Monday, March 30, 2015

A Lecture on The Nine Old Men

Some of you might know that I have been working on a book with Focal Press on the art of Disney's Nine Old Men. Right now it looks like the release date will be this coming August. (The subtitle has been changed to "Disney's Great Animators")
It has been super exciting to analyze their work again, and to show how individual each of their contributions were. Their work methods, drawing styles as well as their tastes contrasted each other immensely.

On this coming Saturday, April 4, I will give an online talk showcasing the work of the Nine Old Men. As usual this will happen in connection with my friends at Virtual Animators. 
I will also talk about these guys as people, the way I met them and stayed in touch. John Lounsbery and Les Clark had already passed away when I came to LA, but I did get to know members of their families. 
Aside from talking about the brilliant work of this group of artists, I will share with you anecdotes, because some fun stuff occured when I spent time with them. A visit with Kimball was never just a visit, I always drove home laughing my head of. 

If you are interested in joining me for the talk, here is the link to Virtual animators:

Here is a pic of Kimball and me, he is showing me a huge folder filled with studio gag drawings by himself, Fred Moore and Walt Kelly. Amazing!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Michelangelo...Yes, Michelangelo

As an animator, how can you NOT be fascinated and overwhelmed by the masters of the Italian Renaissance?! During that time the depiction of the human figure started to move, it has rhythm and life. As an art student I was utterly blown away by this Michelangelo sheet of anatomical studies for the Sistine Chapel. This is the Libyan Sibyl. She looks mighty masculine, because in those days only men modeled for artists. Michelangelo's observation is intense, he is searching for the truth under the model's skin. A triumph of human artistry. A piece of art that makes you weep.

Below the final painting from the Sistine Chapel.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

King Louie by Frank Thomas

King Louie is briefly annoyed during the jungle jam session, when he notices that his sidekick "Flunkey" has joined in, taking some of the spotlight.
This nice cel from the scene is currently being offered at Heritage Auctions.

Frank did all 58 drawings for the scene, there are no in-betweens. Throughout Louie is bouncing up and down to the beat of the music, so the overall motion is pretty involved. Because if the amount of work, there was no time to tie down the drawings. That task went to Frank's assistant Dale Oliver, who traced the poses on to new sheets of paper with thin, sketchy black pencil lines.
Frank's drawings might not look as polished as you would expect, but they sure have a soul, and they communicate beautifully. I like the way Louie turns his head, as the upper cranium leads the move with the mouth unit following through. 
It's a great scene, completely alive!

More on King Louie in this previous post:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cranky Milt

This coming Sunday, March 22, is Milt Kahl's birthday.
He doesn't seem too happy in the photo with the way things are going on the film The Aristocats.
In the end he didn't like the movie very much, though he enjoyed animating Edgar, the butler and George Hautecourt, the old lawyer, less so Madame Bonfamille and the horse Frou Frou.
To me ALL of his work on the film is outstanding. Milt was way too professional to let a weak story line stand in the way of his creativity.

Here is his first major character for a Disney feature, followed by his last.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Character Design Lecture

Character Design, and where to look for inspiration, will be the topic of my next online lecture with Virtual Animators. It will take place this Saturday, March 21. 
I will point out and demonstrate several approaches to achieving interesting, cliche free designs.
Here are works by just a few artists, who I admire, and who constantly remind me of high standards when it comes to visualizing unique graphic versions of human and animal characters.

In case you'd like to join the live lecture, here is the link to Virtual animators:

I consider character designs for today's animated projects an important topic. Let's see how we can deviate from the sort of sameness that seems to have crept into today's animation.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Long Before...

...Lily James and Richard Madden starred in Disney's current hit film Cinderella, and even before Disney's animators drew scenes with the heroine and the Prince for the 1950 classic movie, there were actors Helene Stanley and Jeffrey Stone, who provided life action reference footage.
Beautiful photo stat, what a charming couple!

Thanks to all of you who responded to my previous post. I will get back to you in the next few days.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mushka Teaser Poster Ideas

I was determined to hand out some kind of teaser poster at last year's CTN Expo. Well, I did, but not before exploring several visual ideas that would represent the overall mood of the film. Here are some of the outtakes. I am not going to post the two final designs, it makes owning one of the two posters a little more special. (on the poster there is a tag line missing, because I haven't copyrighted it yet.)

As a general Mushka update:
I just about finished work on the story reel/animatic, even though some changes and improvements will happen as production continues. I am in love with this story, it is emotional, exciting (as in action) and funny.
I am extremely thrilled to announce that the one and only Richard Sherman has written a song for the film!! I'll tell you later how this came to be, but I am pinching myself knowing that Academy Award winning Richard Sherman, who cowrote the songs for Jungle Book with his brother Robert, among many other groundbreaking films, is a creative part of my film. As King Louie says: "Craaazy!"
As I am getting into full production on Mushka, I am looking for local LA 2D animation artists.

- Effects animator, experienced or new. But with high standards.
- Inbetweeners, experienced or new. But with high standards.
- Animators, experienced or new. But with high standards.
- Interns

If you are interested, leave your email, and I'll contact you. I won't be able to pay studio rates, but I WILL pay independent film $.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Ward Kimball didn't really enjoy the assignment of animating the character of Bacchus for the Pastoral sequence in Fantasia. And I really don't know why. I do know that he had his eyes set on the segment Dance of the Hours, featuring dancing hippos and alligators, but he didn't end up being cast on that part of the film.
It is kind if fun to discover though, that there WAS a Disney artist who provided inspiration by having his expressive face photographed as an inspiration for story artists and animators.

Caravaggio's painting of the Roman God of wine had no influence on the Disney artists at all.

Story artist James Bodrero developed a cartoony version of the character, that started to show some  a resemblance to a certain Disney artist.

Even the beautiful maquette from Joe Grant's design department
was modeled after a particular Disney employee.


And that artist it is Dick Huemer, who co-wrote the movie Dumbo with colleague Joe Grant.
See for yourself, if you think that there is any resemblance  between Bacchus and Dick Huemer.
Boy, I sure think three is.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

101 Dalmatians Background Styling

If you think that creating backgrounds for Disney's 101 Dalmatians was a piece of cake compared to the preceding film Sleeping Beauty, think again. Sure, Eyvind Earl's renaissance styling is rich with sharp detail, but look at this layout from 101. Layout supervisors Don Griffith, Collin Campbell and Erni Nordli had their hands full, creating settings in accurate and finessed line drawings. It really was the layout department that took the brunt of the work to present meticulous backdrops for the animated characters. The background artists added simple washes of color, suggesting the overall mood of the scene in a sketchy way.
It's my guess that the layout folks were doing overtime, while the background artists took long lunches.
Below a screen grab from this gorgeous scene, just a truck in without characters.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tiger Inspiration

During my research about tigers for my film Mushka, I came across some remarkable art and other resources, that helped me develop an anatomical understanding, but also an artistic appreciation of this magnificent animal. Paul Jouve created this outrageously beautiful panel above. This complex casual pose, drawn and painted with such ease.

There are endless intriguing photos of tigers to admire online.

My friend Olivier sent me countless photos he took at the zoo. You learn something from each image.

I got a few well crafted Tiger figurines, they were inexpensive and help with certain drawing challenges.

Fine artist from around the world show various possibilities in depicting tigers.

Austrian artist Nobertine Bresselern-Roth (1891 - 1978) created amazing animal illustrations using the linocut technique.

Animal expert Wilhelm Kuhnert was great at drawing any type of wildlife, including big cats.

Another terrific illustration by French artist Paul Jouve.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Pinocchio, Age 75

Walt Disney's film Pinocchio turned seventy-five years old last month. We have come a long way from this type of soulful, personal, compassionate, warmhearted and noble type of animated film making.