Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, Ollie Johnston

When I think about Ollie, certain things come to mind:
Many great conversations, stimulating inspiration and my sincere admiration for him and his art.
Ollie's animation touched so many of us. 
Pinocchio, Bambi, Alice, Mr. Smee, the dogs from Lady & the Tramp, the Three Fairies in Sleeping Beauty, Pongo & Perdi, Archimedes, Baloo & Mowgli, Duchesse & the Kittens, Prince John & Sir Hiss, Penny & Rufus and many short films. 

For The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Ollie animated the hilarious sequence where Brom Bones and Ichabod fight for Katrina's affection. Absolute Genius. Fantastic timing. Watch it again on DVD!
Ollie Johnston, one of a kind !!

Happy Halloween, everybody !!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

More Robin Hood

Those two excited gentlemen in the photo are Phil Harris who voiced Little John in the movie and Andy Devine who did Friar Tuck.
Only Robin Hood seems less interested in the storyboards, he is still hoping for story fixes.

Milt Kahl revisited all the design work that had been done on the title character, and he started animating production scenes such as the one below, in which Robin is putting on his gipsy outfit.
John Lounsbery, too, was busy with key personality scenes, and Milt kept a close eye to make sure the character would be consistant.

In June of 1971 Milt proposed these updated designs . I quite like this long nosed Robin with a stretched torso and short legs. The neck became a lot fuller, and the anatomy of a real fox is more pronounced.

There was another Robin revision in September of 1971.
Here the character might look more like a "leading man" type, but he also comes close to resembling a man in a fox suit. The fact that the exact date is written up on the model sheet shows some frustration over the ongoing design changes.

Milt finally settled on a shorter nosed Robin, with an appearance that resembles handsome heroes like Errol Flynn, Richard Todd or Kevin Costner.

Check out the appeal in this previously posted pencil test:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Early Robin Hood

What a beautiful character line up for a Disney animated feature!
This is how Ken Anderson envisioned the cast for Robin Hood. Nice contrasting shapes and silhouettes  make for a visually pleasing set up.
Although the one character who doesn't seem to represent his animal type clearly would be the Sheriff of Nottingham as a wolf. More on him in a future post.
Robin Hood himself is of course a caricatured fox, drawn here with a thin neck and with proportions that make him appear much younger than the final version.

These sketches by Ken of the title character represent a spunky mischievous type.
They date back to August of 1970. The movie's release was November of 1973.

Milt Kahl tried to preserve the "spunk" from Ken's drawings and explored animatable shapes, forms and expressions.



At that time John Lounsbery was cast as the animator for Robin Hood. Here are some of his exploratory sketches, based on Ken's and Milt's work.

I don't know if it was director Woolie Reitherman or Milt Kahl who voiced disapproval of these results, but things were about to change. For one thing, the length of Robin Hood's nose became a major issue of discussion. 
The choice to have British actor Tommy Steele voice the character was also questioned.

To be continued.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Crocodile Announcer

I don't have any of Ken Anderson's sketches depicting this character from Robin Hood, but there is no doubt that Milt Kahl's final design is based on Ken's.
The crocodile's role in the film is very limited, he announces the archery tournament and is a little involved in the fight that follows. Most scenes were animated by Art Stevens. 
The character's voice is provided by Candy Candido, a Disney veteran, who had lent his talents to the Indian Chief in Peter Pan.
Milt is so great with alligators and crocodiles. I think his Nero and Brutus from The Rescuers are amazing, and he even had his hand in designing the crocodile in Peter Pan.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ken Anderson's Robin Hood

When Walt Disney Productions decided to produce an animated film based on the classic tale of Robin Hood, it was Ken Anderson who who got to get to work before anyone else.
During conversations with the animators Ken found out that some of the most fun they ever had was animating the anthropomorphic animals in Song of the South.
So he suggested that the story of Robin Hood be told with animal characters. Everybody loved the idea and after completing early design work Ken presented his research to some of Disney's top talents.
This photo was taken during a lively meeting which included, from left to right, director Woolie Reitherman, Milt Kahl, Ken, Dave Michener (a former assistant to Kahl, who had moved into story), Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and writer Larry Clemmons.
As you can see in the back Ken had done a ton of work. Once a character concept had been approved, it was up to Milt Kahl to finalize Ken's designs for animation. Usually Milt greatly finessed the look of the characters, but in my opinion there were exceptions.

Ken's version of Friar Tuck really looks like a badger. Something got lost in Milt's translation.
I remember that some people thought he was another bear.

Allan-a-Dale looks fantastic in Milt's final version.

Lady Kluck is a Kahl masterpiece.

Sir Hiss didn't improve from Ken's concept, Milt's version looks a little conventional.
Ollie Johnston though did a great job animating the snake.

Let me know if you'd like to see more of Robin Hood's design work. Robin, the fox himself went through quite a few changes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mama Odie Maquette

As supervising animators at Disney we got to keep our character's maquettes.
They were produced by very talented sculptors and were meant to help with drawing problems and to keep the character on model throughout the film. 
Sometimes though these mini sculptures arrived somewhat late in production, but even then It was always fun to see your character in three dimensions.
Over the years I accumulated quite a few of these, the only one that's missing is King Triton.
Ruben Procopio sculpted the cast of The Little Mermaid way back, and his beautiful sculpt of Triton just turned out to be very large. It was decided that at that size he would be too complicated to cast for reproduction.

Mama Odie along with all the characters from Princess & the Frog were sculpted by the gifted  Raffaello Vecchione. It was amazing to see how close Raffaello got to my drawings I gave him for reference. I did have some input after he showed me a rough sculpt, but he really is a master at interpreting animators' two dimensional drawings.

While on the topic of Mama Odie, this is a sheet I drew that shows different hand positions.  I do this for all my characters, since their hands need to be distinctive to fit the personality.
You often get away with only one joint for each finger, except in close ups when you need two.

Making Mama Odie talk with all her loose facial flesh was too much fun.
I did do some research before I started animation. Studying different films featuring American comedienne Moms Mabley and British character actress Margaret Rutherford was very useful and inspiring.
But in the end her face needed to work with Jennifer Lewis' wonderful vocal performance.