How to Hook Up Your Animated Short at Disney
Disney launches a new shorts program with a timely Goofy misadventure, and Bill Desowitz gets an AWN exclusive from some of the directors, animators and John Lasseter.
November 16, 2007
By Bill Desowitz
When John Lasseter and Ed Catmull instituted the new shorts program at Walt Disney Animation Studios, they not only wanted it to emulate Pixar's successful program, but also to reinvigorate the Disney legacy characters in 2D.
"The shorts program to me at both studios is very, very important," emphasizes Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. "One: to develop talent. It's not just directors, but directing animators, technical directors and all these things. So it gives young people the chance to be a supervisor in a small setting and to try people out at different things. This is where talent development is really great. And it's great creatively to have these shorts because sometimes there are little ideas that aren't meant to be for features, but you just want to see them. And, at Disney, we have the added heritage of all these fantastic characters. It's so much fun to go back and try things with them."
Hence, launching with How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, starring Goofy in a very contemporary situation: buying a big-screen, HD TV, and then trying to set it up himself -- with all of the wiring and remotes -- in time for the big football game.
Home Theater's writing and directing team Stevie Wermers (l) and Kevin Deters wonderfully captures the spirit of the How to Goofy shorts from the '40s and '50s -- but with a contemporary spin.
Written and helmed by longtime story partners Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers (Walt Disney Animation Studio's first female director), How to Hook Up Your Home Theater wonderfully captures the spirit of the How to Goofy shorts from the '40s and '50s directed by Jack Kinney and animated by John Sibley -- but obviously with a contemporary spin. "They were looking for story people to pitch ideas and also ways of bringing back classic characters," Deters recalls. "I had just purchased a new big-screen TV for the Super Bowl and Goofy was a natural. You look at those cartoons and think, 'I may be a dumb guy, but at least I'm not as dumb as him.' I pitched the idea to Stevie, and we brainstormed and developed a structure. John immediately recognized the great marriage of Disney and something you could relate to today. Great animation, as they know how to do here. One thing we discovered quickly was [that they had just come out] with The Complete Goofy on DVD, so that was a godsend. You recognized that everyone had a warm, fuzzy nostalgia for what they remember and that the Goofy shorts were really all over the map. So what we did was pick our favorites and acknowledge a little bit from different eras."Thus far, How to Hook Up Your Home Theater has played at the Ottawa Animation Festival and the Chicago Children's Festival, qualifying for Oscar consideration. Although there was speculation that it was going to screen theatrically with Enchanted (which opens Nov. 21), Lasseter confirmed that theatrical plans have not yet been finalized.Full article at:http://mag.awn.com/?ltype=pageone&article_no=3454
Home Theater's Deters and Wermers are halfway through their second short, The Ballad of Nessie, a sweet origin story about a female Loch Ness monster.
Meanwhile, Deters and Wermers are halfway through their second short, The Ballad of Nessie, a sweet origin story about a female Loch Ness monster. Nessie, also in 2D, is a continuation of a student project Wermers began at CalArts. Baer, Deja and Henn have been recruited once again. Nessie, according to Wermers, "is very different from crazy Goofy, with much more subtle acting." Inspired by Mary Blair, it has the painterly look and feel of a lovely children's book. After that, Deters and Wermers would like to do another Goofy short.
However, next up for Disney is Glago's Guest, a 3D, stereoscopic short by Chris Williams. It's about a Russian soldier guarding a Siberian outpost who has a strange encounter with an extraterrestrial. The director of the shorts program describes it as "serious, suspenseful and arty," with new texture development as its technical innovation. "On Glago, they are really pushing 3D animation," adds Chuck Williams. "There's human animation and a step toward what they're doing on Rapunzel, but also the hair and cloth were a challenge beyond what has ever been done before at Disney. Shapes are stylized and pushed, and the proportions are exaggerated, but the environments and detail are photoreal."
Disney's next short is Glago's Guest, a 3D, stereoscopic work by Chris Williams that is serious, suspenseful and arty, containing innovative texture development for the studio.
In fact, Lasseter was so impressed with Glago that he assigned Williams to take over the 3D-animated Bolt feature (formerly Chris Sanders' American Dog). Glago's Guest is scheduled to debut at the Annecy Animated Film Festival next year and play theatrically with Bolt (Nov. 26, 2008).
"It's also nice to stay in touch because all around the world there's this wonderful community of animators that get together at animation festivals," Lasseter suggests. "It's great to send a film to these festivals... Pixar's been doing it for a long time; I used to do it with my films. I have lifelong friends from these festivals. And it's very artistic -- these festivals are about the art of animation, not just the commerce. I love both studios being a part of that."
And to further nurture talent, the shorts program has been extended into the "Shorts Club," in which anyone in animation can pitch a short and make it on their own if they can get volunteers to help out. There are five projects currently in production, including a spin-off of Meet the Robinsons.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to utilize studio talent and equipment in their spare time, downtime or on weekends," Williams offers. "Currently there are a trainer, a layout artist and an animator making shorts. The ability to lead and inspire is a big plus. These are people that are learning on their own."