Monday, October 12, 2015

Peter Pan Stuff

Nice production photo with sequence director Wilfred Jackson (next to a kneeling assistant) discussing a live action reference scene with actors Bobby Driscoll and Kathryn Beaumont.
You can see in the model sheets below, how much animator Milt Kahl modeled the appearance of Peter Pan after Driscoll.
Milt said once that the character of Peter Pan was interesting to him at first because of his weightless way of moving, but once he had that figured out he became a chore to animate almost like the Prince in Sleeping Beauty.
I sure wouldn't be able to tell from those gorgeous key poses on the model sheets.

A magazine article from 1953.
It's interesting to see how well the film stills hold up as black and white images. Perfect lighting and contrast.

A couple of iconic color images from the film.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Lecture & Book Signing

Tomorrow, Saturday October 10, I will be at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, California. At 4:30 pm I'll start off with a one hour lecture on the work of Disney's Nine Old Men, which will include artwork, pencil tests and archival interviews. Afterwards I will sign copies of my new book. I understand there are still a few spots available. So if you are interested, here is the link to the event:

I am looking forward to seeing some of you there.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

1978 Thames TV Documentary

In the recent past I posted a few clips from this fascinating British documentary on Disney, which shows the company's history as well as what it was up to during the late 1970s.
Those clips were of inferior picture quality, and I am thrilled that John Canemaker informed me that the whole show can now be viewed on YouTube (in much better image quality).
Here are a few frame grabs that give you an idea of the top talents that were interviewed. Some of the comments, particularly by Kimball and Milt Kahl, are very candid, to a point that leaves me wondering: I can't believe they left this footage in the film!

Who knew that at one point in time Bernard and Bianca, seated on Orville the albatross, were flying by the Statue of Liberty ?

The studio gate the way I remember it. I rode through it (on a bicycle) in August of 1980 to start my training program with Eric Larson.

Here is the link to the film on YouTube:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Touch Up

Most everyone knows that the rough drawings done by Disney animators needed to go through a Clean Up process. The clean up assistant would take a new sheet of paper and trace the pose by applying a fine line.
But then there was Touch Up. If the character was drawn on model, meaning proportions and subtleties were close to the character's final design, no new sheet of paper was necessary. The assistant took an eraser and rubbed down loose construction lines, before adding tight outlines on the same sheet.
The drawings ended up looking clean, but the animator's underdrawing was still visible. Later the inkers ignored those loose, light lines and only traced the solid thin black lines on to cels.

The drawing above of the Queen from Snow White demonstrates this process. There are clean pencil lines defining the final appearance of the character, but you can still detect animator Art Babbitt's rough underdrawing. I would love to find out how Art drew the Queen before a touch up assistant got his hands on the scene.

Almost all of Milt Kahl's work was touched up, after all, he usually created the final look for most characters, in his own words: "I WAS the Disney style." This Alice drawing is from one of Milt's first scenes he did for the film, when Alice meets the Caterpillar.

Years later, starting with 101 Dalmatians, those touched up drawings were not inked anymore, instead they were xeroxed on to cels. You can bet that Milt's drawings of Pongo stretching looked somewhat loser before being tied down b y an assistant.

A lot of Ollie Johnston's animation was touched up. Often Ollie would only use a blue pencil for his rough animation. The black pencil lines were added by his assistant. The work of Frank Thomas, John Lounsbery, Eric Larson an Woolie was often touched up, except for when the rough drawings needed to be brought on model.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Walt Disney on PBS

All I can say is that I was tremendously excited when I heard that American Public Television was working on a two part program on Walt Disney as part of The American Experience series.
It turned out that a combination of overbearing "Talking Heads" who never met Walt, combined with way too few interviews with artists who did, made this program utterly unauthentic. A huge missed opportunity. I wanted to hear more from Ron Miller, Rolly Crump, Marty Sclar, Richard Sherman and many others, who had been in contact with Walt.
Just to single out one section from the documentary: The idea that Disney was fed up with animation by the time Cinderella went into production is absurd. He was supposed to have stayed in his office, surrounded by secretaries. WHAT?
Frank, Ollie, Milt and Marc told me that Walt was all over Cinderella, since it was a film that had to succeed at the box office after the lean post war years.
This program is not to be taken seriously, hopefully in good time a better researched documentary will emerge to shed a better light on  who Walt Disney was.
I have been lucky to be able to listen to the complete Pete Martin interview from the late 1950s.
Walt Disney was a very driven, often impatient visionary, who changed the world.
I can't agree more with Floyd Norman's review of this film:

To many this was the last time TV audiences saw Walt, on New Years at the Rose Bowl in 1966.