Friday, August 30, 2013

Jafar Clean Ups

A while ago I posted some of my rough animation of Jafar. When it came to cleaning up those rough key drawings on a new sheet of paper I tried to stay in touch with my clean up lead Kathy Bailey as much as possible. Especially on the first scenes we went back and forth on how the character should look in that nice calligraphic line that was called for to fit in with the style of the film. 
Looking at these sheets now after such a long time I am still pretty happy with how Kathy handled the character. Sometimes the clean up process can flatten out the drawings. Not here. Kathy's elegant lines show a subtle "thick and thin", something that was not easy to maintain for her follow up artists, the clean up inbetweeners.
This is a character that was a lot of fun to draw and to animate. The story material was very rich, too,  which made it easier to find decent performances.
I don't think there was an animation artist who didn't enjoy working on this film.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Alice giggles...

…and if you don't think this is the most adorable photo you've seen in a long time, I really can't help you.
It looks like Kathryn Beaumont is cracking up at something that happened on the set. I don't believe this is a photo stat image provided to the animators for live action reference.
Kathryn is standing on a mock up giant mushroom. This is the sequence for which Milt Kahl animated his first few scenes of Alice.
He recalled years later: " Yeah, that's a cute litte Alice I did there. Unfortunately for much of the picture (when other animators took over) she doesn't look like this, and I know I could have done those scenes a whole lot better !"

Here are few beautiful roughs from Milt's early Alice animation.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bill Peet's Dumbo

A young Bill Peet sketches elephants at a circus, backstage around 1940.
He ended up doing story work on critically important personality sequences like those playful scenes with Dumbo and his mother. Bill Tytla saw the potential in these storyboards and turned them into animated gold. In the hands of lesser artists, emotional story material like this could have turned saccharine very quickly, but both men approached this assignment with such sincerity that you can't help but fall in love with these characters.

The circus moves during a rainstorm at night. I love this sketch, you can feel the elephant using its weight to push the tiger cage up the ramp on to the train.

Peet came up with the final character design for Dumbo, those are his drawings on the model sheet.

Bill Peet at work at the studio. It's fun to study all the research he assembled.
That's an early model sheet by J.P.Miller on his left.

Peet was brilliant at handling elephants in his story work. That's probably why he chose them so often as main characters in his many children's' books.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cruella as Medusa ?

During the early development phase of The Rescuers Ken Anderson gave some serious thought to the idea for a Cruella De Vil comeback. He made these sketches to experiment with the concept of Cruella as Madame Medusa.
When I asked Milt Kahl later about this initial approach, he said: " Can you believe how people think sometimes?" He didn't mention Ken Anderson, they remained friends long after Milt left the studio, despite of the disagreement over Milt's final character.

One of the last drawings Milt did of Medusa, as we know her. What a fantastic expression!
This sketch was given to animation assistant Bud Hester, who over the years not only worked for Milt, but all the other Nine Old Men. If anybody knows some scoop about these animation giants, it would be Bud.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting to know Milt Kahl

I originally prepared these interview clips as part of a presentation for the 2009 Milt Kahl Tribute at the Academy. This is a series of brief, but fascinating statements which reveal Milt's passion as well as his artistic ego (watch for his comment about the use of live action, priceless).
He reflects on certain character assignments, talks about the genius of Walt Disney, and he even draws a few characters.
It is shocking to watch him start a sketch, he begins with details, as if he sees the complete drawing already on paper.
One thing is clear, this is an artist who challenged himself constantly to raise the standard of character animation. He had no patience for people who didn't try as hard as he did…he called them lazy bastards.
It's a shame he left Disney so early in 1976. As Brad Bird mentioned, at that time he had two or three more pictures in him.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

London & Peter Pan

I am writing this post slightly jet lagged, having just gotten back to LA from a week in London (after a few days in Hamburg, Germany).
The weather was beautiful for outdoor activities, so I skipped museum visits this time around.
I decided to look up the bronze statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. 
Walt Disney paid a visit there while working on his animated version of the J.M. Barrie story. Commissioned by Barrie in 1902, the tall statue was sculpted by Sir George Frampton and placed in the park in 1912. There are all kinds of characters like rabbits, squirrels and fairies climbing up the base toward Peter.

Last Sunday a few friends joined me for a boat trip on the Thames, from the London Eye to Tower Bridge and back to Big Ben. How can you not think about Peter Pan as you pass by these incredible sights. It was an absolutely beautiful evening.

I have always liked this attractive illustration which was used for the film's poster as well as other promotional material.

These are key drawings from a Milt Kahl scene which takes place inside Skull Rock. 
"(Psst, Wendy) watch this!"
Milt didn't use any live action reference here, he was more than capable of pulling this one out of his head. The action is a little cartoony, but believable anatomy is maintained throughout.

Woolie Reitherman animated this surreal moment with Captain Hook emerging from inside of the crocodile's mouth. Other animators criticized the scene at the time for its irrational quality.
All I can say is…works for me! And you couldn't portray Hook's scream for Smee any better.