Please note: if an earlier link doesn't work, it may have changed following an update! Check the Category Labels in the side-bar on the right! There you can find animator drafts for sixteen complete Disney features and eighty-six shorts,
as well as Action Analysis Classes and many other vintage animation documents!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Report of the Disney Rarities Event

This year's Disney event at the Newport Beach festival did not feature Roy E. Disney as it did last year, which sadly resulted in many empty seats. However, it did see the return of Don Hahn (Producer, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Hunchback) and Dave Bossert (Director & Producer, Special Projects) introducing the wonderful program of films that are rarely seen on the big screen. Shown in 35mm were:
Prod. CS-4 "Hell's Bells" (1929) >>My Hell's Bells drawing
Prod. US-3 "Flowers and Trees" (1932),
Prod. 2608 "The New Spirit" (1942),
Prod. 2732 "The Winged Scourge" (1943),
Prod. 2611 "Food Will Win the War" (1942),
Prod. 2643 "Out of the Frying Pan into Firing Line" (1942),
Prod. 5975-013 "Fun with Mr. Future" (1982),
Prod. 2527 "Vincent" (1982),
Glago's Guest (2008) and
a trailer for "UP", to be released May 29th 2009.

The consensus was that the films were great, with at the top of the list the Fun with Mr. Future short that previously only had been shown for a week in Westwood for Academy consideration. It features the Audio-Animatronic® head of Mr. Lincoln (but without skin!) as the show's host, and great animated sequences showing how the future would look, this possibly originally planned as a film to be shown in an EPCOT cue line. Somewhat ironic that it was directed by Darrell Van Citters and animated by Mike Gabriel - who both went in vain to Monday's Milt Kahl tribute event at the Academy in Beverly Hills!

Except for the new Glago's Guest, which to me falls in the same category as Pixar's One Man Band as a film to showcase techniques, all the other films are available on DVD, on the Treasures series or as bonus on the Nightmare Blu-Ray, but it was nice seeing them in their original format. The "special treat" at the end was a big let-down, though, as there is very little special in a regular trailer for a film that opens a month from now, as beautiful and spectacular as it may be (and it is - I very much look forward to seeing the entire film!).

My Hell's Bells drawing<< Don Hahn and Dave Bossert
    at the event in Newport Beach
Be that as it may, the event, which took an hour and a half, was very nice. Furthermore I also enjoyed seeing the Powers CinePhone variable density soundtrack next to (the first part of) Hell's Bells....


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Report of the Milt Kahl Tribute

Having just returned from the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills where the tribute event Milt Kahl: "The Animation Michelangelo" took place, I would like to show the program for those less fortunate who were not able to attend. First the cover: since it was in negative, next to it is an inverted version.
Program CoverProgram Cover Inverted

The program was a wonderful mix of panel discussion, film clips of Milt's work, clips of interviews with Milt including of the master while drawing, a five minute video message from Richard Williams and my favorite section: nearly an hour of Andreas Deja showing a very large stack of (copies of) drawings and discussing their virtues. Especially the (never before seen) drawings that Milt did for other animators to help them with drawing problems or start them out with a scene were amazing, and showed the level of simplicity that Milt had reached through many years of observation and hard work. Andreas Deja's exuberant enthusiasm was a large part of what made this wonderful 3¼ hour event an evening to remember!
In the lobby during the reception before the show, and afterwards as well, there was the opportunity to study some of the the many original works of art created by Milt, on loan from the Animation Research Library, my favorite being the model sheet of the squirrel from Sleeping Beauty, from which I have a Disney photostat - this was the original pencil version! As with so much of Milt's art, it looks deceptively simple. I guess one could say that Milt drew as Fred Astaire danced: after a lot of hard work, it looks effortless and beautiful - graceful, simple and timeless.

The audience in this sold-out event was a veritable who-is-who of animation, with not only many Disney alumni, but folks from across all studios paying homage to Milt Kahl, the Animation Michelangelo.

[For those of you studying animation, remember to check out the many Action Analysis Classes, animator drafts and other documents you can find on this blog! Find out how they timed the short films at Disney, and download my free animation timing metronome!]


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Prod. CM20 - Mickey Cuts Up

Mickey Cuts Up was directed by Burt Gillett and released 11/30/1931.
It is found on Disney Treasures DVD: Mickey Mouse in Black & White Volume 1 disc 1. You may still find it here on YouTube. Have a look, if you need a clearer understanding of the following documents!

Gillett left some documents pertaining Mickey Cuts Up behind, and
I would like here to show a few of these that I recently lucked into.
It is interesting to speculate in which order these were written - they seem to all be in Gillett's own handwriting and would probably date to late August or early September 1931.

First we have two pages, numbered 1 & 2, with ideas linked to names, Otto and Webb, which to me seems to mean that the ideas were originally thought out by either Otto Englander or Webb Smith. There are interesting ideas that did not make the film - they are crossed out: "mower bumps up and down on hedge - trick cuts."
Some were not crossed out and made it in the film: "Cuts down tree - disclose owl on 2nd cut" and "mower biting rear end - zigzag tail."
(In the film, this tail is missing on one of the cels, and since it is repeated once, it blinks on two frames).
I find these pages especially intriguing!

Then a page with story ideas that all appear in the film. "Cut tree - return - cut branches tree - leaving owl [then added later:] HOOT."
This seems to be an attempt at a continuity for the chase.
CM20-storynotes3<< Click to enlarge!

A list of possible scenes for the first part of the film, not quite like how they turned out in the end, with Pluto being mowed because he stops to scratch instead of bumping into the wall.
CM20-storynotes4<< Click to enlarge!

Finally we see a kind of script for those first scenes, that in red has possible scene divisions indicated. As you will see, it does not completely follow the actual final story. E.g. Pluto knocks into a wall, not a tree. Also we read that "hedge nods head - surprised look of Mickey" which was not executed as clearly as written here...
MickeyCutsUpPlan<< Click to enlarge!

The short was eventually animated by the usual suspects: Johnny Cannon, Les Clark, Gerry Geronimi, Jack King, Dave Hand, Norm Ferguson, Tom Palmer, Dick Lundy and Ben Sharpsteen, who was in charge of a group of junior animators, which very likely included Marvin Woodward, Chuck Couch, Hardie Gramatky, Harry Reeves and Dick Williams. This draft of 11/25/31...
We can compare Fergy's sc. 20 and Hand's sc. 28, as both show the cat watching, then sneaking. Clearly Hand has tried to very logically "figure it out," making for quite mechanical movement, while Fergy has drawn what it feels like when a hungry cat sneaks up on a bird!

The background department at the time existed of Emil Flohri, Carlos Manriquez and Mique Nelson.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Autumn Squirrel

Silly Symphony CS-7 called "Autumn," produced ca. January 1930 and released 2/15/30, has long scenes of squirrels gathering nuts. Here is a drawing I have and a screengrab that goes with it. The specific animator is not known; the backgrounds are by Carlos Manriquez...
Squirrel Grab from CS-7 AutumnSquirrel Grab from CS-7 Autumn

The drawing, an inbetween (note the arc for the nose!), does not fit entirely: e.g. the tail is a bit different. I suspect this was a reject that was kept by assistant Jack Cutting because of the drawing on the reverse side:
Back of Squirrel<< Click to enlarge!
Just WHY this drawing of small people looking up at the underside of Wilfred "Jaxon" Jackson at his animation desk was made, we will probably never know for certain...

"Autumn" is an interesting Silly Symphony because it was the last one directed and (with Les Clark, Johnny Cannon and Jaxon) animated by Ub Iwerks and scored by Carl Stalling before they left Disney in the last days of January 1930. Their departure was a big blow for production, and though slated for a February 1st delivery, it opened in New York in the middle of April. [Thanks, Merritt/Kaufman!]


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ground Hog - Character Design

The 1930 Silly Symphony "Winter," CS-14, was laid out in September 15 to 27, animated September 16 to October 10, with backgrounds by the gentlemen in my previous post. It was delivered 10/22/30.

A central character in the film is the ground hog, animated first by Jack King, then dancing by Tom Palmer.
Groundhog by Jack KingGroundhog by Tom Palmer
Jack KingTom Palmer

Here is a drawing I aquired a year ago: it was among the amazing documents that the film's director Burt Gillett gave to "little Jeannie" when he moved to New York back in 1934...
Three Groundhogs for CS-14 Winter<< Click to enlarge!

A note about the coloring of drawings of this period: it was the convention to paint areas indicated in blue pencil with #1 Grey, in red pencil with #2 Grey, unless a number was written in the red color...


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Backgrounds in 1931

Flohri By King
Emil Flohri and Carlos Manriquez
as drawn by
then animator Jack King in 1931.
Manriquez By King

Not long ago, March 18th to be precise, Mike Barrier described below photo, and told the story of Emil Flohri (1869-1938), the background painter we see sitting there, with his assistant Carlos Manriquez standing next to him. Until Mique Nelson joined around July 1931, this was the entire Background Department, on Hyperion Ave.!

Carlos Manriquez (10 April 1908 - Mexico, May 81) actually joined Disney before Flohri, late 1928 or early 1929, but I seem to remember reading that he left the studio around 1933 after he could not get a requested raise because he was not deemed good enough. On the other hand, Manriquez had a Disney Social Security Number, between Claude Coats and Vern Papineau, and that indicates that he still was on the Disney payroll in November 1936! [Added in 2018: he actually worked at Disney from 5/26/1929 until 5/27/1938. Flohri started 3/19/1930, with Disney until "ca. 1936."] He later had a studio in Mexico, and painted backgrounds for Warner shorts.
Carlos Manriquez and Emil Flohri<< Click to enlarge...
[Note the upside-down visor/cap on top of Flohri's desk - it seems to be the same as in Jack King's caricature at the top of this post.]

It is interesting to look at details in this picture! Here we see on the left the background that Manriquez is holding - on the right a frame grab from scene 2 of the Mickey Mouse short CM-13 The Moose Hunt (rel. 5/8/31), as animated by Dave Hand.
If Manriquez was just finishing this background, which looks to be so as there is no writing on it yet, this would date the photo to around April 1931! Manriquez would just be 23 years old.
BG in Carlos Manriquez' handThe Moose Hunt

On this blog we have met Flohri before, on the draft of CM-10 The Birthday Party, released five months earlier than The Moose Hunt. The background on Flohri's table is a bit of a puzzlement to me, as I have tried to look through all of 1931's shorts for it, without any results. Here it is, adjusted for perspective... [See below!]
(Comments are welcomed!)
BG on Flohri's table
The Picnic 1930 pan bg mosaic
[Thanks to Alex Rannie, I was able to find the BG and make a little mosaic of screen grabs. It was used in CM-8 The Picnic, a Mickey short released 10/23/30, which would push the date of this photo back to late 1930, which is quite impossible, as this room is in the L-shaped "Animator Building" which was not finished well into 1931. It seems likely, though, that the long BG was staged especially for the photo, as the BG for The Moose Hunt would at not have been done at the same time! Alex supports this suggestion, remarking that the background seems to have been cut loose from the backing board they normally are stretched onto during the painting process. How intriguing! Bottom line, this photo was taken several days after April 17th (that day is when the 2/26/1931 Haverty sprinkler plans were approved by the "Board of Fire Underwriters") and before July 1931 (but closer to April), as a part of a "look at our new building" series of photos.]

Another interesting detail are the crusty old books on Flohri's shelves: I can just make out (after refocusing the image) that the spines read "Judge," so they may very well be bound versions of the magazine that Flohri himself illustrated, as described by Mike Barrier!
He had his claim to fame, his portfolio, right there!
Books on Flohri's table<< Click to enlarge...
Think what you want, I find this stuff fascinating!
If you like this stuff too, check out any of my previous 500 postings - that's right, the posting on "The Blend" was number 500!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Blend

--The two Disney patents of Mary Louise Weiser
The Pinocchio Blu-Ray really brings home to us the amount of work that went into the creation of the beautiful imagery. The characters have a rounded look that adds dimensionality and realism to the otherwise flat surfaces. The technique used to accomplish this look is generally just referred to as "The Blend." On the Special Features one can hear noted historian J.B. Kaufman refer to it as such.

Mary Louise Weiser<< Click to enlarge...
I recently found this image of Mary Louise Weiser, head of the Ink and Paint Department at the Walt Disney Studios in 1939, during the period when the techniques for painting Pinocchio and Fantasia were finalized. Ms. Weiser has two patents to her name, assigned to Walt Disney Productions: one for a formula for grease pencils (filed Nov. 14, 1939, granted Apr. 28, 1942, nr. US 2,280,988), and one for a method of adding roundness and texture to characters - in other words, "The Blend" (filed a week later, Nov. 21, 1939, granted Sept. 2, 1942, nr. US 2,254,462).

As you can see in the following, the actual patent, the "discontinuously associated translucent modifying areas adapted to impart depth to the underlying areas" - is basically just this: on the cell with the character, or on a new one on top of this, dab with a sponge, apply a lacquer or draw with grease pencil, to get an effect of roundness. In other words, The Blend just means "paint the effect on top of the cell!" No witchcraft! This is basically what they did on Snow White over two years earlier, when they applied rouge to Snow White's cheeks. The patent does go into different ways to accomplish this effect, in itself an interesting insight...

Ms. Weiser's patent for grease pencils directly refers to the above patent, and she sees these as an integral part of reaching the goal of getting a good blend-effect on the cellulose-based cells. In the wording of the patent, it would "not only permit the artist to work directly on the cells but in addition permit the artist to produce pastel effects, textures, stipples and stains capable of creating the depth and roundness referred to in the co-pending application" above!
The use of grease pencils in animation has been very well established during the 70's and 80's. I remember the quest for good pencils "as used by Richard Williams in Soho Square" during the making of Børge Ring's Anna & Bella, which we cleaned up directly with cell pencils.
(I would like to see that application by Bill Garity that was co-pending with this, on a photographic process to create the characters' lines!)

The Blend has previously been referred to as a "technique that was used:" we just knew they used "The Blend," without getting into the details. It seems clear to me now that there really were no details! In some scenes of Jiminy Cricket, we see a very smooth blend, possibly airbrushed on, or lightly applied with a small sponge - in others we see heavy clear light lines either made with a paint brush or with grease pencil. Just a lot of work, all done by hand, by "dedicated professionals."

Nowadays, of course, CG animation has this roundness built in - at times even too much of it. Hand-drawn animation gets its help from paint programs that may have the possibility of adding a shading effect like the Blend. Still, I hope that the above will give some insight into the considerations and elbow grease that went into the creation of the masterpiece that is Pinocchio. Give a kind thought to Ms. Weiser next time you watch the fruit of her labor!

[Addition: on page 189 of The Illusion of Life, you can find another image of Mary Weiser!]

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

Greetings from California...where even the Easter Eggs register on the Richter Scale! (Or at least...that is ALL we want to do so!)
Funny Little Bunnies<< Click On It!
Scene from Funny Little Bunnies (1934), animated by Dick Huemer.
Image courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries 2006.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Walt's Great New Plans

This article from a 1938 Photoplay magazine talks of Pinocchio, Bambi and Fantasia, at a time when only Cliff Edwards was cast, filling the roll of Jiminy Cricket.

That Bambi (prod. 2002) truly was conceived as the follow-up to Snow White (prod. 2001) is here described as a rumor, though this was the case up to about a week before Snow White's premiere, when Walt announced that Pinocchio would be proritised. In any case, the article gives us an interesting insight into Walt's plans and how much of them were public knowledge...
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