Friday, March 31, 2017

Merryweather Pencil Test

I haven't posted a vintage Disney pencil test in ages. The main reason for this is, they take a lot of time to put together. 
This scene featuring Merryweather from Sleeping Beauty was animated by Frank Thomas. This is his rough animation, drawn much cleaner than on other productions. Everyone who animated on Sleeping Beauty drew tighter because of the demanding character designs. The animators did not leave any drawing issues for the clean up artists to solve, the unique graphic quality needed to be in the rough animation. 
Merryweather wants to turn Maleficent into a hop toad. During her dialogue she jumps up and down to simulate a toad's action. The scene is beautifully analyzed and animated, a real Thomas gem!

The little splash of tea that Frank added was unfortunately eliminated in the final color scene.

The key drawings from this scene are part of the Frank Thomas chapter in my book THE NINE OLD MEN.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Three Caballeros

Wouldn't it be great to resurrect this type of film making? Finding a great story that needed to be told with hand drawn animated characters as well as live actors. I am not talking Roger Rabbit II, I would prefer brand new material. There is just something wonderfully nonsensical about combining these two worlds. And when done well, completely magical. 

Here is a Popular Science article from September of 1944 about how Disney made the then upcoming feature The Three Caballeros.
The vintage writing style cracks me up, you'll see what I mean.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Last Tuesday in SF

I had an amazing time in San Francisco last week.
My exhibition at the Walt Disney Family Museum is so well put together and designed by the amazing Marina. I feel flattered beyond belief. It was great to see Ron Miller along with his daughters Joanna and Tamara. A once in a lifetime experience!

One wall was entirely dedicated to Mushka. There are plenty of character sketches as well as Vis Dev art by the amazing Peter Moehrle.

That's Sybil Byrnes in the middle, daughter of Milt Kahl. She came with her granddaughter Zoe and her mom.

As you can see it was a glorious day in SF!!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"And besides...I don't have any claws!"

This whole tree climbing sequence from The Jungle Book has always been one of my favorite pieces of animation. The storyboard sketches suggested basic ideas for action and acting, but Milt Kahl went to town with this material, and really got the most out of it in his brilliant animation.
In an effort to climb up a tree to spend the night, Mowgli ends up hanging on to Bagheera, as he continues to move upwards. There is so much entertainment packed into these scenes. The way the boy hangs on to the panther, Mowgli planting a foot into Bagheera's face and so on. Sublime anatomy. Animated gold!

Check out how incredibly graphic Milt's drawings had become. Yet when seen in motion you believe you are watching three dimensional, believable characters performing a comedy routine.

I added a frame from the preceding as well as one from the following scene, to remind you of the action's continuity.

Milt's birthday was on March March 22. The day before this blog had almost ten thousand visits! Perhaps some of you were expecting me to post some Milt Kahl art.
Consider this post a celebration of his life's work.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


I will give a presentation for members of the Walt Disney Family Museum on Tuesday, March 22, at 4pm.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Gaston in "Real Life"

I saw Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast a week ago, and was very happy with Luke Evan's portrayal as Gaston. A role like this one could be overplayed in a cartoony way very easily, but Evan's performance is nuanced and entertaining. Check out the film!

My previous posts on Gaston's 1991 cartoon version:

I had great help from these terrific animators:
Joe Haidar, Ron Husband, Dave Burgess, Alex Kuperschmidt, and Tim Allen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mushka Research

I remember gearing up for my film Mushka. For a while it was all about tigers, and adding to the knowledge I already had about these magnificent cats. The sketch above was done at the LA zoo, at the time they had an exhibit with a tiger mom and two cubs. Lucky me!!
I sketched them as the cubs grew in front of my eyes over a period of a few months. I also took footage to study at home frame by frame. TV nature programs were useful as well. I even studied tiger cub "appearances" on late night shows, David Letterman etc.
They showed me that restless quality of a tiger cub when held by a human. That definitely made it into the film. You find yourself studying your subject wherever you find interesting tiger behavior.
YouTube is wonderful for this. Before animating Mushka yawning, I checked and found five or six extremely useful video clips of a tiger yawn. There is much more to it than the mouth just opening wide and closing. I love studying this stuff.

Below is a sketch I made for a possible poster, announcement or whatever. I might use it later or not.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Disney on TV

I didn't grow up in the US, where millions of kids grew up with Walt Disney's regular TV shows.
Walt was still alive when I was a young kid in Germany, and I remember vividly watching him on very rare occasions during German Disney TV programs. Of course Walt spoke German fluently, thanks to his dubbing voice, actor Friedrich Schoenfelder.
Naturally I was particularly fascinated when the show's content was about animation. The world's master magician telling the audience about past achievement or what he was planing to do next.

Here is a magazine article featuring Walt's history with Mickey as shown on TV.

The ultimate program for me was when Disney artists were introduced as they worked on various animated feature films. Here is Milt Kahl animating the introductory scene of Tramp From Lady & the Tramp.

In this TV episode Disney animators study human movement in preparation for Sleeping Beauty.
The model is Helene Stanley, the animators are Marc Davis, John Lounsbery and Milt Kahl.

Ollie Johnston is getting ready for his close up in a mock office, put together on one of the Disney sound stages. The filmed segment starts out with Ollie animating Merryweather and leads to the topic of model trains, a hobby he shared with Walt. See framed photo on top of his desk.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Joe Rinaldi Story Sketches

I brought this up before, Joe Rinaldi's story work on Disney features is often mistaken for for Bill Peet's. Both artists show top draughtsmanship, excellent staging and great story continuity.
Here are a few sketches by Rinaldi for Cinderella and one for Peter Pan.
As an animator your work is half done when so much is already worked out by the story artist. Personality-rich poses, character relationships and acting. Story artists like Rinaldi really are unsung heroes, because they provided the ground work, the storytelling and character development.
In many cases the animators used these poses within their animated performances.

For Joe Rinaldi's work on Lady & the Tramp, go here:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lady & Tramp Mix

Actors Barbara Luddy and Larry Roberts pose in front of storyboards drawn by Joe Rinaldi. They voiced the title characters in Disney's 1955 CinemaScope film Lady and the Tramp. 
Roberts was famous during the 1950s for his TV roles and his performances as a stand-up comic.
Luddy would later provide voices for Disney, including Merryweather in Sleeping Beauty, Kanga in the Winnie the Pooh films and the Church Mouse in Robin Hood.

Singer Peggy Lee had a major influence on the film. She wrote songs and was the voice of Darling, both Siamese Cats and of course the showgirl dog Peg.

Peggy Lee visits the ink & paint department.

A still from a TV program in which Lee explains how she recorded both voices for Si and Am.
That's song co-writer Sonny Burke next to her.

A couple of story sketches from the romance sequence.

A magazine ad featuring Tramp promoting dog food.