Have you ever wondered what it is like to work as an animator, visual development artist or character designer at Disney Animation Studios? Do you want to get a glimpse of how they come up with character ideas, story ideas and environment design? In October 2014, Ruben Aquino, Claire Keane and Tom Bancroft lectured on animation, concept art, animation and the animation industry in the first ProWeekend Animation seminar. These exciting lectures – almost 6 hours – are now available for you to watch for a full year.
Each of the ProWeekend animation lectures have a wealth of experience to share. Each artist has a unique history and perspective that provides incredible insight into the making of some of your favorite animated movies.
Claire Keane is an illustrator and visual-development artist who worked for many years at Walt Disney Animation Studios. While there, she designed on movies such as Tangled, Enchanted, and Frozen. She studied at the Ecole Superieure D’Arts Graphiques in Paris, where she met her husband and part-time collaborator, Vincent Rogozyk. Claire is the daughter of legendary animator Glen Keane and granddaughter of Bil Keane, creator of the comic strip “The Family Circus”.
Claire Keane begins her lecture by talking about her journey as an artist and the importance of family. She talks about how her father Glen Keane and grandfather Bil Keane drew inspiration from their family and the world around them. Claire describes how her family moved to Paris when she was 16 and ultimately went to art school in Paris. She shares great stories about her challenges in art school and finding her way as an artist and how her father ultimately opened her eyes to visual development. Claire describes how she began working at Disney on the film “Tangled.” She talks about the various designs and evolution of the movie and the characters Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. Claire also talks about characters that never made it into the film. She goes on to describe the process for designing the environment of the tower and her inspiration for creating Rapunzel’s room. Claire then describes her work on “Frozen” and the characters of Ana and Elsa. She talks about the ideas she experimented with in designing the characters, costumes and environments for Frozen. Claire goes on to speak about leaving Disney and starting to work on her own stories and even previews her upcoming children’s’ book. Finally, Claire answers a variety of questions from the audience
Ruben is a hand-drawn character animator and supervising animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios. His work includes several of Disney’s most-loved characters including adult Simba in The Lion King, Chief Powhatan in Pocahontas, Maurice in Beauty and the Beast, Denahi in Brother Bear, Captain Shang in Mulan, Pleakley and David in Lilo and Stitch and the infamous villain Ursula in The Little Mermaid.
In this lecture, Ruben Aquino introduces himself by providing an overview of his amazing career and all of the characters he has supervised. He talks about how his career began, early experiences at a small animation studio and his first jobs at one of the major TV animation studios: Hanna-Barbera. Ruben describes how he was eventually accepted to an internship program at Disney and began work on “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”. He describes what it was like to work at Disney during the “Second Golden Age” including his work on Ursula. Ruben goes into detail on his work on the Ursula character including the inspiration and evolution to the final character design. He also talks about some of the other Little Mermaid characters and some of the earlier versions of Ariel. Ruben goes on to talk about “Beauty and Beast” and the Maurice character. He describes the importance of making the Maurice character lovable and the design of his character. Ruben also talks about the Adult Simba character from the “The Lion King”, including early designs. Ruben also talks about the Mulan characters of Captain Shang and the Lilo and Stitch characters of Pleakly and David. He describes in detail the complexity of the drawing Pleakly’s walking with three legs.
Tom Bancroft has almost 25 years of experience in the animation industry, most of which was for Walt Disney Feature animation where he was an animator for 11 years on films like: “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “Aladdin”, “Mulan”, and “Brother Bear”. He has been nominated for Annie and Rueben division awards, spoken at the Kennedy Center and awarded an entry into the Chicago Children’s Film Festival. His popular character design instruction books, “Creating Characters with Personality” and “Character Mentor” have become the most recognized books on designing characters for animation, video games, comic books, and cartooning and are required textbooks at many art schools around the world.
Tom Bancroft begins his seminar with an overview of his career. He splits into two sections: The Disney 2D animation days and his career as an independent creator, mostly as a character designer. He shows his animation reel and then moves into a slide show of a variety of projects he’s been involved in over the last 25 years in the industry. He then moves the talk into a lecture style with plenty of notes and visuals on the subject of “Character Performance” (or acting). In this talk, the majority of the two-hour session, Bancroft dissects how we create a believable character starting with the character design through the actual dialogue performance/ movement. Staging, expressions, and posing are all discussed as elements that will either strengthen or weaken your characters performance. Lastly, he wraps up the lecture with an example from a scene he animated of Mushu in the film “Mulan” that showcases his thought process from storyboards, animation, and the final color scene.
In this hour long question and answer period, Claire, Ruben and Tom (also serving as moderator) answer a variety of questions from ProWeekend attendees. It’s a casual environment that gives the three pros the opportunity to open up on topics like: