Thursday, January 9, 2014

Iwao Takamoto


Iwao Takamoto was an outstanding draughtsman and designer, who worked in the animation industry for decades. This photo shows him in 1945, when he just got hired by Disney Studios.
He eventually became Milt Kahl's clean up assistant, and keyed characters like Slue Foot Sue, Brom Bones, the King and Duke from Cinderella and Lady from Lady & the Tramp. During the production of Sleeping Beauty Iwao worked for Marc Davis on Aurora. Since Marc initially drew her a bit younger looking, it was up to Iwao to redraw those scenes, so they would be consistent with her final design.
In this scene Aurora is gently pushed out the door by the Three Fairies, who insist that she go into the forest to pick more berries (even though she picked berries only yesterday). I call these drawings super-designs, and Milt's influence is very evident. This is a man in search of graphic perfection.
The way angular lines work against long flowing lines is astonishing. And look at the control he had over that face with all of those subtleties.
 Aurora is holding a basket in her left hand, which would be added by an effects animator.

Iwao left Disney after Sleeping Beauty to join Hanna-Barbera, where he became one of their top designers. He passed away in 2007. His memoirs were published in 2009 and are available here:










Are we all OK with the idea that this kind of integrity and commitment to drawn feature animation is a thing of the past? I am not.

37 comments:

  1. You are not alone with your professional commitment. At least in feature animation the quality must be above everything.
    Considered the technology available in those years, the master draughtsmen achieved the impossible with this film, as well with the other films.
    However, your generation has nothing to be ashamed of :)

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  2. These drawings are absolutely superb. There are solidly and tightly constructed, yet done so without having sacrificed a sense of delicate elegance.

    I was familiar with Mr. Takamoto from his work at Hanna-Barbera but I had no idea he also had a career at Disney. What a tremendous talent!

    Also, I agree with your sentiment about modern hand-drawn animation.The general attitude today toward that art form (both in its execution and its viability as a commercial product) is almost depressing.

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  4. Andreas, did you have a former assistant at Disney who was your Iwao Takamoto?

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    1. Kathy Bailey did most of my characters' clean up keys.
      And very well, too.

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  5. I'm not O.K. with that either.

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  6. These drawings had been presented before for many years as Marc Davis roughs. Thanks, Andreas, for showing us that these are actually Iwao's drawings over Marc's.
    Indeed, he was an amazing artist and he got Milt's style perfectly, which you can see in those drawings. I know that Milt really respected Iwao.

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  7. What about the basket? Would that have been just another layer, or would effects handle a prop like that?..thanks fer sharing these!

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  8. It's awesome that you're showcasing the work of the traditional clean-up artists - definitely an under-appreciated legacy. Thanks, Andreas!

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  9. I worked directly with Iwao for almost a year on The Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera ride for Universal Studios Florida. What a privilege that was. Even though Hanna Barbera was nearly empty then he still had his office there. I learned many things from him that year.

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  10. I believe that the deepest commitment to hand drawn animation is a thing of a future, not past! Now when most commercial production is CG, only the most dedicated people make hand drawn animation. It may be good, because only those who love hand drawn keep making it, so the quality of 2D may be better than ever.

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  11. The moment I saw it I recognized the scene. Truly beautiful. I once held it in my hands back in the fifties. Not sure of the animator because there were several doing Briar Rose. However, Iwao was an awesome draftsman. He was in a class by himself.

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  12. Wow, Andreas Deja! I can't believe this! I cannot believe that you're doing a post on Iwao Takamoto!

    THE Iwao Takamoto! The same Iwao Takamoto who later went on design Scooby-Doo for Hanna-Barbera!

    Sorry if I said it to you like that, but...I just, had, to get, my feelings out.

    Thank you very much, Andreas. Thank you for his clean-up drawings of Aurora.

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  13. The thing that amazes me about Briar Rose roughs is how sophisticated the blending of solid dimensional posing and flat graphic design is. It's as if the character is perfectly dimensional and perfect as a flat graphic at the same time. Superhero drawing. It's too bad the color styling hid all of that with self color lines. It ended up on the screen looking considerably less revolutionary than it did in pure line.

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  14. I am not ok with it but I don't think it will stay this way forever. Just as there was a resurgence in the later eighties through the nineties. I believe it will happen again maybe not at Disney but someone else.

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  15. Fabulous post!

    I think the fact that we all still value impressive art such as this is proof that the commitment and integrity are still there. What 2D animation really needs is a sponsor.

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  16. That´s not ok what Disney done with 2D, but i also believe there´s always some people who love to do traditional paper/pen animation.Well, i do. :)

    Lovely drawings. Love those hands, great reference to draw, because hands are just so hard to draw.

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  17. Not a thing of the past. Just in a dormant state. It will come back again.
    Iwao Takamoto was a great talent and draftsman. I think he's very underrated for his contributions to television animation...when it was still done in the USA.

    Not a criticism but a lot of the "pretty" females designed at Hanna-Barbera under him seemed to have a bit of bit of Princess Aurora's DNA in them. Particularly Scooby-Doo's Daphne. Just my opinion.

    A bit of trivia, not too long after his death Bruce Lee was supposed to have talks with Hanna-Barbera about an animation deal of some sort. If Bruce Lee had lived, I am certain Mr. Iwamoto would have been handling designs on that project. (Not a plug, but there's more about it on my blog: http://kicreativestudio.blogspot.jp/2012/09/bruce-lee-and-hanna-barbera-animation.html

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  18. Hi Mr. Deja we really want to contact you to extend you an invitation to be a keynote speaker in Creativa Fest, an international animation festival that is going to be held at Mexico City; we think this is a great opportunity to share your work and for young animators to learn from such a great animator. My email is: justo.n@creativastudio.mx , I hope to hear back from you!

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  19. "Are we all OK with the idea that this kind of integrity and commitment to drawn feature animation is a thing of the past? I am not."

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    I am not OK with it either . I agree that we must continue to aim high. These drawings inspire us (and also sometimes they intimidate us, too ! ) , but must not be viewed merely as "holy relics" of a Golden Age that can never be again. I'm so tired of hearing the affected world-weary attitude expressed by some in our industry (who are supposedly leaders) , usually couched in terms of a lament for what has passed : "ah, yes it was sure wonderful what they were able to do back then, but those glorious days of hand drawn animation are gone forever. So, let's just get on with business." (and yet some of the people saying stuff like that almost seem glad that hand drawn is supposedly gone forever. Isn't that odd ? Their lament about how sad it is that hand drawn has passed away becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy , over time and repetition coming to be viewed as "just the way things are", and never questioned.)

    Despite the current attitudes towards hand drawn animation in mainstream Hollywood I remain optimistic about the long-term future of hand drawn animation. It won't (and can't) be just a repeat of what once was during the Hollywood studio era, but it could be something better , which builds on that legacy. How much do we want it ? Once again I must thank you , Andreas, for continuing to inspire us and remind us of what can be accomplished with this wonderful art form. I hope that 2014 is a banner year for you with production on your own film . I know you must be busy , but I appreciate you continuing to take the time to post regularly to this blog.

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  20. I would love to work on that type of a movie and it makes me sad to think that people think it never will happen again. It has been my dream for a while to work for Disney, but if I could work for a studio that is making that type of work, I would love to work there!...

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  21. You got any plans to bring 2D back to the big screen?

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    1. Yes, my 25 min. animated film.

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    2. I was so hoping you'd say that :) I am so excited for your film!

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    3. I got all my faith in Mushka. That's the most spectacular proof that the best of 2D animation is alive. I just hope it will reach wide audiences to make a great impact!

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  22. I have an original Briar Rose drawing. Would you be able to tell if it was Marc Davis or Iwao's?

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    1. You can post a link to the drawing here, and I'll take a look.

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    2. Here are 3 shots (2 details). I also added in some Fox and the Hound drawings in case you can weigh in on them as well.

      https://www.dropbox.com/sh/cuy6nvzy904yqh2/x5fsGnipSp

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    3. Looks like a drawing from a M.Davis scene. I wouldn't know about the Fox & Hound animators.

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    4. I have a drawing from the same sequence as your teenage copper (29). It was attributed as most likely a Randy Cartwright scene possibly drawn by Dale Baer. This was from Howard Lowery galleries and Howard is insanely good at this stuff.

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  23. After watching "Frozen" today, I never thought things can go so bad with Disney, even after the bad CG films of the last few years. The film had no real story, confusing characters, bizarre turn of events, and the animation: to be clear, I love the new technology (In my view, "UP" was a pretty good film), but here such basic principles as "squash and stretch" we frequently missing, the eyes of the characters were like glass, no life in them. And these people were trained at Calarts or what? Character animation? Very low quality, all computer effects, the "artists" who worked on this film or they lack the knowledge, or they are lazy to work. I watched the film in 3D, but honestly: this was far from being quality 3D. It was only worth for "get a horse" Mickey short, that was fun, and that was truly 3D!

    I am so grateful to life that I have grown up in the 1990's, we truly had a wonderful experience back then as kids. Thank you Andreas Deja for always giving the maximum in your draughtsmanship, those emotions you created with pencil and paper we truly fantastic, and they will be fantastic forever!

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  24. You know, Andreas? I think that there will be a place for hand-drawn animation to thrive once more, right around the cusp of the dark ages of theatrical animation and the beginning of the CG era of cartoon features, but this time, it will be in the hands of the Asians, Europeans, and a large handfull of independent-minded artists in the states; John Kricfalusi, for example, is making Cans Without Labels.

    If you want to know about it, go to Kickstarter.com and look it up.

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  25. I wish there was more hand drawn animation. So many animated things are forgettable these days or are painful to look at. The talent and treasure are spent on effects, and not on story and beauty.

    In terms of Frozen, I thought it was pretty but lacked story. The humor was a bit pandering. Basically a musical for little girls to belt out. It seems to be more about creating princess dolls and less about beauty and a story.

    I have to give props for Iwao - Total animation god!

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  26. I'm not OK with it, either! I AM okay with your wonderful blog and this incredible post -- helps me greatly with my research on this film.

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  27. Oh my God !! These are INSANELY good!!!

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