Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beauty Moment

There is so much you can admire in this one key drawing by Marc Davis and John Lounsbery (who did the animals in this sequence). We don't even see Aurora's face, but the movement and design of her hair and skirt is exquisite. There is an elegance that to date is unmatched.
The artists' passion and love for the animated medium is so evident in this drawing, even if the audience would see it for only a 24th of a second.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Wizard's Duel

The Wizard's duel sequence is a part of "The Sword in the Stone", the movie that edged out Chanticleer in the early 1960ies.
This brilliant sequence is the brainchild of story man Bill Peet, who boarded the entire film by himself. Peet started out by doodling character situations and dialogue ideas on note paper sheets.
After polishing the continuity with endless beautiful story sketches, it was up to Milt Kahl to take a look at  Bill's boards as an inspiration for final animation designs.
As so often the combined talents of these two extraordinary men produced some very inspired situations and great looking characters.
The image above is one of my favorite Kahl drawings. You see Peet's influence in the staging, but Picasso is sneaking in, too. Look at the croc's hands, fantastic!

These early sketches show Bill Peet's brain at work. He is a master of personality development.
Check out the written list of animals Merlin and Mim could turn into to best oppose each other.
Below are some of his story sketches. As you can imagine, the animators couldn't wait to work on such a sequence that was ideal for the medium.

The following color model sketches by Milt Kahl are stunning.
There are a few animal designs that didn't make the final cut, my favorite is the Mim stork. That's a character  I would love to animate. 
As usual Milt's draughtsmanship takes the material to another level. Ironically he did not animate on the sequence. When asked what he thought about the final result in the film, he just commented: "As so often, when work leaves my desk, gravity gets a hold of it."
I respectfully disagree. The sequence remains one of the highlights of the film.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


After the completion of Disney's "101 Dalmatians" there were two different projects in pre-production as possible follow ups .
One was titled "The Sword in the Stone" which was developed by Bill Peet, the other one was "Chanticleer". Ken Anderson and Marc Davis were doing story and design work on it.
Walt eventually had to make a choice, and he picked "The Sword in the Stone" to move forward.
Marc told the story that after the final Chanticleer presentation, a certain business man tried to convince Walt, that you can't make a personality out of a chicken.
I would like to think that Walt had other reasons for its cancelation, because these Marc Davis concept sketches are FULL of personality and charm.
Marc added: "I think that I did some of my best drawings at the studio for Chanticleer".

The tale revolves around an arrogant rooster who is convinced that his crow in the morning makes the sun rise.

Years ago Disney published a small children's book version of the story with Marc's illustrations, which you can still find on Amazon :

For now enjoy a selection of Marc Davis' incredible work for the project.
He starts out be studying the forms and shapes of real roosters and chicken, then he applies that knowledge to his anthropomorphic designs.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ferdinand and Matador

Before I scanned these two drawings for this post (I traced them from Frank and Ollie's book Too Funny for Words) I saw something in them that seemed odd.

First of all though, these are two absolutely fantastic key positions. How much bolder can you get ?! The matador had just exposed his chest in a last effort to challenge Ferdinand to a fight. But the bull only notices the tattoo of a flower which he starts licking affectionately.
The staging of the lick in the first drawing is already crazy, but it goes on from there. The tongue moves from the chest on all the way up to the jaw in one gigantic stretch.

Here's the funny thing: By the time the lick is in it's extreme position and the matador's body is fully stretched, his jacket fits tight on him now with the tie in place.
Logically this makes no sense. I assume that Ward Kimball, who animated the matador, didn't want to go through the business of having him put on his jacket afterwards.
I studied the scene on DVD, and realized that you just follow the main extreme action. The "morphing" of the jacket is a clever cheat, but you don't notice it unless you look for it.
Ferdinand was animated by Milt Kahl. 
These guys, even at a young age, sure had fun, and they knew what they were doing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Lesson from Frank Thomas

…on how to draw Merryweather, one of the three fairies from Sleeping Beauty.
Frank notes on the first sheet, these instructions were probably meant for assistant Dale Oliver.
What's so fascinating about these is that they give you an insight into the animator's thoughts on the character's construction and design.
As Ollie Johnston states in the documentary "Frank & Ollie", Frank analyzed everything very rigorously in preparing a scene, probably more than anybody.

This is a great demonstration on how to squash and stretch Merryweather's body and face. The idea is that you can distort her body mass, but the amount of mass must remain the same.
Fred Moore pioneered this principle years earlier when he developed Mickey Mouse from a rubber hose design into a character that moved with more weight and expression.

Even the design of folds in the costume's fabric needs to be carefully thought out.
Just about everything in Sleeping Beauty had to be specially designed.

This is all about how to base the cartoon eye on that of a real person. To the layman Disney eyes might just look like an oval with a round pupil in it, but there is so much more to it than that.
Many components go into the eye unit. The eyebrow, the mass underneath, the upper eyelid, the eyeball, the lower eyelid, eyelashes etc. Even though the animated eye is much simplified, those components do play a part.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wildlife in Wire

That was the name of my second exhibition of wire sculptures at Disney.
Originally I had no plans for a show like this one, my mind was on animating King Triton in early 1989.
Then one evening a news report on TV got my attention. It was announced that a day ago the last five remaining Black Rhinos in Kenya had been killed and poached for their horns.
I couldn't believe it. First I got angry, then an idea came to mind. I looked around my little home studio, I saw three or four new wire sculptures I had just finished…, what if I produced a whole bunch more and sell them as a charity to benefit the World Wildlife Fund. I found out that they were involved in efforts to help save the Black Rhino.

So on the evening of March 6, 1989 I invited guests to a proper reception in one of the conference rooms of Disney Animation in Glendale.
Here is the link to an earlier post about some of the sculptures that were offered for sale :

There were a total of about twenty pieces, and later I was thrilled when I found out that all of them were sold. I recall the total for the WWF was $17.500. 

The guest list included many Disney old-timers, and it was an honor to welcome them to this event. Many hadn't seen each other in years.

Look who arrived first, Ollie and Marie Johnston, followed by Frank and Jeanette Thomas. Receptionist/clean up artist Lauri Benson-Noda signs them in.

Here are Alice and Marc Davis. Effects master Dorse Lanpher is holding a glass, and that's animator Jacques Muller on the right.

In conversation with Marc and Frank…somebody pinch me. I remember Frank asking me:" So how do you get started on one of those?"
Simon Wells is way in the back.

With Mel Shaw and Ollie, James Baxter is serving champagne in the background.
(Thanks, James, all these years later.)

On the left is Background artist/Imagineer Claude Coats, then Alice and Marc.

I am trying to contain my excitement while talking to Bill Peet.
That's comic strip artist Daan Jippes on the right.

Still listening to words of wisdom from Bill Peet. In the foreground is my long time clean up assistant Kathy Bailey.

Front row from the left: Mel Shaw, Harry Tytle and his wife, then Alice Davis, Tony and Alexandra Palazzola (Milt Kahl's stepdaughter) and Carla Fallberg.

In the front from the left: Tom Sito, Susan and Eric Goldberg, Charles Solomon, Ollie, Dave Spafford and from the back Roger Chiasson.

Should have gotten a haircut.