Monday, July 29, 2013

Fred Moore from the Back

As far as I'm concerned there aren't enough photos of Fred Moore around.
This is the guy who changed the look and feel of character animation during the 1930s in a big way.
The photo above was taken in Fred's office at the Disney Hyperion Studio. It looks like Walt is dropping by with guests Leopold Stokowski and Deems Taylor, and Fred is giving a demonstration on how animation works by flipping a scene with Mickey from The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

This was the time when Mickey's design changed, and he was given pupils for the first time.
You can see the character has come a long way since the early black and white films.
There are plenty of graphic cheats going on in this model sheet from 1938, but who cares, there is ultimate appeal in every single sketch!

The next image shows Fred decorating a board with centaurettes. That board served as a backdrop for a filmed drawing class as part of the feature film The Reluctant Dragon. The photo was taken on one of the sound stages of the new Burbank Studio.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bambi Vis Dev Art

In their 1990 book Bambi, The Story and the Film, Frank and Ollie don't identify the artist who produced these magnificent poetic renderings. They probably didn't remember.
The use of light gives the settings a magical, dreamlike quality. There is subtle shading on the characters, even though the final appearance of Bambi, Thumper and all the others would mostly consists of thin ink lines and flat cel paint. 
Nonetheless these drawings sure helped to establish the mood for one of the most beautiful films ever made.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Busch Circus Sketches

More spectacular gesture drawings by German artist Wilhelm M. Busch.
Throughout his career as a prolific book illustrator, he kept going to the circus to study animals interacting with their trainers. 
I am astounded by his ability to find golden moments in front of his fast moving objects.
You can tell by the line work that each sketch took only seconds to put down. 
This man continues to amaze and inspire me. He is the real deal!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

From Live Action to Final Frame

These black and white photostats show clearly how the actors' performance influenced the Disney animators. To me it is always fascinating to find out what parts were kept and which ones were changed. 
Young dancer/actress Marge Champion, who had just finished acting out the role of Snow White for the animators, also performed as The Blue Fairy in Pinocchio.
By the way, today at age 93 Marge looks as beautiful as ever. I had the good fortune to get to know her a little, she is a remarkable lady, who had a remarkable career.

That's actor Christian Rub, painting Pinocchio's mouth. He not only acted out the part of Geppetto for animator Art Babbitt, he also voiced the character. Rub was born in Germany and his accent was for real.

Actress Rhoda Williams, as Cinderella's stepsister Drizella, beats up on actor Don Barclay, who is trying his best to fit the glass slipper on to her foot.
Ollie Johnston animated this scene.

In this group shot Wendy, John, Michael and Mrs. Darling are feeling sorry for the dog Nana, who just had an accident running into Mr. Darling.
Wendy of course is Kathryn Beaumont, John is Paul Collins, Michael has Mickey Mouse standing in for him, and Mrs. Darling is played by English actress Heather Angel, who also voiced her character.
Nana is put together by a sac, a box and a plunger. 

Young Prince Phillip is being presented to baby Princess Aurora by the Queen, except that he is not supposed to look into the camera !!
The boy is Cubby O'Brian, who was a famous Mouseketeer in his day job at that time. The Queen is played by Jane Fowler (later Boyd), a Disney effects artist.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Disney Owls

There have been so many owls over the years in Disney animation that I can't list them all in this post. Their personalities range from warm paternal to comedic types. Some of them took on the role of a teacher, educating other characters or the audience on a certain subject matter.

A lot of photographic research went into Bambi, to inspire styles for the environments but also the characters. The picture above is part of that research. Walt sent a couple of cameramen on a seven-month trip through the Katahdin county of Maine state, with instructions to photograph and film as many sceneries and animals as possible.
Beautiful realistic studies were made based on that material, and Joe Grant's department produced  wonderful preliminary model sheets. 
It looks like Friend Owl used to be a mom.

Great owl studies that are starting to show personality. The second sheet is a Marc Davis  story sketch. The animation of Friend Owl was done by Eric Larson and Preston Blair.

Wise Old Owl appeared in the 1949 animation/live action film So Dear to My Heart. 
The storyline might be a bit too corny for some of you, but let me tell you, the animated sequences are worth the purchase of the DVD (which is a beautiful transfer of the film).
Milt Kahl did some outstanding scenes with the owl character lecturing Danny, the black lamb.
Worth studying frame by frame!!

The "Accordion Owl" from Alice in Wonderland.

This is Professor Owl from Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, 1953. Milt Kahl didn't animate on the short, but he drew these design poses of the character. 
(Previously posted on 365 Days of Ward Kimball)  I actually prefer these proportions over the final version.

The owl in Sleeping Beauty was designed by Kahl based on rough sketches by Tom Oreb.
By now the owl's appearance is a variation of an older theme. Fantastic stylization though.

Archimedes was mostly animated by Ollie Johnston, Milt did a few scenes with a more graphic approach, as you can see in his model sheet.

John Lounsbery supervised the animation of Owl for the three Winnie the Pooh featurettes.
By now a very familiar design formula, but Lounsbery brought the character to life with unique character animation as the pseudo-intellectual type.

A model sheet by Dale Baer, who animated Owl for Winnie the Pooh's most recent feature. Dale trained under John Lounsbery in the 1970s, so he was perfectly cast on this character. Beautiful job, Dale!

Guess what! I animated one scene with Owl interacting with Tigger in the film. It was so much fun to do, but articulating wings as hands is not as easy as it might seem.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Don Towsley is Amazing!

He really is!!
Towsley was mostly a Donald Duck animator, but he also worked on some of the early Disney features such as Pinocchio, Fantasia and Dumbo.
He created the most dynamic model sheets like the one above for Disney stars like Donald, Mickey and Goofy. His short film credits start with the 1934 Two-Gun Mickey and end with 1948 Drip Dippy Donald. Towsley went on to work for other studios in Hollywood as an animator and director.

The animation drawings I am showing here are from Donald's Cousin Gus. As I mentioned before in a previous post, Gus was brilliantly animated by Woolie Reitherman. Towsley's Donald is equally fantastic. To me these drawings show the real Donald at his peak as an animated character.
The poses are alive, they are drawn with an inventive touch, and no angle seems impossible.
As a matter of fact, those unusual perspectives add greatly to the characters range in terms of motion and acting. And that's why Donald looks so believable here. No formulas, no limitations, only  energetic, inspired personality animation.
Because of the fact that these drawings don't show any numbers makes me think that they could be tracings off Towsley's roughs by an assistant. This was not uncommon practice, tracing the animators' keys allowed the follow up artists to get to know a particular animation and drawing style.
Then again, I could be wrong and these really are Towsley's original roughs.

In any case I am totally in love with this type of approach to animation. What a freeing feeling for the animator to know that he could infuse his character with such spirited, dynamic life.

These last few drawings are from a different short.