Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Question and answer...

A reader wrote in and asked: "What do you think the medium was for the Pinocchio-era animation
backgrounds? Goache/acrylic? On hot press illustration board? I'd love to
figure that out."

Anyone have the answer?

20 comments:

Bill Robinson said...

Wasn't Pinnochio all watercolor, just like Snow White? I know Bambi was oils...Hans Bacher would know the answer for sure.

:::Julia Lundman::: said...

they look like pure watercolor bg's to me. maybe a little pro white on top, but that's it. beautiful work.

Joshua Smeaton said...

In the book "Lilo & Stitch: Collected Stories From the Film's Creators", they talk about getting "approval/blessing" from some Pinnochio background artists. Because Lilo & Stitch backgrounds were going to be watercolor and they were getting cold feet about it.

KevinHarden said...

Watch the new Lilo and Stitch 2 disc special edition.

there are lots of extras specifically about how they approached the bkgds, interviews w/ old BKGD artists, materials, etc.....
real good stuff.

Lorraine said...

Yeah I remember reading when Lilo came oit that all (or most) of the backgrounds until Dumbo were done in watercolor.

crazyred said...

I wonder what they used on the multiplane fx? Wouldn't those need to be on cels?

Michael Sporn said...

Hans Bacher includes a wonderful post about the Bambi bgs showing that they were done in oil on glass so that the multiplane levels would match many of the background fields.
He matches Bgs with LO drawings.

http://one1more2time3.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/graphite-oil/

Michael said...

Acrylic paints were not marketed before 1956.
Prior to that, BGs would be painted in transparent watercolour or opaque watercolour (gouache), frequently both together.

As noted above, oils were frequently used on glass for overlays, especially in multiplane shots.

BG painters often used airbrushes to apply paint and dyes. They also used airbrushes fed with water to keep their opaque gouache moist, and allow use of the badger blender brush which gave such smooth soft gradations, transitions and out-of-focus effects.

Disney had their own paint laboratories that developed some amazing paints.
There was a type of gouache that could be glazed over repeatedly without any muddying of underlying colour.

Goodness knows what happened to their paint technology when the digital tsunami hit the industry.

Does anybody know?

:::Julia Lundman::: said...

i didn't realize Disney was developing their own paints! boy would i love to have gotten my hands on that stuff. i always wondered how they were getting such amazing glazes. having painted bg's myself for several years, i found gouache and watercolor to be maddeningly difficult to control, especially glazes - and the airbrush still gets a slightly grainy effect that their bg's did not ever seem to have. it must have been these paints. wow!

Michael said...

The airbrush / water / blender technique was used by the Don Bluth studio with great success in Secret of NIMH and many other films. The BG painters used regular Winsor & Newton gouache, but they used quite thick coats to allow for the action of the blender brushes, which would naturally tend to lessen the thickness of the paint.

The huge advantage of spraying the painting with the mist of water from the airbrush was that you could repaint and extend areas without any obvious drying lines in the paint film. Note that the airbrush was rarely used for spraying paint. Just water.

Once in a while I have airbrushed a thin glaze of acrylic matte varnish on top of a gouache / watercolour background, and then overpainted with multiple transparent acrylic glazes to give extra rich and deep colours. So you don't need your own paint lab to produce soft focus Disney style BGs.

The main function of the paint lab at Disney was to produce custom colours that were graded to compensate for the thickness of the acetate in the cel layers. So the colour of a spot of paint on the bottom of the stack of cels would appear to be exactly the same as another spot of colour on the top layer. This enabled animators (if necessary) to move characters up and down in the cel layers without the colours appearing to change.

My source for the Disney paint lab information was conversations held with Annie Guenther when I worked with her on Space Jam in L.A. (Look her up on IMDB.)

One of her first BG painting jobs with Disney was Robin Hood (1973).
She told me that the recipe for the gouache style background colours that could be overglazed was a tightly guarded secret, and that a decision had been made to not market the product.
I wonder if there is anyone who can shed more light on this. Hans?

Susan said...

I wonder what they used for painting Dumbo backgrounds..

But I'm guessing Pinocchio was done in watercolor mainly.

Thomas Lynch III said...

I have an old disney animation book with some beautiful Pinnochio bgs and most of them were gouache. but i think that the old timer master just called it watercolor but used it very opaquely.

Michael said...

There's an interview with BG artist Al Dempster on this page:
http://animationguildblog.blogspot.com/2007/03/al-dempster-interviewed-part-iv.html

He discusses the paints they used a t Disney.

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Jack G. said...

The Illusion of Life book states that Snow White was the only one where the backgrounds were done in traditional watercolor. Gouache (opaque watercolor) was the usual medium after that.

Take it for what it's worth.

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