Monday, August 22, 2011

Aristocats

Disney animator/director Art Stevens told me once :" You never asked for changes in a Milt Kahl scene, because it was always perfect."
I myself do know about a few corrections and scene cuts that even Milt had to endure, although most likely that didn't happen very often.

Look at the pencil animation of this sequence where Duchess meets O'Malley for the first time. There are a few fascinating aspects to it.
Milt had set the desgin of the characters, and he also animated the opening scenes here, Ollie did the second half. You can see that Milt's version of O'Malley is much leaner than Ollie's, and yes, there were arguments about how to draw this character.
Ollie told me that during production of "The Aristocats" Milt took a vacation to Europe. Even being away from the studio for a while, O'Malley's model was still on Milt's mind. So he sent Ollie a postcard almost every day, reminding him that the character is not to be drawn too fat. "Can you believe that?" goes Ollie.

When I look at Milt's version, I can sure see a "Shere Khan hangover". 
The expressions in his eyes and the jaw overbite for example.
The acting seems a little busy, the close up scenes don't quite have the feeling that the situation calls for. O'Malley is trying to charm Duchess, but his head moves in ways that is a little distracting. 
Milt's scene of Duchess clapping her paws was later redrawn, the hair on her cheeks is longer and has more overlap. I was told that Milt never noticed when this change was made. 
As  O'Malley talks about her eyes, her close up was replaced by a different looking Duchess.
In the long shot O'Malley opens his arm when he talks about bright sparkles.
Perhaps Woolie thought that this gesture looked too human, because it was cut in the final version.
I do like the stripes on O'Malley, but I can see that they had to go for economical reasons.

It's so interesting to compare the two versions of the same sequence, and to find out that Art Stevens wasn't completely right on this one.









This is an example for how Milt used a Ken Anderson sketch as inspiration for his character designs.


One day Ollie found this drawing on his desk with a note of Milt's disapproval of how he was drawing O'Malley.

35 comments:

  1. http://twitpic.com/69ve52
    Thanks for sharing this scene..I own a little coloured piece of it and yeah, stripes would have been great

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  2. Thank you very much. I enjoyed reading this.
    Teodor

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  3. Brilliant story as usual, and an insight into one of my favourite scenes.

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  4. And I thought Disney was competitive when I was there! That Milt note to Ollie is CLASSIC. I have to say, I agree with Ollie on this one, the thicker cat sans stripes works well and goes with the voice better. Thanks Andreas!

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  5. Milt's scenes may have been changed, but the originals were better.

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  6. The whole scene is wonderful. I especially love the more subtle aspects of Milt scenes, like when he says, "Love it.".

    There is something almost villain-like about Milt's early design for O'Malley. He looks kinda seedy with some of those expressions, especially in the eyes. He almost comes off as a little too forward towards Duchess. And I can see they pulled back on some of those crazy head jerks when they retouched those scenes, which definitely worked out for the better. And as for the arm gesture, it really does work. I mean, later there are cats playing music instruments and sitting on their hind legs, so I don't know how much more human they could possibly get.

    I do like how Ollie really played up the cat mannerisms in his scenes, like when he's rolling in the dirt. I have two cats, and they both do that kinds of stuff all the time. Ollie really captured the essence a cat, right down to the core.

    Thanks for sharing this Andreas!

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  7. "Come off it! Shit!" ahahahaha. Well, he works better as a fat kittie, makes him more adorable and gentle, I guess. Nice to know Milt wasn't perfect though.

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  8. Two different approaches from two brilliant animators. I personally think Ollie's approach was better. No disrespect to Milt, of course!

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  9. How great is this! Thank you! :)

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  10. Wow, I had never noticed before but I can really see the "Shere Khan hangover". Especially in those eyes. This was always my favorite movie growing up, and now it's so interesting to read about all of the behind the scenes stuff on animating these great characters. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  11. What a great comment by Milt! I thoroughly enjoy these alternate versions of classic scenes. Thanks for reviving them off the cutting floor Andreas! I have to say, chubby fat cats are more adorable. I just wonder what Milt's reaction was after they decided to go with a more rounded O'Malley.

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  12. Funny, Milt´s O´Malley looks like Sher Khan, and Ollie´s looks like Baloo! =) Great review, thanks for it Andreas.

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  13. Milt's O'malley looks more like Bagheera in the face, and he has thinner limbs. Interesting.
    Didn't Frank Thomas animate the 'alley cat' song before this?

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  14. thanks for showing the Ken Anderson sketch Andreas. It's interesting how often Milt (and others) would closely follow Ken's inspirational drawings... i remember seeing Ken's idea board for the Shere Kahn/ Kaa confrontation and just about every concept was sketched out by Ken initially, or at least so it appears. Which of course takes nothing away from the brilliant execution of the sequence...

    as for this comparison tho, I have to admit I like Ollie's version better, even if the drawing is on the mushy side. Compared together like this, it makes Milt's take almost seem like self parody. Milt's work on the humans in this film is a standout, but the other animators' work on the other characters rounds out the texture of the whole. not just in this picture but in all of them. that's why making these movies as a team (even if sometimes a less than harmonious one as indicated by Milt's note to Ollie) is one of the things that made their collective accomplishments great.

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  15. Discovered something new today! Thank you! (:

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  16. Thank you so much. Informative and very, very useful!

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  17. Does a lot of swearing go on behind the scenes at Disney?

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  18. Heh, I can see why Ollie would lean toward making O'Malley fatter. It's much more appealing!

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  19. What a great character: in the italian version the cat is from Rome, is called Romeo and he delcares to be "Il meglio del Colosseo" (The best of the Colosseum). It's funny to notice that his italian voice, Renzo Montagnani, was not from Rome but was born in Piemonte and had florentine origins, even if he perfectly recreated a roman accent. It's was shocking for me to discover that the original Thomas was from Ireland! I don't like Phil Harris here, his voice is wonderful (and his sense of humor is amazing, just listen at his song "The Thing"), but it's way too caracteristic and his Irish accent is potentially worse than Dick Van Dyke's cockney. Furthermore he was not a stage or radio actor as Sterling Holloway or J Pat O' Malley and he made Thomas way too similar to Baloo. The animation is wonderful as ever, love the contrast between several animation styles/approaches on the same character. This time I root for Mr. Johnston!

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  20. unbelievable..... really inspiring... I do have to say I really think really deep inside him Milt was a clown in heart that note was sooo funny XP... I cant imagine working with that guy... What a pain XP and still so full of magic Thanks for charing this.. I really admire your job and milt's and to see that you're taking the time to write this blog is really humbling Thanks Andreas

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  21. Since the broad plot outline of Aristocats is already so similar to Lady and the Tramp (pampered house pet rescued by undomesticated animal), it may have been a wise decision to make O'Malley more solid and a tad chubby to differentiate him a bit from lean, nimble Tramp.

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  22. Call me crazy but notice the amount of graphic detail on the nostrils on Milt's version of Duchess. While on Ollie's version it's been reduced down to almost like a little valentine.

    Can we assume that Ollie was aware that level of detail was not going to make the final version and opted not to put it in....or was this a simple difference in the approach in the draftsmanship like with O'Malley?

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  23. I think Ollie knew that the designs weren't finalized yet, so he would leave any detail drawing issues up to his clean up assistant.

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    Replies
    1. I have an original drawing for the alley scene from the Aristocats. It is done in blue pencil and shows a group of five cats, some playing musical instuments and some popping out of garbage cans. Any idea who the artist might have been?

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  24. Milt was a grouch that's for sure. Not mentioning any names but I have known a few animators that act the same way or even worse. I guess as long as you have the talent to back it up you can say those things to an extent. Good story Andreas thanks for posting.

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  25. Great post Andreas! Keep em coming :D

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  26. I love the two versions... i think the Milt version has more expressiveness and simplicity, and when O'Malley says "thank you" it seems like he's being sarcastic, and like making fun about Duchess manners... I think is more entertaining the Milt's version, despite O'Malley behaves like a mucker.
    Ollie is more formal in everything... The design of Duchess is a little exagerate, so when she laughes it seems like she's being nice. but I think the Duchess clap in Milt's version is so simple... but in Ollie looks with more.. refinement...
    Both are great... but I don't know which one I prefer... :)

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  27. Great post!!! I love reading these insights.

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  28. (I know this post is old, but your blog is so vast I can braely keep up!)

    Love the post. I can imagine stripes getting laborious to draw, and the pencil mileage being horrendous. Is stuff still animated by hand at disney, pencil on paper, or is it more digital nowadays, with wacoms and cintiqs?

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    Replies
    1. Disney Studios currently produce CG animated films only.

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    2. Yeah, too bad "Winnie the Pooh" was the last hand-drawn animated film made from the Disney Studios. CGI now looks like crap to me! ):(

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