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    Milt Kahl animated this line of dialogue, as Medusa is sitting down on her desk while she answers the phone. Initially upset at this late phone call, she then fakes a friendly attitude toward the caller.
    The rough drawing above is unfinished and was retrieved from Milt's trash bin (Crazy...I know).
    I LOVE the composition of this this pose! Just-look-at-this-drawing!
    It is a graphic masterpiece, full of personality. Her right hand is still leaning on the chair's back, before settling on her hip. As I said before, Medusa's body type is utterly unconventional in Disney Animation and it shows how Milt Kahl constantly challenged himself by inventing new, sophisticated designs.
    Here are copies of a few key drawings from the final scene. Stunning crisp facial expressions!

    I had a wonderful time at CTN. Met so many great, enthusiastic people.
    It was a special pleasure to talk to several young folks from Russia about my film. I will be in touch with you guys.
    New York was a lot of fun, too. Aladdin on Broadway is spectacular, I highly recommend the show.
    Another great musical was Kinky Boots. Go see it!!

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  • 11/26/14--22:58: Fred Moore Mickey Roughs
  • This sequence of drawings was done for a scene from an unproduced Mickey Mouse short film. My guess is that they date back to the early 1950s. Fred might not have been at the peak of his form anymore, but his work still showcases an exuberant joy for animating Disney's iconic character. When he took over from Ub Iwerks, there is a sense of ownership and self expression. Fred Moore was the right guy at the right time in the right place.
    Just imagine what amazing work he still would have produced, had it not been for addiction and the tragic car accident on November 23, 1952.
    But the work he did during his lifetime speaks for itself. It is a celebration of the human spirit, and therefor a celebration of life. Love on paper. This man deserves a book, filled with his art that continues to inspire generations. It will happen.

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    During one of my visits to see Milt in Northern California I brought along a Colonel Hathi sketch, I had just purchased. Milt didn't animate any scenes with elephants for The Jungle Book, but he was involved with their designs.
    When I asked him to sign the sketch, Milt hesitated. He said he doesn't like the way he drew the tusks coming out of Hathi's upper mouth. He used his fingers to describe the way it should have been drawn. "No, I don't want to sign this." My facial expression must have been utter disappointment, because that's when his wife Julie, who was also present, spoke up: "Oh Milt, come on."
    He then picked up the rejected drawing and autographed it. I was happy!
    It is unbelievable to realize how critical Milt remained long after leaving animation behind. I could never get an on the spot drawing out of him. At that stage in his life he felt that he wasn't up to his old standards anymore. I certainly respect him for that, and feel privileged that Milt took the time to meet with me.

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    I am about to  start off a series of animation online lectures with my buddies at Virtual animators this coming Saturday, December 6, at 11 am US Pacific time. The last lecture was a lot of fun, I really loved interacting live with everybody.
    This lecture's topic will be ANIMALS. Cartoony, realistic, anthropomorphic etc. I will again draw live and answer your questions. A lot of fun stuff to cover, and I'm looking forward to it.
    Here is the link to sign up, in case you are interested:

    More lectures to come in the new year, twice a month, every other Saturday. I'd love to hear what kind of topics would be most useful and interesting to you.

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  • 12/03/14--00:19: Mary Blair Cinderella Art

  • Mary Blair played a big part in the success of Disney's Cinderella. Her rough color/environment sketches didn't make it to the screen as such, nevertheless her artistic sensibilities influenced the entire production. Mary wasn't only a color expert extraordinaire, she also knew staging and composition. In the piece above I love how the window's grid offsets the perspective of the ballroom's floor.  It adds interest and tension.
    The other two pieces show Cinderella at her low point in the film. She has given up all hope.
    Look at all those fascinating shapes and textures, all supporting the mood of the scene.
    It was Marc Davis' idea to have the Fairy Godmother show up as she blends in with Cinderella's pose.
    Marc and Mary had a mutual admiration society going on, they remained very good friends.

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  • 12/05/14--01:12: Donnie Dunagan

  • Bambi's voice. Early in 2011 I had the tremendous pleasure to meet him in Chicago while we were both promoting the Bluray release of the film. Donnie embraced his legendary work for Walt Disney, but for many years he preferred not to talk to anyone about his Hollywood career as a child actor.

    Wikipedia tells you why:
    Dunagan was born in San Antonio, Texas, but his family soon moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where they struggled with poverty. There at the age of three-and-a-half he won a talent contest prize of $100. Spotted by a studio talent scout, the family moved to Hollywood, where Dunagan appeared in a series of films  and soon became his family's main breadwinner. His career ended after he provided the voice for the young fawn in Walt Disney's Bambi. By the age of 13, Dunagan was living in a boarding house and working as a lathe operator. In 1952, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He became the Marines' youngest-ever drill instructor and served three tours in Vietnam, where he was wounded several times, before finally retiring in 1977 with the rank of Major. For his service he received a Bronze Star and the Purple Heart three times. Dunagan has said in interviews that he kept his acting career a secret while serving in the Marines.

    Donnie turned eighty years this past August, but you would never know it. He still has the energy and enthusiasm of a kid.
    Here is some early art from this extraordinary Disney film.

    Look at how thick Bambi's legs are depicted here based on realistic studies. Frank Thomas preferred this approach, but Milt and Marc stylized the legs, and drew them thinner for contrast.

    Comparative anatomy, sooo important! All mammals have the same bone structure, and it's very useful to know where hip bones, knees and elbows are compared to a human skeleton.

    A Marc Davis story sketch for a scene Milt Kahl ended up animating.

    A stunning study of light and shade in this incredible forest!

    Looks like the model deer almost ate Eric Larson's sketch book.

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  • 12/06/14--23:39: Retta and Mary

  • A wonderful photo showing story artist/animator Retta Scott with visual development artist Mary Blair. They are studying a baby alligator at the Griffith Park Zoo in 1940 or 1941,  I assume in preparation for Fantasia's dinosaur sequence.
    Both ladies were enormously talented and had several things in common:
    They worked in the animation department for several years, leaving and returning to the studio several times.
    When not working at the Burbank Studio, they freelanced by illustrating Disney story books.
    Retta is mostly known for her extraordinary animation of on the vicious hunting dogs in the film Bambi. Everybody at the studio was surprised when they found out that a female artist produced these powerful drawings of these villainous canines. Animator Eric Larson helped a little with the timing of the action, but he later gave all credit to Retta for creating the dynamic sequence, in which Faline is threatened by these dogs.
    Mary Blair needs no introduction, her work at Disney has been the subject of books and exhibitions.
    Both of these ueber-talented artists paved the way for future female Disney artists like Silvia Roemer (layout), Ann Guenther (background) and Ruthie Thompson (scene planning) among many others.

    Look at the raw power in this sketch by Retta Scott.

    A Mary Blair's sketch for The Three Caballeros. Unbelievable, appetizing color choices!

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  • 12/07/14--22:06: A Mystery Photo

  • I can't figure out what is going on in this photo.
    Ollie Johnston and Milt Kahl are looking into a mirror during production of Lady and the Tramp.
    Ollie is presenting a pretty bad illustration featuring Alice in Wonderland. What on earth is going on?
    This photo is a mystery to me, but any pic featuring Disney's masters of animation is worth looking at.

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  • 12/10/14--01:34: Verna Felton

  • Verna Felton is one of my favorite voice actresses in animation. Her rich vocal performances for Disney span decades. Unfortunately I never had the chance of meeting her, she died one day before Walt Disney passed away on Dec. 14, 1966.
    Felton was responsible for characters like The Elephant Matriarch in Dumbo, she also did those few dialogue lines for his mother. In Cinderella she became the warm hearted Fairy Godmother, by contrast for the film Alice in Wonderland she voiced the ueber eccentric Queen of Hearts.
    Verna Felton was Aunt Sarah in Lady and the Tramp, the bossy Fairy Flora in Sleeping Beauty and Winifred, another elephant in Jungle Book.
    I remember years ago listening to part of a recording session for Sleeping Beauty. She had a hard time with a particular line of dialogue for Flora. After a couple of failed attempts, she burst at the director: "I can't pronounce that sentence, who on earth wrote this?!"

    Here are a few images from various stages of production, featuring Disney characters Verna Felton helped shape and define for generations to come. Love this woman.

    Images: Disney, Heritage Auctions, Howard Lowery

    For previous posts on Verna Felton's characters, go here:

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  • 12/12/14--00:58: Mermaids

  • The development of the Mermaids in Disney's Peter Pan involved several artistic hands. This cel set-up was made to announce the later arrival of the film during the holiday season of 1952. The background is lovely, but the quality of the drawing and inking leaves a lot to be desired. I suppose the top artists were busy finishing the film, which was released in February of 1953.

    One of Mary Blair's many concept sketches featuring stylized mermaids with short bodies.

    An experimental cel set-up. The background  shows an exploratory painting technique, and the character pose is inspired by a drawing from the model sheet below.

    The original Mermaids designs were the work of Fred Moore, but this model sheet looks like Milt Kahl might have worked over Fred's drawings.

    Another preliminary cel set-up, which combines the above- and the under water world in an interesting way.

    This live action reference frame clearly shows how the actresses' poses influenced the final animation, as can be seen in the artwork below. The mermaid with the harp is Margaret Kerry (who also posed for scenes with Tinker Bell) and the one holding a horn is the one and only June Forey.

    More on Peter Pan and the Mermaids here:

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  • 12/14/14--00:10: What's up with Ward's Hair?

  • Furthermore...why is Ward drawing Smee from the Disney film Peter Pan in this publicity photo?
    Story sketch artist/Mousketeer Roy Williams doesn't seem to be too impressed looking over Ward's shoulder. Kimball is actually referencing a rough animation drawing by Ollie Johnston, placed above his sketch. Perhaps Ollie was out that day, when a photographer went around the studio taking pictures of animators, who worked on Peter Pan. Most of you know that Ward didn't do any animation with Smee, instead he brought the Indian Chief to life (a character that taught me how to have fun with animating dialogue scenes).
    I feel lucky to own this complete rough scene of Ollie's. Smee, a little buzzed from drinking wine, is encouraging Captain Hook to leave Neverland.
    The drawings will be published in my upcoming Focal Press book on the work of Disney's Nine Old Men.

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    Wilhelm M. Busch drew these scenes of circus elephants, performers and handlers in the early 1980s.
    He loved drawing animals and visited circus performances regularly. I am fascinated by this elegant sketch above, and the one below, they both point out the differences between an Asian and an African elephant. The size of the ears, two bumps on the top of the head versus no bump, etc.
    For the first time Busch drawings actually remind me of Toulouse Lautrec, who also sketched at the circus. One more famous than the other, both masters of capturing a moment in time within seconds.
    Most inspiring stuff!! Drawings on cheap paper...the best!!

    These two pachyderms look like completely different animals.

    These two have a relationship.  

    Wonderful pose as these ladies balance themselves on top of the elephant.

    Toulouse Lautrec

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  • 12/17/14--23:18: Animal Sketchbook 1991

  • It is not very wise to follow a post featuring Busch drawings with samples of your own work. But here it is, since I had nothing else prepared.
    When Disney announced the production of The Lion King way back, the animators were encouraged to start sketching at zoos and wildlife parks. These drawings are from a sketchbook dating back to that time.
    I had then just found out about brush pens and was eager to try them out. The fluid lines coming out of the pen's tip almost eliminate any stiff drawing on the page, on the other hand bad drawings are still possible. You can still come up with wrong proportions or weak poses. The brush pen is only a drawing tool, but a very cool one. The thick and thin contours seem to add a little life, and by smudging the ink on paper you can achieve some rough rendering, which sometimes helps to define volumes.
    Just a technique, the main thing of course should be focused observation and the attempt to put down specific poses that define the animal.

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  • 12/20/14--01:27: Magnificentness

  •  When you take the time to study classic Disney production art up close you begin to realize just how enormously talented and dedicated the animation staff was. The studio's background painters were all fine artists on weekends on their own time. And it shows. I am endlessly impressed by their understanding of light, and its application in a simply and convincing manner. You can freeze frame almost any frame from a Walt Disney movie and feel astonished at the artistry and craftsmanship.

    Realism was not the name of the game in those days, but believable stylization was. They created worlds that were different from ours, they took us to imaginary places that were far removed from photo realistic imagery. Walt's films are like dreams, the kind we don't want to wake up from.
    Here is a short line up of final production images, some of them are holiday related.

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  • 12/22/14--19:23: Happy Holidays!

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  • 12/27/14--00:20: Paul Jouve's Big Cats

  • A while ago I posted artwork from one of Europe's most important animal artists, Paul Jouve.
    He was an expert in depicting all animals, but I am particularly impressed with his big cats. They remain a constant reminder during my work on Mushka, that it is essential to capture the power as well as elegance and grace of these magnificent animals.
    The image above is a book illustration showing Shere Khan, an Indian tiger. But his heavy, bulky body reminds me of the Siberian tiger I am dealing with in my film.
    Jouve knows big cat anatomy like nobody's business, yet occasionally he does things like putting leopard spots on what is essentially a tiger drawing. Or he puts stripes on a cat that resembles a leopard. The main thing though is that he is a master when it comes to drawing or painting feline poses. A great source of inspiration for my film.

    For my first post on Paul Jouve, go here:

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  • 12/29/14--00:33: Ben & Me
  • A gorgeous background from Ben & Me, a 20 minutes film released by Disney in 1953. Wikipedia says:

    "Ben and Me was Disney's first animated two-reel short subject and released theatrically on November 10, 1953. It was adapted from the children's book written by author/illustrator Robert Lawson and first published in 1939. Though both book and film deal with the relationship between a mouse and American founding father Benjamin Franklin, the book, with illustrations by Lawson, focused more heavily on actual historical events and personages.
    The short received an Academy Award nomination for Best Short Subject. It was released on VHS under the Walt Disney Mini Classics label in 1989 and was later released on DVD as a short film in the "Disney Rarities" volume of the Walt Disney Treasures collection. It was also released on DVD in 2012 under the Disney Generations Collection."

    The film was directed by Ham Luske, Bill Peet wrote and sketched the screen story. Among the group of animators were top talents like Woolie Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Ollie Johnston and Les Clark.Here are a few of Peet's continuity drawings that deal with personality development, layout and camera moves. They show just how much of a storyteller and cinematographer Bill Peet was. 

    Images Disney/Heritage Auctions

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  • 12/30/14--02:42: Maleficent

  • Animator Marc Davis went through a few experimental designs before settling on the final look for Sleeping Beauty's villain Maleficent. We all know her final appearance, as can be seen in the image above. Marc's color ideas for the character clashed with production designer Eyvind Earle. Instead of a combination of black and red, Earle insisted on black and purple. Marc was never happy with this concept, to him the color red represented fire, an appropriate element in defining Maleficent's appearance.

    Maleficent surrounded by a group of  Goons, who proved to be rather useless to her in finding the whereabouts of Aurora.

    Marc also did design work on characters he didn't animate like this group of forest animals pretending to act as Prince Charming.

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  • 12/30/14--22:33: Counting Scars...

  • I cannot believe that I am am just now finding out about this video, made by "Oh My Disney".
    Apparently in some survey about Disney villains Scar won this year as the most evil one.
    What a production number...(it reminds me of certain parties when I lived in Paris, Disney themed always).
    Well...this is a big ego booster, I try and not let it go to my head. Check it out!!

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  • 01/02/15--01:03: Jasper and Horace

  • Cruella De Vil's henchmen Jasper and Horace were principally animated by John Lounsbery (and beautifully so), but their final design was created by Milt Kahl based on story man Bill Peet's rough character concepts. These two second rate criminals share a fairly low IQ, but in appearance they form a fun, strong contrasting duo. Jasper is tall, thin and gangly, Horace is tubby, short and  roly-poly.
    Some of their scenes were based on live action reference, but the animation never looks rotoscoped or floaty. Lounsbery had a great time bringing these comic villains to life, and as you can see in these drawings, Milt again pushed the graphic/personality boundaries for new Disney characters.

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