Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Heinrich Kley's Reynard, the Fox

The stories about Reynard the Fox go back hundreds of years. There are French, German and Dutch versions, who all portray the character as somewhat nasty, but also clever and charismatic. He gets into all kinds of trouble,  but usually finds a way to come out on top.

Here are book illustrattions that show how famous German artist Heinrich Kley portrayed Reynard’s world of anthropomorphic animals. It’s interesting to see that most of the characters walk on their toes (instead of their heels like most Disney versions for types like these). It makes it more difficult to show them in natural, balanced poses, but Kley manages pretty well.

The book has no publishing date, but my guess is that these drawings were done sometime around 1920. Gorgeous color work.


  1. Isn't Disney Animation Studios currently working on a film called "Zootopia" that is loosely based on this?

    1. Not exactly based on Reynard, Steven, though a somehow similar story of a fox having to buddy up with a rabbit as cops I think. Of course Disney had tried to adapt the famous story in the past. There was some cool sketches by Bill Peet and Ken Anderson I would've loved to have seen animated!

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  3. "It’s interesting to see that most of the characters walk on their toes (instead of their heels like most Disney versions of types like these)."

    I like to kinda thank Keith Ward for his take on illustrating Reynard that otherwise shaped the later Disney features in that direction (loved those illustrations). I'm personally not a big fan of that digitigrade look of balancing all that weight on those toes. At least Kley gives them opposable thumbs, I'm down with that!

  4. This is a cool book, and one I was most happy to discover in my research on the Kley books I published. For those interested in seeing more, I made it a point to reproduce every illustration (color and b&w) from this book in my two volumes on Kley (http://www.picturethispress.com/the-lost-art-of-heinrich-kley-volumes-1-2/).

    --Joe Procopio

  5. This artworks are similar to Disney's Robin Hood from 1973 and the african segment from Musicana, a unfinished Fantasia from 1970-80s.