Thursday, July 21, 2011

John Ewing

In my last post I was talking last week when we had an animation history lesson. One important thing I saved for this blog post was that we got a talk from John Ewing one of the founders of our school

He worked for Disney with people like Milt Kahl, Bill Justice and John Lounsbery. He animated for The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh, Sword in the Stone, 101 Dalmations and Ichabod and the Headless Horseman. Not a bad repertoire!

He said as a kid he would watch theatrical cartoons. He knew they weren't real but never thought they were drawings and had no idea where they came from. I think we can all relate! He says today he knows plenty about animating cartoons but now hasn't the foggiest on how CG films are made.

He says one of the hardest things he ever animated was the Horse in the Headless Horseman. Four legged animals move all their legs at different times which make it difficult enough but the director wanted him to have the horse stumble and regain it's balance. A nightmare challenge!

He says he wasn't included in the credits of Sword in the Stone because although he completed his required 100 feet of animation, they had too many animators in the credits, so they upped the required animation to be in the credits. They promised him his name in the next feature he worked on.

He talked about the scene in the Jungle Book he worked on where the ruins are crumbling and The monkeys, King Louie, Baloo and Baghera are all trying to catch Mowgli. His director said "hey, we just did something similar for the wind and the willows where all the animals are trying to grab a hold of the deed to toad hall. Why don't you use that for reference?"

He said Disney was notorious for re-using animation. I think we've all seen those clips on Youtube comparing the dance scene from Robin hood to the one from the Aristocats. If Disney did something well once, they'd simply do it again.

He mentioned that Walt himself wasn't really a good animator. That's why he teamed up with Ub Iwerks, who could draw better. Walt would handle story and business mostly. Maybe that's why he always says story is more important than animation?

When asked about modern animation he said he was amazed by the CG films he sees. However TV animation, the Simpsons was his example, had funny material and funny voices but the animation was an insult. I'd agree with that.

Today he's retired and writes stories and makes sculptures. Seemed like a really talented guy!

He did a few drawing on the board to illustrate his points. He did on of Ludwig Von Drake to explain how much of a pain he was to animate and the Colonel dog from 101 Dalmations in answer to "who was your favorite character to animate"


Everyone awed at his drawing technique as he did them. I was going to take a picture of them to show you here but he rubbed them out to do another drawing! You could hear the audience gasp. Here's the one he rubbed them out to do.

It's not as good as the first one of the Colonel he did. He drew this one as an example to show how rough one of his fellow animators drew. So rough he was assigned the best clean up artist they had to compensate for the skilled but severely rough drawings. Still, a cool picture to have!

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