Wednesday, March 13, 2013


That's animator Art Babbitt animating a close up scene with toymaker Geppetto from the Disney classic Pinocchio. 
I had the chance to meet Art when he was still working for Dick Williams on The Thief and the Cobbler. He didn't mind talking about his Disney years and his strained relationship with Walt.
I remember him saying that after he left Disney he never again animated a character with so much warmth like Geppetto. He felt it was one of the best things he ever did.
I would agree, the level of depth Babbitt was able to inject into the character's acting is astounding.
Geppetto just loves this wooden puppet that came to life, and when he looses Pinocchio, his whole world seems to fall apart. But he still has enough hope and searches on to find his "son".
A real high in character animation.

Below is storyboard like panel which also shows frames from the animators' pencil tests.
Whenever the character drawing is transparent and you see the layout shining through, you are looking at rough animation. 
These Geppetto scenes were animated by Art.

During early design stages Fred Moore helped out with beautiful drawings like these.

More rough exploratory sketches by Fred and probably Art as well.

After clean up artists did their magic you end up with refined drawings like these. 
The feeling of real volume is unbelievable. There is a thickness in the vest, the shirt and the apron.
And look at the subtle squash on the two fingers holding the string. Just beautiful!

For much more on Art Babbitt's animated life go to Jake Friedman's outstanding blog:


  1. wow those drawings have so much appeal in them.

  2. "And look at the subtle squash on the two fingers holding the string. Just beautiful!"

    The best animated film of all time in my opinion(despite the disturbing Lampwick scene). A level of quality that will never be matched!

  3. Mr. Deja, I always find your posts so refreshing, inspiring, informative..They're delightful ! Thanks for posting!

    1. Thanks!
      I really enjoy doing this blog, because this art form is very important to me, and it looks like it inspires many of you.

  4. I really love his absent minded humor in the film. The "I wonder what time it is" line after all the clocks go off. and the "no, you're dead, pinocchio" at the end. also his playfull nature when he has Pinocchio kick Figaro as a puppet. Great stuff..Do you have any reference photos from the voice talent?. I hear he looked just like geppetto.

    1. I'll try and find Geppetto photo reference.

    2. The voice artist and model was Christian Rub, a character actor who appeared in many films of the 30s.

      They had originally cast another actor, who specialised in grouchy old men with hearts of gold, if I recall - forget his name. They did some test animation, but it turned out too grouchy and lacked the gold heart. So all that got thrown out and they started again, with Rub.

      (Reported in "The Illusion of Life", I think.)

    3. The original actor was called Spencer Charters. I think I'm right in saying that both he and Christian (or is it Christien?) Rub had cameos in "Mr Deeds Goes To Town" - Charters briefly appears early on, as the unhelpful station master met by the lawyers when they first arrive in 'hicksville' to find Deeds, and Rub has a slightly larger part as one of the men applying for Deeds' offer of a helping hand, towards the end of the film.

      Without for a moment belittling the beautiful job Art Babbit does with Geppetto, a lot of the warmth is in the reworking of the character when they decided to go with Rub's gentle, simple screen persona. The whole concept of the character, from dialogue to mannerisms, was completely rebuilt in the storyroom.

      I think Pinocchio must have had more care and thought poured into it than any subsequent Disney feature - and it shows!

  5. Thanks for posting these drawings, this is one of my favourite scenes from the old Disney! Geppetto is made so believable person here. I understand Art Babbit's pride for this wonderful work.

    I guess this scene is exceptional in every other part as well - there is the famous Eric Larson's animation of Figaro, and the cutest fish ever animated. As far as I digged out, Cleo was animated by Don Lusk, who also made a few other notable fish in other Disney's films, and who's going to have his 100th birthday this year. Have you ever meet Don Lusk, and could you also make one post about him?

    The other exceptional thing in this sequence is the quality and mastership of ink and paint - sometimes I watched it frame by frame to notice how the shading and motion blur are painted there. If any scene was to be presented as an example of handdrawn animation superiority, this is the one!

  6. It's amazing how a person can put so much life in a drawing. It shows real dedication and feeling to animation.

  7. The wonderful character animation in Pinocchio and its well developed story is why it shall forever remain one of my favorite Disney films.

  8. Hey, Andreas. I just want to thank you for sharing this amazing blog as well as your terrific insights with everyone. It is always such a great inspiration to me personally as an aspiring student animator. Looking forward to Mushka!
    many thanks again!- Nick

  9. Art Babbitt's favorite character he's animated! LOVE IT!