Monday, December 28, 2015

King Triton

I just realized that during my years of blogging I haven't posted anything yet on King Triton from The Little Mermaid. Actually I didn't think I had kept any such material, so to my surprise a bunch of first pass rough animation scenes just surfaced in a far corner of my archive. 
In this scene Triton is pretty darn mad at Ariel, who seems to be smitten by this human guy. His dialogue goes: "(Humans are) spineless, savage, harpooning fish eaters..."
It was fun to animate, because his emotions are very strong here. One thing I remember having just figured out was how to treat Triton's hair and beard. Earlier my first scene with him showed his hair resting on his back and shoulders, and that just didn't look like an under water scene at all. 
In order to achieve that effect, hair needs to float as it reacts to under water currents.

These are the key drawings from the scene, but I did do all of the in-betweens as well. I recall in those days we had either very few or possibly no rough in-betweeners, a cost cutting measure.
I never felt comfortable though "selling" my rough animation as a pose test, which looks like a slide show version of your scene, with missing in-betweens. So I ended up doing my own assistant work, which really didn't take very long since these drawings were loose and sketchy. 
For these scans I pushed the contrast a little, the lines on the 12 field paper are a very light blue. It is freakish to see that the paper has aged, but this stuff is now a few decades old...crazy!
Ahhh...the good old days...but actually they are still good, since I am still doing this sort of work.

One thing that puzzles me about this scene is that I didn't draw my precise graphite lines on top of each pose as per my usual work method. Instead I used new sheets of paper and tied down the character in a clean manner, so my clean up assistants would have an easier time doing their work.


  1. Finally! I've been waiting for you to post on King Triton for a long time. Oh and btw, I just got your book for Christmas and am loving it.

  2. Did you have time to readjust after Roger Rabbit?

  3. I watched again The Little Mermaid recently and I was impressed by the incredible production quality. The animation on the fishtails, on Ursula's tentacles, on the underwater hair and all the swimming around are so well done that they actually go unnoticed (which I suppose is often the point in animation). But all that stuff sell the idea of being in the deep more than any fancy lighting effect or burst of bubbles. I suppose it was crucial for the animators to understand the increased drag of things under water and the impact that it has on overlap and follow-through.
    On another note: the incredibly solid script makes of this one of the finest movies of the so called "Disney renaissance". I have the impression that Mermaid gets somewhat overlooked, mainly because the later feature films scored higher at the box office and had big names among the voice cast, but to me it could be in the top 3 of post 1980 Disney.

  4. Thank you for sharing them! They remind me about those renaissance sketches! Besides, the film will be always exceptional, even a 100 years from now. Eric Larson would have been proud your animation, had he lived enough to see the film.

  5. Hi Mr. Deja, my name is Justo Nava from Creativa Fest, I have contacted you before to invite you to come to our festival here in Mexico City, we even met at CTN in 2014. I was looking for your email address but it appears that I've lost it, I remember you were kind enough to email me but I just can't find that email and I would love to send you next year's invitation and see if you can make it.

    Please send me an email to

    Best :)

  6. Looking at your animation of King Triton, I felt there was so much power in that character. I just got your book, it was very educationally in regard to the animation techniques

  7. His anger comes through! And this is why my daughter thinks he's the villain in the film. :)

  8. I have always been fascinated about how these animation films were made and it's awesome that you are sharing these images with us, thank you for that.
    I just have a question about Ariel, why was there 2 supervising animators working on her, Glen Keane and Mark Henn?

    1. I guess it just worked out that way, both artists contributed a great amount to the development and animation of Ariel.

    2. Wow, that's amazing, everyone collaborating for the better of the film!