Wednesday, August 3, 2011


As many of you know Woolie Reitherman's son Bruce is the voice of Mowgli in the 
"Jungle Book".  He also acted out certain scenes as live action reference for the animators. 
I have had the chance to be involved in a few Disney events with Bruce, including
a panel discussion at the El Capitan theater to promote the latest DVD release of "Jungle Book". The two of us then joined songwriter Richard Sherman for its audio commentary. 
That was a morning at the studio I won't forget. How did I get share memories and observations with these two celebrated gentlemen?
I remember pinching myself, but it was a blast to hear their recollections about their involvement in the classic Disney film.

Mowgli was animated by quite a few animators, and I noticed that each artist drew him just a little bit differently. Milt Kahl set the final design, but the majority of his scenes were animated by Frank and Ollie. 
Any variation in drawing styles are way too subtle to get noticed by the general public.

Here is a beautiful scene by Frank Thomas,  toward the end of the film.
Baloo is supposed to take the mancub to the village, but Mowgli thinks it's playing time. The animation is so convincing, there is real weight and honest emotion.
Frank did this scene without the help of live action reference.
The first part of the pencil test is missing inbetweens, but then it picks up and becomes pure magic.
To be honest with you, I didn't even know I had Frank's thumbnail sketches for this scene, they were hidden amongst the animation roughs.
I love all of Mowgli's little hops and steps, it looks like the essence of a real kid.
Frank blows me away!


  1. those little hops are so naturalistic but don't feel roto.

  2. Adorable! Can't get enough of the Jungle Book! :)

  3. What teamwork! Milt creates the final design, animates a little of Mowgli himself, then the rest is knocked out by Frank & Ollie.

    Andreas, did Ollie Johnston animate the Bear Necessities musical number with Baloo & Mowgli? I had read somewhere that he did that scene.

    Jungle Book always has been and always will be my favorite Disney animated film.

  4. I love the quality of Frank's roughs. It's sketchy, but it's still tied down and all the necessary information is there! The momentum of the body as he hops along beside, the feeling of weight as he tugs on Baloo's arm, the secondary action on the hair... incredible.

    But even more amazing is how he can get inside the character's head and express the character's personality to such an incredible extent. He put so much thought into it. Just the idea of a man at 50+ channeling the naivety and spirit of a young boy is simply astounding.

    This is the kind of stuff that inspires me to animate up a storm. Thanks for sharing, Andreas!

  5. Um... Wowowow. Pardon me while I go find more people and tell them about your blog!

  6. What's so striking is the delicacy of the pencil lines!

  7. as ever a great post Andreas, how good these guys were never fails to blow me away!

    I noticed that you mentioned how you could tell each artist drew Mowgli slightly different and was just wondering if it would be possible to do a follow up post elaborating further on this please?

    like I guess many people probably do,I struggle to tell which animator did what scene(bar the most famous ones)so anything that could offer a clue would be very much appreciated :D

  8. I remember Mowgli walking over a trunk of a fallen tree, and there is a scene almost the same with christopher robin. Is this just a copy with more clothes on?
    I was always a bit jealous of Mowgli, the mancub had so great friends and was always niggling. But now it's ok. good guy!

  9. Gorgeous stuff. I can just keep watching it- he's really captured a little boy

  10. Dear Mr. Deja. I'm so glad that you're doing this blog. This is really amazing. I've been hoping you would do something like this for a long time now. I read these little blurbs about your work and views in the "Making of" books and it's just not enough. Now to top it off, how about publishing a book on your art? :)

  11. Jeremy, if you are thinking about a book on my animation work at Disney....that wouldn't be an easy thing to do.
    There are a lot of folks at the company who would have to support an idea like this.
    As far as my own personal work, I started publishing some of it in my Animal sketchbook.

    1. Dear Mr. Deja, Have you heard that Jon Favreau redoing The Jungle Book and also what do you think of Disney redoing their animated films for the new generation? Also have you read Kipling's version of the Jungle Book, and if you do what did you think of it? Also one thing I wish to see in case I do visit Disney Studios. is the whole original draft done by Bill Peet, since that is a little more closer to the book.

  12. Actually, (though a book on your animation would be amazing) I would very much like to see more of your personal work collected in a book format. Your work in the "Stripes" book was fantastic...I just would like to see more. Your animal drawings (from life) have been a great inspiration and there were many times where before going to the zoo (or after) I would look at some of your work to gain greater insight or inspiration for my own goals or desires in drawing. I can't wait to see more. (I do have to confess writing a 3 page letter to Mr. John Lasseter begging him for a collection of your work as well as many of the other amazing artists at the studio, though. Hopefully, someday...:) Take care Mr. Deja and thanks for doing this blog again.

  13. One thing that never ceases to amaze me about animation is how much story can be told in such a short amount of time. That five second clip had so much character in it.

    Thanks for posting.