Saturday, June 03, 2006


Here's the third installment of the Celeb sketchbook, this time it's the great Glen Keane! Here's the story that goes with it:

If you have worked in the animation industry (2D or 3D) or just are a fan of animation, then you have no doubt heard of Glen Keane. He's been a Disney Supervising animator for many years going back to about "Black cauldron" or so. He is on most animator's short list of to 3 best animators in the world. He would be number one on mine. Some animators can create great acting performances with good drawings, others can create great drawings with good acting, but Glen can create GREAT acting with GREAT drawings- like no one else! No doubt you've seen him interviewed on almost any Disney "making of" trailer. He exudes a passion for drawing and the art of animation that is riveting and a call to become better for anyone that is working with him. He's also equally as inspirational in his personal life. He's a kind person, a strong Christian, and a giving mentor.

So, all that said, I was honored to be chosen to work with him on his animation unit for the character of "Pocahontas" for the movie of the same name. I had been at Disney for maybe 8 to 10 years at that point, but all of the animators that wanted to be on that unit had to submit a life drawing portfolio for Glen to review! That never happens. Glen wanted to make sure everyone on that unit could draw the human figure at least to the level he felt he could work with or mold. Very intimidating. Some how, I passed on got on the unit. The actual film was REALLY not very fun (as is watching it for me), BUT working with Glen was a great and challenging experience. Even when it was long distance. After all, I was in the Florida studio and he was in the California one. He would go over drawings that I would mail him (for every scene!) and I would watch video lectures he would tape for everyone on the Pochy unit. And occasionally he would come out to Florida.

All that is just set up for how I got this drawing. See, all through Pocahontas I really wanted a nice (framable) drawing of Pochy from Glen as a memento. I never got the chance. It's intimidating to ask. So, a couple years later, Glen was visiting Florida to do a press junket for the upcoming "Tarzan" for which he had designed and supervised the main character. He had been living in France working with the French Disney studio for a couple years. No one had seen him at Disney Calif or Fl for about that long. This was a great opportunity to say "hey" and finally get that sketch, I thought. Well, I went down to the office he was staying in while he was there and sheepishly knocked on the door. He saw me and said come on in and I small talked with him for a second. He saw the sketchbook in my hand and asked if he could see it knowing I wanted him to. It didn't don on me that he didn't know I was just about to ask for a sketch. He opened it up and started flipping through the pages and saw all these sketches by other artists to me. His face kinda fell and he said, "Oh, it's THAT kind of sketchbook...." I'll tell you, I will never forget how he said that. I felt like I was letting him down in some way. I wasn't the artist he was hoping I was in some way. I hadn't been working on life drawings and wanted him to see my progress since last we had worked together. All of that was in the way he said "THAT kind of sketchbook..". So, he was nice enough to do a Tarzan for me. He did a great job, but every time I look at it, it's kind of a bitter sweet reaction for me. It still makes me want to do better though.....

Thanks Glen.


Randy said...

ARGH! Can that guy ever do a bad drawing? Man, he's such an inspiration. Every time I hear him talk there's always some nugget of scripture, or a great bit of theory, or just something really encouraging in what he says.

I could totally grasp your stomach sinking with the way he said, "THAT kind of sketchbook." Like he was actually more interested in seeing your sketches, and didn't get to or something. He's so humble, always talking like he's the world's most mediocre artist, even though he has to know he's on everybody's "top 5" list (#1 if I have clout to say so).

I think it's one of those things where when you're young and new, you think you know it all, but the more you learn, the more you realize just how little you know in comparison to what there is to learn. The more God teaches you, the more he humbles you, I guess.

Thanks for sharing the drawing, Tom! And the story! Glad to hear Glenreally is as nice/good/solid a Christian as he seems.

And hey, if you ever get that frameable "Pochy" sketch, let us know! Heck, most of us here would settle for one from you in a pinch! And in reality, I wouldn't consider it "settling" at all. (hint, hint)



Leisl said...

Thank you for sharing that story, especially not turning out to be the most cheerful situation. I could just imagine, the way he reacted to your sketchbook, I think I would've cried in a situation like that ^_^

Cedric said...

Wow, Tom. Thanks for sharing. I can totally relate. Actually, I can one-up you. I once asked Andreas Deja for a sketch, and he started drawing Jafar from Aladdin. I asked if he had designed the character and he said "Yes". I noticed that Andreas was sporting a goatee (Jafar has a goatee), Andreas has a wide nose (Jafar has a wide nose), you can guess where this is going....I was so incredibly nervous that I blurted out "I can see the resemblance". Andreas stopped and glared up at me, and I wanted to curl up and die. To this day I don't know why those particular words slipped out, but like you, I now have a sketch by a very talented artist that gives me a bittersweet feeling every time I look at it.

sushipajamas said...

ooouch, you guys are hurtin me. the only sketches i've gotten are from don bluth, and michel gagne. i cant say they were bad experiences...actually they were really awesome...maybe i should stop now...yeah, i'll stop now.


Tim said...

Oh, but my favorite celeb story of yours is when David Ogden Stiers was touring the Disney/MGM facility and chatting with us like we were industry peers and then you asked for his autograph in your Beauty & the Beast yearbook. What did he write?...
"Dear Tom, thanks for the tour... Oh that's right. You just sat there."

Too funny.

You get some embarrassing moments, but I have to hand it to you, you get some great autographs and art as well!

- T

Jason C said...

Thanks for sharing the great art and story. It never ceases to amaze me how the majority of all the really gifted artists are soo humble and down to earth.. Always shrugging off their pesonal artistic acheivements in favour of studying and learning more about their craft.. people like this are truley inspiring..

UrbanBarbarian said...

Another great story! I suggest Hyno-Therapy so you can erase the any "bitter" taste from the experience!

BTW, each time I read your blog I get a better understanding of why you're so darn good! You've got a resume like no one's business! Wow!

Miah Alcorn said...

Man this sketch is so awesome! And getting to meet Glen Keane, wow that musta been so cool. So what other gems do you have hidden away in your sketchbook treasure keeper? Lookin' forward to seeing more when you get the chance you busy guy you.

Unknown said...

Even Tarzan looks annoyed! I had a similar moment with Glen...It was at the staff Tarzan book signing. I asked (on the spot) for some kind of inspirational quote-didn't have the nerve to ask for a whole drawing. He was kind enough to do it, but I also got a feeling of awkwardness. He wrote, 'If it comes to easy, you're doing something wrong'. At the time, I took it as some type of commentary about me, like he thought I've had it easy (not so). But, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I've taken it to heart. And, truth is: there is nothing easy about getting ahead. It might have been a little easier when the Nine Old Men were passing the torch (touche')....regardless, those words stuck and did what I had hoped. They motivate me to do better. There's no denying Glen's gifts and inspirational nature.