Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Claude Coats Interview -- Part Deux

More from Mr. Coats as we dive into the second half of my 1978 talk with him... SH: What I'm trying to do is sort out the early conceptual stuff on "Pinocchio" and who did what. Also how you arrived at a certain look, and what the look was based on. Tenggren's stuff? Story books? CC: Actually, there was a sort of strangeness about the character of "Pinocchio," really. It seems to me its more Bavarian or Swiss, and yet the name is Pinocchio and it sounds Italian. But I'm not familiar enough with the original pen-and-ink drawings to know what style they had. So there was no basis for the picture, except for Tenggren's stuff. Albert Hurter was the one who really started off on "Snow White," with carving things in there, and the backs of chairs, and little animals. And his drawings were what were incorporated into "Snow White." During the period before "Pinocchio" he did an awful lot of little jugs that had funny faces on them, and handles and funny feet, and all kinds of ways of humanizing inanimate objects. He did an awful lot of styling on the clocks and the music boxes and all the little things that came in and out. Just the general character of things. Probably the style of the architecture of the carving on the little stand that Cleo's fish blowl was standing on. Hurter was an idea man, story sketch and ideas. He'd try and spark Walt toward a certain trend, or whatever. "Snow White" provided a lot of good experience, and even before "Snow White," the multiplane..."The Old Mill" was kind of a good one for techniques and for the fact that the sceneics were very strongly stressed, in that one particularly. Probably more so in proprotion to animation than ever before. And I think it kind of opened the door for some scenes to be appreciated for just their scenic value, especially through "Snow White," and that same idea went into "Pinocchio" too. The feeling of just establishing scenes that gave it atmosphere. Some of the styling in it was done with Dick Kelsey; he did Pleasure Island. I did some of it, Ed Starr did some of it. I think early on I was sort of doing a background version of Tenggren's drawings that might not apply any I'd be drawing certain color elements out of it and putting it into a form that fit the layout. There's one in the hallway now with the violin that Dick Hennessy drew and I painted. There are a couple in there that look kind of funny because there's big shadows in them. In a street scene, with Gideon and Foulfellow in it and righ now it's almost faded out, but at the time a density cell that was a black matte that we gave a partial exposure to give a light and shadow effect to the scene. And that could never be put on the wall because the black shadow was only a partial exposure to get more believability into it. One of the things that Walt was really great on was curiosity. There were so many things he was interested in...even the early parts of model making for the park. One time in Paris, he found a milliner's shop that had all kinds of little tiny flowers, and all kinds of little things that were used in model-making that could be adapted in some way, so he came back with a whole bunch of stuff and then we didn't know where to send for more of it, you know. Of course a lot of people sent you things. I remember we had a little model room during "Lady and the Tramp." And we started oing some models there to see if they would help us in layout work. There were things like stoves that might have been used in the kitchen, models of woodburning stoves. And somebody had sent tables and chairs and mitiature sets. On "Pinocchio," Tenggren's styling was kind of like a background. He did the stuff down by the watefront, the coachmen and Gideon and Foulfellow. There was another good drawing he did of Pinocchio walking the ocean floor with a stone tied to his tail, with a ship in the background. The ship was later eliminated, but the flavor of his styling of that scene was carried on and kept through the underwater sequence. That was the kind of thing that Tenggren did. Gustaf T. And I think some of the character model sheets were Tenggren's. They had the character of some of the little swiss-looking village, but they had a very interesting proportion to them. In fact, I think they influenced the scale of Disneyland a lot, especially the early things in Fantasyland, regarding scale. Tenggren was at the studio two or three years. He must have come at the very end of "Snow White," and he helped style the hunter that Ham Luske was animating. He had that nice, crisp pen-and-ink style, but we found the ink lines kind of jittered when you were panning. I remember we softened the lines down, even on "Pinocchio." The character was moving along so fast with the lines, that he seemed to be tied to the paper. The ink lines just seemed to cling to the paper. Somehow they didn't seem to have any space behind them. Now, you don't seem to have that problem with Xerox, and I'm not sure why. Maybe the Xerox lines are a little softer. SH: I should run along, let you get back to work. Do you have any other pearls of wisdom you can drop? CC: Especially not pearls. SH: Turquoise, maybe? How did you come out here to the studio? CC: Phile Dyke looked at my portfolio. He was a watercolor artist who exhibited a lot, and I'd run into him and he remembered some of the watercolors I exhibited around. Somebody who knew him mentioned my name, and I got an appointment to see him. I did another bunch of samples for him. He suggested I try doing two or three different things. I did something about a fire. When I first got to Disney's on Hyperion, I was in the building that is now the wardrobe building out in the back here. SH: Did you think then that you'd be with the organization so many years later? CC: I could never really imagine any other place to work. I've been here...thirty-three years. SH: Well, keep it up and maybe they'll take you on permanent. CC: Yeah. That's what I've been hoping.


Lisa Christine said...

Thanks for sharing all of this.

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