Saturday, July 22, 2017

Animation takes Time

This is an early Comparative Size sketch by Frank Thomas for the Mr. Toad project. At that time this story was planed as a feature length film.  Frank signed off on the final sheet below on June 17, 1941. Then WW II happened, and quite a few Disney projects were put on the back burner. Mr Toad didn't reach movie screens until October of 1949, as a featurette, combined with The Adventures of Ichabod Crane.
I love the film which is set in a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals co-exist. All based on the stories by Kenneth Grahame, in a book called The Wind in the Willows, dating back to 1908.
Frank animated brilliantly the confrontation between Toad and Cyril, the horse, and Rat and Mole.
Beautiful, funny, character rich acting.
I remember when Frank called me on the phone, because he had found out that a few of his animation drawings from this film were up for sale, and he knew I was collecting vintage animation art. But they turned out to be clean up drawings, which are less interesting to me. Anyway, compare the two images, I think Frank's final sketch is quite an improvement over the first one.


  1. Amazing that the character designs appear unchanged after being shelved for a few years. Ive wondered what the film would have looked like if it were produced earlier in the 40's or at full length.

  2. Andreas Deja, could you help me identify some of the trainees under Eric Larson's animation training program that were interviewed for the Eric Larson episode of Disney Family Album? I know Mike Gabriel and Joe Ranft are recogniseable, but what about the others?

  3. Andreas, did you see the movie of "Walt Before Mickey" the story tells the difficulties of the studio problems in 1919 to 1928.

  4. Cool post as always, but Disney's version of Wind and the Willows is by far my least favorite Disney movie. This is mainly because I love the original book so much. It's one of the richest and most bittersweet stories I've ever read, even as an adult, and I love how it has both funny stuff with Toad and sweet and very sad stuff with Mole, Rat, and Badger. Unfortunately I think the Disney movie fails to capture the sweet and haunting stuff like "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" section, which is cut out entirely.

    I know lots of Disney movies have been accused of dumbing down the original works. This is why I have mixed feelings about Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Alice and Wonderland, and even Mary Poppins. I've read all those books, and sometimes the Disney writers didn't get a story or character right. But I still love those movies because of their amazing animation and excellent music, and even when they differ from the book they can still be a lot of fun. The Disney Jungle Books is almost nothing like Kipling's original, but it's still one of my favorites (although I wish they hadn't made Kaa a villain -- he was cooler as Mowgli's mentor).

    But I think the Disneyfied "Wind in the Willows" really missed the mark and is the worst of the Disney classics (just my opinion). The animation is great as always and Mr. Toad is excellent, but Mole, Rat and Badger are just cardboard cutouts compared to the book versions, and all the sweetest and most powerful scenes from the book are cut out and replaced with goofy slapstick. A fun cartoon I guess, but not what I would expect from such a classic story. I've seen a few other animated adaptions of the book and think they're better.

    If you like the Disney version that's fine, but I recommend reading the original just for the omitted parts. It's not a long book, and totally worth it. "Piper at the Gates of Dawns" gives me goosebumps. It's no wonder Pink Floyd and Zeppelin reference it in their music.