Monday, May 22, 2017

Kley in Color

Some extraordinary Heinrich Kley pieces were offered and sold recently at Kunkel Fine Art.
Drawing treasures from about a century ago. What joy to study these master drawings.

Here is the link to the website:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bambi Academy Tribute

Great evening last night at the Academy.
Host Leonard Maltin led the panel, and it showed how much knowledge and appreciation he has for the film. While Disney art director Paul Felix and myself represented a newer generation, Donnie Dunagan and Peter Behn were the real stars of the evening. They recalled how they were selected as the voices of Bambi and Thumper. Behn remember how frightened he was watching the forest fire during the film's premiere screening. Dunagan at age 5 fired his manager, who thought the audition at Disney for a baby deer wouldn't be worthwhile. 
It really was a historical evening. Disney provided a 2 1/2 min. pencil test from the film which left the audience in awe.
There was also a tribute to Tyrus Wong, whose fingerprints are all over this movie.

The two kids who made movie history: Donnie Dunagan and Peter Behn.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

George Darling

Many of you know that the father in the film Peter Pan was largely animated by John Lounsbery.
Milt Kahl animated the character in the final sequence of the movie. He kept the animation subtle and believable. See image above.
But this really is a Lounsbery character. He established Mr Darling during the film's opening sequence. Here are copies of a few rough Louns drawings where the father stumbles over the dog Nana. "And that's my last word on the matter!" (about Wendy getting her own room).
Lounsbery didn't draw hands as well as Milt, but who cares? His strong use of squash and stretch is legendary. I am telling you, if you flip the first drawing with the lastone, lightbulbs will go off. The shift of volumes is just beautiful. Lounsbery went broad on this character in order to avoid another straight, live action based personality. It was a good choice!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Pinocchio Water

I recently did a post on "Drawn Water" in Disney films. Here are a few images from Pinocchio showing various stages of production, concept art, story sketch, a cel set up (below) and final frames.
All artists had an amazing vision of how water should be handled in the film.
The final animation is obviously based on realism, but it is also stylized. The wave patterns in the ocean scenes have an elegance that beautifully matches the fluid character animation.
When I see water these days in CG animated films, it simply duplicates the real thing. Where is the artistic interpretation that makes you feel something?

The last two images show water effects that were largely achieved without animating water. There is ONE painting for the water level. A plate of rippled glass was then moved across it. Simple, inexpensive, and very effective.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sleeping Beauty Article

Pageant Magazine published this article to help promote Disney's Sleeping Beauty. It is not very in-depth, but it does include some artwork I haven't seen before.


One of the final book illustrations from the opening of the film.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Fred Moore's Three Caballeros

I don't have hi res files for these spectacular drawings by Fred Moore, but even at this resolution the two sketches are jumping of the screen! A duck, a rooster and a parrot. Three different birds, three different beaks.
Beautiful compositions for the group of star characters. It's funny how Fred never bothered to draw Donald's toes. Probably because he was thinking about simple basic shapes that could be put down very quickly.
Whoever owns these two little treasures...congratulations!! Pure and virtuous Disney!

For more Three Caballeros art by Fred Moore go to this post:

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Bambi Academy Event

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the release of Disney's Bambi, the Academy in LA is going to host a panel discussion, and I feel honored to be a part of it. This event will take place on May 15.
I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Behn (voice of Thumper) and Donnie Dunagan (voice of Bambi) a number of years ago, and I look forward to talking to them again.

A reminder of the caliber of artists who were part of this incredible film. These signatures are on the title page of the out of print Bambi Sketchbook.

Marc Davis spent several years in story before animating the character of Flower.

A long vertical layout from the film's opening sequence.

It takes a lot of guts to be simple when it comes to animation backgrounds. This film would have looked very different if it wasn't for the dramatic artistic vision of Tyrus Wong.

I posted about my first get together with Bambi's voice actor Donnie Dunagan here:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Shock of the New

When I first heard that Walt Disney didn't like the look of 101 Dalmatians at all, I couldn't believe it.
What a great film, and watching the animation in rough form added even more life to the characters than ever before. The animators were sure happy, because audiences for the first time were able to see on the screen what came directly from their animation desk. Loose, dynamic drawings that weren't re-interpreted by inkers with super clean ink lines on the cels.
I remember Milt Kahl remarking that all the way back to Peter Pan that he told Walt about the idea to find a way to reproduce the rough animation as final footage. But Walt's response to Milt was was:"Ah, you want that fine line around those characters." Walt didn't want to remind the audience that they were looking at drawings.
But Sleeping Beauty turned out to be the last inked animated feature at Disney. Economics forced future productions toward a simplified production pipeline, and that meant photocopying the drawings on cels. Black lines and all.

As for myself, I love the inked classic films, but I really am crazy about xerox. That's why my film Mushka won't include any clean up animation, I wanted to keep the drawings loose, because I like the vibrancy that comes with rough animation.

For more on xeroxed cels go here:

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Just Keep Going!

This kind of thing happens to me once in a while (and it just did again):

Before animating a new scene I plan out the staging and acting of the character(s) in thumbnail form.
Once I feel that this is probably the best way of doing it, I start roughing out my first pass on animation paper. I think I got this under control, when suddenly I loose confidence in the way the rough pass is coming along. The poses look funky, and flipping what I have done so far doesn't encourage me to keep going.
Early on in my career I would throw everything out and start over again, without even pencil testing anything. The stuff just felt like it was going nowhere.
What I've learned over the years, when this kind of a situation occurs, is to stay with the scene and FINISH the rough pass anyway. BECAUSE:
Even if parts of the scene don't work for me, there is always some part that does. And based on that, I can now rework the scene so that everything works as a whole.

And a good attitude to have is this: let me do the fixes right now, not later or tomorrow, right now when everything is fresh in my mind. So by the end of the day you know you solved the problem.
The next day when I start tying down the drawings I feel confident again, because I know that the bare bones of the scene are working.

There are even times like this: I am thinking the scene is going downhill, but I stay with it and finish the first rough pass. I pencil test it, and by golly, it doesn't look so bad after all.

Yet again, there are occasions when the whole thing has to be thrown out, because the acting idea is wrong. This happened to me while animating Mickey on The Prince and the Pauper. 
Pauper Mickey is walking through the Prince's palace, when he discovers his mirror image on the shiny floor. The storyboard suggested that he is delighted and does something fun to acknowledge the smooth floor.
So I posed out something like an ice skating scene. Way too broad! I started over with a different idea, where Mickey does a little dance with his own mirror image, before crashing into some armor.
I kept the dance subtle while the crash was broad. To this day I think this became one of my better scenes.

Image Heritage Auctions

Friday, April 28, 2017

Snow White , 80 Years Old

At the end of this year Disney's first animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be 80 years old. This movie manages to stay relevant as a personal statement by Walt Disney and his artists.
As the look and feel of animated features has changed, Snow White keeps glowing as a reminder that there is such a thing as the ART of animation.
When you do something so well, so wholeheartedly without compromise, then that piece of work is for the ages.

There are very few people who worked on this film that are still with us: Scene planner Ruthie Thompson, animator Don Lusk and live action reference model Marge Champion. I feel lucky to have met them all and even discussed their contribution to the film.
This is Marge in full costume, getting ready to act out scenes for the animators. I love the black contours which help tracking her movements on film.

This cel set up might show its age with all those wrinkles, but as a piece of art it still looks astonishing!


A rare photostat of the Queen. I've always wondered how animator Art Babbit ended up with this assignment, since he had been known for very cartoony work like animating the character of Goofy.
But he sure pulled it off, this queen is beautiful and ruthless at the same time.

A lot of the muted color palette for the film was inspired by designer Gustaf Tenggren.