Author: Mark Mitchell

"It's the sound of magic."

Some of the best ‘art history lessons’ you’ll ever find are these retrospective documentaries (we’ll call them) the Walt Disney studios made of their own animated features. Promotional, self-reverential even, yes — but they open our eyes to the movie achievements that we take for granted (as we do with most of the landmarks of civilization, including technology that we grow up with.) They give us perspective on these entertainments that have been part of childhood for so many millions of people around the world. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Oklahoma, that didn’t hit the footlights until 1943, ‘epitomized the development of the “book musical”, a musical play where the songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story with serious dramatic goals that are able to evoke genuine emotions other than laughter,’ Wikipedia reports. But as today’s videos point out, Pinocchio, a ‘fantasy musical’ was doing exactly that, with original Disney studio songs, in 1940. Disney and his team were striving for a unifying musical score and songs that would move the story forward. They turned the Pinocchio character of Carlo Collodi‘s novel from a not very nice adult male character to a mischievous but endearing child with a child’s voice and they developed a central, guiding character, Jiminy Cricket, from a very minor one in the novel, providing their musical’s moral compass. Pinocchio was the first movie...

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Going for the "Rembrandt look" in a cartoon…

Vaudeville, radio and broadway star Cliff Edwards provided the voice of Jiminy Cricket and child actor Dickey Jones portrayed Pinocchio. The Disney-made documentary about their 1940 animated classic (in Part three here) shows how the voices influenced the personalities as drawn by the animators. The video also shows how the animators used rotoscoping, not for tracing frames of live actor footage, but to spark ideas and give them reference on which to base the more exaggerated actions and behaviors they’d give the characters in the cel drawings. The multiplaned camera technique attributed ot the Disney studios and seen here in video three was used to great effect in Pinocchio. Also the animators strove for a “richer, deeper, darker look” then they’d given Snow White. You can see parts one and two of this documentary here. E.B. dazzles Spend a moment watching award winning children’s book illustrator E.B. Lewis paint some watercolor scenes impromptu for the Austin Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (Austin SCBWI) back in February and read more about the work and ideas of this New Jersey based fine artist in the latest post on How To Be A Children’s Book Illustrator.   Click on the below banner for a terrific recorded presentation, lesson and Q&A by author-illustrator CS Jennings.    ...

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How a puppet turns into a real boy

A small army of artists, writers, performers and musicians labored intensely for two years on it and Walt Disney invested his considerable profits from Snow White in it. $2.5 million was a huge movie budget in 1938. But war breaking out in Europe and Asia upstaged the release of Pinocchio and it lost money its first year (in 1940.) Disney himself was reportedly depressed over the “failure.” How could he have predicted how the overseas market would be cut off for the film’s distribution by RKO Pictures for much of that decade. Yet creative ingenuity, near fanatical dedication to craft and — I’ll go ahead and say it — aesthetic integrity have a way of winning out over the long term. With its many re-releases and global distribution since that dark eve of World War II, Pinocchio has gone on to earn $85 million and a hallowed place in animation history. Please Stand by for parts 2 and 3 of this fascinating Disney documentary on the making of their film. * * * * * You’ll enjoy these wonderful videos of portraits drawn and painted by the great turn of the century American artist John Singer Sargent, up on the ePainting Instruction blog. * * * *...

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He put the looney in "Looney Tunes"

Animators like Alexander Petrov who bring deep literature alive with their oil paint smudged-fingers are important. But every once in a while, you just want to see an anvil drop from the sky and clobber Wile E. Coyote on the head. (Or maybe that’s just me?) The genre of the (truly) funny slapstick cartoon, in which characters make smart-alecky asides to the audience and anything can happen and usually does traces its origin back to one individual, one driven perfectionist and no, I’m not referring to Uncle Walt. Cartoon director Frederick Bean “Tex” Avery was born in Taylor, Texas about 30 miles northeast of Austin. On the Taylor school grounds or later in the halls of North Dallas High School he heard and probably used the catch-all greeting, “What’s up, doc?” Avery supervised a unit of younger animators, including Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett at Warner Brothers from 1935 to 1942. With his little team in a backlot wooden bungalow they christened Termite Terrace, he dreamed up Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, and helped to finesse the personality of Bugs Bunny, who rivals (ok, some say stomps) Mickey Mouse as the greatest cartoon character of all time. The 140 animated shorts he made in his career with Walter Lantz, the Schlesinger studio at Warner Bros. and MGM are distinguised (is that the right word?) by their exaggeration and nonstop...

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How to paint a novel at 24 frames per second

Be patient with the 30 second advertisement in the video, illustrators. It leads to a rewarding interview with traditionalist oil painter and Academy Award winning director of animations, Alexander Petrov, talking about the process behind My Love, his 25 minute adaptation of a 1927 novel by Ivan Sergeevich Shmelev. Click the “cc” speech balloon icon at the top right of the player to see English subtitles. Russian animation: Aleksandr Petrov, the making… by Niffiwan When Petrov finished his work on The Old Man and the Sea for the National Film Board of Canada, he returned to his home in Yaroslavl, Russia, hankering to get back to more Russian literature for source material. He’d already tackled Dostoyevsky, Pushkin and Platonov. My Love took three years of production and 35,000 paintings in Petrov’s unique oil pigment on glass method and ultimately required a team of artists, animators and technicians in multiple locations around the world to complete. It won the Audience Prize and the Special International Jury Prize at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival where it premiered in 2006. “More than the story itself what makes this film (and Petrov’s other films) so appealing is the rare technique used: animated oil paintings, writes Laura Pontieri Hlavacek in a 2008 review of the film in Kinokultura. “Petrov paints directly on glass, primarily using his fingers, and only at times employing paintbrushes for small...

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