Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Watercolor Backgrounds

Most painters will tell you that watercolor is the most difficult medium to work in. You pretty much have to finish the painting while it is still wet. Once dry, no corrections can be made. Oil or acrylic paints are much more forgiving. You can make changes whenever you want.
It is astonishing to see the background artistry of early Disney features and shorts, all painted in watercolor. Just look at the piece above. A background from the 1940 short Tugboat Mickey. The lighting and subtle use of color is just incredible.
The next piece is from the unproduced Mickey Mouse short film.

This one is from the Goofy short Baggage Busters, 1941.

Polar Trappers, 1938. What I like about Disney films is the fact that often the sky doesn't have to be blue or white. The painters used a color that fits the mood of the scene.

A great original Tom & Jerry set up, even though, I think the colors have faded a bit over time.

When we started production on Lilo & Stitch, it was decided that the film would benefit if presented in a vintage watercolor technique. The problem was that most background painters at that time weren't capable of painting that way. It took a lot of practice, trial and error and above all valuable lessons from Maurice Noble, who had painted backgrounds for Snow White. I was told his advice was incredibly important for re-capturing the magic of watercolor painting. From Snow White to Lilo & Stitch, what a legacy.
I believe these two paintings are pre-production. Beautiful!

Images Heritage Auctions


  1. Very cool Andreas, do you have other artworks of water color.

  2. Andreas!
    Just wanted to say how you're doing well. The blog is one of my favorite go to places for animation info and reference, and just wanted to drop you a quick note I can lern the artworks so I can created my own characters like an Elk or a Deer, Elfe, or folklore stuff so thank you

    Jeremy Le Lay.

  3. Yeah, watercolor is so difficult. Someday I may spend the time to try and solve it, but it is frustrating. These really are true works of art.

  4. You know I like your blog Andreas and I know you post a photo of you and Celine Dion in Las Vegas in 2011 the song of Open Armes where Celine sing sounds like Bambi wen it talks about life and love.

  5. woah, that's a weird-looking Jerry. Beautiful BG though.
    I love the glowing look of watercolour.
    I pulled the video of Ric Sluiter interviewing Maurice Noble from the Lilo DVD here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=satFw9BCYO4

    though I'll probably delete it in a few weeks incase I get struck.

  6. Did use the water color for Lillo and Stich in 2000 wen the film was in production.