Monday, August 8, 2011

Captain Hook

Many of you would agree that Captain Hook is one of Frank Thomas' best creations. To some Frank is the best animator who ever lived. 
Personally I think there is no such thing as the one or the best in animation.
Look at other studios, Rod Scribner, Ken Harris, Ken Muse, Emery Hawkins...
the list of animation geniuses goes on and on. It's a matter of what turns YOU on.
But Frank Thomas most certainly is waaaayyy up there.
He used live action reference for a number of his characters. In this case it was character actor Hans Conried who provided the voice and acting reference for Hook.
Frank was very critical about the way other animators used live action. To him  the acting ideas were all you needed, but you still had to pass judgement on the footage and interpret what the actor gave you. His animation never has that roto,
floaty feel to it. For one thing Frank was way too talented and smart to let that happen. 
This is the intro of Captain Hook. The pencil test is the tied down version.
The photos of Hans Conried with character drawings on top of them first appeared in the book "The Art of Animation" by Bob Thomas.
I am not 100% sure, but those drawings could be by Milt Kahl, who wanted to do this character so bad, he could taste it.
In a future post I will show you how Milt envisioned this character. But Walt wanted Milt to focus on Peter and Wendy instead, and I think It was a wise decision.
So here  are a few layout and staging sketches by Frank for Hook's intro.
In some of those drawings you can sense poses by Hans Conried, but Frank's interpretation takes it to another level!


  1. So many interesting choices in this animation. Slamming the table with his fist while, at the same time, raising the hook sharply accents the word, "Blast." It also puts a heavy emphasis on the theatricality of the character. I wonder how many times Frank Thomas worked that move.

    Thank you so much for posting. It's another bit of brilliance from Mr. Thomas.

  2. If you look and listen closely, you'll see that Frank Thomas used the rhythm and accents of Hans Conrad's dialogue to guide his timing of the acting.

  3. The little head turns while he paws at the map, just amazing!!!

  4. Amazing! Thank you sooooo much for sharing all of this!

  5. Without a doubt my favorite Disney character. You have to love the balance of comedy and malice. The world's greatest pirate!

  6. So incredible! Love the "blast!" move that Michael Sporn mentioned. also that on "track" he does the exact opposite - fist high in the air, hook digging into table.

  7. oh god i love these sketches and the pencil test.
    to me, captain hook is one of the best villains ever. And i love the relationship between smee and him. it's so funny and it has so much contrast in it. whenever i re-watch peter pan i can't help but laugh at these two. Hook is so mean, he's one of those characters that i love to hate.

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  9. If Frank Thomas isn't enough of a reason to pick up a pencil and bust your hump at drawing, then nobody or nothing will. The man's awesome body of work will always inspire me. Incredible.

  10. Hate to say it since I love this character and that pencil test so much, but it does seem his forearm goes right through the cig holder....something odd there.

  11. Oh wow! These drawings are amazing and the pencil test! I will be watching that frame-by-frame a few times today :) Captain Hook is one of my favorite Disney characters, so much so, I just got my first drawing signed by Frank of him which you can see on my blog if you are interested:

    Captain Hook Drawing

    Thanks so much for posting Andreas.

  12. Thank you for this posting. It's quite wonderful. These drawings (and your entire blog) are so inspiring to look at and to enjoy. I remember trying to find drawings like this as a youngster in books in the library or bookstore and having very little success until the "making of" books started being produced. Having access to these kinds of things...drawings I would never have the privilege of seeing otherwise is tremendous. So thanks again.

  13. Tom, you are absolutely right. And Frank planned the forearm to go through the cig holder in order to get the overall action to FEEL right.
    That's animation, you go for the feel and throw logic out the window.

  14. I talked to Frank about his Hook animation years and years ago and as I recall, he said he thought his scenes were recognizable by them being "mapped out". By this I think he meant the overall texture and phrasing, small actions accenting and complementing big moves, the spatial aspects of the body moves and the gestures, all in the service of the performance of that particular personality. In a word ( or two, quoted from another noted fellow): "It's called "acting," dear boy!!"

  15. This animation is so elegant, a sort of a male alter ego of Madame Tremaine, so polite, so refined! I always loved the way this rapresentation of the character and the way is opposed to the way Woolie Reitherman animated Hook fighting Mr. Crocodile, so over the top. And what a great actor Hans Conried was. In 1955 he distinguished in Cole Porter's Can Can and came back to Broadway taking part in musicals as Irene or 70 Girls, 70. In TV he plaied in Tv series as I love Lucy and he performed as the Magic Mirror in Disney specials. Just look at his imdb page to see what a wonderful filmography he has. Andreas I always wondered if Hook's animation politeness was a major inspiration in the characterization of Jafar. Thanks, as usual, for posting this.

  16. I love those first three drawings. That tiny waist makes him look even more pompous. I can't imagine the film being any better than it was so I am glad that Frank animated Hook. I guess thats why they say one of Walt's great abilities was knowing where to place talent.

    Thanks for posting.

  17. Hi Andreas,

    I just discovered your blog and I'm sitting here with my mouth open in shock! This is the coolest blog ever! I spent a little time looking through the archives and there is animation and art GOLD. I absolutely love all of the old stories about the old guys. It is so inspiring and makes me want to get to drawing. Thanks so much for putting this all together.

    Best regards :)

  18. Frank is an amazing animator. I've often wondered why Walt chose him alone to go on the good will trip to South America.

    The Hook pencil test is inspiring. The way he eases the character from one pose to another is wonderful. So much skill in rendering the human form, but having some cartoony expressions in between is pure joy. Thanks Andreas.

  19. Woolie Reitherman animated Hook too, he did Hook's action scenes - and also the crocodile, do you have stuff by Woolie on Hook or the Crocodile?

  20. Dear Andreas Deja,
    I have seen Peter Pan and I've noticed that the man who plays Captain Hook also plays Mr. Darling. Is there some sort of symbolism to that, because I've alway thought they cast these two characters to one person for a reason story wise.