Chances are, if you've ever watched a Disney classic, the work of Glen Keane has touched you. Keane – an American animator, author and illustrator responsible for legendary characters like Aladdin, Ariel (The Little Mermaid), and Beast (Beauty and the Beast) – has worked with Disney Animation Studios for nearly 40 years.
In 2012, he left Disney to explore alternate ways of animating his imagination. After working briefly with Google's Advanced Technology Group on an interactive animated short called Duet in 2014 (through Google's Spotlight Stories app), Keane turned his focus to drawing with virtual reality tools.
A short documentary project – titled Step Into The Page – by director Ashley Rodholm beautifully demonstrates how Keane was able to reimagine his work through life-sized, three-dimensional VR drawings. The result is as gripping to watch as it is exciting for the future of animation.
In the video – shot for the upcoming Future of Storytelling Summit – Rodholm was able to capture Keane drawing life-sized sketches of Ariel and Beast using an HTC Vive headset and the Google-owned Tilt Brush app. During the process of sketching these characters, Keane was even able to walk around his fully three-dimensional creations to add final touches.
The question the documentary raises is the same one Keane is pondering himself: what does this mean for animators of the future?
"The doorway to the imagination is open a little wide," Keane says in the video, "the edges of the paper are no longer there. This is not a flat drawing; this is sculptural drawing."