Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fabulous Fantasia

A collection of amazing model sheets are being offered at Heritage Auctions. Created by Disney's character model department they show a versatility of styles and artistic approaches, depending on the individual artist who drew them. The Bacchus sheet consists of sketches by Ward Kimball. He did not enjoy this assignment, he phoned it in, as you might say today. Ward had his eyes on the Dance of the Hours sequence, but didn't end up working on it.
Zeus, Vulcan, Apollo and his horses are portrayed in an exaggerated 1940s art deco style with intriguing anatomy.
And the two Pegasus sheets just kill me. The volume in line drawing, the perspective, unbelievable!
Stylized realism, yet animatable.
Stuff for the ages.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Ollie's Birthday

Ollie Johnston's birthday is on Halloween. Next week would be his 106th. He was the longest living member of the Nine Old Men.
I love this photo of him (by Mark Kirkland), because this is just how I remember him. When reminiscing about his career at Disney, he said:"I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time."
Ollie was kind to everybody, he loved talking to young artists who shared his passion. He was full of stories and anecdotes from decades he spent animating at Disney.
He would tell things like what a ball he had working on the film Robin Hood. "I was probably one of the few artists who enjoyed animating on that movie because they gave me Prince John and Sir Hiss."
Milt Kahl didn't care for Robin Hood, and Frank Thomas is known to list his assignments as his least favorites.
Ollie's work continues to inspire, I still can't figure out how he animated Baloo and Mowgli during the Bare Necessities number. The rhythm, the choreography and the sheer joy in the animation still blows my mind.
Here are just a few reminders of his genius.

Jock and Alice/Howard Lowery

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Prince & the Pauper

This is a cel from one of my scenes from Disney's 1990 featurette The Prince & the Pauper.
I remember working very hard to distinguish the TWO Mickeys. One is a prince, one is a pauper. 
Same look, different personalities and behavior. 
I tried to portray the Pauper with submissive acting, while the Prince is confident and in charge. He's the authority. 
This turned out to be a fun assignment, even though the film's overall story is somewhat scattered.
Thinking back, I just remember how much I enjoyed animating Mickey Mouse.

Monday, October 22, 2018

More of my Black Cauldron Designs

It's so interesting to see drawings you haven't looked at in decades. Heritage Auctions is again offering concept art from The Black Cauldron (from the film's producer's estate.) These are from another lifetime of mine.
Some were drawn in Germany, when I found out that Disney planned to produce this film. I read the books by Lloyd Alexander and got inspired. I do remember the sketches of Taran above, the witches as well as Taran with "big" Hen Wen were sketched out in my little cubby hole of a student place in Essen/Werden Germany. The others I did when I started at Disney in 1980.

This is an early version of Creeper, the Horned King's sidekick.

More designs for for the monster birds, called the Gwythaints.

And again the three witches. By the way I used the design of the witch on the right for my assignment in the Disney Animation training program. Eric Larson asked me wether I wanted to do some animation on a classic Disney character or on a character designed by my own. So I chose this witch, who is really a mix of Madame Medusa and Madame Mim.
What mattered is that the scenes I animated seemed good enough for employment on actual production.

The L. Alexander books described Hen Wen as a pig having oracular powers. To me this had to be an old pig...sort of a gypsy type,

The "cuter" version of Hen Wen trying to escape the claws of a giant Gwythaint.

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.