Monday, October 31, 2011

Cruella de Vil

It's kind of fitting to have a post with Cruella de Vil on Halloween.
She is one of the best villains in film history, and she is Marc Davis's final animation assignment at Disney. I asked Marc way back: "How could you leave animation after having done such a strong statement with Cruella?"
He just said:"It was time to move on, and Disneyland gave me many new challenges."
I still wonder though how Marc might have influenced films like "Sword in the Stone" or "Jungle Book" if he had stayed in the animation department.

I put together some great pre production art, that shows the development of Cruella. Milt Kahl once told me that he thought Marc would do fantastic drawings right from the start, when designing a new character. He himself would have to struggle and draw a lot of bad stuff before finding what he wanted.
These early drawings still show an influence by the "101 Dalmatians" book illustrations. Those were done by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone.

Original book illustration

Eventually Marc found his own distinctive style for continued development.
He experimented with different hair styles and fur coat designs.

This is a key drawing from an experimental scene.

Character actress Mary Wicks provided live action reference for Cruella.

These are keys from a production scene, where Cruella throws a bottle with booze into a fireplace in an effort to scare Jasper and Horace. As it turns out she scares herself quite a bit, too.
Look at how graphic and gutsy Marc draws her in this scene. Some of those faces are completely crazy, insane and wonderful!
He once told me: "Maybe I went a bit too far with Cruella's caricature, she kind of stands out from the rest of the cast." I immediately responded: "No way, perhaps
the other animators should have shown more "Avant Garde" in their design."

The color model cel Marc is holding in the photo.

Cruella de Vil is a creation for the ages. Color stylist Walt Peregoy said: "There 
will never be a character like Cruella!"
I say, let's admire and look at her as a challenge to match. All we need is top story material like Bill Peet's, a way out character design with animation that is rooted in realistic observation. 
Oh yes, and -to quote Milt- the determination to have super high standards.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Couple more Character Panels

I won't have any new posts for one week. I will be on the Disney Wonder cruise ship, where I'll give a few talks on Disney animation.

In the meantime  here are a couple more character panels.
Among personal favorites would be the pre production drawing of Wart. He looks more caricatured here than he does in the movie. I really like this version of him, and I had the chance to ask Milt Kahl about this early design. He said, Walt made me change it, he thought it wasn't appealing enough.
Hmmmm.... personally I prefer this drawing of Wart, it just has more character and personality in my opinion.
I also like the Marc Davis drawing of Aurora next to him. The angle of her head would be very difficult to pull off, but she looks beautiful here.
Across the page is a funny drawing of Pongo and Roger. They are reacting to the news of all those newborn puppies, and their expressions make them both look alike. 
Pecos Bill on Widowmaker is by Ward Kimball, who must have had a ball doing this character. 
I  don't know who drew the centaur for "Fantasia",  but I sure like the boldness in this pose.

I'll be back in a week with development art for Cruella de Vil and Madame Medusa.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Woolie Reitherman

I only knew Woolie Reitherman a little bit during the early eighties, when he was still at Disney. I remember him working with Mel Shaw on ideas for a couple of animated features. One was called "The little Broomstick", based on a book by Mary Stewart.  I thought the story was utterly charming, and Mel's pastel sketches for the film were incredible.
The other project was "Musicana", a sort of follow up to "Fantasia". It used some classical music for its story segments, but there was also World music from all over the globe. I had the chance to see a slide presentation of Mel's artwork which was synchronized to music. It was sensational. Unfortunately both projects were dropped after Disney changed management.

The first time I met Woolie I thought I was looking at John Wayne.
He told me that he saw my application portfolio and that he liked the work in it.
When I asked him to sign my copy of  "The Illusion of Life" he wrote:
To Andreas - Carry on! Take  animation a step farther - Woolie
Those are mighty big words, I thought. But that should be the goal, shouldn't it?

Woolie said he was born in Munich, and I thought it was cool to have that German background in common. He also invited me to come to his house for dinner sometime, whenever I wanted.
Unfortunately I never had the nerve or courage to ask him....darn it !!

Woolie died in a car accident on May 22, 1985.

His career at Disney is legendary. His first feature assignment was he Magic Mirror for "Snow White". He did super dramatic animation like Monstro in "Pinocchio", and the dinosaur battle in "Fantasia". But he could equally well handle funny and sweet characters like Timothy Mouse in "Dumbo".  After animating a whole bunch of great Goofy shorts Woolie started to specialize in exciting action sequences.
During an Academy tribute to his work in the early eighties, his chase with Ichabod and the Headless Horseman was screened. Afterwards he turned to the audience and said
"You know, this stuff is holding up pretty good after all these years".
And it still does, might I add!

I want you to take a look at one of his earlier efforts, Gus Goose in "Donald's Cousin Gus" from 1939. I just love this character.
The animation has great comedy, awesome timing and fantastic WEIGHT.
It is fun to study, whether you are doing 2D or CG animation. Weight is always a big issue, as you know.

Woolie also did the dog fight in "Lady & Tramp" and the dragon fight in "Sleeping Beauty".
After that he turned to directing. He co directed "101 Dalmatians" and was the single director on all animated features up until "The Rescuers".
So how can I not love Woolie Reitherman....the guy directed "Jungle Book"!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hidden in the Crowd

A while ago I re watched a sequence from "Rescuers", it was the section where Bernard and Bianca are at the airport on their way to find Orville.
The human crowd scenes are not particularly well drawn or animated here, but all of a sudden I noticed a young couple moving up the escalator. It was just one held drawing, yet those two were drawn exceptionally well.
I knew this was a Milt Kahl drawing, but what was it doing here amongst all the other human characters, who were handled by a lesser animator?

This is what I think probably happened:
Milt saw the scene in a sweatbox screening and "objected" to the original drawing of the couple. So he re drew them....beautifully!
It is a solid illustration, done with a lot of care. Both seem lost in their own thoughts, probably thinking about the flight ahead. I just love the way her right hand holds on to his arm, it's sooo nicely staged.
Her whole figure looks simple and elegant, with the weight on her right leg. And look at how heavy her hand bag feels. 
His pose is equally balanced, the body weight is on his left leg. There is a nice feeling of thick fabric for his jacket and thin fabric for his pants.
I could go on....

Yep, I do love Milt Kahl drawings, and I know you do, too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Milt Kahl Crowd Scenes

Hi everybody, I'm back in town.
I have one more short trip coming up next week, other than that new posts will appear regularly again.

In August I posted a few Milt Kahl key drawings from two scenes that were cut from "The Rescuers". They showed an audience watching the performance of a bear at a zoo. The whole sequence never made it into the film.
I do wonder why Milt ended up animating these scenes, which I would consider
of secondary importance as far as top character animation for the movie.
My guess is that Medusa wasn't ready yet for production.
And I remember Dave Michener, one of Milt's assistants, telling me that occasionally, when a film had to get finished toward the end of production Milt animated minor characters or crowd scenes, just to help out.
And he didn't mind at all.

What I love about these scenes is how clearly they are choreographed and synchronized. Milt sure knows when NOT to move a character, or parts of a character, because your eye will always go to whatever IS moving in the scene.
The path of the purchased soda bottle is easy to follow, and of course it ends unexpectedly.

I get a big kick out finding Kahl animation that you didn't know existed. It leaves you with a feeling that the old master is still around and just finished his latest animation.
A big thank you to David Kuhn who sent me the files of the scenes.

In case you are wondering if there will be any posts on Madame Medusa coming up, the answer is YES !!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Two Weeks Break

I won't have a new post for the next two weeks. I am off to Vienna to give a talk at 
the Pixel Animation Conference. Feel free to leave comments on any post you'd like, I will be checking them.
When I get back I will have some very cool material for you, pencil tests as well as artwork.
Like the guy on public radio over here says: "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

African Cats

Early this year I was asked by my buddy Don Hahn, if I would be interested in being the featured artist for the DisneyNature film "African Cats". I didn't quite know what that meant at first.
So, this is what it meant:
Producing wildlife illustrations, inspired by the film, which would be showcased and offered for sale within an exhibition at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood, when the film opened.
The proceeds would go to the African Wildlife Foundation to help save the big cats.
Sounded like a fun challenge to me, and it did turn out to be a great experience.
I received a rough cut DVD of "African Cats", and started to look for specific scenes that intrigued me. Well...where to start...! This movie is magnificent.
The story follows a family of lions as well as cheetahs, and you are hooked from the first few scenes on. Among favorite moments of mine are one scene where the old lion Fang challenges a crocodile. Another sequence shows a cheetah mother deterring male lions from the hiding place of her cubs. You'll hold your breath, I guarantee.
Amazing photography, mesmerizing storytelling. (Don had a lot to do with that, and he helped with the final edit, too).
This film really picks up from where Walt Disney left off with his "True Life Adventures". 
 "African Cats" was filmed by BBC camera men, the guys who did "Planet Earth"
(which is a series I could watch once a week!)
The movie comes out on DVD/Bluray this week in the US, it will be shown in theaters internationally in a few months.

Below is a selection of my artwork, inspired by DisneyNature's "African Cats".