Inside the mind of Disney

Disney Masterclass

The audience takes note during a rare discussion by animators at the height of their game

“Daddy, what do you do when you go to work?
“I teach grown-ups to draw”
“Do they forget?”

Glen Keane so eloquently articulated the art of his animation through the mouths of babes: his own children in fact, who have provided endless inspiration over the years. So much so that it has all come full circle: his daughter, now grown-up, has also joined the greater ‘Disney Family’.

Keane spoke fondly of his upbringing and how he learned from his father the knack of mining those near-and-dear for inspiration.  His wife’s slightly upturned nose became Ariel’s, and her long toes are now immortalised on Tarzan. The skate park in France where he would watch his son play became the primary influence for Tarzan’s movement across the jungle treetops. And his daughter, who insisted on painting her bedroom walls as a child, was not only the inspiration for, but became the creator of Rapunzel’s walls in the latest Disney feature Tangled.

Roy Conli

Roy Conli discusses the finer points of Rapunzel's finer points

The question from the audience that echoed throughout was, “how can I get a job at Disney?” Glen and Disney Producer Roy Conli both answered “be yourself” and tap into a honest part of yourself. The best and worst thing for young aspiring artists to hear, I’m sure. However, the message was unmistakably clear when Glen showed a picture that his son Max had drawn at the age of five. Not an extraordinary work at first appearance, but a unique drawing that conveyed both Max’s individualism and the personality of the characters. The feeling in his creations reiterated how inherent drawing is to a child and how easy it is to lose through the self-consciousness and mimicking that permeates adult life.

As well as the personal dimension of animation, there were many fascinating technical behind-the-scenes moments revealed throughout the Masterclass. Roy Conli walked us through the development phases of creating a realistic head of hair, right down to the individual strands for Rapunzel, as well as footage of the directors acting out detailed facial expressions to be sketched out and brought to life. Further to this was a discussion of the fundamental evolution by Disney and Glen Keane from 2D to 3D animation.

Disney Masterclass

Audiences were granted to some sneak-peeks into Disney's upcoming film Tangled

I remember the moment of learning what animation was in its simplest terms; many, many, many drawings, and being overwhelmed by just how much hard yakka went into them. But to see it at this level of detail, albeit a snapshot, covering the journey from concept to screen is just mind-blowing all over again.

For those who had the pleasure of being in the audience, I think they’ll agree that there was something extra-special about watching the simple black and white outline of The Little Mermaid, with Glen leading a one-show-only sing-along of ‘Part of Your World’.

Inspiring and warm!

Anna Svedberg, ACMI Screen Events Coordinator

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