Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Ollie in 2005

I received this holiday greeting card from the Johnston family in 2005. 
Ollie had just received the National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony. Other recipients that year included actor Robert Duvall and singer Dolly Parton. 
Ollie said he looked at this award as a tribute to all the animators who had worked with Walt Disney.
He passed away in April of 2008 at the age of 95.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays and wishes for a wonderful new year from our MUSHKA team to you all!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

King Leonidas

The Secretary Bird is nervously conveying to the King that the Royal Star medallion has been stolen by humans. The King reacts: "Ha, Ha, Ha,...don't be ridiculous. What do you think this is?" He grabs and presents his referee whistle. 
This is a great scene animated by Milt Kahl. Brilliant acting choices, gorgeous head angles and amazing overlapping action on the coat's sleeves. You really feel the weight of the fabric.
And of course those great lion paws that articulate human gestures. 
This stuff just doesn't get old!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

MUSHKA Holiday Dinner

What an incredible evening! 
Last Sunday I hosted a holiday dinner party for our main MUSHKA crew.
Animators, background painters, song writers and so on. 
And Doris, our dog, who sneaked into the set up. With apologies to folks, who contribute to the project off and on. I only had 14 seats at the dinner table. We will have the big blow out with everybody next year, when the film is done and in the can.
Of course we had an updated screening of MUSHKA,  I am sooo thrilled to report that the Shermans were very happy with  the way it is coming along. Believe me, they would have told me if they saw any problems.
I am over the moon. A crazy dream come true. From JUNGLE BOOK to MUSHKA.
Full circle for me.

Fromt row:
Ariel Goldberg, voice acting and dialogue coaching.
Fabrizio Mancinelli, composer axtraordinaire and Roger Viloria, post production and a lot more. Then Andreas Wessell-Therhorn, animator . Followed by animator  Courtney Di Paola. Ambrosio Garcia, character opaquing and painting. Me, Elisabeth and Richard Sherman.
Background painters Craig Elliott and Tooba Rezaiei. And background supervisor Natalie Franscioni-Karp.
Way in the back, Craig Peck, associate producer.

Many thanks to Kai Loebach catering for the wonderful food!!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Frank Thomas on Lady & The Tramp

This is Frank Thomas, probably in 1954. Behind the scenes photos of Disney animators are relatively rare, so I treasure every one I can find. 
Frank animated scenes with Lady, Tramp, Jock and Trusty. The character of Tramp was designed by Milt Kahl, who also animated the character's opening scenes in the film (Tramp sleeping in a barrel, he wakes up and takes a "shower".)
Frank did wonderful scenes with him as he happens to pass by the Darling home and overhears a conversation between Lady, Jock and Trusty regarding a human baby.

Here Frank is animating, what might be his first scene with Tramp, who spots Lady being lectured by Jock and Trusty.

This is that scene, a close up of Tramp looking toward the three dogs,

In the upper right corner of the publicity photo you can see design doodles as well as a size comparison sheet drawn by Milt.
Walt Disney repeatedly assigned Frank and Milt together on the same character. Needless to say the results were always of an insane high standard.

Thursday, December 5, 2019


Treat yourself to a viewing of the animated film Klaus on Netflix.
Sergio Pablos and his crew managed to come up with a brand new style for hand drawn animation.
Believable motion combined with inventive lighting. The result is magical.
Kudos to the entire Klaus team as well as Netflix!

Friday, November 29, 2019


So happy and proud to report that progress on MUSHKA has been substantial. 
We are locking several more sequences in final color, it is a joy watching it all come together. At this pace we should finish around summer/fall of next year. 
This has been, and still is, an amazing ride. There were times when I thought: What's wrong with a short film that is seven minutes long? 
But telling a story is funny, in a way that it tells you how long it needs to be. MUSHKA can't be told in seven or ten minutes. It is a half hour film. That's the length necessary to cover everything, the development and relationships of the characters as well as the overall storyline. 

In the photo you can see how we add "character effects". This is a process that happens after character opaquing and coloring. Minor highlights and shadows are being added, but also deeper color areas on a tiger. His back, parts of his face etc. 

So far so good!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Lounsbery Cels

Most Disney animation history buffs agree, John Lounsbery doesn't get enough love.
He died in February of 1976 as the first of the Nine Old Men. (Les Clark was the second).
Louns was a mild mannered, soft spoken animator who nevertheless inspired new generations of animators. 
Glen Keane was blown away when he saw Lounsbery drawings for the first time. Dale Baer had the pleasure of being tutored by him during the Disney animation training program. And I am still studying his work trying to figure out why his characters in Dance of the Hours, Dumbo and Jungle Book -to name just a few titles- come off the screen in such a believable and entertaining way.
His use of squash and stretch when animating loose skin is astounding. Examples:
Tony& Joe, the dog Bull and Colonel Hathi. 
So many great performances  like Willie, the Giant, the Mad Hatter (yes, a lot of the the key scenes are his along with the Cheshire Cat), the mice in Cinderella and on and on.

Lounsbery was one of the greatest...ever.

Here is my first post on John Lounsbery:

Monday, November 25, 2019

Dumbo Story Sketches

These charming story sketches are by Bill Peet. (Not 100% sure about the last one.)
Peet's work was an animator's dream come true. He worked out story continuity, character relationships, where the camera was placed, and of course dynamic poses with tons of appeal.
Word has it that he felt the need to re-draw Bill Tytla's animation which he considered to be off model  in some scenes. 
This might be an animation history myth, but you can see in his wonderful drawings that he had a knack for drawing Dumbo as well as the other elephants. Such a great feel for the type of staging that reveals personality. 
When I met Peet late in his life, I knew I was having conversations with an animation giant.

More on Bill Peet's work on Dumbo here:

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Preston Blair Life Drawings

Preston Blair was an extraordinary animator who worked for Disney, MGM and Hanna-Barbera. 
His work on Mickey in the Sorcerer's Apprentice, his hippo/alligator dance in The Dance of the Hours and Red Hot Riding Hood for Tex Avery is legendary.
As are his books on cartooning and animation. Here is a selection of his life drawings currently being offered at Heritage Auctions.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Black Cauldron Witches

There were many different design versions drawn for the Witches of Morva in The Black Cauldron.
Artists like Milt Kahl, Mel Shaw and Tim Burton all came up with character models that represented their individual artistic style. 
Milt"s witches reminded me of Madam Medusa and Madam Mim, two characters he had previously animated. Tim of course drew the trio in his wonderful outrageously avant-garde style.

By the time I come onboard, I took bits and pieces from these earlier approaches and came up with this look. I believe this what they ended up looking like in the film.

I drew a few scenes with the Witches, but Dale Baer was the one who showed real polish in his animation.

Heritage auctions is currently offering these sheets from the film's producer's estate.