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Toon Tuesday: Glen Keane goes back to the drawing board

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Toon Tuesday: Glen Keane goes back to the drawing board

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He’s ba-a-ack.

After taking a six month sabbatical from the Mouse House, master animator Glen Keane is back. Keane – who stepped down from his directorial position on “Rapunzel” last October due to health-related reasons – is now back supervising animation on that project.

Glenn Keane surrounded by fans at Comic Con International 2009
Master animator Glen Keane.
Photo by Nancy Stadler

Speaking to a room full of enthusiastic Comic-Con attendees (who were in Room 32AB at the San Diego Convention Center to attend the “Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes” panel), Keane talked about how he deliberately hadn’t picked up a pencil for half a year.

“Sometimes you just have to let the land rest,” Glen explained. “I needed that time off so that I could then rediscover the joy and pleasure of drawing again.”

And clearly that time off must have paid off. For – just before he boarded the train for San Diego – Keane bought himself a brand-new sketchbook. “I just couldn’t wait to get down to Comic-Con and start drawing weird people.”

Walt Stanchfield animation panel at Comic Con International 2009
(L to R) Don Hahn, Eric Goldberg, Tim Sito, Ruben Procopio and Glen Keane
speak before a packed house at Comic-Con last month.
Photo by Nancy Stadler

After his appearance at that Walt Stanchfield panel, Glen returned to the Sorcerer Mickey building in Burbank. Where he’s now reportedly helping the “Rapunzel” production team tackle the trickiest aspect of this project. Which is how to bring a hand-drawn sensiblity to this film’s CG characters.

You see, WDAS’s ultimate goal here is – when “Rapunzel” is complete – that this CG production will have the look & feel of those contemporary hand-drawn Disney fairy tales that came before it. Films like “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.”

Concept art from Disney's Rapunzel
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And Keane’s reportedly right in the middle of this part of the production. Making sure that “Rapunzel” ‘s characters have the right sort of stylization.

Clearly the folks at WDAS must be doing something right. Earlier this summer, select attendees at the Licensing International Expo were shown the opening of “Rapunzel” plus multiple hair tests for the film’s title character (Which – given that, at one point in this animated feature, Rapunzel has hair that’s over 70 feet long – were said to be very impressive). And these folks came away just raving about this upcoming WDAS production, anxious to cut deals with Disney Consumer Products so that their company could then make doll versions of the next Disney Princess that every little girl is going to want to own.

Concept art from Disney's Rapunzel
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

An interesting side note here: After much debate in-house at DCP about how much hair is too much hair, it was allegedly decided that the doll version of Rapunzel that will be sent out to stores next fall would only have seven inches of hair. Which may not sound like much. But when you consider that your typical Barbie is only 11.5 inches tall, 7 inches of hair is still a heck of a lot to deal with. Especially if you’re the parent who’s stuck with trying to untangle this stuff.

Getting to Glen now … I know that there are those who – in the wake of Keane’s decision to step away from “Rapunzel” – tried to paint this master animator as someone who was dealing with some pretty serious health issues. But based on the vital, engaged guy that I observed at Comic-Con …

Glen Keane drawing for the crowd at Comic Con International 2009
Keane knocks out a quick Beast for a fan standing out in the hallway.
Photo by Nancy Stadler

… who spent more than a half hour after that Walt Stanchfield panel talking with animation fans, drawing quick sketches of their favorite Disney characters, looking through students’ portfolio and offering them praise & encouragement (“This stuff is beautiful,” Keane said as he looked through one woman’s portfolio. Holding her artwork aloft for his fellow panelists to see, Glen remarked “We should hire this girl”) … I think that it would be a serious mistake to think that Keane isn’t going to play a huge role in all sorts of future projects at WDAS.

From the praise that his contemporaries heaped at Glen’s feet as part of this Walt Stanchfield panel (i.e. Eric Goldberg remarked how he often uses Keane’s drawings of Tarzan as an example in his animation classes. How – thanks to Glen’s skill as both an animator & a sculptor – you can tell at a glance that this was a man who was raised by apes) to the way all of those animation fans out in the hallway treated Keane like he was a rock star, it’s clear that people are thrilled that Glen is back where he belongs. Which is prowling the halls at Walt Disney Animation Studios, riding herd on “Rapunzel.”

Concept art from Disney's Rapunzel
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Welcome back, Mr. Keane.

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  • I must admit I'm looking forward to seeing this film finally come together.

    A bit disappointed with the doll hair, though.  What's wrong with having 12-foot hair on a 1-foot doll?

  • I'm a little nervous about the whole CG thing, but I'm glad Keane's onboard.  The concept art looks promising!

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