Monday, October 31, 2011

Cruella de Vil

It's kind of fitting to have a post with Cruella de Vil on Halloween.
She is one of the best villains in film history, and she is Marc Davis's final animation assignment at Disney. I asked Marc way back: "How could you leave animation after having done such a strong statement with Cruella?"
He just said:"It was time to move on, and Disneyland gave me many new challenges."
I still wonder though how Marc might have influenced films like "Sword in the Stone" or "Jungle Book" if he had stayed in the animation department.

I put together some great pre production art, that shows the development of Cruella. Milt Kahl once told me that he thought Marc would do fantastic drawings right from the start, when designing a new character. He himself would have to struggle and draw a lot of bad stuff before finding what he wanted.
These early drawings still show an influence by the "101 Dalmatians" book illustrations. Those were done by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone.

Original book illustration

Eventually Marc found his own distinctive style for continued development.
He experimented with different hair styles and fur coat designs.

This is a key drawing from an experimental scene.

Character actress Mary Wicks provided live action reference for Cruella.

These are keys from a production scene, where Cruella throws a bottle with booze into a fireplace in an effort to scare Jasper and Horace. As it turns out she scares herself quite a bit, too.
Look at how graphic and gutsy Marc draws her in this scene. Some of those faces are completely crazy, insane and wonderful!
He once told me: "Maybe I went a bit too far with Cruella's caricature, she kind of stands out from the rest of the cast." I immediately responded: "No way, perhaps
the other animators should have shown more "Avant Garde" in their design."

The color model cel Marc is holding in the photo.

Cruella de Vil is a creation for the ages. Color stylist Walt Peregoy said: "There 
will never be a character like Cruella!"
I say, let's admire and look at her as a challenge to match. All we need is top story material like Bill Peet's, a way out character design with animation that is rooted in realistic observation. 
Oh yes, and -to quote Milt- the determination to have super high standards.


  1. Mary Wicks was the live action reference, wow! Of course she was the voice of Laverne in Hunchback. Just so cool.

  2. Cruella is probably one of my all time favourite villains! I love seeing the design process from start to finish, her character design is amazing, very inspiring!

  3. Im Nachhinein hat sich die Wartezeit gelohnt - beeindruckend und inspirierend.

  4. While I agree it is unfortunate we'll never know the impact he would have had on later films, I am still grateful Marc left animation for WED. His designs for Pirates and Country Bear Jamboree had an enormous impact on me as a kid and continue to resonate today.

    Another great post. Thanks,

  5. Wow - fascinating! Thank you so much.

    Cruella is such a brilliant character - amazing understanding of anatomy in the animation yet also so 'free'. The way she moves has weight and volume yet she is also flat and cartoony - it really is phenomenal. I didn't have enough of an understanding of his chronology to realize Marc Davis stopped animating after he did her - that is kind of sad.

  6. I love the angles of her face! Such an amazing character design. I'm a huge villain fan, they are always the most interesting characters.

    I can see reflections of Cruella in Jafars final design. The caricatured features and crazy facial expressions make them so unique and fun to watch. Did you reference Cruella when drawing Jafar at all?

    Thanks for this post, I can't wait to see what you have next!

  7. Hey Andreas, this is amazing development work by Marc and I had never seen them before, thanks so much for sharing them. It is fascinating to see the evolution of the design and how loose but precise his drawings were. Marc really pushed the design on her, making it look like a skull with hair and makeup and I am glad Walt did not ask for changes. I know that Frank and others thought he went too far but I love how far he went with it. The animation of her is also brilliant and Marc must really have liked doing her because it shows.

  8. Hi Andreas, I always wondered what kind of relationship existed between Marc Davis and the new generation of animators during the '80s. I know Milt Khal was somewhat skeptical toward them, Eric Larson, the best teacher a student could have, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston taught you how to draw out the emotions of the animated characters. John Canemaker told me that Ward Kimball was hot-tempered sometimes, and when he was angry, it was very hard to control him. But I never understood the attitude of Marc Davis during the Cal Arts era...

  9. Thanks for sharing,Mr.Deja!

  10. Who is thinner, Cruela or Maleficent?????

    Being thin is for the evil ones!!!

    love from Rio!!

  11. It's so great to see how the character design progressed. Great post!!!

  12. Lauren,
    if I referenced Cruella when animating Jafar, it was subconscious.

    Marc Davis gave the occasional lecture at Cal Arts and at Disney Animation. Him and Alice also traveled for lectures and received honors in Europe, Japan and Florida.
    If you wanted Marc's wisdom for inspiration, it was up to
    you to approach him. He always made time to talk to those who were interested.

  13. Thanks Andreas for posting these. I swear the lower corner drawing of Cruella on #2 looks straight out of the eighties. So cool.

    Marc had a great combination of realistic movement with a bit of cartoon mixed in. I can see why Milt appreciated Marc's work so much.

    I'm glad that the hair length choice was short. There was a sort of haggard feeling in seeing her hair shorter and a little out of control.