Saturday, January 20, 2018

Costume Designs for Sleeping Beauty

Marc Davis loved doing research for any given project he was involved with. All of these pages show his drawings. I imagine Marc had a whole bunch of books on medieval art and costumes nearby for inspiration as well as for historic accuracy.
These might be some of the first sketches he did for Sleeping Beauty during the early to mid 1950s.
After the production of Peter Pan most of his colleagues moved over to Lady and the Tramp.
But Marc skipped that film and instead began creating designs for Sleeping Beauty's minor characters, before focusing on the heroine as well as the villainess.
I love the simplicity in these drawings. Marc is already thinking about simple, uncluttered concepts that could be applied to full animation.

Here is a link to one of Marc's many color costume designs:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Designs for The Three Good Fairies

These 1950s xeroxes come from Ollie Johnston's estate. He labelled them:
Don DaGradi character designs. I am not sure that these are by DaGradi, they look more like Tom Oreb sketches to me.
In any case, you can see that right from the beginning, during the character design phase, the crew was going for a style they had not done in feature films. Strong, graphic shapes that still needed to reveal distinct personalities. Frank and Ollie, who animated all personality scenes with the Fairies, were able to maintain the stylized designs in their work. But according to them, it wasn't easy to get used to. The idea of drawing your characters by applying flat shapes, while moving them dimensionally presented a challenge that was foreign to many animators.
My favorite sequence featuring the Fairies is when we see them inside a jewelry box, as they try to come up with a plan to counter Maleficent's curse. Every one of those scenes is worth studying closely. The acting is nuanced and believable, and the overall animation is fluid and graceful.

More on the Three Good Fairies here:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

More Ken O'Brien Roughs

I've written about animator Ken O'Brien before. On Lady & the Tramp he had the ungrateful task of bringing the human characters of Jim Dear and Darling to life. They were both based on live action reference, and a lesser animator might have ruined such an assignment.
But O'Brien knew very well how to work best with that kind of reference. He altered the poses from the live action quite a bit by strengthening body rhythm and overall movement. His drawing and animation is sort of a healthy mix of Fred Moore and Milt Kahl.
Look at the image above, he handled those 3/4 rear vews with such ease! I find myself working that kind of an angle on characters over and over. Its not easy, but look at O'Brien's approach! Intuitive and perfect.

Go here for previous posts on the talented Ken O'Brien:

Friday, January 12, 2018

Bald Mountain Art

A few pieces of art from "Night on Bald Mountain" that were sold by Heritage Auctions last year.
This segment from Fantasia remains animations' most nightmarish, astounding, horrific and beautiful moment.
Between Kay Nielsen's concepts and Bill Tytla's extraordinary animation, on top of the brilliant Mussorgsky's composition, there is a visual power that has not been matched in this medium since. Sheer terror without an ounce of comedy for balance.
Not every sequence in Fantasia came "together" in terms of story, animation and color, but Night on Bald Mountain is one of those cinematic achievements that is absolutely perfect. It went all the way, nothing is compromised in its presentation. It is a benchmark for what animation could do in 1940, and a reminder of the power of Drawn Animation.

Check out this previous post on Chernabog:

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ollie's Mowgli

Ollie Johnston animated practically the whole "Bear Necessities" song sequence from The Jungle Book. He had such a natural, instinctive feeling when it came to developing Baloo and Mowgli's relationship. It looks to me that he didn't overanalyze his animation, there is a strong gut feeling for how the characters' friendship evolved and changed. 
In this scene Mowgli mimics Baloo's actions, as he tries to pick a thorny fruit from a cactus. 
What a beautiful reaction when Mowgli pricks his finger. The whole head reacts first, his hair bursts, with his face wide open. He then shakes his hand, puts his finger in his mouth, then shakes the hand again. 
Actually the whole body is involved in Mowgli's reaction. His legs go up and down. This is intuitive, insightful character animation, with traces of Ollie's mentor Fred Moore.
These clean up lines were done right over Ollie's rough animation drawings.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Frank Thomas and Dalmatians

Great publicity photo of Frank drawing a live Pongo at the studio. This pic was taken either during or toward the end of production of 101 Dalmatians. There are finished cel set-ups pinned on the story board behind him, as well as a drawing and cel from one of his lovely Perdita scenes.

Before Dalmatians Frank had produced beautiful animation featuring dog characters for Lady & the Tramp. One of his key sequences (aside from the iconic spaghetti eating moment) was when Tramp meets Lady for the first time, along with Trusty and Jock. Their character-contrasting interactions are priceless.
For 101 Dalmatians Frank animated many scenes with the lead dogs, but also a poignant scene at the beginning of the film, when during the birth sequence Nanny presents an unlucky puppy to Roger Radcliff and Pongo. That puppy was brought back to life through the help of Roger.
Later on another one of Frank's heartfelt animation moments is the Dalmatian reunion in the cows' stable.
Marc Davis might have stolen the show with his inventive and eccentric animation of Cruella De Vil, but if the plight of the Dalmatian family hadn't been portrayed believably and emotionally the story wouldn't have worked.
And Frank Thomas had a lot to do with that.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Disney's Christmas Carol 1957

From Mc'Calls magazine, many years before the animated Mickey's Christmas Carol.
My guess is that the images were sketched by Bill Peet and then painted by one of the studio's background painters (some of them did illustration of Disney stories for Golden Books).

Happy New Year!

Here's hoping that this will be my year of the tiger...