Nephtali – Glen Keane’s newest animation magic

“”Nephtali”, which refers to Jacob’s blessings and Psalm 42, was born from the comparison between the grace of a dancer and that of a deer. In a choreography which Glen created with dancer Marion Barbeau, he depicts the journey of a soul that is drawn towards a higher power, fights a struggle and is eventually liberated.”

Glen Keane’s newest film, “Nephtali”, is a miracle. His long fascination for dancing shines through. The collaboration between him and talented dancer Marion Barbeau is a sight to behold. Motions in Glen Keane’s imagination was materialised right away by Marion Barbeau, and those fleeting moments were captured immediately by the masterful sketches by Glen Keane.

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Seeing the split second when the drawn Marion Barbeau goes from static to motion by simply turning her head, I have goose-bumps all over. It’s breathtaking. Glen Keane’s lines and shading recreate not only Marion Barbeau’s dance moves, but also her dance spirit. It’s an elegant, supple, fluid, moving sculpture. From that moment on, her movements are just bewildering. It’s hard to believe that such splendour was captured and recreated so perfectly.

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This is a great leap from “Duet” for me. There are much more nuances of the dancing. In “Duet”, the most you can see is a pirouette. The colours of “Nephtali” are also much easier on the eye compared to the ‘negative’ aesthetic of “Duet”. You can see and feel so much more from the eloquent charcoal lines by Glen Keane.


The defiance shines through the dancer’s face and body is priceless. You can feel her. And then when she dissolves away, you suddenly realise again that she was just made from a few charcoal strokes.

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Paris Opera commissions this short film from Glen Keane for their new digital stage, ‘3rd Stage.’ “It was a humbling experience for me to work as an animator in the Opera Garnier,” Glen Keane said. “It is a palace steeped in the heritage of the craft and art of ballet. I was astounded by the expressiveness and power of the dancers I drew. There is a close connection between dance and animation. I was taught by my mentors at Disney to think in terms of “golden poses” that communicate the emotion and attitude of the character. I noticed in ballet the same use of these ‘golden poses.’ Working with ballerina Marion Barbeau I had the impression I was working with a great animator, only she expressed herself through her body’s movements instead of a pencil… and with such rhythm and grace! I am truly grateful to Benjamin Millepied and the Paris Ballet for the invitation to step into their world and live my animation dream for a moment.” Glen is amongst 16 other top artists and filmmakers who were invited to create unique works for the debut of the ’3rd Stage’. The rest of the films can be seen here.

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