Thursday, January 3, 2008

First Thief scenes

After the pan (Dec.13 post) the camera jumps in closer for this scene revealing the Thief. Paul Dilworth mentioned earlier that while he didn't paint the long pan BG for the previous scene he probably painted the BGs for these closer scenes, but I just checked with him and he said: "I think those bgs were all Errol's. They have that watercoloury effect and odd colour juxtapositions which looks great on film."
Paul will be doing a guest post soon and he might have some photos of his BGs.
Drawing the Thief required less emphasis on 3 dimensional construction than a Disney character for example. Instead it was more important to maintain a certain iconic graphic look (an exception would be Mickey Mouse's ears that are constantly cheated to maintain the iconic look). In that way he is closer to a Looney Tunes character. Dick would often say: this doesn't look like him, rather then he is off model. There were no modelsheets for him, sometimes for an extreme angle Dick would make the design up as needed. There were a few rules, though. If you watch this scene in the film you can clearly see how the overlap on the ears had to be approached. Instead of changing the shape of the ears, bending them towards a reversal, you would just rotate the ears a bit up and down.
He has no eyebrows, instead we used the zigzag pattern on his hat to support simple expressions. For a frown for example you would first pose him with his head tilted down using the reversal of the hat edge to define the top part of the eye. Then you would start to draw the zigzag pattern from the middle out starting with a V shape.

You would also be careful with the areas at the outer corner of the eyes where the ears connect, avoiding tangents. In the first drawing I got it wrong, if you watch how the lines of the screen right eye and ear connect.
The flies over his head followed him with a 16 frame delay, so they would hover over the space that his head occupied 16 frames earlier. This created nice overlap when he was moving.
Often the proportions of the Thief and his size in relation to his environment changed from scene to scene and sometimes even within the same scene. This would be a major concern in other studios, but Dick while aware of it said that it didn't bother him as long as it wasn't noticable.
I believe all these scenes introducing the Thief up to when he walks up the stairs to the Cobbler's workshop (not the ones with the Nanny, see Andreas' Dec.10 post) were done during the time between Roger Rabbit and the 90-92 Thief period.

The RR deal had allowed Dick to close down his studio in Soho. This included paying considerable amounts of severance pay to long time employees, which had never been an option before. Because of his reputation Dick had been able to demand payment up front from his commercial clients, which is very unusual. However as he was pumping money into the Thief, incoming funds were used up immediately. The studio always needed to keep rolling and bring in new projects to cover the current expenses.

He moved his operation to Camden where he had bought a small building to house his personal production, while the RR operation rented lots of space in an office building close by, called the Forum. After RR the studio shrank down to a small group: Dick himself, Roy Naisbitt, Neil Boyle, Raymond Guillaumet and John Leatherbarrow. With the financial situation in limbo they plowed ahead, for the first time able to concentrate on the Thief full time. They did only one commercial for Air Canada to help pay the bills and a short title bit for the “I Framed Roger Rabbit” documentary.

At the Oscars after accepting his Oscar for RR Dick was approached by Producer Jake Eberts (Ghandi, The Mission), who expressed interest in becoming involved. He eventually engineered the deal with Warners.
Ken Harris had probably animated a rough version of these Thief scenes and I would guess that they were redone by Dick, assisted by Neil. Neil also animated the non-character bits like the boots in this scene:

By the time I joined the studio in March 1990 Neil had started to animate his own scenes , but this scene was in rushes a few times and I remember admiring the animation on the boots. For me they made this scene and created a nice connection with the BG. Also very nice interaction with the ears. These quiet Thief scenes juxtaposed against the wild stuff with the Nanny feel nicely underplayed.
One thing I like about a lot of the scenes in this film is that they are done with good taste.

In this scene Dick's drawings suggest that the Thief might have a huge behind or maybe it's all the stuff under his coat that he has stolen. In later scenes we can see that he has a very thin body.
Some people feel that the Thief is a self caricature of Dick. He told me that he designed him as a caricature of Ken Harris, without telling him. I think both are true.

The last 2 scenes were entirely animated by Neil. See Jan. 30 post.


Will Finn said...

The use of graphic symbols and designs to convey ideas and emotions is one of my favorite aspects of Richard Williams' work. Using the beanie trim as an "eyebrow" is a great example of this; it's one of those simple but brilliant things that make his artwork in this realm so unique.
I am also glad to know that model sheets were not a priority. A character just has to look "right" to be truly "on model."

Aaron said...

The still of the Thief's hand about to steal a saddle or whatever it is reminded of a question I had regarding dry brush effects. Were they ever used on the film? My copy isn't crystal clear and it looks like there were some dry brush or possible dx effects happening in that shot where the Thief is stealing stuff by the fountain. I know that there's a bit of a stretch in the drawings to account for motion blur but where there any other effects used?

Matt J said...

Another interesting post-this is the greatest in-depth making of blog yet! Keep it up guys-look forward to Paul Dilworth's post & perhaps future guest potss?

Holger said...

Thanks for the comment Will!

Aaron, dry brush motion blur was not used on the Thief as far as I know. Framing through the images, it does indeed look like a double exposure transparency.

Thanks Matt and yes it looks like we will have more guest posts. I would like to increase that as much as possible.

Julián höek said...

it always caught my attention the scene with the boot too. it's was amazingly done. now i know who did it, thanks!