Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Preston Blair Life Drawings

Preston Blair was an extraordinary animator who worked for Disney, MGM and Hanna-Barbera. 
His work on Mickey in the Sorcerer's Apprentice, his hippo/alligator dance in The Dance of the Hours and Red Hot Riding Hood for Tex Avery is legendary.
As are his books on cartooning and animation. Here is a selection of his life drawings currently being offered at Heritage Auctions.











Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Black Cauldron Witches

There were many different design versions drawn for the Witches of Morva in The Black Cauldron.
Artists like Milt Kahl, Mel Shaw and Tim Burton all came up with character models that represented their individual artistic style. 
Milt"s witches reminded me of Madam Medusa and Madam Mim, two characters he had previously animated. Tim of course drew the trio in his wonderful outrageously avant-garde style.

By the time I come onboard, I took bits and pieces from these earlier approaches and came up with this look. I believe this what they ended up looking like in the film.

I drew a few scenes with the Witches, but Dale Baer was the one who showed real polish in his animation.








Heritage auctions is currently offering these sheets from the film's producer's estate.


Friday, November 8, 2019

Gold!

Today by accident I came across a lecture given by animator Chuck Harvey at California State University in 2017. Chuck talked about his own work at Disney and other studios.
I was beyond thrilled when he showed and discussed several Milt Kahl thumbnails for Madame Medusa. Copies of this kind of exploratory sketches for certain sequences for The Rescuers by Milt are all over the place, I posted some myself.
Yet I had never before seen thumbnails for the Holy Grail, the make up removal section.
I frame grabbed these images from the video, no HD here, but it is still a thrill to be able to study them. 






Chuck was already an accomplished animator when I started at Disney. He had worked on The Small One, Pete's Dragon and The Rescuers.

You can find his lecture here:


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Big Cat Staging

This story sketch showing how Shere Khan extends his claws in front of Mowgli is by Vance Gerry.
Its gets a little tricky when a four legged big cat needs to act human like with its front paws.
The pose tends to look unnatural and even off balance when the acting is shown as a full body shot.
Milt Kahl knew this. So whenever Shere Khan rubbed his paw against his chest or clapped in applause, he chose a medium close up in his animation. 
The animal character becomes human for a few moments, and it looks more believable in this type of fielding. 
This is a general rule and there are exceptions. Earlier when Shere Khan first approaches Kaa, he pulls the snake's tail down to the sound of a door bell. It's a funny gag, and the tiger is shown in a full body long shot.







I became aware of this staging issue when animating certain scenes with Scar.
Here he is talking to Simba about a "Father/Son......Thing".
I animated his left paw rotating as if Scar is looking for a certain word: "Thing".
On that word he flicks his paw, to show a sense of banality and slight disgust.
I love working this kind of stuff out.
This scene wouldn't have looked right if we had chosen to show his full body.



Saturday, October 26, 2019

Roger Rabbit Problem Solving

This was my first scene that involved a character's eye to pop out a la Tex Avery.
I remember paying attention to the technical aspects for the scene. Roger's eye pops and then there needed to be a stagger, a subtle back and forth, back and forth, animated on 1s (like the rest of the movie).  I thought the pencil test looked pretty good until Dick Williams pointed out that during the stagger the eye still has to follow Bob Hoskins' movements.
I adjusted the animation, but there still seemed to be something awkward with the way Roger was placed into the live action scene. A lot was going on with the pillow and the blanket. They seemed to have a life of their own.
I tried a couple more times to make Roger fit into the bed, but it didn't look perfect.
Guess what, ILM placed a shadow over the screen's lower right corner to take the edge off this combination issue. It sure helped a great deal.







In the following scene Roger exits the bed before jumping back on it. It turned out that Bob Hoskins' eye line was too high before the rabbit arrived in his upward position. The solution was to stretch out Roger's arm, so Hoskins looked at the hand, and a few frames later the head.
There were times when we all had to be creative in order to make the animation/live action combo believable.
Great times!!



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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

From Vance Gerry to Milt Kahl

Story artist Vance Gerry boarded Medusa's introduction sequence from The Rescuers.
You can see that Vance was still kind of hanging on to her classic depiction, in which her hair mass is actually a bunch of snakes.
Milt Kahl who animated the villainess didn't go quite as far and drew her hair more conventionally.
This of course makes  complete sense since we are not dealing with Greek mythology here but instead with New York during the 1970s.

But Milt kept Vance's overall idea for the character's staging.
He mentioned in an interview that Medusa treats the phone's hand set as if it were Snoops. She is mad at him for not being able to control Penny. So she shakes the hand set, pokes it with her finger etc.
That thing represents Snoops to her. A fun way to approach this scene from an acting and animation point of view.






A few terrific thumbnail sketches for this section of the film.



A felt pen sketch that shows Medusa's unusual and entertaining body proportions.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Mickey Mouse, 90 Years

This is a reject for a proposed illustration to help promote Mickey's 90th anniversary.
Theme park Mickey and Steamboat Willie take a selfie together.