Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mickey Mouse Development

Two images from different eras in the development of Mickey Mouse.
The first one is from Steamboat Willie, 1928. A gorgeous animation drawing by Ub Iwerks, who animated the whole short. There are still graphic issues here that needed to be addressed, like the characters' black hands. You can't really see how Pete's grip on Mickey is defined. That's why later on  Disney characters were given white gloves for clarity.
Boy, I just love the energy in this fantastic sketch.

Twelve years later Mickey appeared as The Sorcerer's Apprentice in Fantasia, 1940, looking like this.
A new eye unit with pupils, draughtsmanship that showed real volume and shoes borrowed from Snow White's Seven Dwarfs.
There is greatness in both versions. Steamboat Willie shows the beginning of true, involved personality animation, while Mickey Sorcerer showcases the immense possibilities of the animated medium.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Roger Radcliff

In the previous scene Anita gently ridicules Roger's musical talent. "What clever lyrics!"
Roger: "Melody first my dear, and (then the lyrics)."
Milt Kahl is in full command of the human figure here. This allows him to play with the design of each drawing. Roger's neck would look way too long, but with his shirt's collar taking up much room, it looks perfect.
What an awesome arrangement of shapes. Flat and dimensional at the same time.
And of course Milt masters the most tricky head angles, look at # 27 through 35.

The one thing I can't tell is wether any live action was used for this scene. On Roger and Anita Milt used live action reference for many scenes, but he also avoided it when he didn't like it.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

9 Old Men Exhibit

Just a reminder of this phenomenal exhibition at the Walt Disney Family Museum. It will run until early January. Beautiful, inspiring and occasionally shocking (to realize just how good these guys were.) I believe for animators this is a once in a lifetime experience.
Just look at these drawings!

Woolie Reitherman. This study sheet for El Gaucho Goofy is part of the exhibit. The following images aren't.

Milt Kahl 

Eric Larson

Marc Davis

Frank Thomas

Ollie Johnston

Les Clark

Ward Kimball

John Lounsbery

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Johnny Appleseed II

As many of you know, Mary Blair created many works regarding color and background styling for a great variety of Disney films. Seldom did her personal vision make it to the screen though. Background painters as well as animators didn't know how to incorporate Mary's simplified almost abstract style into the film's final look. More often than not through the animation process compromises were made, and the project ended up looking like the familiar Disney house style.

Johnny Appleseed (1948) is one exception. This final background above could have been painted by Mary Blair herself. Her naive, childlike expressiveness actually made it intact to the screen, as far as art direction.
The character styling is still round and dimensional though, a quality that would change a decade later with Eyvind Earle's artistic contribution to Sleeping Beauty.

A cel from an Eric Larson scene.

A couple of Mary Blair color concepts.  

A cel set up from the film. The character cels show some airbrush shadow areas, something that was done at the studio before being offered for sale to the public.

Here is the link to Johnny Appleseed I:

Monday, July 30, 2018

Busch Magazine Covers

For this post I am borrowing illustrations by Wilhelm M. Busch from Hans Bacher's blog:

I think they are magnificent. Sternchen (Little Star) was for a while a supplement children's magazine within Stern, a leading weekly German publication still operating today.
These illustrations helped visualize stories that were included in each issue.
Staging, composition, draughtsmanship...there is so much to admire here. Busch (1908 - 1987) was a fantastic storyteller, and I wished I could hire him for one of my upcoming projects.

Friday, July 27, 2018

More Bernard & Bianca Sketches

These photocopies of Milt Kahl's character designs for the mice leads in The Rescuers are currently offered by Heritage Auctions. Milt is exploring various outfits, but he is mainly trying to come up with new design concepts for animated mice. Not an easy task.
Bernard's nose eventually shrank to a more conventional, smaller size.
I do like the sketch in the the upper right corner, even though this looks like a British character.

Here is the link to my previous post on designing Bernard & Bianca:

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Jungle Book / Weekly Animation Productivity

This is a true "behind the scenes" document, detailing the animators' animation output during the last week of 1966. Walt had died just two weeks prior to year's end. So the mood in the animation department was somber, to say the least. Most of the animators took the time off between Christmas and New Year's.
It is interesting to see what the average output was up to that point in production by each animator.
Ollie did just over 15 feet a week. That is about 10 seconds.
Hal king was pretty prolific, too, with 10-03 Feet.
Milt Kahl just short of 9 feet, average. (Of course, according to him, he could have been much faster, if he didn't have to do so many drawings for other animators.)

Funny, it looks like they were 10 frames ahead of schedule for total output.