Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Duke

Continuing on with posts about Cinderella, here are some marvelous drawings of the Duke by Milt Kahl. 
Milt animated this character along with the King during the ball sequence. 
In an earlier part of the film Norm Ferguson and Woolie Reitherman animated the introduction of the Duke and the King.
Milt was dissatisfied with the way they were drawn by these two animators, so he redrew the main animation keys for the whole sequence over a couple of weekends.
You've got to give it to Milt, he did always put his pencil where his mouth was. So this guaranteed model consistency, even though the motion still differs quite a bit from how Milt handled his more fluid animation of these characters on the ballroom's balcony.
Frank Thomas animated a small section after the ball with the Duke, in which he rehearses his announcement to the King that the "girl" has vanished. Those scenes are simply brilliantly acted out.
His utter fear and frustration when he can't bring himself to knock on the King's bedroom door, great stuff!

Milt did these model drawings for Frank to explain the graphic components of the character.
A straight line for his back to contrast the curved belly. The two head doodles on the right show how the Duke's double chin reacts in certain positions.
That's Frank's handwriting on the lower right.

These are copies of some of Milt's actual animation drawings. They show vitality, clarity and…oh yes, insane draughtsmanship. Just look at those hands! 
Any of these poses is super rich with personality. The Duke's scene balancing the monocle on his fingers is one of those Kahl tour de force performances.

During an interview from the early 1980ies Milt remarked that these two characters lacked depth, and that Walt would probably agree. Although he felt that they worked ok enough for supporting the film's storyline.


  1. Hi Andreas! I'm Lola and I'm 16 years old, and I read your blog almost everyday :) I aspire to be an Disney animator in the future, I'm already building up my portfolio with sketches and drawings. I've never really made an actual animation, I don't really know how to start :S but I had a question for you: what kind of pencil do you prefer to use when sketching or animating? I've got a set of different pencils, very soft and very hard ones, but which one is the best to make sketches with? Love your drawings by the way! You're my idol really, because you come from Europe too(I'm Dutch) and you've actually made it to the USA! I really really really hope to meet you one day (perhaps in a collaboration in the Disney studios :) haha!).
    Greetings from Lola

    1. Lola, just use the pencils you feel comfortable with. I use soft ones, they seem to work better for fluid lines.
      Take drawing classes if you can. Life drawing is very important to animation as well as drawing animals at the zoo.
      Draw a lot and have fun !!

  2. super cool! you can really see with the duke how milt was getting a more graphical sense of design at that point.

  3. More cool stuff!

    It's interesting that Milt was allowed to re-draw Reitherman and Ferguson's work. Did he have more authority than the other animators, or did they just indulge him?

    1. When it came to drawing standards Milt was THE authority.
      Ever since Pinocchio Walt counted on him for design and drawing quality control.

  4. I just love all of Milt's hands.Sometimes he tends to draw the forearms a little short in relation to the hand size...but when your hands look that good, who cares?
    Thanks for sharing these!!

  5. Now that the Duke isn't having a nervous fit or twirling his monocle, I can really admire his wonderful character design. Although, any reason why his legs are missing in the last image? ';)

    1. This scene starts out as a close up of the Duke, then the camera moves south to the King. The cel of the Duke you see here is from his close up, when there was no need to show his legs yet.

  6. Beeindruckend mit welcher Leichtigkeit er offensichtlich Hände zeichnen konnte.
    Gerade auf dem vorletzten Bild links sind sie einfach perfekt geworden.