Today we are joined by Disney artist Philo Barnhart to talk about his amazing career!
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Philo Barnhart part 1 –
Jeff Haas: . [00:00:00] All right. Hello listeners. A split country today on the show. We have the fantastic it’s our final Barnhart. How’s it going,
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: sir? Well, it’s going very well. Thank you a little bit warm. In Illinois, but it’s okay.
Jeff Haas: Well, you know, the cool thing is I was looking through your history. You’ve done so many amazing movies from my childhood is really quite unbelievable.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Oh, well, thank you. Yeah, it was, it was an extraordinary career
Jeff Haas: to be. Oh, it definitely was. The question I kind of want to start is I always start off like an origin story question. So what is your origin story? Where did you, when did you know you had the gift for animation?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Oh quite early, I was encouraged from the time I was two years old and my parents saved a lot of the drawings I did from my crib, believe it or not starting at the age of two and on through the years.
And so I, I have like a little catalog of life growing up and then the kinds of things I was drawing and almost not surprisingly, a lot of my early [00:01:00] work was dancing princesses. Hertz perching on their fingers and things like that. I guess I was predisposed. I didn’t even know what I was drawing at the time, but that’s what it was.
So kind of all kind of funny.
Jeff Haas: So if I read correctly, your parents had been in the animation world prior to that, correct?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Yes. My father met my mother in 1944 at the Disney studio and pretty much their output at the time was war effort. Product, including charts and things that they hand drew and painted that went out in the field for our, for our folks to use, to identify vehicles and what country they were from on the sea and on land also.
And they also made what you would call propaganda films like victory through air power. Interference faced with Donald duck and several, several films education for death, which is very scary [00:02:00] cartoon. It’s just not your typical Disney a thing that the kids look like they’re out of Nokia, all their little boy, but then they grow up to be these terrible Nazis, you know?
So it was a scary film. They, they the last thing they did, you might say together was song of the south. Oh, wow. And then my mother stopped for a time to raise our fence, start raising our family, starting with my oldest brother Rio, who was born in 1947. So, but that remained there for I guess, close to 30 years.
Yeah. And mother reentered the business of animation around 1963 years old, did all kinds of things like star Trek for Filmation and Scooby doo and the Archie’s for Filmation and so on. So they both had long-term. In the business and [00:03:00] oh, I didn’t imagine I was going to do it, but I got swept up in it 1977 when I was learning how to do in-between animation for television shows at Hanna-Barbera.
And in that time,
Jeff Haas: listen to what does that mean in between.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: You betweens it’s department of artists that gets the scene to finish it after it’s been through the assistant animator And through the breakdown or who puts the drawings between the assistance drawings and then the in-between area finishes the scene by putting all the drawings that are left between the extremes on the breakdowns.
Yeah, it’s basically an assembly line of animation. That’s literally what it is. It’s like a factory. Wow. But instead of a machine, you’re an artist, you know, with a brain and a pencil.
Jeff Haas: So, so, so as, so as someone who became an animator, [00:04:00] what specific skills are necessary for an animator that may be a still artists may not have.
The skills for, like, what was it that you had to learn to animate that, like I said, if you were doing, let’s say either combo art or something that was still that may be that the skills weren’t necessarily there.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Well, the main goal is to impart. On every single frame. So, you have to first think of that characters being alive on every single drawing that you have to do.
Number one, number two, you have to be aware of how things behave and how they move in in real life. I mean, you can, you can turn them surreal. You know, you can take a surreal turn, but you have to know how things basically behave and how they move. Through space and real life. And that includes arcs you when we move, we move in on arch formation.
We don’t move in parallel lines. If we move in parallel lines, we could probably come off looking like a robot.[00:05:00]
Jeff Haas: so, so where did you learn to create. Or give life to your art?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Well, firstly at Hanna-Barbera which was a limited form of animation, meaning that you’re only moving certain parts of the character’s body at a time and they are on separately. So you might have a separate torso with the whole series of separate arms and it’s, it’s an economical way of doing animation for television shows.
Hanna-Barbera was the, the main creator of that kind of economy for television. However, As time went on, I wanted to learn how full animation was done, which is a character that seems to be alive constantly. And this is in full motion all the time. The kind that you see in feature animation, man.
I really wanted to get into that kind of work. The opportunity came up when Don Bluth and his [00:06:00] small group said he had made his. Independent film banjo WODPOC cat with in his home in Culver city, on weekends. And after, after work at Disney, they would go to Culver city and work on this hall all night, go back to work at Disney during the day.
It was pretty nuts, but they got their film done. And by way of doing that, they’d be learned how some of the special effects that have been lost over time were done and, and Just a number of things, including how the timing on the characters was achieved in the classic era. So when I heard that they were asking for people to come and join them after they left Disney, I jumped on it and they, they gave me a test and I, I barely passed it because I didn’t understand, as I said before, I didn’t understand how things moved in arcs and so on.
And. Oh, I was just still drawing things in parallel motion. So they [00:07:00] said if I was willing to work on that, that I was welcome to come and join them and join them. I did. And it was just amazing. We, we made secret of Nim and then went right on to the video games, which we pioneered that was Dragon’s lair space.
Say some dragons there to. I did several voices of characters in those games. Also several rats in secret of Nim. Oh
Jeff Haas: really? I didn’t know
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: that. Which one? Oh, they’re all through it. That the debate sequence I’ve to several rats in there. Famous line. Oh, oh, the line that you can really hear though is at the end of the film, when the block starts to sink her black home cement block.
And she says the block, the block, it’s sinking, just thinking, and then you’ll hear it. In the background, say, throw the line. That’s me.
Jeff Haas: That’s awesome. Well, I definitely want to get [00:08:00] to see what the Nim and discuss that, but one thing that really perked my interest when I was doing some research on you, that you actually was a effects animation assistant on star Trek, the motion picture.
That’s right. That is amazing. So. Okay. Like what, what part of the film where you doing animation for? Cause, because like I said, that movie is so famous in the, in the star Trek.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Yes. Well, most of the the effects were already competed for the first half of the film, but there was still a ton left to do.
That’s why my little unit was hired on towards the very end. And we were doing effective. Mostly happened when they are encountered the cloud layer. And they also had us do little films that were showing on the view screens on board, both the cling ons and the. No, the enterprises use screens some of the stations and things too.
So we, we animated little films that were broadcast [00:09:00] through the back of the set. However, if we were not able to fit. Or they, they just needed to get the live action shop. And we didn’t have any animation ready to, to broadcast into the set. It had to be put in an post, so therefore they have.
Blue screens could in a blue screen panels put into the place where our animation was going to end up in the film. Then you can tell what, what went in during the filming. Cause there’s no black line around the few screen. Tell what was put in in post because there’s this huge matte line we still are dealing with matte lines back then.
Yeah, get rid of them today. But everything was done by hand back then, you know, including all our electrical bolts and all the cloud layers and things that we did. However, the main cloud layer where you see the Klingons approach, the cloud at the beginning, and when the enterprise shows up there later, those are swirly ringy things.
We’re actually we developed a [00:10:00] way to use a wire hanger that was been into different shapes and we spun that and took stroboscopic photographs of it.
So that’s what we did. We made what’s called a code lift cell. It was a Kodak product back then. And we took those stroboscopic photos, several of them. And. Reversed them in the Cotulla cells. So the black hanger against the white background became a clear fluffy little clouds were really thing. We, we took two or three of those and then pulled them over themselves and took a frame at a time, you know, on the animation plant.
So we, we filmed them as animation. And if you look closely. Finished film. Now you can see the clouds shimmer a little bit, and that’s how we achieve that. There are bottom lip pieces of art that when they’re pulled over each other, they, they create a shimmering effect [00:11:00] whatever’s showing through on the bottom.
No crates, the optical illusion.
Jeff Haas: It was kind of incredible. I mean, as, as a viewer of the star Trek movie and I, I’m a big fan of star Trek, we, you know, is that like you watched the sequences in the movie, you don’t even think about it as animation. You just kind of accept them as part of the ship. Know what I’m saying?
Or part of the, as you don’t even think of that someone actually sat there and often drew these parts that.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: That’s the ultimate goal in any animation that you do is, is that you get people to forget that they suspend their disbelief and totally believe in what they’re seeing and know. It’s a lot harder with live action, but certainly.
When you achieve that point, it’s a real proud feeling that you can get
Jeff Haas: now going back or going moving forward almost 40 years. Now that it’s in high definition. Do you, have you seen it since? Does it, the, do you notice anything in the high depth that’s different than when you could see in VHS [00:12:00] or on
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: screen?
Oh, well, certainly. Yeah, for all the old films, you don’t have kind of proclivities that kind of pop up proclivities, even, even things like 2001, a space Odyssey, you can see the the rear projection or the front projection screen sagging, or you can actually see you know, when the stewardess is.
Walking through the cabin and she pulls the pen out of the air. You can actually see the class shimmer in the corners of the screen. So I’m sure that was stuff that nobody ever expected would be seen, but there’s things there’s high resolution now that you know, those things are getting exposed. Another example is, was.
You can see the glass shots and channels. You can actually see people through the backgrounds that was never meant to be seen. Nobody noticed that stuff before high Rez was available. So, but star Trek really holds up. That’s just, like I said before, [00:13:00] those mat lines were a problem. We can really tell it’s from 1979.
But when they went in and, and The film, which I think is great. That’s the version that I show people now the director’s edition. They left our stuff intact and what they did was with the added a digital animation, was they they actually added film, grain backend, so that. Jump out at you here, here I am digital digital for you.
So I thought that was this great. My, my friends that worked on that Darren, Dr. Min, especially very instrumental in getting that stuff to work.
Jeff Haas: Yeah. Yeah. Like I said, you you’ve done so many cool things. Last night I decided to rewatch the CRA name to prepare for the interview. Cause once again, you worked on w which is like one of the most legendary cartoons, you know, in, in in, you know, in film history and secret Nim is incredible watching and I must admit, I sincerely missed [00:14:00] hand drawn.
It’s, there’s so much better than the computer animated animation ones.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Well, there is something to be said for hands-on because you can’t get the same emotional from, from a digital character as you can. Somebody actually showing you how they feel about something by, by buying it, you know, literally drawing it.
It’s the same with them with writing an analogy I like is this Fahrenheit four or five when Ray Bradbury. And Ray Ray was a time friend of mine also. Oh, wow. From the year of 1979 forward. But He in his book caiman, Mon tag’s wife asked him why he’s hoarding the books, you know, because they’ve been banned, you know, they’ve, they’ve been, they burned them if they find anyone with them.
And he says, because behind every one of these books is a person. That’s what interests me. [00:15:00] That’s what interested me about animation. And initially he was like, By the style of something who animated at that scene, it was Frank Thomas or milk color, you know, one of the older guys from Disney or one of the newer people like Clementine or, you know, Andreas, deja, or any of those people, they have a signature style and you can’t get that when it’s filtered through a computer system, it’s not possible.
Jeff Haas: Yeah, and I mean, watching it, there’s something so beautiful about how it looks, how the characters move. And like I said, I kind of feel bad that so many kids now are kind of in the Pixar cartoons that they don’t appreciate the beauty of those arts. I mean, some images and I burn talk later on. Viewing the beast and awesome.
The mermaid, some of those sequences are absolute
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: arts, right? Right. Well, it is, it is literally art. I, I do like a lot of the digital stuff because it is in its own way. It’s beautiful and [00:16:00] immersive and nobody works harder at that than Pixar. This last job. Spectacular. The, the, the character design, especially it’s, it’s like, some of the characters are like, it costs will come to life.
They’re like Cubist they’re, they’re no more than Cubist forms. And of course I’m talking about soul. So if you haven’t seen it yet by all means great movie. Yeah. So it’s just incredible. It’s the epitome of what the. It really is based. They’ve come a long way and that’s very beautiful and immersive on its own.
But there is something to be said for the hand-drawn, because you can get a certain kind of emotion out of your audience using ham hand you know, have colored hand drawn quality work.
Jeff Haas: So secret of Nim, you were the character key. Is this.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Yes, a high was one of three key artists on there. The characters for that.
Jeff Haas: so what does a character key assistant do?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: They are the ones that [00:17:00] do the final interpretation of what you’re going to see from all of these burying animals. You know, scenes and all their varying styles, you make it into a cohesive quality w you know, one extreme at a time, and you give those characters, their final nip and tuck before they go to all the other people who are following you up to do the cleanup breakdowns and in in-betweens.
Jeff Haas: in preparation for the characters, what directions, where you give them. To help create the character. Was there anything they said, do more of this or did you do or not do, or you’re saying you were not allowed to do and how you’re interpreting the characters
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: in the case of Don Bluth, he, he had his finger on the pulse of everything we were doing and All constantly consulting with him and I’m refining things through him.
And the man is a genius because he storyboarded that film literally single hair. And the layouts were done by he and Larry leaker [00:18:00] from the storyboards. So he, he did some beautifully detailed storyboards. He knew exactly where he was going with a hundred percent of that film from the get-go.
So, we just let him guide us through the entire thing. What we did do was, was start with the most important, but what we felt was the most important sequence as with any animation, really, you start with the most important aspects of your film and you do those first. So usually it’s two or three sequences.
And so in that case, it was Jeremy, the co taking her to see as the great hour, which starts off the whole thing. So, and we were only allowed. A certain amount of time to get John Carradine to do the voice. He was very frail and not too well. And in fact, he did pass away while we were making the film.
But we were lucky to get him as the voice. And so we have to act quickly on many fronts. But. Don knew exactly where he wanted to go with it. And
That was a real proving ground for a lot of us. [00:19:00] I’ve never had to draw or work that hard to get something to happen before. It was always this economical TV, animation, easier to get through.
Jeff Haas: Well, one incredible thing about secret. Is, and having seen it now, again, as an, as an adult, there are some sequences that are really kind of scary and, and how, when you’re creating these characters, how do you balance the fact that once again, it is a kid’s movie with this very kind of horror element to it that, you know, I mean, how do you balance that?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Well, the fact was all was Don’s idea because I’m going back to the, the early films, the first ones, no white. Very very frightening. Perhaps the time it came out for children, especially they were wetting their pants. They were having to replace seats in the movie theater. Right. And they went with their pants.
But he, he [00:20:00] is of the opinion that that’s important for children to, you know, Grow and learn from, from those things. And because know real life is not always going to be sweetness and hype. So, but along with that, he wanted to have humor and resurrection and restoration and resolution.
So you can’t just have the scary without some kind of, you know, And so he always meant made, made sure that everything was in place. You know, the relief hasn’t worked between the scary parts.
Jeff Haas: Did you think a movie like secret Nim could even get made nowadays? It feels like the movies of the early eighties, like sequel, Nim, dark crystal, some of these others.
I just feel like they’re moving that. Given far more series and giving children a lot more credit. That thing is some movies nowadays give for what you consider horror, you know, and within a movie.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Right? I think, I think a lot of what’s [00:21:00] coming out now is, has been downplayed. Sometimes it’s the opposite extreme sometimes.
It’s still a little too intense. We, we didn’t really think making black cauldron that it was all that big a deal, but apparently it was traumatized a lot of children in 1985 when it came out. But you know, working on that, I don’t know if it’s because we were too close to it or what. We all knew it was, it was going to be a PG film.
Probably our first one, I think it was actually, but you know, just don’t know. I think a lot of what we did was a pioneering effort, but I think. You see now for kids has to be watered down a bit because, you know, societal changes or whatever.
Jeff Haas: But, but I do like the idea that you mentioned earlier that introducing kids to.
Not necessarily hard, but the darker aspects of life I think is, is an important aspect to put in film. I mean, [00:22:00] like, I think, I, I think I like the idea that I grew up with things like that had some scary elements or even like secret name darkness, or things of that nature on monster squad. I think that’s kind of important don’t you?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Oh, yes, yes, yes. I mean, I saw things as a kid that frightened the hell out of me, but I, I, it was catharsis it’s like, Charles has it’s horror is like an intellectual hot pepper, you know, it’s going to burn when you eat it, but you’re fast. Just the same as that, right, Charles. Yeah.
Jeff Haas: And there’s so many cool sequences. The secret of Nim. I mean the great owl is absolutely. Awesome Nicodemus. For, you know, when I, when I was first watching the first scenes with Nicodemus, you’re like, Jesus Christ. You know, the art is only incredible, but there was, again, there’s definitely a scary element or mysterious element to that sequence.
And it, it, it is enthralled.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Right. Well, glowing eyeballs hoes sent me off and [00:23:00] you know, that that was a whole pioneering effort to, to get the owl’s eyes to glow and it could be misses eyes to glow. That, that was way of showing their connections throughout the film there throughout the story. But we, we found a way to do it with exposure.
So, we, we made masks of all those. And we shopped them on another pass. We have the same piece of film that we would back wind in the camera pretty much the way we did star Trek. You, you, you often backline the film, the latent image while it’s still on the camera and you add another element by shooting it at a percentage.
Jeff Haas: Well for our listeners who are not exactly clear. What, what does that all
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: mean? All that that’s, that’s film technology. It’s a lot easier to do today, digitally, just, you know, pushing your buttons, but it’s actual piece of film that’s in the camera and it’s background after it’s been shot at a percentage, let’s say we’re going to shoot the character first at [00:24:00] maybe 60%.
And then you back when the film to your starting point again that’s the only place we were using computers in those days, also, especially on star Trek and for motion control, you know, to make the models appear like they were moving Then you proceed to shoot each pair of eyes, the correspond with each drawing of Nicodemus or the owl they line up.
Exactly. And the whole thing is masked off except for the eyes which are back lit on that. Yeah, with a color gel sometimes I don’t think we used it in a color gels. We just used the color that was already on the animation cells. Which automatically, you know, would come out on the film, whatever was there was the color you got.
So in addition to that, we, we saw. By using a filter that would kind of fuzz it out, clear it out a little bit. So the end result is, is when the film gets processed there are glowing eyes that sometimes change intensity because you can change the exposure. When the Al gets excited, for example, [00:25:00] you’ll see his eyes get brighter.
Well, that’s just a a means of changing the exposure. Almost a few frames where I happens.
Jeff Haas: I’m going to turn just for a second. It looks like a zoom is gonna kick me out in about eight minutes. Did you want to maybe continue on Friday and I’ll send another zoom link and we can do another 30.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Yeah. Where will we be on Friday on the road, Charles in Massachusetts. We’ll either be on the road or in Massachusetts, but that will be okay. Cause we know before on zoom, we can do that anywhere on both, but now I am working with Charles now. Phoenix entertainment.
Jeff Haas: Woo. Well, one thing I definitely wanna do as well is promote your upcoming appearances at at the end of the show.
And we can put it in the the credit and another credit, but when it goes live, we can put it underneath the a notes.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Oh, sure. Sure.
Jeff Haas: So did you want to do the same time on Friday and I’ll send us a separate, a zoom link so we can I want to talk about Martin little mermaid. I [00:26:00] wanna talk about viewing the beast and I know I can’t do it in seven minutes.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Oh yeah. First for you, it’d be seven. O’clock correct.
Jeff Haas: That’s correct. I can do later though, earlier,
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Charles for us would be 7:00 PM, which would be fine. And for you, I’m going to be
Jeff Haas: still
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: three, four o’clock.
Yeah, we’re going to be. By then we should be at the east coast. Oh, it was very
Jeff Haas: cool. I’m actually, I actually live in Rhode Island myself, the owners of the podcasts live in California, Washington, but actually live in Rhode Island. So you’re actually going to be towards my neck of the woods. So actually it will be seven o’clock for me as well.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: I wish you’re still a ways away from us where we’re going to be
going so far. Are you enjoying it? How am I doing? What are you enjoying it so far? DVD gets going the interview.
Jeff Haas: I think it’s going very well. Like I said, I, I found [00:27:00] the creative process fascinating and the. We’re an important part of so many great movies. I, I just I’m very much in awe of what you’ve
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: done.
So I’ll try to keep it simple for your listeners as well.
Jeff Haas: I appreciate the technical stuff. I just know that listen as much like me probably don’t understand that that means that unfortunately,
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: It’s a past art too, because things are so digital now that we no longer work. And I’m also very good at that.
Don explaining. Yeah. Charles is very technical opposes. Yeah.
Jeff Haas: Yeah. I would say the only animated movies I know of there. So being done or the DC animated ones that are like the 70 minute.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Yeah. Warner brothers, Warner brothers, you know, a lot of my friends are still. Working, thank God. But a lot of my friends are out of work.
It happened for many years. They’ve gone into other things.
Jeff Haas: Yeah. Well, like I said, it’s the problem digital, but I’m surprised they don’t think [00:28:00] that animation can hold up against the digital movies because I assume the cost of animation is just so much more expensive than I think,
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: I think you can still get people emotional watching him.
You know, it depends on using the right colors for the sequence. That’s something that Don was very adamant about. He said, let’s, let’s have this sequence go blue. What Sam, this sequence go red. Let’s have this go this way. That way. You’re, you’re creating a mood for your audience,
Jeff Haas: the sequence, and viewing the bees when they’re dancing.
Together. Finally I can’t remember how deep into the movie that is, but when they’re dancing, that’s such a magical scene. That is one of the most magical moments, I think in film that one
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: sequence that’s about mid point of the movie. Yeah. All the recycled dance from a, what was that? It’s not recycled.
I’m doing the BS. Get that fresh. That’s all new because of that background was moving along with them. Yeah. [00:29:00] No, that’s all new. No, I was just there. Charles,
Jeff Haas: I’m going to want to pick your brain a lot about the next, like I said, a little mermaid and. BnB’s and also your time as a professor, because I’m a teacher as well. And I love talking education.
I’m I teach English high school English for a therapeutic high
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: school. Oh, very good
Jeff Haas: English.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Very well. Oh God. Here we go.
Jeff Haas: It is. It’s definitely fun. But so what I’ll do is I’m going to send you a link for w we’ll try Friday at seven Eastern time. And we’ve tried to do it. We can do at least another.
I mean, I hope for another 30 minutes. Cause like I said, it is so much I want to cover with
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: oh sure, sure. I’ll do my best to get through it. You know,
Jeff Haas: like I said, you suffer, you’ve done a great, you’ve done a great job. My only thing I would ever say would be some of the technical stuff that you can, you can dumb it down for, for us non specialist.
I would appreciate
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: it. [00:30:00] What I told you about the film is there’s, there’s no other way to explain it. So,
Jeff Haas: It’s not always surprised. I mean, I guess my listeners can always just look it up and try to get the details. But I really, so far I’ve enjoyed talking with you and I, I do want to do so again on Friday.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: If you want to dumb it down, you can say, Charles, what is he. If we I also keep,
I guess most, most young people don’t know what a camera is anymore. I mean, a movie camera I’m talking about. Yeah. Or a camera plot where we shoot, you know, the animation. Yeah. It’s a flat piece of glass where you then cover it with a piece of glass to make it still. Then you click a little clicker.
Yeah. And usually it’s the standard is two frames of film for every drawing that you do. Well, since, [00:31:00] since, since the the film is moving through at 24 frames a second in order to get a second, we do usually 12 drawings. Yeah. Tell your future. People say, why buy this over a two year school?
Jeff Haas: we actually do monthly Q and A’s during the school year with our students, we’ve had some pretty.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Yeah. Like, like physically in there at the school. So we like some drawings, just some brands away sell some like little prints and stuff that we sometimes donate to a charity. Like people have disease and stuff.
Jeff Haas: Well, like, if you want to the schools in Providence, Rhode Island, if you want to we can definitely discuss Chinese setting something up. I would talk, I mean, I’m not sure what the oh, we always had a minute, but yeah. W we should discuss it and decide what exactly what, how you want to work it out.
But we start doing monthly in.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: I still have time and assemble stipend would be [00:32:00] good
Jeff Haas: and, you know, produce something
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: out and then make it beneficial for the kids. Imagine that we’ve done this many times before having a student come up and draw it, put every
Jeff Haas: character they’re on this.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: And
Jeff Haas: follow-up translates it
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: into a Disney
Jeff Haas: style drop.
Oh, that’d be
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: awesome by using formulas. Yeah. That’s what we see here. There are drawing formulas. You can use to keep things consistent. That’s how we do it. That’s our secret. Yeah.
Jeff Haas: Well, thanks. I would definitely want to, we can just go like discuss it with you. I think we’re about to get kicked, but either way I’ll send you the zoom for.
Jeff Haas: I read that one of your most famous projects that you worked on was the little mermaid. Within that movie you’re listed as a character designer and character key. What is a character key?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: A character key is something I’ve been doing for some time. It’s. It’s the assistant animator who provides the final drawings for the film, their drawings to attract.
So you see on the screen often we have to redraw what the animator gives us because there’s this very, very rough. Rudimentary animation and it hasn’t been finalized in any way. There’s no details on the faces, et cetera. So that’s where we come in. We, we will clean up or put a single line on every single extreme in the scene, including some of the breakdown action to help our followup people along.
It’s very labor labor-intensive and difficult work. So anything we can do to. In the high-quality we do. And then it goes to the cleanup breakdowns in the cleanup. In-betweeners [00:01:00] now character design is, is the actual creation of the characters themselves. And there was a list of seven people little mermaid and I was one of them.
So, starting with Ursula. Developing her with throbbing cough, and then moving on to Sebastian with his lead animator Duncan Marchbanks and then lastly finalizing it. With Tom Hasket and later Clem Cain who joined us from Alvernon company once he was finished with that. So that’s how it works.
Jeff Haas: when you’re talking about, as a doing the character keys and how. Finished off like these rough drawings. This is pre-digital right. These are hand drawn.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: So how do digital in, in the way that it’s executed, we already have started developing the cap system, computer assisted paint system. That’s what cap stands for.
And we didn’t fully use that [00:02:00] until. Rescuers down under, and that was the first, fully digitally painted still hand-drawn but digitally painted and beauty was the second one. Of course. So
Jeff Haas: how do you touch up something that is hand drawn? I mean, is there, cause what I’ll say you’re doing on top of a piece of finished art, is that something that’s difficult?
Do you, is there a, what are you erasing what’s there? How was that?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: No if it’s really grungy, like sometimes, you know, I’m sure he’ll forgive me, Glen Keane draws. He, he grinds that drawing into the paper because he really wants to get the point across. But the understructure, sometimes your overstructured gets lost too with so many lines.
So you literally have to redraw every single one of those in the scene. And. It requires that you be a good drafts person as well. On the other hand, there are animators that draws. If they have a template in their brain, you know, it’s [00:03:00] amazing. Dan has to get is one of those. Certainly the man I worked with the most apt on blue studio, John Pomeroy, he was certainly one of those.
And there, I got to practice what you just mentioned, which is touch up and that’s, that’s simply rolling down his drawings. Ever so slightly with they needed rubber eraser. They are wonderful in case you’ve never tried one, we’ve been using them for years. And often I would get them as blue line.
So that made it even easier because the blue line would not Xerox up in those days. Or you, you hope to what? Sometimes it made it. But it just looks like some neat little structure line flying by like in jungle book or one of the old Disney films that’s starting using Xerox. Well, we, we had colors your oxytocin.
And so we were able to just touch up those beautifully drafted drawings of his, and then proceed to break it [00:04:00] down and in between that.
Jeff Haas: So, and also when you, when you said you’re designing these characters like Ursula and Aero, who’s designed. I mean, they’re very well record. I mean, the recognize all over the place.
They’re so well known. How, what kind of directions and you have in the designing of characters like Ursula, was there anything specific that you were, that you had to follow for the design? Where did the inspiration come
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: from? Oh, well they, before, long before I got there I have nothing to do on a date in between the films.
They, they just started throwing out some ideas for Ursula. And one of the main ones was, she was, she was going to be rather slender, not as portly as she ended up. But she was going to have features that a. Oh, those spiny fish have I’m sure. You know, the kind, I mean, there are highly toxic important, like
Jeff Haas: the puffer fish, puffer fish.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: No, not quite a bit. They have these beautiful fins.
If you, if you get pricked by them there’s there’s pores. So [00:05:00] I guess puffer fish or the same kind of thing, except they, they expand when they are touched, this is just some kind of spiny fish. I wish I could remember what they’re called. Anyway. She was going to be like a mermaid that had these.
Dangerous looking fins on. Plus her, her hair was non-existent. She had fins that draped over her head, like a crown instead of, instead of here. So as time went on and the story progressed, they thought, well, maybe she tried to overthrow the once upon a time she, she wasn’t her person, a regular person, maybe Triton turned her into a half octopus, which is like, You know, their form of caste system or something, you know, like an untouchable octopuses or, you know, so that was her punishment was being turned into a half octopus by him and in our original screenplay, they [00:06:00] were brother and sister.
So that got returned to the Broadway show. By the time they did that, she is again, aerials amped in the Broadway show. Anyway, I’m digressing. So we just started looking at octopuses and how they’re motivated and decided we’d give for like a cocktail dress. No segregation there, starting at the bus have been off the shoulder dress, went right down into the technical.
So that worked out so well. So it’s like a classic cocktail cocktail dress might almost think fuel. It was like black velvet or something. And the fact the collector doll we did years later was in black and the upper body was in a vinyl.
Jeff Haas: That’s cool. And so you also had a a hand in designing aerial as well or no?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Yes. Yes. [00:07:00] Very
Jeff Haas: much so. So what was the, either the directions or the discussion around how area was going to look
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: well? A lot of people did early contributions, especially dam Hasket. Before he, he came back to us from New York. He was often back in the forest. He would live in New York, sometimes Los Angeles other times.
And at that point he was living in New York again. So they They made him an offer and he came out eventually. But before that, he just did it through the mail and did a number of designs of her. And we eventually got her down between the ultra cartoony and realistic somewhere in between.
It was just. Where we usually try to get same thing for the black cauldron characters we wanted to get somewhere between the ultra cartoony and realistic children. All kinds of thought went into [00:08:00] how far down on her face. Her features should be placed to give the illusion. I’ve heard youth most children are depicted having their features well down on their face.
Yeah. Yeah. Hi. Hi forehead. Alison Wonderland is one of those characters. Snow white certainly is. She has a huge head and her features are, are placed down very low on her face. And I’m not much of a chin Tinkerbell, same thing. Childlike cartoon, the physionomy Ram. So there were lots of meetings about that and lots of drawings, you know, flowing the biggest thorniest thing was what to do with your hair.
And we have hair meetings that you wouldn’t believe me constantly. And I remember Jeffrey Katzenberg was all was pointing, was his pointer to my things, to when they repealed up.[00:09:00]
But it was, it was a long process. Sometimes you’d get a gag drawing in there too. Like I think my. The art director threw one in there that was like Barney rubble, where it was short red here, you know, that could flip either way. And it was, it was a symmetrical instead of asymmetrical. So that was a whole other thing too, where to put the part on the left side, the right side, or should there be a part at all?
So, when we had to draw the kids together, we solved that by putting Eric’s part on the other side.
That kind of worked out on, on occasion, but it was tough to remember that sometimes it’s the same, first of all, as beauty, market’s always our left her right. The beauty mark on her face. So you, you try to avoid asymmetrical things whenever possible, but sometimes you can’t, you just can’t
Jeff Haas: that, to me, it sounds crazy that those meetings, you know, that intense over a hair because as a viewer, you just, you kind of assume it’s just with something that was just like [00:10:00] done and
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: decided, well, the other problem was how do we show there’s current underwater?
Well, couple of random majors, cleverly tried to do that with her breasts and that, that wasn’t going to work out, went ballistic. In fact, that’s what led him to ask me to do the Brazil made out of shells. Damn. I thought he was going to bust the God. I really did, but that was after dailies on a Friday.
And I had to sacrifice my lunch to get a bridge year made, but It all worked out. But what we decided to do was give her long flowing hair. So, and her father and everyone else that had to be in the water moderate to very, very long hair so that we could show there was a current number one, number two, we had to be aware that we were going to have to make timing charts that were separate from the rest of the character to show that there was.
So we would go first through an animate, the character, doing their business, and then going in to just the hair [00:11:00] that I’m, that all note for your system animators. So that’s where you
Jeff Haas: sell the argument about the hair was due to the current or was it just, or was it just the look itself that drew that much discussion?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Yeah, I’ve had to look appealing and also. For what we needed it too, because there was just so many bubbles that our effects department could generate and they did a fantastic job. They were doing bubbles up the wazoo. I mean, you know, constantly, but we took pity on them and tried to do a lot of that here.
So I think it works pretty well. Now, when I look at the movie years later it does feel like you’re under. Yeah. I mean, but again, you have to suspend your disbelief of
Jeff Haas: course. Oh yeah. I remember seeing the movie as a little kid. I can remember how old I was when it came out. I’m trying to remember what year it came.
I was at 88, 89, something like that. It was
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: 89. Yeah.
Jeff Haas: 87. So I was nine years old when it came out. And I still remember [00:12:00] the movie. I mean, under the sea, the song, I remember the images. Those characters are such an important cultural fixture. And, and even, you know, going back now closing in almost 30, you know, 25 years, you know, it’s, they’re still so entrenched in our culture and, and even little kids, you know, who have were not even born for 20 years after the movie, we still know a little mermaid.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Right. It’s about 31, 32 years old now we’ve tried to innovate with the film and plus it was a turning point for Disney. We got them back on the map because they were threatening to close the studio. Make the movie happen in 18 months, which is a year and a half. That was the biggest mandate for all of us because three and four years have been spent previous to that making a Disney film.
And the new group wanted more of a return, a faster return. So we have to get them done that lightening speed and got it to work. We saved the studios. That was another bonus.
Jeff Haas: I mean, I’m not sure how many are [00:13:00] listening to penny, how old they are. Probably don’t realize that there was a pretty good length of time where the Disney animated movies were in really that big of an event.
They weren’t, you know, it wasn’t really, like I said, the little mermaid delayed as well, going to a minute of being the beast, kind of really broken. You come the massive events that the new enemy was always became
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: for best picture, for crying out loud.
Jeff Haas: Right. And like I said before, a little while, there, there was a gap where those movies just weren’t that successful and they’re not, they weren’t that well as well, received as dizzy animated moves
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: became.
Wow. Right. Yeah, there was a long spell where it was just, you know, normal average entertaining movies, but nothing, nothing earth shaking. This changed all that and it paved the way for all the other wonderful movies that they did. Lion king and so on.
Jeff Haas: Yeah. Yeah. I mean a beauty and the beast, which I guess we’ll, we’ll, we’ll talk about now that, that movie once again, like you said, oh, it was nominated for an Oscar, but I think more than anything people talk about recently [00:14:00] how animated movies have become.
Viewed as serious film and be the bees. I think it was one of the, was like the first real animated film to be taken truly seriously, like as, as as actual film mattress entertainment,
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: but true. Right. That’s that’s because this queen Bali was so good. And of course the music was top-notch and it had actually assisted the story.
It didn’t get in the way of the story perpetuated the story.
Jeff Haas: Now was there a noticeable creative shift in how a little mermaid and being the beast was being produced, that that made them so sniffly different than the movies that came before for likely the last decade
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: or so. You mean a shift in a style
Jeff Haas: or a style how the productions were approached maybe how seriously you guys were or how.
Seriously, the studio was taking these movies that maybe didn’t exist in the ones [00:15:00] prior.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Oh, I see. Well the story’s just got better. I think that was a big part of it. Sometimes the traditional animated stuff. Cut short shrift because the stories were so odd and people didn’t really warm up to them.
So, the reason digital films do so well now is because there’s a lot of effort put into their story. Pixar of course, the ringleader on that kind of thing, because they, they sprang from. Animators from Disney. So they worked very, very hard on the story. And I still maintain that you can animate in any format you want to, as long as you’ve got that great story, you know, that moving story that people can get into and they, they won’t fall asleep on you.
And that, that goes Style you want to use too. I mean, you look at some of these almost UPA style films, like, oh the Celtic one. What was that? I’m going brain dead. It’s part of,
Jeff Haas: I’m trying to remember w which one that is brave.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: No, that’s that’s the digital one [00:16:00] is hand drawn. There was a Celtic one that went over really well because this story was so darn good.
So, but it was, it was almost limited animation. It was very stylized, like a UPA film from the fifties or sixties, very stylized characters. And oddly enough, you get that in the new soul from Disney soul is. It’s not an excursion into style or heavily stylized characters. They’re almost like Picasso drawings that are animating and moving around just abstract outlines, but they say so much, you know, they put so much personality into these things, even though they’re very simple,
Jeff Haas: no imbuing, the bees you’re listed as the key assistant animal.
It’s specifically on cause or during the beast,
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: the beast, actually, my name was left off feeding the beast because I left [00:17:00] two thirds of the way through, and I didn’t have enough footage contractually in the film. So when that happens, you are left off the credits that happened to me on star Trek, the motion picture as well.
In fact, I think those are my only two films. Where my name doesn’t appear in cartoon shows on television as well.
Jeff Haas: But you did work specifically on this Dawn, right?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: And some of the food, a lot of Lumiere actually. And some footstool, some wardrobe she was from the draw. She had a great, great shape to work with. And Sometimes chip and a couple of cogs worth in there, but most majority was gassed on. And his horse and Lumiere.
Jeff Haas: Well, one thing I did like so much about the Costan character, I’m probably pronouncing it wrong many times, but you know, the listeners will forgive me and know who I’m talking about [00:18:00] is, is that I, what I like about his design of Gustavo is that he such a, a flip on leaf, the classic hero trope, you know, cause obviously there’s the idea that he’s in a visually.
Mental look like the classic hero, right? Strong obviously suppose to be kind of attractive, but, but he’s, but he’s been, obviously the character is such a flip on that because he’s such an a-hole that he’s, he’s meant to be unlikable. So
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: that’s the psychology of. Of billons versus heroes that has to do with the shapes they’re made out of frequently, the heroes are made out of round fleshy shapes like Mickey mouse, you know, all circles, all flashy shapes, no white Ariel herself.
And your villains are more angular like captain hook, like Melissa, for sure. If she’s got angles. And of India. Oh, [00:19:00] the Hercules. Oh, Hades. Yeah. Very angular compared to the other characters which were around in flusher. But that brings up the question. Should they look bad? Or should they be bad or both as Tom’s case, he was extremely handsome, but he was a son of a, you know what, right, right, right.
Jeff Haas: Was there a concern in how. Because Dawn was being drawn that he would audiences would be find him too appealing.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: No, because the voice work and the characterization took care of that, or they can see what a pompous ass he was. And if they couldn’t well, them, God bless them. They thought I asked him for a date,
Jeff Haas: but I really do think, I mean, be the beast. As we kinda mentioned a little bit. Was that a little mermaid, but was that movie [00:20:00] that really proved the artistry of animated film? I mean, you can draw a direct line from being the beast to something like the lion king and Aladdin. I mean, the Disney movies just totally took off and became so highly regarded from doing the beast onward.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: I consider when the lights come up, if you have tears in your eyes, then, then we did our job. Yeah, exactly. I was always surprised from the time I’ve been a child, how much emotion these artists got out of me with just a few lines and some paint and some sound effects and some voices and music, you know, they all work together that can devastate you.
I remember showing a film from France and my art class, my animation class Milwaukee Institute of art and design when I was teaching. For four years. And when it came out, I, I got ahold of the DVD and I showed it to him. It’s called the Allusionist and it’s by Sylvan show Mae who’s wonderful animation director out [00:21:00] there.
His previous film was triplets a bill bill, which you probably have seen too, but it’s the emotion out of you? When I turn the lights up in the classroom, they were sniffling. And I said, now you see the power of animation. It made you cry.
Jeff Haas: Yeah. I mean, beauty piece was the first movie to win a golden globe for best comedy and musical.
What did it feel like as, as when the animators to see film, you know, a Disney animated film until you get, and not only just get nominated for an award like that, but when that’s such a major category
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: for tremendous, that had never happened before. And, and the rest of the live Bobby, the actors.
Well, we’re confronted the camera and behind the camera got a little bit threatened because of the very next year we had our own category for animated features, as you know. So that was the beginning of a lot of things. Does it bother you? [00:22:00] We almost got it. And I think we would have had them, have we had our own category back then?
Jeff Haas: Does it bother you that in it, that. Animation guests, his own category. And that separates it from being the main,
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: no, because I’m really, animation’s kind of been considered a bastard child of Hollywood for many, many decades since it began. But now I think it’s great to be singled out. You have autonomy or whatever the word is I’m trying to find.
But I think it’s great to have a separate one that. Opens it up to other films too. Hmm. That was the only, that was the only animated film that year. But now we can open it up to other films that are competing in the same year, et cetera, animated only. So I think it’s great.
Jeff Haas: Do you think there’ll be a time when hand drawn animated movies overtake the new [00:23:00] digital animated movies again?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Not necessarily, but I do think I do have high hopes for hybrid quality movies, such as Klaus, the the Christmas origin film that Sergio Pablo made. And that was groundbreaking because they animated that by hand. Yeah. And then they rendered it using a a program. They, they devised the tracks, the drawings, and it puts shadows and lighting into them just as if they were done digitally.
It’s just beautiful and texture besides it’s not smooth. It’s it’s You know, rough edge texture. So it’s really beautiful to watch. That’s an example of hybrid. Also Disney’s paper man, which came out a few years ago use Tam drawn and digital scatter as well as the after mentioned Sylvan show, may films, triplets and Bellville, and the Allusionist those Digital to do backgrounds that moved and also vehicles and things that are a little more difficult to draw for the artists.
So, there was some beautiful [00:24:00] 1950s cars, for example, in the Allusionist that couldn’t have been done without that program and the way they develop their program is they’re able to scan their hand drawn characters in and the computer line. That’s used for the technical things is designed to break up almost like a color Xerox line would look.
You know, like Disney may have done. And it’s just a beautiful melding it’s just seamless. So I remember, I think there was a big pink Cadillac in the looseness from 57 or so that’s the style. And then in triples of Bellville, they were able to do all the bicycle, race races. By rubber stamping, the same program over and over again, changing the colors of the, the writers and their features on their faces and so on.
So that’s the kind of thing I’m looking forward to. As more hybrid
will involve [00:25:00] again, the artists,
Jeff Haas: well, there’s a certain beauty to animated art. Isn’t it never hit quite the same in digital. And I mean, and like nowadays I’m to remember, like I’m going to butcher the guy’s last name make me a Zachy I think it’s 80 pounds with the guy who just buried it away.
And those, I mean, those were his words again, there’s such a gorgeousness of those movies that you LA I think is lost when you move to pure digital.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Yeah. It’s all lost because you basically are filtering your film through a computer and there’s no more human touch. There’s number of human involvement, which is basically it’s, it’s a kinda moving the character around.
As a puppet, as a stop motion puppet that’s the closest I can think of for digital my cats, if you will. You’re just manipulating the puppet. Oh, you’re no longer drawing that face or that body or whatever. And that’s something that I miss nowadays because I, when I was a kid I could see.
You know, somebody’s style like, oh, that was done by milk [00:26:00] color. Ooh, that’s Frank Thomas or Ali Johnston or that’s Glen Keane, you know, you, you can’t see the animator’s hand at work once it’s filtered to the computer, that’s pure and simple. That’s just the way it is. But there’s also something to be said for the digital stuff, because it can be immersive and beautiful in its own way.
That’s why I’m still looking forward to as hybrid because I can see the animators hand at work on the drawings. Again, I’m looking forward to that.
Jeff Haas: So what are you working on now or doing now?
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Right now I’m working on commissions that I’ve gotten from various conventions. I work. Pretty much exclusively with my friend Charles , who runs our kind of cottage industry here in Illinois silver, Phoenix entertainment.
His mother is the owner of the business. We all were coming to that banner doing publications of all kinds. I personally am working on a comic book [00:27:00] for. His imprint. And that’s separate from the void featuring four ladies that are actually monsters, the monster, they call themselves team monster and they battle other supernatural types of creatures.
They band together and they, they try to do the right thing. Whereas these other monsters are being evil and creating mayhem. So. This was only the second book I need to get it finished. It’s very elaborate. That’s why it’s taking me so long, but because life keeps getting in the way, you know, it’s, it’s not, COVID, it’s something else.
So, but it’s going to get done, come hell or high water. And the in the meantime, he’s designed games for. Card games. His upcoming on his outer planet panic, I’ve had nothing to do with it, but I’m very proud of it. Just the same. It’s going to be very innovative and it’s going to come with its own little black lights so that you can make the playing pieces [00:28:00] glow.
So the, they, they use UV inks and the cards playing boards and things. So that’s going to be exciting. It’s outer space game and And he occasionally works with the government out here doing informational comic books. So, occasionally I have a hand in those. I’ve done things with him for educational reasons for law enforcement and also for the medical profession.
So, sometimes my. It comes out a little squeamish when it comes to medical things, but I’ve just had to put that behind me and draw this stuff, you know, kind of heavy.
Jeff Haas: Well, that’s very cool. I actually would love to see if you have any digital copies of that new combo, I would, I would love to take oh,
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: sure.
Soon as we get further along know well to that I’m also working. In addition, I’m working with my friend, Gary Summers, who every year runs. Northeast [00:29:00] comic book and collectibles extravaganza and Massachusetts. Oh, very cool. We just finished up with him and other show and had a wonderful time.
And for him, I am, I am animating his title characters, the Beasties for use on stage. It’s a musical that he has written starting in the eighties. He’s been working on it for some time and it’s finally ready to go. I’m providing some animation that will be shown on stage with live actors. So, oh, since Broadway has been closed up kind of saved me from having to get it wrapped up, but now that’s one more thing I have to get finished.
So, I’m almost done. I have I have about four characters out of 14 of them left to do. Yeah, that’s very cool. And then you’ll probably start seeing advertisements or just, or things about that online before, long once that’s done. Yeah.
Jeff Haas: Well that sounds very collegiate and I would definitely want to [00:30:00] see the combo when it’s done.
Mr. Barnhart, it was a great pleasure to talk to you with you, sir. I really enjoyed. And thank you for making so many movies that helped my child develop my childhood. Oh, of
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: course. My pleasure.
Jeff Haas: Thank you so much, sir. I hope you have a fantastic night.
Philo Barnhart part 1 – COMBINED: Thank you. All right. Bye bye.