Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Joe Grant

Joe Grant was one of a kind. I am pinching myself when I think about all those years working with him on various Disney films.
Many of you know know that Joe had a Disney career twice. First from the early 1930s to the mid 1940s, and then again from 1989 until his passing in 2005 at the age of 96.
His quirky sense of humor is evident in his 'Idea" sketches. He would do a series of those, and a new film sequence was born. Or a complete short film. 
Joe didn't mind answering our questions about the Golden Age at Disney, but he rather preferred to discuss the present and the future of animation. He watched almost every animated programing from The Simpsons to SpongeBob. Joe was a student of fine art, some of his favorite "cartoonists" were Kley and Sullivant.
I will never forget right after Joe returned to Disney for a second run, Frank Thomas phoned him and asked: " Why on earth are you back at the studio ?"
Joe replied:"Why aren't you?"

The brilliant short film Lorenzo was Joe's idea. His sketches are on the left, director Mike Gabriel's
designs on the right.

A brilliant caricature by John Musker. Man, would I love to animate this design. 
Oops, I just had an idea for another short film!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Ed Aardal

Ed Aardal lived from 1910 to 1988. He worked for Disney for twenty years starting in 1935. He originally did effects animation, but was soon sent over to the character animation department.
Perhaps because of his effects background Ed was assigned to complex scenes like this one from Lady and the Tramp.
It is amazing to realize that in the final film you barely see a dark silhouette of the dog catcher's wagon, taking Tramp to the dog pound. Yet in animation every detail was analyzed as if this was a daytime scene.
Ed Aardal is one of those unsung heroes who we need to shed light on for his important body of work in animation. I believe this was his last film for Disney before moving on to other studios like Hanna Barbara. An animation legend!
For a 1984 interview with Ed go here:


Wednesday, November 21, 2018


I just love this cel from the Silly Symphony Three Little Wolves from 1936. There is little doubt that Fred Moore animated this scene, in which two little wolves pester one of the pigs.
The whole situation is child-like without being childish. The staging of the scene is so beautiful, two bullies messing with one of the pigs.
I have a big smile on my face  looking at this image, because Naughty meets Innocence in a very entertaining manner. You just want to smack these two brats and have them leave the pig alone.
Sincere animation in contrast to Warner Brothers characters at that time, who often acted in a cynical and sarcastic way. (I love Warner's animation as well, because it differentiated itself from Disney's wholesomeness.)
But there is something special about this cel, because the business of the scene is truly based on real situations.
I wished that entertaining, graphic animation like this still existed.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Frazetta Drawings

I guess most of you know of Frank Frazetta's work. His draughtsmanship (as well as painting) is extraordinary. He became known as the world's best illustrator for the fantasy/science fiction genre.
Copied by many, but no other artist has came close to this level of expertise.
The depiction of his women and men are sexually charged figures within various storytelling themes.
Bodybuilders and pin up girls. His animals and monsters are strong and muscular as well.
Frazetta goes for maximum dramatic effect in his composition to dazzle the viewers.
There is a sense of ease in his line work. I particularly like his loose drawings. Marvelous doodles that continue to inspire today's animators and illustrators.
I would call him a modern Heinrich Kley.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Alice and the Queen

A great Frank Thomas drawing of the Queen of Hearts which was recently offered at auction, and is now available on Ebay. Classic Disney villains are often portrayed in a subtle manner, like the Queen in Snow White, Cinderella's Stepmother or Maleficent.
But this bad lady is cartoony, and Frank loved working on scenes with her. He liked playing off the contrast between dainty expressions followed by over the top emotional outbursts. Actress Verna Felton gave him plenty explosive voice recordings that helped define her personality.
It's amazing to realize that she also voiced the kind Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, the movie preceding Alice. Which speaks for Verna Felton's acting range.

Below a magazine article from Silver Screen, May 1951. One of many to promote the release of Disney's Alice in Wonderland.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Anatomy and Structure

Animator Bill Justice drew this scene with the character of John from Peter Pan.
Without thorough knowledge of the human body via life drawing this type of animation would fall apart. Spine, shoulders, rip cage, hip bones etc. are things that you need to know about. 
You need to know how they connect, and of course how they look in motion. Tracing live action reference is simply not an option. Your knowledge of human anatomy is key.
Bill Justice did his homework. He might be known as the animator who brought Chip and Dale to life, but he was also capable of handling complex realism.

I don't know who drew these pose of Pluto, but I really like them. Here you find anatomical structure as well, just applied in a much looser manner. Pluto is a very cartoony dog, but dog anatomy is evident nevertheless. There are definitive elbows, knees, shoulders and hips. 
This earlier style of Disney drawing allowed for greater flexibility and cheats. 
Disney's animators always knew how to handle a character based on the degree of realism. They went far out with Pluto and Donald Duck, but were holding back effectively on characters like Bambi or Lady and the Tramp.

John drawings/Howard Lowery