Archive for April 2010

monkeys, mice and dwarfs.

April 8, 2010

Christopher: When I was a young boy, I thought for sure that I would do one of two things when I grew up. I was determined to get a job as a veterinarian in Africa, or work an animator at Walt Disney Studios. It was all about working with animals for me at that time. If I could help them medically, or animate them… I was in. If I could do both, even better.

In my wonderful African tree house, I would take thorns out of lion’s paws, or bandage up an elephant’s truck after he stuck his nose in a bee’s nest. At night, I could use these animals as models to make short animated films. All I needed were bandages, a stethoscope, animation cels and paint. Did I mention that I would have have monkey assistants? Sometimes it is a good thing that dreams do not come true.

Yesterday, as I was flipping channels on television, I came across the movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I hadn’t seen it since I was a boy, and it gave me a little thrill. It made me remember why I wanted to be an animator. The movie still full of energy, was clever, and stood the test of time. Every animated movie (including Avatar) or television show that came after owes a debt of gratitude to the crew who worked on this movie.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the small details. The animators drew from actual life, and sketched rabbits, and other animals to really get the mechanics and anatomy of how an animal works. They used the technique of rotoscoping to trace and draw over film to understand movement.There was such care from these artists to really understand the little details to bring a perfect combination of reality with fantasy for a true new art form.

Anyone my age knows that the animated choices available to us kids back in the day were slim. Mary Poppins and The Incredible Mr. Limpet were two movies that I remember fondly, but were rare. We also did not have 100 cable choices, let alone The Cartoon Network. I am so thrilled so see the brilliant and wonderful animation out there today, but we were not so lucky back in the day of dinosaurs.

So, my brothers and sisters, and I waited anxiously for Sunday evenings to watch the Wonderful World of Disney as it was the best hour on television for us. This weekly show had a range of entertainment for families. It was the Discovery, Hallmark, and Movie Channel all mixed into a one hour show. It was the Nickelodeon of it’s day. Disney showed a lot of animal documentaries, western heroic biographies, some sentimental heartwarming stories about a boy or girl and their pet, and the occasional good Disney movie. But, every so often, the show had a cartoon movie, or shorts with Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse. When they aired these, it was like Christmas for me!

These little snippets of Disney animation would have to keep me happy until the next time our family would head out the movies (for that rare and treasured treat) to see The Lady and the Tramp or The Sword In The Stone. These 1960-era movies were not as brilliantly drawn as Snow White, Pinocchio Fantasia, but who cared! I was now hooked, and there was no going back. I was greedy and I wanted more. Seeing The Jungle Book at a drive in movie with my family made me want that veterinarian practice even more. Now, I would have to move to India… but, no matter… anything was possible back then.

Obviously, I never lived out those childhood fantasies. Once in awhile, I still think about that life in the wilds of an exotic country, and still consider getting a monkey or two to pack plates for me (or to paint for me). But, seriously, I know that those movies of my youth inspired me to love art… it helped me to be curious about other kind of artists… that led me here to this path that I am on now. So, thank you Walt Disney for your vision.

Until next time.
—Christopher
The Design Brothers