Friday, July 5, 2013

Drawing Lions

…not at the zoo, but in the office!
Before production began on Lion King, the studio came up with a great training program on how to draw the animals that would appear as characters in the movie. We sketched at the LA zoo, spent a day at Shambala, Tippi Hedren's Big Cat Reserve and went down to visit the beautiful San Diego zoo.
All that was very helpful, but you can only get so close to wild animals when you draw them in their enclosures. So we all got psyched when it was announced that we would have the opportunity to draw real lions in one of our conference rooms. What a thrill!
The animals came from a ranch near Los Angeles, where they focused on training a variety of creatures for work in movies, commercials and music videos.
It was an amazing experience to see the lions up close in our environment. 

To get us started we were presented with a lion cub first. "Aaahhhhh" everybody went. "How adorable!"
Huge paws, fun to draw.

The room became quiet when this young female came around the corner to take the stage. She was definitely checking us out. Nothing feminin about a lioness, she was muscle packed.
As you know, in the wild the females do the hunting, so they need to be strong and powerful.

We all gasped when this seven year old male showed up. "He's been fed, right?" somebody asked.
His name was Joseph, and he was gigantic. Apparently he had been in a Michael Jackson music video. Joseph didn't give us his moonwalk impression though, we were just fascinated by his presence. Everything is about weight with a large cat like this one, from lifting his head to moving a paw, everything looks heavy.

A group photo with Joseph, his handler, animal expert Jim Fowler and the film's directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers.

The group sketching away. Sometimes we were charmed, other times the lions took our breath away.

That's Jeffrey Katzenberg, at a safe distance, but across the safety line!!

A few pages with some of my lion sketches.

Since I was the lucky guy to be cast on the villain Scar, I studied films and photos of voice actor Jeremy Irons. I thought that there was something in his facial features I could apply to the design of Scar. Dark circles under his eyes and distinctive mouth shapes.
This was the first drawing I made, and I think he starts to look like Irons, but there is also some Jafar leftover.  That needed to go.

The one adjustment I made was adding cheek hair. It just looked better against his black mane.

Various model sheets showing basic anatomy, the design of his mane and clean up keys from a dialogue scene: "I despise guessing games".

Jeremy Irons really is one of the great actors of our time. The way he shaped Scar's character was astonishing to witness. He brought intelligence, humor and pure evil to the part. And he could make any written dialogue sound great. I have said this before, if Jeremy reads the commissary menu, I'd want to animate that.


  1. That was so fascinating post.

    And incredible pthotos and sketches. It was like which makes female lion more feminin was the eyes. Definitely some womans got those kind of eyes. :D

    And male lion´s eyes looks just so kind, how that kitty could be dangerous.

    So awesome keys also there I like that how eyes direction goes and face stretching just a little and end expression is so great.
    There you can´t just avoid to see eyes and eyebrowns. And character think and feel something there. :)

    Thanks for sharing these.

  2. Very impressive
    Very Funny:Not a long time ago I watched the Lion King(Blu ray) backstage. At a moment Jim Fowler asks Jeffrey Katzenberg to come to see the lions. Jeffrey catches you and says "Andreas too, tasty, european blood". Maybe I miss something. Sorry for my bad english.

  3. Inspiring stuff Deja! Its always great to see how the creative process works and how iconic characters are created.

  4. Those are Milt Kahl quality drawings there. They remind me very much of the precise design work and animation of Shere Kahn particularly. Masterful stuff!

  5. thanks.

    its funny,i had just got ready to watch the lion king right now,really :)

  6. Simply amazing. You have such talent at drawing animals!! I own an autographed copy of your book A Different Stripe (yay!) and I will say that the sketches in there are some of the best I have seen. A lot of life and personality.

    Indeed Scar has a lot of Jeremy Iron in him, but I find that I can recognize a lot of you in both Scar and Jafar.

    The Lion King is THE movie that brought me to be an animator. It is one of my all time favorites. It is great to see some behind the scene. Brilliant post,

    Thank you!


    1. ''The Lion King is THE movie that brought me to be an animator. It is one of my all time favorites. It is great to see some behind the scene''.

      Me too. It's one of the animated movies that i seen the most with Don Bluth and Tex Avery movies. It's motivate me for draw a lot in the hope to become an 2d animator one day.
      I love these sketches of lions and Scar.

  7. These are some photos of lions you uploaded on to this post. I would have to say that including more information about Scar and including rough designs of that character makes you too good to be true.

  8. The sketches are so beautiful. Intriguingly, Scar without cheek hair makes Scar with cheek hair look youthful when the sketches of both are next to each other. Thank you for sharing the experience and pictures! :)

    Also I want to share a video I've enjoyed watching for a couple of years. A Disney fan took video clips from The Lion King and a song called "The Hole in an Elephant's Bottom" (sung by Jeremy Irons in some interview) and made a video of Scar singing the song.
    Here's the link to the video:

    1. Hilarious! Too bad the live clip with Jeremy has been removed.

    2. That was great lipsynced :D That seems to be in "Inside the Actors Studio"

  9. I remember seeing the lion visit from a behind-the-scenes feature - so envious! And thanks for the Scar drawings; he's my favorite villain for so many reasons. :D

  10. You definitely captured Mr. Irons' expression in Scar.

  11. When the Lion King came out I was in the 8th Grade. I bought the art of book (which I wish I still had in my possession) and taught myself to draw by copying all of the artwork in that book!
    Scar was by far my favorite character to draw. Especially the shot from the beginning of him dangling the mouse! His lines are just SO expressive and indicative of his character.

    I would put Scar up there along with Robin Hood (Stork disguise)and Captain Hook as one of the biggest inspirations that drove me to become an animator!

    So THANK YOU Andreas!

  12. Scar is my personal vote for the greatest Disney villain.

    Just look at that field of legendary talent behind the safety line! I immediately recognize Andreas, Ruben Aquino, Nik Ranieri, and (I think) Tony Fucile. He's the guy in the back with the cap on, right?

    Arguably the best article you've posted to your blog. Wonderful, inspiring stuff. Thank you yet again, Andreas! :)

  13. Wow! This has got to be one of your best posts!
    Nobody can draw a big cat quite like you can.
    Also, I briefly met Richard Williams a week or so ago, and he spoke very highly of you

  14. This just brings back memories. When I was a kid I would watch Aladdin on video every day, and I remember one of the commercial thing before it begun was a behind a scenes for The Lion King. I remember seeing a scene of all the artist drawings the lions, like the photos you posted. I was awed as a child and I am still impressed today.

    Those scar drawings are super rad!

    Your blog is super inspiring to me and I enjoy reading your posts and looking at such amazing work. Thanks so much. You're awesome!

  15. Hi Andreas!

    What was your favorite scene with Scar to animate? I'm thinking maybe "Be Prepared?" that is definitely the sequence I am the most obsessed with... I love his Freddy Mercury-esque two step as he says the line "tiptoeing"

  16. first time i saw how Disney works..this is really awesome and inspiring.

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  18. Beautiful lion sketches! Thanks for posting them, and the pics/info about Scar. I think I've got one of your original production drawings from that Clean-Up Model Sheet. I've always thought it likely to be a key drawing, but wasn't sure. If you get a chance, here's a link to the drawing. I'd love to know for sure if it really is one of your drawings. I'm a huge fan!

    1. Sorry about my late reply.
      The drawing looks like an original clean up in-between. If it was a key, the number would be circled.

    2. Thank you SO MUCH for the reply! That is really helpful. I'm sorry for my reply being so late as well. I just found your answer. So, is this the pic in this link below a key drawing, since the number is circled? Or is it something different? It's not cleaned up, and I don't recognize this pose. It must be from a sequence that didn't make it into the film...? Thanks again for your help.