Thursday, July 20, 2017

An Oprah Story

Look who I was hanging out with at the recent D23 Legends lunch!
I actually had met Oprah before, way back in 1995. Disney had just purchased ABC, when management called me to let me know that Oprah would be stopping by my office. All of a sudden I found myself trying to make small talk with one of the most famous people in the world. There were also Disney management folks present as well as a few members from Oprah's team.
So this is how the visit went:
Oprah right away notices the maquette of Scar on my book shelf. "Did you draw Scar?" she asks me.
I said:"Yes."  "Tell me, all my gay friends say that Scar is he gay?"
O-k-a-a-y-y-y, how do I answer that, I thought for a split second. Well...truthfully of course.
I remember saying something like this:"I can see why people might assume that, but I never thought of Scar being gay. In an early version of The Lion King we had a lengthy sequence in which Scar is coming on to Nala, and offers her to rule the kingdom with him. She refuses and scratches his cheek."

There you have it, Scar is straight. And while I am at it, so are Gaston and least as far as I know.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sullivant influences Disney

Here are a couple of examples that show the graphic influence T.S. Sullivant had on the design of certain Disney animal characters. 
The first one is the brown cow from the 1950 short film The Brave Engineer. The train had to come to a sudden and abrupt stop because the cow happened to stand on the railroad tracks. With a nonchalant attitude she turns away and moves on. Milt Kahl animated this scene with all the comedy you can get out of a Sullivant design. Oversized muzzle, and hip bones that stick out for days.

This sketch by story artist James Bodrero depicts a young  Gauchito on a horse. The final 1945 short film The Flying Gauchito includes a flying donkey instead.
There is a certain size and shape Sullivant applies to a horse's head, and you can clearly see the influence when compared to Bodrero's beautiful sketch.

Most artists working in the animation industry during its golden age just loved Sullivant's work. 
There really is nobody like him.
Now who is going to publish that coffee table book on his work?!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Eyvind Earle at the Walt Disney Family Museum

Don't miss this massive exhibition at the W. Disney Family Museum. The image above is the cover of the exhibit's catalogue. It is actually an art book featuring many of Earle's original works for Disney, but also personal art like his many stunning Christmas cards illustrations. There are also sculptures, early student drawings as well as gallery art.
More infos about this gorgeous exhibition here:

My own exhibit is still at the Museum until October 4.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Another example of how Milt Kahl had his hand in the designs of almost all Disney characters.
Even the ones he didn't animate. Below are four drawings that Milt did over Ollie Johnston's key poses of the stepsisters from the film Cinderella. They appear on the rough model sheet along with many more of Milt's sketches,drawn over Ollie's.
It's interesting to see that the sisters' hands are depicted fairly realistically, while the feet look very cartoony and oversized. They had to be, because of Cinderella' glas slipper. There is no way that the slipper would fit on those clumsy things.

This previous post Milt shows Milt's early designs for the Stepmother, who was animated by Frank Thomas:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Whose Pinocchio is this?

There have been a lot of drawings up for auction lately featuring drawings from an early Pinocchio scene. This is what the character looked like before Walt Disney voiced his displeasure over his design. Then, of course, Milt Kahl came on board and re-drew Pinocchio for the final appearance in the film.
These four drawings are from a very long scene (hundreds of frames). Unfortunately the whole scene was broken up (which breaks my heart) into small groupings before being sold. How great it would have been to scan all drawings in order to create a pencil test!! But with multipole owners now, that won't happen.
I have been messing with the question of who the animator might have been. Either Frank Thomas or Ollie Johnston. After taking a closer look I am now sure that this is Frank's work. The overall line quality is vintage F. Thomas. The way he drew hands and feet reminds me of his animation of Mickey Mouse in shorts like The Brave Little Taylor and The Pointer.

Here is the link to a rough Thomas Mickey drawing from The Pointer:

Images Heritage Auctions

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Ollie's Come Back

Ollie Johnston fell ill after finishing animation on 101 Dalmatians. It was one of those childhood diseases that can be life threatening when an adult catches it. I remember Ollie telling me how grateful he was to Walt Disney, who kept paying his regular salary during Ollie's lengthy hospital stay.
When I watch The Sword in the Stone I can't help but realize that Ollie's work on that film seems somewhat unsteady. He animated many scenes with Merlin (including his introduction), as well as scenes with Wart and Archimedes, the owl. A master animator not on top of his game, due to his recovery. 
But Mary Poppins already shows that Ollie got his groove back. His penguins (animated by him and Frank Thomas) are beautiful. His scenes are full of fluid motion and personality.
And by the time Jungle Book came around, Ollie was back in action. He animated the first encounter between Mowgli and Baloo  (Frank Thomas did the boxing scenes). All of The Bare Necessities sequence is Ollie's work, and how spectacular it is. Full of musical rhythm and top character animation. I consider his work on that film a career highlight. 

Here are a few of Ollie's thumbnail sketches followed by final frames.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Three Pigs

These two Fred Moore drawings were recently auctioned off at Heritage Auctions. In them you can actually study four different stages of Fred's drawing approach.
In the upper sketch the orange lines were the first ones he put down. They are rough and spontaneous, and show how he begins to define staging and expressions for the characters. Note that the pig on the left was originally placed further to the side.
Moore's black pencil pass on top is still rough and loose, but it clarifies the main volumes in greater detail. Practical Pig's index finger was changed for better silhouette.

I am sure that the second sheet was placed over the first one on Fred's animation desk in order to tie down the pigs' composition even more. He used a red pencil to select the lines that actually matter for the final presentation. The thin graphite pencil on top is almost a clean up drawing. But even at this last stage he makes subtle changes like adjusting the tilt of Practical Pig's hat. He also adds a tail to
Fiddler Pig.

The drawing is most likely a publicity illustration, since all of the characters were drawn on the same sheet. This would not happen in an animated scene, since due to the pigs' individual timing, they would be drawn on separate sheets.

The liveliest version of the two is the upper one. Each time you reduce your instinctive scribbles down to thin fine lines, some of the drawing's life is lost. But...this is the classic Disney style, thin, distinctive outlines and flat color shapes.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Barrie versus Disney

An amusing article from a UK publication, which compares J. M. Barrie's original play of Peter Pan to the Disney animated film. The writer seems to defend the Disney version, but often can't decide which adaption he prefers. 
It's a fun read that deals with the Americanization of English folklore.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Cruella's Car

In order to save costs the 101 Dalmatians production team thought up an inventive way to animate Cruella De Vil's automobile. Instead of drawing the vehicle frame by frame the conventional way, a cardboard model was filmed, as effects animators moved it around in front of the camera. Note the black lines that define all edges.
Frames from this "live action" footage were xeroxed on to cels before being painted in the ink & paint apartment. (The same process was used for the Baduns' car, and later on for Edgar's motorcycle in The Aristocats.)

Art director and production designer Ken Anderson, story artist Bill Peet, and co directors Woolie Reitherman and Ham Luske play with a couple of toy car models.

Here the scene is being filmed in which Cruella tries to run the Baduns off the road.
Effects animator Dick Lukas is manipulating the models.

Woolie Reitherman moves Cruella's car up a snowy embankment set up. Even the movement of the simulated snow made it in to the final film.
Some people might consider this whole procedure a cheat. I think it is pretty ingenious, considering that these guys were under the gun as far as having to bring down the film's budget.

Friday, June 30, 2017


Good Lord.., I forgot who posted this pic originally, but here it is again on my blog.
It is 1984, and a few selected junior Disney animators were invited to join Marc and Alice Davis at the Olympic Arts Festival (which was then organized by Peter Schneider).
We showed an absolutely beautiful 70mm film print of Sleeping Beauty, I have not seen this movie in a better version since. It was a thrill to watch the film with Marc Davis and ask him questions about  it. Actually this was the beginning of my friendship with Alice and Marc.
I do not want any comments about our not so hot pants.
From left to right:
Mark Henn, Ron Husband, Ruben Procopio, Joe Lanzisero, and me.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Busch, The Gourmet Paradise 1976

These are Wilhelm M. Busch illustrations for a book written by Hans W. Fischer. It is basically a guide on how to enjoy and live the good life (until the grim reaper shows up.)

Again, phenomenal compositions and characters. So much to learn...

Monday, June 26, 2017

Witch Hunt

Look how cinematically Disney's story artists thought when working out continuity for a dramatic sequence for their first feature Snow White
At the end of the movie the Witch realizes she is being pursuit by the dwarfs, and it is time to run.
These terrific story sketches show how the artist not only worked out the continuity of this section, but also gave thought to staging, background mood and effects. The final film footage comes  very close to these early gutsy concepts.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Disney Legends


Cartoon Brew published this great photo a couple of years ago, it was taken on May 1, 1989, in Orlando. On that day the Disney/MGM studio park opened. I believe this backdrop is the entrance to the then new Feature Animation Building, which later would became my home during the production of Lilo and Stitch.
Here Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Ward Kimball, Ken O'Connor and Marc Davis personalize cement blocks before leaving their handprints on them.

The West Coast Burbank versions of these prints are pictured below. Naturally Kimball wouldn't do things according to protocol. Hilarious.

As some of you might know the Orlando Animation Building closed early in 2004.  It was a beautiful place to work in with a great floor plan, spacious offices and of course a terrific team of artists.

But times change... and then you find yourself working on a plan B as far as your animated future. Part of my own plan B involves a 1/2 hour hand drawn film, which is coming along very nicely. It is a passion project, and I can't wait to share it with audiences.