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An Afternoon with Ken Duncan

Share your views on the state of the Animation Industry.

An Afternoon with Ken Duncan

Postby Jose Saenz » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:20 am

Although I wasn't impressed by Comic Con in San Diego this year, I have to say that there was a major highlight in my trip to California. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting a true Disney legend, master animator Ken Duncan, and getting to spend the afternoon with him. He was nice enough to invite me and my wife to his studio in Pasadena and have lunch with him.

Ken and I had exchanged a few emails back and forth within the last few months and so before I flew out to L.A., I reached out to him and asked if he would be available to meet. Honestly, I just wanted to shake hands with the guy and tell him how much of a fan of his I was. I didn't expect for him to be so gracious and generous with his time.

It was an amazing experience. He showed me a bunch of work that he and his studio had/were working on. Among the clips he showed me was a pencil test of his famous Jane scene in Tarzan:

http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Moderncartoons/Disney/Janecleanclipsml.mov

Looking back, I probably should have asked him a billion smart questions on how he achieved that performance, how he was able to make those drawings appear as if they were really thinking, but as he scrolled through the frames, I was like a kid in a candy store with a grin from ear to ear. It was hard for me to think of anything else except how masterfully done the scene was and how surreal the moment was. He gave a brief explanation of how x-sheets work, something that I mentioned to him that I admittedly had always had trouble grasping. He also explained how x-sheets are utilized within their cg production pipeline in a new system they've pioneered. I could imagine myself working for Ken and soaking up SO MUCH. I learned more from Ken in one day than I have working on my own as a freelancer for months. Ken, my wife and I then headed off to a Brazilian restaurant where we had lunch.

He gave me great insight as to what feature animation is like now vs. what it was like in the mid-late 90s.

I walked away with two major attributes about Ken. 1. He is extremely creative and is enthusiastic about embracing new looks, styles and genres within animation...in any medium (2d or 3d). That says a lot, especially from someone who was in the big studio system for as long as he was -a system that hasn't always embraced change or ingenuity. And 2. Ken exemplifies a characteristic of a certain breed of animation artists that I've been so fortunate to have encountered on numerous occasions in my career -a successful artist with the willingness to share information and extend a hand to other up and coming artists. It reminds me of the type of creative individuals you'll find here on Animation Nation that are always willing to help,...like Charles, Snake and TStevens among others.

My afternoon and lunch with Ken was something that I'll never forget. I can't...he picked up the bill, so I owe him lunch next time ;).

-Jose S.
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Jose Saenz
 
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Re: An Afternoon with Ken Duncan

Postby MrFun » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:52 pm

Ken Duncan is an amazing artist. Always creating and always sharing.

I have little hope for Disney when they let guys like Ken and countless other talents walk out the door.
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Re: An Afternoon with Ken Duncan

Postby Jose Saenz » Thu Aug 05, 2010 6:58 pm

Yeah what a huge business blunder. Even if given the opportunity, I don't see him going back either. He's working on so many diverse projects at his studio and he's such a fan of experimenting with new styles, that I don't see how he could work at a more creatively rewarding studio than his own.
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Re: An Afternoon with Ken Duncan

Postby EAllen » Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:21 pm

I'm a little late to the party here, but by reading your account of the meeting, Jose, I was able to gain some rare insights into what it takes to be the character animator Duncan is.

Greatly enlightened by this account.
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Re: An Afternoon with Ken Duncan

Postby tstevens » Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:35 pm

I've never heard a bad thing about Ken Duncan. Back when I was in school I had two teachers who were classmates with him at Sheridan. One of them actually hooked a few students up with Ken while they were on a trip to LA. Apparently Ken took them around the studio and gave them a lot of great feedback.

If you haven't heard the 3 part Ken Duncan Animation Pod Cast it is very cool.

http://animationpodcast.com/ken-duncan-part-one/
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Re: An Afternoon with Ken Duncan

Postby EAllen » Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:50 pm

Ken Duncan being awesome--remarkably, this seems to be a universal consensus!
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