Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Genius of Hans Bacher

Hans Bacher knows what he is talking about. He is an avid student and admirer of classic animation as well as modern art. Hans knows color like nobody's business. He is an expert at composition, staging and mood. His work on Mulan elevated that film into one of the two most beautiful Disney films from the modern era. (The other one being Aladdin. Richard Vander Wende was responsible for the look of that film.)
Here are a few pages from Hans' Mulan style guide. Extraordinary!

Thursday, February 16, 2017


I had almost forgotten that I animated this logo for Disneytoon Studios a while back.
I remember sketching out about five different versions for the spot, and this is the one they picked.

Here is the YouTube link:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Martins and the Coys

Here is another rough animation drawing by Milt Kahl that was discarded. This sheet comes from the estate of Disney animator Ken O'Brian. It shows the two lead characters from the short The Martins and the Coys, which was part of the 1946 feature Make Mine Music. 
Grace Martin and Henry Coy are dancing energetically on their wedding night. For fast action like this, the animator most likely did all of the drawings (on ones) to ensure fluidity and readability of motion. This is a young Milt Kahl, who knew how to combine his knowledge of human anatomy with  cartoony drawing and motion. This single frame from the dance is a JOY to behold!
I would say that the overall character styling is still influenced by Fred Moore. But Milt takes it a step further, because he knew so much about the human figure, composition and action analysis.

The full sheet is pictured below. As you can see, once discarded, Milt used it as a surface to sharpen his pencil. There are notes, calculations ($ 3000 ?) and what looks like telephone doodles.
I am glad that Ken O'Brian saved this gem for all of us to enjoy more than a half century later!!

More stunning sketches from this sequence in this earlier post:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Alice on Trial

Milt Kahl animated all scenes with Alice as she is hopelessly defending herself against the Queen of Hearts at the trial. Look at this beautiful, unused rough drawing that somebody must have gotten from Milt's trash bin. Parts of the line work is so delicate, such as her face and hands.
But when something needs to be worked out like Alice's dress, Milt goes at it forcefully.

Below are copies of the cleaned up key drawings. In the scene Alice reacts to the sudden appearance of the Cheshire Cat on the Queen's head.
Dialogue: "Your Majesty..."

Many more of Milt's Alice rough drawings here:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Upcoming Exhibition

I feel very honored to showcase some of my art at the Walt Disney Family Museum at the Presidio in San Francisco. The exhibit will include my work at Disney, personal projects like wire sculptures as well as a preview of my film Mushka.

For more information go here:

By Grim Natwick II

Another Cartoonist Profiles article written by Grim Natwick about his buddy Bill Tytla. Grim gives us terrific insight into Tytla's work method as well as his intense relationship with animation. 
Don't we all wish he could have had his whole career at Disney, pushing the boundaries of character animation for a few more decades. We'll never know how Disney animation would have evolved with this artistic giant at the helm. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Oh No, What Have They Done...

...just kidding! Someone asked me the other day if any animators were involved in the making of the upcoming live action version of Beauty & the Beast. The answer is no, and that's how it should be.
We did our animated film way back, and we are thrilled to see how beloved it is to this day. 
The new movie will have to stand on its own, and judging by the trailers, it looks like it will.
Luke Evans as Gaston is a great choice. He sure has the looks and the acting chops...though he doesn't look like "the size of a barge". But that won't matter.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing the live action version, in part because my friend Alexis Loizon is in it. (Alexis played Gaston in Paris in the musical on stage.) In the film he  portrays the character of Stanley. You see him on the lower left in this film frame.

I can't help but remembering my first scene for the movie. Gaston, admiring his reflection. Originally I had animated him with a much larger jaw and a mustache. After reviewing the pencil test, I was told that the animation was fine, but Gaston wasn't handsome enough.
It took me a while to grasp the character's concept, but in the end I understood he had be drawn as a handsome dude.
Gosh...all that seems soo long ago!

For some of my Gaston pencil tests go here:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The End of the Squirrel Sequence

These are Frank Thomas' thumb-nail doodles, as he explores staging and continuity for the final scenes of the squirrel sequence from Sword in the Stone. Both Merlin and Wart have turned back into humans, and the girl squirrel is heartbroken.
Merlin seizes the moment to explain to Wart what just happened: "You know, lad, that love business is a powerful thing."
"Greater than gravity?"
"Well, yes, boy, in it's way. I'd say it's the greatest force on earth!"

I assume this was written by story man Bill Peet, and to me it's one of the most poignant moments in Disney animation. So simple, so moving, and yet powerful as a statement.
The movie does have its flaws, but then it does have moments like this one.

The actual footage was animated by several animators.

Ollie Johnston

Ollie Johnston

Frank Thomas

Hal Ambro