Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prince John

Prince John as a tiger?
Milt Kahl considered this for the villain from "Robin Hood" at least momentarily,
as you can see in some of these early design sketches. 
But his brother King Richard "The Lion Hearted" obviously had to be portrayed as a lion, so the tiger idea was dropped.
Ollie Johnston of course animated this character. I remember Ollie talking often how much he enjoyed animating Prince John (as well as Sir Hiss), and he thought that Peter Ustinov for his voice was just great.

Here is a funny story Ollie told me about Milt Kahl and the issue of screen credit for "Robin Hood":
" Milt liked what I was doing with Prince John, he was very complementary about my animation. One morning he came into my office and said that I should get top billing this time within the "Directing Animators" credits. Milt usually got that honor,
because he designed all the characters. Milt was going to talk to management that afternoon. So I said OK thanks, and almost forgot about it. The next morning Milt stormed back into my office, this time with an agitated attitude. 'You know, I am the character designer around here and do all this extra work. I should get top billing on this film.'
I just said, that's fine by me, Milt, no problem. I later found out that he had discussed the credit issue with his wife the night before, and she wasn't  too happy about it."

There you have it, 1970ies politics at Disney.

That being said, I find all of these drawings just beautiful!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tinker Bell

Here is a little gallery of Tinker Bell roughs by Marc Davis. A few scans are from originals, others from photographic reproductions. 
I really enjoy studying some of these doodle sheets, where Marc is figuring out the character's structure and is dealing with drawing issues. Then again some of the scribbles look more like telephone doodles. 
He is definitely establishing that the top of Tink's head is a straight line and the back of her head is a curve. The combination of those two helps to make the drawing look solid.
To me Tinker Bell is perfection. Her character arc in the story is very strong. Because of her affection for Peter Pan she is jealous of Wendy, which gets her into trouble. But toward the end of the film she saves Peter's life as well as the other kids.
Her animation throughout is flawless. Occasionally based on live action reference,
Marc animated her beautifully. She always feels like a small figure, but the acting has great range and subtlety.
Marc said he really enjoyed the challenge of a mute character, where pantomime 
is the name of the game.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Early Yzma

The animated movie "The Emperor's New Groove" used to have a different title.
The original version was called "Kingdom in the Sun".
I was thrilled at that time to get the assignment of designing and animating the female villain in the film, Yzma.
And I loved her main motivation in the story. Yzma was extremely vain, she wanted her youth back under any circumstance. So she made a deal with a dark spirit who had been locked up inside a mountain. If she could set him free, he in return would give her back her youth. 
What a simple and wonderful premise.

The one and only Eartha Kitt agreed to do the voice of Yzma.
I was in animation heaven !!
Just closing my eyes I could see and imagine the character. A sultry, seductive and power hungry diva. These early sketches suggest that kind of a direction for her personality, and I enjoyed exploring this type of Yzma very much.
I remember buying a few fashion magazines to get inspired by some of those super model poses. For life drawing class we hired a skinny model, but instead of drawing the life poses, I translated what I saw into Yzma.
You see some of those sketches at the bottom of this post. 

Then things changed. The overall story treatment wasn't working as far as the studio was concerned. Everything was put on hold, and a brand new story line was developed. Eventually I moved over to the production of "Lilo and Stitch".
In "The Emperor's New Groove" Yzma became more of a comic villain, my friend Dale Baer took over the character, and he did a great job! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Harry Rountree

If you google/picture Harry Rountree you will find a lot of treasures.
He is one of the best illustrators when it comes to anthropomorphic animals.
The way Rountree depicts rabbits, squirrels, foxes and other animals is very unique and appealing. You could take any one of his designs and animate them.
I have a whole bunch of his vintage books, and below you'll find a cross section of his wonderful art.
There are illustrations for the "Uncle Remus Stories", "Alice in Wonderland" and
"Aesop Fables" among others.
Harry Rountree was born in New Zealand in 1878. He moved to London in 1901,
where after early struggles he became a busy and popular illustrator.
He died in 1950.

I hope you'll enjoy (re)discovering this great artist.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More Scar

Here are a few more pencil tests of Scar rough animation.
I am also adding some leftover drawings. I remember enjoying animating the scene below, where Scar responds to Mufasa's warning. "I shall practice my curtsey."
Jeremy Irons said it in such a character rich way, it seemed to animate itself.
There was hate and cynicism in the reading, just perfect.

I tell you about a scene that I wished I could redo, because it bugs me so much.
At the end of the film, during the duel between Scar and Simba, at one point Simba has the upper hand (ok...paw). Scar fakes a peace offer and says something like:
" I'll do anything (if you let me go), just tell me, anything."
During that line I have Scar lift up one of his front legs, and he moves it sideways.
It's a very human gesture. And it doesn't work. Maybe in a close up it might have looked ok, but this is a long shot. Ugghhhh.....

Anyway, thanks for taking such an interest in this footage. Here is a bit more.