Monday, December 18, 2017

Disney Cel Set Ups


About a couple of years ago auction house Bonham & Butterfields offered a number of beautiful Disney cel set ups. To see them lined up like this showcases again the studio's exquisite color palette for its animated films.
Disney background painters as well as color model artists (who came up with final colors for the characters) were experts from the beginning. Even the early Silly Symphonies displayed a refined sense for color that enhanced storytelling and character development.
One big challenge had always been to choose flat cel character colors that would fit in with the more rendered backgrounds. Not an easy thing to accomplish.

To me Disney's film images have always been a feast for the eyes and the senses. They make you feel something, you get emotionally involved.

Some of these backgrounds match the actual cel, others were specifically painted by studio artists for sale.

Friday, December 15, 2017


I have posted a black & white version of this beautiful Milt Kahl design drawing for Sleeping Beauty before. Here it is again in color. King Hubert, King Stefan and the Lackey, all totally different personalities and body types. A celebration of pristine shape variety and contrast.

Cheers to a wonderful holiday season!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

More Early Black Cauldron II

Certain items from the recent Heritage Auction brought back a lot of memories. Look at this dynamic pastel by Mel Shaw, Mel's room was filled to the brim with extraordinary artwork like this. He must have created hundreds of images for The Black Cauldron. One of the most prolific Disney artists I have ever encountered.
These were the days when the studio had several unique artists trying out for the film's character designs. The original idea was noteworthy, a new fresh style might have been the result.
Before I started on the movie, Milt Kahl, who had left the studio after The Rescuers in 1976, was approached to help out with character concepts. At that time Milt lived in Marin County, just north of San Francisco.
I remember during my first visit, he showed me prints of the designs he had come up with.
Milt said that these kind of characters would be easy for him to animate, but that the studio at the time didn't have artists with the kind of caliber to pull this off. He was right.
But the question remains: Should we even have bothered trying for the Milt Kahl Disney house style?
After all, Tim Burton was working feverishly to present his unique vision for the film.

I don't think I ever mentioned that Marc Davis also contributed design ideas. These sketches lack the graphic "bite" Marc was known for, but his staging is still beautiful.

Tim Burton was also extremely prolific during the early stages of The Black Cauldron. But the studio wasn't ready to apply his approach for the movie. 
I remember discussing the need of life drawing with him. He said: "I need anatomy classes more than anybody in the world."

All of this occurred more than 35 years ago!!! That's an insane realization, because I remember it like it was not so long ago.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cinderella Photostat and Final Frame

Eric Larson animated this scene in which Cinderella enters frame with a teakettle and starts pouring hot water into one of the teapots.
Photostat and final image might be a couple frames off, but you can see Eric's graphic choices bases on the live action reference. Cinderella's head is tilted more toward camera so that her face is easier to read.

Amazing that the prop trays and cups are exactly aligned for the animation. But then again they had to, since their arrangement are an important part of this gag sequence involving Lucifer.
One thing I noticed is that the inking of the saucers on the cel looks poor, the ovals are all off.
This movie was rushed through production, and sometimes it shows.

But who cares, when you have such a great story and beautiful character animation!

Photostat - Van Eaton Galleries

"We Must Both Look Our Best for George"

...He is our oldest and dearest friend, you know."
English character actress Hermione Baddeley read those lines in this scene as Madame Bonfamille in The Aristocats.
Even after all those years I am still baffled at how amazingly Milt Kahl animated this realistic character with grace and believability. Of course he simplified her human figure, and what you see are vintage Kahl shapes and forms. Disney layout artist/producer Joe Hale told me once: " Only Milt was able to pull off stylized designs with strong straight lines against curves."

I just love her elegant movements and charm. And the fact that the drawings were kept rough and loose doesn't bother me at all.  I call her a "mini Kahl masterpiece".

Friday, December 8, 2017

I Live for Furs!

A fantastic scene by Marc Davis, who ended up animating all of Cruella's footage in 101 Dalmatians.
Leading up to this moment, Cruella tried to interact with Pongo, who fiercely growls at her. 
Anita, in an attempt to avoid a dangerous situation, tries to get Cruella's attention away from Pongo.
"Cruella, isn't that a new fur coat?"
"My only true love, darling." (The following scene: "I live for furs, I worship furs!")

I love the way Cruella lifts up the heavy coat and buries her face in it, # 25. This is a great example of referencing some live action footage and then going to town with it by greatly exaggerating the idea that this crazy woman is truly nuts about fur coats.