Animation Resources depends on your contributions to support its services to the worldwide animation community. Please contribute using PayPal.
John Kricfalusi, Mike Van Eaton, Rita Street, Jorge Garrido, Andreas Deja, John Canemaker, Jerry Beck, Leonard Maltin, June Foray, Paul and John Vinci, B. Paul Husband, Nancy Cartwright, Mike Fontanelli, Tom & Jill Kenny, Will Finn, Ralph Bakshi, Sherm Cohen, Marc Deckter, Dan diPaola, Kara Vallow
Janet Blatter, Keith Lango Animation, Thorsten Bruemmel, David Soto, Paul Dini, Rik Maki, Ray Pointer, James Tucker, Rogelio Toledo, Nicolas Martinez, Joyce Murray Sullivan, David Wilson, David Apatoff, San Jose State Shrunkenheadman Club, Matthew DeCoster, Dino's Pizza, Chappell Ellison, Brian Homan, Barbara Miller, Wes Archer, Kevin Dooley, Caroline Melinger
Gemma Ross, Milton Knight, Claudio Riba, Eric Graf, Michael Fallik, Gary Francis, Joseph Baptista, Kelsey Sorge-Toomey, Alexander Camarillo, Alex Vassilev, Ernest Kim, Danny Young, Glenn Han, Sarah Worth, Chris Paluszek, Michael Woodside, Giancarlo Cassia, Ross Kolde, Amy Rogers
Today, we digitized more vintage model sheets on loan to us by Animation Resources Alliance member, Van Eaton Galleries. (For our previous posting, see… Reluctant Dragon and Pinocchio Model Sheets.) Among the collection were some fascinating early concept sketches by two very unique designers… Albert Hurter and Charlie Thorson. ALBERT HURTER
Albert Hurter was born in Switzerland in 1883. He came to America during the first World War and found work in the New York animation scene. He moved West and ended up working at Disney as a concept artist. His influence is seen in many of the Silly Symphonies and early features. His strengths were an unfailing solidity of drawing, and an eye for creating situations, not just designs. For more info on his life and career, see Bud Plant’s Biography and John Canemaker’s book, Before the Animation Begins.
Here are some inspirational designs by Albert Hurter…
Until Gene Waltz’s book, Cartoon Charlie: The Life and Art of Animation Pioneer Charles Thorson, few people had heard of Charlie Thorson, but once you see his work, it’s hard not to recognize his unique style in many cartoons from the 1930s. Thorson was responsible for the first model of proto-Bugs’ Bunny and the Porky Pig redesign at Warner Bros, as well as numerous characters in Disney Silly Symphonies and Fleischer Stone Age cartoons.
Here are two beautiful model sheets Thorson created for Disney’s “Little Hiawatha”…
I’m not sure who did this next piece, but it impressed me with the amount of detail and refinement Disney allowed his concept artists to instill in their work… I’m sure when this concept drawing was created, no one had any idea how the delicate pastel rendering technique would be translated into ink & paint!
These original production photostatic model sheets are available for sale by Van Eaton Galleries for $50 apiece. If you decide to add any of them to your collection, tell the folks at the Van Eaton Galleries that ASIFA-Hollywood referred you, and they will donate a portion of your purchase price to the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive.
Cartoonist, illustrator, painter, Renaissance man Milton Knight stopped by this week. He brought along a donation to the archive database… an amazing DVD trilogy of Chinese animated features called Uproar in Heaven…. The earliest one is titled…
PRINCESS IRON FAN (1941)
This bizarre animated feature was made just a few short years after Disney’s Snow White, but it more closely resembles the early 30s Fleischer cartoons. It’s a strange mix of primitive drawing, technical rotoscoping and imaginative metamorphosis… even a sexy girl!
Later in this post, you’ll find a documentary on the making of this incredible film. If you have any more information to add, please post the information to the comments link below, and I’ll add them to this article.
The DVD of this film is out of print, but the entire film has been uploaded to YouTube…
UPROAR IN HEAVEN 1961/1964)
Directed by Wan Laiming, written by Wai Laiming and Li Kuero, and animated by the Shanghai Animation Studio, Uproar in Heaven is a pair of films based upon the "Monkey King Saga" which also inspired Alakazam the Great.
The Wan Brothers created the first installment of this trilogy of films in 1941. The second was released in 1961 and the third followed closely in 1964.
The design reminds me in a strange way of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty which was released at around the same time.
The DVD of Uproar in Heaven is out of print, but the entire film has been uploaded to YouTube in six parts…
WAN BROTHERS DOCUMENTARY
On the DVD with these films is a “making of” documentary narrated in Chinese. It’s an amazing look at pioneering animators working in a totally different culture than ours. Animation Resources supporter, Yinghua Moore generously offered to provide a capsule translation of the narration for us in English. Here then is the documentary…
The Uproar in Heaven films (Monkey King Havok in Heaven / Hue And Cry Over The Sky / Big Trouble) were directed by Wan Laiming, one of the early pioneers of art films in China. These animated films were so popular in China that Wan is regarded as a treasured artist by the Chinese people. Wai Laiming had three brothers- Vancomyein Toad, the twin brother who was moon to Wan Laiming’s sun; Wan Chaochen and Wan Dihuan. They are all well known in China as "The Wan Brothers".
They were born in Nanjing, on the banks of the Yangzi River. Their father, a businessman, expected them to learn a trade from books, so they could make a lot of money when they grew up. But their mother encouraged them to cut
paper into the shapes of people and birds, and the sons enjoyed art more than book-learning. When they were young, they performed puppet shows with their paper-cut characters, based on a story from the four classic novels titled "Journey to the West", the books that document the legendary Monkey King epic.
In 1916, the family moved to Shanghai. Wan Laiming took a job working for the Shanghai Commercial Press, and held positions in the Department of Fine Arts and the Department of Activities Movie Service starting in 1919. Inspired by American cartoons, China’s shadow puppet plays, and cinematic techniques he saw in live action films, Wan Laiming began making his own animated films. His brothers joined him at the Shanghai Commercial Press shortly after they graduated from art schools. Together, they made the advertising film, "Shuzhendong Chinese Typewriter" (1925), which marked the beginning of their animation career.
In 1926, they made their first silent animated cartoon short, "Studio In A Row"; and in 1935, they made their first sound cartoon, "The Camel Presentation Dance". After the outbreak of the War of Resistance against Japan, the Wan Brothers, (with the exception of Wan Duhuan, who had started a photo studio) moved to Wuhan and produced the propaganda films, "Anti-Japanese War Slogan" and "Song of Resistance".
The first full length cartoon feature was made by Walt Disney in 1937, and in 1940, after returning to Shanghai, the Wan Brothers began work on their own 8,000 foot, 80 minute long sound cartoon film, "Tieshangongzhu", completing it a year later. This film lay a sound foundation for the Wan Brothers’ career in animation production. After its completion, the Wan Brothers moved to Hong Kong for a few years, and in 1954, they returned one by one to New China, where they became directors at the Shanghai Animated Film Studio. They devoted all of their time and energies from that point on to making animated films for New China.
The 1961 film in the "Uproar in Heaven" series is the culmination of all of Wan Laiming’s painstaking efforts. He later recalled how the crew made the movie…
The script of "Uproar in Heaven" was adapted from one of the four classic novels, "Journey to the West". Li Kerou and I were asked to write the story. The first thing we worried about was whether we would dare to present the story as it was told in the book. It was a sensitive issue at the time. We studied the first seven chapters of "Journey to the West" and believed it to have profound significance- the sharp contrasts of conflict and struggle between the oppressor and oppressed within the mythological context. In "Uproar in Heaven", the dramatic conflict is mainly between the Monkey King and the rulers headed up by Emperor Jade. Throughout a series of adventures, the Monkey King matures, and uses his courageous ingenuity, unyielding character and tenacity to prevail.
The Monkey King has the characteristics of a real monkey- He’s a lively and nimble prankster. But he is also a God that can change 72 times, or become invisible at will. Human beings certainly do not have these features. He is also thoughtful and upright, so in the shaping of the character, it was necessary to exaggerate some aspects and use our imagination. Zhang Guangyu, the main designer on the film, together with Yan Dingxian and Lin Wenxiao made the characters in the film come vividly to life, and they deserve a great deal of credit for the success of the film.
For each scene, we paid particular attention to the setting and atmosphere in order to unify the scenes with the personality and style of the characters. We absorbed the best essence of Chinese folk art tradition, and added to it our own imagination. As a result, the film has a very special flavor. Because of the fantasized atmosphere of the myth, we strived to construct a unity of rich colors, refinement toward simplicity and a shaping of the images that is more "vague" than "real". By doing this, we achieved a greater artistic effect.
The pacing of the film adopted many techniques of montage, so the story develops quickly, avoiding a slow unfolding of the plot. We made use of typical Chinese folk music- the drums and percussion instruments commonly used in Peking opera. This added a strong sense of rhythm to the action of the figures.
The director of photography on the picture was Duan Xiaoxun. She later described how they shot the effects on the Monkey King’s weapon, and the magnificent palaces of the heavens…
The Monkey King’s weapon is called the "Jingubang". It looks like a glittering red stick with yellow on both ends. In order to make it glow and sparkle, we employed multiple exposures, and it proved to be a very successful technique in the film.
The voices were provided by many famous actors of the time. Among them were Qiu Yiefeng (Monkey King), Fu Runsheng (Emperor Jade), and Shang Hua (Taibaijinxing). Their excellent work added a great deal to the film.
After more than a year, and nearly 70,000 drawings, the image of the Monkey King finally appeared on the big screen. Wan Laiming’s decades old dream had come true. In the 1980s, the Wan Brothers were awarded an honor by the Chinese government for devoting their life to Chinese arts and filmmaking. Wan Laiming passed away 1999 at the age of 98. His tombstone reads, "Founder of the Chinese Animation Industry".
Last time we talked about how to objectively judge a person’s current ability within a discipline using the Dreyfus Model. Today I’ll be giving my personal theory about what types of practice are best for students and professionals of various levels, and how to determine what type of practice is right for you.
I formed this theory by combining my own experiences learning sports, art, music, and mathematics with advice given by notable teachers of animation and art. My litmus test has been that I must be able to apply these practice methods to any subject a person might want to learn, although practicing skills is this system’s focus, not academic memorization.
The five categories I’ve identified are listed below with a short description of each and an example of the type of activity you might engage in if your goal was to learn how to draw. Remember that these are broad categories however, and may be applied to any skill or discipline.
Willy Pogany’s Life Drawing Lessons
When first approaching a subject, the concepts and working methods are all completely new, therefore the first and most basic type of practice is the type which is most widely used in the classroom: Academic practice. This would include all newly introduced or researched information which comes from an authoritative source such as a textbook, tutorial, lecture, or guide.
This type of practice is most helpful right at the beginning of a student’s study. If you find that general knowledge about the way your discipline works is absent, or that parts of the working methods of your skill are hazy or poorly understood, this is the type of practice you should engage in first. However, as soon as a workable understanding of the concepts is obtained Academic practice should be abandoned in favor of a different type to allow the student to internalize what they’ve learned.
In drawing this would be the equivalent of learning body proportions and anatomy. These are very critical and useful areas of study, but if that’s all you practice, your work can only ever look like a textbook illustration.
Public Sketching – Gordon Grant
In order to become a confident and skillful practitioner, a student must commit to hours of practical application. In sports all minute aspects of the game are drilled endlessly until each action becomes as natural as breathing. In music, scales and rhythm exercises are used as warm-ups even by highly accomplished musicians so that they become second nature. Drilling is any task which you already know how to do, and can perform repeatedly in small rapid bursts.
This type of practice is the next most common type of activity employed by students and professionals. In essence, the purpose of drilling is to gain confidence and familiarity with your working methods. A pleasant byproduct of drilling is an increase in speed and a decrease in error making. Many professionals if not most of them continue using drilling throughout their careers as a way to keep sharp.
Drilling in illustration would represent public sketching, thumb-nailing compositions, or plein air painting just to name a few.
William Lee Hankey
At the point where a student believes they have learned enough to become competent, it may be time to put all of their acquired skills into practice by attempting to perform their discipline to the best of their ability. In sports, this would be game day, in music it would be the concert or recital, and in art, this would represent a single piece of artwork meant to showcase the artist’s talents.
Art made for a quality test should be made carefully, slowly and deliberately. No time limit should be imposed and the artist should be as thorough and careful as they can possibly be in order to push the limits of their ability to the extreme.
Performing work of this type may often have humbling results, revealing exactly what shortcomings the student has yet to overcome. As a diagnostic tool, this type of practice is invaluable, and also provides milestones for the student as they progress so that they can compare their current work to their past work.
Quality illustrations should make up much of a student’s portfolio along with life drawings.
Gustaf Tenggren Comparison
After mastering the basics through the use of Academic and Drilling practice, it becomes necessary for a student to explore their own preferred methods and to attempt to expand their ability beyond what can be taught to them explicitly. Experimental practice is done to attempt to create a new work method or a unique result which is entirely the student’s own. It is important to note that this type of practice is most useful in the hands of an already skilled practitioner of their craft, but it may be useful to novices as well, as a method of discovery.
In my opinion, this is where many graduate students and professionals fail to expand their abilities. It’s very easy to copy and reproduce from textbooks, instructors, and tutorials, but it’s a very different and altogether more frightening thing to try to create a new method of working, or a new way of seeing the world.
In illustration and art in general, those artist who are synonymous with a particular style or artistic movement likely owe their success at least partially to experimental practice. The need to perform this type of practice need not be that grand however, as even small modifications to an artist’s working methods help to personalize and internalize their craft.
The last form of practice is the free and non-structured kind which children indulge in. Although non-academic and not strictly intended to improve a practitioner’s ability, freeform practice serves as a crucial way for the student to enjoy themselves with their chosen craft. Although it may seem unnecessary to list it here, I believe that maintaining a fun and creative attitude toward your work is at least as important as academic study, if not more so.
Work of this type has one goal: to make you happy. After all, why are you putting in all of this time becoming skillful if not to use that skill in a way which pleases you? Very often unfortunately it seems that the mark of a professional artist is that they draw at work but not at home, having long since ceased to enjoy what it is they do for a living. Don’t fall into the trap of slowly choking the life out of your art, have a little fun now and then!
I hope these practice methods are helpful to you or your students. Next time I’ll be talking about motivation and forming a practice habit!
Animation Resources depends on your contributions to support its services to the worldwide animation community. Please contribute using PayPal.
Animation Resources is a 501(c)(3) California non-profit corporation. We are providing self-study resources and training material to animation professionals, cartoonists, designers, Illustrators, students and researchers. Animation Resource's Director, Stephen Worth can be reached at... firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to thank the membership of The International Animated Film Society: ASIFA-Hollywood for sponsoring my efforts to get this project off the ground during its first few years. In particular, I owe a debt of gratitude to ASIFA-Hollywood's president, Antran Manoogian. Without his unwavering support and valuable guidance this project would not exist. -Stephen Worth