Thursday, March 21, 2019

Willie the Giant

Mickey and the Beanstalk is a short film that really stands the test of time. It was released in 1947 as a part of the feature Fun and Fancy Free.
The film's "villain", Willie the giant, was principally animated by John Lounsbery with help from Hugh Fraser. Some time ago, before a number a Disney animation books were published, and before any access to animation drafts (which list animator's names along with their scenes), many people believed that Willie was a Ward Kimball creation. It was an educated guess, since the animation is fluid, broad at times and inventive (Willie's anti-climactic sneeze). All characteristics of vintage Kimball animation.
But it is Lounsbery who wound up borrowing from Bill Tytla's giant in The Brave Little Taylor, the classic short from 1938. Willie is a simplified version of Tytla's massive but intricately drawn villain.
Lounsbery's giant is lighter, fluffier with an emphasis on comedy. Willie's voice actor Billy Gilbert contributed a whole lot to the character's development. His dialogue readings are rich in personality,
a giant who is funny, not too smart but utterly likable in the end.

I love these story sketches, perhaps by J.P. Miller.

A few stills from Mickey and the Beanstalk, featuring Mickey and Willie.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Nine Old Men in China

I am thrilled to announce that my book on Disney's Nine OId Men is now available in China.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Song of the South

What a beautiful color sketch, perhaps by Mary Blair.
I know that many of you are frustrated over the Song of the South controversy. All that beautiful animation lost in the film's dispute.
As for myself, I do agree with Bob Iger in that the movie cannot be screened today (unless it is for a lesson in American history).
I do believe that Walt and his crew had the best intentions when making it, but unfortunately the thought of being hurtful to many people had not entered their minds. Luckily attitudes and opinions change over time, and I bet you that if asked today, the film makers would agree with Bob.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Tytla's Chernabog

The Night on Bald Mountain sequence in Fantasia is probably the most extravagant piece of animated film making in regards to character animation and effects ever produced.
Fire, smoke, highlights and shadows, floating ghosts and experimental use of light, every single scene is loaded with awe inspiring richness. The result is definitely not family entertainment. This footage falls into the horror film genre. (I've said this before, terrifying enough to scare the popcorn out of kids). Disney in perhaps his darkest yet astonishingly beautiful animated moment.

The perfect challenge for young animator Bill Tytla, who had already established himself as an artistic powerhouse with gorgeous animation on several short films like Mickey's Fire Brigade and Cock o'the Walk. And the of course Stromboli in Pinocchio.
I don't know who drew Tytla's clean ups, but this work is exceptional. A devil in Art Deco line work.

What fascinates me even more are Tytla's rough drawings, even exploratory sketches. They give you insight into his extraordinary mind. The way he puts down lines to get a hold of this bigger than life character, his torso, arms, hands.
Many of the poses originate from the sequence director Wilfred Jackson own performance in front of the camera. Michael Barrier posted a few stills a while ago. Skinny as Jackson might have been, but you immediately recognize them as the inspiration for Tytla's masterful animation.

Here is the link to my first post on Bill Tytla:

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Dr. Facilier

This might come as a surprise to you, but I was involved in a bunch of scenes featuring Dr. Facilier in The Princess and the Frog.
I remember that at the time story material and layouts for Mama Odie were still being worked on.
So I was asked to help out in the Facilier unit, which was lead by Bruce Smith, an amazing animator.
These are some of the scenes I animated. I drew the reacting characters as well.
I recall that two or three of my scenes were cut in order to improve story continuity. And Bruce re-animated a couple of my scenes because my timing wasn't up to Facilier.

But I really enjoyed animating him in this terrific, spooky Voodoo sequence .