Thursday, July 30, 2009

Glen, Pen, and Hayao

Now that I'm fully rested from the four-day marathon that is the San Diego Comic-Con I can finally post about my experience.

Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming tide of Twilight fans in line for the New Moon panel, which happened to be scheduled most unwisely in the middle of the day on Thursday, there was really no way for me to attend the Disney 3-D panel preceding it. Well, you can't win 'em all. Plus, I was under the spell of the exhibition hall, with all its displays, free stuff, and cosplayers — everything delicious, tempting eye candy goodness. I don't think I could have dragged myself away until I'd had a few hours to absorb everything, anyway.

Later that afternoon I was able to detach from the main hall, so to speak, and made my way to one of the other panels on my list, Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes. I was there early enough to be let into the panel before it, which happened to be an interesting discussion on costume design for television production. I took a seat in the second row, directly in front of the table of guests and waited. Don Hahn (producer of such Disney films as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and The Emperor's New Groove to name a few), Eric Goldberg (lead animator on Aladdin's Genie and Hercules' Phil), Tom Sito (animator/director/teacher of many things), Ruben Procopio (sculptor of Disney characters and comic heroes), and Glen Keane (creator of some of Disney's most memorable characters like Ariel, Aladdin, Beast, and Tarzan) were in attendance and showed slides of concept art while talking about the life and lessons of Walt Stanchfield. I jotted down a few notes from the guys that I thought were worth remembering:

"Draw verbs, not nouns." - Eric
"Every line should have a meaning." - Ruben
"Don't draw what you see, strengthen the gesture." - Eric
"Impression - Expression = Depression" - a saying of Walt Stanchfield's
"Don't worry about sketching details — get the story across." - another of Walt Stanchfield's lessons
"Gesture first, then add detail." - Glen
"Loose but readable and exploratory." - Eric

It was Glen's first time at the San Diego Comic-Con, so I felt incredibly lucky just to be in the same room as him. It seemed he was just as keen (sorry, had to do it) to attend with his new sketchbook in hand ("I can't wait to get to the Comic-Con and draw weird people"). I caught up with him after the panel, shook his hand, and managed to look relatively calm while taking a picture with him.

I could have floated on air for the rest of the day (week, year, life, etc.) but I had to book it to the next panel across the convention center. Cartoon Network: Chowder! The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack! Adventure Time with Finn and Jake! had a bigger turnout that I expected and sadly, I didn't make the cut. But after waiting patiently in line for about half an hour I was granted entrance, joy of joys. Unfortunately, I came in just as they were finishing the Adventure Time portion of the discussion. His presentation over, creator Pendleton Ward focused his attention on finishing some handmade flip books which he passed out to a lucky few after the panel ended.

Meanwhile, I was happily surprised to notice Tara Strong, voice actor extraordinaire (who doesn't love the adorable Bubbles of the Powerpuff Girls?), sitting at the table and showing her support for Chowder. Listening to her was a treat in and of itself, truly. And speaking of voices, I had no idea Thurop Van Orman sounded so incredibly similar to Flapjack, the character he voices on the show he created, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. He still sounds like a kid! That just about made my day. Again. And to top it all off, I ran into Pendleton under the sails after the panel concluded. After complimenting him on his characters' ever-amusing wiggly arms we took this picture:

Whew! And so ended my panel-hopping first day. Despite meeting two of my favorite animation pros, the biggest sight was yet to come! Hayao Miyazaki. He is his own sentence. He just is. To ensure that I got a spot in Hall H on Friday to see the animation legend at the 12:45pm Disney: Animation panel, my pal Steve and I got in line at around seven in the morning, if I recall (though it's hard to recall much of anything at seven in the morning). We were let in for the first panel of the day, a healthy dose of upcoming Warner Bros. feature film screenings like Where the Wild Things Are, The Book of Eli, The Box, Jonah Hex, and Sherlock Holmes, with appearances by many of the cast members, including the amazing Robert Downey, Jr.

Finally, John Lasseter came out to introduce some of Disney's upcoming releases, including new footage from The Princess and the Frog! Let me tell you, I got chills from watching a new 2-D musical number again. "I Got Friends On the Other Side" is a vibrant and spooky song sung by the film's villain, Dr. Facilier, whose long limbs bend and sway in such an exaggerated manner as to lend credence to his strange, voodoo ways. Why oh why does November have to be so far off?! After talking with Ron Clements and John Musker, John (Lasseter, that is) brought out the big guns. And by "big guns" I mean Miyazaki. The audience, from what I could see from my seat in the sixth row right in front of the podium, gave Miyazaki a standing ovation.

It's so rare for him to venture across the sea to visit us Americans. In an interview with The Times he said, "I thought I had to respond to my friendship with John Lasseter and come this time." His answers were occasionally succinct due to the necessity of translation, but often with a touch of humor. Below are some of the questions from the panel.

John: Can you talk a little bit about how you develop your stories?
Miyazaki: My process is thinking, thinking and thinking — thinking about my stories for a long time. If you have a better way, please let me know.
John: How did you come up with the idea for Ponyo?
Miyazaki: The first idea I had for Ponyo was that the little boy picks up a frog. But I couldn't work out a good character for a frog, so I turned it into a goldfish.
John: The music in your films, um, the amazing work in all your films with Joe Hisaishi, [he] has done such an incredible job on your films. How early do you bring him in on the process?
Miyazaki: Fairly early on, I bring in Mr. Hisaishi to discuss what kind of film I'm going to make. I gave Mr. Hisaishi some notes regarding, for example, that Ponyo is a small goldfish, and I gave him indications of what kind of motifs I would like to have in the film. Then he composes the music as he sees fit in a free way. And then he makes an image out of all the music that is going to be in the film. We don't necessarily use all that music, but it is the music that he imagines would be best fitting for the story. And then as the story develops and it gets farther on into the production process we discuss more specific uses of his music. Sometimes we do use the music, sometimes we don't use the music, sometimes he loses the memo that I give him, so we have all kinds of issues going along making the film. We do disagree sometimes. There is some music that I left out of the film My Neighbor Totoro and he is still telling me that I should have used that music. But I insist that it was good that I didn't use that music.

You know what? I'm doing a search right now on youtube. Ah! Here is a good one. As an alternative to reading the above, you can watch most of the interview here:

Here's a question posed to Miyazaki from an audience member:

Girl: I've been a huge fan of your movies partly because you always have female protagonists and I've wondered for years why did you choose to have female protagonists?
Someone shouts from the crowd: Because we're awesome!
Miyazaki: Because women are strong and beautiful.

Indeed. And with that, I shall bid you adieu. Thanks for reading the longest ever blog post and I hope you enjoyed your stay.

1 comment:

Kyle M. said...

I learned something here. If I want to achieve more success, I need to grow out a lush beard.

Nice write up of the Comic-Con experience!