Tag Archives: disney

Lyft short film

Uber has been in the news lately, and not in a good way. I’m taking a short trip this week and decided to more actively look for ride-sharing alternatives. I’ll be trying Fasten in Austin and Lyft elsewhere.

One nice discovery in this search: Lyft produced a wonderful animated short film called June. It’s directed by John Kahrs, who as I blogged about a few years ago did Paperman at Disney.

I’m still annoyed that Lyft joined with Uber to first actively campaign against regulations in Austin and then ultimately left the city. But Lyft funding a film like this makes me feel better about supporting the company. There’s also a behind-the-scenes video.

Floyd Norman’s sketch of Steve Jobs

Disney Legend Floyd Norman has an excellent blog, usually recollecting on the early days of the Walt Disney studio, or more recent animation ventures. This week he wrote about Steve Jobs:

“An animated motion picture goes through many iterations while in production and screenings were held on a regular basis. I honestly doubt Steve was trying to curry favor with Disney. Being a shrewd negotiator Jobs didn’t need any extra help to get his way. I think he brought Apple gifts purely as a gesture of friendliness. After all, shouldn’t everybody have a Mac Laptop?”

The post includes a fantastic sketch of Steve. My only regret from WWDC this year is that I didn’t have a ticket to see Floyd speak at the conference. Although Apple doesn’t usually release the video of lunchtime sessions, I very much hope it was filmed and will show up on YouTube or Vimeo one day.

NeXTEVNT and Song of the Sea

WWDC 2015 now feels like it took place in the distant past, not a month ago. For the last few years I’ve attended the NeXT-themed fundraiser for the Cartoon Art Museum, and this year there’s video from the event. Check it out for a view into the museum and some of the talks.

It’s always a highlight of the week for me to visit both the Cartoon Art Museum and the Walt Disney Family Museum. This year Cartoon Art had pre-production drawings and paintings from the hand-drawn film Song of the Sea, one of my favorite films of the year. Really beautiful stuff.

WWDC 2015, basketball, and cartoons

Throughout the week I posted about WWDC to my microblog, but I thought I’d write a longer post with the week’s narrative. It’s useful to have these to refer to in the future when all the WWDCs blur together and I’ve forgotten which event was which. Where it adds any details I’ll link to a few of the shorter posts.

So let’s go back to Sunday morning a week ago when I arrived in San Francisco, ticketless but ready to learn and meet up with friends. What a great day. First burritos and coffee in the Mission, then to Oakland for the NBA finals, game 2. I had signed up on the Golden State Warriors mailing list a couple weeks earlier to get in on the pre-sale tickets. Excepting the nearby San Antonio Spurs, I’m almost never going to just coincidentally be in the same city as an NBA finals game. I couldn’t let that chance slip by.

Golden State Warriors

And it was an amazing game. Outwardly I was rooting for the Warriors — high fives to fans when the team came back to force overtime, wearing my new yellow shirt they gave everyone at the game. But inwardly I was also marveling at LeBron’s dominance and happy to see the series tied up. I want to see this thing go to 7 games.

Monday was the keynote and later the Cartoon Art Museum / NeXT fundraiser, with beautiful art on the wall from one of my favorite films this year, Song of the Sea. Tuesday I tried to catch up on some code at Sightglass Coffee, watch sessions at WeWork, and installed the iOS 9 beta on my retina iPad Mini. In the evening on this day and others there were parties, though I only attended a few.

The Talk Show

The Talk Show live with guest Phil Schiller was a great surprise. I’m so happy for John and his success. Developers who have only known Daring Fireball after it was already fairly popular may need this important reminder: John Gruber started a dozen years ago with a blog that no one read, just like the rest of us, and this week he conducted the best interview of a senior Apple executive I’ve ever seen. If you think it’s enough to just throw random quips to Twitter, it’s not enough. Blogging is still the best way to build an audience. (Don’t miss Marco’s post about the event and what it means for the new Apple.)

I have very little to complain to Apple about this year. Maybe the keynote was a little long, but the topics they hit and the new user features and APIs were exactly right. I’ve got Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan installed and will require it for my next Mac app.

Golden State Bridge

Toward the middle of the week I wasn’t feeling particularly great — not sick, but not really upbeat enough to get excited about new APIs. I escaped the city for the afternoon on Wednesday, visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum and then walking down to Crissy Field toward the Golden Gate Bridge. I stretched my arms out wide to catch the wind and felt refreshed in a way that the stagnant weather back in Austin this time of year can’t hope to provide. I remember this tweet from 2012 and it’s always true again, year after year.

Thursday morning I caught a session at AltConf before heading to the airport. Flights were delayed out of SFO because of fog, so it was 3 hours waiting in San Francisco, and another 3 hours waiting in Phoenix after a missed connection. But it’s all good. WWDC was a little weird for me — not because of anything Apple did, just because I was a little wistful, and distracted by email and non-WWDC happenings too.

Nevertheless I’m inspired by the week. The success of both AltConf and now Layers, not to mention all the other smaller events and keynote watch parties, point to a very strong WWDC for years to come.

Multiplane

“We spend a lot of time on a few great things.” — Designed by Apple in California

In 1940, Ub Iwerks, the animator behind Walt Disney’s first Mickey Mouse shorts, came back to the Disney studios after a 10-year absence. Ub had famously produced hundreds of drawings alone each day for one of those first Mickey Mouse shorts, but Ub’s return to Disney would also be remembered for his contribution to the technical side of film production, with advances in cameras and special effects. In an industry with extreme specialization — you either did backgrounds, or animation, or ink-and-paint — Ub’s talents bridged both the artistic and technical.

One of Ub’s inventions while away from Disney was called the multiplane camera. Perfected by others leading up to Snow White, in a massive camera stand over 10 feet tall, the multiplane’s innovation was to allow a background to be split into levels. Foreground trees might be painted on the glass of the first level, then the characters sat underneath that, and then farther back layers for a building, with others behind that for hills and sky.

To provide a sense of depth, camera operators could vary the distance between each plane. And movement for each level could be synchronized at different speeds, giving it a beautiful parallax effect. Distant background levels moved more slowly and were naturally blurred and out of focus.

80 years after Ub’s invention, the multiplane is alive in iOS 7. Previous versions of iOS were built on a single plane with raised and textured areas on that surface, like a topographical map except with buttons instead of mountains. iOS 7 is instead designed with multiple flat layers. Each level is strikingly flat, but by layering two or three, spaced apart, Apple has achieved an overall sense of depth.

It’s a return to basics. Simple things can remain simple, readable. When clarity is needed, everything goes flat. But it’s a framework that allows for subtle motion and depth without changing what works about the new, content-first flat design. iOS 7’s control center blurs the layer below. The home screen background sits deeper too, as if only the app icons are touching the screen. Photos scroll under the navigation bar.

Each plane is painted flat as if on glass. There can be no text drop shadows, no textures, without ruining the effect. And the result of this strict metaphor is equally valuable: there are no drop shadows to distract or obscure an app’s real content.

Disney’s multiplane camera, first in a dedicated rig and then recreated in software, lasted for decades, until the era of 3D computer animation. iOS 7’s new look won’t last that long, but the core concepts should carry Apple for years. I really like where they’re headed.

Animation roundup, Richard Williams to Brenda Chapman

Richard Williams turned 80 years old last month. Although his body of work is extensive, including Roger Rabbit and the unfinished masterpiece The Thief and the Cobbler, I think he will be most remembered many decades from now for the extraordinary book, The Animator’s Survival Kit.

I referenced this book all the time when I was working on a little hand-drawn short film several years ago. Now an iPad version of the book is available. Floyd Bishop, writing for Animation Scoop:

“The timing of the animation examples in the book have always been hard for me to get my head around. This app shows the drawings come to life through animation. You can loop playback or scrub through the animation. I found this feature to be the most useful thing about the app.”

Nowadays, I’m too busy with software side projects to have time for animation as a hobby, but as a huge fan I’ll occasionally catch up on news and all the beautiful work artists are doing.

A few of my favorite short films over the last year:

  • Chipotle’s stop-motion video. I was really happy to see it run during the Grammys last year. When I had showed my kids the video on YouTube earlier, they immediately fell in love with it. Kudos to Chipotle for giving it some high-profile national airtime. And don’t miss the amazing Flickr set of the production.

  • Disney’s Paperman. You’ve probably seen this by now, and behind-the-scenes similar to this profile from Fast Company. Disney hadn’t innovated much in combining 2D and 3D since deep canvas on Tarzan and the character work on Treasure Planet, both over 10 years ago. It’s great to see them back on the cutting edge.

  • Mickey Mouse in Croissant de Triomphe, supposedly the first in a series of new Mickey shorts. I would’ve preferred this to be more in the 1930s style, but this is still a lot of fun, and captures the spirit of the old Mickey shorts well.

And finally, I was really excited that Disney’s Pixar won an oscar, and to see the reaction from director Brenda Chapman. Circling back to Richard Williams, she actually worked early in her career on Roger Rabbit, and then as a story artist at Disney and director on Dreamworks’s Prince of Egypt.

Brenda said on her blog, about the Oscar win:

“And when I was fretting over having just one guest ticket, my husband, Kevin Lima, insisted that I take our daughter, Emma, with me. ‘You should share this with her,’ he said ‘it’s a mother and daughter night!’ Having Emma with me that night not only let me share with her one of the most wonderful nights of my life, it allowed me to tell the world how very much she means to me.”

So incredibly well-deserved. Animation is a painstakingly slow art form. The work of all these artists, from Richard Williams to Brenda Chapman, isn’t a 3-month mad dash to ship the next gimmick app to the App Store; it’s work that is measured across decades. Taken as a whole, I view it as an inspirational story of perseverance — a reminder that creating something great takes time.

The Princess and the Frog

Walt’s nephew “Roy Disney died this week”:http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/12/16/roy.disney.obit/index.html. In 2003 I blogged about “Roy leaving the company”:http://www.manton.org/2003/12/roy_leaves.html. I said:

“It’s a shame that Roy is the one to leave. It’s clear that Disney (the company) has lost its way, and Eisner has no vision for what the company could be.”

Luckily for us, since that time a lot has changed, and the animation division does have leadership in John Lasseter. One of the most visible changes just opened in theaters last weekend: The Princess and the Frog. I’ve seen every theatrical release out of Disney feature animation since I could afford the few bucks to go to a theater, so I wasn’t likely to miss this return of 2d animation.

My daughters and I really loved this movie, not just because of my love for hand-drawn animation, but for a story that works and characters that are rooted in something real — singing Cajun fireflies and voodoo magic aside, of course. There are some really touching scenes here. “Sandro Cleuzo says”:http://inspectorcleuzo.blogspot.com/2009/12/milt-kahl-day-12.html the animation was rushed, but I think they did a heck of a job.

The credits are almost as if nothing has changed — Eric Goldberg, Andreas Deja, Mark Henn, Nik Ranieri. “The reality is slightly different”:http://www.dreamonsillydreamer.com/, but there’s a mix of new animators among the familiar names. A lot is riding on the success of this film, and it managed a respectable $25 million over the weekend.

Great job, Disney. I’m glad Roy got to see the beginning of the next 2d comeback.

Cars

There are a lot of computer animated films out this year. It was inevitable, with Disney shutting down its 2d division a few years ago and all of Hollywood getting on the 3d bandwagon. Some will be successes, some failures — just like their live-action counterparts — and that’s fine.

I’ve seen Cars twice now. Perhaps it’s because a certain 2-year-old I know says “zooma!” more than any word in his limited vocabulary, but this little Pixar film is really growing on me.

Meanwhile, it looks like “2d is officially back at Disney”:http://www.laughingplace.com/News-ID510530.asp. Can’t wait.

Disney buys Pixar

It was made official today. The rumor only surfaced a week ago, but in that time many people have gone from surprise and skepticism to hope that maybe it could be great for both companies. For Pixar, it might mean more creative control over their characters and sequels, plus not having to worry about distribution or settling for a partner without the reach into merchandising and vacation spots that Disney has. Interestingly, John Lasseter will also advise on new theme park attractions.

In the old days under Walt, it was common for artists to move between short films, features, and Disneyland design. Walt had a knack for seeing the best skills in people and using them wherever they could be most effective. He also had an instinct for story, a relentless pursuit of quality, and of what people would want to see, or how to sell it. Steve Jobs shares more than a few of these qualities, even if his management style at Pixar has been to delegate more than micromanage. Could Jobs pull another NeXT and infuse Disney with Pixar management and culture, or will he be content to sit on the board and coordinate deals with Apple for video content? Who knows.

For Disney, the benefits of the deal are pretty obvious, since all of the Pixar films have been huge money-makers. What’s less clear is what will happen to all the films currently in production at Disney. We have to assume they will continue mostly unchanged. Disney had a rough and controversial transition to 3d, with many layoffs and studio closures, but they did make the transition and this deal will probably upset that just a little.

There is also still that dream that with a leader (Lasseter) who appreciates traditional 2d animation, Disney might even buy back some of those old animation desks and give 2d another try. Although some of the great directors of the 2nd golden age at Disney have left (such as Ron Clements and John Musker of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin), Disney still has many 2d-trained directors, and now so does Pixar (Brad Bird), with enough 2d fans throughout both companies to form another studio branch entirely.

I read a bunch of weblogs by artists at Disney and Pixar now, so hopefully their views will start to trickle in too. Good luck to everyone at both studios.

iPods, videos, and U2

Steve Jobs in yesterday’s special event, discussing the white iPods:

“It’s been a huge success for us, and therefore it’s time to replace it.”

The new iPods look great. At first I was disappointed by the $1.99 price for music videos and TV shows, but when you do the math it is only a little more than buying DVDs. And what about the small quality, only 320×240? In the name of science I dropped $2 to test it.

Last week, thanks to eBay, I became the proud owner of 2 tickets to see U2 in Houston at the end of the month. I’ve seen every U2 tour since ZooTV over a decade ago, so I wasn’t about to let little things like “too busy” and “money” stand in the way this time. Our seats are fairly horrible, but the price was right and all that matters is that we are there.

So buying a U2 music video was a natural choice. The download time was reasonable. I clicked it to full-screen on my Cinema Display and sat down 6 feet away. It actually looked good. 30 frames per second doesn’t hurt either. I could definitely watch TV shows this way.

Another interesting tidbit from the Apple event. Disney’s new CEO Bob Iger was introduced quite warmly by Steve Jobs, and Iger even joked that he still hoped an agreement could be reached between Disney and Pixar for continuing distribution of their films. Sounds like that could happen after all.