37. Dale Baer
If there is any animator in the Ha tBuilding today that knows the business inside out it’s Dale Baer. He has one of the most diverse, consistent, and unique careers of anybody on this list. Baer as born in Denver, Colorado in 1950 and fell in love with animation through going to drive-in movies as a kid. Things were tough for him as a kid due to his father’s premature death and his family being skeptical of his choice of career path. Fortunately he got enough support to attend Chouinard Art Institute, the protype of Calarts. Among his classmates were Mark Kausler, a great talent in the industry who can identify an animator’s work better than pretty much anybody on earth, and Tim Walker, a great TV animator who has worked on more projects than almost any person in animation history if not the most. To start his career Dale got a job at Filmation, a low-quality television studio that’s work wasn’t very well done or artistically challenging. Fortunately connections led him to being able to apply to the brand-new Disney training program and after doing a test of Goofy was hired as the second trainee in the second generation (visual effects great Ted Kierscey was the first.) Intimidated by the elite but potentially-cold greats in the D-Wing, Baer gravitated to the equally talented but more open and warm top animators such as John Lounsbery, Eric Larson, Hal King, and Cliff Nordberg many of whom resided in the B-Wing. These men influenced Dale very much as an animator and as a person (he is acclaimed by many of his peers to be incredibly kind and approachable like those masters were). However after his mentor Lounsbery passed away the greats began to either go into other areas or retire and a group of ambitious but cliché animator led by Don Bluth began to take their places. Never a big fan of Bluth at either Filmation or Disney Baer found working with the group an unpleasant experience making him decide to leave the studio around 1977. He went on to work for Ralph Bakshi and Richard Williams before setting up his own studio Baer Animation, which for many years was a very successful commercial studio. In this time period he kept connections with the studio by doing freelance on Roger Rabbit, Prince and the Pauper, and the Lion King. When the market for commercials declined Dale Baer returned to Disney in 1998 where he has since supervised such characters as Yzma in Emperor’s New Groove, Slim in Home on the Range, Wilbur Robinson in Meet the Robinsons, and Owl in the upcoming Winnie the Pooh.
In many ways Dale Baer artistically has many similarities to his mentor John Lounsbery. Like Lounsbery, Baer is very centered around putting an excellent performance on paper and is very versatile style-wish but prefers to do more comic characters. He draws very loosely when animating, something he learned when studying a John Sibley drawing while working on his pencil test that got him the job in the first place. Study Dale’s work and you’ll notice that his use of squash and stretch is amazing. This is a very important technique in animation because it is a good asset in acting and dialogue scenes as well as a good way to put life and flesh in your scene. Another crucial aspect in Dale Baer’s animation is performance. He thinks and analyzes how the character would perform and also puts a lot of effort in making sure the character’s thought process is evident in the scene he is working on.
The impact Dale Baer has had on both the Disney studio and the animation industry as a whole is massive and largely underappreciated. He was very important in establishing that young people could be great Disney animators and helped pave the way for the training program which developed such future talents as Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, Mark Henn, David Pruiksma, Barry Temple, Kathy Zielinski, and Tony de Rosa among others. That’s not including people that have had great careers in other aspects of production (that list would be longer than this post.) Baer also was one of the few early trainees that really put in performance and thought process in his characters. More importantly unlike some others these elements are still well done and strong in his animation for projects that aren’t very good or don’t have a story that already establishes a rich, deep character. His performance of Yzma was by far the best thing in Emperor’s New Groove and his animation of Slim was one of the only positive things in Home on the Range. In both of those productions many of the other top animators were so bothered by the story and films they were working on they didn’t try as hard as they should. So thank you Dale Bear for working hard even during tough times. Also CG wasn’t an excuse in his mind to not give it your all either. Like I’ve mentioned in passing before Dale Baer is up to the challenges of computer animation and is one of the few who doesn’t see the medium as a barrier of the endless possibilities in animation. This is his impact without mentioning all that he did in his over 20 years outside of Disney. He even filled in for Richard Williams and finished the animation for Roger Rabbit in his own studio with almost no time left!
Putting down the ways Dale Baer has inspired me in a nutshell is a nearly-impossible task for me. He’s a great role model and someone whose work I greatly admire. If I had to sum it up his effort and emphasis on performance and thought-process are probably the ways he’s most affected me. Baer works so hard on everything he does and always makes sure to include all the aspects of great animation in his work. I enjoy studying his animated performances and learn something new from them every time. Also he inspires me in his effort and sincerity for his work. Thank you Dale Baer for all that you’ve done for the medium of animation and for being a great influence to me and numerous others!
Robin Hood- Animator on Execution Scene
Pete’s Dragon- Animator
Black Cauldron- Animator
Roger Rabbit- Animator on Toon Town Sequence
Prince and the Pauper- Supervising Animator
Lion King- Animator on Simba
Tarzan- Additional Animator
Emperor’s New Groove- Supervising Animator on Yzma
Home on the Range- Supervising Animator on Slim and Buffalo
Chicken Little- Animator
Meet the Robinsons- Supervising Animator on Wilbur
Princess and the Frog- Animator on Ray and Lead Animator on Frog Hunters
Winnie the Pooh- Supervising Animator on Owl