Profile of Glen Keane
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When he was given the assignment to work on little Bernard sweeping the floor in the United Nations Building in Rescuers Down Under he became panic stricken thinking he could ruin the whole picture if he didnt get his scene right. He went to grandfatherly Eric Larson, who began discussing the character of little Bernard, and said that Bernard really wanted to do a good job. Glen learned that the old masters were trying to hand the baton to the younger artists, like in a relay race. They were trying to teach them that it wasnt the artwork that really mattered but the sincerity and heart that the artist used in creating the characters. The key was believing the character was real and developing the character so that it became real and three dimensional to everyone, rather than a flat drawing. Glen learned to be a method actor, getting to the heart of his character, which he then captured in art form.
Glen told me more about Eric and his way of teaching. Eric was the most comforting guy. Youd come in with just a total mess of ideas at the end of your rope. Eric would take that pile of drawings and he would say 'Well let's see what youve got here' and hed sit at his desk and flip through your drawings and the characters were moving all across the pages and nobody could make sense of it. Eric would take one drawing from the top and another from the middle and would say 'Lets just take these two ideas youve got here and put all the rest aside.' Hed draw a little arc on it and just a little line to show how the hair could move and then would talk about anticipation and how youre going to tell the audience what youre about to do and he spoke very slowly and carefully and youd leave his office knowing you could do this and you would. You would actually accomplish this and it looked like Disney animation and I did it and Im nobody and I really did it. Its like slow motion relay. That generation is passing the baton onto the next one and I used to run the relay in track and I know how important that moment of hanging onto the baton is. You dont want to drop the baton.
He began studying Bill Tytla, who created Stromboli from Pinocchio amongst others. Glen began drawing larger than life characters and his career progressed. He intended to continue with these types of characters and was set to work on the character Ursula, the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid. Glen said I heard Jodi Benson singing for Ariel and actually I saw the tape of her singing that song. It just captured my heart and I, oh, I want to do that. It just spoke to me, so deeply to me. Since then it seems that all the characters that have spoken to me have all had this same thing in common from Ariel to the Beast to Aladdin to Tarzan. These characters all have this burning desire in their hearts to become something, with something inside of them that has to get out. They believe that the impossible is possible. Here is this mermaid that wants to be human and the fact that shes a mermaid doesnt stop her from believing the impossible is possible and then you see it actually realized. For Aladdin, though, he is a street urchin. For him to believe that someday he could someday marry a Princess and it actually happens. The Beast looks in the mirror and he sees this big hairy beast but believes that somebody could could actually love him and he could transform, change form the inside out and it actually happens. I just love that quality in characters. Even the most recent one, Silver. from the upcoming film, Treasure Planet, is a guy who is a crusty pirate, driven for treasure, lost his arm, lost his leg, lost part of his head, been replaced by robotics. To get the treasure, he is driven by this one thing. But there is a little flame, tiny little pilot light of warmth in his heart that when he meets this kid, Jim Hawkins, it ignites the warmth in him that eventually from the inside transforms Silver to where he is in the end willing to give up his life to save Jim Hawkins. Giving up the treasure, he finds that his treasure is really this young man, who has become like a son. I love, just love that kind of heart in a character, thats what really moves me. .
Glen believes that the best things in life are gifts from Him. An example of this is his meeting with his wife, Linda Hesselroth. Seventeen-year-old Glen was in line to see the movie The Godfather and noticed the girl behind him kept looking at him. He said hi and they began talking. He had never heard a charming accent like hers and learned that she was visiting Phoenix with her parents from Minnesota. She mentioned that she wished she had someone to show her around Phoenix but just then her date came back from buying tickets. Being polite, Glen lapsed into silence but noted where they sat and when the young man left to buy popcorn, Glen raced over to get her telephone number. The next day Glen called the number and it was K-Mart, but he didnt give up. Instead he got in his car and drove along 24th Street, which runs the length of Phoenix and is filled with motels. He passed the first motel and it didnt feel right and passed the second motel, which also didnt feel right. When he reached the third motel, he turned in and as he did, Linda stepped out a door followed by her parents. At that moment youthful insecurity filled him and he thought that maybe she had deliberately given him the wrong number and he slumped down in his car, hoping she wouldnt see him. As her family started to drive away, her mother noticed his bushy red hair and asked Linda if that was the young man she had met yesterday and had been talking about. Linda climbed in his car happily and he nonchalantly said that he had told her that he would show her Phoenix. They spent the next three days together and she returned to Minnesota.
They wrote for a short while and she told him that she had been engaged to a boy in Minnesota. This was hard on Glen, who had decided when she left Phoenix, that she was the girl he wanted to marry. About a year later, when he was in Los Angeles, his family forwarded him a letter from Linda in Minnesota and he happily wrote her back but no answer. It wasnt until much later that he learned she had expected him to write back to her twice but unfortunately, disorganized as he was he had lost her address! Two years passed before Glen heard from her again and immediately invited her out to Los Angeles for a visit. He took her to his parents second home at Laguna Beach and they talked and talked. After a total of about five days that they had been together, he asked her to marry him. Later he learned that when they had been in line at The Godfather movie, Linda had noted how calm and assured he was, not looking around at all the girls. When he had spoken to her, she had been picturing what it would be like to be married to him. They were married in August 1975 and have a daughter Claire, 23 years old; who is studying art at the Academy Julienne in Paris, where Matisse studied. His son, Max, is 21 years old and hasnt decided yet if he wants to work in animation or in live action films.
The legacy lives on.
-- Posted July 19, 2002