Saturday, March 3, 2012

Kathryn Beaumont




Her full name is Kathryn Beaumont Levine, and her friends call her Kathy.
I am very proud to be one of them. We recently got together to take a look at some animation roughs of the character of Alice from "Alice in Wonderland".
Many of you know that Kathryn gave her voice as well as live action reference to two iconic Disney characters, Alice and Wendy from "Peter Pan". We had a lot of fun studying the drawings, they instantly brought back memories of certain sequences, and how involved the live action filming was way back on a soundstage of the Burbank Disney Studio lot.

Because the situations Alice finds herself in are often surreal, the performance in front of the camera required almost acrobatic skills. Young Kathryn had to fall -attached to a harness- into Wonderland, she moved around sitting inside a miniature house and played croquet with an imagined flamingo.
I asked her if there was ever a moment when she was scared or felt unsafe. "Never" was the short answer.
She remembered that Milt Kahl showed her how rough animation was coming along, based on her performances. It was also Milt who invited Kathryn and her mother to spend their first  American Thanksgiving with his family. "That was a lot of fun" she recalls, "at the studio I worked with adults only, so it was nice to spend time with Milt's children Sybil and Peter, who were roughly my age."
Another interesting recollection came up about her costume for the filming.
Marc Davis wasn't satisfied with the way it was fabricated. The color was all wrong. Since the photostats were later printed in black & white,  only a certain grey would be beneficial for motion study. And the material was too light, so the dress had to be re done with a weightier fabric.
I find all those stories fascinating, and there isn't a lovelier person than Kathy to talk to about those magical Disney years.

I hope you'll enjoy the photos and the artwork.











Photos by Roger Viloria




Kathryn's adventures on the soundstage.



Milt Kahl shows a guest a gorgeous Alice drawing from one of his scenes.



Kathryn is examining Milt's work.



Don DaGradi, Milt, Kathryn and Clyde Geronimi reviewing a story board.



Kathryn with Milt Kahl and Ken Anderson on the set.



Time to visit Marc Davis and see what he is doing.



Milt Kahl draws over photo stats. For close ups: Keep the size of the head and shrink the body.
For long shots: Keep the size of the body and enlarge the head.
Makes sense to me.
More Milt drawings following:




Marc Davis





Ollie Johnston





Walt and Kathryn looking at Mary Blair's work for "Alice in Wonderland"

42 comments:

  1. This is too cool!! I love the picture of Kathryn in that bottle prop. Getting to see all these images its like I don't know where to look first. Thanks for posting.

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  2. These are (of course) gorgeous! They're the original drawings? Are they Mrs. Beaumont Levine's, or are they part of your collection? Or were you able to study them because of your position at the studio?
    I read somewhere that any animator at the studio can access the archives and study a Fred Moore scene, or a Milt Kahl drawing, or what have you. Is that really true? It sounds unbelievable to me!

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    1. These are rough animation drawings, and they are from my collection.
      And yes, the archives are a great place to study.

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  4. I also noticed those vivid Mary Blair color key pillows behind you two on the couch. Cool Pics, looks like you all had a blast. Great post.

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  5. Critics may criticize to their hearts' content, but Alice in Wonderland has always been, and likely will remain, my favorite animated Disney film, alongside The Sword in the Stone. Alice has always been my favorite Disney heroine, and when I was a kid, I dreamed about meeting Kathryn Beaumont. At the time, I thought it was impossible, but if there's one thing I've learned since I've grown, it's "never say never."

    I met Kathryn Beaumont at the same location where I met you, Andreas! The Walt Disney Family Museum, in San Francisco. (On a side note, I met you alongside Floyd Norman and Don Iwerks. Yes, the Dalmatians lecture.) I've been lucky enough to meet quite a few Disney luminaries, but I stuttered when I met Mrs. Beaumont. How about that--a stuttering, rotund 24-year-old meeting a childhood hero.

    But she wasn't annoyed, and she was very, very kind to me. I had forgotten to bring what I really wanted her to sign [self-kick], so my girlfriend hastily bought me a My Little Golden Book of Alice in Wonderland. Kathryn did sign that, as pictured in the link below.

    img.photobucket.com/albums/v208/DingleDootie/KathrynBeaumontsAutograph.png

    Sorry for rambling, but I just felt the urge to share. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, and I still feel very, very fortunate to have had such an opportunity.

    Andreas, thanks a lot for running this blog. I visit every single week, and it's such a blast to go through. You rock!

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  6. Awww what lovely souvenirs. I think to be a part of a family on an animation production like those back in the day must have been so much fun....
    I also find that Milt comment about head and body sizes reeeaalllly interesting! :)
    Thanks again

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  7. I never got my shot at being an animator at Disney, being born to late to the game. I love reading your blog Andreas, but it kills me when I think it's all over being a hand drawn animator at Disney, I'll never get my shot!!!

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    1. You never know what's going to happen in the future.
      When I started at Disney way back, the future looked pretty grim.
      And look what happened!

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  8. Wonderful post Andreas! Really a treat to read about these times 'behind the scenes' at the studio. And it's great to see Milt's,Marc's and Ollie's drawings of the same character side by side like this. Thanks!

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  9. What an extraordinary post, Andreas. Thank you. I've always been attached to Kathryn Beaumont's performance as "Alice." Her reading goes beyond what usually was done for the voice overs, a real character shone through. As Wendy, her voice is just sterling and delightful to listen to, but as Alice she creates a complicated character.

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  10. Wow! What a great collection of Alice stuff!! Just Fantastic. If you've ever tried to animate her on model, it's a tough challenge. Even just one drawing!! Milt and Marc made it look so easy. Thanks again, for sharing this great reference with us!! Keep up the good work.

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  11. Nice Post Andreas....Sweet memories!!!

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  12. What a great post! Thanks, Andreas. Milt has a scribbly sheet of paper on his clipboard--I have the same thing, to dull off my pencil tips for doing roughs, so I don't gouge the paper up. I wonder if that's the same reason he had that sheet? Also, Davis's studies with the eyes and nose arcs--educational for sure.

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  13. Whoa! I love "Kathy" so much! Wendy is definately one of my favorite characters. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful pictures. What a legend.

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  14. Great drawings! And I really love her smile :D About how old was she during Alice in Wonderland?

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    1. Kathryn was ten years old when she started on "Alice".

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  15. These are beautiful! She played two amazing roles, and Wendy has always been my favorite character. Thank you so much for posting these! Could we possibly see some of Wendy as well?

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  16. Excellent post! Alice in Wonderland is my favorite Disney film of all time, partly due to Kathryn Beaumont's brilliant performance as Alice. She really brought the character to life. It's also interesting to see how Milt, Marc, and Ollie's drawings differ from one another.

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  18. A fantastic and fascinating post! thank you for sharing.
    Are there any video footage of the sound stage acting?

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    1. As far as I know very little.
      Check the bonus material on the "Alice" DVD and Blu Ray.

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  19. I love the embedded lesson on using live-action reference. SO SMART- drawing over the photo, using the volume for reference but maintain the character... Thank you for posting!

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  20. Andreas it is a real pleasure to be able to view your blog! So many fascinating stories and wonderful art work, I wonder with all the information you are "snatching" up and your approach to the medium, that we will one day see you start your own animation studio? To bring about a hand drawn animation renaissance, disney articulation for a new era.

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    1. I am sort of my own animation studio for the time being.
      I love your phrase that should be our future goal:
      Disney articulation for a new era.
      Let's go!!

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  21. Absolutely unique and delicious post, Andreas!
    Big thanks again!

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  22. Fantastic, Andreas! My favorite post yet. Thank you for sharing this with us!

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  23. I am so happy to see these sketches there awesome, I do wonder though if the animators could do the same quality with out the live action rotoscopping, it kind of troubles you to see every thing so heavily referenced. I agree Animation fan, I always wanted to try out for Disney too, I got accepted into Sheridan College in the late 90s at the time it was about a 4% acceptance rate, I can do photo realistic portraits that aren't stiff, figure drawing was my best class, and I had been animating flip books since the second grade. I also can draw most things from imagination. I would like to know if Disney will ever hire again.

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    1. Send your best work to Disney for comment. (No photo realism though).
      There are still internships for a variety of categories.

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  24. thanks for sharing! you are really lucky :)

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  25. Hi Andreas,
    So glad I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Kathryn on your Christmas party,a few years ago!
    A wonderful person indeed!
    Great to compare how the different animators drew her,must have been quit a challenge to keep her on model(especially her nose).
    I never understood why in the all the later Disney films they decided to make the eyes so big in comparison to the face.
    Very lively pictures of you and Kathryn!Well done Roger!!

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  26. Hi Andreas,
    Das sind wirklich schöne Fotos und Kathy macht einen sehr sympathischen Eindruck :-)

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  27. I find it amazing how consistent each animator keeps the look of the Alice character. A professional can keep a character 'on model', but for myself, if you were to line up all these drawings of Alice next to each other and remove the names of the animators, I couldn't tell them apart!

    Andreas, can an expert animator like yourself be able to tell who drew Alice just from looking at the drawing itself? Are there subtle differences that identify who drew it?

    Amazing article. Thanks for posting it! :)

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    1. I can only tell different drawing/animation styles apart because I spent time studying the work of classic animators.
      In the case of Alice they all do look pretty close, because all three animators were terrific draughtsman.

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  29. Thaaanks!!!
    Your blog is a mix, between art, history, masterclasses...!!!
    8^)

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  30. Hi Andreas
    Ive been looking for a contact for Kathryn Beaumont or her agent to send her a message and get an autograph. Do you know where or how I can get this?? Can you help?? Ive been a fan of Alice in Wonderland since a child, the sense of imagination and the idea of a world you can escape too is a true inspiration! I even have an Alice in Wonderland inspired Bathroom!!
    If you could let me know that would be great! julietwydell@hotmail.co.uk

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  31. I'm so glad to know that she's still alive!!! I've been trying to get in contact with her for an interview :0-}

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  32. I've just watched both Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan and decided to Google about Kathryn Beaumont. Wonderful article. Sounds like she's having a wonderful life. Glad to see positive stories about child stars. My absolute favorite line of hers in a film was when's she's leaving the follower garden and says "You can learn a lot of things from the flowers... Huh! Seems to me they could learn a few things about manners!" I agreed! LOL

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  33. Thanks for sharing this Andreas, I'm really enjoying this board and enjoyed meeting you at the Marc Davis pre-release event in Burbank this past July. You are a great inspiration and an awesome teacher - I've learned so much more about animation here. From our conversations at the Marc Davis book event I've written about you and your relationship with Milt in my new book on Walt Disney that comes out this Halloween. How Lucky you were to have been able to know Milt and so many of Walt's "nine old men." I only got to meet and know a few of them, but cherish my memories of their stories of the early days of animation and working with Walt Disney - some of these interviews are also in my new book. Thanks again, I hope to see you again soon, Michael.

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