Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Anatomy of Motion

This is the title for a book that Marc Davis had been working on for many years. Unfortunately it was never published, but all of Marc's research still exists. Motion range as well as comparative anatomy among a number of species are top subjects. Also many studies of bone and muscle structure. 

The book was intended for artists, animators and physicians. I will post Marc's initial sketches (he also produced final illustrations) from time to time, and I highly recommend studying them. Print them out and create your own Marc Davis Anatomy booklet!

I believe some of this material dates all the way back to the late 1950s.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Another Ward Kimball Post

It always fascinates me to see an artist's style change over the years or decades. Ward Kimball drew these caricatures of colleague Harper Goff sometime during the 1950s. Goff was a Disney story man/art director for the film 20.000 Leagues Under The Sea. Alongside Kimball he also played the banjo in the Disney artists jazz band Firehouse Five Plus Two. I just found out that later he would art direct the iconic, original Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Kimball's graphic style is very much - labeled as - mid century modern. Sort of non Disney,  experimental. But let's not forget that he co directed the 1953 short film Toot Whistle, Plunk & Boom at a time when a few Disney artists were trying to branch out into new visual horizons. 


Here is a reminder of Kimball's drawing style a decade or so earlier. Fred Moore was setting the Disney style at that time. The characters looked round, dimensional and as Art Babbitt would say "juicy".

Both styles of course absolutely brilliant!!!

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Otto Dill

Up until a few days ago I have never heard of Otto Dill. I don't know how that's even possible, since Dill is a German Painter who lived from 1884 until 1957. As soon as I googled him I fell in love with his work. He was known as the painter of lions, but his work includes a vast variety of animals as well as landscapes. I am still trying to analyze his impressionistic style, and who might have influenced him. I can see hints of Delacroix  and Daumier. 

Dill started drawing and observing animals in zoos, before traveling to North Africa, Italy, France and Spain for further study and painting. He was an extremely prolific artist, but unfortunately a large collection of his work was destroyed in 1943 during a bombing in WWII. Still, much of his art is still around and sought after by collectors and museums. In 2001 his home town Neustadt an der Weinstrasse opened a museum in his name. They only exhibit his work. 

I don't know about you guys, but I ask myself the question: Where have you been hiding all my life?

This painting of a tiger knocks me out...for obvious reasons. 

Friday, March 22, 2024

Milt Kahl's Birthday

Today, March 22, is Milt Kahl's birthday. I have posted many tributes to Milt over the years, so here is something different.
As I pointed out before, Prince Phillip was his least enjoyable animation assignment. But as always he did a terrific job, the way he brought him to life with subtlety and humor. 
Years ago I was lucky enough to purchase all key drawings from a Phillip scene that ended up being cut from Sleeping Beauty. That scene has the Prince seated at the beginning, before he hears Aurora's singing in the forest. He gets up, walks screen left, then comes to a stop and looks to the right. He is trying to figure out where this beautiful voice is coming from. It might have been Milt's first production animation of the character, because the design looks different from the final version. As you can see in the first image, his face is a bit more stylized. 
Walt Disney asked for a change in the character design. Apparently Phillip did not look handsome enough in Milt's early version. 
The second image shows a few adjustments, particularly in the facial area. This look would become the final model, and I have thought that Milt drew this sketch as well. But in taking a closer look, I believe that somebody else did the "draw over". It is my educated guess that Marc Davis re-drew this Phillip pose.
There is an attempt to simplify the shoulders and the chest, and the line work reminds me of Marc's graphic style. 
As much as I prefer Phillip's final design, the first drawing is a masterpiece.
Then again all of Milt's drawings are.

Here is the link to my first first post on Milt Kahl years ago...:

Sunday, March 17, 2024

From Cruella to Disneyland

I remember years ago I just had to ask Marc Davis about his departure from Disney Animation after having animated the incredible character of Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians
At that time he was at the peak of his craft, why didn't he continue his animation career? 
It turned out Marc had high hopes for a future project he helped to develop called Chanticleer.
It's story was based on a French folktale in which a rooster believed that his own crowing in the morning made the sun rise every day. Included were plenty of other anthropomorphic animals like a fox, an owl, a mole etc.
When presented to a group of executives, including Walt Disney, Marc remembered one of the execs exclaiming: "You can't get a personality out of a chicken."
And apparently that was the end of the meeting. An alternate project, developed by Bill Peet, called The Sword in the Stone got the green light instead. 
Soon afterwards Walt asked Marc for help with Disneyland. Upcoming ideas for new rides needed a humorous touch, and Marc moved over to WED. 
In the end Marc felt very happy and challenged with this new assignment, but I can't help but wonder how Chanticleer might have turned out. I do know that Marc's friend Milt Kahl was leaning more toward The Sword in the Stone.

Here is my first post on Chanticleer from 2012:

Monday, March 4, 2024

Ward Kimball 110


Ward Kimball was born 110 years ago.
Here is another pic taken during my last visit to his house in 2002. At age 88 he was still curious, passionate and of course...funny. Disney was so lucky to have one animator among his crew who constantly thought outside of the box. 
Here are a few visual reminders if his genius.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

A masterful Performance

This section from the 1938 short The Brave Little Tailor is often accredited to Fred Moore. Not so. Fred did work on later scenes where Mickey leaves the castle reluctantly, and when he is fighting the Giant.

But this extraordinary performance by Mickey in front of the King and Princess Minnie was animated by Frank Thomas. At the start of the film Mickey had proclaimed that he "killed seven in one blow". The audience knows that he was talking about flies, but everyone else believes he meant giants. And so this misunderstanding gets Mickey in trouble as he tries unsuccessfully to rectify the situation. 

It is the level of acting, feeling of weight and appealing draughtsmanship that completely captivates me. Most of Mickey's previous (and later) performances had roots in vaudeville. Physical, broad gags that made the audience laugh and connect with his personality. But this is  different. As close to an award winning performance as an animated character can get. 

I had the good fortune to discuss these groundbreaking scenes with Frank Thomas years ago, when I asked him wether Walt Disney had any specific reaction to his work here. I was sure that Walt saw this as a new artistic breakthrough for Mickey, and that he possibly complimented Frank. But no, Frank did not remember any particular praise from the boss. Just the fact that he liked and approved those scenes. Then again ....Walt was not known or handing out compliments very often.

I came across these rough animation drawings just recently, and I am trying to find more. If I do I will of course post them here. Frank ended up doing just about every drawing for the animation, he had full control over the performance. 

This is animation history worth studying.