Friday, April 4, 2008

First Pipe Sequence

For my taste this is one of the highlights of the film. Here is another contribution by a trusted source, with a few edits by me:
On most productions the animation of pipes wobbling and clanking would probably have been assigned to the effects department, but for this sequence - where the Thief works his way up the inside of the palace drain system - Dick had Ken Harris work out the various vibrates, accents and stagger timings of the bending pipes, figuring that Ken would milk the situation for all its humor, and be able to inject some of the Thief's personality and timing into the movements of the pipes.

Errol le Cain painted the backgrounds for this sequence, following the layouts that Roy Naisbitt and Dick had designed. As well as painting the background sections of palace wall and the skyline beyond, Errol painted watercolors of each of the pipes setups, which were then scalpeled out and mounted on a cel overlay. This was done so that Errol could apply his distinctive color sense in designing bands of graduated greens and browns which ran along the length of the pipes and suggested, in a graphic way, their roundness. This cut and paste on the mock ups of the pipes almost certainly was done by Roy. (It always seemed to fall to Roy to cut, paste and invisibly join the background artwork!) Color Modelist Barbara McCormack then matched exactly each of these bands of color to equivalent shades of cel paint so that the same effect could be achieved on the final production cels. Inks had to be matched to the cel paints too so that each band of color would butt seamlessly to the next, rather than be separated by an ugly black trace line. I have no idea when Errol did the color setups for the pipes, but I think it was a long time prior to the shots going in to clean up and color. This was not unusual though -- I think that Dick would sometimes get a sequence worths of background paintings done by Errol after Ken had finished his roughs, even though he knew that the clean up and trace/paint on the characters may not be done for some years hence. I guess Dick figured that Errol was unique and he wanted to get him to do as much of the film as he could by producing the backgrounds as soon as they were ready to go. A lot of Ken's Thief rough scenes already had background paintings done for them by Errol. Roy used to fish them out of the archive at 138 so that matchlines could be checked as the scenes went through final animation. Ken did the original rough animation for the pipes sequence probably somewhere between the very late 60s and the mid 70s -- most of the X sheets seemed to fall somewhere between there...

Ken's original pipe animation was cleaned up and detailed by Raymond Guillaumet. Raymond was always cast by Dick on any job that needed extreme precision and technical drawing (Raymond had previously been a diagrammatic animator and a lettering artist, and had designed the fonts and lettered many title sequences for feature films including some of the early James Bond films and the famous 'zero gravity' floating titles to 'Barbarella')

The animation of distant birds in the sky, dust and debris falling from the pipes, and the flies following the Thief's progress up the pipes were animated variously by Dick, Neil, Holger and Dave Cockburn.

The shots of the Thief coming up through the palace toilet were animated by Neil from Ken's roughs. A late addition to these shots was made when Dick decided he wanted the jewelled toilet flusher to turn slightly in the breeze. Dick was always keen to have some sense of air moving through the palace and would often request that hair, veils and drapes sway slightly in the wind. The direct inspiration for this came from the Powell and Pressburger film 'Black Narcissus', where a Himalayan wind flows continuously through the nunnery in which the story takes place.

Left: Thief by Ken/Dick, water by Graham Bebbington
Middle: pipe by Ken/Raymond, Thief by Ken/Dick, water by Jane
Right: pipe by Ken/Raymond, Thief by Ken/Dick, water by Lynette Charters4/21/2008 update by Jane Wright:
"The first one where the Thief reaches a hand up to the pipe while still submerged was Graham's, the one where he struggles up the pipe I did, and the third one (if it's a separate scene) may be Lynette's as she did the other long shot from that sequence."

Left: Alex
Middle: done in LA (?), not under Dick's direction
Right: pipes by Ken/RaymondWhen Dick was forced to fill in the gaps of the movie with storyboards he added a lot of boards with Yumyum, Cobbler and Nanny into this sequence. As far as I can remember it, only the single close up of the Nanny saying "The nice young man is fixing your slippers, my dear" (left image) was completed during the original production, and Alex Williams did it. I don't know if this one shot was picked out as an attempt to nail down the Nanny's design in close up, or for promotional/trailer material, as I don't remember any of the surrounding shots ever going into production (?) The rest of this sequence seemed to remain forever in storyboard form in the original workreels... The other scene (middle image) was done after the shut down of the London production -- at least I don't remember seeing any line tests for it -- but I do remember very clearly that Dick had done very precise (color) storyboards for these scenes, with many of the poses already worked out. There's a slightly snappy timing to how the Nanny reaches that final lovely pose which suggests to me that it was done in LA - just a hunch - but the pose itself is definitely one of Dick's.

All: Ken/Raymond

Left: Ken/Raymond
Middle: Ken/Neil
Right: Dick

Left: Ken/Neil
Middle: Ken/Dick, water by Dave Cockburn
Right: Art/DickFrom what I heard Dick was a bit upset when some scenes were included in Roger Rabbit that were pretty similar to this (the Thief flushing himself down the Toilet) and he refused to be involved with these scenes.

Left: Roy/Raymond
Middle: Ken/ Raymond
Right: Ken/ RaymondFor the scene on the left Roy probably animated a rough miniature version which was then enlarged and the final drawings done by Raymond.
If you watched the new "Horton Hears a Who" movie, there are a few shots in there that look as if they were inspired by these last 7 scenes.

All: Ken/Raymond

Thief by Ken/Dick, pipes by Ken/Raymond, water by RaymondRaymond was a perfectionist and very self critical. I remember he was unhappy that Dick wanted him to animate the water for this scene. He felt his animation of the water was not irregular and random enough. Part of the reason for this was also that Dick was looking for a stylized approach versus a naturalistic one.


Michael Sporn said...

It was particularly disturbing to see the Miramax version of this sequence wherein Jonathan Winter was employed to improvise "gags" to cover the soundtrack. It completely overwhelmed the excellent and distinguished and funny silent-screen timing of the animation. It was as though a Harry Langdon film had been overdubbed with "gags."

In the end, there were no laughs in the theater ... just impatience.

edhead said...

Jane Wright did some of the water for these scenes but I'm not sure which ones in particular. She also did some water for the post below 'Dustbin'.

Holger said...

Thanks edhead! I hope to be able to get Jane's input on this soon.