The Morning Read: Recruit for an art army - OC Register 07/01/05
Article from OC Register - July 1, 2005
The Morning Read: Recruit for an art army
Laguna Beach man recalls 42 years as a Disney animator.
Back then, a kid with talent - and a penchant for drawing Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck - could call up Disney pictures, proclaim his desire to be an animator and be invited to the movie studio for a job interview.
Dave Suding's mother drove him to Burbank. It was 1955. In a month, he'd graduate from high school; in the fall, he'd study art in junior college. He wanted a summer job to fill the gap, and what could be better than Disney? He entered the lot, sketch pad under his arm, brimming with life drawings and faithfully rendered Disney dood lings.
Disney, for its part, was insatiable for artists. The simple facts: Disney animation required 12 frames for every second of screen time. That's 720 frames a minute. And most every character and critter in the frame required his own army of artists to draw his own 720 frames of blinking eyes, galloping hooves, dancing feet and pixie dust. Another army painted the backgrounds. Another still did the inking.
Suding, just 18, was offered a full-time job the next day. Can you start right away? I'm still in high school. Can you start as soon as you finish high school? He graduated on a Friday. On Monday, he began a 42-year career with the undisputed lords of the animation empire, a career that would span the history of modern cartooning and grant him a front-row seat to the bittersweet turning of tides. What he calls the horse and buggy being replaced by the automobile. Evolution.
He wasn't senior enough to get screen credit on "Sleeping Beauty," but he and his pals did the next best thing: They fished discarded cels of "their" characters from trash bins and took them home.
He came to view the art of animation as akin to the art of the Renaissance. A master artist's name was enshrined on the piece; but behind him was a phalanx of apprentices doing much of the work. TV animation - "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons" - couldn't compare to Disney's. Neither could the anime from Japan. When "Tron" - the first film with computerized animation - came out in 1982, he dismissed it as stiff and lifeless. But when "Toy Story" - the first film done entirely with computer animation - came out in 1995, Suding knew the world had changed.
This, he said, is a Disney type of film. It has character. Empathy. Just like "Dumbo." Mouse and monitor had replaced pencil and paper, but the principles were the same. They've done an awfully good job, he told himself. "This isn't the old hand-drawn animation," he said of "The Incredibles," "but these guys have got it. They've got it."