Mark Dindal's Place in the Sun
(continued from page 2)

Mark was the effects supervisor on The Little Mermaid. © Walt Disney Pictures. All rights reserved.

MD: It was after Little Mermaid. That was such a pinnacle of effects animation. There were so many things in there; it just ran the gamut. I felt at the end of that movie that I had done everything I wanted to do in that category. But the experience of being in a leadership position was something I wanted to pursue further and be more involved with the story aspects of a film.

I talked to Peter Schneider [head of feature animation at Disney] about it and he was very supportive, but how old was I at the time, 27 or 29? Of course you want to go from effects supervisor to director right away. There's not a whole lot of patience and I probably had less than the usual person.

Peter was aware you can't make that kind of jump all at once, but you had to move slowly over. So he helped and got me to the next step, which was really the way to go.

JS: What was that?

MD: I went to Mickey's other featurette, not Christmas Carol, The Prince and The Pauper. I worked on that in kind of a dual layout/workbook phase and did some storyboarding as well. I got exposed to that side of it, which was a whole new angle.

JS: Workbook?

MD: After the storyboards are done but before they prepare for the actual, full-sized layouts, they go back in and do thumbnail-sized layouts for an entire sequence. It helps you see the flow and continuity or if there are any problems in the cutting. I actually found some in the morgue that Ken O'Connor did on Peter Pan, so it's something they did quite a while back.

JS: Did this give you the experience to say, 'I can do this -- I'm good at this?'

MD: It was more a matter of drawing, thinking in a way I hadn't done to that point. I remember early on thinking, as all artists do when you're starting something new, 'Boy, I really shoulda stayed where I was, because I can't draw this sort of thing.' It was more a case of moving into a new area and trying to gain confidence. I was just trying to feel comfortable doing that job.

JS: Sort of jumping into the deep end?

MD: Yeah, it really felt that way because everybody I worked with had a lot of experience. I was working with Don Gibbons -- he could draw the classic characters and was a real fan of Carl Barks. His drawings were so dynamic. He could handle the classic characters just fantastically.

I was sharing the room there with Don and I already felt like, 'Boy, this is a new thing for me,' and then to come in and work side by side with someone like that -- it was even more intimidating. But he was very supportive and very helpful.

So little by little I moved along. I started doing some storyboard work, and then got a little piece of animation in The Rocketeer.

JS: How did that come about?

MD: I had spent a lot of time talking with Tim Engel, who is one of the senior finance officers at the studio now. I had just finished Prince and the Pauper and I think I said to him in passing that I was dying to try something a little different, a little unusual. I might have even said, 'I wish I could do something in black and white' off the top of my head; a couple of days later he said, 'Well, there's this thing over in the live-action division...'

Another scene from the live-action feature that fueled Dindal's career. © The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved.

I don't think the whole thing took more than 3 months or so. The piece wasn't very long, but it was exciting to be a part of a live-action film. It was fun and a very unusual type of thing.

JS: The first time I saw it, it reminded me of the Fleischer Superman shorts, but more recently the spreading arrows made me think of [Disney's World War II-era short] Victory Through Air Power.

MD: Both of those influenced the sequence. I had all the Max Fleischer Superman shorts on tape. We also saw a little bit of [director Frank] Capra's Why We Fight series -- they have the same sort of arrows in there as well.

JS: Where did you go from there?


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