30. Tony Fucile
In a scene in an animated film communication of the story is essential. An animator must find the key drawing(s) that clearly show the feeling and thought process of the character in that particular sequence. These poses are called storytelling drawings because through a pose they tell the audience in the clearest possible way the story and the character. One of the best animators ever at storytelling drawings is this week’s honoree, Tony Fucile.
Tony Fucile was born around 1964 and grew up inCalifornia. At a young age he was exposed to great cartoons through a local TV cartoon host. Among the cartoons these hosts showed were some of the best Looney Tunes directed by geniuses such as Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, and Chuck Jones. Ray Harryhausen monster movies, stop-motion films, and seeing Pinocchio for the first time also helped inspire Fucile to become interested in animation and inspired to draw. After graduating from high school he went on to the character animation program at the California Institute of Arts. Among his classmates were Pixar director Andrew Stanton, Simpsons directors Richard Moore and David Silverman, and future Disney colleagues Broose Johnson and Russ Edmonds. Fucile also learned a lot from his teachers, former Disney animators Hal Ambro and Bob McCrea. In 1986 Tony was hired by Brad Bird to work on the Family Dog episode of Amazing Stories, where he first worked with future Disney giant Duncan Marjoribanks. A year later he went over to Disney where he worked under the great Glen Keane on Oliver and Company. Tony Fucile’s animation still has many elements of Keane’s including the mentor’s strong draftsmanship and bold gestures. After Oliver Tony again worked under his mentor on the animation of Ariel in the Little Mermaid. One of the key scenes he animated was the scenes of Ariel and Eric together in the Kiss the Girl sequence. After Mermaid Tony Fucile left Disney for two years to animate on various projects including Box Office Bunny, Ferngully, and Tom and Jerry: the Movie. However when work began on Ron & John’s feature, Aladdin he raced back to the studio and worked again under Glen Keane on the animation of the title character. In the film he animated the first kiss between Aladdin and Jasmine after they return from the magic carpet ride. After Aladdin Tony was one of the first supervising animators picked to work on the Lion King. His character was Mufasa, Simba’s majestic father who gets killed midway through the movie. Fucile also did the pencil test for the Mufasa ghost sequence, although visual effects are put over it to make the scene more powerful. This was followed by him supervising Esmeralda, the Gypsy girl, in the Hunchback of Notre Dame. On this he worked closely with the young but talented supervising animator James Baxter, who supervised Quasimodo. Unfortunately during the production of Hunchback the atmosphere at the studio was starting to become intense and the Disney Renaissance had ended when Jeffry Katzenberg left the studio in 1994. Fucile stayed after this through the production of Hunchback but left for Warner Brothers after the film was completed. Now Tony worked as the head of animation on Brad Bird’s film the Iron Giant at Warner Brothers. This was followed by employment at Pixar where he most notably worked on Bird’s two films the Incredibles (character designer, supervising animator) and Ratatouille (animator of the end credits.) After Ratatouille Tony Fucile decided to end his animation career and now writes as well as illustrates children’s books. He now lives with his wife and two kids in Sonoma,California.
Like I mentioned earlier one of Fucile’s biggest assets is his ability to make one drawing that has great essence and works as a storytelling drawing. He is a master at character design and animating by using strong key poses that have great strength and clarity. Like his mentor Glen Keane Tony is great at dynamic drawings and communicating a powerful gesture. Great examples of this include the scene where Mufasa is talking to Simba after the elephant graveyard incident and the scenes of Esmeralda singing in the cathedral. In the Mufasa sequence his facial expressions are very strong and show you the concern he is feeling inside. The lip-sync is also very well done and the movement of the mass in the checks is an excellent addition of a secondary action. These secondary actions work because the communication is so strong and they are completely in line with the intent behind the scene. In the Esmeralda scene you can read through her powerful gestures the pain and discrimination she feels. Her eyes too are very clear and boldly expressive. Eyebrows are a refinement oftentimes used strongly in a Tony Fucile drawing. Another great Fucile scene to study frame by frame when you’re learning about using gestures and storytelling drawings is the scene in Mermaid where Eric is guessing Ariel’s name and her expression of joy when he finally gets it right. I know that Dan Jeup’s phenomenal animation of Sebastian and the beautiful backgrounds in the scene are good distractions but try to pay attention to the ways Tony communicates the emotions of the two characters and how the posture defines their character. Eric is a lively, nice guy who is rather caring so he moves in a way that shows his liveliness and cool but has an essence in his facial expressions that show that he is honest and has feelings for the girl. Ariel, who can’t talk in this point in the movie, is a passionate teenage girl who is crazy about this guy. With this in his mind Fucile shows this by having her expressions more energetic and extreme. The girl is so excited about the fact this guy can love her and so she nods and smiles very widely when Eric guesses correct. This type of acting and poses make a good animator a great animator, which Tony Fucile most definitely is.
Tony Fucile’s impact comes in the fact he was crucial in bringing back strong storytelling drawings to Disney and reestablishing the great animator AND great character designer combination. For quite some time it had gotten to the point where you were either a great animator or good character designer or you were a good animator and great character designer. The glory days of draftsman such as Bill Tytla, Milt Kahl, and Marc Davis where long over. However as people such as Fucile, Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, and James Baxter emerged this great coordination between the two positions returned. Also Tony was one of the first animators mentored by people in the second generation to emerge as a top animator. Even animators just a few years before him were mentored by the old timers such as Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and Eric Larson. Also speaking of this I’ve got to point out Glen Keane really is the master of all time at making animators become better and preparing them to become supervisors. Probably half of the successful supervising animators over the past 20 years were trained under him. Even Mark Henn first started out as an inbetweener to Glen.
To me Tony Fucile is a very inspiring animator because of his bold draftsmanship and strong storytelling drawings. One of the first things covered in Eric Goldberg’s Character Animation Crash course is the importance of storytelling drawings. They really are the best way to communicate the emotion, acting, and intent in a scene. They also make everything else much easier. Recently I used pose to pose animation in a flip book for the first time and believe me it’s much easier and better if you do it that way. This is especially true when you use strong storytelling drawings like Fucile’s. Instead of worrying to much about the movement and the perspective as well as losing control, in this type of environment your priorities are well put in shape and the organization makes it very easy. When you go back and do the inbetweens it’s just a piece of cake because you have the hard, important stuff already figured out. Also I love his drawing style and his use of gestures. They make a scene feel so real and very focused. Thank you Tony Fucile for being an inspiration to me along with many other people and for your incredible animation.
Oliver Company- Animator on Sykes, Fagin, and Georgette
Little Mermaid- Animator on Ariel and Eric
Aladdin- Animator on Aladdin and Additional Animation(uncredited) on Jasmine
Lion King- Supervising Animator on Mufassa and Mufassa’s Ghost
Hunchback of Notre Dame- Supervising Animator on Esmerelda