Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Heinrich Kley's Reynard, the Fox

The stories about Reynard the Fox go back hundreds of years. There are French, German and Dutch versions, who all portray the character as somewhat nasty, but also clever and charismatic. He gets into all kinds of trouble,  but usually finds a way to come out on top.

Here are book illustrattions that show how famous German artist Heinrich Kley portrayed Reynard’s world of anthropomorphic animals. It’s interesting to see that most of the characters walk on their toes (instead of their heels like most Disney versions of types like these). It makes it more difficult to show them in natural, balanced poses, but Kley manages pretty well.

The book has no publishing date, but my guess is that these drawings were done sometime around 1920. Gorgeous color work.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Walt Stanchfield

Not many animation artists make good teachers, but Walt Stanchfield was a heck of an inspirational instructor to many folks who worked at Disney during the 1980s and 90s. In his life drawing classes he did not want you to copy the model on paper, he wanted you to interpret the model’s pose for animation. Go further with the body’s rhythm, push the action line, feel the weight.
He frequently went over young artists’ work by helping them to find the essence of a pose, and make a clear, often entertaining statement.
Walt was never one of Disney’s top animators (he did beautiful clean up work for many of the Nine Old Men, before moving into animation in the early 1960s).
In the photo above he is animating Baloo from The Jungle Book as he is chasing King Louie’s monkeys, who just kidnapped Mowgli. It’s a real nice action sequence that shows Walt’s talent as an animator.

We loved Walt’s unconventional classes that differed so much from art school. He would have the model pose for a couple of minutes, and asked the students just to observe, no drawing yet. Then the model would disappear and we were asked to draw the pose from memory. Stuff like that was new and exciting and helped us to approach our drawing and observation skills in a different way.

If you are a student, do yourself the favor and check out Don Hahn’s published notes that Walt used to hand out regularly. His writing is very insightful, it makes you think about making interesting statements through your drawings. There are two volumes:

I was flattered when Walt included some of my animal sketches in one of his handouts.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Disney Colors

Traditional animators generally don’t deal a lot with color. We express ourselves with black pencil lines on white paper. That doesn’t mean though that most of us don’t have great appreciation for excellent color, and the way our scenes look like on the screen in finished form.
Some of these images were sold at auctions recently, and they are outstanding examples of Disney’s incredible use of color over the years.
In this Mary Blair sketch of Hook’s pirate ship the muted sky color and the water’s blue and turquoise make the reds pop out dramatically. What a striking painting, you can’t take your eyes off it.

Mary also painted this piece with Alice and the Caterpillar. The palette is much more muted here, mostly shades of blue and pink dominate the scene. I love the reflective light under the mushrooms.

Even softer pastel colors in this lyrical image with Thumper and Bambi, likely painted by Tyrus Wong.
The subtle warm and cool tones offset each other magnificently.

Eyvind Earle painted this concept piece for the short film Pigs is Pigs. The toned down colors in the back compliment the richer tones of the little train station. And those little touches of red add a dynamic element.

Brightly colored characters in front of a dark monochromatic background. 
Professor Owl is mostly a combination of blue tones, the pupil bird is kept in hues of yellow.
These color choices look so simple, yet they were carefully chosen by Eyvind Earle.

This is Danny, the little lamb from the film So Dear to my Heart. What a beautiful combination of muted colors with some wine red to liven up this cel image.

Technicolor splashes on these fast moving flowers from the Nutcracker Suite.
The background is black, which makes the characters read very vividly. An amazing pastel drawing!
I love the sketchy highlights on the Thistle’s leaves.

John Lounsbery’s Willie, the Giant from the film Mickey and the Beanstalk.
His purple and green areas are fairly muted by contrast to his bold red hair. That little eccentric color touch helps to bring out his zany personality.

Very interesting color choices on this cel with the Witch from Snow White. She is basically kept in black & white, that red apple seems to be the only “real” color here. And your eye goes right to it.
Note that the other apples in the basket are dull green and yellow.

Another piece from Mickey and the Beanstalk. I have always loved Disney night skies, and this image is no exception. It’s the ultimate blue! The reflecting moon light gives this sketch just the right touch of realism. 

You would think that so much green in this cel of The Mad Hatter would look overly saturated. But it’s the type of greens together that makes this work. Only his coat is a bright green, the rest is muted. And that turquoise bow gives the outfit a fresh little contrast.

What a dramatic watercolor sketch from Bambi. The black and dark blue tones add to the terrifying mood. Look how effectively the right upper tree catches the lightning’s white. The fleeing deer has plenty of empty space on top, so it doesn’t get lost in the busy composition.

Too much color in this cel set up from Sleeping Beauty? Not at all. The lit, colorful areas are kept in the back while the foreground elements are monochromatic. The animators complained that there was too much going on in the film’s backgrounds. But in the end your eye goes to whatever is moving on the screen. Pretty darn breathtaking!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TS Sullivant 10

My 10th post on the breathtaking art of Mr. Sullivant. who influenced so many artists that followed him, Disney’s animators, Walt Kelly, Ralph Bakshi, to name a few. 
One thing that amazes me is the fact that his characters are so expressive, even when  drawn with relatively small eyes. 

Animation industry: Please take notice! Please! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Sleeping Beauty’s Goons have their roots in paintings by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). When I was a kid there was nothing scarier than to look at his pictures depicting visions of hell. Bosch filled his canvas with evil creatures whose anatomy was comprised of various animal and human parts.

Bill Peet and several other Disney artists studied these gruesome figures and used some visual elements in designing Maleficent’s scary, but not so smart henchmen, the Goons.
Peet had a great time researching and boarding sequences that included the Goons. Eventually these Disney versions of Bosch’s monsters were given a comical treatment. They are still repulsive, but not scary enough to give children nightmares.

John Lounsbery animated most of the important scenes involving the Goons, including their pig like leader.

Milt Kahl did this one drawing for John’s scene above, as he tries to strengthen expression and design.

A couple of story sketches for sequence 7.1, scene 14.
The Goon leader reacts to being put on the spot by Maleficent, who wants to know if the gang has looked for Aurora in the town, the forests and the mountains.

Milt Kahl animated this terrific scene as the Goon boss fumbles for an answer:
“Yeah, we searched mountains…and…uh, uh, uh, uh,…forests…and…uh, uh, uh, and houses…du…lemme see…uh, uh…and all the cradles.” 
Beautifully stylized, geometric shapes.