Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lady & the Tramp Art

An animation colleague of mine said this about the film Lady & the Tramp: "Oh, it's just a soup opera with dogs. Boy gets girl, boy looses girl, boy gets girl in the end."
Be that as it may, I think the movie's story is compelling and in support of rich characters. I remember listening to a Walt Disney interview, in which he said this about the film: "Lady & the Tramp turned out well. We felt it, we felt the personalities."
Milt Kahl was equally fond of the film: "L & T is a good movie, I did a lot (of animation) in that. Of course the best thing in it is Eric Larson's dog, the one with the Veronica Lake hairdo...I forget her name now."
Publicity illustrations like the one above are a hit and miss, when it comes to Disney advertising art. Fully rendered, painterly versions of the characters can look cheesy when in the hands if the wrong artist. But this one is on model, and the dogs' fur is skillfully rendered. It looks charming.

Frank Thomas roughed out this composition of Lady and Jock, as they react to Tramp's presence. Their emotions couldn't be more different: Jock is annoyed with the intruder, while Lady is still reflecting on the way she was treated by Mrs Darling.
On the surface this is a very sketchy drawing, but it is very clear nonetheless. Frank's feelings on paper.

This cel represents an early version of Lady's facial appearance. Her eyes are surrounded by a lightly painted area, which was dropped for the final version. (I do recall seeing this scene as a stand out in a screening of the film way back.)

The corrected version as seen in most prints of the film.

Milt Kahl took "realistic" squash and stretch to a whole new level when he animated dialogue scenes with Trusty. His huge muzzle gave Milt the opportunity to exaggerate follow through motion as well.
You can tell, he had a ball animating this character.

Joe Grant came up with this intriguing sketch, depicting Lady and the film's evil cats Si and Am.

These cats presented a real design/animation problem. Ward Kimball started animation, but the footage turned out too zany for the film's style. Milt Kahl reset the felines' design, and animators like John Sibley, Bill Justice and Bob Carlson took care of the final animation.

A clean up model sheet of Peg (whose name escaped Milt), comprised of drawings by then clean up artist Burny Mattinson.

Animator  Ed Aardal had his hands full animating this action scene toward the end of he film. Realistic horses freaking out, beautifully executed.

A color study for the romantic sequence by Eyvind Earle.

And a gorgeous background from the opening sequence, I believe painted by Claude Coats.
Movies like Lady & the Tamp seem to age beautifully, there is a degree of love and dedication missing from today's animated output.

Previous posts you might like about Lady & the Tramp:

Some Images Heritage Auctions, Howard Lowery


  1. I remember seeing that animation of the horses rearing up reused in THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE...

  2. *Sigh* I sure love L&T. A beautiful movie.

  3. Those last 2 backgrounds are truly breathtaking. Eyvind Earle's work is SOOOOO inspirational to me.

  4. Wow.
    Great character sheets to test to draw by myself and learn. I love those painted background and study. It just amazing, when thinking, that they really paint without "undo", which you can use when paint digitally.
    Interesting to see also on Lady´s corrected version, how left ear have changed behind paw, so it doesnt make leg to look thinner. Another intersting is to see, how Frank Thomas was searching right position for characters.

  5. Yes, there is something missing from classic Disney films in those today - I refreshed my memory of three Wolfgang Reitherman films last week: Robin Hood, Jungle Book, and The Aristocats. Granted, this was during Disney's experimental xerox period, so the animation takes a certain taste, but those films not only had some of the most fantastic Disney music of all, but had such wit and personality!

    Scatman Crothers was transcendently awesome in The Aristocats, and the consecutive sequences of Kaa telling Mowgli to "trust in me" and then answering Shere Khan's social call are comedy gold, and the fact that it's animation and not live action only makes the wit sparkle even brighter. The characters of "Robin Hood" are all lovable and charismatic - Friar Tuck, the rooster Alan-a-Dale are stand-outs, but the interactions between Robin and Little John, between Prince John and Sir Hiss, and between the sheriff and his vulture goons are all very watchable and absorbing.

    I agree, Andreas, that the films do age well and even improve with time. I remember taking the lyrics "Everybody Wants to be a Cat" literally, when I was a child, because I didn't know that charismatic jazz singers are sometimes called 'cats'. I was missing an entire layer of meaning then, but now as an adult, I can enjoy that fantastic song with full understanding.

    Andreas, I've noticed this fantastic, jazz-and-swing-influenced thread running through several classic Disney films down the line: 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog, to name a few. Do you have any insight on where this influence stemmed from? Was Reitherman the source, or someone else?

  6. It's a little strange watching this film in cinemascope, as the layout people were also having to compensate for the regular Academy ratio version. So there are a lot of shots with empty space around the characters.

    As for the poster art- some of the Disney features' DVD box art is atrocious. Hunchback has an awful cover, I'm sure any given production artist could have drawn a better cover!

  7. Lady and the Tramp...what a delicious Italy Lady is called "Lilli", and I've always wondered if this could be an homage for Walt's wife, since the italian version was written by Walt's friend Roberto de Leonardis.