more cats

19 10 2008

a small team, the two directors SIMON WELLS and PHIL NIBBELINK together with SHELLEY PAGE, had been working on the animated adaptation of the musical CATS for a few months when I joined the group. the plan was somehow to combine built miniature models together with traditional animation. CG was at that time, 1991, in the very early beginnings. simon had designed an environment and shelley had supervised the model building. I only saw pictures and was very impressed, it looked very real with a lot of detail and had a convincing atmosphere. here are some of the pictures…

but steven spielberg wanted to see a more destroyed environment during the ‘blitz’, so I started fresh with my designs. following are a few I developed together with andrew lloyd webber’s stage designer for the musical CATS, john napier. we even toured the ugliest areas in london, I did hundreds of reference photos to make the BG studies as real as possible. it was amazing, behind all the sightseeing tourist areas there were these ‘backyards’, a hidden world of trash and destruction. I still have a map of ‘my real london’ where I marked this reference world. I am sure nothing exists anymore, after 17 years!

and we needed to test the 3-D look with a new model. unfortunately the last model-set had been pretty expensive, there was nothing left in the budget. so I improvised and built the whole thing myself. we found a very expensive model car from the forties and I had to destroy it with a big hammer, very sad! otherwise it was just styrofoam, some small toy pieces and plaster. we tested it on an oxberry stand, was not exactly what I had in mind – but it looked ok. here are some pictures…

©AMBLIN, universal pictures


walt stanchfield

18 10 2008

during the production time of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT I met WALT STANCHFIELD for the first time in london. it must have been 1987, don hahn had brought him over from los angeles to conduct drawing classes for the animators, better – ‘gesture drawing classes’. the poses were very short and you were supposed only to draw the most important ‘gesture’ of the pose, no details at all. that was something my german art teachers had never taught me. walts explanations and the classes were pure gold and I learned more than during all my life drawing classes. a bit later in 1989 when I worked on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, I joined walt’s classes in L.A, and continued that for many years. he prepared handout notes for every class, with useful instructions and drawing samples from the previous class. apparently walt collected that way about 800 pages of notes. I guess I have most of them, he was so kind and gave me the missing ones when I showed him a thick bound volume. walt died 2000, he was 81 years old. now don hahn is helping walt’s widow dee stanchfield with the publication of all the 800 pages in a book. it should be out later this year or in spring 2009. can’t wait! following are some memories from one class during roger rabbit. the model was more beautiful than walt, but he was the better model!

tom codrick

18 10 2008

accidentally I found a photo of TOM CODRICK, one of the art directors and background painters of disney’s BAMBI. the picture shows him painting the above BG, I posted a short while ago. I am gonna add some beautiful layouts I collected from various publications below.

© disney enterprises, inc


16 10 2008

when I started to work on the visual designs for the animated adaptation of the musical CATS 1991 in london, the two directors assigned to that project, SIMON WELLS and PHIL NIBBELINK, had already worked on the storyboards for a while. it was all pretty dark and taking place in ruins of buildings. STEVEN SPIELBERG had given them the idea that the story could take place in london during the time of the ‘blitz’, the time when hitler’s rockets destroyed parts of london. he had also mentioned the visual style of the film should be ‘brechtian’. the directors had no idea what that might be.
it took me a bit to figure it out – BERTHOLD BRECHT, the famous german writer, was well known for his expressionistic, politically critical theaterpieces. he probably was very close to some of the expressionistic artists of his time in germany, after the first worldwar. I knew, that one group of the german expressionists, the artists of DIE BRUECKE ( the bridge ), led by ERICH HECKEL, ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER, MAX PECHSTEIN, EMIL NOLDE and KARL SCHMITT ROTTLUFF were trying to create during that time an artform that linked german artists of the renaissance, especially DUERER with his masterful woodcuts, with a new renaissance of german art. KAETHE KOLLWITZ and ERNST BARLACH predated that movement, but were politically and artistically in the same direction. one of my favorite films of the silent era DAS CABINETT DES DR.CALIGARI, 1919, was an expressionistic styled masterpiece.

I was pretty sure that it was that what mr.spielberg had in mind. so I started to find the right reference about all these artists. the most impressive were their woodcuts. I imagined the ‘blitz’-world pretty much black/white and similar to that look. the problem was, how to translate it into animated backgrounds. I did not want to do woodcuts, it was easier to come up with designs in a similar look. white on black looked pretty good, so I started to paint my destructed world with white correction fluid on black cardboard, and added finer detail with a special black feltpen. the next step was, to paint the same motif in gouache with a very limited color palette and copying the reduced high-contrast look. following are some of the paintings.

©AMBLIN, universal pictures


15 10 2008

september 1991 I joined AMBLIMATION in london to work on ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER’S animated musical adaptation ‘CATS’. the studio was part of STEVEN SPIELBERG’S AMBLIN and had produced FIEVEL GOES WEST. when I came in, the animated feature film WE’RE BACK was in full production. most of the animators were from france, but in general it was talent from all over europe, a few from L.A. incredible artists, you can still check today – a good part of DREAMWORKS is the former amblimation studio.
it was a very creative time, being in one of my favorite cities – london, and having a chance to meet spielberg, lloyd webber and the CATS stage designer JOHN NAPIER. unfortunately things did not go too well with the story. the project was stopped after 6 months work and I started the designs on four planned feature films, RUDYARD KIPLING’S ‘JUST SO STORIES’, another musical CARNIVAL, a wild west story CRAZY DOG and an alaskan dog story – codenamed SNOWBALLS, what became BALTO.
it was quite a challenge to work simultaneously on these very different ideas. the just so stories were interesting visually, because it was india. but the stories were incredibly boring. carnival was a bit too realistic and I did not care that much about the wild west idea, but the snow adventure got me hooked. the story was promising too. and after several presentations steven spielberg choose that story as the next production. his only problem was the snow. the audience will feel cold and will not develop sympathies for the characters, he warned us. too much snow! so we decided to make the snow as colorful and different as possible. not just white and blues. another challenge was, we decided to paint all the BG’s in oil! the first time in animation history since BAMBI in the forties. it was the only way to paint convincing bigger snow areas. later we found painfully out, that oil painting is not the best technique for animation, we had major problems with the shiny surface and with the colors themselves under the camera. so we switched and did a lot of BG’s in gouache as well. especially a lot of the wood textured interiors.
the background painters were very good, some of the best I ever worked with and the BG’s looked terrific. another reason for that was the layout department with some top talent. and – the director, SIMON WELLS, who rough-thumbnailed the whole story in tiny sketches himself. the whole film was truly his vision, he came up with the most amazing shots.
I have a lot of artwork from that time and will post some of it. here first one of my very first designs for CATS, all painted with white correction fluid on black cardboard, then feltpen color on a xerox. the second pan BG is painted in oil by the art director/head of BG – COLIN STIMPSON.

© AMBLIN/universal pictures


13 10 2008

after 2 weeks in taipei, taiwan, I am back in manila. thank you everybody at SOFA animation studios for two well spent weeks. the lectures gave me a lot of new ideas, I met very talented artists and enjoyed the time with all of you…
back to disney’s BAMBI. today I have recreated three backgrounds from the same sequence. the layout- and BG-artists had to match all the details in these backgrounds, they are all pretty close to each other. again, look at how well organized details and soft painted areas are. you get the feeling that something is missing, – the actors. it feels like a theatre stage.

© disney enterprises, inc


2 10 2008

these two recreated backgrounds are from disney’s BAMBI, from the chase towards the end when bambi gets shot. the colors are depressing, the composition chaotic – even expressionistic, exactly like what you need for this sequence. it is a completely different look here, different from all the other parts of the film.

© disney enterprises, inc