TREASURE PLANET - Q&A with animators JOHN KEANE & JOHN RIPA
You guys worked together in a different manner from most animators, didn't you?
JOHN RIPA: Definitely for me because I tend to be a lot shyer and don't like to see people see me draw. But this story depended on the relationship of Jim Hawkins and John Silver. We were working on the first time they meet and Glen was discussing it and acting it out.
GLEN KEANE: It was the most natural thing for me to start acting. When you are animating you are living in the skin of that character.
JOHN RIPA: We started drawing and animating right there at the same time - I had never heard of anyone doing that.
When you draw must the character have some of your own personality?
JOHN RIPA: The best stuff is the most personal. You can't help putting yourself into a drawing. That's where it comes from. The pencil and paper aren't going to do anything unless you put some passion and emotion and some of yourself into it.
Didn't you one time get inspiration from your wife's feet?
GLEN KEANE: That was for Tarzan who has really long toes but I couldn't find any part of my wife's body for Silver. But there are a variety of different people there. One is the soldier who guards the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier in Washington who has a head that's like it is sculpted out of rock. Then there was the guy who did Morph. He had a baby during the making of the film and he had a picture of the baby's face exploding with joy. I thought that was Silver. Then I was studying the face of Robert Shaw in JAWS with the space in his teeth. Then there was my high school football coach. There was a blend of real people. I put all these ingredients in the pot, it cooks and stews until it just explodes on the page. It's a strange thing, I think our characters exist before we start to draw them and your drawing is trying to find that character. In the end you have a very complex face that I would never have designed if I was wanting to make my life easy. But that's who Silver is and you go along with it.
Did you go back through the history of Silver, to actors like Robert Newton?
GLEN KEANE: There was one actor, Wallace Beery whom I loved because of the way he talked out of the side of his mouth. Silver does that for almost the whole film. Generally I don't like to look at previous versions of a character because those are the things I'm trying to forget and trying to clear my mind of stereotypes and trying to get to what Stevenson intended at the beginning. It was the same approach to Tarzan for me. If you approach it with integrity and really put your heart into it, I feel good about what I've done. If I start to copy past versions I don't feel I have done the author justice. You know that in years to come people will look at our versions of Silver and Jim as the defining ones for at least the animated versions OF TREASURE PLANET.
What did you draw upon as you created Jim Hawkins?
JOHN RIPA: I didn't even watch the old movies. This character was so different and I was just looking at a specific personality, who he was for our film. To me it was more important to picture the moment when his father had left because that was his problem emotionally. Then it was about how to show his problems and what he was thinking. Then I looked at films starring James Dean, River Phoenix and Leonardo Di Caprio and Mel Gibson in BRAVEHEART. There are a lot of close-ups on characters in BRAVEHEART. who are going through thought processes, just using their eyes. There is a whole sequence in the tent when William Wallace meets the princess and every character in that is telling you something with their eyes. I wanted to do something with that. I'd say that BRAVEHEART was the second most important influence after James Dean. With James Dean there was a whole attitude, a posture. You felt the pain and the youthful innocence. I kept coming back to that as I was working on Jim. I had not really known James Dean, he was a guy on the side of a coffee mug, I had not seen his films. It was John Musker who recommended I watch REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and when I did I was blown away.
GLEN KEANE: This brings up another point of how important the casting is in an animated picture. In casting John for the part of Jim who get an entirely different Jim, one who looks a little bit like John and there are a lot of his characters in the character. Disney is like an acting troupe and after a while you start to get a sense of the strengths of each. With every week John made knew discovers about the character of Jim Hawkins.
Do you ever suffer from the animation version of writer's block?
JOHN RIPA: Oh yeah, it's a weird thing, something I call having reached my good drawing quota for the day. All of a sudden you can't do anything right. For every drawing that makes the film there are five or ten on the floor.
GLEN KEANE: Every artist has about 20,000 bad drawings in them and you think that it's good that you are getting a lot of them out. The block comes more from the story. For six months to a year we tried to storyboard a song about what happened with Jim's dad left him on Treasure Planet and it just wouldn't work. I felt I had to get out of the studio so I drove up to the mountains and sat at a cabin by this lake and thought about the song. I listened and suddenly it was so clear. That was a block that was released by getting away from the studio.
Do you think of yourself as an actor?
GLEN KEANE: Yes and just like an actor who becomes the character it's not like you are acting any more. You are that character. When I was a kid I drew to be in the world of that character and fight the dinosaurs and whatever. The key for us is to believe in the characters that you are animating.
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