Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Madam Mim

Of all Disney animated classics, "The Sword in the Stone" was the last one I saw way back, in a re release in theaters. I was already an art student by then and appreciated beautiful design and animation.
When Madam Mim appeared on the screen I was blown away. There is great sophistication in her design, and her acting is fresh and full of life.
Walt Disney assigned Milt Kahl and Frank Thomas to this character, knowing that if you combine their creative forces, nothing but great stuff would come out.
Milt had perfected the way he drew hands in his animated scenes. The fingertips are squared off, and the fingernails are placed with realistic perspective. 
To give the design contrast, her body is kept short and chubby, her arms and legs are very thin and boney.
Both animators just loved working on Mim, and they agreed that there should have been more of her in the movie.
Milt's animation is full of inventive moves, like funky dance steps and hops. When Mim turns into a "beautiful" witch, her moves are almost risque.
Frank had a lot of fun with her dialogue scenes. His acting is eccentric, too, but it feels very believable and grounded.
Here is the first part of her intro in pencil test form.

These are a few of Milt's rough key drawings, beautiful and perfect.

Here you can see how Milt helped out with Mim drawings for a few Frank Thomas scenes. In doing this, graphic continuity was guaranteed.

These scans show you how Frank handled Madame Mim. His drawings are a mix of caricature, subtlety and realism. I have almost all rough drawings from this scene, where she comes up with her own rules for the Wizard's Duel (One of my all time favorites). 
I will add a few missing inbetweens myself and show the whole pencil test at a future post.

A gorgeous cel set up from the opening scene.


  1. whoa! literally blown away ... I'll sure wait for your next post when you add the IBs and post the scene. This is great learning. Thanks a lot Andreas!

  2. It's interesting how this character became one of the 'good guys' in European Disney comics and there are still comics of her being made and published today.
    Thanks for sharing the great artwork!

  3. beautiful just beautiful, i love sword in the stone probably my fave Disney film i was shocked when i heard it assent well received when it was first released is that true ?

  4. I love this movie! One of my favorites. Wonderful designs and such a fun film.

    Great to see these drawings and the pencil test. Just beautiful. Thanks, Andreas!

  5. Thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks,thanks.....

  6. Beautiful work. I love pencil tests sometimes even more than the finished version for some reason.

    When there were two animators working on the same character did they have any sort of method as to who would animate which scenes?

  7. She is a wonder to watch. One of my favorite characters too. Great posting. I would watch her all day.

  8. The war between Madame Mim and Merlin is certainly one of my all time favorite scenes in animation. Inspired character driven animation. I Look forward to this scene with your inbetweens!

  9. Hi Andreas,
    I wanted to thank you first, for this great blog! This something that is so very much needed for all animators. Secondly, thank you for the time you gave at CTN this year and especially during the Creator's Conversation. I got to speak with you a little after and after the Lion King presentation with Ron and John. Thank you for your advice and tips you gave me when you reviewed my portfolio, I've been working on that since. You are a great inspiration to me and I know to many others. I hope I get another chance to see you at the next CTN. Good luck with your short film, I look forward to see it! Thanks!

  10. I still remember Milt Kahl laughing his head off while watching this stuff on the Moviola. I think Stan Green was with us in Kahl's office. I loved working on Mim. Truly the best animation in the movie.

  11. All rules of physics and animation were broken in the creation and animation of this unregulated character . I love it when, before flying on the broom, three other arms sprout out of her. I also loved the dedication Eric Goldberg made in "The Princess and the Frog" character (Louis' face is almost identical to Mim's in a sequence). As usual, I've got a question for you: is it possible that Frank Thomas took inspiration from its previous work on Sleeping Beauty? The anatomical structure is very similar to Merryweather's one... In Italy we all adore "The Sword in the Stone": the character was dubbed by Lydia Simoneschi (who also voiced the Blue Fairy from "Pinocchio", "Bambi"'s Mother, Flora, "Cinderella"'s Fairy Godmother, "101 Dalmatians"'s Nanny, "Jungle Book"'s Winifred and Lady Cluck.)

  12. Madame Mim is one of the few Milt Kahl characters that I really like. I know Milt was a genius draftsman, but those signature "Milt" bounces and rhythms that he put into characters, often didn't seem fitting to the character to me, they just seemed like a signature thing that he did. I know I'm in the minority there, so I'll move on and say that Mim was beautifully done. It's almost a shame that she had such a small part in the film, but it's very memorable. My daughter and I made a point of checking out all of storyman Bill Peet's storybooks this past summer and several of them feature short little witches in bloomers and scraggly hair- very obviously Madame Mim though with different names every time.