Saturday, July 26, 2014

Frank & Ollie's Last Assignments

By the time I stated at Disney in August of 1980, Frank and Ollie had already finished work on their last film The Fox and the Hound. The rest of the studio was still wrapping up sequences, correcting rough animated scenes and trying to meet deadlines for clean up animation. 
But Frank and Ollie were still around at the studio, upstairs in the animation building, working enthusiastically on their first book The Illusion of Life.
For the film Frank had animated the section in which Tod and Copper meet in the woods for the first time as cubs. Ollie had focused on the sequence with grown up Tod getting to know Vixey.
Both animators worked together as they always had, talking over the acting for particular scenes and exchanging drawings. (They also layed out continuity sequences for young artists to animate). 
Overall they thought that the type of personalities and situation in the film didn’t challenge them like previous animal assignments. It seemed to them they had done similar work on earlier movies with fresher results. Frank and Ollie were ready to let young people take the medium and develop it into new directions. 
But as you can see in these final drawings, they both still had that sincere, emotional touch with character.

These are Frank's drawings:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Disney Tigers

Post #500:
Here is a look back at Tiger characters that were part of Disney films during Walt’s life.
As I mentioned before, tigers are not particularly popular characters to do in animation, because of the costly and time-consuming procedure of having to add all those stripes, 24 frames per second.
Nonetheless Disney didn’t shy away from this challenge whenever a story called for a tiger. 

Tillie Tiger was the female lead in the 1936 Silly Symphony Elmar Elephant. 
After being bullied by a bunch of animal kids, Elmar emerges as a hero when he helps save Tillie’s life during a fire. 
Ham Luske animated most of her scenes, a few of them were done by his assistant Ward Kimball. Beautiful innocent stuff!

The film Dumbo featured brief scenes of a tiger family, as they travel with the circus. I love their designs, cartoony, but based on the real animal.

The 1945 short Tiger Trouble introduced a hilarious tiger, who enjoys pestering his hunter Goofy.
Animation by Milt Kahl, Eric Larson and John Sibley.

In 1960 the studio tested the new xerox process on the short film Goliath II, in which a tiny elephant tries to avoid being eaten by a tiger.
Bill Peet storyboarded the project and also illustrated the story as a terrific childrens’ book.

John Lounsbery animated most of the footage with this tiger. 

For a brief moment Madame Mim turns herself into a tiger in order to defeat Merlin as a mouse.
I’ve always loved this design by Milt Kahl, animated by J. Lounsbery.

As you can see in this storyboard by Bill Peet, the early version of the character didn’t show any resemblance to Madame Mim yet. But what fantastic visual ideas for Merlin and Mim as they morph from one animal type into another.

A Disney character that needs no introduction

I mentioned before in a previous post that in preparation for Shere Khan Milt Kahl researched tiger movement and anatomy by studying footage from the 1964 Disney live action film A Tiger Walks.

This frame from the title sequence shows clearly what influence these scenes had on Milt’s animation of Shere Khan. The tiger’s front weight is clearly on his left leg, as the other leg swings through.
I’ve always admired how Shere Khan’s shoulders move up and down during a walk to show the shift of weight.

I am not exactly sure when Mushka, the tiger will reach the screen, but we’re working on it, and the project is surely coming along, in terms of story, music and styling.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Busch Bullfight Illustrations

In 1932 Ernest Hemingway wrote the non fiction book “Death in the Afternoon”, which details the ceremony and traditions of Spanish bullfighting.
In 1965 Wilhelm M. Busch illustrated the German version, titled “Der Unbesiegte”.
These are small, but powerful brush and pen sketches that capture the intense emotion of the bullfight.

His portrayal of Spanish bystanders is equally interesting, and I love how Busch places his illustrations in the vertical space of each book page.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Robin Hood Character Moments

Beautiful staging and drawing is evident in these animation drawings from the film Robin Hood.
Except for Prince John, who was brilliantly handled by Ollie Johnston, the images are from scenes by Milt Kahl. (Mother Church Mouse is a model sheet, drawn by Milt).
The animation doesn’t have the energy we see in the anthropomorphic animals from Song of the South, but these characters live in a different world, and the situations within the story call for more subtle acting. Milt recalled that even though Robin Hood is a fox, he is the equivalent of a handsome hero type, so his actions and expressions needed to reflect that. 
Ollie had a great time animating Prince John and Sir Hiss, two characters with rich vocals that helped to establish them as entertaining, comic villains.
My favorite character design from the film is probably Lady Kluck, Maid Marian’s lady-in-waiting. I love the simplicity of her silhouette, her sharp beak and the way her wings articulate human gestures. 
This is an appealing cast that deserved to be placed in a better story. 
When Ward Kimball (who was not involved with the film) saw an early screening of Robin Hood, he complained to Frank and Ollie: ”How on earth can you tell this story without having Robin Hood save Maid Marian from the clutches of Prince John?”

Nevertheless, as a much less critical kid I enjoyed watching this film a lot when it was first released in 1973.

There are many previous posts about Robin Hood, the most unique one would have to be this interview with Milt Kahl:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lessons from Frank & Ollie

…about observation and personality. These clips are part of a program that helped promote their book The Illusion of Life. It aired in the early 1980s on the Disney channel. After reminiscing about their long careers at the studio, Frank and Ollie talk in front of students from Cal Arts a well as Rowland High School. Some of these kids went on to become big players in the animation industry. One young student is John Ramirez, who turned out to be the fastest inbetweener in the West, and I was lucky to have John help me meet my crazy deadlines for Lion King and Hercules.
Joe Ranft is in the audience as well.
It’s fun to watch Frank and Ollie in top form, as they communicate with a new generation of animation artists.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TS Sullivant 11

Exactly one hundred years ago this Sullivant cartoon was publishes in Life magazine.
A whole century later he still stands alone as a master of caricature of not only animals, but people as well. 
The following illustrations show how inventive, unconventional and original he was when handling human types. If I was teaching a class on character design, I would have all of my students study these proportions, poses and expressions. This stuff is so way ahead of today’s animation designs. I don't mean that modern animated characters should look like Sullivant's work, it's just a level of excellence in general that I am missing in most productions.

Here is another selection of Mr Sullivant’s delicious drawings, to inspire and to remind everybody, who is interested, of a higher standard. 

My first post on Sullivant focused on his masterful animal designs: