts like Hanna-Barbera (Huckleberry Hound and The Flintstones) and Jay Ward (Rocky and Bullwinkle). On The Woody
Woodpecker Show, Walter Lantz used to do a segment every week on the process of creating cartoons, and I was fascinated. In fact, so enamoured was I of the character, that my older brother Elliot taught me how to draw Woody (he was seven and I was four). Bob Thomas’s The Art of Animation, about the making of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was a book I checked out of the library every other
week. My first animated features were Dumbo and 101 Dalmatians, both two of my all-time favorites. When I was six, a toy came out on the market called “Flip Shows”: perforated sheets with the frames of a Huck Hound or Popeye cartoon printed on them, which you could assemble into your own flipbooks. That was it. From that point forward, no memo pad in the house was safe. While other kids were out playing baseball or going on dates, I was making flipbooks. As an author of this “text-book” on animation, what are the qualities that you believe an animator should have? 1. Patience!!! 2. A well-developed sense of observation and ability to caricature. 3. A desire and ability to entertain (and to develop a sense of what is entertaining to an audience). 4. The realization that, no matter how many years you have been a professional animator, you never stop learning. 5. Patience!!! Why have you chosen to call this book a crash course? “Crash Course” usually means a concentrated period of instruction, where the amount of information is huge, and the instruction time is very short. The book is everything I have managed to learn or invent for the last 30 years, all crammed between two covers.
also called “Crash Course” because the front cover illustration shows a cartoon cat about to crash into a pile of animation equipment. In what ways is your book different from Richard Williams’s book? Is there something different that readers can expect in terms of techniques and style? I have nothing but respect and admiration for Richard Williams and his excellent book. Dick was my mentor, as well as the man who introduced me to animation greats Ken Harris, Art Babbitt, and Tissa David, all of whom were exceedingly generous with their knowledge to a young punk like me. I think the main difference between our books is that Character Animation Crash Course!, devotes the first half to conceiving characters and making them unique personalities. While there may be some overlap in the technique section, I have also developed my own personal style over the years, and my approach to technique is often different from Dick’s (frequently useful alternate ways), and always intended to be in service of a character’s performance. It also
It is the book I wish I had when I was starting in the medium, full of common-sense techniques and animation principles (and an accompanying CD of animation movie files that demonstrate those principles, so everyone can see how they actually work). It is
animation reporter u August 2008
includes sections on attitude poses, animating to music, character design, and animating graphic characters that I have not seen covered anywhere else. Could you list three books other than you own that should be part of every animator’s bookshelf? Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams Are there things about the making of Aladdin, Pocahontas and other films that you reveal in the book? How did the Genie come about or what was the challenge in the making of Rhapsody in Blue? My experience at Walt Disney Feature Animation (now Walt Disney Animation Studios) puts me in a unique position to convey information that I have witnessed and utilized first-hand on my various projects. I liberally discuss the Genie in Aladdin, Phil in Hercules, Pocahontas, Rhapsody in Blue, and Carnival of the Animals, primarily in the context of how their characters were created and their personalities conceived, as well as the musical challenges and solutions in the Fantasia/2000 sequences.
In India, there are a lot of institutes that teach animation and software that are used in animation. In this day when computer software are a must in animation, can one move from art school to animation studio? One can certainly move from art school to studio employment, but in my experience, it is not the knowledge of computer programs that paves the way, but rather the knowledge of tried-and-true animation principles from the 2D world, which can be applied to the world of CG. This is not 2D prejudice on my part; it is a simple fact that, for most animation studios creating entertainment, character animators with the traditional skills of acting, timing, spacing, posing, lip-sync, etc., stand a much better chance of getting a job. Frankly, the reality is that computer software and hardware is constantly changing, and often studios have created their own proprietary software as well (to which a student could never have access unless employed at that studio). What does not change, however, are the principles. Are there techniques and graphic solutions that are better done in 2D than 3D? Sure. Are there new techniques and approaches being created in the world of 3D that work better in CGI because they have the benefit of form and lighting? Absolutely. I do a lot of comparing and contrasting of both in the book, but with the understanding that 80-
plus years of animation history and methods that have come before still have a lot to offer. If you had to list ten must-see films for either animators or animation buffs, which would those ten, be? 1. Dumbo (Disney) 2. Pinocchio (Disney) 3. Duck Amuck (WB) 4. Rooty Toot Toot (UPA) 5. Fantasia (Disney) 6. Red Hot Riding Hood (MGM) 7. The Band Concert (Disney) 8. The Tender Game (John and Faith Hubley) 9. The Jungle Book (Disney) 10. The Three Caballeros (Disney) 11. Toy Story (Disney/Pixar) 12. Spirited Away (Miyazaki) 13. Bambi (Disney) 14. Mouse Trouble (MGM) 15. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Disney) 16. Snow-White (Fleischer / Betty Boop) 17. Outfoxed (MGM) 18. Adventures of an * (John and Faith Hubley 19. 101 Dalmatians (Disney) 20. Canned Feud (WB) 21. Rabbit of Seville (WB) 22. Long-Haired Hare (WB) 23. Hopalong Casualty (WB) 24. The Little Whirlwind (Disney) Well, you really did not expect me to stop at ten, did you? Plus many, many more. Any three nuggets that you can share with the readers without having them purchase the book! 1. If the storytelling poses are what a character is doing, the breakdown positions are how he does it. 2. Always register consonants for at least two frames. 3. Never put a smear drawing on twos.
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