Filed under: Educational
SETTING the SCENE - The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout
By Fraser MacLean
Foreword by Pete Docter
Published by Chronicle Books
Price $60.00, £40 ($37.80 on Amazon)
260 Pages, Hardcover
At first glance Fraser MacLean’s Setting the Scene: The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout looks like a lovely coffee table sized picture book, but the minute you begin to read it you realize that it is a major work, full of information on the important but often overlooked art of layout.
Fraser knows who and what he is talking about because he worked on Touchstone’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Space Jam at Warner Bros., and Tarzan at Walt Disney along with several other Disney Productions. This book takes the reader behind the scenes in this under-appreciated segment of the animation world, from the early days of Winsor McCay, the Fleischer Brothers, and 1930’s Walt Disney right up to the latest 3-D and video game technology.
The critical relationship between the character animator and the camera is emphasized along with the process that layout artists and scene planners use to plot scenes. Detailed analysis and illustrations of the background and layout of such classics as the opening scene of sequence 2 in Pinocchio where the camera begins to move down across the tiled rooftops, through the trees and houses, to Geppetto’s workshop makes you understand why this one Disney multiplane scene is considered by many historians to have never been bettered.
Fraser had access to the Walt Disney Animation Research Library, Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, MGM and the University of Southern California archives where much of the old Warner Bros. material is archived. He also includes art work and photographs from Tex Avery work to the lavish photographs, layout design, and art work of Pixar and Dreamworks.
This is not intended to be a technical book that gives you techniques on creating your own layouts, but it will give you deep insights into the world of the back ground artist. After reading the in depth analysis of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and One Hundred And One Dalmatians, I re-watched both classics with a totally different eye, noticing many details that I had obviously seen before but had never consciously noticed. As the author says “the better they (background layout artists) are, the more their work will go unnoticed by the audience”.
The 260 page book ends with a lengthy interview of Ray Aragon given in 2009, just before his death at 83 years of age. As I read his thoughts on the art of drawing and animation lay out I was captivated by his lifelong enthusiasm for drawing and joy of life. His advice to his students at Cal Arts, where he taught after his work at Disney Studio, “If you’re drawing from a photograph, you can’t see around! So you copy what you see and it’s flat. But when you draw something that is real, you can see around it! Draw what’s around you . . .” is sage advice indeed.
The conversation is illustrated with drawings from Ray’s numerous sketchbooks and art work from the films that he worked on. Even if you are not immediately familiar with Aragon’s name, everyone knows his beautiful art work on Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins and Yellow Submarine.
The book includes a 10 page glossary of animation terms which are worth keeping at your fingertips for easy reference. The comprehensive bibliography, broken into headings such as “Early Animation History”, “Biographies”, and “Practical Techniques”, makes it easy to research additional sources.
The forward by Pete Docter, long time Pixar filmmaker and Academy Award winning director of Up and Monsters, Inc, is a jovial introduction to a book that will be a delightful and informative addition to everyone’s library. Every animation school should have a copy of Setting the Scene: The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout on their reference bookshelf and encourage their students to read it and learn from some of the great names in the animation world. Whether you work in the industry or are an animation fan this is a book you will thoroughly enjoy reading.
Setting the Scene: The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout can be found on the shelves of many book stores.
You can order the book on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Setting-Scene-Evolution-Animation-Layout/dp/0811869873/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335485244&sr=1-1