Meet those and two who made the success of the greatest Disney films, on the occasion of the release of the documentary series “Sketches”, to discover exclusively on the Disney + platform!
Available now on Disney+, the documentary series sketches looks back at the design of some of the greatest successes of the Disney studios, giving a voice to those who have directly contributed to the creation of emblematic characters of the famous company.
From the stage of the simple idea to the development and then the animation of the characters, behind the scenes of the biggest Disney hits will no longer have any secrets for you thanks to this event series! Our American correspondent was able to meet several personalities, and even some legends, from the Disney studios!
Tell us about creating a cartoon character?
Samantha Vilfort (host): That’s an interesting question. It is a collective effort involving an army of multi-talented people. In general, for me who is in the writing department, I participate in all the stages of film development.
The development period, with the director(s), lasts about one or two years. For Encanto, we had imagined many different characters with various approaches. It is from this stage that we begin to think of the actors to interpret these characters. It’s a complicated process to determine what a character like Mirabel Madrigal, for example, will look like in the end.
Then it is the animators who will bring the characters to life. Everyone ends up putting their own into it and brings a part of their personality to the project. In my department alone we are 10 to 15 people. It’s roughly the same in the other departments. So you can imagine how many people end up working on drawing a cartoon character. It is a pharaonic enterprise.
Mark Henn (host): Yes, it takes an army of passionate and talented people to create a whole universe in each cartoon. It’s really only at the end, when all these beautiful people have been able to contribute to the project, that we realize who this character we have created really is. Iconic characters like Mirabel Madrigal or Simba reveal themselves to you at the end of the course, ready to live their adventures on the big screen. It’s a truly magical moment.
Jin Kim (Animator and Character Designer): This is a question that will take me a long time to answer given, indeed, the number of people who work on any animation project. Sometimes it can take years. For Rapunzel we worked for about ten years to bring this production to completion. For each project, around 400 to 500 people are involved in its production.
Gabby Capili (screenwriter): For my part, I am an artist who focuses on storyboards. My work consists of transforming a script into a series of visual sequences, quickly elaborated, in order to better understand the story and the cinematographic aspect of the work. We are ten in my team. Then it’s a long debate that takes place with the director(s) responsible for the project as a whole. As my colleagues have pointed out, it really is a team effort that involves a lot of talent.
What defines a Disney character?
Eric Goldberg (Host): I believe that Disney characters have unique personalities in the world. Like Walt Disney in his time, we view each character as a totally unique individual, almost like a living being. Every character we create has to walk or talk in a certain way that’s different from the other characters, which I think is what makes a Disney character.
Hyun Min Lee (host): I think the audience should also be able to identify with these characters. People, especially young people, need to identify with cartoon heroes. This is also the Walt Disney style. Whether it’s a lion or even a flower, every character must be as human as possible so that the public can recognize themselves in one or the other. For example in Aladdin, we’ve often been told that people’s favorite character is the magic carpet! A carpet that becomes the public’s best friend, it’s still incredible. But this is only the result of the strong and singular personality that we gave him. It’s all about emotion, whether it’s a magic carpet, a monkey or of course a human being.
Eric Goldberg: I remember a journalist who, after seeing Aladdin, confided to his readers that the carpet acting was much better than that of most Hollywood actors and in particular Steven Seagal ! (laughs) That pretty much sums up the strength of the characters we create at Disney.
In your opinion, has the animation industry changed a lot in recent years?
Mark Henn: Absolutely! At first we drew everything by hand, with pencil and paper. Now we have moved to a fully digital approach. We have become a studio specializing in computer animation. But it happens to us from time to time, to make a drawing quickly, to take back our pencils and our sheets of paper.
The technology has changed but the working method, the different steps to make an animated film have remained the same. Everything we learned in the past with 2D animation has been fully transposed into the 3D and digital universe. It all starts with a few words on paper, describing a sequence, then it comes to the Samantha department who has to provide a more accurate description of what is happening in the scene. She develops the idea, bringing a “plus”.
Then the animators will in turn add things, and provide an additional “plus” to this more precise vision. All these “pluses” culminate in a sequence that we will discover in the film. This is the Disney tradition.
Eric Goldberg: What hasn’t changed is that we have to reinvent ourselves each time we want to create a new character. Before The princess and the Frog I had never animated an alligator playing the trumpet! And it was a real challenge. I had to study all aspects of this animal to know which keys of the trumpet it should play, and I also had to call on one of our colleagues who knew how to play it. The hardest part of animation is getting something that looks really realistic to us.