Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Medusa, Woman of many Faces

These are a few more of Milt Kahl's extraordinary roughs for Madame Medusa.
It's the range of expression that floors me. Look at the mouth shapes, they can be small, almost minimal, or wide...and I mean WIDE open.
Milt said in an interview:" I sometimes go very far with open mouth shapes, more than other animators. I guess, I am feeling something there...."
As a matter of fact,  the mouth is open so wide, he almost breaks the jaw.
But....if you ever studied people's dialogue when they are in an extreme mood,
or singing (especially opera), you find out these extremes exist in real life.
Part of animating believable dialogue is to go this far OCCASIONALLY when a particular strong vowel calls for it. 
A character says :"How are you?". Which of the three words is emphasized?
It could be either one. Listen to the track and decide . Go bigger on that one vowel.
If you have a big mouth shape on ALL three, your dialogue and acting will look
too broad, overdone and unnatural. On the other hand if you don't go broad once in a while, your animation will look bland and too understated.
All this stuff comes with experience and developing an opinion about when a piece of dialogue looks and FEELS right in animation.


  1. wow! i mean WOW !! :) ... hats off to Milt Kahl ... what I always like about this blog is your crisp and very insighful thoughts, Andreas ... this is a great learning ... thanks !!

  2. Hey Andreas, you have been consistently rocking my world, post after post. I'm so glad you're sharing your "estate" with the world. I've had the honor of geeking out with you over some of these in person and now everyone gets to geek out together!

    Thank you!!!

  3. Thank you for sharing your massive collection of animation art and drawings. Your analysis is so instructive, poignant, and so freely given that it feels like we have been given the opportunity to apprentice with you! Thank you.

  4. Gorgeous drawings. I always look forward to your Milt Kahl posts, the man was truly a genius.

  5. Dale Baer used to have some of these originals framed at his office,back in the 90s at The Baer animation company.I remember the one with Medusa pulling off the eyelashes with the extended eyelid.

  6. There is something so elusive about this particular character design that it defies description for me. Because it remains elusive while also being incredibly cohesive and precise. She may be the most "fluid" of all his designs, changing with every perspective and mood. It's a very personal vision, which is what makes it one his best...

    I have a theory that the only way to draw her completely "on model" is....to be Milt Kahl.

  7. Hi Andreas,
    I remember I told you she looked like a bag of potatos on sticks...............and you said "MASHED potatos".
    A brilliant design!

  8. By some coincidence I was pointing out this very same thing in my Character Design class this week. I'm lecturing on expression and so I showed the Milt Kahl scene of Edgar from "The Aristocats", in that scene where he's just overheard Madame making out her will to her lawyer. His reaction to learning he's going to inherit her fortune, followed by his devastation upon finding out her cats will inherit it first, makes for some very extreme expressions with impossibly wide open mouths like the ones shown here on Medusa. In reality, such an expression would only be possible if their jaws could be unhinged!

    One thing I point out, however, is that this type of extreme breaking of the rules should really be reserved for these broadly caricatured types, as to try the same thing on an attractive leading male or female would only result in them appearing ridiculous to the point of being grotesque. Though I agree that expressions should be pushed in animation, the trick is having the good judgment to know how far you can go on a particular character. (In the class, I contrast Edgar's expressions with those of the elegant Madame Bonfamille in the same sequence, a much more subtle performance even though also animated by Kahl.)

  9. Hi to anyone who is reading this and would like to help? :D
    I'm loving this blog – so much precious insight! I'm learning so much from it!

    Just a question: If I wanted to try a little bit of classic, hand drawn animation Disney style (something fun to work on in my spare time, nothing professional at all :D), what should I do? Draw draw draw? I've been looking at the Disney way of drawing. I think I understand how to simplify and do the "character," "background," and the "frame by frame" aspects. However, I have no clue what I could use for the character cels and color, and what would be the best way to capture the picture...

    I'm just really curious and want to try my hand at it :D Any advice would be awesome! Thanks!

  10. More, more MORE! <--(In that phrase I would emphasize with the last one ;))
    More Meduma comments-posts please!! Thank you!

  11. It's amazing how far you can push something and have it work. I know I don't do that nearly enough in my own work. I think I'll have to try to go for more exaggeration and just correct it after if it looks too rubbery. Medusa is definitely a character that has grown on me the more I see of her still images and the more I know the technique.

    KY - If you haven't already I'd recommend looking at Walt Stanchfield. He really breaks down the important parts of the drawing.

  12. Thanks, Julie :D Definitely will!