• 23 March 2018



During his Venetian master class Robb Pratt became the hero of ‘old school’ animation


The main guest of the first day of the eighth edition of Ca’ Foscari Short Film Festival was the veteran Disney animator Robb Pratt, who gave his long-awaited master class at the Auditorium Santa Margherita, in Venice. Pratt – who gave birth to some of the most important classic animations, as Hercules (1997), Tarzan (1999), Fantasia 2000 (1999) – talked about his growth path through this industry and the difficulties he had to deal with along the way. He also showed his latest work, this time a satiric one, CARMAN.

“I had not only a huge passion for Disney – he asserted – but I was also drove by a strong will to get out away from poverty”. For this reason, since he was young, he worked during day and night and attended courses to learn animation techniques. Even when he joined Disney’s Studios he kept studying to better himself, more often than not even after the end of his shift. He has keep the need to study through all his career to today. He repeats this sentence during the whole master class: “While I was working I learned that the dedication to your own job is fundamental: the preparation and the teachers are not enough, no matter how good they are. You have never to stop learning”. He faced a lot of difficulties because of his job, such as, for example, the introduction of digital animation with Toy Story. At a time when he had just mastered 2D-animation, he understood the need to keep on studying new and completely different technique to efficiently keep up with the times.

Pratt has then introduced some animated sketches made for Disney which emphasized both the dynamism that simple 2D drawings can convey and the complexity of this technique. Pratt also explained that it can take an animator up to an entire year to create only one minute of video. In fact, the scenes are first drawn, then scanned and finally digitalised on the computer.

Pratt next shared with the audience of the Auditorium some of the works he curated as an independent director, which obtained a remarkable critical success, also drawing the attention of important production companies. Following the “old school” style, Pratt created some short films with the 2D technique, like Superman Classic (2011), Bizarro Classic (2012) and Flash Gordon Classic (2015). In all of these, the protagonists are dubbed by “real superheroes”, as the animator called them. In fact, for Superman Classic and Bizarro Classic the voice of actor John Newton (who played Superman in the TV series Superboy, 1988-1992) was used; the same happened for Flash Gordon’s voice Eric Johnson, the actor that played the superhero in the 2007 movie of the same name.

Finally, Pratt presented his latest work: CARMAN – The Road Rage Anti-hero. This comical mini-cartoon composed by seven episodes, uploaded to his own YouTube channel (which is indeed named Where 2d Animation is NOT Dead!), was born from the Californian artist’s anger towards Los Angeles traffic and the rude behaviour of the drivers. Pratt has indeed admitted: “I have decided to use this negative emotion to convert it in something productive”: this is the way the anti-hero Carman was carried out. Moreover, Pratt stated that, when you’re looking for a theme for your own story, the first rule is to write what you know. The interesting new element of this miniseries is the fact that a tutorial about each phase of the animation process is added at the end of each episode.

During his masterclass, Robb Pratt repeated a strong and enthusiastic message to the audience of the Auditorium. He incited young people – and young animators in particular – to not let difficulties overcome them, and to always find a way to be productive in order to create something that will be useful in the future. He also stressed that, even if you have achieved one goal, you should never stop learning, because constant passion and devotion are very important. “Try to find in every situation – even in a bad situation – an opportunity”, he said. “When you are going through a really hard time it is important to turn that negativity into something good. Inspire people, because people want to be inspired.”

At the end of the event, the audience was allowed to ask questions, and then the artist said a warm goodbye, signing autographs and drawing dedicated sketches of the characters he animated during his long career, such as Hercules, Superman, Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Carman.