I'm always very happy when some of my former Thief colleagues write here on the blog about their work on the film. I can't think of anything else to write about at the moment, so I thought I might as well write a bit about some scenes that I worked on. I recently found some notes I took at the time to keep tabs of the work I was doing. The scene number for this scene was seq10.1/sc.4x, the scene length 10 feet and 14 frames and I started working on it on March 20, 1991. The scene starts close on the Thief and then pulls back to reveal the Ruby Idol in the distance. I worked over Ken's original animation. Dick wanted the proportions much different, less cartoony, smaller head etc. It still is very much like Ken's animation and I feel I mainly contributed effects, animating his coat and sleaves flapping in the wind, the rope and the flies. I think I did the first bits of gravel that he kicks of and Lynette Charters animated the rest. These scenes usually also required some retiming and respacing. The first 2 days I spent drawing the BG layout. Before I started there was only a simple outline to indicate where the mountain was. Dick gave me some of Errol's BGs as reference for how he wanted the hands drawn. The drawing for the Ruby Idol he did himself. I think he did that for all the other scenes with the Ruby Idol as well. It's a caricature of actor Sydney Greenstreet.
I always enjoyed it when I was asked to draw my own layouts, a privilege really. Dick liked us to be involved in as many aspects of our scenes as possible, encouraging us to make them our own and feel responsible for them. For most scenes he liked to do several key clean-ups to keep the style consistent and the drawings on model. It also gave each scene his personal flavor, in the way that a Milt Kahl scene for example is recognizable by his drawing style. Dicks drawing choices were pretty unique and he always came up with the nicest shapes. Maybe this resulted sometimes in a reduced sense of ownership for us and the drawing of our own layouts was intended to make up a little for this. I didn't draw any of the bushes by the way. I think that was all Inga Davelouse who painted the BGs for this sequence.
When I started this scene I had been averaging 8 feet a week for a few months, which usually put me pretty high on the "footage chart". This was a board that Ian Cook the production coordinator kept up to date. It showed how much footage was counted every week for each animator. Counted meant footage that was reported as done in the weekly report to Warner Brothers. In the case of this scene for example half of the scene was counted already on the first day (Friday) I started animating it. These decisions were usually made by Dick in the (click:) ROUTE SHEET MEETING.
In addition to fulfilling his directorial duties Dick also was the studio's most productive animator. Mostly it was him or Neil at the top of the footage chart. At route sheet meetings Dick often made a big deal out of announcing the "footage king" for the week. On the few occasions when I had that honor I felt a mixture of pleasure and embarrassment. Embarrassment because I felt that the scenes I worked on were so much easier to do than many of the ones that other animators worked on and it felt a bit manipulative and not really fair. However I worked hard to maintain my footage average, between 60 and 77 hours per week.
Reading what I just wrote I would have to add that what motivated me even more to work hard was the desire to get as many good scenes with the Thief as possible before work on the film would be completed.
More to come...