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Computers in the 'Cauldron'
Disney artists drew on computer power to help with the "Black Cauldron."
Patricia Berry
Dragons, sorcerers and the Horned King have something special planned for you this summer. Don't worry. These stars of The Black Cauldron, a new animated movie of medieval mayhem, aren't about to turn you into a newt. But they will show you what happens when animation artists team up with the latest computer technology. Walt Disney's studio has been making animated films for more than 50 years. In the past few years. Disney has toyed with computers in movies like The Black Hole and Tron. But Cauldron marks the first time the studio has combined animation with state-of-the-art technology. The Black Cauldron is the story of the evil Horned King. The King wants to possess the destructive powers of a huge, dark, mysterious kettle — the Cauldron itself. Only a young pigkeeper named Taran and the princess Eilonwy stand between the Horned King and his prize. This animated fantasy took Disney five years to make. All of the characters and most other moving objects were done by hand by Disney's staff of artists, But computers helped with the animation of solid objects, and with the filming process itself. On many scenes, a computerized device, appropriately called the Animators' Helper System, assisted the artistic staff. The Animators' Helper improved and speeded up the work, according to Cauldron's producer, Joe Hale. "In one scene, we have a boat that Taran and Eilonwy escape in," says Hale. "First, the boat's just sitting in the water. But when the kids get in, it tips with their weight, and balances again. "It takes a very long time to make that kind of movement look real by hand-drawing each frame," Hale explains. "If it's not done precisely, you get a kind of rubbery look instead of a fluid movement." But with the computer, animators simply had to input the dimensions of the boat, its various angles, and the directions in which it was to move. The computer then printed outlines for each position of the boat. The computer can do some fancy work that hand-drawn animation can't. But Disney's animators didn't want to use the full power of the computer For example, in the boat scene, the computer drawings could show three dimensions of the boat, including the inside ribs that you wouldn't normally see. But that would have looked very different than the rest of the animation. "So we traced only the part you'd see from the front," explains Hate, "for the painters to fill in later" In the filming process, computers helped Disney artists create depth of field. This is very difficult to achieve in the two-dimensional world of animation. By using a multiplane camera with precisely timed computer-controlled exposures, the filmmakers were able to get an image that seemed deeper and more lifelike. Yet while computers have proved very helpful, there are certain aspects of animated filmmaking that are off-limits to these machines. For instance, says Hale, "we don't use the computer to add color [to the animation]. We do all that by hand. We even grind our own pigments." Computers also do not play a part in creating the studio's memorable animated characters, Disney animators pride themselves on creating life-like characters — like the Horned King and Taran — out of pen, paper and paint. "While [the computer] is great for animating solid, geometric objects that have [little or no] human characteristics, I doubt if the computer will ever be used tor animating personality," says Hale, "The computer can save thousands of hours for us, but it's just a tool," he concludes. "The real work is done by the artists. A computer will never replace them."



Source type Magazine
Volume 2.5
Language en
Document type Feature
Media type text
Page count 2
Pages pp. 12-13


Id 2926
Availability Free
Inserted 2016-11-09