Glen Keane – Step into the Page – Getting closer to sculptural drawing

“When I animate, there is a frustration that I have: wishing that the flatness of the paper would go away and that I could actually dive in.” Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 15.45.56

Glen Keane, one of the living Disney Legends, told us in the video below. It’s a promotional film for the “Future of StoryTelling” summit this year (October 7 & 8, 2015 – New York City). For those who don’t know who he is, here is a quick recap: Glen Keane is a thirty-eight-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation. He is most noted for creating and animating Ariel in “The Little Mermaid”, “Aladdin”, “Pocahontas”, the Beast from “Beauty and the Beast”, and “Tarzan”. Glen also served as Supervising Animator and Executive Producer on “Tangled”.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 15.45.46

We’ve featured “Duet” – Glen Keane’s hand-drawn, interactive animation made with Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group. There he managed to retain his hand-drawn lines and shading throughout the whole shorts. Something he had wanted to do for a long time, and eventually left Disney in 2012 in order to do so.

“I shaded my drawings when I would animate, and people would ask, “Why are you shading Beast? Why are you shading Ariel?” Because I’m happier that way. I’m trying to create this sculpted thing. So even though that would be lost when it was cleaned up and painted, my drawings tend to have shadows and stuff on them. I feel like on “Duet”, I got to do some sculptural drawing in that we could follow around [the characters], and in turning them around, but there’s so much more that I want to pursue.” (source)

Glen Keane even gave this endeavour a name – “sculptural drawing”. He always yearns for that freedom that could tear the flatness of paper away and give him a more tangible experience with his drawings. It sounds contradictory enough, to achieve tangibility through virtual reality. But it happened.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 15.46.41 “All directions are open now, just immersing myself in space is more like a dance. What is this amazing new world I just stepped into? When I draw in VR I draw all the characters real life size. They are that size in my imagination. [...] and even if you take the goggles off, I’m still remembering — she’s right there, she’s real.” Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 15.53.46

It’s pretty surreal there. 61-year-old Glen Keane wears a VR headset and holds two huge controls to draw Beast and Ariel with the Tilt Brush app. He can turn around the characters, just as he wished. He can dive in the drawing’s world, just as he wished. He can also fly through the drawn bubbles. Yes he can.

“I would draw not to do a drawing but so that I could step in and live in that world. [...] That doorway to the imagination is open a little wider. The edges of the paper are no longer there. This is not a flat drawing — this is sculptural drawing.”

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