Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Wizard's Duel



The Wizard's duel sequence is a part of "The Sword in the Stone", the movie that edged out Chanticleer in the early 1960ies.
This brilliant sequence is the brainchild of story man Bill Peet, who boarded the entire film by himself. Peet started out by doodling character situations and dialogue ideas on note paper sheets.
After polishing the continuity with endless beautiful story sketches, it was up to Milt Kahl to take a look at  Bill's boards as an inspiration for final animation designs.
As so often the combined talents of these two extraordinary men produced some very inspired situations and great looking characters.
The image above is one of my favorite Kahl drawings. You see Peet's influence in the staging, but Picasso is sneaking in, too. Look at the croc's hands, fantastic!




These early sketches show Bill Peet's brain at work. He is a master of personality development.
Check out the written list of animals Merlin and Mim could turn into to best oppose each other.
Below are some of his story sketches. As you can imagine, the animators couldn't wait to work on such a sequence that was ideal for the medium.


The following color model sketches by Milt Kahl are stunning.
There are a few animal designs that didn't make the final cut, my favorite is the Mim stork. That's a character  I would love to animate. 
As usual Milt's draughtsmanship takes the material to another level. Ironically he did not animate on the sequence. When asked what he thought about the final result in the film, he just commented: "As so often, when work leaves my desk, gravity gets a hold of it."
I respectfully disagree. The sequence remains one of the highlights of the film.















35 comments:

  1. It's amazing that the personalities are so clear even though they are different character designs as animals instead of humans. You can always tell which one is Mim because of her personality and colors and you can always tell Merlin because of his big mustache and eyebrows.
    :D

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  2. Such beautiful drawings! It goes without saying that this sequence is one of my favourites in the film and the film in general is one of my favourites in the Disney catalogue. It's just pure fun.

    Thanks for the insights into this stuff Andreas, it's fascinating :D

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  3. Here are more of eet's drawings on the canary paper:
    http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/?p=1484

    and here are Bill Peet's storyboard drawings for this sequence:
    http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/?p=1493

    This is a greeat sequence combining the talents of Bill Peet, Milt Kahl and Frank Thomas.

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    1. Thanks for the link, Michael.
      Even though Milt objected to some of the animation in the sequence (many animators worked on it), he adored Frank's squirrel section. Had nothing but praise for it.

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  4. Andreas, I just saw this film for the first time yesterday. It's a good thing that I just watched it before you made a post about it.

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  5. Arguably the most funny & entertaining sequences in any Disney animated film ever. Bill Peet & Milt Kahl made quite a team! I think this is your best post yet. I love every single drawing posted here, and could study them for hours on end.

    Andreas, I was curious if you knew how much footage per week someome like Milt Kahl could produce? I had read an Eric Goldberg interview some time back where he said animator Ken Harris was punching out 30 feet a week at age 80! I was curious how that compared to the likes of Milt, Frank, Ollie, etc.

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    1. It varied. Frank Thomas claimed he did 30 feet a week on Ichabod's ride through the forest. Maybe even more.
      On the later features Ollie was the fastest with about 20 feet a week or more. Milt said he could have been so much faster if it wasn't for the fact that he needed to help everybody with drawings.

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  6. Thankyou so much for posting this! As a child I thought it was very entertaining I couldnt stop lauging..but as an animator I was blown away for diferent reasons. the staging, acting, direction - and layout are all unparalelled- For me Sword in the stone contains the greatest character animation ever done - so many marvels such as the squirrel sequence and the acting is so natural and full of charm. This sequence being one of the highlights. Thankyou so much Mr.Deja for posting this ten times over!

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    1. You and Milt Kahl see eye to eye. He thought Sword in the Stone was a high in Disney animation. Not many people share that opinion.

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  7. I will forever love you for this post !!
    as much as I love that final clean-rough lines of the 60s

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  8. These are so Awesome. The evil Madam mim hen, and the scruffy Merlin dog I really dig. My favorite sequence too, I love how each animal is a funny caricature of the character. Truly the best. The loose and lively Bill Peet sketches and Brainstorming are priceless.

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  9. I love them all and what a great sequence. Milt is great in getting the true essence of that character to show through in each form. Madam Mims long snidey smile comes through in each animal. Great!

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  10. Simply fantastic - it's great to see so much more behind-the-scenes stuff on this top Disney scene. Now THIS is the stuff of pure, fun imagination :D

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  11. These are great, thanks for sharing. Do you have any idea how they colored the drawings?

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    1. Here is the process: M. Kahl drew these sketches on paper. Then they were xeroxed on to cels and painted on the back at the Ink & Paint department.
      The old fashioned way.

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  12. Funny, I was JUST showing my little sister this scene today – she loved it! :D One of the greatest and wittiest (story-wise and visual-wise) wizard duels ever!

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  13. Love it, love it, love it! More Bill Peet please!

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  14. Funny you post this, as I had recently watched this film for the first time in *ages*. This scene loomed large in my memory, though; as a kid, I thought it was about the most clever thing I had ever seen. The concept itself is genius, and they executed it perfectly.

    I love the image of Merlin and the gator at the top of the post. What's most funny to me is where his eyes are pointing - not making eye contact with Mim, but looking straight down her throat. I've also always been slightly mesmerized with how perfectly they manage to caricature alligators/crocodiles. There's something so compelling about the way they did them.

    On the subject of Chanticleer - I don't know what the real reason for shelving it was, but if Walt really felt that chickens couldn't be appealing it's a rare time that I disagree with him. Marc Davis could make pretty much anything appealing.

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    1. Walt probably suffered from alektorophobia. For those poor people not even a Marc Davis drawing of a chicken will ever be appealing :)

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  15. This post helps me to understand better the teamwork aspect in making an animated film.

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  16. The Sword in the Stone has always been one of my favorite Disney animated features. I love that you show us the original sketches and that there could have been more to the duel!

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  17. So tolle Bilder!! Ich hab die Sequenz als Kind geliebt. Das erste Bild ist ja der Wahnsinn! Danke.

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  18. Good ideas! I like the way you express your idea and the topic you choose. KEep on your sharing! I appreciate it.montana florist

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  19. Yes the Wizard's duel! Not my favorite Disney film, but definitely my favorite scene in any Disney film! Creative, clever, funny. Love the concept art on this one!

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  20. Great stuff, Andreas! I could stare at that all day!
    What a great blog- keep it up!
    Frans Vischer

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  21. It's wonderful to see the creative process of something so mythical. Thanks Andreas! Shared on my creative process page...

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  22. This is wonderful art Andreas, this is the movie that wanted me to become an animator, in my humble view this is my all time Disney favorite, the design, staging, flow ec.. The wizards fight and the squirrel seq among my favorite bits of the movie. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  23. I didn't know they colored some model sheet before the drawings was put on cels using the Xerox. I wonder which is the medium to give the colors such bright tints. Is it regular paint? It seems highlighted! Mim as a stork is amazing! A sinister version of the Aracuan bird. Do you think some Jabberwocky concept from Alice in Wonderland was used as a reference here (expecially for the dragon and the serpent)?

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  24. I love the image of Merlin and the gator at the top of the post. What's most funny to me is where his eyes are pointing - not making eye contact with Mim, but looking straight down her throat. I've also always been slightly mesmerized with how perfectly they manage to caricature alligators/crocodiles. There's something so compelling about the way they did them.Cheap Beats Headphones

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  25. I love seeing this side of the greats and the sense of hummer they had. They had to be some of the funnest people alive.

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