Sunday, July 24, 2011

Milt researches Big Cats

I had the chance to ask Milt Kahl how long it took him to research tigers in preparation for Shere Khan in "The Jungle Book".
His answer was:"Oh...about two to three weeks. I looked at all kinds of big cats footage. We had done  a picture called "Jungle Cat", I studied that film and the out takes as well. Even though it was a South American panther, who has a somewhat different built, it was close enough. 
The other live action I studied was from the Disney film "A Tiger walks". 
I could also apply tiger footage to Bagheera,  and panther footage to Shere Khan.
Those big cats move in similar ways anyway."

So a while ago I took a little time to research what Milt had researched.
I found these two frames from "Jungle Cat" , and it sure looks like they served as inspiration for a couple of poses for Bagheera on this design sheet.

At the beginning of "Jungle Cat" all kinds of large cats are introduced, including the tiger. When I saw this short scene of a tiger jumping from screen right to left, it reminded me of an animated scene in which Bagheera does the same move, after Baloo yells for help.

I think it's interesting stuff , see for yourself. 


  1. Great find. Not only that... you've demonstrated for us (in a layered way even) what we can discover through the research of available references.

  2. That is brilliant. Thank you for posting this Andreas.

    Were you surprised that Milt only studied tigers for 2-3 weeks? Is that the typical amount of time he would usually take to research something?

  3. When Milt told me that he took only 2-3 weeks to study big cats, I was stunned. I thought to myself, it would take anybody else a lifetime to get the knowledge of a tiger
    in order to animate him so convincingly. And even then, you woudn't come close to what Milt had done.
    He really was a genius.

    1. Oh, you were a genius in your own right with your big cat, Scar. And you didn't look at Jungle Book. Work of a master, I say.

  4. Excellent!!...nice to see some references using by the great...
    Andreas...your animal drawings are soooooooo cool..did you learn anatomy first then attempted draw animals?

  5. That is a great bit of detective work on your part. The poses and the reference footage are spot on. Do you think Milt would have suggested layout ideas too since the animation background is very similar to the live footage?

  6. Wow 2 to 3 weeks, that is so awesome to know. Thanks Andreas!

  7. I agree. It would take me a lifetime to match the moves from live and/or film observation of a tiger! Getting it down pat in just 2 to 3 weeks is nothing short of incredible.

    Did Milt also work on animation for Bagheera? I always thought Bagheera was animated by Ollie Johnston.

  8. This is great to see. Even the timing of Bagheera jumping is very similar to the live action tiger's footage.
    Great stuff!

  9. How long did you take to research lions for Scar Andreas?

  10. Hallo Herr Deja,

    erstmal ein großes Lob für ihren Blog, Wirklich großartig und infomativ.

    Auch ich möchte unbedingt Animator werden seit ich mit 5 Jahren das Dschungelbuch gesehen habe.Dieses Film war sozusagen für mich Liebe auf den ersten Blick.

    Daher hätte ich eine Frage und hoffe dass sie mir weiterhelfen können. Ich hätte nämlich ein Programm außer Toon Boom gesucht, welches mir ermöglicht Bleistiftzeichnungen abzuscannen und sie als fließene Animation zusammenzufügen.

    Vielleicht können sie mir ja weiterhelfen. Ich bedanke mich bei ihnen schon einmal im vorraus.

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen,


  11. How much time would you typically get before animation starts on a movie to play around with ideas and find your character. For example with Scar, were you given long to study lions and work out how you would stay true to the anatomy but yet give him such fantastic gestures and character?

  12. 2-3 weeks?!! The man was a god!

  13. This is so interesting, thank you :)

  14. Arif,
    I studied animal anatomy mostly from books, and at the same time went to the zoo for sketching.

    the environments in those two scenes sure look similar.
    I wouldnt be surprised if Milt did thumbnails with some rocks as a background suggestion.

    Ollie did a lot of Bagheera, but so did Milt. The whole tree climbing sequ. is Milt's.

    we all studied lions quite a bit longer than it took Milt to study tigers and panthers.
    I just wished I could do most of my Scar scenes over again, because I now know more about lions.

    ich benutze FlipBook, komme damit sehr gut klar und kann es Dir empfehlen.

  15. On Lion King what documentaries did you do? Also I was trying to figure out did Milt do any scenes of Baloo in the Jungle Book?

  16. Do you mean what documentaries did we study for Lion King? A few National Geographic specials, I remember one
    in particular called "Lions and Hyaenas".
    Milt animated Baloo after the monkeys made him trip and fall down a hill side. The following sequ. with Baloo and Bagheera is his stuff, and it is great.

  17. You wish you could do Scar again? What would you do differently Andreas?

  18. Vielen, vielen Dank für den Tipp.
    Werde gleich mal dannach suchen.

    Viel Erfolg weiterhin mit deinen Blog und natürlich auch im Beruf.

    Ich verfolge ihren Blog leider erst seit kurzen, weiß daher nicht ob dir diese Frage schon oft gestellt wurden, trotzdem möchte ich sie los werden.

    Gibt es eigentlich eine bestimmte Figur die du im nachhinein vielleicht anders gestaltet hättest?

    Zum Schluss wäre es interessant deine Erfahrungen zu den Film "Emperors New Groove" (also Produktion etc.) zu wissen. Wie jeder weiß war ja die Produktion hinter diesen Film ein einziges durcheinander und es wurden vielen Storyänderungen durchgeführt. Wenn ich mich nicht täusche hatten sie am Design bzw. an die Animation von Yzma gearbeitet als der Film noch "Kingdom of the Sun" hieß.
    Wenn sie noch skizzen dazu hätten könnten sie diese irgendwann auch posten.

    Okay vielen dank nochmal und entschuldigen sie, dass es mein Kommentar so lang geworden ist.


  19. Thank you for posting this! Bagheera has an elegance in its movements that is so rare, so pure. He's a motherly figure for Mowgli, though he's so manly as an animal. Mr. Deja, I'm curious about one thing. Did Mr. Kahl ever talked with Al and Elma Milotte about the production of the True Life Adventures features? I know animal trainers, biologists and vets visited the studios since Peculiar Pinguins's Silly Symphony and they was crucial during the production of Bambi (how can a person ever forget Retta Scott's powerful animation of the dogs, so realistic!). I wonder if this tradition went on during the 50s and the 60s and if the Milottes ever interacted with animators...

  20. I'm kinda impressed that it took him a few weeks to absorb that sort of information, but it sounds like a reasonable amount of time...especially for those of us who work in the commercial side of animation, when you gotta learn something you gotta do it FAST. Plus for some, information is absorbed better over a short burst of time too, instead of stretching it over a long span of time and forgetting the fun details that you pick up the first time, as I can imagine was the case with Kahl. What he truly brought to the table in Jungle Book was more his years and years of prior animation experience, and that boosted just a few weeks of him studying a creature into the stratosphere while we're all still squirming around in the soil. =)

    That Bagheera jump is a little weak for me - it's lifted completely from that tiger clip with hardly a change...I would have at least tweaked those front paws after the land since they read a little jittery and sloppy. But they could have been pressed for time, so...

    Buncha lucky bastards to have so much reference footage from their own studio though!

  21. @the plummer I actually don't mind that the jump seems lifted from the tiger clip. In interviews, Milt is always the first to say that live-action footage should be used as reference only, and that animators shouldn't use it as a crutch. I give him the benefit of the doubt that he was not using the footage as a crutch here, but making a conscious decision. With Milt Kahl, I always trust that there's a plan, and I think it's fun to try to figure out why he made the decisions he made.

    Bagheera's jump is the very beginning of the shot, and there's not a whole lot of acting going on until he hears Baloo's cry. Perhaps in a different shot, having such a realistic move would detract from performance. But used here, it helps to make Bagheera feel even more like a panther. Part of the reason I love Jungle Book so much is that the characters feel so much like real animals, while maintaining such wonderful animated performances.

  22. the bagheera jump is a little weak?? If that's weak, I long for the day to be weak!

  23. Wow I can see the connection. I love the pose on the right of Bagheera's pose sheet where he is up on his hind legs I really feel the weight of the character.

    Thanks for posting!!!