As I shared with you previously in my Animating Disney Planes post, I have always been fascinated with Disney movies and the thought that there were people behind the scenes that created each of them. When I was a kid my parents got me an awesome Disney drawing kit so I could learn how to draw Disney characters step by step. I felt like a true Disney artist using the special wax pencil and celluloid provided in the kit creating my own storyboards. This really helped grow my love for art, and I believe played a big part in why I am an art teacher today. Sitting down with DisneyToon Studios Story Artist Art Hernandez was an amazing experience for me.
Art Hernandez started out by telling us what being a story artist is all about. Story artists are responsible for creating the template for the movie visually. Everything from character performances,To to staging, to camera moves, they are responsible for it. Evertyhting the story artists do then infomrs everyone afterward. There are about 8-9 story artists per film. Those 8-9 board artists break up the script into what they call sequences, like chapters of a book. Each are responsible for their own sequences. Some are longer than others depending on the scene size. They work out the entire movie kind of like a comic book. There are between 40-50,000 panels drawn just for this process. Story artists show the movie about 5 different times during this process to John Lassater, other directors, and partners who then give them notes on things they want changed. Art said, “We have to check our egos at the door. As much as we might fall in love with a sequence, we have to be willing to part with it at the drop of a hat.” There are times when they will fight for their scene. Other times, they will change it. What they hope to do is raise the bar during each step of the process. As story artists they raise the bar as high as they can, and then every department afterward will raise the bar even higher. By the end of the 3-4 year process they have what they hope is a very good movie.
Like John Lassater likes to point out, we don’t finish our films, we release them. If we could we would continue to tweak them over and over.
To get their scenes approved, story artists have to sell their sequences by pitching them to the director. 6 years ago they converted everything to digital, up until that point they drew everything on paper. The characters are still hand drawn but now they are drawn directly on the computer screen. This helps the story artist pitch his or her idea to the director because all of the storyboard panels are arranged in one area exactly how they want them displayed. The story artists will pitch their scene to the director and the other story artists. During their pitch, they will really try to sell their sequence by doing the character voices and performances as they show their drawings. They hope that by the time they are done pitching the sequence that the director will be happy with what they see.
Then we got to hear Art pitch a sequence to us exactly how he pitched the same sequence to the director doing the voices and everything that goes with it. He showed us the drawn images on the computer screen as he narrated the story and voiced the characters. It was amazing! After the movie is released, I will add the voice clip of him doing his performance.
Next up, Art gave us a step-by-step tutorial on how to draw Dusty! Here is my version!
He then gave us a demo on how fast they draw their sketches for the storyboards. Here is Art Hernandez drawing El Chu for us in under a minute!
This was truly an amazing experience for me. I loved hearing from and learning about how Disney artists bring the characters to life!
Disney Planes takes off in theaters August 9!