Monday, November 7, 2011

Professor Ludwig von Drake

One of my favorite Disney characters! 
Milt Kahl came up with his final design in 1960, based on the classic Donald Duck formula. But by then Milt had studied Picasso, and that influence is visible in Ludwig von Drake and most other characters Milt designed in the sixties and seventies. There is an astonishing balance between pleasing shapes and lines.
I would think it isn't easy to put a suit jacket on to a cartoon duck body and make it look natural. If you look at the top left drawing on the model sheet, you see that it is tailored like a real jacket, folds and creases occur in the right places.
As usual Milt made sure that hands are drawn to perfection. The fingers retain a slight feathery feel and are very expressive. 
Since his personality is that of a befuddled TV host, he does a lot of talking and explaining. Milt and the other animators who handled him often looked for props they could incorporate in Ludwig's acting. His glasses, a letter or a piece of chalk to write with.
Two of the best TV shows were ""An Adventure in Color" and "Kids is Kids", watch its opening sequence on the bottom of the post.
The first few scenes are by Milt, then Frank Thomas follows. I wonder if you can tell when the switch happens.
Ollie Johnston also did some very nice Ludwigs in other shows.

This is a design sheet, it looks like Milt is trying to figure out what an "O" mouth would look like on this beak.

Here is a drawing Milt did for a Frank Thomas scene.

 A selection of beautiful rough key poses.

This sheet shows that Milt could draw Ludwig's head from tough angles and make it look fantastic.
And this was animation for television!!


  1. One of my favorite characters too! I wish I saw these drawings a few days ago. I was drawing him for something and I could've used the reference!

    I think I can tell when the switch happens. Milt's scene ends when Ludwig pats his backside with the book, and Frank picks up after that. Is that correct?

    Also, I know that Ward animated a lot of Ludwig early on, but also that he really didn't have that a good a time animating him. Did you ever have the chance to ask Ward about that? I've been working with Amid on the Kimball book for a while and I was searching all over the place for any other Ludwig footage I could find (among other things).

  2. I'll say Milt Kahl changes out with Frank Thomas at the 1:12 point in the video.

  3. one of the best disney characters underrated. amazing design

  4. I love his design. I even have him on an old Disney chalkboard.

  5. I was just listening to his song a couple days ago in my car thinking I wished I could find out more about his creation.

  6. I just love the fact that the glasses do not feel clumsy on this design.. they don't distract, from features in the face and the acting... It all just adds to the character so well... Love Ludwig.

  7. Thank you for posting this: Von Drake's an amazing, wonderful character, and the animators really went to town with Paul Free's vocals.

    And we get a great, great photo of Walt, too! He seems annoyed by the Prof's politically incorrect Native American impression. :) I love any shot of Walt interacting with the characters.

  8. Back in the nineties, I drew Ludwig for some comic book stories, and I would have liked those model sheets too! At the time, Disney claimed they "didn't have much reference" on the character.

    Even if I had all the reference in the world, I couldn't have come cloose to these incredible images...

    1. Bill, I just loved the Ludwig stories you drew! Some were published here in Brazil and it was a big inspiration for my own comic book stuff.

  9. Lion King special – radio show next sunday

    again there’s a little ‘one-hour-drawings-in-motion-soundtrack-trip’ by radio through the world of lion King.

    Next sunday from 6 p.m. western european time (best brunchtime for California)
    Andreas told some lion king stories in german this spring, now on air!

    Join, if you like, and leave a mail-message if you enjoy.
    Next Sunday, november 13th, 6pm via live-stream

    right down button ‘sr3-online-radio’
    “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba”

  10. Great post I always loved this character. Was he influential in the designing of Scrooge McDuck?

  11. I love these images you share (especially the large size!). They make for awesome desktop backgrounds.
    Thanks again and again for sharing your insight and passion for animation, Andreas!

  12. David- Scrooge already made his first appearance in a Carl Barks comic in 1947, years before Ludwig.

    Thanks for this post, I always hoped to get my hands on some Ludwig model sheets sometime, I love drawing him!

  13. I have very warm feelings when I see or think about Ludwig von Drake. He's a character that I grew up with; those Disney shows were very much a part of my formative years. I imagine the same is true for many others.

    It's comforting to see how excellently the character works when seeing it almost fifty years later. It's a brilliant design by Milt Kahl, and Paul Frees voice is classic work.

  14. Thank you for posting this up! As a kid, Von Drake was always one of my favorite Disney characters. The design is very appealing and the animation is absolutely marvelous. Wonderful stuff!

  15. Hello Andreas!

    A new domain address for your bookmarks...


  16. As others have guessed, the scene switches from Milt to Frank right after he whacks himself on the rump with the book. Though it's subtle, one telltale giveaway is the bill. When handled by Milt, Von Drake's bill is a bit longer and flares outward. Frank gives him a slightly smaller bill that tapers in at the end. Also, I find that Milt's Von Drake makes more of a direct eye contact with the viewer, and Frank's is oddly a bit glassy-eyed.

    As it was for Michael Sporn, Von Drake was also a character I grew up with as a child of the 60's, watching The Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday night. Those shows were always my favourites, as back then there wasn't a lot of Disney animation so readily available as it became years later on VHS and DVD. So an evening in the company of that crazy Austrian duck. that linked classic Disney shorts together with the new animation, was always a rare and wonderful television event!

  17. As far as I know, Ward Kimball hated that character.

  18. exquisite timming.I specially like the way he touches his tail with the book.

  19. i think FRank Thomeases frist scene is at 2:20 when L.Von Drake is at the top of the tree with the telescope.Why? it turned from being angular and dramatic,to FT sweetness.

  20. Hahaha amazing. Love seeing those old toons again, especially the ones they wouldn't show today!

  21. Hello Andreas! This is Pat. Came across your blog from seeing a few followers also visit my blog.

    Really like those Ludwig model sheets. Great drawings there.

    Please, visit my blog and take a look at my drawings and cartoons! Take care.

  22. hello Andreas my name is McKayla i am an aspiring artist/ animator... but i am also a high school student trying to find ways to wedge my foot in the door in order for me to achieve my dream, working for disney. i have a couple of questions to ask you about how you started and how i can maybe get noticed. here is my email please contact me so that i could possible get some inside on this subject.

  23. I still remember The Green with Envy Blues (off one of the old sing along songs tapes Disney put out back in the day)