Show 006 – Nik Ranieri, Part Three

Nik Ranieri

In part three Nik Ranieri shares his experiences working on his first feature film for Disney, Roger Rabbitt.

Get it here: Show 6: Nik Ranieri, Part Three
Animation Podcast Show 6 MP3

(19.6MB, 42:46 minutes)

Continue for Show Notes…

  • 00:00:00: The Intro Voice
  • 00:00:04: Theme Song by DJ Sweettooth
  • 00:00:48: Welcome
  • 00:01:29: First work on Roger Rabbitt
  • 00:05:15: Getting promoted to animator
  • 00:07:09: Animating the first scene for Richard Williams
  • 00:10:24: Wanting to work on Warner Bros. characters
  • 00:11:12: Animating Roger Rabbitt scenes
  • 00:12:14: Getting clean-up help
  • 00:13:03: Crew screening of the film
  • 00:15:05: Getting non-Disney characters in the film
  • 00:17:51: Another Richard Williams experience
  • 00:21:44: Other animated shots
  • 00:22:54: The arrival of James Baxter
  • 00:28:25: Inspiration from James Baxter
  • 00:30:13: Looking back on working with Richard Williams
  • 00:31:30: Last scenes
  • 00:31:59: Meeting touring celebrities
  • 00:33:03: Finished and being called back
  • 00:35:40: Looking for more work at Disney
  • 00:36:23: Conclusion of Part 3 / Voice Messages
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  • 00:42:08: How to comment or ask questions

28 Comments on “Show 006 – Nik Ranieri, Part Three

  1. Great show, definately worth the wait & hard work. I just want to say again, thanks Clay for putting these podcasts together. I can’t begin to imagine how busy you must be!

    I’m glad to hear Nick talk about style. Too many artists I know limit themselves by adhering to what they think is their own style, instead opening themselves up, taking in & learning from sources all around them.

    I’d like to ask you, or anyone here:
    All of these shots that Nick talks about that he animated but didn’t make it into the final cut of Roger Rabbit, are these on the special edition DVD that came out recently as deleted scenes? I’d really love to see some of these scenes that he talks about.

  2. Corey- I appreciate that you appreciate the podcast. 😉
    I think Nik only talked about a couple of shots he worked on that didn’t make it in the film. I haven’t seen the movie in a while, or checked out the DVD yet (for shame!) so I don’t know if those were included. If anyone else knows, let us know.


  3. The pighead deleted scene is on that new DVD (I bought it two hours after listening to this podcast. Saw it in a store and couldn’t stop myself!). But I don’t know if every animated shot is on there. In the introduction of the deleted scene, Valiant was shown with the pighead in front of a mirror, but that wasn’t shown in the actual finished deleted scene. That’s the only deleted scene on the DVD by the way.

    Actually I hadn’t seen this movie before, and now that I have, it was very entertaining. Not an AMAZING film, but very good nontheless. But I loved the broad animation. And now I know what you guys were saying about James Baxter! In those shots with the “foot… on a pedal…” etc. there’s so much subtlety… He really took even that to another level.

    Great Show!

    – Benjamin

  4. Hey again Clay

    Just received your email, thanks a lot, I’ve already started to reorganize things, so far so good!
    I’ve just listened to your new show, it’s a VERY valuable effort you’re making and will be a great ressource for many people and I hope it will become some kind of animation database/reference with time.

    I wish you luck with all your projects, and thanks again for this brillant idea only an insider could carry out as it needed to be.

  5. Hey Clay-

    Just downloading the latest podcast at this moment and am excited to listen to it after work today! (or maybe during work if I just can’t wait…but don’t tell the powers that be! 🙂 )

    Gonna go listen to the podcast..I mean…go back to work now! 🙂


  6. Psssst Everybody,
    Podcast Alley had a server crash. If you voted for this show on or around Sept 7, your vote is probably gone. You’d go back and add your vote if you’re a real fan. That’s all I’ll say.

  7. Hey Clay,
    nice to see a new podcast! Thanks for keeping this going.


  8. Hey Clay-

    Just finished listening to the latest Podcast and it was great. The audio was clear and great and the content was wonderful. I was wondering, and I might have missed you saying this before, but how many more interviews with Nik do you have left? I hope if you do have more, that we’ll get into his time on the Modern Classics (ie: Little Mermaid, B&B and the rest) as well as what he’s doing with the transition to 3D!

    I have to admit, I wasn’t aware of Nik before this, and was blown away to hear the characters he’s supervised, many that are my favorites, like Meeko and Hades! Thanks again for showing me, and I’m sure others, the men and women behind the pencils…er…wacom tablets! 🙂 Keep the shows coming…after you get your day job work finished first, of course! 🙂


  9. Hey Benjamin, when ROGER RABBIT came out in 1988, it blew everybody away. Considering that the special effects was done all optically, and not digitally, and you’ll get a good idea just how hard it was to work on such a project, and still make it look as good as they did. Sure, there are some issues with some of the compositing, but man — it sure was a heck of a ride! Add the fact that the filmmakers made cartoons and liking cartoons cool again — I was in heaven. (Animated films in the 80’s was a pretty pitiful situation. Not much to get excited about.) This film, along with LITTLE MERMAID cemented my desire to animate. Just thought I’d let you know. No biggie.

    Excellent ongoing interview, Clay! Can’t wait for the rest….

  10. Nice work, Clay. I”m just about to listen to this episode, having finished the Deja one.

    I’d like say that all of this knowledge is of paramount importance in this new day of technological capability. Sure, we have a 300.00 multiplane camera. Sure we have ink and paint… a whole studio, all for a few hundred bucks.And we have everything from Felix c. 1919 to The Incredibles to study frame by frame (with commentary).

    But how… how… HOW do we get that damn drawing, model or video manipulation to move in such a way that it deserves to be called ANIMATION? Animation is human. Editing is human. Story is human. We need a philosophy to keep us good and strong and straight. There isn’t hardship or technical lack to hold us true. We need to be better so that out beautiful art doesn’t turn into something irrevocably shabby.

    high drama, but the… I AM an animator!

  11. Thanks n*

    Lamont- There’s certainly more Nik to cover, but I don’t know how many shows it will make in the end.

    Ward- thanks for the input. I’ll echo what you said with this: Even though I was just a kid, my memory tells me that in the 80s animation was like a sleeping giant, operating at a fraction of its potential. Roger Rabbitt was like a bell that shook it from its sleep and reminded people that animation really could be fun, good, and entertaining. AND it showed that this old artform still had a few tricks up its sleeve (something we should always try to prove). And don’t get me started on The Little Mermaid. Do you know how wierd it is to think that in high school I had conversations about how cute Ariel was? I wasn’t even in to animation then. I just thought she was a hottie! I guess my career has absolved me of all wierdness, right? RIGHT?

    Josh- I guess the show got you fired up, huh? I just hope you’re not mad at me. I’m kidding. I get what you’re saying. At this point in time we have everything laid out before us. For any shortcomings in our animation, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Ouch. That kind of stings, especially when you consider what was done over the last century with tools that seem primitive today.

    It feels like that scene from Spartacus. Everyone join in – I AM an animator!


  12. Heh, didn’t know that the films had that impact. But maybe to clear things up: I wasn’t talking about the technical aspect of the film. That part blew me away too. Darn impressive stuff. I just didn’t find it amazing story-wise. It was entertaining, but a bit less impressive, maybe a bit less dark than I had expected. All the rest was wonderful, though. Animation, SFX, acting, you name it.

    – Benjamin

  13. Hi again, Clay

    Man, looking at my post I can see why it’s not a good idea to drink bourbon on an empty stomach after a long day of work. Whee!

    Please pardon the abrasiveness of my tone… what I *meant* (nicely) to say is that I deeply appreciate your bringing the wisdom of our elders to my ipod. You are so right that it’s up to us, and that no amount of technology will make us wise (or good).

    I really dug the Andreas Deja interview, and I agree that it is very painful to look at early work. Hell, it’s painful to look at almost all my work these days!

    Is there any way you might talk Brad Bird into doing an interview about layout and direction? I have some notes from a Cal Arts lecture he gave when he was on King of the Hill, but I would dearly love to hear his take.

  14. Josh- I was only kidding. I knew it was all passion. It’s all good baby (should be said like Conan O’Brien).
    Yes . . . Brad Bird . . . animation immortal. I can only say that I promise to start working on making that happen. Kind of intimidating, but I’ll try. Great suggestion, by the way, on layout and direction. When I saw his notes on layout for King of the Hill I realized how myopic my animation focus had been. Lots to learn, as always.

  15. Hey Clay and Nick,
    STELLAR podcast. Really. Having read a bit about Roger Rabbit on Hans Bacher and Harald Siepermann’s blogs and now having heard about here, it seems like the big production where all the stars of today cut their teeth. As a kid, I loved it, and it is one of the main things that pushed me into animation now. Thanks for sharing. Great great.
    Nik, it sounds to me like your accent is a burlington/stoney creek one. Am I way off? I’m a big fan of your work, looking forward to seeing more. Hades and Redfeather in specific are really really great.
    Thanks again fellas, keep up the good work.

  16. Hi Clay. It’s me again. Just finished listening to the Nik Ranieri Trilogy, and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve never heard of him, until now. Nik was a really interesting guy to interview. He was very funny and just full of stories, haw he worked on the commercials in Canada, and his experience in Roger Rabbit. Dick Williams is known to be a hothead LOL. I was aware of that, because I remembered that when Andreas said, “If he didn’t like what you did, he would put you down and wouldn’t be very subtle about it.” Roger Rabbit will always go down in animation history. If not for the success, it wouldn’t have triggered the next Animation Rennasaince of 1988-1997. All the people who worked on that gem of film will have my deepest thanks. Starting Octobe, I’ll be taking art/animation classes. In the mean time, I’ll be a “Animation Sponge” and take in all I cn about animation technique. About female animators, Lorna Cook(Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron) would be a good female to interview. Keep up the good work, Clay, and peace out.

  17. Wow, Clay… this is a hella interview. I gotta say, you really know how to talk to these guys. I’d say you’re the Bob Costas of animation journalism because you are really informed but also extremely respectful. Your questions lead but don’t presume, a rarity in this Matt Lauer age.

    Forgive the length of this, but I gotta buncha stuff to say alla sudden:

    In episode 1, Nik talks about Dsiney’s penchant for what he calls “frustration gags.” I was laughing so hard, because its so true. It was a basic difference of philosophy, I think: Disney wanted you to feel sorta sorry for the characters (Donald outta control, Mickey trying to be good, Goofy clueless) whereas Warners wanted you to be on it, farce-style (Bugs and Daffy looking at the audience and wagglin’ their brows). Nik had me howlin’. Funny dude.

    The ongoing debate, too, between ones and twos is a good (if esoteric) one. Some of the stuff I’ve seen done on ones in 3D programs and then output to 2D has been really dismal (the recent Spiderman is a case in point). It looks like a lot of the Flash stuff, so smoothly tweened and eased in and out that it’s more creepy than otherwise. Milt Kahl could certainly get away with twos, but he’d use ones at times too. Watch Edgar up the stairs in The Aristocats for a great example.

    My bud Gene Blakefield is involved in the gaming industry, and he is decrying the lack of animation in such a rich genre. That’s a really salient thing I’ve not seen addressed by the animation community. remember that games make more money now than Hollywood. More by far, in fact.
    Nuff said, and thanks for your patience!

  18. I just wanted to say thank you so much for such stellar work in bring me my heros to the air waves!! Please don’t stop!! You’re being heard even if most of us arent saying it via email to you. Most all of the guys at my studio hear have listen to your pod casts!! They are relavent in content to both present day and future animators to come!!


  19. James, Nicolas, Josh, Robin- to all of you, a big thanks for the nice words. We all need a pat on the back and that’s great fuel for the podcast engine. More than anything, I’m overjoyed to know these are inspiring people in whatever creative lives they lead.

    James- I’ll have to ask Nik about that accent and get back to you. Just wondering, is there a lot of Redfeather reference out there?

    Nicolas- have a great time learning. It will seem like so much to learn at the start, but eventually everything finds a place and it all makes sense. I’ll add Lorna Cook to my list, thanks for that.

    Josh- You flatter me. Keep it coming 😉
    I was just having a discussion about ones and twos and how it doesn’t really apply to CG. Thinking about the texture it adds to a scene is something that has gone away. Now with everything on ones we have to figure out how to get the right timing just from curves, so for me it’s more of a ‘feel’ thing than anything else. I just keep trying until I get it right. But I do have to say, all the while I’m thinking of how I would have liked it to look in 2d and that influences all my choices.
    Gaming is going to get there – it has to. The technology is getting to a point where the characters look so good that if the movement isn’t right, there will be a big disconnect. I think that in the past, game animation was at the level of the visuals and most people didn’t know any better.

    Robin- It makes so much sense to me to follow the paths of the great ones before (and among) us. Like good ol’ Sir Isaac Newton said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”


  20. There’s a bunch of great stuff on the Pocahontas Dvd of Redfeather. His marker sketches were pretty amazing, and the test anim was awesome. That’s all I know of. Maybe you can convince Nik to post more, coughbloggercoughcough. Ahem… Yeah. It would be great.

  21. Hi Clay,
    Well, these podcasts have become basic listening to me for the past couple of weeks as I am brushing up on my drawing and work in Maya (though as I’m working in animation, my modelling is subpar, so I’m working with some of my older figures).
    I remember first hearing about Nik back in the day when my enthusiasm for ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was high. The film is still one of my favorites, though this podcast that I’m commenting on is my favorite, because Nik offers persepctives on one of the films that really made me an animation ‘freak’- “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
    All these years later, I still search for information on the making of the film, and persepctives, but it’s really nice to hear Nik’s comments about things on this one (and like Nik, my demo reel was the same way-chronologically, one of the times I should have gone against my instructors).
    There are so many great gems in this one, from Richard Williams’ conversations, and Nik’s description, and like a good animator, Nik makes it all the more vivid.
    Like the Ron & John Podcast, this is one that I hope to hear more next, as Nik will hopefully tell us the next step to getting to Disney.
    Oh, and if Nik reads this, I’m actually one of several that are fans of ‘The Raccoons.’ And…are there ant pencil tests that still exist of Roger with his Quasimodo bit on the bar scene?

  22. J- I’ll have to check out that stuff on the Pocahontas DVD. I’m sorry to say I’ve never seen it.

    Michael- Thanks for commenting. It seems that each show has something to offer for everyone, which is good enough for me! I’ll get back to the Nik interview in the new year, so look out for that. I don’t know if that Roger Rabbitt animation is still around, but I’ll ask Nik about it.


  23. Hi Clay,

    I’m just wondering if you know whether Nik also animated the smoke/cloud effects for the Hades character in Hercules?

    Thanks and you’re doing a great job!


  24. Will the rest of this interview ever be released?

  25. What an amazing coincidence! I was just listening to this podcast last night (for the second time) and wondering the same thing (again). It’s amazing how much I care about these people and their stories. Please?

  26. Geeeez what a con! Almost 8 years on and stiiiiiiiiill Clay hasn’t released the rest of this brilliant interview! 🙁
    PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE finish this interview off Clay. It’s such a LOOSE END not to have the end of this interview.
    Just release it unedited without any intro! Just give us the audio – how hard can that be?!!!?
    Man what a tease… 😛

  27. Hate to bother you with a chorus of the same old comments… BUT…Nik’s interview is one of my very favorites, but I’ve always been sad that it cuts off right when he’s about to start talking about his time at Disney. I loved hearing about his early work, but I was really excited to hear what he has to say about the characters he’s famous for. Especially because he’s such a good storyteller throughout the rest of the interview. The last line is right where he’s about to start going into Little Mermaid, and I don’t mean to overreact but this what it does to me :
    just SUUCH a cliffhanger!

    I second the comment above by saying I REALLY wouldn’t mind if it was unedited or a little choppier. I know you’re busy and I know you’re probably constantly being bothered by people asking for new podcasts. But it’s only because what you’ve done is so wonderful and inspiring – they’re all very addicting. (you might feel like you created a monster, but it’s the BEST monster)

    Anyways, thank you for all the work that you’ve done since first starting the podcxast. I know it’s a lot, but I hope you know how much everyone appreciates it!