Monday, March 31, 2014

Marc Davis 101 Years Old

…as of yesterday. 101, how about that?
What better occasion than to post a few expressive animation drawings of his farewell character Cruella De Vil from the groundbreaking film 101 Dalmatians. Whenever there is a Top Ten of Disney’s best villains, Cruella is often Nr. One.
These drawings remind us why. Marc went far out on this character, no holding back. She is grotesque and beautiful to watch at the same time. Cruella arguably represents the most successful use of live action reference for any animated character. Marc said that the live action was helpful, but often he had a different take on the acting and told himself, now its time for YOU to create a performance.

Cruella De Vil is a very bold modern statement in her graphic presentation as well as character acting. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Marc Your Calendar

No, I did not misspell…Marc Davis is the subject of an exhibition at the wonderful Walt Disney Family Museum from April 30 to November 3, 2014. And I feel honored to be given the opportunity to help out putting this show together. 
Here is the Museum’s official announcement:

It will be a very good time to visit the museum, since another incredible exhibition on the art of Mary Blair is being presented until September 2014.

If you interested in the art of Disney Animation you need to see these two exhibitions.

The photo above was taken during production of the Mickey Mouse film The Prince and the Pauper. Joe Grant and Marc gave us notes after viewing the story reels of the film, early in 1990.

And by the way, I wrote a chapter for the upcoming book on the Art Of Marc Davis, which will be available in October!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Happy Birthday, Alice!

The wonderful Alice Davis celebrates her birthday today. The photo shows her at last year’s birthday dinner. I have known Alice and her late husband Marc Davis for many years. Marc enjoyed the company of young artists and so does Alice. There is a reason why Alice has a lot of friends. Everyone loves her unique sense of humor as well as her positive outlook on life.
A while ago I had the opportunity to drive Alice to Anaheim to attend an event at Disneyland. Traffic was very bad, it was slow going on the 5 South. I tell you, I had the greatest time listening to Alice’s stories about Walt and the old studio.
Later, on the way back we had to deal with traffic again,  and the topic of conversation was Mary Blair, who Alice adored and had known very well. They both had worked together on the IT’s a Small World Attraction back in the early 1960s. It was a privilege to find out about Mary’s life, which over the years had its ups and downs.

Alice’s first job for Disney was to produce the dress worn by actress Helen Stanley, who performed scenes for the animators as Aurora for the film Sleeping Beauty. That dress is a marvel, the fabric creates the most graphic looking folds when in motion, and therefore helped to give Marc’s animation so much elegance.

Alice and Marc also worked together on Disneyland’s ride Pirates of the Caribbean.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Gang

Disney’s top animators got together sometime in 1973 for a photo shoot to promote their latest animated feature Robin Hood. Looks like Woolie just cracked a joke, for some reason only Milt Kahl and Les Clark are not laughing.
Most of the animators were involved in this production except a few. Marc Davis came over from Imagineering, his home since the early 1960s. Ward Kimball and Les Clark were involved in directing a variety of TV and theatrical specials. Eric Larson did a bit of animation on the film, but he started to focus on developing a training program for new talent.
Ollie Johnston loved his assignment to animate Prince John and Sir Hiss, Frank Thomas did not find a fun way to express himself in this film. Milt did beautiful work on Robin Hood and several other characters, but questioned the film’s story structure.
All of them were incredibly gifted artists, highly opinionated and critical. Marc Davis summed it up: ”I think that one of Walt’s greatest achievements was having all of us work together without killing one another.”

In other words they all knew that you had to be a team player in order to make these movies.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Cool Guy...

…named Milt Kahl would be 105 years old today. This photo was taken during one of my earlier visits to Marin County, where he spent the rest of his years after leaving Disney Studios.
I remember asking him if he was going down to LA to join a Snow White anniversary reunion organized by Disney, but he had no interest. Animation was in his past, now he enjoyed being remarried and seeing his children more often. He was a happy man, and I was happy and grateful that Milt took the time to see me and answer my many question about the art of animation.

Here are a few visual reminders of his extraordinary talent, covering the second half of his career.

There is plenty of Milt’s artwork to see on this blog. Here is the link to my first post on Milt:

Friday, March 21, 2014


Most of the personality scenes with the albatross Orville from the film The Rescuers were animated by Ollie Johnston. This is an interesting character, he is pilot and airplane all in one. Jim Jordan’s voice brought a confidence to the character despite his questionable flying maneuvers. 
For Orville’s take offs and landings Ollie used some live action footage as reference for his animation.
The Disney 1952 documentary Water Birds included scenes of an albatross’s awkward attempts to get airborne as well as his crash landings.
These design sketches are full of personality, and they show the character’s comical potential.

Milt Kahl took a shot at Orville’s design as well. His albatross is a little shorter in length. Milt was somehow able to add a funny baggy pants appearance, which is reminiscent of a vintage  aviator’s outfit. I wished that part would have been kept in the final design.

Never before published designs by Ollie and Milt. I hope you enjoy them.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ollie's Reason and Emotion

Ollie Johnston animated the two female parts in the 1943 propaganda film Reason and Emotion. (Milt Kahl did the sequence featuring the male parts).
For those of you who have not seen this short, there are two opposing characters inside the human head. One of them is Reason, proper and dignified, the other Emotion, intuitive and fun loving.
The film’s point is that only a good balance between the two guarantees a successful way to conduct one’s life.
This is one of the best War Time shorts Disney produced. The contrast between the characters makes for interesting conflict and fun situations.
Here are some of Ollie’s character layouts showing Emotion getting a hold of the driver’s seat.

I recall Frank Thomas suggesting way back that we study this short as character inspiration for The Black Cauldron. I know he felt that cartoony designs like these would be easier tho handle by a new, green animation crew. The designs Milt Kahl had suggested looked too familiar to him and too difficult to draw.

Reason and Emotion can be seen as part of the Disney treasures DVD called: On the Front Lines.