Sunday, July 10, 2011

Marc Davis Animals

Marc Davis was hired be Disney studios in 1935, and his application portfolio
showed already that he was  an expert at drawing animals.
As an art student Marc would visit the local zoos early in the morning before opening time. He had made a deal with  zoo management, in return for this special treatment Marc would leave an occasional sketch for the animal keepers.
He told some of us much later:" It is during the early morning hours when the animals are most active. They are being fed and move around, and this makes for interesting study of motion and behavior."
In the afternoons Marc went to libraries and studied animal anatomy from books.

When I saw these animal sketchbooks for the first time, I was struck not only by the beauty but also by the cohesiveness of the drawings. 
What I mean by that is,  because of Marc's strong observation and thorough
knowledge of the inner structure of the animal, these sketches look like they are ready to be animated. Just like in good model sheets, everything is worked out.
You can see clearly how the bodies are functioning mechanically, and of course
there is also a feeling for the essence of the animal.

It is ironic that Marc didn't get to animate many animals during his career,
but that's because he had a terrific knack for drawing humans as well.

A big Thank You to Alice Davis for letting me share Marc's work here.


  1. What is he coloring with? The drawings look like they're done in grease pencil, but is he using that to color some of them too?

  2. The squirrel at the bottom right is a beauty!!!

  3. you can feel the volume of the animals. very nice!

  4. These are powerful lines...2nd to Johannes..nice volumes..

  5. Wonderful drawings. Marc Davis was so good at everything he did. From animation to working in Imagineering, he was top notch all the way.

  6. Absolutely gorgeous and wonderful to observe as an animation student... all his lines are so clear & concise, so pleasing to the viewer. This is what I strive for in my work.

    Ryan, I think he may have used Conté sticks & charcoal to lightly shade them. They were fairly popular sketching tools at the time.

  7. Hey Andreas- have I mentioned my birthday (and Tony's, but don't worry about him, he reacted your front gate with his car) is at the end of the month? Mmmmm, those Kahl and Moore drawings sure look gooood! Just kidding. Hope to see you at SD comic con!

    PS. Have you seen this? I'm sure someone has contacted you, but you were made to be a part of it!

  8. That was supposed to be "wrecked",not "reacted". Sorry, I blew my joke.

  9. Beautiful drawings! Thank you so much for sharing them.

  10. Another great post... Please keep sharing this stuff...


  11. Oh wow - these are lovely! He makes it look so effortless.

    I love coming here every morning, not only for all of the inspiring work, but for the enthusiasm of your writing met with an echo of enthusiasm from the comments. It is so encouraging!

  12. *heading to the zoo immediately*

  13. These are beautiful! The vultures are particularly striking to me. I need to get to a zoo!

    Andreas, did you perchance animate this scene from Lilo and Stitch? If so I'd love it if you could share your thoughts on it's creation. Cheers Andreas :)

  14. Andreas,

    This is the only place I could find to contact you. I just wanted to commend you on this wonderful blog. Please, please, keep it up. The resources you are sharing are priceless, and an amazing part of history. I'm really looking forward to your continued posts.


    Ben Hays

  15. Amazing!! It must have been so great to have the zoo to himself in the morning to draw the animals.

  16. Very nice post. I have always been interested in the drawings of artists because for the most part they are preparatory works and studying them, one can learn about the thought process. I happen to be an enormous Davis fan especially because from the work I've seen, he was such a careful draftsman and I am lucky enough to own a very beautiful example of that in a Briar Rose drawing of Mr. Davis'.

    I have to wonder though about these particular images on this post. Some of the pages here are dated 1940 which is later than his 1935 start date at the studio and they are on animation paper. Did he continue his morning zoo trips before work at the studio and was he building a reference library of sketches which could be used at the studio? These don't look like sektchbook pages exactly.

    In either case, they are truly wonderful drawings with beautiful line work. The varying thick and thin of his linework carve the figure out of the page. Thanks for such a wonderful post!

    I also love the monogram stamp.

  17. Milt Kahl called Marc a "compulsive draughtsman", somebody who not only drew at the studio but also at home, the zoo etc.
    Marc kept on drawing and painting amazing things even after he retired.
    These sketches here were made at the time when he was doing story work and early animation for "Bambi".

  18. Simple, clean, powerful drawings. So inspiring!

  19. I beleive you too are a compulsive draughtsman and so am I.I'm so glad you started this blog ,what a tresor!.You're animation with the cow and the pig is a pure jem!do you imagine if we had dialogue like that on the animation movie we worked on.
    I love the way the cow is shaking her Martini while the Porcinette is strangling herself.I hope all your project are going well.
    All the best

  20. Patrick,
    yes, it would be fun to do a film with story and dialogue
    a little "spicy".
    Everybody : if you don't know Patrick's blog yet, get your
    a#!;+ over there and check it out....NOW !
    It is a feast for any artistic soul!

  21. So incredible! Being an animal fan (as far as drawing goes too) I need to step my game up! I admire the amount of life in these drawings and with such few inspired right now! I need to get my butt to the zoo!

  22. Thanks you Andreas .I'm very touch.
    A big fan

  23. Hey Andreas. Also i´m a big fan of you.
    I´d like to ask you: which kind of education, do you have as an animator?

  24. He was amazing at drawing animals... I remember, once I was watching The Disney Family Album, that because of his great talent in making animal's skeletons, he was then hired to make the skeletons and designs of the animatronics that are at Disneyland.

  25. Mie, for traditional animation, two things are important.
    Being able to draw very well and good acting with a sense for entertainment.
    So a good artschool that offers lots of life and animal drawing courses would be great. Acting classes help some animators.
    Studying classic animation frame by frame is useful, the same goes for live action footage.
    Observe at the world around you and interpret that in your animation.

  26. I love the zoo, and one of my favorites is Melbourne Zoo in Australia (where I'm from).
    I visited the zoo early one morning and found exactly as Marc described here.
    The animals were active, engaged, busy.
    I made very specific eye contact with some bears and a seal.
    There were some critters I'd never seen before even though I'd been visiting the zoo all my life.
    That was nearly 20 years ago and I'll never forget the experience.

  27. Thanks for this post! Marc Davis is BY FAR my FAVORITE Disney animator and Imagineer! I love all of his work! Also, thanks for the posts about Frank and Ollie! They contributed so much to Disney and get little to no recognition for it. Love the blog!