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Frames of Time...

071_04 - How Animation Is Really Created
Back in the late 1980s, when Jim Korkis and I got our first book writing deal, the publishers expressed interest in a "how to" book on animation. We said we could do it.

The publisher envisioned a book full of big names. They told us to get in touch with classic animators still alive and interview them. Along with the interviews, the publishers wanted lots of examples of art to show readers how animation was done.

I talked with Jim and said that was not the type of book I wanted to do. Being an animation producer, I knew that creating animation was more than just sitting at a desk flipping drawings. At the time, "how to" books about animation focused on drawing the animation. I said I wanted a book that was more global in concept and not another "how to draw" book. The Foster books by Preston Blair were the best guides around for young artists.

I felt a book that explored how current studios were run had more educational value, and was even a novelty. My idea was to take specific aspects of animation - storyboard, layout, design, directing, animating, producing, etc. Then I picked a short series of questions including how they got into the business, what their typical day was, a project they liked and advice for getting into the business. Each interviewee was asked the exact same questions. That way, by person, the book read as a series of interviews. By question, the book read like a panel discussion.

Jim liked the idea, but the publishers were worried. They wanted to know what sort of "names" we could get for newer animation. I explained I could talk to new blood like Glen Keane, Don Bluth, Ron Clements and Darrel Van Citters. I even could toss in some folks from animation's golden age that were still working like Pete Alvarado and Bob Givens.

Looking at my list of talent, the publishers did not see any names of people they knew. They wanted the Chuck Jones and Bob Clampetts. I argued that talking to retired animators would only show people how animation was done decades ago. I stated that my names, though not as historically well known, were admired in the business and could eventually become big names.

We finally compromised. Jim agreed to put together a "retrospective" section with interviews from Bill Scott, Chuck Jones, Jack Hannah and Bob Clampett. I set up interviews with folks currently working at Disney Features, Film Roman, Warner Bros. Classics, Don Bluth Productions and more. The folks interviewed for the book were (in appearance order) Pete Alvarado, Ed Gombert, Mitch Schauer, Mike Giamimo, Bob Givens, Bill Lorencz, Phil Phillipson, Chris Buck, Mark Kausler, Glen Keane, John Pomerory, Don Bluth, Ron Clements, Darrell Van Citters, Gary Goldman and Scott Shaw!

While doing the interviews, the interviewees thought the book was an excellent idea. Bluth, himself, often criticized artists who stuck only to their task and did not take the time to understand the entire process. Many felt this would be an important book for those who wanted to work in studios.

The book came out in 1990. Though it received some good reviews, fans complained that it wasn't about how to animate. I constantly reminded folks the book was how to "create" animation. Since several of those interviewed were also teaching, at such places as CalArts, the books gained popularity with students who wanted to get a job at Disney.

It was a time when Disney and Bluth were the only main feature producers. It was a time when folks breaking into the industry only knew "the nine old men". Within a few years, a new animation boom would be in full swing and several of these folks would be considered the "best" in the business.

In the interests of looking back at a period of animation on the edge of exploding, and because I still think folks need to know more about how animation production is done, I have begun reprinting the interviews here.

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