Monday, November 24, 2014

"Madame Medusa's Pawn Shop Boutique!"

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!!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jonathan Freeman

I will update my blog again toward the weekend. In the meantime I am off to New York to see my friend Jonathan perform Jafar on stage. As some of you might know he originated the role for the animated feature Aladdin...a while ago. Can't wait.
When I get back I hope to see some of you at the fabulous CTN EXPO.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Milt on Human Reaction

I am not sure if I recall this Kahl statement from one of his lectures, or if he told me in person.
It is an interesting comment on how a person reacts to,  let's say a loud sound, at a moment when he or she is focusing on something in particular. In other words, being interrupted.
Milt said he would hate to see the animated character turn right away toward the direction of the disruption. That way the audience is missing a "thinking beat".
His way of dealing with a moment like this one is having the character straighten up (after a squash), change expression according to how the character feels, THEN animate the head turn in the direction where the disturbance came from.
And that's exactly what Medusa does when she hears a loud noise coming from upstairs, where her  alligators are chasing Bernard and Bianca.
Medusa is studying a map before reacting to the commotion. Notice how Milt always keeps her eye in the clear among the messy hair shapes. The expression change happens at the beginning of her head turn, where the audience can see it clearly.
Of course there are exceptions to this "rule", but before breaking it, it's useful to know the rule.
Looking at these drawings, it is obvious that Milt's Medusa is a revolutionary invention.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dancing Monkey

Some animators are great handling scenes that involve dancing. Eric Goldberg is one of them, so is Ken Harris and Ollie Johnston. Frank Thomas had the analytical mind to bring dance to life with unexpected moves and an absence of formulas.
This little jewel of a scene from The Jungle Book shows his extraordinary talents as an animator who knew about eccentric dance movement and how to break it down within twenty-four drawings per second. I LOVE this scene. All drawings are keys, there are no in-betweens. No live action reference was used, Frank pulled this one out of his head. Something is moving in an odd configuration at all times, yet as a whole the scene looks natural and very entertaining.
This is why I love animation, why I adore Frank Thomas and why I keep trying to express myself through moving drawings.

The pencil test with sound loops twice. It is well worth studying.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Little House

This is an unusual Disney short film from 1952. It brings to life the most rigid objects imaginable, buildings. I love the story and art direction, I’m not so sure how much fun it would be to animate a country house and city skyscrapers, call it a challenge. 
Les Clark, Marc Davis and Clair Weeks (who was also Marc’s Clean Up assistant) met that challenge, and by treating windows as eyes and the front door as nose and mouth they found a way to humanize architecture.
Mary Blair did a lot of beautiful color sketches, and the final art direction pretty much maintains Mary’s vision. 
The story about urban sprawl is based on the 1942 book with the same title, written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton.

It's interesting to compare the Blair sketch to the final background art.

Here is the youtube link to the film:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pesky Fauns

...could be the title of this illustration by Heinrich Kley. It's a little unsettling to see these Fauns treating the old Centaur so disrespectfully. Maybe the situation is part of a mythological story.
What is wonderful to observe is Kley's incredible knowledge of anatomy, and how he applies it to fantastical creatures. Half human-half horse or half human-half goat, his depictions always make us believe that if those things really existed, that's exactly what they would look like.
Most of Kley's fantasy drawings and paintings were  produced about one hundred years ago, but they sure don't look dated. Particularly for artists who draw animation, his body of work remains an important source of inspiration and influence.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Woolie, Tramp and the Rat

Woolie Reitherman was an expert in animating action sequences such as fights and chases.
In Lady & the Tramp he drew the street dogs as they threaten Lady before getting into a brawl with Tramp. But Woolie also animated the rat fight toward the end of the film.
I love what he once said in an interview about animating aggressive confrontations. He felt that among all the action involved there should be a moment or two of pause. The opponents freeze for a second to catch their breath or re-evaluate the tense situation.
I see this kind of stuff over and over again in wildlife films, where two lions battle furiously, then stop as they stare at each other. Then all of a sudden the altercation starts over again.
This is one of the reasons why good old Disney Animation feels so believable and engaging, the best footage is always based on observation of real life.
Now I sound like Eric Larson teaching us the philosophy of Disney Animation way back.

Woolie was a hell of an animator!

Drawings Disney/