Saturday, March 30, 2013

Twenty Years Ago...

…to this day Marc and Alice Davis were hosting a garden party for family and friends to celebrate Marc's 80th birthday. 
As you can imagine I was looking forward to the event, but didn't want to show up to congratulate Marc with a store bought card. So I came up with this illustration in which Jafar invites Maleficent to a dance. I added lyrics from an old song in order to point out that Maleficent had an influence on the way I designed and animated Jafar. Simple, clear lines and shapes, resulting in a stylized design for the character.
The photo shows me presenting the drawing to Marc, who seemed to get a kick out of it. That's animation historian Charles Solomon in the middle.

In this clip from an interview from the late 1980ies Marc talks about how he developed Maleficent.
One thing about his calm and kind demeanor, behind all that is a forceful artist with brilliant judgement and strong opinions. If you asked him a question he would always tell you what he honestly thought, but unlike Milt Kahl, Marc did it with a tone of patience and composure.

Marc, you are greatly missed. Happy 100th birthday!

Marc's Cruella

A great photo with Marc Davis, Milt Kahl and Ken Anderson being interviewed, possibly for a radio program. Marc is doing the talking, but it looks like Milt is trying to get a word in.
These guys are at the top of their game, and the animators couldn't be happier, because for the first time they would see their own drawings on the screen thanks to the new Xerox process.

I cannot even imagine this film being inked, just look at the vitality of the line in this gorgeous scene.
Cruella is facing off with Nanny, who is holding her own in this confrontation.
An incredible composition for these two characters, full of personality in this one frame alone.

Stay tuned for Marc's official birthday post in a few hours!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Moments with Marc

I was working on the Mickey Mouse featurette The Prince and the Pauper, when I got invited to attend a screening of the story reels for Marc Davis and Joe Grant.
I remember that both men had quite a few story notes. Marc told me that if I was going to animate Mickey, to keep in mind that even a little cartoon character like him has an inherent anatomy.
You can squash and stretch him all you want, he added, but it's important to maintain the specific structure that is so typical for him.
Can you tell that I am paying attention to Marc's words of wisdom?

In this photo Marc is giving direction to Jane Fowler alongside director Clyde Geronimi.
Jane is standing in for Eleanor Audley, who voiced the character of Maleficent and provided live action as well. Jane later married effects animator Jack Boyd.

A beautiful sculpt of Maleficent's head by Marc Davis.

This meeting with Walt seems to be going very well. That's sculptor Blaine Gibson on the right, who perfectly captured Marc's designs in three dimensions. 

The Disney ride It's a Small World was created by top notch artists.
The "unforgettable" song was composed by the Sherman brothers, Mary Blair did color and art direction while Alice Davis not only researched all of the folklore patterns for the dolls' costumes, but also supervised the manufacturing of the outfits. 
(We celebrated Alice's birthday earlier this week).
Marc helped with final staging of the many characters, he also developed their motion range.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marc Davis talkes about Bambi

Here is a clip from another UK TV show, this time from the early 80ies.
Marc is in his home studio, where he explains how he achieved human expressions on a realistic fawn. 
Frank Thomas told me once that the animators couldn't have come up with he same results if it wasn't for Marc's thorough and extremely useful research.

Characters like the ones in Bambi could easily look overly sweet and kitschy, but when you have artists involved with Marc's caliber, that's not going to happen. Instead the film's cast is portrayed with unparalleled elegance and beauty. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Victory Through Air Power

For this most unusual of all Disney animated feature films Marc Davis storyboarded the fight sequence between the eagle and the octopus. The drawings date back to 1942/43.
What a change from his story work on Bambi, which delicately showed  the poetry of nature and animal characters in the forest. Here Marc pulled all the stops in order to portray these action scenes in the most dramatic way. These story sketches were so effective that the powerful staging, color and lighting made it into the final film intact.
Marc had established himself as an artist who could handle any kind of material. Wether character styling, story sketch or animation, he excelled at all of these.

Incidentally, it was the Bill Tytla who animated the sequence, and I believe this was his last assignment before leaving Disney.
Marc and Tytla stayed in touch and remained friends for the rest of their lives.

A final film frame from the sequence.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Countdown to Marc Davis' 100th Birthday

This March 30 marks the 100th birthday of Marc Davis.
I thought it might be a nice idea to post material relating to Marc's career until then.
The photo shows a very young Marc Davis. It was most likely taken sometime in 1939.
Some of the rough model sheets on the wall date back to 1938 and early 1939.
This means that the location isn't an office at the then new Burbank Studios, but a much smaller temporary studio for the Bambi unit on 861 Seward Street in Hollywood.

It's always fun to have a look around and see what you can find and identify in photos like this one.
It looks like Marc is holding a fly swatter, and he is pointing at a print of the Michelangelo painting The Holy Family (perhaps a fly had just landed on it). I don't recognize the artist of the print next to it.
Love the vintage radio, and what looks like a lunchbox on the left.
The illustration with a flock of birds Marc is working on is probably a story sketch. For inspiration he has a stuffed woodpecker in front of him. 
There is a sheet of paper just for sharpening pencils, but I also detect a Mickey Mouse doodle from The Sorcerer's Apprentice on it. That's unusual since Marc didn't work on that film.

Below are scans of a few of Marc's model sheets you see in the photo.

Some of Marc's bird studies for Bambi. All of these look so solid, because of his thorough understanding of birds' bone structure.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Happy Birthday, Milt Kahl!

Today is Milt's 104th birthday.
The photo was taken around June 25, 1974 at his "40th Anniversary with Disney Party" at the studio.
Milt is obviously enjoying goofy gifts from some of his colleagues.
When I started at Disney I remember seeing a long printed panel that was made up for the occasion. It was titled "40 Years of Kahl Characters" and showed many drawings from his long and astonishing career at the studio.

So this is a good enough excuse to post more of his roughs from his last animation assignment, Madame Medusa. Except for the the eyelash scene, all of these drawings are throw aways. The final animation differs just a little from what you see here.
"I was always trying to get the most entertainment out of everything" Milt said, and that intense search for character comedy, inventive drawing and great animation is evident in the these images.

But let's start off with a drawing from one of the first scenes he ever animated for the short "Mickey's Circus" from 1936.

I posted a xeroxed image of this thumbnail page before, but this is a better scan.
Both of these were a offered at auction recently.