Tracing is a demanding craft, and one that has practically died out in the digital environment. The skill of the tracer was to accurately and sensitively trace with a dip pen onto cel the pencil lines of the original animation drawing. The lines had to appear fluid, with no stop and start blobs, and the thickness of the line could be controlled across a curve by varying the pressure and angle of the nib. Often the linework on the cels would be made up from several different colours and the final effect could be beautifully painterly (think Pinocchio, or Sleeping Beauty, or the original footage from The Thief and the Cobbler). The best of the tracers were, of course, astonishingly accurate.
|Sam Spacey at work on cels of Rosie|
Sam Spacey has been involved with The Last Belle since the very beginning, helping to choose colours for the characters and props, as well as painting cels and - most importantly - being the sole tracer on the project. I first met Sam on Richard Williams' feature The Thief and the Cobbler where, at the very young age of 18, she had already become one of the best tracers in the studio. If I'd animated a scene with particularly subtle movement, or a character close up, I would always request that Sam trace it; animators would often fight over who was going to trace their scenes!
One of Sam's jobs on The Last Belle was the mind-numbing task of hand tracing Wally's shirt pattern as it turns and twists through perspective.
|Animation clean up of Wally prior to being traced.|
|Another animation clean up, this time from the tunnel sequence |
discussed in previous posts...
|... and some final traced and painted cels.|
|A frame from the final sequence, shot against its background.|
|Sam Spacey, tracer par excellence!|