43. Alex Kupershmidt
Alex Kupershmidt is one of the best animators in the Disney studio today in both hand-drawn and CGI. He is a graduate of the animation department at theSchoolofVisualarts inNew Yorkand joined Disney at the opening of theFloridastudio in 1989. His Disney debut was on Roller Coaster Rabbit and it was shortly followed by his position as animator in the Florida Gaston and Aladdin units. On the Lion King Kupershmidt was given the assignment as supervising animator of the hyenas alongside Dave Burgess, a current mainstay of DreamWorks. They hyenas turned out vey well and give real impact in the story. Later Alex would work as a supervisor on all the Florida films: Khan the horse and General Li in Mulan, Stitch in Lilo and Stitch, and Koda in Brother Bear. When DisneyFloridashut down in 2004 Kupershmidt moved to theBurbankplant where he has since has produced great work in both mediums of animation. One of his most recent successes was animating the horse Maximus in Tangled.
One of Alex Kupershmidt’s key procedures in planning for animation is studying the voice track. “There was a performance of the actors who recorded the voices that really kinda nailed down what the character will do in a scene;” said Kupershmidt when talking about animating the hyenas. “Whoopi’s character Shenzi came on as somebody who’s particularly scheming all the time. She’s the leader of the gang and it’s true that in actual hyenas they’re led usually by a female- by what is known as the alpha-female. So her character was always cool, always scheming, very rarely lost composing and so on. Cheech’s character Banzai was kind of the opposite, you know, very volatile, sparely ever able to speak in whispers, very on all the time, very high pitch. And Ed was sort of the comic relief. I think the directors always thought that Ed was the one who knew the score, but pretended to act like an idiot, so you know that’s kind of how they treated him.” Voices are very instrumental in not only the character’s design but also in the animated performance. One of Kupershmidt’s assets as an animator is that he is very good at using simple shapes with complex refinements. Study any of the characters he’s designed and you’ll see they’re basically geometric shapes with details added on later. This flexibility and caricature in his animation also for great acting possibilities which Alex takes complete advantage of in his animation. His animation has very good understanding of what is going on in the scene and what the character is thinking. Last but not least he draws teeth rivaled by no other animator that didn’t work for Bob Clampett at Warner Brothers. They’re just fabulous!
Alex Kupershmidt is a very important figure in that he was one of the best talents discovered through the Florida Studio. Talents such as Kupershmidt, Tom Bancroft, and Aaron Blaise were instrumental in making the studio have what it took to make feature films. Even after the studio closed Alex has kept doing great animation in the California Studio. His animation of Maximus in Tangled is some of the best CGI animation ever made. He’s in a group of animators such as Eric Goldberg, Glen Keane, Dale Baer, Nik Ranieri, and Ruben Aquino who are actually up to taking the challenges of computer animation, don’t put up with what the rig gives them, and labor to put in hand-drawn qualities in it. Many others are either too close-minded about the medium or don’t even take procedures like X-sheets and strong poses with them to computer animation. I hope Alex Kupershmidt will continue to have a marvelous career with Disney and do the great work he does.
The way Alex Kupershmidt most inspires me in that his animation is very sincere and high-quality but remains simple and avoids being unnecessarily complicated. Many animators put in too many secondary actions and put the focus more on the technique instead of the character. However Alex never does this in his animation and always goes through the simplest way of acting that gives the right amount of impact. Also Kupershmidt has influenced me in the way he studies things and gets to know his characters before he animates them. Like many actors would say “There is never too much planning.” His acting too is very spectacular and he obviously really knows what his character would or won’t do. Alex also inspires me in his use of getting the essence of the drawing first and then adding the small refinements. I find from studying artists’ work that the more you stay focus on the gesture and the meaning of that gesture, the better it turns out. Last I’m influenced by his dedication to his craft and devotion to Disney.
These two hyenas are actually concept art done by Alex Kupershmidt when the Lion King was in preproduction.
Beauty and the Beast- Animator on Gaston
Aladdin- Animator on Aladdin
Lion King- Supervising animator with Dave Burgess on Hyens(Alex did most of the graveyard scenes while Dave did more of the later animation), also animated some of Simba and Scar fighting towards the end
Mulan- Supervising Animator on Khan and General Li
Lilo and Stitch- Supervising Animator on Stitch
Brother Bear- Supervising Animator on Koda
Chicken Little- Animator
Meet the Robinsons- Animator
Bolt- Animator on Bolt
Princess and the Frog- lead animator on Maks, Vodoo Dolls, and Band
Tangled- animator on a big chunk of Maximus the horse