Thursday, January 17, 2008


Thanks for the recent generous comments. One guy even suggested that we should do a book about this stuff. The thing is that I don't believe you could do this as a book. For once this immediate feedback from readers wouldn't be there and most importantly the kind of collaborative writing that we've had so far wouldn't happen either. I find out new things in the posts of my friends all the time and find it very enjoyable and inspiring. I hope in the future more people will join in and talk about their experiences on the film.
I still have one more David B.B. post ready to go, I just need to get an image or two ready. I'll post it soon.

Here are two more Alex Williams scenes. I remember there was a problem in how to get the pattern onto the carpet. It would have been a nightmare to have to paint that on to a cel for every frame. Keep in mind that the 8 little men roll and unroll the 2 carpets continuously, to keep up with Zigzag. It was animator Steve Evangelatos who came up with a way to use the Bi-Pak method to solve the problem. Mattes had to be painted for every frame, but the carpet pattern was just one piece of artwork.

This was the first thing that Alex worked on when he joined the studio in 1990. As the center of this assignment Alex got to develop the Zigzag walk. The feet crisscross each other in an unusual zigzag pattern, his shoes roll out every time he puts his foot down. I hope you remember the animation and won't analyze it further here. If you know Dick's book or have been to one of his master classes you know that he likes to talk about how to create eccentric walks. This thinking started for him with the Babbitt classes. Art Babbitt was a pioneer of the eccentric walk, just think of what he gave us with Goofy in “Moving Day”

One approach Dick talked about was to create your contact positions for the walk, which could be fairly normal, but then you create a passing position as THE INTERESTING BREAKDOWN, where you pose your character in an unexpected way.
This is a useful trick to avoid Point A to Point B morphing results in your animation and can be used in all sorts of situations, not just walks. It might just be a subtle tilt on the breakdown to create a bit of overlap.
After we (Andreas, Dietmar, Holger and Michael) had been at the studio a few months Dick took us out to dinner at a Greek restaurant in Camden. He probably went there often, because the owner made a big fuss when we arrived. It was the first time that I drank real champagne. Among the things that Dick told us there was a story about an epiphany he once had that made him understand more about walks. It involved a guy he saw who was walking behind a wall so that he could just see his head. He instantly knew (or believed to know) that the guy was gay, just by observing that there was just very little up and down movement. He then shared a few theories about that...
but I'm getting sidetracked here. The reason I just remembered this dinner was that a few times he would jump up in the middle of the restaurant and demonstrate things he was talking about. One time he posed himself into a contact position, jump forward into the next contact position and then jump backward a bit to show us THE INTERESTING BREAKDOWN. Totally oblivious to people at other tables. On the way home I remember that he was walking behind me, imitating the way I walked to demonstrate to my friends this method of analysis.
The next day Barbara McCormack and John Leatherbarrow told us that the dinner had been a rare privilege. John also confided that Dick had predicted months ago that all four of us would be animating before long. Soon after we were promoted to animators.

UPDATE: crowd on Alex's Zigzag down-shot by Gary Dunn (Thanks Garrett!)


mark kennedy said...

Great to hear all about the stuff you guys experienced and learned from Richard Williams. That's the kind of stuff that gets lost to history unless it gets written down. And I'm glad you are sharing it with us on your blog, with all the times that the movie has changed legal hands by now you'd probably never get the rights to publish a book!

Is there ever going to be a way to see the whole film, as Dick intended, do you think?

Holger said...

Well, nothing is impossible (if you think about The Beach Boys' Smile album), but maybe the Thief is more interesting unfinished.
I would love to see the good parts on a big screen again, though.

Dietmar said...

Hahaha, yes, I remember that day well. Awesome that you posted it, I probably wouldn't have dared to do it.

Oh...and the bits where you got sidetracked and didn't write them down, they shall be a secret between us four :D

Dave said...

Wonderful blog! Great stories! In "Building a Character" Stanislavski cites a similar observation of a row of soldiers passing by behind a fence, although he arrives at a different conclusion.
That must have been a great moment in the restaurant, acting out the moves with all those onlookers.
Thanks for sharing these stories.

Holger said...

Hi Dave,
at Bluth did you work with Dennis Deegan, Paul Bolger and Roger Vizard?

Dave said...

Hi Holger. I remember Dennis but I had only just joined a month or so before he and some others left the company. I've never met Paul. If I remember correctly, Roger was part of the group that came from Sheridan College, along with Len Simon and Sharon Smith. I knew Dennis and Paul had worked on the Thief but was unaware that Roger had also. Thanks.

Austin "oppo" Papageorge said...

"It was animator Steve Evangelatos who came up with a way to use the Bi-Pak method to solve the problem."

Seems like a brilliant guy.

Do you know what scenes he animated?