Friday, November 30, 2012

The Evolution of Jafar

I was thrilled when I got the assignment to supervise the animation of Jafar, the villain in the film Aladdin. I had just finished work on Gaston, who had to be handled with a certain amount of realism.
I remember thinking: Not with Jafar!
Here was a chance to design and animate a character who belonged in a graphically stylized world.
Animator Eric Goldberg had already done some incredible test animation of the Genie, which helped to set the style for character designs. Inspired by the fluid lines of famous caricaturist Al Hirschfeld combined with the voice of Robin Williams, Eric created a Genie for the ages and set the bar very high for the rest of us.
But how would I handle Jafar's personality against the uber entertaining Genie and the rest of the cast? Should I go along and give him plenty of lively gestures or should I downplay his acting and look for contrast instead?  
I found out the more I held back and showed him thinking and plotting, the more evil and interesting he became. Sure there were scenes when eccentric acting was called for such as when Jafar turns into a beggar. The attitudes here show a hunger for power as well as extreme frustration.
All those scenes were animated beautifully by Kathy Zielinski.
Other animators in the Jafar unit were Nik Ranieri, Ken Duncan, Ron Husband and Lou Dellarosa.

Many different design ideas were floating around early on, before animation began.

A fun drawing by designer/story artist Daan Jippes.

This sketch by director John Musker showed just the right attitude to go along with Jonathan Freeman's voice recordings. 

A couple of my early drawings with extra evil eyebrows. Didn't feel right though.

I order to loosen up I scribbled many facial expressions to explore the range of his facial features.
Setting Jafar's mouth very low on his face allowed me to create bizarre but interesting mouth shapes. 

My attempt to tie down some of those rough faces.

How realistic or how cartoony should his hands look like? I knew I wanted hands you wouldn't want to touch.

Premature cleanup studies. The right type of personality is emerging, but his face has way too many angles and planes. Too complicated to look at and not in line with the style of the film.

Jean Gillmore drew these expressive poses. 

I tried to minimize the line milage in the design. Still not stylized enough.

After one more pass I was comfortable with these animatable shapes.
This is the design directors Ron Clements and John Musker approved.

Clean up artist Kathy Baily creates the fine line look for the character.

An oversized drawing of Jafar with a cut out Iago provided by animator Will Finn.

I don't particularly enjoy drawing model sheets, it's all about measuring the components of the character and being consistent. They are important though because they explain the character "graphically" to your animation and clean up crew.

A cool design for Jafar's staff. We decided to close the snake's mouth though to save line mileage.
It probably saved the film's budget, too :)

A couple of my more or less typical roughs.

This is a clean up drawing from a scene that was cut from the movie 
Jafar is muttering the magic word to make the gigantic tiger head appear in the desert.
That magic word was the name of our layout supervisor: Rasoul Azadani

Jonathan Freeman voiced the character perfectly, He loved being Jafar, and I loved animating to his inspired vocal performances.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily is a unique character in the Disney film Peter Pan.
Just like Tinker Bell she doesn't have any dialogue in the movie, but her emotions and attitudes are always clear. She is one courageous young lady. By resisting Captain Hook and not telling him about Peter Pan's hiding-place, she risks her life.
Milt Kahl came up with the final design for the character. He did the drawing above for Ken O'Brien, the animator responsible for most of Tiger Lily's scenes.

These model sheet drawings were done by James P. Miller during the early 1940ies, when Peter Pan was in early pre-production. Actually the final design doesn't differ that much from Miller's beautiful concept.

A couple of stunning animation roughs by Ken O'Brien, who is one of those unsung animation heroes. 
This spirited Tiger Lily dance alone makes him a top animator, and his work over the years deserves further investigating.

A frame from the film shows Tiger Lily next to her father, the Indian Chief, and Peter Pan.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brom Bones

Singer/Actor Bing Crosby visits Milt Kahl, and he brought his four sons along, Dennis, Phillip, Gary and Lindsay.
Crosby narrated the Disney film The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which made up half of the 1949 feature film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. 
Milt animated the introduction of the town's bully Brom Bones as well as his big song number at the Van Tassel party. 
He is a rich character, full of confidence and full of himself. Milts animation shows just the right amount of dash and bounce. Although the style of the film is pretty cartoony Brom Bones' physique required careful and somewhat realistic draughtsmanship in terms of anatomy.
Milt was just perfect for this kind of an assignment. No live action reference here, that's why the animation feels so wonderfully loose.

This was great inspiration for myself, when I started work on Gaston in Beauty & The Beast.
Although I did end up using some live action reference, I tried to avoid rotoscoped looking animation.
Brom Bones and Gaston have a few things in common such as an overbearing personality, and they are both after one girl. Then again Brom ends up with Katrina while Gaston fell to his death…or did he?

A Vis. Dev. character line up of Brom Bones and his buddies.

Milt explores staging ideas, showing Brom Bones frustrated during a scene at the party.

These are copies of Milt's key drawings, the clean up was done right over his roughs.
During this song Brom is intimidating and scaring Ichabod Crane.
Beautifully timed to the rythm of the music with a daring perspective shot at the end.
Dial. : "He swears to the longest day he's dead!"

Blog reader Henry created this pencil test:

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!
To post sketches from Disney's 1949 featurette "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" seems appropriate for today. Though the film's theme has more to do with Halloween, but turkey is being served in several scenes, so what the heck!
Above are Frank Thomas' design drawings for the main character and his horse. That scary ride home from the party is some of Frank's best work. He told me once that he animated the sequence faster than anything else before that. I forgot the actual footage now, but I believe it was around thirty feet a week.

A couple of animation roughs showing Ichabod escorting Katrina, who would be animated on a separate level. My guess is that these are by Ollie Johnston.

Design sketches of Katrina by Frank. He is trying to avoid any definition of her nose to achieve a soft, youthful appearance. The concept didn't hold up in the animation.
Fred Moore had something to do with her final look as well.

Great staging studies for key poses by Frank. Beautiful, clear compositions.

Ward Kimball's concept for Brom Bones. He looks much cartoonier here, before Milt Kahl turned him into a more handsome dude. 
By the way, when I did Gaston, the same kind of alteration was asked for.

A Frank Thomas sketch incorporating Kimball's Brom Bones.
(On second thought, this could be a Kimball drawing).

A Milt Kahl's rough of Tilda.

For a brief moment Brom Bones gets to dance with Katrina in this Kahl sketch.

Here Milt is helping Frank and Ollie to resolve drawing issues in their scenes.