[edit: oops looks like it decided to post before i even posted anything IN the text box!]
Interview with Glen Keane
Q: Do you see the world in a different way from people who are not sketching all the time? Is there a special thing in you?
It’s developed in me. I do. I do see things. If you have a chance to see my show in Paris, which is running through January [details at the bottom], it’s a little retrospective of my 36 years of animation drawings.
But then it’s all the things from my sketchbooks. My sketch books and the figure drawings are the source for everything I’ve ever animated. It’s all these observations. The little things that make a huge difference. You don’t see it unless you are drawing it, and you have to draw it. In order to draw it, you have to have observed it. You can see it, or you can really see it.
I see myself as an artist first. I’ve never thought of myself as a Disney animator. I never wanted to be a Disney animator. I put my portfolio in at CalArts to become a sculptor, a painter, and it was sent to the school of animation by accident, and it was accepted. So I always felt like maybe someday I’ll get to follow this path.
It’s why I’m so excited that about this show. I’ve never had a gallery show, and you’ve never even seen any of my drawings up on the screen. Everything is always cleaned up or interpreted by somebody else. There’s a longing to express yourself artistically that continues to drive me. I always feel like I’ve got one foot in Disney, and one foot out of the door. I’ve never felt like a Disney guy.
Q: At the same time, looking back on your career, do you look back in frustration? That it put you off your artistic self?
You know, there is a need in me to do something personal. There has to be.
This is what I was challenging the animators with constantly on this film. I’d say this is your moment on Earth to be an artist. You were born at this time. You could have been born at the Renaissance and we’d have been talking about sculpture. Today we’re talking about animation. But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t every bit the artist that one of those men back in the Renaissance would have been.
This is your moment. So you take the moment, and find something real personal, and put yourself into it. Don’t put yourself into past Disney movies. Don’t copy anything. Make it personal and real. And I say that with conviction to them because it’s exactly how I’ve approached everything that I’ve done, and it’s the only reason I could work at Disney for 36 years.
I know that there’s people who possibly work at studios for a long time and they lose themselves. They become, I don’t know, a formula of some sort. A caricature of themselves. And I really don’t want that.
Q:What are your thoughts on the changing of the 2D world to the 3D world throughout your career?
I feel like, there was a pathway that happened on Pocahontas for me. That I could see a whole other future, but I continued. I thought okay, I’m going to go back to that some day.
It’s actually the only moment in my 36 years of Disney where you see my drawings up on the screen. All the others are somebody’s clean-up of my drawings. But it’s in Pocahontas, in Colors Of The Wind, and it’s the charcoal drawings that I did.
And we used the computer to paint it, but keeping the charcoal lines in. I thought, that’s how I want to use the computer. I want to find a way to really celebrate drawing. To really value the energy of a line. A line to me is like a seismograph of an earthquake, that measures emotion. And when you clean it up, you take so much out. That’s another direction that we can go because of the computer.
What I’ve spent my time doing is taking what I like about hand-drawn, and putting it into the computer. I’d like to take some time and take what the computer can do, and put that into hand-drawn. That’d be another whole look for a movie. I don’t know what it’d look like, but that’s what I’d like to pursue.
Q:Is it true that Disney has rules that you can’t work too long, and for too many hours, because you get burned out?
That’s not true. We are encouraged to draw and draw. What do I do with my time off? I draw for pleasure. When I’m not being paid to draw, I draw.
There was one point I did stop drawing. I had a heart attack in 2008 on this movie, and I stepped back from directing. Which is why I’m not directing the film. And I focused on the animation. Which I’m really glad, because I’d never have been able to put all those things I’m talking about into this film.
For those six months, I did not draw. I specifically held back. I took that out of my life. I wanted to let the land rest. Just stop. Just be thankful for the gift of life. And just be thankful. And that’s what I would do. I’d walk. I thought of this verse that says ‘every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of heavenly lights’. And I thought, you know, for six months I can stop, and the gift will be there when I pick it up again.
My first day back at work was to design baby Rapunzel. And my daughter had just had a baby. I said bring her in! I’m holding my granddaughter in one arm, and I’m designing baby Rapunzel.
So that’s the baby in the movie, that’s my granddaughter. What a wonderful way to start drawing again.
Q:What’s the most important part of creating the character? Maybe the eyes?
If you’re going to make a mistake, don’t make it in the eyes. Because everybody’s looking at the eyes.
If you’re driving through an intersection, it’s incredible. I can tell as I’m driving past at 50mph if somebody glances at me. We are zeroed in on [eyes]. That is the focus of attention for the animation. It’s actually a triangle of emotion, with the brow. We spend a lot of time with the muscles in the brow.