Sunday, September 14, 2014

Variations on a Theme

While studying book illustrations by Wilhelm M. Busch I discovered a  reoccurring theme.
These three drawings were published in different books at different times.
A elderly man is watching a young woman or a youthful couple pass by. I believe that elderly man is Busch himself, perhaps reminiscing about his youth or discovering he still has romantic feelings toward the young.
Anyway,  these compositions are beautiful. I've been learning so much from Busch about intense drawing, staging and making a storytelling/personality statement.
Love this man's work!

Thursday, September 11, 2014


The Royal Guards in the film Robin Hood are played by rhinos. This was a appropriate choice be production designer Ken Anderson, who came up with all the initial animal versions for the cast of characters. When you look at a real rhino, you find it’s the one animal that resembles an armor plated warrior.

Milt Kahl finalized the design for animation, and as usual they are beautiful looking concepts.
The Rhinos' range of emotions is pretty one dimensional, they are just a bunch of stern, if not too  intelligent, heavies. And that works fine for the movie.

There is this one scene, where one of them actually buys into the concept that Little John, the bear, is a sexy gipsy woman. The Rhino even throws a whistle as he watches Little John sashaying in front of him. Milt came up with these key drawings, giving the Rhino’s mouth some rather loose lips. It’s a funny effect.

Another Rhino appeared as a pretty intimidating executioner.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Odds and Ends

As I am trying to organize my studio space, I came across a few things from my Disney past.
The sketches above are character designs for Queen Moustoria from the 1986 film The Great Mouse Detective. I tried to model her after Queen Victoria. Looking at the drawings now, decades later, I think they are not great, but not half bad either.

These are dog studies for Oliver & Company. Most of them were drawn from life at the studio, the first sheet with motion continuity was drawn from video footage. I have always loved this early stage of production, just doing research. In the end I didn’t do much animation on the film, I think just a handful of my scenes ended up in the movie. This was a time when Roger Rabbit was taking shape in London, and I switched over to that production.

If I remember correctly, I did these pigeon/character drawings AGES ago for Dave Michener. He was helping Ken Anderson during the early 1980s to get a movie called “Scruffy” off the ground. And there was this pigeon character. I don’t remember much about him or the story, but what bothers me is the fact that I drew this pigeon with a thin neck. How weird!  Pigeons don’t have thin necks!

Correction: The pigeon was not designed for the proposed film "Scruffy", instead he was originally a character in "Great Mouse Detective".

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fred Moore, 103

It is still Sunday evening on the west coast, so I can still say that today Fred Moore would be 103 years old. For a moment I imagined how great it would be to be able to visit him, shake his hand, wish him a happy birthday, and thank him for his incredibly groundbreaking, unparalleled work.
Utopia? Guess what, Bambi’s production designer Tyrus Wong is going to be 104 next month, and I happened to “run into him” yesterday, shook his hand and thanked him for his incredibly groundbreaking, unparalleled work. (I will follow up with birthday wishes on October 25).

Back to Fred, to quote Marc Davis: ”Fred Moore WAS Disney drawing.”
And Ollie Johnston said: ”He couldn’t make a drawing that didn’t have everything in the right place. More beautiful stuff came out of his pencil…it flowed like liquid.”
The charming self portrait above is testament to Ollie’s words.

This vintage photo was taken during the production of the Mickey 1938 short The Brave Little Taylor.
Ollie was doing his first animation ever, on miscellaneous village people, and Fred was mentoring. One of the drawings on the wall in the back is Fred’s sketch of the King from the same short.
Call it spooky, but here is a scan of that drawing, with pinhole and all.

A bit of Fred’s continuity animation with the little sister from Make Mine Music’s “All the Cats Join In”.

A lovely illustration for a greeting card of some sorts.
Happy Birthday, Fred Moore!

To see more Moore art, go to my post celebrating his 100th birthday:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Peet's and Kahl's Brer Fox

It’s hard to imagine that story artist Bill Peet’s first character sketches of Brer Fox looked already this refined and so full of personality. He immediately came up with unconventional, appealing designs that worked perfectly for the film and were almost ready for animation. 
There is a sort of hillbilly look about the fox, with his big hat covering his ears completely.
Characters like him as well as the rabbit and the bear have this juicy graphic bite, you just want to pick up the pencil and animate them.

A few of Peet's final story sketches, can you tell he had a ball working on this film?

Milt Kahl refined Peet’s design to animation perfection. These were some of Milt’s favorite characters he ever worked on. The same can be said for Peet. 

The energy within the Song of the South characters is unique and inspiring. A top team of animators brought them to life: Kahl, Larson, Johnston, Les Clark, M. Davis and Lounsbery.