Categories
Disney Filmmaking People Television

The 30th anniversary of Jim Henson and Muppet*Vision 3D

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Jim Henson. I was working on Muppetvision 3D at Imagineering when he died. I was so excited that Disney was buying the Muppets and thought that Jim Henson was another Walt Disney and his creativity would take us in many new directions. Of course this was not to happen and Disney would not buy the Muppets until many years later. The original magic was lost. Here are some videos showing the work of a great man.

Jim Henson also used technology to great effect to tell stories, that is technology for storytelling. There are many examples in this episode of the Jim Henson Hour.

Categories
Animation Disney Documentary Film Sound Filmmaking Interview

Disney Imagineering Theme Park Sound Design

I worked with Joe Herrington when I was at WDI from 1989 to 1994. Joe saved some of the old Jimmy Macdonald contraptions from being thrown out. I was designer of video systems but worked closely with the audio department doing post production sound. Here are some audio and video clips showing how theme park sound is done.


This episode was written & produced by Dave Parsons.

Theme parks have a way of transporting us to magical places, and sound is crucial in maintaining the illusion. From the most action-packed attractions to the background music playing between park areas, theme park sound designers have thought of it all. In this episode, we speak to Joe Herrington and Mike Fracassi, two Disney Imagineers who work to maintain the magic for guests of Disney Parks.


The SoundWorks Collection pulls back the curtain on the talented Imagineers who are responsible for the sounds and music of the Walt Disney theme park properties. In our exclusive video profile we explore the history and role of the audio team as they share their stories and creative challenges. We also take a visit through the original John James “Jimmy” MacDonald sound effects collection, which explores some of the classic Disney sound effects.

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” – Walt Disney

Copyright © 2019 SoundWorks Collection
Colemanfilm Media Group LLC

Jimmy Macdonald was a one-man sound effects wizard. Over his 48-year career with Disney, he created and assembled one of the largest and most impressive sound effects libraries in motion picture history. Beginning in 1934, he added extra dimension to all of Disney’s animated shorts and features including even more current offerings such as the Mouseworks television series. He also worked on the soundtracks for most of the Studio’s live-action films up through the mid-1980s. But perhaps most notable to fans was his greatest role: that of Mickey Mouse, to whom Jimmy gave voice from 1946 until 1977.

Born John James Macdonald in Dundee, Scotland, on May 19, 1906, Jimmy came to the United States when he was only a month old. He grew up in the Philadelphia area and received a correspondence school degree in engineering before moving to California in 1927. His first job was with the Burbank Engineering Department.

In 1934, he was playing drums and percussion for the Dollar Steamship Lines when the band, in between cruises, was called to the Disney Studios to record for a Mickey Mouse short. Jimmy stayed on to work in the newly formed Disney Sound Effects Department, doing vocal effects and cartoon voices.

His voice repertoire included yodeling, whistling, and sneezing for the Dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, barks for Pluto, and, on many occasions, the excitable, high-pitched voices of Chip and Dale.

Rarely was there a sound Jimmy could not make with one of the more than 500 innovative Rube Goldberg-like contraptions that he built from scratch. He could create sounds as obscure as a spider web shimmering or a friendly bumblebee washing up before supper. Animator and Disney Legend Xavier Atencio once recalled, “If he couldn’t get a particular sound he wanted from one of those gizmos, Jimmy would do it with his mouth.”

In 1946, Walt Disney handpicked Jimmy to be his successor as the official voice of Mickey Mouse, beginning with the “Mickey and the Beanstalk” segment of Fun and Fancy Free. Jimmy provided the famed mouse’s familiar falsetto on all film and television projects up until the late 1970s.

On screen, Jimmy was the silhouetted figure of a timpani player in Fantasia. Four decades later, in 1982, he assisted conductor and Disney Legend Irwin Kostal in the digital re-recording of that film. As an original member of the popular jazz group, “The Firehouse Five Plus Two,” Jimmy played drums and made several Disney television appearances in the 1950s. In the live-action film arena, he supplied sound effects for everything from the Academy Award®-wining True-Life Adventures series up through The Black Hole in 1979. For the 1977 animated feature The Rescuers, he came out of retirement to provide sounds for the feisty dragonfly, Evinrude.

Jimmy Macdonald passed away on February 1, 1991, in Los Angeles.

From: https://d23.com/walt-disney-legend/jimmy-macdonald/

Categories
Animation Art Disney Documentary

Tyrus Wong, ‘Bambi’ Production Designer, Dies at 106


In an excerpt from a video included in his career retrospective at the Museum of Chinese in America, artist Tyrus Wong and others discuss the visual style Mr. Wong brought to Disney’s “Bambi.” Photo/Video: Disney Enterprises, Inc.

By Amid Amidi From Cartoon Brew

Tyrus Wong, the Chinese-American artist who was the production designer of Disney’s classic feature Bambi (1942), passed away today at the age of 106.

Wong had a brief career in animation, working at Disney only between 1938 and 1941, but made an outsized contribution to animation history with his innovative production design of Bambi. He was working as an entry-level inbetweener at Disney when he showed art director Tom Codrick his atmospheric pastel ideas for Bambi. that provided a solution to Bambi’s backgrounds by suggesting the atmosphere of a forest without describing every leaf and branch.

Codrick showed them to Walt Disney, who was equally excited by the approach. “Looks like we put you in the wrong department,” Codrick told the young artist. Wong was offered the opportunity to “key the whole picture from beginning to end, to make a painting that sets the mood.”

Wong received credit on the film only as a background painter, but wasn’t recognized for his role as the production designer of the film until many years later. Despite the low pay he received, Wong stayed inside the studio with all the veteran artists during the 1941 strike—”I was being a good boy”—but that didn’t matter. He was let go from the studio a year before Bambi was released. “I don’t feel bitter toward Disney at all, except for a few guys who I know to this day kinda resent me,” he told historian John Canemaker.tyruswong_rip_hReflecting on his work on Bambi, Wong said, “The script would say, ‘Early morning: the deer goes out onto the meadow.’ I would try to create the atmosphere of that meadow, the fog on it and so forth . . . mood sketches. My painting has always been very poetic—that’s the Chinese influence. In Chinese art, the poet is a painter and the painter is a poet. The object isn’t to reproduce photographic reality, as it is in Western painting, but to capture a feeling.”

Wong himself considered animation to be “a minor, very small part” of his artistic life, which also included twenty-six years as a live-action production designer at Warner Bros. where he worked on classic films like Rebel Without a Cause, Around the World in Eighty Days, and The Wild Bunch. He also enjoyed a long career as a greeting card designer, and in his spare time, created murals, ceramics, lithographs, and kites.

A production design painting that Wong produced for the Warner Bros. film "The Wild Bunch" (1969).
A production design painting that Wong produced for the Warner Bros. film “The Wild Bunch” (1969).

Born in Guangzhou, China, Wong came to the United States at the age of 9, where he lived with his father, a laborer. A surprisingly in-depth New York Times obituary offers some fascinating details on Wong’s early years.

Wong’s father encouraged him to practice calligraphy every night, but they were so poor that they couldn’t afford ink. “We can’t afford ink or rice paper,” Wong once said. “But he made me do it with water. That’s a good training.”

In the final decades of his life, Wong received significant attention, starting with a chapter in John Canemaker’s book Before the Animation Begins (1996). More recently, in 2014, Wong had a major retrospective “Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong” at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

A feature-length documentary about Wong’s life, Tyrus, was recently completed by Pamela Tom. Here is the trailer:

Wong is survived by his daughters Kim, Kay, and Tai-Ling.

Tributes have been pouring in from around the industry, including from Frozen’s head of story Paul Briggs, Zootopia director Rich Moore, Inside Out co-director Ronnie del Carmen, and visual development artist Claire Keane, among others:

https://twitter.com/_paul_briggs_/status/815022423913431044?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Here are a few of Wong’s iconic pastel concepts for Bambi:

"Bambi" concepts by Tyrus Wong."Bambi" concepts by Tyrus Wong."Bambi" concepts by Tyrus Wong."Bambi" concepts by Tyrus Wong."Bambi" concepts by Tyrus Wong."Bambi" concepts by Tyrus Wong."Bambi" concepts by Tyrus Wong.

Beginning in the 1960s, Wong started creating kites that he would fly on weekends at Los Angeles area beaches. Here are a few examples:

tywong_rip_kite_atywong_rip_kite_dtywong_rip_kite_ctywong_rip_kite_b

From CBS Sunday Morning. Tracy Smith learned all about his life story firsthand:

Here is a Walt Disney Family Museum exhibition from a few years ago.

From August 15, 2013 to February 3, 2014, The Walt Disney Family Museum will present the exhibition Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong. Organized by Michael Labrie, the museum’s director of collections, the exhibition will focus on the life and work of Chinese-American artist Tyrus Wong—a celebrated painter, muralist, kite maker, lithographer, Hollywood sketch artist, calligrapher, ceramicist, and Disney Legend. At age 102, Wong is still a practicing artist today.

Tyrus Wong
Tyrus Wong at home in Sunland, CA, ca. 2004.

This retrospective features more than 150 works including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, painted scarves, kites, and more. Although he never met Walt Disney, it was the ethereal beauty of Wong’s Eastern influenced paintings that caught Walt’s eye and became the inspiration for the animated feature Bambi, which changed the way animation art was presented, and continues to be an inspiration to contemporary artists.Overcoming adversity, poverty, and racial discrimination, Wong used his passion and interpretation of the bold art of the Sung dynasty, and his experience working as a Depression- era muralist, California watercolorist, and film production illustrator, to become one of the bohemian artists whose creativity and drive helped shape the cultural, artistic life of Los Angeles during the 1930s and 40s

Bambi visual development by Tyrus Wong

In 1938, Wong took a job at the Walt Disney Studios as an inbetweener, one who goes through the tedious process of making “in-between” drawings that filled out the movement of the characters between the animators’ key drawings. He recalled “At the end of the day, I thought my eyes were going to pop out,” as he flipped through countless drawings of Mickey Mouse and stared at the light in the drawing board. When he heard that Disney’s next feature-length film was going to be Bambi, he saw an opportunity to present his work.

Wong read Felix Salten’s Bambi and “thought the story was very, very nice—the feeling—you could almost smell the pine,” and made sample sketches creating the lush mountain and forest settings, inspired by Sung dynasty landscape paintings. He had a different approach and one that had never been seen before in an animated film. He explained, “I tried to keep it very, very simple and create the atmosphere, the feeling of the forest.” Tom Codrick, the film’s art director, was impressed with his sensitive style, which was vastly different from the more ornate style of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which preceded it. Tyrus’s Chinese-inspired sketches and paintings set the look and tone for Bambi, and were some of the most strikingly beautiful art ever produced at the Walt Disney Studios.

In 2001, Wong was named a Disney Legend, and his work continues to inspire and influence the leading animators of today.

The exhibition also includes paintings, hand painted ceramics and silk scarves, original greeting cards, works on paper, and his latest work including handmade and hand-painted kites, which range in size from six inches to 100 feet.

About Tyrus Wong

Wong was born in Canton (now Guangzhou), China in 1910. In 1919, he and his father immigrated to America leaving behind Wong’s mother and sister, whom they never saw again. Arriving in the United States, they were initially held on Angel Island because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. After their release from Angel Island, they settled in Sacramento, later moving to Los Angeles’s Chinatown neighborhood.

Early Years

Tyrus Wong, self portrait

Wong’s interest in painting and drawing emerged at an early age. Though they were poor, his father encouraged his talents by having him practice calligraphy by dipping his brushes in water and “painting” on newspaper. Indifferent to school, he dropped out of Benjamin Franklin Junior High in Pasadena, CA to attend the Otis Art Institute on a full scholarship. There he received formal western art training while studying the art of the Sung Dynasty at the Los Angeles Central Library in his free time.

Despite graduating in the midst of the Depression, Wong led an active life as an artist. He exhibited work throughout the country, including a 1932 group exhibition at the Chicago Art Institute that featured Pablo Picasso. Wong and other young Asian artists including Hideo Date and Benji Okubo gained recognition by exhibiting as the “Orientalists.” Wong was also hired as part of the Federal Arts Project, a branch of the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration (WPA). His work during this period was heavily influenced by his friend, the highly regarded modernist painter Stanton MacDonald-Wright, best known for his use of rich harmonious colors (a style referred to as “synchrony”) and his integration of Chinese compositions.

The Dragon’s Den

Though he exhibited regularly, Wong and his fellow artists struggled to survive. Their answer was the Dragon’s Den, a subterranean, trendy, Chinatown restaurant that attracted Hollywood stars such as Peter Lorre, Anna Mae Wong, and Sydney Greenstreet. It stood out among the chop suey joints of Chinatown and was the brainchild of close friend Eddy See. It boasted wall to wall to murals and hand painted menus by Wong and his fellow artists. It was there that he met Ruth Kim, his future wife.

Bambi visual development by Tyrus Wong

Walt Disney Studios

In 1938, following his marriage and birth of his first daughter, Wong said he “needed a job.” It was at that time he began at Disney as an “inbetweener,” drawing hundreds of sketches of Mickey Mouse. He found the work tedious and numbing. When he heard that the studio was in pre-production on the feature film Bambi, he went home and painted several pictures of a deer in a forest. These small, but evocative sketches captured the attention of Walt Disney and became the basis for the film’s visual style.

Warner Brothers

Preproduction illustration for The Wild Bunch

From Disney, Wong headed to nearby Warner Brothers, where he switched from fantasy to realism. He was hired as a production illustrator and sketch artist where he painted and sketched concept art for hundreds of live-action films, including Rebel Without A Cause, Calamity Jane, Harper, The Wild Bunch, Sands of Iwo Jima, Auntie Mame, April in Paris, and PT 109. He was frequently loaned out to Republic Pictures where he worked on many John Wayne westerns, a genre that would become a favorite of his. He stayed at Warner Bros. for the next 26 years until his retirement in 1968.

Throughout his years at the studio, Wong continued to paint and exhibit his fine art. In 1954, he was featured in a short film produced by Eliot O’Hara demonstrating Oriental brushwork techniques. His commercial work included designing greeting cards for over 20 years, illustrating magazine covers and children’s books, and painting calligraphic style designs on Winfield ceramic ware that sold in high-end department stores.

Kite Building

Mini-centipede

After retiring, he turned his attention to designing and building hand-made kites. His dozens of designs include multi-colored 100-foot centipedes, flocks of swallow, butterflies, and panda bears. In 1990, he and his kites were featured in the short film, Flights of Fancy. To this day, Wong flies his kites every month in Santa Monica.

You can buy the book here.

 

Categories
Disney Interview

My Interview with the Los Angeles Times about working at Imagineering

I worked at Walt Disney Imagineering from 1989 to 1994. The LA Times recently interviewed me about my experience there. I was let go, along with about 800 other people, when the Disney Decade ended. My heart goes out to all those who were laid off. Hopefully by now they have found new work. Here is the interview and then some videos, including the new Leslie Iwerks documentary about WDI.

Disney Imagineering lays off designers while analysts look for earnings pop at Walt Disney Co.


Shanghai Disneyland
Nearly two months after opening Shanghai Disney Resort, Disney Imagineering has announced a round of layoffs. During the opening celebration for the resort, fireworks explode over the Enchanted Storybook Castle. (Walt Disney Co.)

Hugo Martin and Daniel Miller

Nearly two months after opening its latest theme park, Walt Disney Imagineering has laid off some of the designers and builders who dream up the company’s parks and attractions.

Representatives for Disney Imagineering, a Glendale-based division of the Walt Disney Co. with about 2,000 employees, confirmed the layoffs but declined to specify how many employees were let go except to say that the percentage was in the “low single digits.” Separately, Burbank-based Walt Disney Co. is set to report its earnings Tuesday after the market closes.

With the June 16 opening of Shanghai Disney Resort park falling near the end of the quarter, observers will be curious to see how it affected the parks and resorts division and whether Disney executives shed any light on the new property’s performance thus far.

The $5.5-billion Shanghai Disney Resort, measuring nearly 1,000 acres, is Disney’s most expensive international resort.

Analysts are predicting that the company will deliver earnings per share of $1.61, according to investment research firm Zacks. That would be up 11% from the same quarter a year earlier. During the most recent third quarter, Disney released the blockbuster “Captain America: Civil War,” which has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, and “Finding Dory,” which has grossed more than $900 million.

Shares of Disney dropped less than 1% to $95.75 on Monday. The stock is down about 9% this year. Over the past year, investors have been concerned about the lack of subscriber growth at ESPN, the crown jewel of Disney’s media networks unit. Earlier this year, Nielsen Co. said that ESPN lost 1.2 million subscribers in 2015.

“The desire to watch sporting events live and the abundance of sports rights makes ESPN the most valuable piece of real estate in pay-TV today, but we expect slower growth than in the past as competition for consumer time and entertainment dollars increases,” wrote analyst Robin Diedrich of Edward Jones Research in a note published July 29.

The layoffs at Disney’s Imagineering reflect the organization’s variable approach to hiring.

“Walt Disney Imagineering is a project-based organization, and we continually evaluate and adjust our resources to support the design and development of Disney theme parks, resorts and experiences around the globe,” the company said in a statement Friday.

Robert Niles, author of the Theme Park Insider website, said Disney Imagineering hired extra workers to help complete Shanghai Disney, which might explain why some workers are being laid off now that the project is finished.

“I think they absolutely bulked up for this,” he said.

Although the Shanghai Disney project is open, Disney is still working on several theme park projects across the country, including the new Star Wars lands at Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida as well as a new Avatar land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.

Former Imagineer Steve Diggins knows what it’s like to get laid off after Disney opens a theme park.

He joined Imagineering in 1989 and among the projects he worked on was the Visionarium attraction built at Paris Disneyland. That resort opened in 1992 and about two years later he was out of a job.

Diggins said he was aware it was a possibility that he would be let go because “everything at Imagineering is project-related.” Still, it was a disappointment, said Diggins, who remains acquainted with people who work at Imagineering.

“When it happens to you, you feel bad,” said Diggins, who is now a video engineer at KTLA. “I was hoping to stay there.”

Diggins said he expected that some of the Imagineers who were let go last week had to know the cuts were coming.

“They will gear up for a big theme park, and when that theme park [project] ends, some people will move onto other things and it is not always possible [for everyone],” said Diggins, who in the early 2000s had another stint at Disney as an assistant film editor for Walt Disney Television Animation. “I think most people should know this.”

 

Imagineering Documentary Trailer from Iwerks & Co. on Vimeo.

Categories
Animation Design Disney Filmmaking

Imagining “Zootopia”

One of the things I liked about Zootopia was that it wasn’t a reboot or sequel. I enjoyed the story that had many of the best classic Disney elements, but still seemed fresh. The hat tips to the Monorail (above) and Skyway (below) were nice touches. Here are stories, videos and art work that shows the artistic and technical work that went into this movie.

http://cartoonbrew.tumblr.com/post/134407136122/zootopia-concept-art

Zootopia is a world where humans don’t exist. It’s a big, crowded metropolis where anthropomorphic animals drive cars, fight crime, eat ice cream and ride trains. Prey and predators of varying shapes and sizes coexist in harmony until their prejudices get in the way.

Judy Hopps, a tiny rabbit, can’t be a cop. The police force is a place for rhinos, wolves, elephants and other bulky animals. Nick Wilde, a quick-witted fox, can’t be trusted. He’s presumed to be running a scam, even when he’s not. In a movie about mammals and their stereotypes, creating a diverse range of species is a necessity. The creators of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ latest adventure combined months of research with custom-made software to create the verisimilitude of an animal-only habitat.


The team comprising directors, engineers and animators spent about eight months studying animals. They went to San Diego’s Safari Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and all the way to Kenya to observe their movements and mannerisms. But to make the characters look like their real-world counterparts, they needed an up close and personal look. The crew ended up at a Natural History Museum, where they studied fur under a microscope and even brought in lighting setups to see how the strands reacted to light.

Simulating the texture and density of animal fur is a daunting task for any animation studio. The last time Disney worked on a furry character was in Bolt, eight years ago. While the studio managed to create a soft, white layer of fluffiness on the superhero dog, the same tools wouldn’t work for the 800,000 mammal variants in Zootopia.

To make the animals look realistic, Disney’s trusty team of engineers introduced iGroom, a fur-controlling tool that had never been used before. The software helped shape about 2.5 million hairs on the leading bunny and about the same on the fox. A giraffe in the movie walks around with 9 million hairs, while a gerbil has about 480,000 (even the rodent in the movie beats Elsa’s 400,000 strands in Frozen).

During the research phase, the team paid close attention to the underlayer of animal fur that gives it plushness in real life. But the same detailing couldn’t be recreated on a computer. “It’s not practical for production to do it,” said senior software engineer David Aguilar as he displayed iGroom at a Zootopia presentation in Los Angeles. “We created an imaginary layer with under-coding so the animators could change the thickness and achieve the illusion of having that layer to create the density of fur.” That kind of trickery made it possible for them to create characters like Officer Clawhauser, a chubby cheetah with a massive head of spotted fur on his face.

The software gave the animators a ton of flexibility. They could play around with the fur — brush it, shape it and shade it — to create the stupendous range of animals for the movie. “The ability to iterate quickly makes all the difference,” said Michelle Robinson, character look supervisor. “You can push the fur around and find the form you want.” From the slick pouf on the shrew’s head to the puffy, dirty wool on the sheep, the grooming made it possible for them to stylize the characters with quirky features.

Before this tool, animators had to work with approximation. When creating the silhouettes or posing their creatures they had to predict the way their characters would change with the addition of fur. “We have to wait hours and hours for renders to come back to see how the characters looked,” said Kira Lehtomaki, animation supervisor. “That works for one character but not for Zootopia. Animators are obsessed with posing and silhouette, so if the render changes shape, any discrepancy can ruin the performances.”

To keep the performances intact, the engineers turned to Nitro, a real-time display software that’s been in development since Wreck-It Ralph (2012).The animators were then able to see realistic renders almost instantly to make decisions on the fly. The tool sped up the process, making it possible to keep subtle expressions on the furry faces in the movie.

While the animals were getting ready to inhabit their virtual world, a team of environment CG specialists put together the backdrops that made their lives believable. The modern-world setting in the movie captures the essence of a city designed for animals. When a train pulls up at a crowded stop, tall mammals step off the train through high doors and tiny commuters scurry through little mouse doors. But the Zootopia zone has different districts to suit the peculiar needs of its many species. Tundratown supports polar bears, and Sahara Square is home to camels. While the rainforest isn’t marked by a specific species, the Amazonian density of the vegetation stands out.

Each environment was meticulously crafted on Bonsai, a tree-and-plant-generation tool that was first used for Frozen in 2013. Once the software learned how to make a tree, it regenerated many different variations to create a rainforest with intricately layered foliage.

It takes a powerful tool to create a universe of complex creatures and detailed environments. Disney’s secret animation weapon is the Hyperion rendering system. It’s an in-house software that has changed the way scenes have been simulated in the past couple of years.

What makes the image generator unique is that it traces a ray from the camera as it bounces around objects in a virtual scene before hitting a source of light. This allows the engineers to replicate the natural movement of light to create photorealistic shots. Disney first introduced the renderer with Big Hero 6 (2014). But with Zootopia, the engineers had to add a new fur paradigm to the existing software. So the renderer also followed the rays as they moved through dense animal fur.

“One of the problems before Hyperion was that you had no idea what the lighting in your scene was going to look like,” says Byron Howard, co-director of the movie. “Now, very early on, almost as soon as we have the layout of the scene with a camera set up, we can get an idea of what that scene is going to look like and do intensely complex calculations. It’s made making films at Disney so much easier.”

[Image credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios]

From Engadget

https://the-disney-elite.tumblr.com/post/137709732203/zootopia-travel-posters-via-the-art-of-zootopia

From Inside Zootopia: An interview with visual development artist Nick Orsi

From Animation Scoop.

Categories
Animation Disney Filmmaking Technology

New Software Can Actually Edit Actors’ Facial Expressions

FaceDirector software can seamlessly blend several takes to create nuanced blends of emotions, potentially cutting down on the number of takes necessary in filming.

A new software, from Disney Research in conjunction with the University of Surrey, may help cut down on the number of takes necessary, thereby saving time and money. FaceDirector blends images from several takes, making it possible to edit precise emotions onto actors’ faces.

Shooting a scene in a movie can necessitate dozens of takes, sometimes more. In Gone Girl, director David Fincher was said to average 50 takes per scene. For The Social Network actors Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg acted the opening scene 99 times (directed by Fincher again; apparently he’s notorious for this). Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining involved 127 takes of the infamous scene where Wendy backs up the stairs swinging a baseball bat at Jack, widely considered the most takes per scene of any film in history.

“Producing a film can be very expensive, so the goal of this project was to try to make the process more efficient,” says Derek Bradley, a computer scientist at Disney Research in Zurich who helped develop the software.

Disney Research is an international group of research labs focused on the kinds of innovation that might be useful to Disney, with locations in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Boston and Zurich. Recent projects include a wall-climbing robot, an “augmented reality coloring book” where kids can color an image that becomes a moving 3D character on an app, and a vest for children that provides sensations like vibrations or the feeling of raindrops to correspond with storybook scenes. The team behind FaceDirector worked on the project for about a year, before presenting their research at the International Conference on Computer Vision in Santiago, Chile this past December.

Figuring out how to synchronize different takes was the project’s main goal and its biggest challenge. Actors might have their heads cocked at different angles from take to take, speak in different tones or pause at different times. To solve this, the team created a program that analyzes facial expressions and audio cues. Facial expressions are tracked by mapping facial landmarks, like the corners of the eyes and mouth. The program then determines which frames can be fit into each other, like puzzle pieces. Each puzzle piece has multiple mates, so a director or editor can then decide the best combination to create the desired facial expression.

To create material with which to experiment, the team brought in a group of students from Zurich University of the Arts. The students acted several takes of a made-up dialogue, each time doing different facial expressions—happy, angry, excited and so on. The team was then able to use the software to create any number of combinations of facial expressions that conveyed more nuanced emotions—sad and a bit angry, excited but fearful, and so on. They were able to blend several takes—say, a frightened and a neutral—to create rising and falling emotions.

The FaceDirector team isn’t sure how or when the software might become commercially available. The product still works best when used with scenes filmed while sitting in front of a static background. Moving actors and moving outdoor scenery (think swaying trees, passing cars) present more of a challenge for synchronization.

By Emily Matchar
smithsonian.com

From Disney Research

We present a method to continuously blend between multiple facial performances of an actor, which can contain different facial expressions or emotional states. As an example, given sad and angry video takes of a scene, our method empowers a movie director to specify arbitrary weighted combinations and smooth transitions between the two takes in post-production. Our contributions include (1) a robust nonlinear audio-visual synchronization technique that exploits complementary properties of audio and visual cues to automatically determine robust, dense spatio-temporal correspondences between takes, and (2) a seamless facial blending approach that provides the director full control to interpolate timing, facial expression, and local appearance, in order to generate novel performances after filming. In contrast to most previous works, our approach operates entirely in image space, avoiding the need of 3D facial reconstruction. We demonstrate that our method can synthesize visually believable performances with applications in emotion transition, performance correction, and timing control.

 

Download File “FaceDirector- Continuous Control of Facial Performance in Video-Paper”
[PDF, 13.22 MB]

 

Copyright Notice

The documents contained in these directories are included by the contributing authors as a means to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work on a non-commercial basis. Copyright and all rights therein are maintained by the authors or by other copyright holders, notwithstanding that they have offered their works here electronically. It is understood that all persons copying this information will adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author’s copyright. These works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

 

Categories
Animation Art Disney Filmmaking Technology

Dali-Disney exhibition uses Virtual Reality

Visitors to a new exhibition at The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg won’t just be looking at art. Thanks to virtual reality, they’ll be exploring a Dali painting in a dreamy, three-dimensional world that turns art appreciation into an unforgettable, immersive experience.

The new exhibition, Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination, tells the story of the relationship between Salvador Dali, the surrealist artist, and Walt Disney, the great American animator and theme-park pioneer.

But the museum exhibition’s highlight comes after visitors have seen the Disney-Dali show’s paintings, story sketches, correspondence, photos and other artifacts. As visitors leave the exhibition area, they’ll be invited to don a headset to try the virtual reality experience.

Called “Dreams of Dali,” the VR experience takes viewers inside Dali’s 1935 painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus.’ The painting depicts two towering stone figures along with tiny human figures in a bare landscape with a moody sky. Users can move around inside the painting, using Oculus Rift headsets to navigate a trippy three-dimensional environment that includes motifs from other Dali works like elephants, birds, ants and his Lobster Telephone sculpture.

Accompanied by a haunting piano soundtrack punctuated by bird cries, the VR visuals also include a crescent moon, a stone tunnel and even an image of rocker Alice Cooper, whom Dali featured in a hologram he created in 1973.

“You actually have a three-dimensional feeling that you’re inside a painting,” said Jeff Goodby, whose firm Goodby Silverstein & Partners created the VR experience. “It’s not just like you’re inside a sphere with things being projected. It’s actually like there are objects closer and further away and you’re walking amidst them. It’s a vulnerable feeling you give yourself up to.”

Disney and Dali met in the 1940s in Hollywood, according to museum director Hank Hine. “Their sensibilities were very connected,” Hine said. “They wanted to take art off the palette, out of the canvas and into the world.” The exhibition looks at the castle motif that became a symbol of Disney parks, along with Dali’s Dream of Venus pavilion from the 1939 World’s Fair, which some consider a precursor of contemporary installation art.

Disneyland castle

This 1955 design for Disneyland castle is explored in a new exhibition at The Dali Museum about artist Salvador Dali’s friendship with Walt Disney. Walt Disney Imagineering Dali Museum.

Disney and Dali also collaborated on a short animated movie, Destino, (below) that was eventually completed by Disney Studios. The six-minute movie, which can be found on YouTube, features a dancing girl with long dark hair, a sundial motif and a song with the line, “You came along out of a dream. … You are my destino.” Clips will be played within the gallery for the Disney-Dali exhibition and the full short will be shown at the museum’s theater.

Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus,” 1933–35, Salvador Dalí. Photo: © Salvador Dalí/Fundació Gala-Salvador Dali/Artist Rights Society (ARS), 2015
Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus,” 1933–35, Salvador Dalí.
Photo: © Salvador Dalí/Fundació Gala-Salvador Dali/Artist Rights Society (ARS), 2015

The show also displays the Dali painting that inspired the VR experience, Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus.’

DALI-DISNEY

Virtual Reality Trailer:Dreams of Dali,”

“Dreams of Dali” is part of the museum’s new exhibit, Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination, running Jan. 23 through June 12. For more on the virtual reality experience, visit DreamsOfDali.org.

Virtual tour of the Dali Museum.
 

https://plus.google.com/101094337324295273794/posts/4mRBC1yMNHR

 

 

Categories
Animation Disney Restoration

‘Lost’ Disney cartoon with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit found


From BFI.

The BFI National Archive and Walt Disney Animation Studios are pleased to announce the rediscovery of a rare, long-lost, Walt Disney animated film, Sleigh Bells (1928) featuring the first ever Disney character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a long-eared precursor to Mickey Mouse.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was invented by Walt Disney in 1927 and was loved for his mischievous and rebellious personality. A number of other films do survive but Sleigh Bells has been, until now, a lost film, unseen since its original release. The animation in the film was accomplished by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, both of whom went on to create the character of Mickey Mouse, following a contractual disagreement with Universal, for whom they had created the Oswald films.

The print of Sleigh Bells (1928) was preserved in the collections of the BFI National Archive. The exciting rediscovery was made by a researcher browsing the online catalogue of the BFI National Archive’s holdings. Walt Disney Animation Studios have taken this unique surviving film print and created both a new preservation print and digital copies. The film has a running time of approximately six minutes.

 

oswaldrestored

Robin Baker, Head Curator, BFI National Archive said:

“What a joyful treat to discover a long-lost Walt Disney film in the BFI National Archive and to be able to show Sleigh Bells to a whole new audience 87 years after it was made. The restoration of this film will introduce many audiences to Disney’s work in the silent period – it clearly demonstrates the vitality and imagination of his animation at a key point in his early career. We thank Walt Disney for working with us and are thrilled to present the world premiere of this restored version here in London at BFI Southbank.”

Andrew Millstein, President of Walt Disney Animation Studios, which oversaw the restoration, added:

“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with the BFI National Archives in the restoration of the ‘lost’ Oswald short, Sleigh Bells, and to be sharing this delightful animated discovery with audiences in the UK as part of this special Disney holiday programme. The Oswald shorts are an important part of our Studios’ history, and we have been working with film archives and private collectors all around the world to research the missing titles. We are grateful to Katrina Stokes, Robin Baker, and their associates at the BFI for helping us locate and preserve Sleigh Bells.”

More here.

Categories
Animation Disney Technology VFX

Disney’s Augmented Reality Characters from Colored Drawings

Photo from the Verge.

A Disney Research team has developed technology that projects coloring book characters in 3D while you’re still working on coloring them. The process was detailed in a new paper called “Live Texturing of Augmented Reality Characters from Colored Drawings,” and it was presented at the IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality on September 29th. That title’s a mouthful, but it’s descriptive: the live texturing technology allows users to watch as their characters stand and wobble on the page and take on color as they’re being colored in. You can see an example in the video above: the elephant’s pants are turning blue on the tablet screen just as they’re being filled on the page itself.

Coloring books capture the imagination of children and provide them with one of their earliest opportunities for creative expression. However, given the proliferation and popularity of digital devices, real-world activities like coloring can seem unexciting, and children become less engaged in them. Augmented reality holds unique potential to impact this situation by providing a bridge between real-world activities and digital enhancements. In this paper, we present an augmented reality coloring book App in which children color characters in a printed coloring book and inspect their work using a mobile device. The drawing is detected and tracked, and the video stream is augmented with an animated 3-D version of the character that is textured according to the child’s coloring. This is possible thanks to several novel technical contributions. We present a texturing process that applies the captured texture from a 2-D colored drawing to both the visible and occluded regions of a 3-D character in real time. We develop a deformable surface tracking method designed for colored drawings that uses a new outlier rejection algorithm for real-time tracking and surface deformation recovery. We present a content creation pipeline to efficiently create the 2-D and 3-D content. And, finally, we validate our work with two user studies that examine the quality of our texturing algorithm and the overall App experience.

Download File “Live Texturing of Augmented Reality Characters from Colored Drawings-Paper”
[PDF, 1.72 MB]

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Categories
Animation Disney Film Editing Film Sound People Technology

Veteran ADR Mixer Doc Kane of Walt Disney Studios

Stage B – the birthplace of the creative voice track of many animated films including Cars 2, Toy Story 3, Tangled, Rango and many more, is also the ADR home of top industry filmmakers

In this exclusive SoundWorks Collection profile we talk with veteran ADR mixer Doc Kane at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA to explore his extensive project credits and unique approach to capturing some of Hollywood’s most talented voices.

The Art of ADR

The art of ADR is much more than having a collection of microphones and knowing how to use them, although Doc’s mic cabinet is pretty impressive. It’s also more than having the latest and greatest hardware and software, but rest assured, Doc has all of the most modern bells and whistles.Perhaps even more important and some might even argue that it qualifies ADR as an art, is the sensitivity to the client.

ABOUT DOC KANE:
What has three letters, many aliases and is of major significance to the sound community? You guessed it: ADR aka Automated Dialog Replacement aka Additional Dialog Recording aka Dubbing aka Looping. All of these monikers are understood as the process of re-recording dialog that cannot be salvaged from a production. To make one thing clear, there is nothing automated about it. ADR is an art. And here to tell us more about the art is an artist whose name also has only three letters and many aliases but nonetheless has made a significant impact on the sound community.

His name is Doc Kane but most just call him Doc. He has over 300 projects under his belt and a slew of awards and nominations, including four Academy Award nominations.


Tom Hanks talks about the fact that the voice of Woody for toys and games is sometimes actually the voice of his brother, Jim. He tells a story about what it is like working on Stage B when he is recording the voice of Woody for the Toy Story films.

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