ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.9 - DECEMBER 1999
John Canemaker's Sweet "Dreams"
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The book also focuses on the "new generation" -- today's top story artists at Disney. Chris Sanders, responsible for translating the story of Mulan into "animatable" terms, reveals how he gets over trouble spots. "He said that the real task is to flow around the problem," remembers Canemaker. "You have to solve the problem in other ways when you come up against something."
The author also looks at the work of Brenda Chapman, who has since left the studio to direct The Prince of Egypt for DreamWorks. During her tenure at Disney, Chapman's story work brought quiet moments of humanity to such films as The Rescuers Down Under and Beauty And The Beast.
In addition, the book will also feature story sketches by two of today's top animators -- Glen Keane (from Pocahontas) and Mark Henn (from Mulan). Most of the story boards in the book are represented as Canemaker wanted. This means that Paper Dreams is a horizontally shaped book, and a dream for those who savor the smallest artistic details, as the double page spreads recreate the feeling of looking at an actual "board."
It's evident from the book that Canemaker relishes the archeological-like stage of researching, where treasures are often found in the Disney Archives and Animation Research Library. Paper Dreams features many of these, including a reproduction of a Bill Peet story board, created for The Sword In The Stone, in 1949. The board depicts the film's "wizard's duel" and according to Canemaker, "It's so incredibly imaginative and graphically oriented. It's much better than what finally appeared in the film."
There's also a photograph that Canemaker has waited over three decades to use -- it features story man Roy Williams showing a story board to a teenage visitor to the studio, by the name of Richard Williams. They're not related, but the youngster in the photo is indeed the same Richard Williams who would go on to much acclaim in the animation industry for his many eclectic projects, including the Academy-Award winning short subject A Christmas Carol and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
More than just a "pretty coffee table book," Paper Dreams delves into the lives of the artists in and outside the work place. Humorous anecdotes peel back the layers of what day-to-day life at the studio was like. The book shows how Roy Willaims was often the butt of jokes, for example, members of the story department once left a wheelbarrow filled with water in the back seat of his car.
The closeness of the French artists, Paul and Gaetan Brizzi, the twin brothers, who created the storyboards for the gripping pre-credit opening of Hunchback of Notre Dame, is also revealed. Canemaker remembers how he was only able to interview, Paul, while Gaetan was on vacation. "Paul kept referring to an empty chair where Gatean would have been had he not been away," laughs the author. "It was like interviewing Harvey the rabbit!"
Such background information allows Paper Dreams to shed more light on this often overlooked and laborious of all the artistic disciplines at the Disney studio. Says Canemaker, "Animators concentrate on their scene, on their action. They really get into minutia. But, story people have to look at things in a wider, more encompassing way. They have to draw well and express themselves well, graphically, as well as dimensionalize and emotionalize characters. There are many skills that they must have and the best ones have them all."
Paper Dreams: The Art & Artists of Disney Storyboards by John Canemaker. Illustrated. New York, New York: Hyperion, 1999. 272 pages. ISBN: 0-7868-6301-2. (US$60.00)
Mike Lyons is a Long Island-based freelance writer who has written over 100 articles on film and animation. His work has appeared in Cinefantastique, Animato! and The Disney Magazine.
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