Thursday, July 31, 2008

Notes

I just came across these 7o's Williams Studio notes on Michael Hirsh's website:
Click here.

Dig far enough for the 2 pdf files!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tony Palermo

If you have seen the Recobbled Cut and looked at the slow motion scene of the Dying Messenger on the horse you might have also seen this scene:Like Tash's slow motion scene this one is also part of King Nod's dream. If I remember it properly this was the first scene that Tony Palermo animated on the Thief. I think previously he assisted Brent Odell on scenes with technical effects, like the scene of the falling tower in the War Machine sequence where the camera rotates sideways.I was impressed by Tony's work here, the timing and spacing of the swords and the organic feel of the blood. It's quite different from what he had done previously and I was glad that Dick gave him a shot to animate his own scene.Here is a photo of Tony Palermo with his desk neighbour Emanuela Cozzi.I didn't remember what else Tony animated on the film, but I consulted with Dietmar who remembers these 2 scenes:

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dying Messenger, Part 2

Here is part 2 of the interview with Tash. This is the 2nd Dying Messenger scene. It's animated in slow motion to suggest that it's part of King Nod's dream.Holger:
I remember seeing this second scene of yours at the linetester, at normal speed initially. It might have been one of the times where Dick liked a test so much that he called everybody over to check it out. I remember Dick telling you to just throw tons of inbetweens in there to create the slow-motion. Did that work out or did you have to adjust things a bit?

Tash:
I had to adjust things and I knew that would be the case when I started out. There are always a lot of small, wonderful things that happen that the eye misses in normal speed. Animation on twos naturally glosses over a lot for fluidity; if you want to incorporate some of them, you ought to switch to ones. When you go deeper into fractions of seconds, you find more. Think about all the slow motion live action scenes you have seen. At the time I had in mind some slow motion horse racing scenes from a film with a boy and a horse; I believe it was The Black Stallion.
When the scene reached its ideal slo-mo look, Mr. Williams wanted one more set of inbetweens packed in- to make the whole thing on ones. Slow though it was, Mr. Williams still wanted animation on ones. The hairline inbetweens were indeed carried out. (This scene) was actually assisted by someone else (not Sharon), a girl who came just before I left; I believe she was from Berlin.

Holger:
On all the scenes I like the overlap on the flag pole and arrows. I remember seeing on some of the drawings faint traces of rubbed down straight versions. Did you animate them rigid on a first pass pose-to-pose, perhaps and then the bending for overlap in a second pass straight-ahead, referencing the rigid version?

Tash:
I don't remember the details now but I probably would have sketched in the flag in its actual size and shape, taking into account the perspective and all. This would be a precaution against the flag progressively growing, a common trap in flag waves and similar secondary action cloth animation when it is done straight ahead. As for the arrows, they were especially difficult to keep track of because they overlapped a lot in perspective. I kept track of them by giving each a different color.


Holger:
Did you inherit the BG pan for this 3rd Messenger scene from Babbitt's earlier version?

Tash:
Inherit I did, but my version was done from scratch.

Holger:
Did you animate the horse on the spot on the same pegs or did you work locked to the BG, switching pegs every few drawings?

Tash:
Now this is a scene that doesn't satisfy me that much in its final version: I made the original animation in place and it looked fine. I figured since it is a gallop, the hoof contacts would be so short that it wouldn't be difficult to create a matching pan. What I failed to calculate was perspective- or rather, the absence of it. I have the horse galloping right up to the camera and then away again, seen almost from the back. It would have worked if there was no texture on the ground, or at least something moving in perspective. But the background had to look flat, with these rectangular tiles or whatever they are on the ground. Ironically, this flat oriental style that looks so exotic to Western eyes has always left me, a native of the near orient, cold! I started experimenting by making sketches with patterns of squares in varying sizes, and panning at varying speeds, trying to come up with the ideal combination that would keep the hoof on the spot it landed and not slip. The closer that animal comes, the faster the whole background has to move you see. Then Roy Naisbitt came to me and told me Mr. Williams didn't favor animation "in place" since it meant having the pan locked in, he preferred it done "with the pan" so that he would have the freedom to adjust the pan speed himself. Mr. Naisbitt took my animation and re-pegged it over a compromised background and the result of this re-pegging you can see on screen; the effort to keep the hooves steady has resulted in some jitter and some loss of fluidity.

Holger:
Let's talk about the scenes in the Throne Room. Did you work on the reflections at all (maybe just on some key poses?) or did you leave that completely to Sharon, perhaps?Tash:
Well, after the (first) scene was done, I was told the whole scene was to be played on a polished floor, and the reflections would have to be put in. I remember suggesting putting a carpet under the horse and rider to hide the hoof and foot contacts; then it would have been a simple matter to flip the drawings and the illusion would be fine. However, Mr. Williams did not want to go for that solution. It was to be polished floor all the way through!
This meant drawing the underside of the horse and all, or else the foot and hoof contacts wouldn't work- not to mention the full body contact when the horse collapses! This was one place in this no-perspective film where we couldn't evade the demands of the law of perspective! I started working on it- it was just before I left- and I believe Sharon was to take over and continue, but when I saw the finished version of the scene, surprise surprise... the carpet! So I figured maybe they did just flip the drawings after all!


Holger:
I really like these closer scenes with dialogue. Together with the first 2 scenes these are my favourites. It would be nice if you could tell me s.th. about your work on them.
Tash:
These scenes were my only real lip-synch scenes on the film; pity, because I enjoy lip-synch. I get a kick out of seeing my drawings actually talk! The messenger only grunts and moans in the other scenes, here I actually got to animate him saying something. Again, as in the other scenes, the challenge was to make a very slow-paced scene interesting. If you listen to the track alone, it's depressing. Again the solution was to enrich the slow pace with a string of small details, hopefully interesting in themselves. I do regret putting in a stagger though, I did that because Mr. Williams did it in a lot of his scenes, and I thought I would take a page from his book, this being his movie after all! But in general I am satisfied with the scene, his weight when he falls forward and catches himself with his arm, the overlapping bits of his headgear. the discs on his costume that help give him volume, his suffering puppy-dog expression- these were all fun stuff to work with and if not actually fun to watch (he is dying after all!) I hope at least interesting to the viewer!
Holger:
I much appreciate you taking the time for this Tash. Thank you!

Tash:
You're welcome! Did Sahin also contribute to your blog? His story is most interesting! He had a difficult time having his own genius (I am using the word in all seriousness) accepted and appreciated by Mr. Williams, but he eventually held out longer than I.

Tahsin ("Tash")


I also asked Mark Williams about the Dying Messenger scenes. Here is some of what he wrote: "I don't remember too much. It was a while ago. I'm surprised that you have so many details in the blog already. I'm also surprised that other animators remember their shots so well. I think Dean Roberts and Gary Dunn did a lot of the background characters. Tim Watts some of the King and Zig Zag but what exactly I don't know.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tips for new readers

If you are interested in the work done on the Thief I recommend that you dig into the older posts, too. To make this easier you might want to try using the "Blog Archive" on the right. You can still comment on older posts by the way. We get an email for every comment, it makes no difference - old or new post.

Another useful tool is "Labels". Here you can find posts on a specific topic. If for example you want to find out more about a person who is only referred to by first name in a blog post, there is a good chance that you will find not only the full name and job description but also a photo if you check out the posts under the "photos" label.

If you want to see a larger version of an image just click on it.

On leaving comments: To leave a comment click under the post on "comments". If you have a blog or google account you would use the Google/Blogger option of course, but even if you don't have a blog you can comment. I'm happy about every comment including the anonymous ones, but I would prefer if you would use the Name/URL option in that case and let us know who you are. It's nicer to reply to you by name rather then to Anonymous.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Dying Messenger, Part 1

All the Dying Messenger scenes were animated by turkish animator Tash aka Tahsin Özgür. Put together back to back they work like a little short film. I love the irony and black humor. Tash's animation stands out as some of the best work on the film. Very solid and convincing.
When I talk to other animators about the Thief, something that a lot of people remember is the first scene of the Dying Messenger climbing onto the horse. All images shown in this post are from this scene. Tash confirmed that this was the first scene he animated when he started working for Dick Williams in 1990. I'm very happy that Tash took the time to answer some questions via email about his work on the film.

Holger:
I remember you half-jokingly saying that this scene would be your only contribution to the film. It's one of the longest scenes in the film, almost one minute long. This is very unusual for a hand drawn film. I think it's pure gold. The beginning was edited out after Dick lost the film to make room for whatever... it makes no sense to me. Fortunately you were able to do more scenes, all the Dying Messenger scenes if I remember correctly?

Tash:
Yes, but he (Williams) wasn't happy with my interpretation of the Sultan, so in the scenes where they appear together, I animated only the Messenger. And the horse, of course. I also passed on one dying warrior in the first long scene to my assistant, Sharon, who did a fine job of it (bottom left of screen). I also had an inbetweener, Mark, and I seem to remember he did a dying figure somewhere too.

Holger:
I was impressed when you showed your first pass for this scene. You animated the horse with much more drama, more active - I think it even went up on it's 2 rear legs? Could you tell me a bit about how you worked with Dick to get from that initial approach to the final more contained animation style?

Tash:
Mr. Williams did not want a cartoon approach. Maybe Roger Rabbit had turned him off completely, who knows? But the pacing of his commercials have also been different from the usual "cartoony" approach. Whatever I did he would want me to reduce, pull back, slow down. The horse was supposed to be shell-shocked, that was his brief to me, but I wasn't allowed to express that with any kind of broad movement. So I had to keep the animation contained, and somehow be expressive at the same time.Holger:
Dick sometimes felt frustrated when he realized that often he could not use Art's work to the same extend as Ken's work. Did Art animate an initial version for this scene? Were you able to use his work in any way or did you pretty much redo the scene?

Tash:
The scene had already been animated before by Art Babbitt but Mr. Williams was unhappy about it. I didn't get to see Art Babbitt's original version straight away, I had gone someway into the scene before I could and mine bears no resemblance to it. But I could see why Dick was unhappy with it. He wanted a long, drawn out, slow scene and Art gave it to him; the result was frightfully boring. I tried to make it interesting by filling it with small incidents and movements. The Messenger climbs over things, pushes aside a sword, then a leg, the horse reacts to him trying to get on, he in turn is affected by the movement of the horse. The long, slow scene became a string of tiny events that keeps it from getting dull.

Holger:
Did Dick give you layout drawings? Where they on-model? Or was it up to you to come up with the drawings for what he wanted happening in the scene?

Tash:
What I got was things that looked like blown up storyboard sketches- and I use the word "sketch" intentionally. They were very rough and gave a rudimentary idea of what the scenes would look like. I drew a Messenger that looks somewhat like the figure on the sketches, and for the details of the action I came up with things as I went along. Every time my Messenger came close to approaching his target, Mr. Williams wanted him to struggle more and spend more time. So I backtracked a lot to make him do whatever he was to do with more difficulty.

Holger:
The Messenger and the horse feel more 3-dimensional and solid than some of the other characters in the film. Did Dick design it that way or was it more the way you ended up drawing them that contributed to that?

Tash:
It is pretty much my approach to drawing that gave that look. There was no model for the horse, Mr. Williams just showed me some prints of Middle Eastern miniatures for reference.

Holger:
Did you work pose-to-pose, straight-ahead or both?

Tash:
Both, intermixing, and eventually having all drawings drawn rough and tested before passing it on to the assistants who clean it up. This is still my method.Holger:
Didn't Dick advise you to look at Kurosawa's Ran? How did that influence your work on this scene?

Tash:
Yes, he gave me the cassette to watch. I was to try and lend the atmosphere of carnage and devastation that we see in the aftermath of the battle in that film. I was also meant to make the flags flutter in the Kurosawa way, and making a mad wind like that meant animating the horse's mane, tail, stirrups and a tassle in the same way.

Holger:
For most scenes in the film Dick liked to do some final clean drawings. Did he do that for your scenes?

Tash:
No. They went straight to my assistants.

Holger:
Dick often expected his animators do do their own cleanups. Your method was different. You had your little team, Sharon Smith and Mark Williams. Could you tell me a bit about your method and how you used their help?

Tash:
Generally I do all the rough animation, inbetweens included, before passing it on to assistants. I test it, correct and fine-tune it and then re-number and re-chart in its definitive form, try to create charts for parts that were done straight-ahead, indicate secondary action, overlapping action, and anything else that does not follow the chart. Then I pass it on to the assistants. That is how I worked with Sharon and Mark then. Sharon would clean up the keys and breakdowns, correcting forms and volumes, and Mark would do the clean inbetweens, referring to the roughs of course. Whether I ever asked them to fill in drawings that I did not already draw and test myself, I don't remember right now, but the proximity of their desks would have made that also practicable if at any time I found it necessary.

Holger:
I think you did some of the best work on the film and your approach is more than validated by the final result, but I'm curious about how you convinced Dick to let you work this way. How did you accomplish that? Was that discussed when you were hired or did you work that out while you animated your first scene?

Tash:
I don't really know how others worked, Mr. Williams and Ms. Sutton demanded a lot of overtime- 56 hours a week (that was a request given in writing, later increased) which is the equivalent of seven days a week. I opted to work away the hours during the week and save my weekends. I was just married then and that marriage would not have lasted long if I was gone seven days a week. The result was that I chained myself to my desk and did not socialize, working with full concentration the 11 plus hours (not including lunch) daily in order to be able to spend the weekends with my wife.
So I never really knew how the others worked or whether my system was any different. Sorry, I did know how Sahin worked - I knew him from before, and we are friends as well as compatriots so we saw each other outside work as well. He had a small group from Bulgaria assisting him for a while. I don't remember having to persuade Mr. Williams about anything. I believe that was the set-up I walked into. My only condition was that I be allowed to bottom-peg and he, the convinced top-pegger, didn't mind.I just adjusted this post as Tash just sent in lots more about his other scenes. I'm looking forward to "Part 2"!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The high-gloss folder

From "The Thief who never gave up" to "Once" to "The Thief and the Cobbler", the film has had a few title changes. When it was finally called "The Thief and the Cobbler" we got the Crew Jackets made that Andreas wrote about. In the time before, when the film was called "Once" a very nice glossy brochure was printed. I got it signed by as many crew members as possible and would like to present as this week's blog entry: