Although it is already a few months old, I still cannot stop thinking about and fawning over Walt Disney animator Glen Keane’s beautiful short, “Duet.” If you have not yet seen it, please do yourself a favor and watch it here. Even if you do not harbor an obsession for art or animation, I guarantee that you will still love it or, at the very least, appreciate it.
There are honestly so many reasons why I have fallen in love with this short that I’ll admit I’m struggling to put it into coherent sentences and clearly explain myself rather than just fangirl all over the place in one big, jumbled mess. However, I can only promise to do my best. I just want to start off by talking about how stunning the entirety of the work is. From start to finish, it captivated my attention in such a delicate way.
When I first watched “Duet”, I was seated in an airport, waiting to board my flight back from Orlando, Florida, as I had just been visiting Walt Disney World® with my sister, crazily enough. Just a little bit of personal background information: airports stress me out, sometimes to the point where I feel physically ill. There’s always so much going on, so many people, so much to worry about… you get the idea. But then, after my sister and I had gotten settled into our seats to wait for our delayed flight after a long and eventful day, we came across the new short via Facebook. While we were mindlessly scrolling through our phones, my sister was the one to notice it promoted on one of the many Disney pages we follow. She got the video set up and handed me one of her ear buds so we could watch it together. Once she hit the play button, magic ensued. We hunched over the small screen in awe. As cheesy as it sounds, everything else around me faded away until all I could see and hear was the video. I forgot about all of the impatient, bustling, tired people, and the stress of having to get on a plane within the hour vanished instantly. My eyes soaked in the simple monochromatic scenes while my ears filled with gentle string and voice combinations. It was blissful and beautiful. I was amazed at how smoothly everything transitioned into each other. The aging of the characters in combination with their individual yet simultaneously intertwining paths was seamless and flowed flawlessly.
Aside from the obvious appeal, what really draws me to this short again and again (…and again) is that it is primarily hand-drawn. Hand-drawn animation is a bit of a rarity nowadays due to all of the improvements in technology and computer-generated animation. It sadly seems to be dying out. Through this piece, Glen Keane succeeds in illustrating just how necessary and genuinely exquisite this classic method of animation can be. Just by witnessing the genius that is “Duet”, anyone can see how masterfully this style conveys raw emotion and movement, both of which are extremely important in any kind of animated work. Keane sees himself as not only an animator, but more accurately “an actor with a pencil.” Through his work, creating and representing life in a two-dimensional format, he “[lives] in the skin of the characters that [he draws].” In other words, an animator is faced with the challenge of transforming a static image into a lifelike, moving, feeling character. To do this, it takes patience, skill, and the animator’s own personal touch of real, human emotion.
It is clear that Keane has mastered all of these aspects, and if you’ve seen The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, or Tarzan (just to name a few films that Keane was a major part of), than you’ll be able to come to the same conclusion for yourself. He pours emotion into everything he creates, and it really shines through to the final product and resonates with the audience, which is why (in my opinion) these works were so successful.
I could, in all honesty, ramble on for days about this one short and still feel I haven’t successfully expressed my love for it enough. However, I’ve already done enough damage for one day. I want to hear what you think of it! Do you prefer hand-drawn or CG animation? What’s your favorite Disney short of all time? Let me know in the comments!
Tip: If you’re interested in animation, figure drawing (like my examples in the image above) is a quick and great way to practice capturing lifelike poses and movement, just like how real animators sometimes use models when drawing a scene involving complicated movements of a character or to get a more accurate idea of how the character would look in certain situations.
Click here to watch Glen Keane talk about “Duet” and his approach to animation!
(Image from author’s personal collection.)
Alyssa Schulman is currently a student at Rhode Island School of Design. She was born in Florida but moved to Massachusetts at age 10. Alyssa’s heart has belonged to Walt Disney World® for as long as she can remember, but something very high up on her bucket list is to visit all other Disney locations. She intends to pursue illustration in the hopes of being even half as inspirational, or at least entertaining, as Disney Animation continues to be to her.