Thursday, September 28, 2023

Jeremy Irons

 A belated Happy Birthday to actor Jeremy Irons, who turned 75 on the 19th of this month.

Whenever he does a talk show to promote a recent role for a film or a TV project, he is still introduced to the audience as the voice of Scar. He offered me such a gift with his tremendous dialogue recordings for the character. Some scenes seemed to animate themselves, because of his high caliber of acting. Irons' performance didn't just make Scar evil, there is also intelligence as well as humor. Scar loved to to be bad.

Quite a few years after The Lion King had its amazing movie theatre run, I met up with producer Don Hahn at an English pub in Burbank for lunch. We were just catching up with each other, as we talked about the state of animation, future projects etc. Suddenly Jeremy Irons walks into the pub, grabs an ashtray and sits down at an outside table. He hadn't noticed us. 

We finished our lunch and were eager to say Hello. It turned out that Jeremy was studying a script with an acting partner that day. They were both going to perform in an upcoming production of Camelot at the Hollywood Bowl. So we all chatted a bit, when Jeremy came up with an interesting statement: "I must not have done a good job with Scar." Don and I looked at each other. "Of course you did, you were brilliant." His response was that ever since he had voiced Scar, there had not been any other offers for him to do an animated character. (Not just from Disney, from any studio!) He was definitely disappointed. 

I can't remember if it was Don or myself who explained to him that his voice had become so recognizable to millions of people, that any new animated role he would play would sound like Scar. That had to be the reason. I recall having watched a (gruesome) National Geographic documentary about a large pride of lions that specialized in hunting elephants. It was narrated by Irons, and sounded exactly like Scar was telling you the story about this unusual pride. 

So maybe Scar will remain his only animated role, who knows?

Monday, September 18, 2023

A Conversation with Bruce Reitherman

I thought you might be interested in this article that appeared in the summer 2022 issue of WDFM (the magazine/newsletter of the Walt Disney Family Museum).

Bruce Reitherman talks about working with his father Woolie on voicing Mowgli forThe Jungle Book.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Little John

This is a scene animated by Milt Kahl from the opening sequence of Robin Hood. I just realized that this film premiered 50 years ago! When it opened in Germany I found out that an art gallery in Cologne exhibited a fair number of original production cels. Of course I had to pay a visit, and in that gallery I saw Disney cels for the very first time. It was fascinating to observe that the colors on the cels differed a little from what I had seen on a movie screen. They actually looked a bit duller. Much later I found out that when photographed under a camera at Disney, the strong overhead lights really punched up the colors.

Anyway, this animation follows a moment when Robin Hood had just thrown an arrow through Little John's hat and into the tree trunk. "Watch it Rob, that's the only hat I've got!" he complains.

I had he opportunity to discuss the overall sequence with Ollie Johnston, who co-animated it with Milt. Ollie thought that Milt exaggerated the dialogue in this scene too much. Every vowel is drawn with a wide open mouth. By contrast Ollie's dialogue scenes with Little John show more restraint. His mouth shapes are relatively small. An audience would never see those different approaches. You'd have to be a geek to catch something like this. And that's what I am...

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Lilo & Scar

I posted a rough sketch of this composition before a few years ago. And I had almost forgotten that at one time I turned the image into a watercolor drawing. The black lines are thin Sharpie. There is something different about Scar's face. Any idea?

This was a donation to a charity auction. Wouldn't you know, it is now up on Ebay.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

MUSHKA Sequence 14, Scenes 63 and 64


I loved animating these scenes. The tiger is being pushed from a cliff into a river. By Sarah and Alex. I won't give you the story context here, but this moment is part of the MUSHKA trailer:

It is extremely comforting when you realize that you can animate such a scene without any reference. These are actually poses for the storyboard, but I also used them as a guide for the animation. After drawing tigers at the local zoo, studying footage of them frame by frame, you get to a point where you just wing it. Gut feeling, intuition. Of course Daniel Ernesto's beautiful water splash animation sure helped to make this a convincing scene. 

At Disney I hardly ever had the chance to do action scenes. I needed to focus on personality shots. But on MUSHKA I was able to do both, and I loved it. Figuring out the proper pacing for an action sequence was absolutely thrilling. You try to escalate the danger before things come to a halt. And then the resolve. 

Woolie Reitherman talked about this in several interviews. And I definitely kept that in mind.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Pinocchio Poolroom Sequence

One of the great sequences in Pinocchio. In the poolroom, just before the horrifying character transformations begin. I love these photostats that show the sequence in progress. Storyboard sketches mixed in with frames from the rough animation. Be sure to click twice on the image for large scale viewing.

Lampwick by Fred Moore, Pinocchio by Milt Kahl and Jiminy Cricket by Ward Kimball.