Pencils vs Pixels (2023) Movie Script

[theme music]
When I first stepped
into a vocal booth
to record the voice
of Disney's Mulan,
I had no idea how
much joy that film
would continue to
bring audiences
for all of these years.
It also changed my life
and led to many other voice
acting roles, including
returning to the character
and world of Mulan many times.
No matter what it takes,
I'm finishing this mission.
As I gave voice
to these characters,
I got to see firsthand the
changes in the animation
industry as it shifted
from the 2D hand-drawn
animation I loved
growing up, to fully
computer-generated animation.
Sometimes your song can't
start until you go some place.
This is a story
celebrating the unique
magic of hand-drawn
animation, how
technology changed everything.
And most importantly,
the remarkable people
at the center of it all.
And who better to
tell this story
than these visionary artists
themselves and the dreamers
they continue to inspire.
[music playing]
Animation is a weird
unnatural art form in a way.
I mean, you're
bringing something
that is not alive to life.
A character comes to life by a
whole bunch of scribbly strokes
on a piece of paper.
And I think this is
what grabs most animators
or guys who eventually
become animators,
is when they see that drawing
come to life on screen.
It's like your brain goes,
OK, part of it is alive,
and it's real, and it's moving.
And the other part
is like, no, no.
Look, I can see lines up there.
I can see things that
were made by people,
and that's I think
what fascinated me.
You just run it
over and over and over
and it's just
mesmerizing like this.
Wow, I actually did this.
It's a kind of black
magic, and it's something
that many people can
go their entire lives
without ever understanding.
So is that what animation is?
It's feeling the energy,
it's animating the forces,
it's scribbling.
It's like an explosion
of acting passion
and physics on the page.
And man, it's making
the impossible possible.
That was so cool.
No, it's not real.
You're looking at a
drawing but it's living.
How does that work?
That's the most amazing
thing to me about it.
When they hear a voice
come out of a drawing,
out of a character
that they've created,
it's an illusion but it's
a marvelous illusion.
And you just can't
wait to do more of it.
The level of artistry to
achieve this is mind blowing.
It's unlike any other art form.
And when you examine
an isolated moment,
each frame is a masterpiece.
But yet, when you put all of
them collectively together,
you have an entirely new
dimension, a new level
of the illusion of life.
The people who invented this
art, craft, skill, however you
want to describe it,
developed it to a point
where they made you believe in
characters who didn't exist.
And I can go back to Windsor
McCay and Gertie the dinosaur.
He had it.
He got it right away.
Somehow he breathed life
into this inanimate object.
As an animator, it's almost
without sounding too pompous,
but I feel almost godlike.
It was alive, and I just
like, oh, I can do this.
It was great.
I think it speaks to everyone.
It is a universal art form.
It comes from a
very unique place.
Creating out of the ethers
stories, drawing them,
or whether it's on
computer now or whatever,
it touches everybody and it
can elevate and bring people
great joy and great connection.
Cartoons make people laugh, man.
Cartoons are a way
into a person's soul
and to a person's heart.
But I think that first moment
where the light switch goes on
in your head, whether
you're a kid or an adult
and you really start
to understand it,
once you get it you
really can't go back.
WEN: And it all
starts with one very
simple thing, a pencil test.
A pencil test to me is
the purest form of what
it is that we do of animation.
For us, the pencil test is the
first reveal of a performance,
in its rawest form.
A pencil test is when you
find out how bad you are.
I've done a lot of
pencil tests actually.
When I was in college, when I
first started in this business,
that was probably the first
time I really had a sense
of what the potential was.
And we were still
working with film.
So you would shoot, hope
to God you timed it right,
and wait eight weeks for
the film to come back,
which now seems crazy.
As painful as it
might be, it gives you
a really good
grounding and starts
to get it into your head
what a 24th of a second
really feels like.
It's a blink of an
eye for everybody.
But for an animator, you have
to know what that period of time
means in terms of
certain actions.
You have to know what a
24th of a second feels like.
It was rough and wild,
but the forms had weight.
And it was magic.
And I thought that to get it
work at Disney, to animate,
you needed to draw a
perfectly like Sleeping Beauty
and I didn't do that.
I didn't know it was possible
to animate like that.
Something pretty
amazing about a pencil
test that it didn't have color.
And really the artifice or
the fact that it was drawn
with a pencil was evident.
When you just have
stacks of paper,
you don't really get a
sense of the movement
and the timing and
the performance
until you see it playing
through the camera's eye.
A first peek, it's kind
of birth, if you will,
for an animated scene.
So there's a vitality that is
in the very first pencil test
after you shoot them that is
very exciting, very exciting.
You're taking something
that only exists here.
Nobody else in the
universe has it.
It's only here.
And it's coming out of your hand
and it's going onto the paper
or on the screen.
And those lines
are going to define
that thing that's in your head.
But it's not just going
to define it as an image,
you're using all
four dimensions.
You're using height,
width, depth, and time.
And all of those to create
something that lives.
WEN: 2D hand-drawn animation
is one of the most incredible
storytelling illusions
ever performed,
and the inspiration for
becoming an animator
usually comes at an early age.
We all have our
first film that we
see that drops you
into this medium
in a sort of a true epiphany.
And that movie for me
was 101 Dalmatians.
It just felt so
alive and vibrant.
And the characters were
like real, even though they
were completely exaggerated.
The dogs were real to me.
Roger was real.
Anita was real and
their dancing together,
and this is a real dance.
And then in steps
Cruella de Vil.
I mean, everything about
that movie lit up my senses.
Even seeing in a
newspaper article.
I remember there was
an article about 101.
Dalmatians being reissued.
And there was a series of
drawings of Pongo running.
Even seeing something like
that just makes my heart race.
This is something about
a series of drawings
that connect and projected will
give you the illusion of life.
That is the ultimate magic trick
to me and it won't let me go.
I will always do this.
My mom took me to see Dumbo
when I was a little boy.
And I saw these moving
images on screen.
I fell in love with animation.
I saw Sleeping Beauty in the
theater on its first release
and it was so powerful to me.
I was terrified of Maleficent.
I saw Snow White.
I saw Bambi, Lady and
the Tramp, Cinderella,
all of the classics.
And they made such an
incredible impression on me.
The film that sealed the deal
for me, it was Jungle Book.
And I was just mesmerized.
And I started raining.
And my family said, "Let's go."
I said, "No way.
Not moving from here right now."
So I sat soaking wet
until the movie was over
because it was just
something happened that day
that sealed the deal.
We definitely had Disney movies
on at home when I was young.
My mom said when I was four, I
watched Bambi every single day
and that's still one
of my favorite movies.
The first movie I ever
saw in a movie theater,
this is Mexico
City, was Pinocchio.
And I became obsessed
with that movie.
I dreamt of being
a little wooden boy
that would be eaten by a whale.
I was so excited by all
the adventures he went.
I mean, it's kind of a
scary movie but I loved it.
I saw a special
or a series actually
on Nickelodeon called
Lights, Camera, Action that
was hosted by Leonard Nimoy.
And they profiled a college
kid who had done an animated
short called Bandits.
How long did it take
you to make this seven
minutes of film work?
It took about two years.
I think it was
about a guy and a cat
chasing some bank robbers.
It was pretty simple but
it was cel animation.
And this was a kid
who was just like me.
He wasn't in the business.
He wasn't in Hollywood.
He was hoping to get into it.
And it was the first
indication that, wow, this
is not this unreachable thing.
This is something that
I maybe can access
at some point in my life.
In the '70s, we
didn't have choices.
There was no cable TV.
You had like three
channels for adults
and every once in a
while at Christmas,
they'd run a thing for a kid.
Then you had to
syndicated channels.
And on those channels, they
would run programming for kids
in certain parts of the day.
So naturally, it was cartoons.
So my entire life was cartoons.
I didn't like the real world.
I liked cartoons.
Can you do this for a living?
WEN: Animators
are often inspired
and mentored by the
artists and visionaries
who came before them.
Most of the people who
produced animated cartoons
were in it as a
business, but Walt
saw it almost as a calling.
He had artistic
ambitions for a time.
He put those aside
because he was a leader.
He was a visionary.
He saw steps ahead that no
one else seemed to recognize.
And he knew that for his
cartoons to get better,
which is always his
mantra, make them better.
Make the gags funnier.
Make the characters
more endearing.
In order to do that, the
artwork had to improve.
His artists had to do better.
And he was the only
cartoon producer
who thought in those
terms and actually
put those thoughts into action.
WEN: In fact, Walt Disney
started his own art school,
which would go on
to train generations
of animators and storytellers.
The first thing I did when I got
a little money to
experiment, I put
all my artists back in school.
Art schools that existed
then didn't quite
have enough for
what we needed so we
set up our own art school.
I can really mention anybody
more than the nine old men
because the nine old men were
Walt Disney's nine chosen best,
if you will.
And this was a term
that Walt gave them.
He borrowed it from
the nine Supreme.
Court justices of the
United States Supreme Court.
And the funny thing
is that Walt called them
the nine old men of
a joke because they
were pretty pretty young at the
time that he named them that.
I think they had like in
their 30s or maybe 40s,
but certainly not really gray
haired old men at that point.
They were Woolie Reitherman,
Marc Davis, Frank Thomas,
Ollie Johnston,
Ward Kimball, John.
Lounsbery, Les Clark, Milt
Kahl, and my first mentor,
Eric Larson.
And these guys were
individualists who found a way
to sacrifice some of
their individuality
for the sake of
the greater good.
If they were all going to
work together on a project,
be it Snow White and
the Seven Dwarfs,
or Pinocchio, or even
one of the silly symphony
shorts like The Old Mill,
they had to work in harmony.
They had to work toward a
common goal, which can't
have been easy for artists.
When I came to Disney,
the nine old men were still
very much in the trenches.
They were still cranking
out footage every week.
About the only difference I can
say as far as guys like Ollie
and Frank and Milt and
Ward and all the others
is that they were so
good at what they did.
They just knocked
this footage out.
They made it look effortless.
They were that good.
But they were the guys
that did the main character.
So it was like, Milt
Kahl did Cinderella.
Frank and Ollie, they did like
Baloo the bear, and Mowgli.
And they would always
work on characters
that were closely related.
Captain Hook and Mr. Smee.
So these nine old men and some
of them were better at comedy,
some of them were
better at drama,
and girl characters, and guy
characters, and villains.
But whatever their
skill set is, they
represented the top
stars for Walt Disney
in those early eras.
And they were the
ones that ended up
training the next generation.
They handed down the
legacy of Disney Animation.
Eric Larson was my mentor
and what a wonderful man.
He was kind and
grandfatherly, yet very firm
about how you go
about doing this.
And I was so overwhelmed
with the idea of what it
took to even just flip paper.
I got sick that first
week because it was just,
oh my gosh, what's going on?
Can I do this?
But Eric was very encouraging.
And he stepped me
through the process.
What he would always ask is,
what are you trying to do here?
What are you trying to say?
What is the character thinking?
And then you explain your
plans and your ideas.
And then he said, "Oh OK."
That's what you have in mind.
Then you don't
need this drawing.
You do need this.
"You do need a new drawing."
He would throw in
two or three drawings
that he would sketch out.
And then you would
time this whole thing
and film it and it was magical.
It worked.
We wouldn't even approach
animators that first year we
were at Disney.
We wouldn't even
talk to an animator
because they were
like gods to us.
I worked with Milt Kahl on
his most favorite character,
which was Medusa.
And he had more fun
with that character when
she pulls off her eyelashes.
I don't know.
He just really had fun
with that character
and it was a joy
to work with him.
When I started at Disney, Eric
Larson, one of the nine old men
who had animated on
Snow White and that,
literally would take a piece
of paper and put it over yours
and draw over that.
You had a one on one
experience of somebody
who had spent years
honing his craft.
I do think animation
we learned quickly
was best taught as a sort of a
master apprentice type thing.
I think the big guys,
the veterans, the masters,
I think they suffered as much
as we did because keep in mind,
even though these guys
were experienced animators,
they had their moments too
when things didn't work out
as well as they had expected.
Now, I must say that,
for the most part,
these guys knew they were
good but every now and then,
they would push themselves.
Frank would try something.
Milt would try something.
And if it worked, then
they were just delighted
but they also pushed themselves.
They didn't rest
on their laurels.
They were always trying
to push the boundaries,
trying to be better
than they were.
So working side by side,
that's where we grow.
As iron sharpens iron,
one man sharpens another,
one woman sharpens another.
It's the friction of learning.
Eric Larson, I would
present him problems that
were when only you
would present me with,
and it was as
close as I ever saw
to Eric getting
angry because but he
would sit down with this.
"All right.
I'm going to figure this out."
And there's this
joy to learning.
Walt Disney was a
pioneer in many ways
and recognized what was
possible with this art form.
That there really was
an unlimited ceiling
to what could be done.
But he had to push boundaries
with rather analog approaches.
And indeed, he did
with early, very
basic technological advances.
He even advanced with the
multiplane camera and later
There were other studios that
were working in these areas
as well, but he recognized in
order to keep the medium fresh,
there needed to be advances.
The advent of color
and where women's
roles expanded in animation.
I think people would
be surprised to know
how many women there were
at Disney in the 1950s.
So I think that's something
that young women should bear
in mind because there were
a lot of talented women
who mentored me.
And I'm very grateful for that.
I was putting myself through
school so I needed a job.
And I was fortunate enough
to find out that Disney
was hiring for Sleeping Beauty.
And I went over there
with my meager portfolio.
And they brought me on
as an apprentice working
with six or seven other girls.
And we were in a bullpen
all together, all of us
We had full access to
anybody and a lot of freedom
for a first job in animation.
It was pretty
incredible way to start.
Mary was certainly
a giant at Disney.
Good heavens.
The film she influenced
during her time at Disney,
and she was incredibly prolific.
So Mary Blair, she was
a giant in animation.
She was just incredible.
WEN: After dominating the
animation world for decades,
Disney's lack of
innovation and inability
to keep up with the
times opened the door
for some impressive
competition to step right in.
There were young
people who were keenly
interested in taking
on the mantle of Frank,
and Ollie, and
all of those guys.
But there was no
greater intelligence.
There was no Walt to set a goal.
Where do we want
to go with this?
What do we want to try to do?
What kind of stories do
we want to be telling?
And what's happening
to our audience?
Is our audience changing?
Because it was.
We had a cultural, social
revolution in the late '60s,
early '70s that was
reflected everywhere
but perhaps the
Walt Disney studio.
Easy Rider changed
the entire motion
picture industry, except
that the Walt Disney studio.
It's no one's fault. It's
just they were out of step
and there was no one
to put them on a course
that everyone could agree on.
Don Bluth, he's a pretty
amazing success story.
I knew who Don Bluth was.
Most kids didn't, there was
no internet but that was huge.
Because you had a Disney
animator who drew in the Disney
style stepping outside
the system and going like,
"I think I could
do it elsewhere."
I don't need them.
When we left Disney
Studios in '79, it
was a scary
situation and equally
exhilarating and exciting.
Those two elements,
they're just propelled
us into our first feature film
together, The Secret of NIMH.
I must tell you about NIMH.
Look there.
It was a crazy
brave thing to do.
And I know that many of
my younger colleagues
that I've worked
with, that movie
inspired them to
get into animation,
which I really I'm so pleased.
Mavericks, renegades who are
happy to push at the system
and see how far they
can take their own art.
Starting within the system and
taking their art outside of it
for their own benefit as opposed
to just working for somebody
else is in the creative DNA
of every indie filmmaker,
I would say.
Sadly enough, it didn't do
very well at the Box Office.
And that summer, we
were up against ET,
the extra-terrestrial
which everybody saw.
They saw no other
movie except ET.
The irony there is that
one of the greatest
fans for The Secret of
NIMH was Steven Spielberg.
He came and visited
us at our studio
and said, "Guys,
your film is amazing.
I thought that type of
animation storytelling was dead.
I haven't seen anything like
that since Pinocchio or Bambi.
It was phenomenal."
He loved the minutia.
He loved all of
the little details
that we put in with
sparkles, and dewdrops,
and animation effects.
Everything that we poured
our hearts in artistically,
he picked up on and he loved it.
I remember it well.
Somebody had to run
to Jerry's Deli.
What does he like?
What does he want?
But it was just, oh
my goodness, this well
known director is here
looking at our work
and really enjoying it.
But yes, it moved on
with an American tail.
It's about a little
family of Russian mice
that immigrate from Europe to
the United States to New York
just as they're finishing
the Statue of Liberty.
Won't it be nice
to get to America
where we don't have to
worry about cats anymore?
We had landed.
We were on the map making
a movie with that kind
of support and the talent.
James Horner, and Score,
and Linda Ronstadt.
It was wonderful.
It was wonderful
working in collaboration
with Steven Spielberg.
All the studios began thinking
we've got to get into that.
We've got to jump in with
our own animation studio
and compete because
that makes money.
And that changed
the whole complexion
of not just domestic animation,
but worldwide animation.
I think, the lover of animation,
it was the first time
where we were like,
oh, something's happening.
Something magical is
happening over there.
WEN: We were embarking
upon the second golden age
of 2D animation.
It was exciting
and groundbreaking,
and connected deeply with
a whole new generation
of both kids and adults.
A resetting and recalibration
of the executive command
at Disney happened.
The old regime was removed
and replaced with Roy Disney.
I don't think it's
an exaggeration
to say that Roy Edward Disney
saved animation, and helped
reinvent and redefine it.
And that's the premise of Don
Juan's wonderful documentary,
Waking Sleeping Beauty.
And here finally was someone
in the person of Howard Ashman,
the brilliant
lyricist and Broadway
trained talent who gave
everyone a direction.
Gave everyone a goal
and a path to follow.
And who would have dreamed that
it was the Broadway Musical,
the form of the Broadway
musical that would redefine
what Disney Animation could be.
I remember when we went
to see Little Mermaid.
And it was like,
oh, suddenly they
had this formula where
it's, oh the animation
looks like Disney.
And they're all singing songs
and the songs are singable.
And this is fun.
So those songs are
classics and it's
just the epitome of really
great Broadway songwriting.
And I mean, there
are some people
who say it's the last
great Broadway songwriting.
And that was the rebirth
of the Disney animated epic.
There are chapters
with every studio.
And there has to be a continuum
of energy, and new ideas,
and what have you.
And it was starting
to happen back
at Disney with Little Mermaid.
And we knew what was going on.
Little Mermaid, that
was the, it's back.
Whatever the magic that we
lost, it's now fully back.
And you could see
the confidence.
And you could see this artistry
that acknowledged the past
but was creating their own path.
They call the '90s and the 2000
the second golden age or the
new renaissance of animation.
And it really was.
And why I think it
was the nine old men
had passed on what
they learned making
those classic Disney films.
And they'd pass it on to
that second generation.
And that second
generation, right
around the '90s and the
2000s were getting good.
We were all just super
excited at the time to be
working on a series of films.
By that point, people started
to realize that we were working
on a series of films
which were doing well
and people were
really responding to.
Back at the beginning of that
period like Little Mermaid,
everyone was more like, "We just
have to keep this thing going."
We were trying to do a movie
that would please ourselves
and you never know.
It's amazing and I didn't think
you 30 years after we made.
Little Mermaid that there
would be people and little kids
discovering the movie.
But they're doing what I did
with Pinocchio which is great.
I saw Pinocchio and I had
no idea it was from 20 years
before I saw it in a
theater that had been made.
I think at the time, many of us
animators, we had no
idea that we were living
through the second golden age.
That's the kind
of thing you don't
know until you look back on.
Competition breeds excellence.
So I think us leaving,
having a competition out
there is what helped this
animation renaissance
that Disney was experiencing.
So they had the character
design as a given.
But what they did with it
was new, and inventive,
and crowd pleasing.
The stories are relatable,
the characters are relatable.
You can project
yourself into the story.
The conflicts that
are universal.
A kid dealing with an
overprotective parent.
Is that story ever
going to get old?
We didn't invent that story.
That story has been around
for thousands of years.
It's part of the
nature of growing up.
I think the stories in
the '90s that we did,
they tapped into
universal classic ideas
that don't go away.
Well, I got to say the thing
that I love about animation
is animating
characters that believe
the impossible is possible.
Ariel wanting to walk on land.
I want more.
Beast thinking
that somebody could
see past the ugly exterior
and see somebody to love.
I thought I saw,
and when we touched
she didn't shudder at my part.
I find that fascinating.
It's seeing beyond.
I was a brand new animator.
I wasn't very good, but
I was working hard at it.
And it was time to work
on Beauty and the Beast.
And Glenn was
animating the beast.
Animator by the name of Mark
Henn was animating Belle.
And he asked me if I would
be the Florida beast guy.
And so I said, "OK."
But I was really nervous.
The beast is a
complex character.
He's a main character of
the film and I was 21 or 22,
and really not that
good but eager.
And one of the great
things about Glenn
is not only his abilities
and all of that,
but his generosity.
His generosity of giving you
work that can really make you
And I remember he gave me this
sequence in the film where
beast is being
bandaged by Belle,
but he gave me the
whole sequence.
And I remember looking at
this going, "I can't do this.
I can't do it.
This is not going to happen."
And I was so scared.
And that's the other
thing he always did.
Is he always had faith in all
of us that worked with him.
Over the span of
time, you'd be here
and he'd bring you up to here.
Now, hold still.
This might sting a little.
By the way, thank
you for saving my life.
You're welcome.
We worked on
Beauty and the Beast
and that got an Academy Award
nomination for the first time.
No other animated film
had ever gotten that.
And here are the nominees
for the best picture.
Beauty and the Beast,
Don Hahn producer.
And that was a big
deal at the time.
Well deserved but that sent
a panic through the academy.
And some people thought this was
going to open all sorts of doors
but the academy closed ranks.
We don't want the
animated films to be
competing directly head to
head with live action movies.
They have their place
and we love them,
but they have their place.
We didn't make it.
We lost that, but we got
a Golden Globe that year.
And then Aladdin comes out and
it got really huge acclaim.
Robin Williams, and the
genie, and all of that.
But then we make this
little movie, Lion King.
The Lion King may
have the last roar.
Beauty and the Beast and
Aladdin breathed new life
into the Disney Kingdom.
I remember how
massive that movie was.
And the night that we
went to see Lion King,
we didn't go to a matinee.
We went at night, 7:00 at night.
Sold the [bleep] out.
That had never happened
before for a cartoon movie.
It really was the
movie that brought
adults into the theaters.
They were coming in droves.
They were happy to come
back over and over again
with their kids.
And so that's why that blew up.
That's why it became
$1 billion film.
Circle of life.
Everybody knew that.
It made us feel OK about
eating animals for a long time.
I'm a vegan now but
when I was a kid,
it was like, wow,
circle of life.
They said it in that movie.
And the Oscar goes to is
Hans Zimmer for the Lion King.
Winner of the Oscar is,
Elton John and Tim Rice.
Can you feel the love tonight?
That officially made animation
this second golden age.
It was official at that
point, when you had
a more than $1 billion film.
It was an animation boom and
it was all because of money.
Animation directors
suddenly had agents.
Everything about the
business changed.
Simultaneously, television
animation enjoyed a rebirth.
Steven Spielberg gave it a
kick in the right direction
with Tiny Toon and Animaniacs,
and demanded a certain level
of quality that no one had seen
in television animation before.
Followed by The Simpsons
where again, it was not just
the quality of the animation.
In fact, barely the
quality of the animation.
The quality of the
timing of the animation
too great script writing.
I will never forget watching
the first Simpsons carton show.
And Marge Simpson going...
Do you hear that?
What dear?
The punching bag.
They're just playing, Homer.
I can't sleep with that racket.
Go tell him to knock it off.
I like the punching bag sound.
I like the punching
bag sound destroyed us.
It was literally the funniest
thing we'd ever heard.
It was like watching
the birth of new comedy.
The Simpsons dominated most
of my free time from 1989
I think when it
debuted all the way up
until I made Clerks and
probably a few years past that.
That was the cultural
stew that fed
and nourished me before
I went and became
a pop culturist myself.
I was well prepared
and armed because I'd
watched a decade of
Simpsons by the time I was
entering the public discourse.
It teaches you to be quick.
It teaches you what
great writing is.
I attribute a lot of Family
Guy's emergence to everybody
wanted animation.
They wanted exactly
this kind of animation.
So I was pitching at
exactly the right time.
Exactly the right tone of show.
They wanted something that
was going to do for them what.
The Simpsons had done
and what King of the Hill
was doing at the time.
Sort of experimenting with
the traditions that we've been
taught, but now taking in
a new generation taking it
a new direction was really
what the '90s and 2000s
were all about.
WEN: And just when
animation seemed
to be taking over the
world with no end in sight,
a new technique
was on the horizon,
computer-generated animation.
No one, especially the
animators themselves,
had any idea how this
would change everything
and change it so quickly.
Right after The Fox and the
Hound, John Lasseter, and I
had gone across
the little whatever
dopey drive there to the
Disney Animation theater there.
And we saw Tron.
They were just doing some
initial experimental animation,
and Bill Kroyer, Jerry Reese.
Who they were working on some
stuff with these light cycles.
And we came back to my office
and sat there just depressed.
Whoa, there's so much dimension.
We just did The
Fox and the Hound
and we had one multi-plane
shot we could use in the movie.
And there, every shot is
multi-plane dimensional.
Wouldn't it be cool if we
could design a little story
that could use that.
And so we did this
little Wild Things test
where we designed the
backgrounds to move,
but we knew that we couldn't
do the characters so yet in CG
but we could do the backgrounds.
So John worked with
the backgrounds
and I animated the characters,
moving in dimension,
and that was our
first step into CG.
And it was so wonderful.
We wanted to actually propose to
animating Wild Things to Disney
but we couldn't get
the rights to it.
Eventually, John was
fired from Disney.
I don't know what
happened to the guy.
Did something with
Pixar or whatever.
What became Pixar Animation
Studios was originally
an experimental
division of Lucasfilm
and George Lucas and
his friend Steve Jobs
had equal degree of interest
in the possibilities that this
new approach presented to them.
I don't think they
fully envisioned
what it would become, but they
knew there was something there.
I heard about this incredible
group of computer graphics
specialists that George Lucas
had assembled at Lucasfilm,
that he wanted to sell.
And so I went up there and
saw what they were doing
and I met the the leader of
this group, Dr. Ed Catmull.
WEN: In 1972, Ed
Catmull and Fred Parke
created the world's
first 3D rendered
movie, an animated
version of Ed's left hand.
The pioneering
techniques used here
are the basis for
3D rendering we
still do today in video games,
movies, and visual effects.
A film that came out
was Great Mouse Detective.
And there was the
first foray into doing
computer animation in the Big
Ben sequence in that film.
And that was a one
engineer and one animator
in the basement of the
main lot with a computer,
just doing it, not
having any roadmap.
They built the gears
in the computer.
They printed them out
on a sheet feed plotter.
Hand fed the 24 field paper.
And because our
goal at the time was
we are the legacy of a 60-year
history of 2D animated films,
the real design
goal is that this
needs to blend in seamlessly.
You can't tell how this is
done to celebrate the Walt
Disney traditional medium.
So it was printed on
paper, Xerox on cels,
hand-painted, shot
at our camera,
just like every other
element in the film.
Based on the
success of that film,
they went on to
buy one computer.
And they put it in the
animation department.
It wasn't in the
basement somewhere
with wavefront software.
And like a seed, they
just put it there.
And we had an engineer
and some tech people who
knew how these things operated.
And they started to get the
animators interested in it.
It really was the
Wild West of software,
and technology, and materials.
And literally
grappling and pivoting,
and making it up as you went
along through the course
of this time frame.
Technology is always a
tool to serve the art form.
And in many cases
in the trajectory
of animation history, technology
was there to save costs.
In order to keep
the industry alive,
you have that
example in everything
from xerography, where it
helped the cost of having
an entire division
of hundreds of inkers
taking hours and hours to
carefully hand ink cels
which was incredible artistry.
But suddenly when you
have several Xerox cameras
and teams working,
you could accomplish
close to 1,000 cels a day.
A single anchor might
get about 15 or 20 cels
done a day if they were fast.
So it was a tremendous
cost savings.
Ink and paint was
one of the largest
departments in our pipeline.
They had been developing a
digital ink and paint system
called CAPS, computer
animation production system,
to scan, and paint,
and composite.
And we used The Little
Mermaid, the last shot
of the film to test it out.
[music playing]
And from then on, we
integrated it in every film
after that.
When that technology was
offered to the Disney Animation
studio, they were intrigued.
The younger element, the younger
minds there were intrigued
and they adopted it for the
magic carpet in Aladdin.
And being a part of
the process like that,
it really helped tell
the story about our...
Because we did become
part of the problem
solving where they might
come like in Aladdin,
the tiger's head.
It's going to rise
up out of the ground,
and it's going to
be this big thing.
The computer animators
and designers could then
be involved and say, "Well,
you know what you can do,
is we could build
it in the computer,
and we could render
it like sand."
[wind blowing]
We were the only ones who
were doing this integration
and it was a wonderful design
challenge, like the ballroom
in Beauty and the Beast.
It was an added
story element and it
had to be designed
so that it wouldn't
trigger you out of the story.
It's like, "Oh my God.
What's that?
It's 3D."
This idea of incorporating
technology into this art form
that an entire company had
been built around for decades
was a little intimidating.
And the powers that be made
the careful decision, perhaps
wisely at the time,
to keep this idea
of digital technology quiet.
It was very important
that word did not get out
that Disney, the home of
this great classic library
of animation, was
moving into computers.
But it was the great
success of The Lion King.
They had proved
themselves over many years
and many films as more
and more digital elements
were being integrated that, OK,
audiences are ready to learn
how we made this magic.
Computer animation, to me,
was a way of feeling dimension
and so I've always
embraced it for Tarzan.
I wanted Tarzan to be
surfing on the trees.
With Eric Daniels, we took
a section of a tree, turned
it that way in space so that
I could imagine I'm Tarzan
and he was moving
through the branches.
I said, "OK.
Now, I want to jump over there.
Can you cut that branch
off and put it in space?"
And he did and then I felt like
I could leap over to there.
So we played this whole
action out of Tarzan
and then they printed it
all out and gave it to me
on photostats so I could
be Tarzan in space.
And once again, it was giving
me a freedom to be the way
I was picturing in my head.
When I started working in
the computer animation which we
hadn't really done
much of at school,
I actually told John Lasseter
and everybody up here,
"I don't know anything
about computers."
And they said, "Don't
worry, it's the same thing."
And they were right.
But it's different in
that hand-drawn animation,
like I say, you feel
your way through.
You draw it and
you can feel poses.
And you can move from one frame
to another and you just sense.
And you work by
feeling your way out.
And with computers,
what I had to do
is understand that and then
step back and analyze it,
and break it down into levels.
So it was much less intuitive.
It was a little more like taking
apart a lawnmower or something,
which I'm also excited by.
So it was a fun place
to be and to start
to figure out a lot
of stuff that had
never been done at that point.
I remember the first
time I saw a Pixar movie.
Actually, it wasn't
even the whole movie,
the studio was screening
for all of us staff
that were doing 2D animation.
And we were working
on The Lion King.
We were right in the
middle of The Lion King
and they had a screening
of one sequence that was
done by Pixar from Toy Story.
And it was amazing.
[music playing]
Ha, what are you doing?
I'm Tempus from morph.
What's this button?
And I remember walking
out of the theater
and talking to other
animators as we're
walking back to our desks
to go work on The Lion King.
And I remember saying, "That's
the end of 2D animation."
But when I saw Toy Story man,
I had seen Pixar's Tin Toy was
like, "How do they make
that lamp do that?"
I was blown away.
By the time Toy
Story came, it was
incredible being
thrown into a world
where everything
looked like that.
Where it was one
gigantic CG cartoon.
And nowadays, they make
humans that look like humans
but back then, the
toys were easy to nail,
the humans less so
but we didn't notice.
We were all just so
amazed like that's crazy.
Look at the texture on it.
Look at the slinky dog.
Look at Mr. Potato Head.
It all tracks, it all works.
And then you add to
it a wonderful story
and fantastic voices.
And the magic of what they
were able to accomplish
with the animation
is elevated trifold.
Suddenly, you have
an instant classic
that becomes a milestone
in animation history.
Everything changes from
that point forward.
When the movie came
out, it was mind blowing.
I'd never seen anything like it.
It was like seeing Jurassic
Park for the first time.
It was just a whole
new kind of filmmaking,
and it was hugely impressive.
I wouldn't call it sort
of a looming specter of CG.
But there was
definitely this sort
of feeling like, gosh, I wonder
how far this is going to go.
And people were
like, "Yeah, what's
going to be like in 10 years."
There was an awareness,
a definite awareness
of what's this going
to be like in 10 years?
Are we going to be here?
Never in a million
years did I think it
would completely eclipse
and devour the art
of hand-drawn animation.
By the end of that screening,
there were jaws dropped
and realizations of, oh my
God, the power of this thing
is too much.
We have to evolve because
that is where it's going,
and 2D as it is at that point,
especially at that time,
was starting box
office wise to go down.
It was the magic was
starting to fade,
and I think everybody at
that time went CG animation.
Now, it took five more
years, probably five to seven
more years for it
actually to come true
but that was the
beginning of the end.
Because they could do
things in CG and it
was so new and
revolutionary at the time.
The subtlety of acting
and performance,
the camera that was moving
it had a more cinematic look,
that I thought, are people going
to continue to see the films
that we produce in
hand-drawn animation
when there's this new technology
that's giving a higher level
of sophistication animation?
When the R-Rex
started running down
the street in Jurassic
Park, we were working
on Lion King at the time.
And there really
was a little bit
of a sense of yep, that's over.
There was a little bit,
yeah, we're not going to get
to handle that stuff anymore.
That's done.
They were showing a sequence.
The army man sequence.
They showed at
Disney in Burbank.
They almost didn't know
what to make of it.
And they're like,
"Is this any good?"
And we're like,
"Are you kidding?"
This is a riot.
This is a blast.
We thought it was very cool that
we thought it was entertaining.
We thought it was entertaining
to the next level.
We thought it worked
amazingly well.
We were all super enthused.
We did not view it as a threat.
We just saw it as another way
to make a work of art or a film.
Just like there's painting and
there's sculpture, that they
could mutually coexist.
We did not view it as a
threat that would somehow one
might replace the other.
Is this going to
replace hand-drawn?
And we were like, "No way."
This is a totally
separate medium.
It's a separate art form.
I thought it was more
of a split in the road.
We have now a whole new
way of producing animation.
Other people with
different skill sets
can access animation.
That's great.
The more, the merrier.
That's awesome, right?
So I never assumed that
Hollywood would basically
consider it not a split but an
evolution, where you had to do
away with the old ways, right?
So it was around Treasure
Planet where it was
very clear what was happening.
And I remember having a
conversation with John Ripa.
We were both supervising
characters on that film
and saying, "Well, this
might be the last one we get
to make so let's make it count.
Let's go with a bang."
"And then we went
out with a bomb."
It covered a few
films, actually.
A period of DreamWorks and
Jeffrey Katzenberg weaning
themselves off of hand-drawn.
And I think just for
like box office reasons,
you know as much as anything
that was the bottom line.
The cost of making those films
was going higher and higher.
At the same time, the
box office revenues
were not necessarily
keeping pace
with that so that gap was
putting tremendous strains
on the films.
All the reasons they gave us
for why we should shift I never
bought into them.
They seemed based on very
flawed selective statistics.
2Ds not doing well,
3D is doing great so
that means the audiences
don't want to see 2D.
I was like, "Well, that's a very
selective way to look at it."
We would have teachers
come in and say,
"Guys, you've got to shift.
The world is changing."
The medium is being blamed for
these movies not doing well.
You're not factoring in
the quality of the stories
or the innovation.
Has nothing to do with
the medium, by the way.
It was rushing the stories and
the stories weren't connecting.
But people at the top,
especially the money people,
blame the medium and that I
think broke everybody's heart.
Well there's this myth out there
that 2D animation is it
takes longer to produce,
and it's more expensive,
and that's largely
why we don't do it anymore.
But that is a myth actually.
I've directed and 2D animated
feature Mulan at Disney,
but I've also been an animation
supervisor on a CG film,
Stuart Little 2 over at Sony.
So I've seen hands-on
from my perspective
and they're about the same.
It's just in 2D
animation, you can
get one drawing of a
character and start
animating from day one.
In CG animation, there's
a lot of crafting
of creating the
model, and the rig,
and how it's going to
move, and pre-planning
that goes into the model.
And then you can animate faster.
But when you put
them side to side,
those schedules
are about the same.
So the time is the
same and really
the money is the same too.
You have the same amount
of animators on a 2D film
as you do on a CG film.
There's just a swap of different
job titles and technology.
When DreamWorks released Shrek,
it was such an enormous hit that
the rest of the movie industry
said, "Oh, that's what
we should be doing,
and we can make
lots of money too.
And it all ought to be
dimensional animation.
The heck with this
pencil drawn stuff."
My contention is that Shrek was
a hit because it was hilarious.
It was a funny,
funny script enacted
by really talented people like
Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy.
And if it had been
animated with matchsticks,
it would have been a hit.
It was the content that
made it successful,
but the money people read
it as it was the look of it
that people wanted.
And that old 2D hand-drawn
stuff was out of fashion now.
Officially, it was over.
It was over.
Well, Pixar had been
acquired by Disney in 2005,
and then slowly they stopped
making the 2D animated films.
And we were really
sad to see those go.
I mean, that was a gain for us
to get those people with the 2D
hand-drawn experience,
and to see how they would
incorporate that into
their work and we
can be inspired by that too.
But it was very
sad to see the way
that the industry was going.
The industry was
going away from 2D
and I felt like that was a
real loss and a mistake too.
One, what's interesting
is it's a very common belief
that when computers come
into a new artistic medium,
there's something is it's
either less expensive,
takes less time, or it's
going to replace something.
It reminds me a lot of when
photography was invented.
Everybody thought that painting
was going to get replaced.
And what computer animation
does is it has a whole new look,
but the key word is animation.
Animation by definition
is making a motion
picture frame by frame
by frame by frame
and that doesn't change.
We labor over
every single frame.
When we started
on Toy Story, there
were like four people
in the world who knew
how to do computer animation.
And so when we
hired animators, we
got them largely from hand-drawn
tradition and a number
of stop motion people.
And so then we had a
long intensive training
program where we started.
And it was not quite as
straightforward as it is now.
To run the software, you
had to know some command
line coding and things.
And so it was a
little complicated
and it took a
little bit of doing.
And I remember people
getting really frustrated
because literally
you would hear people
going, "If I was
drawing, I could
do this in a half an hour."
And it would take days.
In one sense, it was sudden
but in another sense because I
was working on other
projects, it was
this slow thing that happened.
And the next thing you
know, I just didn't...
What just happened?
It happened so gradually.
That was a hard time.
That was when all of us had
to make a decision that we
never thought we'd have to.
I went into Disney thinking
it was going to be a career.
I was in this thought
process of the nine old men
did it for 40 years.
And I thought I'd be
there most of my career,
and I wouldn't have to really
consider going somewhere else
or figuring out what
else, especially
to just leave
animation altogether.
Some people were able to
make that jump from 2D to 3D,
but a few people weren't.
They didn't have that ability.
And I know one guy that
became a forklift operator.
I know somebody else that went
and took jobs in the parks
and doing retail.
It's sad to see that because
they're really talented
great artists that decided to
just let it go because they had
this big blow happen
to them and they
feel that they lost their
livelihood rather than adapt.
It was sad.
The change happened at CalArts.
So when your teacher comes
in and he looks depressed,
and he goes, "I've been
at Disney for 15 years
and they just let me go."
That has a profound effect
on everybody in school.
And you started seeing
that story happen.
And as a student you
go, "I love the medium"
and I love the craft, but the
people who are teaching me,
who are amazing, who
have been at Disney
and worked on all these landmark
movies, they're getting let go.
"What chance do I have?"
So I love you art form,
I love your craft,
but we can't be together.
I get a job.
For a lot of us, I think
what the question became was,
all right.
Did I get into animation
because I love to draw
or did I get into
animation because I
love to make things move?
And it almost became that basic
because if you got into it just
to make things move and
come alive, well then,
you could adapt probably and
become a computer animator.
And go down that road, and get
retrained, and go maybe work
at Pixar or some other studio.
But what we did,
this hand-crafted 2D
animation was now a dinosaur.
Basically, we were being
told all the skills that we've
been asking you to develop
and become top tier at,
we don't need them anymore.
You need to go away.
Thankfully, I had
already directed Mulan
and I had this new
path of, OK, well,
if I stay away from 2D
animation in general
but I just direct,
I could direct CG.
I could direct 2D.
As a director, it gave me
a lot more flexibility.
So I just tried to go
the path of creating
stories, and scripts, and
producing, and directing.
Eventually, I moved up North.
I moved up to Pixar and worked
with the team on Toy Story 2,
and followed that with Monsters
Inc. But since that time,
animation has been
totally changed.
Traditional hand-drawn
animation has been regretfully
pushed to the sidelines.
It's not gone.
It's not dead.
I'm not a pessimist.
Hand-drawn animation
will always be with us.
It'll be back one day.
Audiences will discover it the
same way they discovered CGI,
and we're going to have
hand-drawn animated films
You know why?
Because animators love it.
Audiences love it.
We all love hand-drawn
traditional animation.
WEN: Traditional 2D
animators are continuing
to find ways to use
their skills to tell
stories, and even add the human
touch to computer animation.
Well, now we know now,
historically looking back,
they had great storytellers.
They were all trained
in Disney anyway
but their stories were great.
They knew how to make
really great stories.
It just gives me so much
more respect for that medium
because I'm starting with a
CG character, which is already
more or less on model
and I'm just kind
of manipulating it from there.
They're starting with
a blank piece of paper
and creating something
that's on model,
and then turning it,
and then evolving it,
and then making it expressive.
And that sort of discipline
just blows my mind.
And so I find myself
constantly returning
to drawing because I've
always loved to draw,
but wanting to go deeper
and wanting to learn
to keep a character on model.
And know what are
the rules of appeal?
I always tell people
Bambi is not a real deer,
but he's a very believable deer.
You believe his situation,
you believe his story.
The idea of believability
versus just duplicating reality,
and that's a subtle
difference, but there
is a difference there.
We hit a glass ceiling.
When everything is digital
and everything is dimensional,
how do you make
something look different?
Go back to the earlier style.
Everything old is new again.
That's what Lauren McMullen did
with her very ingenious short,
get a horse.
That's what the Disney studio
did with the movie Enchanted.
And they hired a former
Disney animator, James Baxter,
to animate the opening
segment of that movie.
And to do so, he hired
other ex-Disney animators
and a few guys who were
working freelance on the side
because they were the only ones
who could produce that quality
of hand-drawn animation.
These artisans are
now folk heroes
to a generation
of young animators
who never learned
that technique,
and never acquired those skills.
And if anything,
I think 2D animation
has really freed us a lot more.
It has really pushed
us to the next level.
We learned this from
Glen Keane on Rapunzel.
He would sit and
look at the CG work
being done, and pause
on frames and draw
over to emphasize poses.
The elevation for me
at Disney of CG animation
took a huge jump
for me in Tangled
when Glen started
taking CG animators
and really pushing 2D
principles back into it.
Break it to make it
look, feel right.
Don't worry about it
being technically right.
Make it feel right.
And we picked that
up on Inside Out,
and we've done it
on every film since.
I know that Frozen gets
a lot of the accolades
as far as the rebirth of
Disney feature animation.
But for me, Tangled was the film
where I was like, oh my God.
It felt like it really
set the bar higher.
And we saw that and we're
like, "OK, that's what
we're aiming towards now.
That is just beautiful."
Well, whether you are
doing it with a computer
or we're doing it with a
pencil, it doesn't matter.
It's about taking what's inside
and showing it to other people.
It's the gift that we each
have that God's given us
that we are trying to
translate, to share, to give it
to somebody else to appreciate.
So I thought, all right, I
think I know what drawing is.
When I draw, I watch
the line I make.
And I started to do that.
And I thought, I'm just
going to watch what I do.
I started making a line
of drawing of a character.
And as I drew, I realized I
wasn't looking at the line.
You don't look at the
line you're making.
So I realized I was
always looking to the left
or to the right of the line.
And I realized, the
line you're making
is you're defining the reality
that's between the lines.
That's what's real.
And that CG was
doing the same thing.
It was shading that character
that's between those lines,
but it was about the
existence of that character.
And so I realized there's
really no difference.
We are all living in the skin of
the characters that we create.
WEN: Now we've come full
circle, with technology
making it easier than ever to
create hand-drawn animation.
And this is bringing in a whole
new generation of 2D animators.
I remember when I was a
freshman, the first teacher I
ever had, the first
lecture he ever gave us was
he dimmed the lights ominously.
And he gathered us
all together and said,
"2D animation is dying."
This is a candle
that is dwindling.
It is in the middle of a
howling storm of commerce,
and it is up to you to
protect and carry this flame
to the next generation.
And if you don't,
animation is dead
"and you're all going to
be delivering my pizza."
This is how my education began.
Now, I in retrospect,
find that metaphor
to be a bit hyperbolic.
My personal perspective is
that you can't kill art.
You can't kill an art form.
An art form grows and evolves
with the culture it's in.
So even though Disney,
hand-drawn, feature length
films, that specific world
is currently non-existent,
2D animation is not
just Disney hand-drawn
feature length films.
I think there's
an irony once again
because I think
the thing that sent
animation away is technology.
The advancement of
technology and the ability
to do these CG animated films.
But I think the
thing that's going
to bring it back is technology.
Technology advancing
for us to do the ways
that we distribute content.
And plus, the ways to create 2D
animated films, the software,
whether you do it digitally or
if you want to do it on paper.
It's still shooting it.
There's ways of creating
it quicker and cheaper.
So some of the things
that we may have been
prohibitive in the past from
a cost standpoint really
don't exist anymore.
The African saying,
"They buried us
but they didn't
know we were seeds."
That's what happened
to 2D animation.
I think everybody
thought it was done
and it kept growing in
different parts of the world,
especially in Europe and Japan.
It kept growing and
it kept growing.
And the whole generation of
people who grew up with it
and loved it willed it back and
it slowly started rising again.
And now, Netflix is spending
real money on a 2D feature
with Sergio Pablos.
Who would have thought
a Spaniard from CalArts
would potentially save feature
animation with his studio?
When we had an attempt
at reviving 2D animation,
we just kept looking back.
We just kept asking audiences,
"Have you been missing these?"
And audiences said, "We're
all good on princesses
and singing animals. Thank you.
We're fine.
So we don't need that anymore."
So instead of saying, "What
else can we give them?"
Then they just said,
"Oh, I guess they want 3D
and that's what we... ".
So we never tried anything else
and I thought someone should.
And it was many people
resentful at Disney
because we all felt if someone
should, it should be them.
They made the medium
what it is today.
So they should be doing
something about it.
And then one day I just
looked at myself in the mirror
and I realized I'm one
of the few people who
got to work in 2D
animation professionally
and I had my own studio.
So how am I any less to blame
than Disney for not doing
something about it, right?
So I said, "Well, at least
let's give it a try."
One of the things that
2D was held back from was
as the filmmaking advanced, and
you've got real dynamic live
action filmmakers, those ideas
weren't necessarily translated
in the hand-drawn medium.
But now, with the
help of technology,
now we can get more immersive
in our storytelling.
Klaus is pretty successful
at that, I think.
Adding elements that really sort
of sweeten the palate when you
can actually really play
space, and dimension,
and add atmosphere,
and shadow techniques,
and shading and stuff like
that, that actually gives
2D characters a 3D dimension.
It had a magical feel to it.
It was really fun to look at.
So however we get there, it's
just the organic feeling when
you animate a scene and
you see just I don't want
to say imperfections,
but there are
shifts and changes of realness.
You look at any movie,
beautiful 2D movie,
it has a spark in it that's
just a little different.
We did this two-minute test
proof of concept where we
basically was meant
to convince investors
to put money into the film.
The great thing about
that was because it
looked like it had
volumetric lighting,
people assumed it was CGI.
And I never pitched
it as a 2D film.
I just said this is a film.
We made that
conversation go away.
All the rejection
just disappeared.
What was surprising as we
were putting the film together
and hiring talent,
I started calling
of course, all the old guard.
Get out of retirement.
Whatever you're
doing, we need you.
Some did, some of
course, had moved on.
And there was a big
question mark about,
can we actually get enough
people to be able to animate
at this level on a film today?
And that's when the new
generation started coming up.
Kids right out of school, maybe
they only work in one film.
And they had seen
that piece which
was not meant for
recruiting, but it
was a best recruitment tool.
People would say,
"I will relocate.
I will move my family
to work on that."
And they did.
It's going to take nothing
short of a miracle.
Just looking at the crew of
Klaus is really interesting.
Apart from a couple
of outliers, lunatics
like Matt Williams and Andrew
Chesworth who are in their 30s.
It's basically a crew of you're
under 26 or you're over 50.
And there's this big
gap in the middle where
everyone went to go do CG.
But there's all
these kids which are
under like 26 or
something who are
just insane about this stuff.
And like me, like many of us,
they got hooked on this drug
and it's a powerful drug,
hand-drawn animation.
And animators out there,
hand-drawn animators that are
being born now watching that
movie for the first time
and wanting to jump into
this medium and say,
"Hey, I saw 101 Dalmatians.
Wow, blow my mind."
I think that there's artists
out there that, "Yeah",
3D is really great, but
this hand-drawn stuff, this
is not that.
This is not the 3D stuff.
Those performances
are really cool
"and I want to
learn this medium."
I grew up to work on
Masters of the Universe.
So all that time I spent as a
kid watching Masters Universe,
and not always
watching it as a fan.
Sometimes hate watching
and be like, Orko.
All the time I spent
watching it and all
the time my parents
were like, "Why don't
you go out and do something?
Stop watching these cartoons.
This is a waste of your time."
I love my parents to death.
They were wrong.
Thank God I put in the work when
I did because when I grew up,
somebody was like, "Would you
like to take over Eternia?"
Would you like to put words
in the mouth of Cringer?
I was like, "Words and more.
Let me at it."
And so that came
from a childhood
growing up with cartoons.
I feel like that love of the
medium, that acknowledgment
of a profound impact it
had on a whole generation
of not only artists,
but kids who
grew up loving these movies.
These movies that
changed people's lives.
They changed their dreams.
They literally formed their
view of the world, is now,
you're seeing the seeds grow.
And now, you're seeing all
these different trees all over
the world blossoming with that.
And I don't even think people
who made those movies back then
had any idea how endless
these movies were going to be,
how profound the impact was
going to be on these things.
It's an amazing time where we're
now looking at these things
in a whole different way.
Every university
in a major city now
has a course on how to do
animation, which is insane.
When I was getting
into animation,
there was one in the UK
where you could go learn
to do animation and a
couple in the United.
States that was
just like, "That's
where you go to do animation."
Every university now
has some little thing
where you go do animation.
So many of my
students are coming in
because they grew up with Lion
King, Beauty and the Beast,
and Aladdin.
All these films
that I worked on.
They are adamant
about wanting to be
2D animators just like I was.
And look at the stuff that's
coming out of Europe and Japan,
and there's still the
great stuff over there.
But I feel like the
mainstream high end
you broad appeal feature
animation in traditional needs
to come back.
It doesn't need to take over.
That's not what I'm saying.
It just needs to have a place.
It's a way of registering
something inside of me
that I almost
can't even control.
That it comes out in the way
I put the line on the paper.
I think of it as a
seismograph of your soul
is this energy
that you draw with.
And I feel like
there is something
that we are communicating
actually in the way
you put the line down.
My son Max, as we were
working on Duet at one
point, which was hand drawn.
He said, "Dad, do you
realize every line you make
is the first time
and the last time
that that stroke will ever be
made in the history of time.
There will never be another
line like that line."
And we learned that because
as we would do that,
we took a look at a line
and it was like a field
of graphite Stardust.
That it was different
every stroke.
It was a revelation to me of the
importance of line and energy,
and that little film allowed
me to communicate how I felt
about little boy, a little girl,
growing up through the drawing.
And then Kobe saw that and
when he asked me to animate
his letter to basketball,
Dear Basketball,
he said, "But it's
got to be hand-drawn.
There's this soul to it.
There's this touch."
And all the things that I
felt, he was saying back to me.
And was like, "Yeah,
we got to do this."
We won an Academy Award in
2018, which was an experience
I'll never forget.
PRESENTER: And the Oscar
goes to Dear Basketball,
Glen Keane and Kobe.
Whatever form
your dream may take,
it's through passion
and perseverance
that the impossible is possible.
WEN: So what lies ahead in
the future for animation?
We are in a unique
moment right now,
I think, in the
history of animation.
There is a enormous boom
happening right now and coming.
I would say that there has
literally never been a better
time in the history of the
world to pitch an animated TV
show than right now.
What's interesting to me
about television animation
is it's the one place
now where 2D animation is
still very much alive and well.
And not only alive and
well, but preferred.
The hunger for
animation is red hot
and the competition
among studios is red hot.
And whenever there's a lot
of studios in competition,
that's an exciting
time for creators.
It's an exciting
time for artists
because it means
there's a lot of work
and it means there's
enormous opportunity.
An amazing new
world of 2D animation
is happening right
now and I haven't
been busier in my
whole life I think,
than I am right now at age 53.
I'm really excited about
the future of animation
as it becomes easier to
find more and more diverse
I feel like I was part of the
first generation to grow up
with anime really easily
accessible, and web comics
really accessible, which
definitely influenced
me and my contemporaries.
And I think the next
generation has even
more tools at their disposal.
There's enough small
commercial houses.
There's enough video
games that are embracing
2D animation like
Cuphead and all
these amazing indie
game studios that
said, "Is 2D animation dead?
We don't care. We love it.
We're going to bring it back."
I think accessibility is
going to be the big changing
factor in animation.
I mean, I think back
to when I was a kid,
there was no information at all.
I mean, you could go to
the library and maybe find,
maybe find a book on
animation but that was it.
And everything else
was just a mystery.
And then here comes
YouTube which suddenly,
it's a little more accessible.
And now there are apps.
It will always have
2D animation with us.
As long as there's a child out
there who watches a cartoon,
who takes a pencil and a
pen to a piece of paper,
2D animation will always exist.
It's now in the domain
of the common man.
When Disney was popularizing it
throughout the '40s and '50s,
only gods could do that.
Now, you got a kid at
home doing it on TikTok.
You got a kid at home doing
it on Instagram and stuff.
So 2D animation will
be with us forever.
But it really comes down to
is that the level of artistry
was so high that these guys
did under the leadership
of Walt Disney.
That when you do something
so good, it's for the ages
and it will keep
inspiring people to do
great things in the future.
The last few years,
we've seen hybrids
of documentary and animation.
Just last year, one
film was nominated
in three separate categories,
Best Animated Feature, Best.
Documentary, and Best
International Film,
and that was Flee, which told
a dramatic true life story
using animation as its medium.
Animation, as people say over
and over again, is not a genre.
It's a medium.
It's a medium in which you
can tell any kind of story.
We're all communicating
with pictures.
And the more you abstract
your art direction,
you're dealing with drawing,
even if you're still modeling,
and rigging, and
using virtual puppets,
the more you abstract
things and they start
to look less and less real
and more and more caricatured
and stuff, you are
dealing with all
of these lessons that have
been learned tried and true
for the last 100 years.
Of like, "Oh, this works.
That doesn't."
WEN: Whether it is 2D
hand-drawn animation,
computer-generated animation, or
techniques we have yet to even
discover, one thing is certain.
Animation is by nature an
incredibly human art form.
These are moving images
that come directly
from the imagination of some
of the most creative artists
and storytellers the
world has ever seen.
Animation lets us communicate
and connect with each other
in a unique way that is
easy to take for granted.
But to me, it's pure magic.
[music playing]
So next time you're
watching an animated film,
especially if it's hand-drawn,
perhaps you'll take a moment
to appreciate the heart and soul
that's poured into every frame.
[music playing] ready
for you, Ming-Na.
Want to do a take?
[paper rustling]
So what are you
doing there, Tom?
Oh, hey Ming-Na.
I'm just animating you jumping.
I'm using the squash
and stretch technique
to give you that jump illusion.
Well, that frame right
there isn't very flattering.
Oh no, Ming-Na.
That's just a blur drawing.
So you only see
it for one frame.
But when we put all the drawings
together and we speed them up,
it'll feel like you're
jumping up and down.
Now I see.
That's pretty cool.
OK, Ming-Na.
Rough animation is done.
Now it's time for clean
up, but I need you
to stay really, really still.
Is... is that pencil sharp?
No it's not too sharp.
All right.
So this is clean up line.
So you have to stay very still.
We also call this
the final line.
And that means
it's the one that's
going to get colored in so
it's got to be just right.
Doing the best I can.
Ooh, loving those lashes.
Almost ready.
Camera looks good.
All right.
Say cheese.
Oh wait, wait, don't say cheese.
No, no, just stay still.
There's a lot of being still
in the animation process,
isn't there?
I guess this is why they
call it a still shot, ha.
Ming-Na, don't move.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
All right.
Now, I'm uploading
your image and there.
All right.
Looking pretty good,
ready for color.
Oh, I was made for the screen.
Didn't your mother teach
you to color in the lines?
I thought you were
a pro at this.
Hey, I'm just messing
with you, Tom.
OK, OK, for real.
I'll stay still.
Yeah, that would help.
- Come on.
- Last time.
That was it.
What a great film.
Thanks so much for letting
me be a part of it, Tom.
Oh no.
Thank you, Ming-Na.
We were so happy to have
you on this journey with us.
Me too.
Hey, nice one.
By the way, I loved
you in Mandalorian.