Saturday, July 22, 2017

Animation takes Time

This is an early Comparative Size sketch by Frank Thomas for the Mr. Toad project. At that time this story was planed as a feature length film.  Frank signed off on the final sheet below on June 17, 1941. Then WW II happened, and quite a few Disney projects were put on the back burner. Mr Toad didn't reach movie screens until October of 1949, as a featurette, combined with The Adventures of Ichabod Crane.
I love the film which is set in a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals co-exist. All based on the stories by Kenneth Grahame, in a book called The Wind in the Willows, dating back to 1908.
Frank animated brilliantly the confrontation between Toad and Cyril, the horse, and Rat and Mole.
Beautiful, funny, character rich acting.
I remember when Frank called me on the phone, because he had found out that a few of his animation drawings from this film were up for sale, and he knew I was collecting vintage animation art. But they turned out to be clean up drawings, which are less interesting to me. Anyway, compare the two images, I think Frank's final sketch is quite an improvement over the first one.

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.