Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Power of Vintage Disney


 
Walt Disney's animation studio didn't invent character animation, but it elevated it to unimaginable artistic heights. 
Here are a few random thoughts that help illustrate just WHY this studio was the industry's leader:

APPEAL
You can't take your eyes off classic Disney characters. There is a visual magnetism in this Timothy drawing. You want to look at him, you want to get to know him.


RESEARCH TRAVELS
They realized that by studying local folklore on site gave the films great authenticity.





THE STUDY OF REAL ANIMALS
This added believability to the characters which no other studio came close to. 





PHENOMINAL STORY SKETCHES
They reveal not only story continuity, but also staging, camera angles and personality.




THE WILLINGNESS TO START OVER
When something didn't feel right it had to be revisited and redone.
Frank Thomas' early Pinocchio animation moved nicely, but the footage was tossed because the character design lacked appeal.




THE GUTS TO GO DARK
Even though animation was full of likable cute characters, Disney did not hesitate to put them into highly dramatic situations. These guys were risk takers!




PHENOMENAL LAYOUTS
Mickey is looking up at a giant's castle. Camera angles like the one take highly skilled artists to draw such an up shot convincingly.




SMART USE OF LIVE ACTION REFERENCE
By hiring outstanding character actors for animation reference the scenes were practically half done by the time the animator got started. (Not all animators approved of this working method though.) 




LET FUNNY ANIMATORS DO THEIR THING
The balance of realistic characters combined with comedic ones added a great dynamic. Particularly in the feature films.





GLORIOUS COLORS
All of Disney's animated films have stunning color models for their characters. From Technicolor extravaganzas like "Alice in Wonderland" to more subtle color palettes like "101 Dalmatians", they all work beautifully. 






LET THE STYLE EVOLVE
What started as rounded sculptural drawings evolved into sophisticated artistic graphics.
This challenged some artists, but audiences embraced the change eventually.





ECONOMIZE BUT DON'T COMPROMISE
Evan after Xerox was introduced to save money, the studio was still capable of producing masterful animation. The overall look changed again, but character animation maintained its very high standard.




A GROUP EFFORT
When all disciplines like animation, effects and background painting come together on the highest level possible, visuals like this one were achieved. This is animation for the ages.



13 comments:

  1. Note to self: I need to show this to a friend of mine who thinks that all Disney character design looks the same.
    Also, I wish we could see a lot more of that "guts to go dark" principle, the notion that animation in general is something that can and should only be enjoyed by children because it can never deal with dark or serious concepts needs to be eradicated.
    (On a side note: that Aurora drawing is so gorgeous that it almost makes me want to get it tattooed).

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    1. As a footnote to my comment, I'd like to clarify that I don't believe that animation should necessarily deal with dark/serious topics to be enjoyed by an older audience.

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    2. oh yeah I mean, just look at Treasure Planet and Lilo & Stitch, both from the same year but miles apart in style

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  2. I love this post. I'm always amazed at how diverse Disney character designs, locations and overall film aesthetics are, while still maintaining that Disney feel and joy. Truly a blessing to have my whole life, but especially this year! I'm so grateful to everyone who contributed to Disney's films!

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  3. Great post. Thank you. Your insights are always appreciated, especially by those of us who are just ordinary fans of Disney animation.

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  4. This post seems for me a part of a discussion...

    Yes, for a long time the Walt Disney Animation Studios were the first address for high quality animation!! :)...

    Very educational stuff!
    And well to the point!!!

    Thank you! :)

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  5. It's a combination of both personality and circumstance, right?
    You need to get the right artists in a good creative environment.
    And I guess Walt Disney put the right people in the right roles at the right place to make it all work at the time.

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  6. Hello! I always wondered whether live action references were used on Jungle Book. I've seen pictures like the one above of live action references being used on other films, but never Jungle Book. Anyone know whether they did?

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    1. There was some live action reference for Mowgli. Scenes of him walking alone through the jungle, throwing a rock, kicking up dust.

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    2. Interesting! And are there any pictures of that? Or none that you know of?

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  7. Some of those photostats are with the Reitherman family.

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    1. Hi, was this in response to me? And if so, which photostats are you referring to?

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing these Andreas. I sometimes forget how much I LOVE your blog and ofcourse your work.

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