Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ollie's Farewell Animation

The 1981 film The Fox & the Hound turned out to be the last animated movie Ollie Johnston worked on. After decades of superb character animation Ollie's work still had that magic touch. But as he told me, drawing didn't came as easily to him as it used to years earlier. It actually started in the previous film The Rescuers. He remembered working on a specific scene with the character of Penny, the orphan girl. His drawing hand was starting to give him a little trouble, from time to time it wasn't holding steady. "I just couldn't animate the scene, the fielding and size felt wrong, so I gave it to someone else to do."
It is hard to imagine how Ollie, under those circumstances, was still able to produce top notch character animation. These heartfelt key drawings of Copper still show his strong personal engagement with the character.

Images Heritage Auctions.

More drawings from The Fox & the Hound by Ollie as well as Frank Thomas here:

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Skiing Crocodile

Only Heinrich Kley could add such convincing life to this fantasy situation. A Croc skies downhill while a couple of Monkeys are looking on. As so often Kley challenges himself by portraying a character from an insane difficult angle. Why stage something conventionally when you are a master draughtsman ?!
I purchased this piece a little over 15 years ago on a trip to Munich/Germany. A local gallery was still selling "Left over Art" from Kley's estate. As I said before, Kley's art never gets old. It is fresh, funny, masterful and endlessly inspirational.

I've posted several times on Heinrich Kley in the past, here is one of those posts:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Eyvind Earle

This incredible hi/res photo surfaced online recently. Walt Disney is dropping by Eyvind Earle's office, it looks like a late afternoon meeting sometime during the late 1950s. Walt loosened his tie, and his right arm is leaning on one of Earle's exploratory paintings, which is pictured below. Casual photos from behind the scenes of Disney animated films are rare, and this image takes you right back in time when Sleeping Beauty was in production. 

Heritage Auctions recently offered beautiful cel set ups from the film. The first two images don't show matching cels with background, but still reveal the amazing color choices for the character cels.
They read clearly over the highly detailed, stylized BGs.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Images of Mickey

The ever changing appearance of Mickey Mouse over the decades makes for some fascinating study.
Some people might wonder why his look changed at all, wouldn't this confuse audiences?
The thing is that all great artists go through an evolution, they get better and their art improves. With some though, creative juices slow down with old age, and the polished quality from their earlier work might fade visibly. The energy, enthusiasm and sense for experimentation seen years ago is lacking.
To a certain degree Mickey was a victim of such a development.

There is plenty of enthusiasm as well as experimentation going on in the drawing above from the early Ub Iwerks era. Animator Les Clark was also working on Mickey and Minnie at that time.

You can see in the following sketch how young Fred Moore handled the character. He added his unique sense for appeal, complex draughtsmanship and elasticity in Mickey's movements.
The film is Pluto's Judgement Day from 1935.

I am not sure who animated this sequence from Magician Mickey from 1937, perhaps Ed Love. Drawing and motion are wonderful and quite gutsy.

By 1938 Frank Thomas infused Mickey with superior acting (broad and subtle) for The Brave Little Taylor. The whole section in which Mickey demonstrates to the King and Princess how he "got seven on one blow" ranks as some of the best character animation ever done.

Fred Moore animated this scene from the film, where Mickey notices the Giant approaching.

By 1939 the design for Mickey's eyes was altered, which allowed for more believable expressions. Frank Thomas animated this encounter with a bear in the forest for the film The Pointer. Here again, top acting.
Mickey tries to convince the bear to spare his life because he is a famous personality "You know...Mickey Mouse".

Fred's model sheet showing how Mickey's new eyes work. He chose to re-draw a few poses from his own animation from The Brave Little Taylor. (The last three on the sheet).

A couple of great cels from The Sorcerer's Apprentice, 1940. By now Mickey could do anything, even conduct the universe.
The second scene was animated by Les Clark.

A great sketch by Fred Moore. Mickey looks back apprehensively toward the Sorcerer leaving.
Those always round ears never follow the laws of perspective, yet for some reason this cheat seems acceptable.

Fred drew key scenes with Mickey and Minnie for The Nifty Nineties, 1941. By this time the character's torso became smaller while his nose, hands and feet were enlarged. Extremely fluid animation.

For The Mickey Mouse Club, starting in the mid 1950s, Mickey announced the show based on its theme. Ollie Johnston animated this intro for Monday, Fun with Music Day.

The cels had a thicker outline for the character, while interior lines were kept thin. It was thought that this look would read better on TV sets back then.

Some of the last classic short films featuring Mickey Mouse were Pluto's Christmas Tree and The Simple Things. (1952 and 1953). Fred Moore drew Mickey in a somewhat flattened graphic style, which still looked good, but completely lacked the spirit of earlier incarnations.

Disney artist Tom Oreb came up with this version of Mickey, which was meant to be used for advertisement commercials. Great modern graphic design, but -again- lacking the original's personality. This mouse is a used car's salesman.

January 1, 1966. Walt and Disneyland's Mickey head up Pasadena's New Year's Rose Parade.

Some Images Heritage Auctions.

I am not including recent CG and 2D Mickey updates. While I applaud the effort...but no, no, not the real thing.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"But you were singing to someone..."

Shere Khan intimidates Kaa, the python, in this scene, after the snake just stated: "I was just curling up for my siesta."
Before reaching out for Kaa's neck, animator Milt Kahl has the tiger scratch his upper muzzle. It is a terrific piece of acting, which reveals Shere Khan's arrogant confidence as well as a bit of boredom.
Milt pulls the mouth way down in order to create a clear space for the scratching action. The elongated face should look strange, but it doesn't. Milt's master drawings actually expose character comedy.
These are copies of his key drawings for the scene. I grabbed them from a model sheet, so the images aren't hi res, but still fun to study. It's interesting to see Milt indicating stripes only here and there, the rest was left to assistant Dave Michener. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Jungle Monkeys

A number of animators drew scenes with King Louie's monkey gang for The Jungle Book.
Those crowd shots are a lot of work, since each monkey's movements need to work as a single character as well as within a group.
I am not sure who is responsible for these action studies on a model sheet, but I sure like the life in them and the attitudes. (I don't think it is Ken Anderson's work.)

The final designs were set by -you guesses it- Milt Kahl. Again, his superb sense for simplifying complex anatomy is evident in every pose. But there is personality coming through as well.
These mischievous monkeys can be trouble.