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Sam Levine: Storyboard artist at Walt Disney Feature Animation

April 04, 2004|Susan King

Current project: "Home on the Range," which opens Friday. He also supplies the voices for Phil, Bill and Gil Willie, the three dimwitted nephews of villain Alameda Slim.

What the job entails: "The focus of our job is getting emotion and attitude on the [story] boards and really telling the story. At the same time, the focus isn't always on making the drawings the most beautiful, detailed environments. I think some of the best storyboards are simple, direct and you are focusing on getting the acting and attitude."

In the case of "Home on the Range," directors Will Finn and John Sanford pitched their story outline to the story group. "We all worked together to come up with different ideas. They basically then settled on a brief treatment of the story so you knew where every sequence began and you knew what was happening in the scene. Basically, everyone would take their scene, board it and write it. Then you pitch it [to the directors and other story artists]. When you pitch it you put in a lot of life and spontaneity. You try to act out the characters and sell the entertainment that you have written and drawn. You get a reaction from the directors and the people in the room. Everybody has notes and you address the notes. Once everybody seems to be happy with [the scene] it gets turned over to the editorial department and they put the story sketches on reels. We go into the studio and record a scratch [temporary] track. That is how several sketch artists got cast [as voices]."

Guild: The Animation Guild.

Salary: "I think anybody who works in animation and can find work can eat. I think you generally do pretty well."

Age: 30

Resides: "In beautiful, boring Burbank."

Background: Received a BFA in film and television at New York University, where he studied animation under John Canemaker, animation historian and animator.

Credits: Worked in New York at animation houses at MTV, Michael Sporn Productions and Stretch Films. Joined Disney in 1996 as an intern on "Hercules." Worked on "Fantasia 2000" and "Tarzan." He joined the story department in 1998 on "Treasure Planet" and became a member of the "Home on the Range" story unit two years later.

Why he got into it: "I drew a lot as a kid. My parents encouraged it. I always loved animation, particularly Disney movies. I was in high school when "Little Mermaid" came out and it opened my eyes. I started watching all the old Disney films and became pretty obsessed with animated films."

Problem solving: "We had a problem with the story at one point because the story was about three cows and the fun premise of them going to save the farm and going into the Old West. There was a problem of splitting the audiences' focus evenly on the three characters and whether the audience can enjoy a film having equal focus on three characters. We tried it, but we all felt you really wanted to focus on one slightly more than others.

"From that we had a retreat and a few meetings where we sort of thought out ideas and what came out of that was to take Maggie [voice of Roseanne Barr], who was the most charismatic character, and sort of make it her story. I think it draws the people more into the story.

"Every movie has a lot of changes that are made late in the game. Live action, the process is all about editing at the end. In animation, it's in reverse -- the editing process comes first. You don't want to spend money and time on an acting scene which takes a lot of time to construct if it's not going to be in the movie."

-- Susan King

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