Friday, July 29, 2016

"Don't tell me you're going in there..."

Dave Michener assisted Milt Kahl on this unusual scene. Wart has run away from Kay and is now hiding behind a tree in the forest. Kay seems surprised and shouts: "Oh, ha ha, oh don't tell me you're going in there? Oh, ha ha, why it's swarming with wolves."
Michener was amazed that Milt would be so bold and have Kay point right into camera. He told me: "I couldn't believe it, I had never seen anything like this."
Actually Milt used a similar gesture on Brom Bones during a song sequence years earlier:

Still, this isn't an easy way to stage a pose with such crazy foreshortening. But then again, Milt challenged himself constantly in his draughtsmanship.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Sword in the Stone 1963

Why not one more post on Disney's The Sword in the Stone ? A film disliked by some, but loved by many. By the time I enrolled into art school way back, I had seen all of Disney's classic animated films in theatrical reruns except for The Sword in the Stone. One day I was invited to a private screening of this movie at someone's home. He had secured a pristine 35mm print and was going to show it in his living room. I loved the film then and I still do. As Milt Kahl put it, the story falls short here and there, but the movie more than makes up for those weaknesses with rich characters and sequences.
This is color model artist Mary Tebb, wearing an outfit worthy of Technicolor.

A sketch by Bill Peet. Merlin relaxes in a studio chair, originally designed by Kem Weber.

A couple of beautiful styling sketches by the underrated Vance Gerry.

A frame from the Madame Mim sequence. A stunning scene animated by you know who. Just look at that crazy pose!

A cel set up featuring Merlin, Wart and the wolf (animated by John Lounsbery). The highlights on Merlin's beard were added later, as set ups like this one were offered for sale.

A quick reminder about my Nine Old Men book signing on Thursday, 7/28 at Barnes & Noble (at the Grove) at 7 pm:

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mim as a Crocodile

These are some of the best Milt Kahl drawings you will ever see. Character designs of Madame Mim as a crocodile. Milt did a thorough exploration of this creature, even though the croc is on the screen for only six short scenes.
Milt is fully embracing Picasso here. Look at those hands! Right out of Guernica. The old cuddly Disney style is gone, the new styling borrows from 1950s and 60s fine art. So cool, and so much fun to look at!

Here is a re-post of a color model cel, picturing the first image above.
Milt didn't animate anything on the Wizards' Duel, and he wasn't too happy with the way his designs were handled in the final footage. That's because they didn't look EXACTLY like these sketches.

Again, a big thanks to Rick Farmiloe for providing these incredible images.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Madame Mim as a Cat and as a Tiger

During the Wizard's Duel in the film The Sword in the Stone Madame Mim and her opponent Merlin change themselves into different animals in an effort to crush the other one. Story artist Bill Peet came up with the idea for this sequence. The animators were thrilled with the potential for great entertainment in the animation.
Milt Kahl studied Peet's story sketches and refined the designs for all animal types involved. Before the Wizard's Duel begins Mim meets Wart (as a sparrow) inside her cottage. She threatens him as she briefly turns into a vicious cat. Here are a couple of designs that show how Milt tried to keep some of Mim's features within the cat design.

When Merlin turns into a mouse during the duel, Mim chooses the form of a tiger in order to combat him. John Lounsbery animated this scene.

A few brilliant "Mim as a tiger" designs by Milt. For some reason he left out Mim's signature hair in these sketches.

Thanks to Rick Farmiloe for providing the images of the sketches.

Much more on The Wizard's Duel in these earlier posts:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Book Signing at Barnes & Noble @ The Grove

If you live in the Los Angeles area, come by the The Grove and see me at the fabulous Barnes & Noble next Thursday, July 28. I will give an informal talk on Disney's Nine Old Men, followed by a Q & A and of course a book signing. We will start at 7pm. I look forward to meeting and talking to you.
I'd appreciate if you passed on this information through Facebook. Thanks!

Here is a great pic showing one of the Nine, master animator Frank Thomas. The guests in his office are Barbara Luddy and Larry Roberts, who voiced Lady and Tramp.
I re-watched parts of this movie the other day and was just awe struck by the artistry, the phenomenal character animation as well as the extraordinary backgrounds, headed up by Claude Coats and his team. A treasure of a film!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

More Shere Khan...

Even Milt Kahl erases his lines once in a while, as is evident in this small staging sketch. The upper fielding dimensions are 5 x 3". Shere Khan is leaving Kaa behind, he is done interrogating the snake. It's time to go searching for the man cub.
I love this drawing. Shere Khan seems to be walking out of the screen. It is only a doodle, but the tiger's body is beautifully carved out like a sculpture. Dimension, clear silhouette and brilliant anatomy. It's all there. The smaller sketch below indicates a  position a few frames later, as both rear feet touch the ground. Milt reverses the spine to show the animal's rear in a low position.
A master mind at work.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Who should Voice Shere Khan?

Director Woolie Reitherman was looking for actors who might voice the villain in Disney's Jungle Book. This document comes from Woolie's archive, and it gives us an idea about how many candidates were thought of before George Sanders finally was chosen for the part. I don't know how many were actually asked to come to the studio for a test, but I do know that animator Milt Kahl was elated and thought that Sanders was just perfect.

Here are the first five choices listed on Woolie's sheet.
Don Adams was an actor and comedian, who is remembered for his role as Agent  86 in the TV show Maxwell Smart.

Neville Brand was a TV and film actor, who appeared on shows like Bonanza and The Untouchables.

John Carradine was famous for his roles in horror films and westerns.

William Conrad narrated the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, and became famous as TV detective Cannon.

Hans Conried was no newcomer to Disney, earlier he had voiced Captain Hook in the film Peter Pan.

I am sure you know a few other actors from the list. It's interesting how Woolie categorizes their talents right after the names.

Here is one of my earlier posts on Shere Khan:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Lounsbery Wolves

Disney all-round artist Ken Anderson drew concept designs for all characters in the film Robin Hood.
I have posted quite a few of them in the past. Usually Milt Kahl would then take over and polish Ken's original ideas for final animation.
Here a few sheets featuring the Sheriff of Nottingham's henchmen as wolves done by animator John Lounsbery. Some of the sketches are reminiscent of the wolf from Sword in the Stone, a character Louns animated about a decade earlier. He works pretty rough here as he focuses on poses and expressions that reveal the personality of these sub-villains.
In the end Milt's approach of the wolves made it to the screen. I will post his designs next.
Louns's drawings might not have the graphic sophistication you find in Milt's work, but there is an energy as well as charm in these sketches that is unique to his character research.

A couple of beautiful rough animation outtake drawings, showing the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is portrayed as an overweight wolf.

Thanks to Rick Farmiloe for providing these images.

Milt Kahl's work on this character can be seen in this earlier post:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

It's Tough to Be a Bird

Ward Kimball accepted the Academy Award for best short film in 1970 as the director on behalf of Walt Disney Productions.
The main character is a wise-cracking bird voiced by Richard Bakalyan with a New York accent.
Here is what IMDb has to say about the film:

A street smart red bird with a heavy New York accent serves as the narrator, who tries to explains why it's tough to be a bird. This edutaining animated short with documentary segments explains the common evolutionary origin of birds, how various cultures have perceived the birds throughout history, how some species have become extinct or endangered due to human activity, how people like birdwatchers or townsfolk of Hinckley, Ohio, where the annual Buzzard Day is celebrated, enjoy the birds in a friendly manner and what a monty pythonesque cutout animation collage with birds looks like.

Story artists were Kimball and Ted Berman, animation by Eric Larson and Art Stevens.
The bird is fully animated while some of the visual gags are presented in limited animation, and very effectively so.
It's a great film, vintage Kimball, full of inventive and surprising graphics and situations.

Kimball posing with Richard Bakalyan, who voiced the red bird.

A sheet with a bit of story continuity.

Lead character and voice actor publicity photos.

Kimball publicity photo.

See Ward Kimball's original model sheet for the bird here:

Here is the youtube link: