Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bill Tytla

Everybody was in awe of Bill Tytla, when he was at Disney.
Ollie Johnston said: " During that time the studio had one artistic breakthrough after another. 
We saw what Tytla was doing with Stromboli and thought, what a great medium this is. At this rate, who knows what Disney Animation will  do in a few years? Of course after the Golden Age we still did some great stuff, but it was more or less a refinement of what had been done."

Tytla animated "from the inside out". For every scene he did, he lived inside of that character. He drew absolutely beautifully, but bringing out  emotion and personality came first.
Even if that lead to an off model drawing here and there.
Walt had Fred Moore take a look at a few of Tytla's Grumpy scenes in order to punch up the "charm level".  Storyman Bill Peet did the same with some of the early animation of baby Dumbo.

Tytla's animation drawings range from very rough to clean, depending on the mood of his characters. When it came to animating Chernabog though, he knew that he had to draw his anatomy with great detail.  Nobody else at the studio was up to that kind of draughtsmanship and animation.
Milt Kahl was reflecting in the early eighties: "Never again has there been anything as powerful as Tytla's devil."

I am convinced that if Bill Tytla had stayed at Disney, he would have kept stirring animation in different directions.

If you want to read up on his life and art, try to get your hands on the catalogue
of the Tytla exhibit at the Katonah Museum of Art, 1994.
As usual John Canemaker's writing is outstanding.

Also, Michael Sporn blog has tons of extraordinary Tytla material to go through.

Following is a Tytla gallery starting with the rooster from "Cock of the Walk" 1935.
There are many great drawings of Grumpy, you can see in every one of them how involved the animator was with that character.
One of my favorites  is the blue rough drawing of Chernabog, covering his eyes.
The agony from the sound of  church bells and the coming of dawn is so powerfully depicted here in one single sketch.


  1. The scene with Gepetto looking around his workshop, frightened to death, hands shaking like mad was by Tytla then. That explains it, it still stands out today.
    Great post, thanks Andreas!

  2. These are GREAT! Looks even better than on screen.

  3. Bill Tytla has always been one of my favourite Disney artists. It was watching Chernabog that started my interest: here is a character that looks (thanks to the anatomical detail) at once so familiar and so alien. He moves beautifully and realistically, and that must be an incredibly hard feat when creating something so different.

    The cruelty of expression, the manic delight that turns to imperious disgust, the mournful grasp heavenwards at the break of day - they're enthralling. They create a character so beguiling and so frightening that you can't take your eyes off him.

    Andrew Osmond, in his book 100 Animated Feature Films, sums up the Baby Mine sequence in Dumbo far better than I ever could: "The mother's feet are chained; their trunks must clutch and caress through iron bars. The elephants were drawn by Bill Tytla, inspired by his two-year-old son, and he turns Dumbo into a human baby before our eyes. Those few seconds of moving drawings, with the circles and crescents of Dumbo's eyes and mouth in heartrending flow as the trunks curl and our tears fall, are widely seen as character animation's Holy Grail".

    It was Tytla that sparked my fascination with what it's possible to achieve through animation. He had an amazing ability to demonstrate the humanity in his subjects. Thanks for this post, Andreas, I'll definitely seek out the Katonah catalogue.


  4. For my money, Tytla couldn't be beat. He absoulutely gets within the character to bring the emotion to the surface. Those dwarf drawings are just wonderful. I particularly love the Grumpy roughs you've posted. The character almost looks like a cartoon Picasso at one point (VT-6) with both eyes on the one side of his head. But you feel so intensely what the animator is doing. Grumpy folds his arms to say, "No!" but his head is reaching out to the person he's rejecting. It's such a conflicted emotion the poor guy is going through. It's wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing these.

  5. Here's a follow up link (to Michael Sporn's recent post on Tytla work at MGM on 'The Hungry Wolf'):

    Meanwhile back here...
    Some drawings from many years ago look dated but those drawings from Fantasia by Tytla still have yet to outdone. It was a truly inspired performance.

  6. It doesn't get better than this.

  7. A friend told me when he worked at Hanna Barbera in the 60's Bill Tytla was there for a short time. My friend would give him a ride home every night. Bill usually sat there very quietly, but on night he spoke up saying with all his heart" GOD I WISH I'D NEVER LEFT DISNEY'S"



  8. awesome. Was waiting for this one. I saw his personal sketchbooks at a show in a little upstate New york town where his family lived and was blown away.

  9. The devil is absolutely amazing!
    So sad that the real intensity gets away when the drawing is cleaned up...
    That's why I really love all the movies that were photocopies of the originals, like 101 dalmatians, Jungle Book, etc.

  10. Such a master of powerful emotion. Tytla is amazing, and it's awesome how you can feel the raw emotions of the character out of drawings that are practically scribbles. Great stuff, thanks for sharing Andreas.

  11. I always thought Disneyland needed a "Night on Bald Mountain" ride. Ideally, temperature controlled so the ride would get hot as you rode across the fire in Chernabog's hand.

  12. So I wanted to ask. Who do you think is better: Milt Kahl or Bill Tytla? I say Tytla but that's just me.

  13. Bill Tytla is truly my hero. I was always mesmerized his work even before I knew who he was.

    I'm sorry to say I am not a big fan of his work at Terrytoons or Famous Pictures (the Popeye stuff at Paramount). After seeing what he did at Disney I truly expected more. Am I missing something? Were the parameters strict?----or was he just collecting a check?

    I would love to hear your opinion about Tytla's work during those years.

    He truly was a passionate artist from what I understand, and his latter years are just heartbreaking --- in terms of his career and what the animation world could of had, if he stayed at Disney.

  14. Such expressive poses! Thanks for posting.

  15. Chernabog's agony always makes really sad and empathetic about him. I forget he's a devil!

  16. I think his wife put together a huge book about him that you could order from her.

  17. You know, even though Bill didn't stay at Disney for very long, he still worked on a lot of other fantastic projects that really left a mark on animation history; Little Lulu, Popeye, Casper the Friendly Ghost, etc... I learn of someone great everyday.

  18. Tytla is generally perceived as one of the most expressive and best draughtsman of the "Golden Age"; and, Moore has a reputation for bringing a unique charm and style to the studio: but, as the story goes, he couldn't keep pace with the evolving level of draughtsmanship. I heard apparently Tytla couldn't either in his later years when he was (shockingly) rejected from returning to Disney Studios. But, when you compare the dwarf drawings here on this page, they seem equals to me. Both Moore and Tytla had very similar looking drawings. I don't understand the big difference between the two men as artists. Just based on these examples, I would argue that Moore was the better "artist". I can see Tytla searching for his desired emotion, whereas Moore seems to arrive there more effortlessly. Chernabog definitely looks solid-but, he also looks heavily referenced. Thanks for sharing these great images Andreas.

  19. Vladimir Peter Tytla is one of my personal favorite animator. He drawings are absolutely strong and beautiful! (Maybe this cute dumpling is my favorite this post.)
    Andreas, thanks again, and again... :)

  20. These are fantastic. Tytla's work has been one of my favorites too.

  21. When I was in animation class my professor, who also happened to be a former Disney animator, during one lecture talked about Tytla's process on animating Chernabog and how much real-life references and detail went into it.

  22. I always love to think that in 1940 Tytla drew Chernabog in The Night on the Bald Mountain (the greatest villain of them all) and in 1941 he draw the bath scene from Dumbo (maybe one of the cutest moment in Disney history). Meantime his son Peter was born and he was inspired by him when he drew Dumbo. A son can really change your life! I adore his work in Aquarel Do Brazil (Saludos Amigos) I'm fascinated by the way he animated the brush. Too bad the strike destroyed his carreer at Disney Studios.

  23. Several fascinating things here. The great rough ( the second posted) of Grumpy's indignant pose is seen tied down in the cleanups posted later. This may not be exactly the drawing but it's in the neighborhood and as Sporn pointed out it has unexpected counter rhythms in its pose all driving to the indignant tip of his nose. The Doc ruffs are brilliant and that scene, where he yells at Dopey after throwing him off to"get the soap' is as forcefully dynamic as the devil on Bald Mountain. Great strength and power in these scribbles. And as Don Graham rightfully talked about in the action analysis classes in the 30s, these ruffs show how Tytla animated forces as much or moreso than forms. Speaking of the Devil ( literally) I thought I've read and maybe even seen a still? of T.Hee doing live action reference for the devil after earlier reference lacked the pinch Tytla wanted. T.Hee at that time was a very heavy out of shape guy, and one look at the roughs shows how loosely Tytla used the reference. I have seen notes on some of the "hands" scenes where Tytla reminds his assistant ( Bill Shull?) to respace the knuckle joints as he has. The muscularity of the Devil is unsurpassed, and one incredible thing is how he used the wings to reinforce and punctuate quite powerfully Chernabog's gestures ( all these wing accents are his invention.) Marc Davis once told us that he was so impressed with Tytla's animation in "Victory through Air Power" where the eagle and the snake fight. He marvelled at the accents Tytla got in that animation, not readily apparent when looking at individual drawings but when projected in succession with his timing...stunning vivid, felt, emotion. A genius of an animator. And then Baby Dumbo... don't get me started again!

  24. If only I could type. Tytla thought the live action lacked "punch" not "pinch". Why do I feel like Emily Litella? Never mind.

  25. Here is the link to the catalogue of the Tytla exhibit :

  26. John, I read that horror film actor Bela Lugosi was filmed for live action reference for the devil, but the results were unsatisfactory to Tytla, so skinny Wilfred Jackson posed for reference.
    In any case, "severe interpretation" of that footage was needed, resulting in one of animation's greatest moments.

  27. Thank you for the post and the pictures, Andreas. The legendary Vladimir Tytla will always be the "Tenth Old Man" and an inspiration to all artists. Here is a little something that I did for a DeviantArt as a tribute to Bill.