Behind the Scenes

I love the Disney Parks Blog. They post interesting stuff (if you’re a Disney fan like me), particularly if you’re into behind-the-scenes things.

Today’s post on Mickey and the Magical Map is cool and tells you about how they put that show together.

Seeing some of that behind-the-scenes stuff reminds me of a time back when I was younger, maybe… I don’t know, 10? There was some sort of promotion going on at a local department store. I think it was JC Penney, but I don’t remember exactly. They had some Disney character artists touring through and they’d give little demonstrations every hour and show you how to draw the characters.

I remember being really excited to see it, sitting on the floor in front of a small raised platform that had a chair and a drawing table. A bunch of other kids had gathered around, too, and we were all anxious to see what was going to happen.

Eventually a lady came out and talked all about drawing the characters - how you could imagine all of them as basic shapes, then sort of “tweak” the shapes to get a little closer to what you wanted. Donald Duck’s head is basically round, while Chip and Dale’s heads are more oval. That sort of thing. Looking back, it was all sort of basic drawing techniques - putting the cross-shaped guidelines on the head to place the eyes and nose, and so on. Simple stuff when I look at it now, but so inspiring and magical when you’re young, watching your favorite characters basically materialize in front of you from some simple pencil marks.

The artist gave her drawings away to the audience members as she finished them. I remember wanting one really badly but not getting one, being jealous of the kid in front of me who got the one of Chip.

I also got an opportunity back in college to work for a short amount of time at Will Vinton Studios. It was really cool to see the little sets that the stop motion animation was done on, how the cameras and the figures all came together to create this magical moving picture. I ended up writing some conversion tools for Kuper motion control cameras to help integrate computer animation with physical camera movements so computer animation and clay animation could coexist. I don’t know how useful it was, but I heard they liked it and used it quite a bit.

I still love seeing that stuff. How the animation is done, how the shows are put together… and when I see it, and remember, it makes me wish I was part of that magic. That I was helping to put on the shows, or create the animation, or make that happen for other people. My friends Sheldon and Jason are doing that, and I admit it makes me a little jealous.

Hey, Pixar… need any remote developers in Oregon?