Friday, November 25, 2011

Animation's Most Beautiful Squirrel

There are many great squirrel characters in the history of animation.
Tex Avery's hysterical Screwy Squirrel, Chuck Jones' charming squirrel from
"Much Ado about Nutting", and the list goes on.
To me the most beautiful and elegantly designed is the squirrel from "Sleeping Beauty". Based on rough character sketches done by Tom Oreb (first Image), it was Milt Kahl -again- who drew the final design and animated a few important personality scenes. The drawings below are actual animation keys, which were cut out and mounted on to this model sheet.
I purchased a single pose from it (the one on the top right) a few years ago. It had been separated from the sheet and then reproduced for Disney's  "The Art of Animation" exhibit, which toured the world in 1959 to help promote the release of "Sleeping Beauty".
To my absolute delight, the original model sheet (minus that one drawing) was offered to me years later, and I was able to complete it again.

The animation of the character is charming with a lot of spunk. My favorite scene is when the squirrel reacts to Aurora's resignation, that the prince exists only in her dreams. Milt animated the most heartfelt, sympathetic's adorable!

Yet when you study these drawings up close, you'll find out that they are much more than adorable. There is a graphic perfection, a conviction that this is the best and ONLY way to draw this squirrel. And yet it doesn't come across as cold, calculated precision.
On the contrary, these drawings are so alive because Milt thought about appeal,charm and personality when he was doing them.

A little character with a small role, but a high point in the career of Milt Kahl.


  1. Elegant, simple beauty! I love the choice he made to prop the ears tightly on top of the head, and how he was able to give so much flexibility to the forms on his face. Great post!

  2. Always loved this squirrel. I always liked the curl in his tail which looked like a graphic motif repeated in Briar Rose's hair.

    BTW the Disney 1959 Art of Animation exhibit you are referring to is the one that got "lost" at Chiba University (Japan) up until 2005, right? Sitting in a janitor's closet from what I heard.

  3. He's a cutie! I love his expressions. (I may try copying some of them next time I have to draw a squirrel so I can get the feel of it right.) I can really see the tapestry look to him too.

    Of course I've always been fond of the one female squirrel from Sword and the Stone. There are a lot of little Disney squirrels that have great character moments.

  4. He saved one of the best scenes in Disney animation history. Eyvind Earl's paintings represent the highest form of art, but the scene would have been terribly boring without him. Personally I prefer the squirrels of "The Sword in the Stone", Clarice from "Two Chips and a Miss" and the one from "The Emperor's New Groove." But I agree with you: this work represents perfection. I am particularly impressed by the hands: they are formed just by three lines, yet they are the three most harmonic lines I've ever seen in my life. The arms are so important in the anatomy of the character to hold those tiny little tiny hands. And just look at the belly and the shoulders... Pure Mr. Khal's magic!

  5. Thanks for the great drawings-"Sleeping Beauty" was my favorite film during my youth.The local cinema had a copy that they ran until almost unplayable and I never missed a show.The squirrel is adorable,but don't forget the "Boot bunnies"-great gag and sequence.

  6. definitely the best squirrel in animation. This is one of the most solidly designed Disney characters EVER in my opinion. The squirrels in Sword in the Stone are good, but nowhere near this level of perfection. I'm so glad someone finally recognized how awesome and iconic this character is--unmistakably sleeping beauty/Kahl.

  7. wonderfullllllll...always love these little creature in animation...Thanks again to Andreas for your nice post:D

  8. Thanks so much for the post Andreas! I have a question. Why do two little black lines reseed into his arms? I guess its to delineate the arms, but it looks a little strange to me? Maybe they helped his hands read better on screen since they were so small?

  9. I love his cinnamon roll tail :D The movie has great angular curls in general :D ~Hugs squirrel happily~

  10. Ki Innis,
    you rare correct !!

    I know what you mean. Those lines work well on the rough drawings and in final animation.
    Certain individual frames read a little funny.

  11. beautiful indeed - thanks for posting these!

  12. I was looking for references for this particular squirrel and was thinking that I would spent the afternoon looking around without finding much, but the first hit on my search was your site! Thank you so much for sharing! And I totally agree that this squirrel is just so adorable when he sighs!

  13. I like the Squirrels from Slepeping Beauty because I love the style.

    1. They're my favorite kind of Disney Squirrels because Eric Larson did the best.

  14. He looks so sad, what power to show through the emotion!