Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Disney 1949

UK PICTUREGOER Magazine published this article in December of 1949. Disney's latest feature film offering had been So Dear to my Heart. The writer was obviously dissatisfied with Disney having turned to live action/animation mix films. At that time general audiences, too, preferred full length animated feature films.
It is interesting that the absence of those films during the late 1940s is being discussed, financial difficulties at the studio.

As for myself, I always thought that the story in So Dear to my Heart is a bit saccharin. But the film is beautifully shot, and the animation is terrific. Milt Kahl's introduction to the Wise Owl character at the beginning of the film is unbelievable. Very appealing, inventive actions and timing.
The three main animated sequences deal with David and Goliath, Christopher Columbus and a couple of Scottish characters, including a spider. All feature spectacular effects animation.

Technicolor publicly thanks Walt Disney for working with them.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Milt Kahl on Medusa's Cel Colors

After leaving Disney Studios and before moving up to San Francisco, Milt Kahl reminisced about his work on Madame Medusa during a lecture. Here are a few interesting points relating to the amazing image above.

- Milt was a big proponent of the grey xerox line. To him it resulted in a slightly softer representation of the character animation. (During night scenes Medusa's cels were xeroxed in black, which makes perfect sense.)

- Originally the upper part of the towel wrapped around her head used to have the words "H O T E L    R I T Z" embroidered. The idea being that Medusa had swiped the towel from the hotel.
Only one scene shows the embroidering, when she removes her right false eyelash (screen left).

-There were several test cels being painted to explore the final look of Medusa's eyes after the removal of her false eyelashes. Milt was finally happy with what you see here. The outlines of her eyes were inked in flesh color, signaling that there aren't any of her natural eye lashes left at all.
Graphically this makes for a stronger "before and after" statement.

- Medusa's lipstick was painted on top of the cels, unlike the rest of her colors. In this image you can detect some tiny white specs on the half wiped off lipstick. The actual film frame doesn't show this.
But because a pile of cels used to include tissue paper between each cel for protection, some painted areas stuck to the tissue after filming. That's what you see here.

This cel is currently being offered at Howard Lowery:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stepmother's Bedroom

Probably my favorite sequence in Cinderella. Lady Tremaine is about to discipline her stepdaughter by demanding an overwhelming number of chores around the house.
This camera angle is from behind the night stand. The focus is on Cinderella, who is shown in the light. But the grid-like shadow (an effects level) gives the impression that she is in prison. Masterful staging.
Eric Larson animated Cinderella throughout this sequence, and Frank Thomas of course gave the Stepmother her ultra chilling performance.
Above is the film frame grab, below the actual background.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Disney Villains Stamps

The United States Postal Service just came out with these Disney Villains postal stamps.
Pretty cool to find among them a couple of characters I helped create. These images were inked and painted on cels at Disney, based on the original clean up drawings from the films.

When I see a pose like this one it takes me right back to when I animated the scene.
"Crazy old Maurice..hmm" , Gaston says here. I recall acting the scene out in front of the mirror in my office. As Gaston (Richard White) says the line I moved into camera placing my left hand on my chin. I tried to play it subtle, so it would look like Gaston is getting an idea about what he is going to do with Belle's father.

On this cel the eye direction was changed. In the movie Scar is looking back at Simba, who has just asked :"Uncle Scar, will I like the surprise?"  "Simba, it's to die for!" Great dialogue writing, and great delivery from Jeremy Irons.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Let the Match Begin!

Another great Milt Kahl scene from the film Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
The King is getting rid of his royal coat as he announces the start of the soccer game.
A couple of steps forward and a hop at the end help to punch the dialogue' accents.
And what great treatment on the folds of that coat. The way Milt draws and times its overlapping action gives the coat a real sense of weight. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Vision Awards 2003

This was one of Frank and Ollie's last public appearances together. On June 28, 2003 they both reveived VISION AWARDS at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. This is an organization that fights blindness, it awards "visionaries" in the fields of entertainment, the arts and technology.
I was lucky to receive an invitation to sit at the Disney table that night. I remember when it was time to honor Frank and Ollie, film clips were screened showing many of their animated accomplishments.
After a standing ovation the host stepped off the stage and approached our table. Talking into a mic Ollie had a few words of gratitude and Frank stated that "Pencil animation still holds a special kind of magic".
These photos were taken during guests' arrival. In the image above Ollie's son Ken shows the way.

Frank enjoys talking to a group of fans, some of them famous like actress Rosanna Arquette on the left. Note the colorful horn on Frank's walker.

Frank with actress Diahann Carroll, a fellow award recipient.

Frank Thomas died in 2004, Ollie Johnston in 2008.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Shere Khan meets Kaa

An original cel set up from The Jungle Book. Iconic! Beautiful background art and Milt Kahl's cutting-edge animation.
A German journalist told me years ago that part of the reason why he adores this film is the fact that you, as the audience, are spending time in the lush Indian Jungle for the duration of the movie.
What could be more soothing on the eyes? I had never thought about it in that way, I just love this movie.