Monday, July 9, 2018

Woolie's Student Life Drawings

I am always thrilled to do a post on Woolie Reitherman, because there isn't a whole lot of his art available, at auctions or elsewhere. 
Years before he animated Timothy, the mouse in Disney's Dumbo, Woolie attended art classes at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles in 1932 and 1933. (He was hired by Disney on July 31, 1933).

Here are a few samples of his life drawings from that time. I see a student who is in search of anatomy, form and motion, but also in search of a personal style.
A great start to a legendary career in animation.

In 1937 Walt Disney became involved with Chouinard by offering classes in animation, taught by top talent from the studio. In later years Ward Kimball and Marc Davis would join the faculty.

In 1961 Chouinard and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music merged into the then brand new California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts), located in Valencia, north of Los Angeles.

Drawings/Bob Reitherman, brochure pages/Howard Lowery.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Ken's Shere Khan

There are MANY posts on this blog regarding Shere Khan from The Jungle Book, and there is a reason for it. I believe that this character represents a late breakthrough in Disney character animation. Ken Anderson came up with an "above it all" villain, at a time when the rest of the animation crew was scrambling to develop a unique approach to this tiger. It could have gone in so many different directions.
A physically overbearing, threatening, vicious villain would be the most obvious way to go.
But once director Woolie Reitherman saw Anderson's sketches, the idea of hiring actor George Sanders for the voice came to mind. And the rest is history.
Milt Kahl was completely on board with the concept of a tiger, who is suave and acts in a restraint manner.
The final result is a villain for the ages. Designed with graphic sophistication and animated with just the right amount of realism.

Images courtesy of the Reitherman family, with many thanks.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Magic Mickey

A beautiful rough drawing by Fred Moore from Fantasia's Sorcerer's Apprentice, just recently offered by Heritage Auctions. Moore was animation supervisor on this short film, I don't think he animated much himself while working on it.
What's interesting here is to observe that Mickey is portrayed with his vintage black oval eyes. You can see it in the pre-production color sketch as well. So sometime during production the idea was discussed to give Disney's superstar eyes WITH small pupils.

And this is what he ended up looking in Fantasia, and pretty much from that time on, as far as eyes are concerned.

The story source material for The Sorcerer's Apprentice was as beautiful as the final film.

A finished cel set up from the film, though it might have been produced for publicity purposes.

A dramatic cel image for a final scene. Sometimes I wonder, what is it about Disney character colors?
They are stunning, just by themselves, without a painted background.
The Disney Color Model department really was the best in the world!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Frank & Ollie

I just found this photo of Frank and Ollie online, and it brought back some memories.
It looks like they both are promoting the release of Snow White on home video.
Frank is wearing a Bambi sweater, while Ollie chose a Jungle Book shirt. Well, I gave Ollie that shirt, which I purchased years ago in Germany. The images are from scenes, he animated. And they were beautifully embroidered. (The Jungle Book still holds the record in Germany for most movie tickets ever sold.)
This is really how I remember both of them, in their retirement,  still full of passion for animated drawings. I miss them.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Kley's Artistic Evolution

Here are three Heinrich Kley magazine illustrations that show how his art evolved over the years.
The first one is titled "Summer Solstice in Heidelberg". I would date this piece sometime during the 1890s, even though there seems to be a later date indicated on the upper left side.
The depiction of men, women and children is realistic and rigid. It is a pretty illustration, but undistinguishable to other artists of that era.

The next one is titled "the late Hour" from 1896. A lot more going on here in terms of dynamic composition, inventive poses and personality. Just beautiful!

The third sketch represents what Kley became famous for. Fantasy illustrations that show, what Walt Disney would call "The Plausible impossible". Surreal, caricatured situations, drawn in a believable manner. In this case a violinist fiddling away while being eaten by alligators. Luckily the drawing shows the process' early stage.

Kley's work at this time also included assignments for the German steel company Krupp. Some paintings show plane architectural (but beautiful) renderings of their factories. But even in those environments he would occasionally include oversized evil, satyr-type or other characters.
His imagination is sometime difficult to figure out, since we always look for the meaning behind such unusual work.
What is easily accessible though is his drawing virtuosity. Way ahead of his time he could depict the most absurd situation and make it look beautiful and believable.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Kahl Witches

Heritage Auctions recently sold these design sketches by Milt Kahl from the movie The Black Cauldron. I believe that in the original books by Lloyd Alexander the three witches keep exchanging their outfits in order to confuse the group of lead characters.
This story concept isn't easy to get across in just a few drawings, but if anybody might have pulled it off in animation, it's Milt.
Great drawings, though in principle the characters borrow heavily from the designs of Madam Mim as well as Madame Medusa.

You can see a Tim Burton concept sketch of the three Witches here:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mike Peraza

My multi-talented friend Mike Peraza created this beautiful poster design. I just love it. Check out Mike's blog: