Walt Disney Pictures returns to pencil, paper

(ABC7)

December 11, 2009 9:32:51 PM PST
Opening in theatres this Friday is the film "The Princess and The Frog" from ABC's parent company, Walt Disney. It's a throw-back to the old days of animated movies. All of it is hand drawn and not done by computer. ABC7's arts and entertainment reporter Don Sanchez sat down with two of the film's creators.

The ideas may start with a rough sketch or begin with a blank piece of paper and a pencil, but soon the characters come to life.

"The Princess And The Frog" is about a black princess who kisses a frog with unexpected consequences. It is in the style of "Cinderella" or "The Little Mermaid." Every movement was drawn by hand, which is certainly, a throwback to another era.

"We haven't forgot the whole drawing with pencil and paper and animating that way," said supervising animator Michael Surrey.

Disney was ready to close the Burbank studio, but when Pixar's John Lasseter became head of animation, he saved that part of the company's legacy.

There are so many elaborate and colorful cells, or character paintings, used in the film that flash before you in the blink of an eye. However, this is the traditional hand drawn animation as opposed to computer generated animation.

Surrey explained there are "12 to 24 drawings per second that we're working on. So an animator might work on a couple of seconds of animation for one week."

When asked if it was more difficult to do a film this way, supervising animator Mark Henn replied, "Not really, the cost is about the same, the manpower is about the same. It still is a three to four year process."

Also, when asked if Walt Disney recognize what they are doing today, Henn said "Absolutely, because the basic steps are the same. It's just some of the tools along the way have changed."

Now the drawings are scanned so they wind up in a digital world.

"The only thing that is mechanical is our pencil sharpener. I think other than that it's just what we can bring to the art form," said Surrey.


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