Saturday, September 12, 2020

More Robin Hood Designs by Milt Kahl

These Kahl drawings represent Robin Hood's earlier version based on Ken Anderson sketches.
Robin looks like a mischievous character actor, not the leading man type he turned out to be in the final version of the film. This is a more juvenile appearance with a skinny neck.
My guess is that Milt made these drawings to aid John Lounsbery, who originally was assigned to the lead fox character. 
Fantastic sketches as usual by the one and only Milt Kahl.
A few of these drawings have been posted here before, but these images are scans from originals, not xeroxes.


I have posted numerous Robin Hood visuals over the years. My favorite post remains this bizarre interview with Milt when he was promoting Robin Hood in Dallas:

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Crazy Pelican Postman

I animated this scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit about a hundred years ago.
These frames are from the start of the scene, which went on and on as the camera pans screen right to reveal life on a film studio's backlot.
This was the cartooniest animation I had done up to this point. I remember animating the brooms from Fantasia using live actin brooms sweeping the floor. All on ones. 
The brooms were also hopping along to the beat of The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

A ton of work, I had no weekends working on this film. No regrets. It was all worth it!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Dumbo Story Sketch

What an extraordinary story sketch by Bill Peet. 
The circus ringmaster confronts Mrs. Jumbo, who is protecting her baby son. Every character showing distinctively different emotions. This reminds me of what Frank Thomas once said:
"If you have characters in a scene who all think alike, you have a problem."

I also love the crowd's shadows on the ground. Bill Peet is the man!!

More of his story sketches here:

Thursday, August 13, 2020

MUSHKA Seq 14, Sc 60

Here is a frame from the final version of a scene I was animating just recently. 
At the start we watch only Sarah as she pushes the tiger's front part. Then Alex comes in, he pushes the tiger's back end. Obviously each push is separate from the other in terms of timing, so the kids don't end up pushing simultaneously. A little tricky to work out against the tiger's body, but the scene turned out ok.
Regarding effects animation for snow foot prints, I originally had planned for a more icy surface with no foot prints. But we ended up doing the opposite instead. Every step in the snow will have contact animation. And there are quite a few sequences in the snow.

Here is the link to a recent post about roughing out this scene:

Friday, August 7, 2020

Howard Ashman


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Liu Jiyou Zodiac Signs 1981

Toward the end of his life Liu Jiyou painted these small size images of the twelve Chinese Zodiac signs. What a beautiful collage of different animals.

And as a bonus here are a couple of gorgeous illustrations of an eagle.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

From Bill Peet to Ollie Johnston

Another great example of how animators translate a story sketch into the staging for their scene.
This beautiful story sketch is of course by Bill Peet, who's drawings always stimulated the animators' imagination. There are whole sequences in 101 Dalmatians and The Sword in the Stone that maintained Peet's story continuity and staging. Virtually no changes from story sketch to final film frame.
In this scene Merlin is pouring some tea for Wart who just "dropped in". Ollie loosened up Wart's pose a little. Holding his arms behind his back probably didn't feel natural to him. 
As the table grew larger in the final layout there was a chance for Merlin to lean forward into a different pose. All this is called plussing. 
You evaluate what a story artist and a layout man came up with, and you add your own vision to the scene. 
This type of teamwork was essential to achieve top quality in Disney's classics. It was also essential for the films I worked on like Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, The Lion King and all the others.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Horse in Wire

More coat hanger some friends used to tease me years ago.
This piece belongs to my friend Steve Gordon, or actually to his wife Judy. I got this piece back for some paint touch up. The original wire was silver steel.
I made this wire sculpture of a classic horse so long ago, I hardly remember working on it.
What I do recall is to decide not to add the horse's mane. You just get a feeling when to stop. When nothing more can be added to improve the pose.
Starting with sculpting in wire in the early 1980s my guess is that over the years I probably created about 150-200 of them.
And what an amazing feeling it is to know that these pieces are spread all over the place in people's homes.
So here is the horse on a turning platform to showcase its 3D effect.
Photography by Roger Viloria.

The sculpture's measurements are 24 x 8 x 17".

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Sullivant this November

Wil Raymakers alerted me earlier this year about the publication date of this LONG OVERDUE book on our favorite cartoonist TS Sullivant. It looks like this time it is actually going to happen after previous failed attempts to see a project like this one through.
I wished the folks involved would have contacted me, I could have provided them with hi/res scans of about 15 Sullivant originals. Perhaps they found larger collections. 
In any case, I am very much looking forward to the book. And I love the cover!

This was my first post an Sullivant, American genius:

Monday, July 6, 2020


I don't always have the time to read all of the comments posted on this blog, particularly when they appear much later than the original post date. 
In early 2016 I published a Dallas newspaper article here. It featured Milt Kahl talking about his work on Robin Hood. It also included photos of Milt drawing Robin and Little John. 
At that time I sort of wondered where these beautiful sketches might have ended up. 
Wouldn't you know in November of that year Greg Barton added a comment with the link to the framed drawings he now owns. 
I want to thank Greg (years later) for sharing his treasures. I am glad that you used UV/filter glass in your framing because these felt pen/marker drawings would fade dramatically under normal glass.
Look at Milt's lines, they seem to dance on paper as he defines shapes, volume and texture.
Pure joy.

Discovering these sketches today during difficult times everywhere makes me very, very happy!!

Here are links to Milt's visit to Dallas in 1973:

Friday, July 3, 2020

Alfonse's Restautant

There are a few restaurants/bars in the LA/ Burbank area that have a strong Disney connection.
Let's start with this painting by Marc Davis. He describes it like this:

"Alfonse's Restaurant in Toluca Lake was a favorite haunt of several Disney artists. Because I ate there regularly, they wanted something of mine to hang. This represents four drinks at Alphonse's:
a Martini, an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan and a Highball. It used to hang over a table for two. When Alfonse's closed, they gave me back the painting. All the years of cigarette smoke filtered up from that table gave it an interesting patina. I've cleaned some of it off, but traces remain."

Alfonse's closed quite a few years ago, and I don't know what year it opened.
Here is a vintage photo of the restaurant's outside.

Eric Larson took me to Alphonse's before I started working at the studio. Eric always had his own table reserved, no matter wether he showed up that day or not. It really felt like a longtime Disney hangout. The California sun was shut out with window blindes. The atmosphere was "loungy" and relaxed. The staff loved their regular Disney patrons. Eric would have a sherry before his meal. Even though being a Mormon, he allowed himself this guilty pleasure during visits.

So this is the place where Marc Davis would have a long lunch during the early 1960s, while animating Cruella de Vil. 2 - 3 Martinis were not uncommon, but bear in mind that in those days a Martini was a LOT smaller. Not to be compared to the serving size of today. 

Another interesting thing about this place:
During the late 1980s sculptor Andrea Favilli started to schedule lunches there by invitation only.
The idea being to bring Disney old-timers and newcomers together at the same table for lunch.
It was called the Dinosaur Club!
I was lucky enough to be included, which resulted in several very memorable lunch times.
Guess who showed up at these lunches? Not regularly but off and on:
Frank & Ollie, Marc Davis, Ken Anderson, Claude Coats, Bill Layne, John Hench and other artists from Disney animation and Imagineering. 
I will always remember when my German buddy Hans Bacher presented Ken Anderson with a scrapbook of artwork and photos from 101 Dalmatians. Ken was so touched to see that his work was still being studied and appreciated. These were historical encounters!

Hans has posted about The Dinosaur Club here:

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Milt Kahl at Auction

Recently there have been a few offerings of Milt's drawings at Heritage Auctions. While other animation art items saw record prices, these pieces went for relatively modest dollar amounts.

The Mickey Mouse sketch looks like it was drawn in the late 1940s or 50s. To my knowledge Milt animated Mickey only one time for the short Mickey's Circus. And that was his debut as an animator in 1936.
That hand is too large.

When Milt drew characters for fans, he mostly sketched them in black and white. This is a rare color piece. It was drawn sometime during the 1950s. The style and line work is more graphic here than in his earlier production drawings for Bambi. Thumper has a resemblance to the rabbits from Sleeping Beauty.

The three Witches of Morva for The Black Cauldron. He recycles graphic character traits from his earlier animated personalities. But the top draughtsmanship is still there.

More on Milt's character designs for The Black Cauldron here:

Monday, June 15, 2020

Missing Puppies

I've always loved this still from 101 Dalmatians. Cruella de Vil is reassured that her plot has been successful. The newspaper reports on the stolen Radcliff puppies.
This illustration had to be made during an early phase of the film's production. Anita is drawn according to her initial design. Her face and hair as well as her outfit differs from the actual film. Milt Kahl drew Anita and Roger for this "press photo", I assume Ollie Johnston drew Nanny.

It is interesting to study some of the newspaper's text, as it reflects topics from the the late 1950 and early 60s. The write up about the stolen puppies is on the left of the image. It actually talks about people being rescued after an earthquake. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


Marc Davis animated this beautiful scene at the beginning of the "Sweet Nightingale" song sequence.
No doubt based on live action reference performed by Helen Stanley. But it is the way Marc analyzed her movement and the way he drew it that is simply stunning. These are not Marc's drawings, his animation keys would have a more constructive, rough feel about them.
In those days it was common for in-betweeners and clean up artists to study the work of the animator by tracing the roughs. This is one of those sheets.
It shows Marc's thorough understanding for what's going on here. First of all the camera angle is a bit tricky to draw, a slight down shot. And it's a rear view with foreshortening challenges. How do you draw that and make it look fascinating?
To begin with there is anatomical accuracy. The first drawing shows clearly that Cinderella's weight is on her right hip. The left leg is relaxed.
By contrast the last drawing indicates the opposite. The weight has shifted to her left hip.
Feet and shoes can be tricky when drawn from a perspective like this one, but they do look nice and simple here.
All pencil lines just flow through her body. Simplifying human anatomy to this degree is NOT EASY.
What I am trying to say is that this could have been an ordinary continuity scene...but not in the hands of Marc Davis!!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Wilhelm M Busch 1959

These are illustrations for a story about a Lipizzaner stallion, written by by Uno Modin.
Busch's graphic style looks almost like a woodcut print or a linocut. I love everything about these drawings. Composition, staging, perspective...everything is masterfully executed.
Just look a the first image! How the guy is standing as he tries to control one of the horses. Just amazing!
I should call this post: So you think you can draw...!

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Thomas Touch

Another article from Sketches Magazine written by Jim Fanning, Disney historian and author.
Frank consulted on the figurine of Mickey Mouse from The Brave Little Taylor for the Walt Disney Classic Collection. It was the best three dimensional depiction of Mickey I had ever seen. A beautiful piece.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dumbo in Sketches Magazine

Another nice article in Sketches Magazine from 2001.
Interesting quotes by Disney greats Ward Kimball, Ollie Johnston and even Tytla himself.
Great photo of the man who brought Dumbo to life.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Roger Rabbit Production Process

I remember animating this scene early on in production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
The Disney Archives recently posted these three phases of our process which combined animation with live action. 
It was ABSOLUTELY essential that the animation would hide any live action gadgets that were needed to hold real props or create effects, like real water in this case. The animation needed to be on 1s (like the live action), which resulted in a ton of work. But I had a blast working out the technical challenges for each scene. Because I knew that when ILM would send us the final scene (with highlights and shadows) to be shown in London during "rushes" or "dailies" we will see magic.

Video essayist Kristian put this clever and informative youtube film together. It explains how we did some of this stuff:

Friday, May 22, 2020

Background Designs

A handsome article from Sketches Magazine, spring 1994.
Its readership consisted mostly of Disney fans, so the information is basic. But the article does make the point that even though most people believe there is ONE Disney style, beautiful artistic variations can be pointed at from films through the decades.
From early cozy looking watercolors to the gritty, almost avant garde style for 101 Dalmatians.

And yes, I do believe that Aladdin fits right in with these masterpieces of stage sets for the characters.
I remember when I saw the first finished backgrounds for Aladdin, we had just started production animation. I couldn't believe my eyes. It seemed like the studio had hired back Claude Coats, Bill Layne, Al Dempster and all the other old-timers. Aladdin represented a huge artistic leap forward for my generation of animated film makers.
And then there was Eric Goldberg's spectacular animation of the Genie....I knew then that this film was going to be extraordinary!!!

Friday, May 15, 2020


For a while during WWII Frank Thomas joined the US Armed Forces as a member of the First Motion Picture Unit, which produced training films at the Hal Roach Studio.
Frank directed this 20 min. live action/animated short film called Camouflage from 1944. He also animated the "host" character, a chameleon. How appropriate!
I remember Frank briefly talking about this project, but hadn't seen it until a few years ago when it became available online.
The character animation is incredible! But what would you expect from a young Frank Thomas who had just animated on Pinocchio and Bambi ? In films such as this one you needed to get many technical aspect of warfare across. To help hold the audience's attention the chameleon character was added for entertainment. 
This is fantastic vintage Thomas animation from the medium's golden age.

You can view the film here:

Below are are a couple of cels from the film. The chameleon and an eagle who would like him for lunch. These cels were offered by Howard Lowery a while back.

Friday, May 8, 2020

What's on my Animation Desk Right Now

I am animating a bunch of short action scenes right now which will connect longer, already animated sequences. 
Here Sarah is trying to push her tiger Mushka over the edge of a cliff into a river. Why?
I won't say. 
This is my first rough pass followed by my tied down version which will go to color. Actually the tiger is too heavy, so Sarah asks her friend Alex for help. He enters the scene a few frames later.

I was pausing today, thinking this project is the adventure of a lifetime.