Yesterday and today, I've been bored, so I've been looking through our public library's database for articles and Google Books for book excerpts on TBC, and here's something that's interesting:
This person makes nylon figures, and became an animator at Disney, and made nylon doll "concept art" of the 3 witches in TBC:
http://books.google.com/books?id=8W1sK- ... #PPA118,M1
I thought that this was funny, describing what Gurgi looks like:
a furry creature called Gurgi (a cross between an Ewok and a cocker spaniel)
[People Weekly 24.(August 5, 1985): pp8(1). (210 words)]
And this is just a strange comparison:
The menagerie includes Hen Wen, the clairvoyant pig, whose bottom is rounder and wigglier than Madonna's
[Time 126.(July 29, 1985): pp68(1). (553 words)]
An interesting read:
[McMahan, Alison. Films of Tim Burton animating live action in contemporary Hollywood. New York: Continuum, 2005.]
Burton's situation improved when he was given the job of conceptual artist on the film The Black Cauldron, a movie a decade in the making. Cauldron was unique for various reasons; it was the only Disney film to get a PG rating, it had no songs, and it had a rather dark story line. More important, for Michael Eisner, at least, it had some of Disney's first use of computer-generated images in several scenes. The use of computer animation was quite effective, especially in the darker scenes of combat toward the end of the film; one reviewer noted that the digital artwork "gives some of the scenes a surprisingly effective three-dimensional appearance (one tracking shot up the side of a dark castle with lightning flashing is particularly impressive)." Eisner credited the digital innovation at Disney to Glen Keane and John Lasseter (the latter would go on to produce Toy Story, the first fully computer-animated movie), though, like Burton's, none of Keane's animation made it into the film.
Cauldron was a failure at the box office, and Disney took it off the shelf for thirteen years. The reasons have more to do with the story than with the animation (although the figure of Taran seems to be a bland copy of Arthur in The Sword in the Stone). Though based on the first two books of Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain series, the film seems to be aiming for the Star Wars audience; Taran's sword even looks like a light saber. Many critics, including Roger Ebert, also noted the resemblance of the climax to that of Raiders of the Lost Ark, though the same critics said the visual treatment rose above this copying.
The film's real problems are with the story. Taran starts out as an assistant pig keeper, and in the end he returns the magic sword he has used in several battles in order to resume being an assistant pig keeper (instead of returning the magic sword because he has grown into his warrior role sufficiently to no longer need it). Darker fantasy films are designed to help children face the rigors of adult life, but this one gives a conflicting message, about Taran's aspiring to be a warrior, actually saving his world, along with the princess, a couple of friends, and the prophetic pig from a fate worse than death, but then walking away from his leadership role. In addition to this major flaw, the film is marred by smaller plot holes: the wizard that Taran works for sends him out unprepared and does nothing to help him (all of his help comes from strangers), and the pig's prophetic powers are vastly underused, considering the situation in which the characters find themselves. Most of the logic of Lloyd Alexander's world (a world very similar to that of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Ring, since both are based on the same set of British myths) is completely lost in the Cauldron screenplay.
Burton resented the fact that none of his conceptual drawings were used in the final film: "I basically exhausted all of my creative ideas for about ten years during that period. And when none of it was used...I felt like a trapped princess." However, the experience was probably not a complete waste. It seems that Burton was aware of the film's story flaws and learned something from Cauldron's failure, as his Sleepy Hollow has a very similar plot, in a very similar world, and ignores key elements of its source material in a very similar way, but without the problems we see in Cauldron...
Though none of Burton's conceptual artwork for Cauldron was used in the final film, it did get the attention of Disney executive Julie Hickson, who enabled Burton to produce the stop-motion short Vincent, in 1982.
[Kristian Fraga. Tim Burton: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi, 2005.]
"...I was at Disney, I was in animation for a year, I was totally freaked, I was so bored. They liked my designes, so they said, 'Why don't you do some for The Black Cauldron? Great, great, go wild.' So I spent months, I came up with everything under the sun. One thing I thought was really creepy: it had these birds and their heads would be like hands with eyes; instead of beaks there'd be hands grabbing you.
"Finally, they brought in this other guy, Andreas, that you would consider classic Disney- cutesy little animals and stuff. And it was, 'Your stuff's a little, kinda out there, Tim, but we want to get you together with this guy- maybe the two of you can come up with, like, Disney but, like, a litlte different.' By the end of two weeks, we didn't get along- he was doing his thing and I was doing mine. He'd take my drawing and try to translate 'em. SO finally the producer comes in and says, 'Tim, here's a graph...This is Andreas and this is you. We wanna go somewhere right about here in terms of the style.'"
Tim's above story told a little bit differently:
[Burton, Tim. Burton on Burton, 2nd Revised Edition. London: Faber & Faber, 2006.]
I was hired as a conceptual artist on The Black Cauldron, which was great because for several months I just got to sit in a room and draw any creature I wanted to: witches, furniture, just things. But then, as the film started to get closer to being a reality, they put me with this guy, Andreas Deja, who's a good strong animator in the old, character-driven style, a style completely different from mine. They said to me, 'Tim, we like your ideas, but Andreas is more what we want.' I guess they wanted us to mate and have offspring of some kind. He would sit on one side of the room and I would sit on the other. It was like a friendly version of The Odd Couple.
So he ended up doing his thing and I did mine. I didn't see the movie, but they didn't use one single concept of mine. I basically exhausted all of my creative ideas for about ten years dring that period. And when none of it was used, it was kind of funny. I felt like a trapped princess. I had a great life, in a way. I was able to draw anything I wanted, but it was like working in this completely sealed environment in which you would never see the light of day. But there was always something that made it worthwhile, like doing the Vincent short and then the Frankenweenie one.
And from Andreas Deja's point of view:
[Neuwirth, Allan. Makin' toons inside the most popular animated TV shows and movies. New York: Allworth P, 2003.]
Following a short training period, he was given his first assignment at Disney Feature Animation: "They were impressed with my drawing ability, and they said, 'You know, we don't have designs for The Black Cauldron, we're just doing storyboarding right now...What we'd like you to do is be in one room with Tim Burton, and you two design characters. Tim has this sort of bizarre, zany style, and yours is very solid. maybe we can mix it up or something.'"
What they did was brainstorm. "We filled up storyboards with designs, and story situations, whatever we could come up with," Deja adds. "He would take some of my drawings and add his touch to them, and vice versa. Unfortunately, the management at the time decided that a marriage of the conventional Disney style and Tim Burton's wasn't possible, and we should do it completely conventionally. It lost some spark...and Tim got so frustrated that he left."
Meanwhile, Deja turned to some Black Cauldron designs done by legendary animator Milt Kahl as one of his last assignments for the studio...which points to a major perk of being on staff at Disney: the opportunity to study the work of one's heroes up close. Andreas Deja spent a huge amount of time in the archives pouring over everything that Kahl had ever animated, analyzing it, and taking it apart drawing by drawing- which has its adventages and drawbacks. One the plus side, he notes, "you really learn a lot, and find out how this particular animator approached a scene, what his methods were. What is not so good is that you have to realize you'll never draw like this person- you shouldn't even try." That took Deja some time to realize before he began to try different things. Nevertheless, Kahl remains his hero: "I don't think there was anybody in the last century who drew better than Milt."
After his year of development on The Black Cauldron, he suddenly found himself out of that pot and into the fire- as a full animator on the film. "It was fun," he remembers with some hesitation. "The only thing is, there was a lot of resistance to the treatment of the story by some of the senior artists. They wanted a much cartoonier treatment...I don't know, I just did as I was told, I mean, let's face it, I came fresh off the boat. It was my first job!" The young animator worked on the feature for about three years, the longest he's ever worked on a single film. The Black Cauldron (1985) tanked at the box office- perhaps the Disney Studios' biggest animated embarrassment- but none of that diminished Andreas Deja's excitement at seeing his name roll up the screen on his first credit crawl.
This is just kind of interesting, and even more so considering they did this for two of Disney's darkest films!
New York Magazine, July 1-8, 1985, Page 96, 98:
For the price of a ticket and a box of Raisinets, you and the children can enjoy good old-fashioned entertainment at Radio City Music Hall this summer. Two new Walt Disney releases, The [sic] Return to Oz (now through July 25) and the animated The Black Cauldron, (July 26 though August 29), are accompanies by a Magical Kingdom extravaganza. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, marching broomsticks, and dancing ostriches will all be on hand, and we're told DUmbo will fly off the stage and flap his big ears around as he circles the audience- cool summer fare. (Radio City Musical Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas, at 50th Street; call 757-3100 for schedule and reservations; $14 for reserved seats, $12 for general admission.)