41. Ken Duncan

Ken Duncan is one of the most versatile animators and best animated performers in the industry today. He is well-regarded for his variety of influences and his use of many styles. After graduating from the Sheridan Institute in Canada in 1984 Duncan moved to Europe where he worked with animators such as Oscar Grillo and Don Bluth. He worked with John Pomeroy in the U.S. studio for Bluth before coming to Disney in 1989. Some of his first assignments included working under Duncan Marjoribanks on McLeach, James Baxter on Belle, and Andreas Deja on Jafar. After briefly working on the Stampede in the Lion King he went on to Pocahontas to supervise Thomas. This was followed by such success as Megera in Hercules and Jane in Tarzan. After supervising Captain Scoop in Treasure Planet Duncan left Disney to work on Shark Tale at DreamWorks. In 2007 Ken Duncan founded Duncan Studio, one of the hottest hand-drawn studios in America today.  They are getting tons of work and make films in very innovative and unique styles. They will be doing the hand-drawn animation for an upcoming animated film produced by DreamWorks.

Ken Duncan’s greatest assets are his diverse influences, timing, understanding of the character’s role in a film, and his skills as a performer. Like I said beforeDuncanworks in many different styles and types of animation. They can go as straight as the romantic scenes of Jane and Tarzan to the broad acting of Jafar (if you study his scenes in that film his Jafar has in a way a mask face. Very cartoony stuff.) Not only does he study fine art but he also studies film and live-action performances. When animating Meg and Jane he looked at many 40s actresses for inspiration. He studied how they performed and their behavior very closely to see which of those elements would work well with his characters.Duncanis also a master at finding the rhythm of a scene and has great skill in the area of timing. For some reason it seems like anyone who has animated inEuropehas great timing skills! Some other examples include James Baxter and of course the expert of the subject Eric Goldberg. Like Goldberg, Ken uses exposure sheets to find the timing of his scene. I personally think X-sheets are one of the greatest friends you’ll ever find in animation  because they are great at keeping the costs down, letting the animator visualize the scene, keeping everyone organized as well as on the same page, and of course are a great source for the animator.Duncanalso has a great understanding for why a character is important in the story and how they feel about the situation that’s going on in the film. I recommend listening to his interview on Animation Podcast to see how he thinks through this stage and his knowledge of the subject. Last Ken Duncan is an excellent performer in animation. He is very good at finding aspects of a performance that show character and how the character is feeling.Duncanalways makes his performances strong and they always achieve the goal of animation, communicating a story.

Ken Duncan’s impact comes mainly in that he is one of the best female animators in his generation. Alongside Mark Henn, Glen Keane, and Tony Fucile he has really helped define the strength of the second generation females and has contributed to them being less passive and more aggressive. Many of the first generation females have things happen to them and are put in situation. The modern day girls tend to have bigger dreams and be stronger characters. Animators like Duncanwere important in establishing this. Also his versatility in style and skills in performance make him a crucial figure in the post-Renaissance era.

What inspires me about Ken Duncan is his belief that the possibilities of ideas and performances in animation are endless. I precisely have the same belief and think that animators should work hard to push the boundaries of what can and is done in the medium. This concept is part of why Duncan Studio is the most promising hand-drawn studio to emerge in recent years. They seem like they can do anything and are up to the challenges of the medium like few other studios anywhere are. Also his study and analyzing skills of performances is something that really inspires me. I want to be able to come up with original but sincere performances someday that really communicate to an audience. Studying the works of animators like Ken Duncan is the main way I learn this from. It’s very important to make your scene clear and really articulate the character’s feelings as well as importance in the story. Last I really like Duncan’s technique and his philosophies. Thank you Ken Duncan for being a great inspiration to me and for creating fabulous work.

Duncan’s Work

Rescuers Down Under- Animator on McLeach

Beauty and the Beast- Animator on Belle

Aladdin- Animator on Jafar(Most of the scenes between Aladdin going inside the lamp and the start of Prince Ali)

Lion King- Additional Animator on the Wildebeest

Pocahontas- Supervising Animator on Thomas

Hercules- Supervising Animator on Megera

Tarzan- Supervising Animator on Jane

Trasure Planet- Supervising Animator on Captain Amelia and Scroop

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2 Responses to “41. Ken Duncan”

  1. I can never identify his work from his years at Bluth even though he was a directing animator in those films (though the pheasant in Rock-a-Doodle has similar gestures and movements that Jane would have in Tarzan). I know he did the “If only I’ve gotten that lamp!” bit from Jafar in Aladdin but what scene(s) of Mcleach did he do in Rescuers Down Under and Belle in Beauty and the Beast?

  2. Razor sharp that never dulls!

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