Sunday, April 6, 2014

Don Bluth - Storyboards - The Secret of NIMH - Part 1

Back in 1985 while I was working on 'An American Tail ' at Don Bluths Studios in Van Nuys California, I noticed some boxes with some old storyboards from earlier productions. I still remember the feeling as I stood there holding storyboards in my hands from one of my favourite features 'The Secret of NIMH'. As a young artist, my eyes were wide open flipping through the panels taking in Don's amazing ability to tell the story with such appeal in his drawing. Each panel had such life with such a strong sense of design. He made it all seem so easy with every pose explaining the action and performance.

So, hoping they wouldn't mind, I headed over to the xerox machine and copied some panels for my own reference. I had a feeling they wouldn't mind as Don, Gary and John were amazing to work with and they were all so open for us learning and pushing ourselves to only get better as artists. They truly believed in passing on the knowledge, not keeping it to themselves. It was a great time to be with them during those early productions. 


Back a few years Don released a great book were he talks about his approach when it comes to Storyboarding. The book is hard to find but you can look here : 
 DON BLUTHS - The Art of STORYBOARD

I really like Don's insights that he shares. Here is one of his quotes from the book :

' Read the script and come to believe it. If you can't believe in your script, you'd better choose another. Once you have your script, sit quietly with your eyes closed and envision the picture in your mind, finished if possible. Don't edit yourself at this point. Select a section of the script that you like and try to view it in your mind's eye. Envision the characters - their actions, costumes, and facial expressions. Hear the voices, the music, and the sound effects. My brain is not always willing to do this exercise on command, so I don't force it; often, it wakes me up in the early hours of the morning when it's good and ready.
Keep a sketchpad handy to jot down the ideas and special notes when this inspiration session is over. Don't edit your ideas, but collect them. I have often recounted these small visions to John or Gary to see if they make sense. Good ideas stand up under scrutiny, whereas poor ideas do not. With that in mind, let your friends' reactions help you filter out the bad ideas.'  - Don Bluth

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Below are the 1st panels from NIMH that I have. I just love the design of his panels. Don's approach to drawing feathers has always stood out as he finds ways to make them read and feel so appealing with the grouping of feathers, turning a ' Wing ' into a ' Hand ' when the story needs a hand to be shown. Also the way the feathers arc off Jeremy the Crows head, the use of negative space giving the feathers a feeling of looseness yet also being seen as very solid. Some beautiful design work here. 
Also, notice how Don draws out through the panel, allowing himself as the story artist to really know and understand how the characters will be balanced in the composition. 







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I love this Sequence below as Don draws Jeremy land on the ground and roll around in laughter. Don is a master at drawing birds. There is such the solid structure of the bird anatomy as Jeremy's poses explain the action. I love the design of the wings once again using space and then grouping feathers together to create the feeling of wings as arms as he hugs himself. I can almost hear the voice actor, Dom Deluise, laughing as these panels are played out in order. Beautiful work. 










4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is so awesome! Thanks for sharing.

Dave said...

I wish Don and Gary could republish this book themselves , even if it were only as a PDF download "ebook" format. I contacted the original publisher, Dark Horse Comics, about it and they indicated they had no plans to republish the book. (I'm not sure if Dark Horse holds the rights and they're just sitting on it , with no plans to reprint it , but also not allowing the rights to revert back to Don?) It's a good book, but the prices for used copies on Amazon are outrageously high. I'm glad I bought two copies when it was still available new for $14.95 .

Stephanie Tsui said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie T. said...

Great work! ,I loved that film too ,the SECRETS of NIMH, THANK You for sharing you work!