Tuesday, October 16, 2018

More on Milt's Duchess

Milt Kahl rarely had his animation re-drawn, after all he was authority on the the Disney style. Most animators at the studio at one time or another asked Milt for "drawing help". Just one or two of his "draw-overs" would improve a whole scene in the way the character appeared on the screen.
I've said this before, Milt represented the drawing police at Disney for a few decades.

Here is a rare case where director Woolie Reitherman asked a clean up artist to alter Milt's animation drawings slightly during the production of The Aristocats. Duchess just met the alley cat Thomas O'Malley, who is trying to impress her by presenting himself as a man of the world during a song number. "Bravo, very good, you are a great talent" she responds. 

There are subtle changes that were made from Milt's original animation. Duchess' eyes got smaller and more cheek hair was added. 
I think she still looks attractive in the final version, but that "Milt Kahl graphic bite" got lost.

Even more on Milt's Duchess here:


and here:


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Xerox Color Models

These are not actual production cels. You might notice that most characters aren't depicted in their
established film colors. Disney used to have many color versions for an upcoming character painted on cels before making a final decision on what the final appearance should look like.

During the 1960s and 70s the color model department worked with rough xeroxed cels from drawings that showed early animation. Perhaps the first scene an animator had finished. Ink & Paint wanted to get a head start before the bulk of animated scenes hit their department. The chosen drawings weren't even cleaned up yet. A good full figure rough drawing by Milt Kahl was good enough to experiment with in terms of color.

For final production all rough drawings went through a process called "touch up". An assistant would erase construction and other loose lines so the character was presented in cleaner manner.
Of course some of us geeks prefer the looseness seen in the animators' first pass. Just look at the dynamic pose of King Leonidas from Bedknobs and Broomsticks!

These pre-production pieces cels are being offered at an upcoming Heritage auction.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Nine Old Men Exhibition

Caricatures by Mel Shaw

There is still time to catch the incredible exhibition on The Nine Old Men at the Walt Disney Family Museum. The show continues until January 7. As I mentioned before, this is a once in a lifetime event. The sheer scale of the exhibit is breathtaking. Nine extraordinary animation careers and lives under one roof.
Give yourself a holiday treat and head on over to San Francisco. If you are seriously interested in animation, this is a must.

The exhibition catalogue is now available at the Museum:

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Mother Goose Goes Hollywood

Mother Goose Goes Hollywood is one of the last Disney Silly Symphonies. It was released in December of 1938.
Wikipedia says: "The film parodies several Mother Goose nursery rhymes using caricatures of popular film stars of the 1930s."
This 7 minute long short film remains controversial today because of its stereotypical depiction of African American entertainers.
Animation critic Charles Solomon noted in his book, Enchanted Drawings: History of Animation, the caricatures of Fats Waller and Cab Calloway don't poke fun at their race and are treated just as good or bad like the other caricatured celebrities spoofed in this cartoon.

I am just in love with the 
quality of the animation. It is fluid and rich in personality. Kind of a crazy thing, the animators satirizing acting styles of silver screen stars from that time. 
Imagine an animated short today poking fun at Merrill Streep, Tom Hanks and others. What a challenging and fun assignment this would be. 

Animators included Jack Campbell, Ward Kimball and Grim Natwick, to name a few.
In today's world animator Eric Goldberg would supervise a project like this one. 

As I said, incredible animation, go study it!!! And check out the colors on those three cels above. It doesn't get any better.

Here is a Photoplay magazine article from 1939.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Bambi Sketches

Some wonderful deer studies have been offered on Ebay recently. They were all produced during animal drawing classes at Disney in preparation for Bambi. The teacher was Bernard Garbutt (who I utterly admire as a first class animal expert.)
Some of these look like Garbutt's own work, others could be by animators in the classroom.
I recall vividly how Frank Thomas described his frustration when Walt Disney asked for unprecedented realism for the animation in Bambi.
"You look at a real deer who's body is full of bumps, bones and muscles...how on earth were we going to animate all that?"

Everybody learned a ton in Garbutt's classes, and when Marc Davis stepped in with his realistic, yet cartoony story sketches, the vision for Bambi's animation became clear.

More on Garbutt in this previous post. Sheer genius!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Spectacular Kley

I believe this piece by Heinrich Kley was offered on Ebay a while ago. And it sold for a lot!
But for all the right reasons, as this really is a magnificent drawing.
Kley used to occasionally copy his own drawings for fans who loved the unavailable original.
But a re-drawn sketch never has the vitality of the first version.
This one IS the first version! You can see lines that search for perfect anatomy and composition.
One of my all time favorite Kley illustrations.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Peter Pan Mix

Peter Pan remains one of my favorite animated films. Right from the opening scenes (above) you find yourself in a dream-like world. The lighting in these background paintings is phenomenal. There is cool moonlight and then a single street lantern emitting a little bit of warm light.
You look at these paintings, and you want to go there, you want to be involved. I have been lucky enough to have seen some of these BG paintings up close at Disney. They literally take your breath away.

The children's books associated with Peter Pan effectively captured that dream-like quality.

One of Mary Blair's countless little color sketches for the film, each in itself a masterpiece.
I will always remember Marc Davis stating that Mary Blair knew color better than Henri Matisse.

A magazine article that helped promote the release of the film in 1953. The first image is a publicity cel which somehow depicts Peter Pan as a manga character. Go figure!

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Moore That Got Away

In 1996, while bidding on these two drawings at auction, I had to realize how popular and revered Fred Moore had become. These character design sketches depicting Grace Martin from the 1946 short film The Martins and the Coys sold for a small fortune to a lucky collector.
I am just glad these drawings survived at all and that I can show them here as scans from the catalogue.

Monday, September 17, 2018


I love a lot of the artwork produced to promote Fantasia. Look at the cover illustration of this book, published around the release date of the film in 1940. Classy and elegant, capturing the essence if the film.
The poster below is from Denmark. Probably for a later release.

This one definitely has the color vibe from a re-release, perhaps during the 1950s or 1960s.

Fantasia had plenty of product tie ins. This ad aiming toward brides with good taste and slim budget is from 1941.

More products created for several re-releases of the film.

The man who got movie going audiences interested in classical music. Myself included!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Something is Missing

The character of course. I was told by a Disney background painter, who worked on most of the classics, that a BG should look like an empty stage set. Waiting for the character to enter and give a performance. Therefor the BG should look "unfinished" in order to make room for one more element, the animated actor(s).
The first image is a color study by Mel Shaw for The Fox & the Hound.

The Little Whirlwind


Robin Hood

Sleeping Beauty

101 Dalmatians

Sunday, September 9, 2018


Distorting parts of a character is an old staple in pencil animation. It was perfected by Disney artists as well as other studios during the mid 1930s. During fast character movement a particular problem arises when trying to achieve smooth looking motion. How do you create quick moving animation without making it look rigid?
When studying live action films you'll discover a "blur" during a fast head turn, for example.

Since conventional animation cels always had sharp outlines and flat color, without distorting, the animation would look stiff during fast movements.
The first image above is from a scene with Grumpy by Bill Tytla. He occasionally went to extremes in order to get smooth looking action. He is not afraid to drag Grumpy's nose to a point where the character becomes almost unrecognizable. The idea is for the viewer to feel the fast motion, and not actually register it by single drawings. And...this drawing is seen on the screen for one frame only. If exposed for two frames the illusion of smooth, quick motion would be ruined. 
Study Tytla's Stromboli frame by frame. His distorted drawings during the character's speedy, erratic moves are spot on. And legendary!

The next drawing is from an Art Babbit scene with Goofy. The short film is Mickey's Amateurs from 1937. Goofy is playing multiple musical instruments at the same time. Here Babbit has the character turn screen left while the muzzle and harmonica are way behind on screen right, to eventually catch up with the head's motion. You get a sensation of loose moving flesh. 
Fred Moore also helped pioneer this principle, though in more subtle ways.

A drawing from Society Dog Show, 1939. Pluto's extreme open jaw is not in motion here, yet it is very distorted, far from what a real dog's jaw could do.

None of this is possible when animating a character like Cinderella, whose design is realistic and believable at the same time. The challenge here was to work with live action reference while trying to make the scene look "animated", not rotoscoped. Its all about subtleties.

At MGM animators had a blast coming up with ways to make fast action "look easy on the eyes" of the viewer. Partial multiple imaging plus dry brushed speed lines. What amazing images!

Even stop motion animators who originally photographed their models one crisp frame at a time, now tend to add motion blur to their work. This certainly adds realism when viewed on the screen.

CG animation is full of motion blur. 

Cartoon Brew

My own most distorted animation would be for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It was a thrill to work so loosely on the characters. And having had this experience of using basic animation principles in such a broad manner sure helped me with my future assignments.