In 2012, on March 23rd, Glen Keane resigned from his decades-long animation career at The Walt Disney Company. While Glen’s departure from Disney was met with much wailing & gnashing of teeth within the animation industry, I was thrilled.
Glen and I had formed an unexpected friendship after I posed a challenging question to him in a Disney studio meeting on the future of animation, and were soon working together on R&D for the film that would eventually be released as TANGLED. Over a few lunches, Glen shared one of his favorite books entitled ART & FEAR, and confided his own creative struggles – including his feeling of being “boxed in” as a corporate artist, and his related misgivings about animation being “boxed in” as a corporate medium. I remember telling Glen that I would love to see him create an independent animated short film with no clean-up: one which retained the graphic crackle of his visceral lines.
In Glen’s resignation letter to Disney, he called animation “the ultimate art form of our time with endless new territories to explore”. As one can imagine, Glen had no shortage of animation studios knocking on his door with job offers, but Glen fortunately had his eye on territory at once smaller and bigger: the mobile phone. DUET – Glen’s animated VR short for Google’s Spotlight Stories program – literally and figuratively opens a new window for animation. If you’ve only seen DUET in the theaters or on YouTube, I urge you to watch it again (and again and again and again) through the Spotlight Stories app. While the non-VR viewing experience is poignant and beautiful, the VR experience is pure magic.
Results are important, but even more significant is how Glen is challenging the process artistically as it is being redefined technically. This occurred during Glen’s creation of DUET with Google’s ATAP team, and continues with his current explorations in 3D spatial drawing using HTC’s Vive headset and Google’s Tilt Brush app. Glen always maintained that he thinks sculpturally when he draws, and now he indeed draws sculpturally.
I believe we are witnessing the renaissance of Glen Keane as a contemporary animation master, and a revolution of possibilities for the animation medium. It’s extremely exciting to see the new path that Glen is carving.
And it has only just begun.