Quotes for Animation Greats Part 1

Here I’m posting some of the quotes primarily from the old guys I wrote down while researching for an in-depth research paper on Disney animation I did a couple of months ago. I have more coming up but here is the first batch. I can tell you this is going to be a hunk of information but I personally think there is a lot of inspiration and gems that can be found from them. Explore them and hope you’re inspired by them.

Bill Tytla: “Today we are not merely trying something- we are really on the verge of something that is new. It will take a lot of real drawing- not clever, slick, superficial, fine-looking stuff but really solid, fine looking drawing to achieve those results and those results will have to be achieved by the fellows who have absolute control of what they are trying to do. These animators will have to be able not only draw but to take a figure, and no matter how they twist, distort, slap, or extend that figure it will still have weight. Those animators will have to be able to put across a certain sensation or emotion- for that is all we are trying to do in animation.”

Shamus Culhane (on Fergy): “I liked the way he drew, it was very rough, but oh my

was it accurate. At first it didn’t look like anything but when you looked through this barbed wire that he had concocted, there was a really good drawing there and funny.”

Walt Disney: “Webster sums up the spirit of the Snow White enterprise in his definition of adventure: risk, jeopardy; a daring feat; a bold undertaking in which the issue hangs on unforeseen events.”

Bill Tytla: “We have tried to get an entirely different type of drawing into the characters than in the shorts. We are trying to keep animation simple, which is a very hard thing to do.”

Walt Disney: “You see we’ve learned such a lot since we started this thing I wish I could yank it back and do it all over again.”

Walt Disney: “Pinocchio might have lacked Snow White’s heart appeal but it was technically and artistically superior.”

Dick Huemer: “The saga of Dumbo is a complicated one indeed. Joe Grant and myself took what had been done so far and decided to see if we could rekindle Walt’s interest in Dumbo. Dumbo remains no less the characteristic community effort, common to all that goes onto the big screen.”

Milt Kahl: “There’s nothing harder to do in animation than nothing. Movement is our medium.”

Milt Kahl: “Anyone worth his salt in this business ought to know how people move.”

Les Clark: “I learned my craft from working with the fellas and from Walt, who was so far ahead of us even then in knowing what he wanted to do.”

Les Clark: “From one picture to another we found out that if we pulled something out and brought it back to its normal volume, why, it would look good.”

Ward Kimball (on Woolie): “He had to work harder but he ended up with good stuff.”

Wolfgang Reitherman(on Monstro): “It was exciting because it was the largest thing we’d ever done on the screen.”

Wolfgang Reitherman(on Jungle Book): “Instead of going the Rudyard Kipling way and trying to be authentic and complex with the story, Walt went straight for personality and entertainment.”

 Glen Keane: “Usually it was at a point where you really thought your world had ended, nothing was ever going to be right again, the scene was completely unsavable. That’s when you would go to see Eric.”

Dan Haskett (on Eric Larson): “He really cared for characters as human beings. I was doing a pencil test of a baby boy and Eric started pantomiming patting this little kid on the head and got lost in what he was doing because he was thinking about the character so completely.”

Eric Larson: “I won’t make drawings for them. I make diagrams because if I made drawings they would be my drawings.”

Eric Larson: “Don’t be ambiguous in what you’re saying. Make it strong and clear.”

Eric Larson: “In action, it is necessary to consider characteristic poses of the animals.”

Eric Larson: “Trying to come across the screen with a character that people can relate to is the first challenge.”

Eric Larson: “Marc Davis’s Cinderella was more of the exotic type and was drawn as only Marc can draw.”

Eric Larson (on Peg): “The way she sang the song was a great inspiration. Also the way she walked because she had a pretty nice movement and these are things that you try to pickup from the human beings and translate into the animals.”

Eric Larson: “These were kids, character that are alive. They’re on screen to entertain people and they’d better have personalities that are going to register with people. Now that’s Disney!”

Eric Larson: “There’s only two things that limit animation. One is the ability to imagine and the other is to draw what you imagine. The first thing animation has to have is a change in shape. If I hold my finger there and I bend it down to there, I’ve changed the shape for that to this. a crude example is the animation you put into a fellow who is fighting a strong wind. First he’s so far off balance leaning forward, his body is almost parallel with the horizon. And his feet are never going to get out in front of him. A gust of wind hits him and he’s suddenly staggering back trying everything to keep from falling over. You’ve changed the perspective of the shape. Now the charm of animation is how you time that after you’ve gotten all the character into pose drawings. There’s weight to be concerned with. We don’t take steps, we fall into them. You take what you know is real and honest and you exaggerate it, you caricature for all its worth. Then you begin to get the humor, whether it’s an action, expression, whatever. On the screen we may have less than half a second to put over a point. That’s where simplification of drawing comes in. the interpretation the animator gives an action will depend on the quality of that animator. You take Frank Thomas and he’ll get a heck of a lot more than an ordinary animator could. It’s like night and day because Frank is thinking of that character he’s putting on that paper as being alive. And real. If we can’t relate to that audience we might as well give up. This is what Walt wanted.”

Ward Kimball: “there was more to the cartoon film business than I ever dreamed of. You had to be first an artist, a draftsman, actor, and you had to use mathematics to make it all work. And most of all you had to have patience.”

Frank Thomas(on Ward): “He’d smell which way the wind was blowing on each picture and take advantage of that.”

Ward Kimball: “Actions that are supposed to be violently crazy are sometime not as mad as more subtle, underplayed treatments.”

Ward Kimball: “Elimination makes your drawing better. A cartoon character who is funny to look at before he is animated is going to be made funnier by movement. The young filmmaker should draw what he or she pleases, not what nay adult tells him or her is going to do.”

Ward Kimball: “My final two cents worth of advice is to develop an all-consuming curiosity for things both exotic and ordinary.  Read, study, practice, delve, probe, investigate and, above all, be flexible, keep an open mind. The world is changing fast. Don’t get caught in the corner of the ring. Keep moving and have fun. Take it from me, it’s worth it!”

Milt Kahl: “I didn’t have any limitations. I could do anything.”

Milt Kahl: “My usual function on the pictures is to get a character started, to say this is the character. I move around the picture a lot, helping g people with drawings and that sort of thing and actually animating later.”

Milt Kahl(on Pinocchio): “I made kind of a little cute boy out of him and Walt loved it. This was actually my big changed. It was my move into being one of the top animators.”

Frank Thomas(on Milt Kahl): “When he blew up and trampled his drawings in the wastebasket it was real frustration. Self criticism, feeling of being inadequate, pure concentrated torture.”

Milt Kahl(on Sher Khan): “The stripes helped give it shape but on every drawing I knew where the weight was coming from, and where the weight is just traveling, and where the weight is transferring to.”

Milt Kahl: “It’s a very difficult medium. Animation requires a pretty good draftsman because you’ve got to turn things, to be able to draw well enough to turn things at every angle.  You have to understand movement, which in itself is quite a study. You have to be an actor. You have to put on a performance, to be a showman, to be able to evaluate how good the entertainment is. You have to know the best way of doing it, and have an appreciation of where it belongs in the picture. You have to be a pretty good story man. To be a really good animation, then, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades.”

Milt Kahl: “I don’t mean to say that I’m all these things, but I try. I got accused over the years of being a fine draftsman. Actually I don’t really draw that well. It’s just I don’t stop trying as quickly. I keep at it. I happen to have high standards and try to meet them. I have to struggle like hell to make a drawing look good.”

Frank Thomas: “There was a feeling that as you started to work on a scene you had a contact with the magic that was behind the drawing. Not the drawing itself as much, but the whole feeling of ‘this is a room, this is a forest glade, this is a rock, this is a castle.’ And you had to be able to see your character walking in three dimensions going in there and living in there. And you want to live in there.”

Frank Thomas: “The type of thing I’ve had the most luck with is working on it, wrestling with it, scratching on the drawings, flipping them until the character’s doing what I conceive of it doing. Milt will work just as hard on getting drawings that look as though the character’s doing it. If he’s got a drawing that says this, then he puts in in-betweens and moves it nicely. But it’s not the same type of acting. My emphasis is on character and acting. He’ll say ‘Sure, I can do character and acting too.’ But primarily he handles graphics and if the graphics are right then the scene is right. Which for him is right. As I say Milt does most of his work through drawings but even so he has a great feeling for acting, he has a great feeling for character, and you have to have.”

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