Saturday, July 18, 2009

Color Comes to Tokyo

Saw a great exhibition today. The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) today started a three month exhibition displaying the works of American artist, Mary Blair. Mary Blair was a commercial artist well known for her work with the Walt Disney Animation Studio and Walt Disney Imagineering. Starting around 1940 she was a key conceptualist for many Disney shorts and films such as, "Cinderella", "Alice in Wonderland", "Peter Pan" and  "Song of the South."

Mary Blair provided the concepts and designs for the "It's a Small World" attraction at Disneyland. Her legacy lives on as her style and design is still used as the model when updates are made to the attraction.

Her work is bold and simple. Complex and childlike. She might use simple wall of color against deep shadow for impact. Sometimes she used a array of hues and colors in an almost mosaic like composition. Color can be used to invoke mood, direct your eyes to a certain point or to communicate. Her work did all this and more.

Mary Blair maybe wasn't so well known for her commercial work by name, but her style is certainly recognizable by many. Notably illustrations for the Golden Books and many commercial food products and household goods advertised throughout the 1950'sand 1960's. That bold but childlike appeal and feel of her work of her work has echoed into much of the commercial illustration we see today.

Aside from hundreds of pieces of her works being on display, her Disney Legend Award (the first female to ever receive one), her Annie award, a recreation of her work studio, several of pieces of art from her personal home were also presented. Works done not only by herself but her husband Lee Blair, (brother to animator Preston Blair) and even a couple of piece from her Walt Disney Imagineering collaborator, Marc Davis. Great stuff.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Animation School in the Palm of Your Hand

So...what ever happened to the Animation Podcast??

What is The Animation Podcast you ask? That's a question I wouldn't be surprised to hear from a person who would be a layman to animation. If I mentioned Glen Keane, Andreas Deja or James Baxter and you didn't as so much flinch, you'd be forgiven. If I said "Nine Old Men" and your Jeopardy answer was, "FDR's Nine Supreme Court Justices", you'd be forgiven.

But if you were an animator who worked for a major American animation studio and asked me "What's the Animation Podcast?" I'd be shocked. Because that's the very same question I was asked when I had the opportunity to hang out with an animator who's credits to me were quite impressive. Are there actually animators in the industry who actually do not know what The Animation Podcast is??

The Animation Podcast is a free (key word is FREE, folks!) podcast available on iTunes run by animator Clay Kaytis. His credits include most recently animation supervisor of "Rhino" from Disney's "Bolt". ( An impressive piece of dynamic animation for a character whose design is essentially a palm sized beanbag....trapped inside a plastic ball no less.)

The Animation Podcast features interviews with some of the animation industry's most respected animators like the ones mentioned above. People who were literally responsible for breathing life (and yes, magic) into iconic film characters of Oscar nominated films as The Beast in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast", Scar of "The Lion King" and The Genie from "Aladdin".

I believe in his first podcast Clay said, "So much of what I know about animation is from handouts, lecture notes and interviews of great animators of the past. It's always a rush for me to find some new clip or audio file that gives you an insight into who they were and what is was like when they were creating such amazing work."

The Animation Podcast is a priceless wealth of information, not just about animation (and quite frequently Disney history) but also filmmaking and production in general. Listen to a couple of podcasts and you'll learn a great deal not only about what about what goes into animating a character, but also what goes into developing a film concept from start to finish. Did I mention the podcast was free?

Clay published thirty (count 'em, 30!) free podcasts featuring interviews and audio recordings of animators such as the aforementioned above and film legends Ron Clements and John Musker, Milt Kahl, Burny Mattinson and Ray Harryhausen. About a year ago The Animation Podcast culminated to an interview with Eric Goldberg (animator of The Genie in "Aladdin")... and I was like this podcast is REALLY getting good. "What's next for the Animation Podcast?"

The answer to that was, "silence".

For almost a year there have been no podcasts, no teases not a single audible peep from The Animation Podcast. Which brings me back to my original question, "What happened to The Animation Podcast?"

The main website, is still up and functioning, and Clay did make a post to make a plug for Walt Stanchfeld's new "Drawn to Life" books. But no updates. I'd like to think well, if Clay isn't around making podcasts, hopefully he's animating.

I don't know what goes into publishing a podcast, but I am sure it's a LOT of work. Clay Kaytis is obviously very passionate about animation and loves the medium intensely. I can't think of any other reason why he would produce for free, such excellent work that many interested people would certainly pay money for. Work that without a doubt will be included in lists of reputable material pertaining to Disney history and animation history in general.

I am confident that Clay and The Animation Podcast will return at some point, most likely with a podcast that will do more than please but inform and inspire. the way just to note how generous Clay Kaytis is, you can find him on Twitter under Doing what? Giving tips and advice on animation....yes, for free.

I can be found on Twitter now too.