Friday, September 29, 2017

Fun And Fancy Free

This Disney movie turned 70 years old, a couple of days ago.
As you probably know there are two movies in one, two different stories combined into a feature length package.
Bongo, the story of a little circus bear, and the other Mickey and the Beanstalk.
For a previous post on Bongo go here:

I remember seeing Mickey and the Beanstalk as a kid, and loving it. I still do.
Production on the film was difficult. First the story had been conceived as a full length feature film, but was later reduced to just under half an hour. Then because of WW II  the movie was put on hold because propaganda films for the US government took priority.
Fun and Fancy Free wasn't released until September of 1947. I love it's colorful art direction, the story treatment and the animation. (Although it is not on the level of earlier Mickey shorts such as  The Brave Little Taylor.) The idea of little characters entering an oversized  Giant's world is beautifully presented with stunning layouts and backgrounds, extreme up and down shots are all over the film.
On this anniversary I recommend re-watching the movie, I think you will enjoy it once you get over the poorly written live action sections.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Gustaf Tenggren

Most of you have heard or read about Swedish illustrator Gustaf Tenggren. He was hired by Disney in 1936 to help develop the art direction for short films like The Ugly Duckling and The Old Mill.
He was very influential on Disney's early feature films as well such as Snow White and Pinocchio.

Recently Heritage Auctions offered some of Tenggren's non Disney original artwork. The late Arthur Rackham and Kay Nielsen were among his contemporaries.
Stunning work! In the painting below there is a cloud in the shape of a hand, holding the moon.
That idea ended up in Disney's Ichabod Crane film version.

For much more on Gustaf Tenggren, go here:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Peter Pan Story Thumbnails II

Here is part II of the sequence in which Wendy meets Peter Pan in person.
Again, pretty astounding how closely the rough thumbnail sketches define the final staging and continuity.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Peter Pan Story Thumbnails

Here you can compare staging and posing sketches to final film frames. These little thumbnails were done based on the storyboard, but with final cutting and continuity in mind.
Everything is worked out and ready to go into final production.

What is kind of interesting to me is to see that Tinker Bell, stuck in a key hole, is framed by an oval shape outside the drawer, and by a square inside the drawer. This makes for a more clear cuts. The audience registers oval outside, and square inside.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

It's always great to discover pre-production or production art from Fantasia. This film benefited from a huge crew, terrific artists, who figured out designs, color and story. And in a great variety of styles.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice is arguably the heart of the film. It had been considered as a stand alone short film before the idea came about for a whole musical feature.
The cels below were combined with special non-production airbrush backgrounds and offered for sale through Courvoisier Galleries.
Amazing animation by Les Clark.

I have scene artwork like this watercolor sketch before. It baffles me to realize that the staging of the characters is identical to the scene's final frame. That never happens. The animators always find their own way to interpret visual development art in motion.
This leads me to believe that the color sketch was actually produced after the animation's completion.
The question is why? To quote one of John Canemaker's book titles, all visual development art was done "Before the Animation Begins".

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


This story sketch by Bill Peet inspired Milt Kahl, who aimed this scene featuring Madame Mim, as she temporarily turns herself into an "ugly" creature in front of Wart. Milt used practically everything Peet provided in terms of staging, expression and design.
There are beautiful key moments here that make the scene so successful and satisfying to watch:
Mim completely covers her face with her hair, before she reveals a scary face. There is a a strong squash expression on "B" followed be a stretch for the "OO".

A simple scene, beautifully executed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bambi Realism

Unless we study the real thing thoroughly, we cannot caricature or animate our characters convincingly.
One of Walt Disney's insightful quotes that makes complete sense. Milt Kahl would add:
"Our characters distinguish themselves from the ones at other studios, because they have real bones and muscles."
I would add: and real weight. 
Once you know the inner workings of a human or any given animal, you can then go to town and do whatever you'd like with that knowledge. Look at Samson, Prince Phillip's horse in Sleeping Beauty.
He walks and runs like a real horse, but his design is highly stylized. The width of his lower legs is so thin, almost down to a single line.
And observing the real thing can be a ton of fun. Studying live footage and sketching Siberian Tigers has been absolutely essential for the title character of Mushka in my upcoming film. There is something wonderful and exciting about this pre-production phase. Like Milt said:"You learn so much about your subject that you don't need the live action (rotoscope) reference any more."

Any tiger scenes left to do on Mushka...let's go! All that studying gives you the confidence to tackle any type of action.

I don't know who drew these terrific studies for Bambi, but as you know, this research paid off big time. The animators were able to turn realistic motion into animated poetry.

Images/Heritage Auctions