Creating the Memories
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Creating the Memories
by Bill Kroyer
Sue and Bill Kroyer
This article is adapted from the keynote address Bill Kroyer gave at the Ojai Animation Conference, in Ojai, California, on July 22, 1995. The Conference, designed as a retreat for the animation industry, was sponsored by the International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood, in association with the Ojai Film Society. When Kroyer gave the talk, he had recently started working as co-director on Warner Bros. Feature Animation's first film, now entitled The Quest for Camelot, which is being co-produced by his wife, Sue Kroyer.
Today, animation is exploding. And with billion dollar animated films, direct-to-video and CD-ROMs, there are big profits to be made. That's OK, after all, it is an art-industry. People forget the hyphen, but you need money to do this art form.
What I would like to discuss, though, is not so much the business of animation, but what it means to be an artist and animation as an art form. I'm going do this from my own perspective, looking back on my career and what I've experienced.
Back in the 1960s, it was said that President Nixon was asked why he didn't think there was a recession. He said, Well I have a job, and all my friends are working. Well, I'm happy to say that, all my friends are working now. It wasn't always like that; but now they are and that's part of what's great about the animation industry today.
I came out to L.A. in 1975 and immediately went to Disney to get a job. They wouldn't take me, because I didn't have an art school portfolio. Instead, I got a job in a small commercial studio, where my first assignment was erasing the stretch lines off of Mr. Clean's pants, because he looked too virile. My second assignment was to put pants on elves, because they only had shirts on and somebody finally realized they were naked. That is when I learned the two most important principles of animation: It will go by so fast that you'll never see it; and if you can't make it good, make it loud and fast.
I Really Feel Sorry For You Kid ...
I finally ended up at Disney in 1977, which was an interesting place to be then. It was the link to the Golden Age. You are probably hearing about how we are going into the second Golden Age, which I think might be true. Yet, in those days everybody sat around and moped, feeling bad about the fact that they missed it.
We used to have guest artists come over who would say, I really feel sorry for you kid, you missed the Golden Age. Your life is worthless. Why bother? You weren't there!
Some of the Nine Old Men were still there in 1977, including Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnson, Willie Reitherman and Eric Larson. But the studio was still stuck in a time warp, technically and creatively. If you asked them why they were not innovating, they'd say, Because we do what we do best, which meant they just didn't dare touch the formula that Walt had left behind.
If you were an artist who had been transported from Disney in 1941 to 1977, there wouldn't be a whole heck of a lot of technology that you would not instantly know about. You knew about peg bars, reinforcements, pencil tests and the multiplane camera. You might discover Xerox machines and reel-to-reel pencil test machines; but beyond that nothing had really changed.
In the 1970s, the industry was in a real slump. Disney was the only studio making realistic features, and even their films had reached bottom. Then some milestones came up and things started to change.
And Along Came Tron
Many people see Who Framed Roger Rabbit as the big milestone. That's the one that made the money. Yes, but there was another that may have been even more prophetic:Tron, made by Disney back in 1982.
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