Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Early Mama Odie

When designing a new character, it is entirely possible to get off to a false start.
And that's no big deal, as long as you haven't fallen in love with your first attempt.
I almost did this with Mama Odie, before we started production on "Princess & the Frog".
The directors Ron Clements and John Musker had given me some ideas about her character and her role in the film. And they were great :
Mama Odie is 197 years old, she is blind and has a seeing eye snake.
Her home is a boat that got stuck in a tree after a storm.
She is the one who can help the lead characters to return to their human form.

These are sketches I made right after the briefing. It was fun to get started on such an eccentric character, and after a while drawing her became easy and very enjoyable. I got to a point where I thought, this might be the character.
When I showed these sketches to Ron and John, their response was positive, but they pointed out a few things I had missed.
At an age of 197 there had to be a way to show bony limbs, she needed dark glasses (I had avoided them in fear of not being able to show emotional change) and she should be a lot shorter. So I visited our story guys Paul Briggs and Toby Shelton, who were working on Mama Odie sequences. Their story sketches showed an older looking character with a twisted sense of homor. I liked how they drew her, and I was able to use that concept for the final design.



  1. Mama Odie had just the right amount of appeal and repulsiveness- all that flabby skin bouncing around. Great stuff as always.

  2. Such fantastic sketches. Would love to see your work on Gaston.

  3. Mama Odie was my favorite character in the film. I wish she had been introduced earlier to set her up for the future of the story. She brought well-needed life when she entered the movie. Great animation.

  4. I loved Mama Odie in the film! One of my favorite characters. It's awesome seeing your early designs of her. Very nice and fluid lines. Great stuff!

  5. Mama Odie is AWESOME! I wish I could have seen more of her in the movie though – anyone agree? A Mama Odie/Dr. Facilier showdown would have been amazing, but I guess that wouldn't have fit in the plot so well...
    These sketches are beautiful. Very eccentric :D But I liked how you changed to sunglasses and bony arms and legs in the end.
    I second Victor's comment up there – do you have any Gaston sketches lying around? Or Scar's too :D
    ~A very happy Disney fan

  6. Thanks for showing the development stages of Mama Odie. I also enjoyed Juju the snake. It's a kick to see Juju popping out of nowhere and putting two drops of Tabasco in the gumbo.


    It must have been a joy to work with Jenifer Lewis' voice tracks.

  7. Sorry to say that again, but what are those wrinkles at the left side of every animation drawing?

  8. I love Mama Odie! Her version in the film is perfect, but I can see how you might have fallen in love with the early sketches - there's a lot going on in that face! Marvelous work!

  9. I will show some development art for Gaston and Scar later.
    Matthew, I honestly didn't know if your question was serious. Since you repeated it though...those wrinkles appear on animation drawings, because the artist flips several drawings back and forth to check the fluidity of motion.

  10. Wonderful insight into Mama Odie!

  11. I really liked Mama Odie. But to be honest. I believe that flesh on the arms would have worked sooo well on her. And would have made her even more memorable! Think of all the cool funny stuff that could have been done with them. It reminds me a lot of my grandmother. Mix those arms with the final Mama Odie and it would have been more perfect! I really like that hair too!Cant wait to see Scar's early concepts!

  12. Seeing how a character design comes to life is an absolute wonder in itself.