Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fergy's Honest John

Honest John (or J. Worthington Foulfellow) is one of my all time favorite animated characters.
Rich personality -the used car salesman type-, great design and outstanding acting.
Norm Ferguson supervised the animation on him, he had some help from a young John Lounsbery.
Fergy, as he was called around the studio, was an intuitive animator. Walt Disney liked the loose quality in his animation and in his drawings, and he encouraged other animators to take this approach. He was also a very fast animator. And because Fergy was not thinking about doing "pretty drawings" the poses he came up with for the fox are dynamic, inventive and so right in character. There is a theatrical Vaudeville quality to them, which is why the animation reads so clearly on the screen.
To me it looks like Fergy intergraded strong straight lines into his work even before Milt Kahl used them as a means of simplifying and strengthening a drawing.

The first sketch is pre-production, followed by rough animation keys and a couple of model sheets.
Fergy died way too young in 1957 at the age of 55.


  1. My favorite quality of Honest John is his elasticity, which is very noticeable in some of these drawings. Beautiful. thank you Andreas!

  2. For some reason, I keep staring at his gloves and his hat ';)

  3. I think Honest John is one of the most memorable characters they've ever done. His personality is in every single one of these drawings

  4. Beautiful! I'm grateful to be reminded of the masterful work that was done at Disney before the Nine Old Men came into their own. The third sketch in particular blows my mind -- it's incredibly simple, graphic, and expressive. Many thanks!!

  5. Truly classic and powerful, him and his sidekick was always really fun to watch.

  6. Honest John/Foulfellow is one of my favorite Disney characters. I've been fortunate enough over the past few years to have been able to acquire some production cels and drawings of him, which for a film that's 72 years old is amazing. :)

  7. One of the thing that just kills me about the drawings is how beautifully the perspective on the hat indicates where the weight of the character is at any given point. I wonder if people who have never tried their hands at figure drawing can understand how excruciatingly talented you have to be to pull that off with such aplomb.

    Beautiful too are the fluid, graceful lines within the composition of the poses - but I see what you mean about the straight lines, like the pointed finger.

  8. A classic example of Disney animators' ability to take a classical literary character and make him a movie star. Collodi's fox was a boorish character, he's uncouth and violent even when he tricks Pinocchio. I find Fergy added a layer of sophistication to Honest John. Of course the fox underwent an americanization process, as well as all the other characters from the book. But I think that the result of this process is a remarkable, though obviously different, character. Furthermore he's totally unbound from the XIX Italian moral. "Hi Diddle Dee Dee" is the perfect song for him, and I love the fact he's so intertwined with the stage/vaudeville world. I love Fergy's use of straight lines to enhance his mean and false expressions.

  9. I'm always amazed how Disney is willing to "throw away" their most brilliant animators.

    Something I hardly have to tell you.

  10. The performance of Honest John is way underrated in my opinion.

  11. Fergy's work deserves a wider airing.

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