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.




















Thursday, February 8, 2024

Joy

 


Can't tell you how happy I am about MUSHKA's musical success. Richard M. Sherman kicked off our musical journey years ago by contributing the film's melodious theme as well as a beautiful song. 

Richard is the most inspirational, generous, down to earth genius you could ever meet. 

The Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mushka


Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Patrick Mate does Mushka

 


I just found out by accident that my friend Patrick Mate posted this illustration on his blog in November of last year. At that time we had a nice chat after the MUSHKA screening at CTN.

He added:  

I absolutely love it! Patrick is such an amazing artist. Always full of ideas, and he is comfortable in just about any graphic style. Here is a link to his gorgeous art:

https://patrickmate.blogspot.com


Monday, January 29, 2024

MacBadger Ruffs

 

You can't win them all. Recently Heritage Auctions offered this fine group of rough animation drawings of the character Angus McBadger from the 1949 film The Wind in the Willows. The auction item's description said that Bill Tytla drew these sketches and that they originate from the artist's estate.  

The thing is...these are Milt Kahl drawings. This particular film was in and out of production during the early 1940s, and that's when Milt drew them. There is a short window of time between the start of animation on April of 1941 and the beginning of the Disney strike on May 29, 1941. It was then when Tytla left the studio. He must have saved these roughs by the "junior animator", presumably because he liked the vitality in Milt's sketches.

Anyway I did not end up with these terrific drawings, I was outbid. But if the current owner would like to publish them here on this blog, please, leave a comment.




Thursday, January 25, 2024

Jungle Book...Again

 

We had such an interesting variety of materials for the Jungle Book exhibition at the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Obviously lots of original art, pencil tests, video interviews and more.

This is a document I found particularly interesting. 
Director Woolie Reitherman sends an official note to storyman Bill Peet. Bill and Walt had already faced off in disagreement over Peet's story treatment and the selection of character voices. 
Here Woolie is setting up a meeting for the three of them in an effort to discuss and hopefully settle some of these points of contention. 

You can tell from the tone in Woolie's inter-office-note that the situation is somewhat serious.




I just realized that I posted this item 60 years after the original memo was sent. Almost to the day...what a coincidence!

Friday, January 12, 2024

Eric Larson Pics




Over the years I have talked about Eric Larson quite a bit. Eric was heading up Disney's animation training program during the 1970s and for part of the 1980s. He was also the person who hired me to join Walt Disney Productions (which sounds soo much better than the Walt Disney Company.)
I still feel so lucky that I  knocked on Disney's door at the perfect time. A group of young newly trained animators had just left the studio, and there was a need for replacements. What lucky timing!
Eric Larson trained and helped kickstart careers of so many animators from my generation. Quite a few went on to become leaders in the industry. 
When I recently finished my film MUSHKA I thought I better dedicate the film to someone, who played a major role in my animated career. Eric was the first one who came to mind. Without his trust in me I would not have had the dream career at Disney. 

The photo above shows Eric drawing Fantasia characters as part of a backdrop for the 1941 film The Reluctant Dragon. 
The following photo shows him next to Don Lusk, a young animator who helped Eric with characters like Figaro and Cleo for Pinocchio. 




Eric working on Lady & the Tramp. As I mentioned before, Milt Kahl thought Eric's animation of Peg was a high point in the movie.



The training program during the late 1970s. There is Phil Nibbelink on the left, Eric, and Michael Cedeno. In the back are effects animator Mauro Maressa, Bruce Morris and Darrel van Citters.
Not sure who is directly behind Eric.


It is just in retrospect that myself and all the other trainees from way back realize just how important Eric was to all of us. He of course taught us the proper mechanics of animation, but even more importantly the Disney philosophy for entertainment and how to communicate with an audience.  How to search for that extra sparkle that makes a character come off as unique and interesting.

Eric is the godfather of Sybil Byrnes, Milt Kahl's daughter.



Sunday, December 24, 2023

Puss 'N Boots 1994



My first attempt at illustrating a childrens' book. Geezz..almost 30 years ago. Here are a few pages.
For the main character's design I started out by drawing my own cat, and went from there. 
The publisher was Steve Fiott who at the time put out Storyboard Magazine.

The illustrations are felt pen and Magic Markers.

Merry Christmas!