Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mickey Magic

The Sorcerer's Apprentice from Disney's grand experimental film Fantasia remains one of my all time pieces of film making. The idea of having a cartoon character commanding the forces of the universe must have sounded crazy and over the top to the Disney staff. But Walt Disney's vision for what the animated medium could do eclipsed everyone's imagination. To him this was not merely a cute cartoon business anymore "We have worlds to conquer."
And that he did, with Fantasia and so many other films and projects that followed.

I love the fact that Disney wasn't afraid of going into dark places. A Mouse's dream that turns into a frightening nightmare. Early German expressionist films had a profound influence on the Disney artists at that time. That studio was unstoppable!

Monday, July 27, 2015


Nana, who acts like a nanny to the Darling children, is a minor, but terrific character nevertheless in the film Peter Pan. She is handled in a somewhat cartoony, but still believable way by animator Norm Ferguson. She walks like a real dog, yet is able to act out human like business like in the film still above. Because she doesn't talk, the animator had to get the character's emotions across through pantomime performances. Ferguson had been an expert in animating Pluto, so he was well equipped to take on an assignment like this one.

A 1940 model sheet from the film's earlier concept period, drawn beautifully by J.P. Miller, who made Disney history when he provided final story sketches for Baby Weems. 

Just when you thought that Milt Kahl couldn't possibly have been involved with every Disney feature character, this roughly put together model sheet shows that he probably was. The length of the dog's jowls gave him a little trouble.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Milt Kahl's Wendy

An early pre-animation, charming model sheet.

Milt wasn't happy at all when Walt Disney asked him to take on the animation for Peter Pan and Wendy. He had high hopes for getting assigned to Captain Hook. That character of course went to Frank Thomas. So when Frank showed his first scenes with Hook during a sweatbox session, Milt tore them to pieces: There is nothing here, no personality, drawing...these are nothing scenes.
Eventually he calmed down and started to focus on the two most realistic characters in the film, Peter and Wendy. Milt naturally wasn't afraid of realism, to him it wasn't as much fun as doing eccentric or comedic characters. But he did his best, and his animation shines throughout the film.
In order to make animated realism look good on the screen, top draughtsmanship is absolutely essential. Standard poses and head angles will result in boring scenes. Yet beautifully drawn head tilts, up and down angles add so much to the overall acting.

These drawings from Milt's scenes show his special skills for drawing any angle extremely well.

Here an assistant is tracing Milt's rough animation drawings in an effort to understand the complex drawing style.

The following copies show clean up drawings over Milt's rough keys from the song sequence "Your Mother and Mine". Look at the subtleties in Wendy's facial features.

Let Milt tell you himself how he felt about Peter and Wendy in this clip from a previous post:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Titanic with a Twist

© Andreas Deja

A watercolor sketch from a few years ago. Wouldn't it be fun to reenact classic Hollywood scenes in pencil animation?

Thursday, July 16, 2015


My upcoming book with Focal Press "The Nine Old Men: Lessons, Technique and Inspiration from Disney's Great Animators" will include a lot of never before seen animation art, including all key drawings from this Milt Kahl masterpiece.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Busch, The Brothers Zemganno

I don't know when exactly this book was published, a date wasn't included in it.
My guess would be mid 1960s. It doesn't matter, the illustrations depicting scenes from the circus world are stunning. Beautifully rendered layouts and rich characters, always staged in the most effective way. What a standard for draughtsmanship!

By the way, check this out...what do you know??

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Disney and Dali

The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco just opened a stunning exhibition about two of the greatest artists of the last century, Disney and Dali. You would think that their work couldn't differ more from each other, one is paradox and seemingly non sensical, the other revolutionary in its beauty and accessible to everyone. Yet both artists were surrealists, masters when it came to mixing reality with dreams.
The huge exhibit features many original paintings, drawings and video screens. You come away knowing that the two men had much in common, even beyond their attempted collaboration on the film Destino.
Go and treat yourself to a visit to the museum, I guarantee you, you will be amazed!

For more information about the exhibition, go to the museum's webpage:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Disney Studios soundstage, late 1950s. Sleeping Beauty Live action reference is being filmed for the animators. A moment from the film's final sequence, the Happy Ending. I like the way the situation was staged in this photo stat: Princess Aurora is giving her father in law, King Hubert, a kiss on the cheek, before joining her hubby, Prince Phillip, for a dance.
When you look at this section from the actual film, the choreography is handled quite differently.
Aurora enters the frame from screen right, after being reunited with her parents, King Stefan and the Queen. On her way to be with Phillip she pauses to kiss King Hubert, remaining screen right.

This photo stat gives me an idea for a missed opportunity for a character moment.
What if Aurora rushes into the frame from screen right, she passes King Hubert, heading straight for Phillip who reaches for her hand. She then realizes that she forgot to give Hubert a kiss. She turnes back as pictured in the photo, then leaves with Phillip.

I think that's the way I would have handled this scene.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Milt's Design Doodles for the Beaver

I have had numerous posts on the film Lady and the Tramp, featuring one of its funniest characters,  the Beaver. Here is one more, since I just came across some beautiful design sketches by Milt Kahl.
As mentioned before the Beaver was animated by Milt as well as Eric Larson. And even though Eric's draughtsmanship was nowhere near of Milt's, their scenes blend together perfectly.
It is amazing to me and refreshing at the same time to see how expressive a character can be with relatively small eyes. Sullivant did and Milt too, in stark contrast to many of today's animation designs that feature gigantic alien eyes.
Milt based his design on Joe Rinaldi's story sketches, and the end result is so charming. The beaver sequence was the first footage from the film I saw as a kid, on German television. It holds a special place in my heart.

Here are links to previous Lady & Tramp posts, featuring the beaver:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Olivia de Havilland

Sometimes you just luck out!!
A few years ago I had the tremendous pleasure to be on a flight from LA to Paris, sitting next to none other than the lovely Olivia de Havilland. She is the last surviver from the cast of Gone with the Wind. It's kind of funny, before my flight I had just watched an interview with Ms de Havilland as part of the bonus material for the Gone With the Wind bluray disc. So I recognized her right away and said: " Miss de Havilland, let me tell you, it's a pleasure flying next to you." She gave me a friendly smile, and we settled into our seats. Before take off something amusing happened. At the same time we both pulled out of the seat pocket in front of us our own crossword puzzle booklet. We had a laugh, and she explained that crossword puzzles keep her mind sharp, while I told her that mine was in German, my first language.
During the flight Miss de Havilland talked about her career as an actress and shared memories from Gone with the Wind. She asked what profession I was in, and I told her that I had been with Walt Disney Studios as an animator. And that I was about to leave the company, because the studio would soon stop producing classically drawn animated films. I never forget her reaction in disbelief, she said: "Now why would they want to do that?"
When we landed in Paris I was able to assist her with the overhead luggage, and we parted ways.

Much later when I was researching character designs for my film Mushka, I remembered my encounter with Olivia de Havilland and modeled the look of Sarah's grandmother a little bit after her appearance. 
Olivia de Havilland has been living in Paris since 1960.

I wonder if I could get Ms de Havilland to do the voice for Sarah's grandmother...there is no harm in trying, right?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


More of John Lounsbery's work, this time undisputedly brilliant.
The crocodile in Peter Pan is for the most part a comedic villain, even it he ate one of Captain Hook's hands. Lounsbery animated the introductory scenes, as the croc approaches the ship in hopes to get the rest of Hook. This little sequence of beautiful rough animation drawings is not complete, it misses the pose above. Nevertheless, you can see the brain work that went into animating the scene, as the croc moves upward toward Smee, who is trying to shoo it away.
Look at how the reptile body raises up, back first, then neck, then the head. All to the musical tick tock beat. This is a complex scene, gorgeously executed. That's why we love Lounsbery!
The magic of pencil animation!

Here is a fun Milt Kahl pre-production drawing, the crocodile with bulging eyes.