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!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Prod. 2063 - Cinderella (I)  - Draft coming up next!

Horvath(Item #33)
This one is up for grabs, too, signed by Walt and all. Paint a bit chipped, but that can probably be repaired...

Ok - enough about the great auction coming up: how about we see who animated what on Cinderella? Starting tomorrow, we'll find out!

Today, we see the front page of this draft, which originally came from the BG morgue that was situated under the Ink & Paint building, as well as the inside of the cover: the list of sequences and a separate list marked "cels" which is stuck to this cover. It does not mention what this list was for.

This will be the twelfth feature film draft on this blog! Enjoy!

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Auction (XI) - Horvath

Horvath(Item #274)
[Did not sell.]

In the upcoming auction, we saw works of Mary Blair, Gustaf Tenggren and Kay Nielsen. One of the least famous of the Great Inspirational Artists of the Disney studios has so far been missing in this list: Ferdinand Huszti Horvath. (Well, and Al Hurter, too).

Horvath is represented in the auction with above artwork. On the web, one can read: "Born in Budapest, Hungary on Aug. 28, 1891. Horvath was primarily a book illustrator. He lived in Hollywood, CA in 1937-47 and died in Riverside, CA on Nov. 11, 1973." After the outbreak of WWII, he worked for American Aviation and the Howard Hughes, "in a technical capacity on confidential designs." Joe Campagna found out that Horvath was buried in Hemet, CA.

In 1976, Russ Cochran sold a whole lot of Horvath's drawings, and issued a magazine collecting his works, Graphic Gallery 8.

In it, we find these:
First page at $150 per drawing, the other two pages at $250 each... Those were the days!

One of the most interesting things in this 54 page magazine, though, I found to be the following, directly copied from Horvath's scrapbook:


by Ferdinand H. Horvath

In m.m.o. (here and hereafter this abbreviation stands for: "my modest opinion") the most effective gags are those that will take the audience by complete surprise. The absurdity of the situation is an important factor.
Take for instance Captain Noah (in an old Fable Cartoon) diving overboard his ark to save his crew. Nobody in the audience knows what his purpose might be going overboard. We follow him to the bottom of the waters keying up suspense. He reaches the bottom and without much fumbling, pulls out a plug. The flood waters start to whirl and to drain off rapidly in the best bathtub fashion, and the water running from beneath the ark leaves it high and dry atop a convenient cliff. I have never seen any gag yet in all these years that went over in a bigger way.

This in m.m.o. is a typical example of a surprise gag: it seems logical, there seems nothing impossible about it, it is easily put over, clearly comprehensible to anyone, and yet the audience would expect anything else in the world to happen but that. There was no prop visible that would have given the gag away. It is for this reason that I think that gags of this sort are always superior to gags that necessarily need a lot of planting. Gags around convenient props that naturally lend themselves to gag situations are more or less anticipated by the audience. Take a sack of potatoes spilled on the cellar floor, and you will expect'some character to take a spill when coming in contact with them. Flypaper ditto...precariously balanced rake to be stepped upon.

Referring to some outstanding gag sequences, which were also mentioned in the "gag tip sheet", as for instance Pluto's skating sequence, Mickey with the rubber nipple, and Pluto1s flypaper sequence — all of these in m.m.o. are only mildly funny as gags themselves but they do offer good chances to the animator. However it depends on the animation whether a sequence of this sort will appear funny or not. Pluto is known as a Add Pluto, plus skates, plus ice and it takes no imagination to expect him to slide about, tumble, and do most of the things he actually did. Introduce Pluto and the flypaper and you know that he is apt to get tangled up with it. Anticipation gratified to the nth degree. Mickey with the overworked nipple gag is another example.

It has become more or less a rule to take any awkward character to place him near enough to something that might trip him, or punch him or cause him other bodily discomforts the audience will anticipate such, and it will be dished out to them ninety-nine times out of a hundred.

Good surprise gags, well timed, and not being touched off to order when the audience expects it are the laugh getters, because they keep you on edge in expectant mood, they keep you guessing and fool you in the end. (As a fine example I want to mention the little pig unexpectedly reopening the door to pull the "Welcome" mat in.)

Take a gag situation in one of our recent pictures (The Clock Cleaners which at the writing of these lines has not been released yet) The Goof, after being knocked coocoo by too much Liberty, walks in a daze over exposed scaffolding, narrow ledges, etc. He finally walks toward the camera on a horizontal ladder, on which very evidently one of the rungs is missing. Everybody chuckles in advance waiting for the Goof to step into space when he will have advanced far enough to set his foot on the missing rung. Sure enough the Goof does exactly that. It is funny as it is, because the whole sequence is so very well animated, and it surely won't misfire, but in m.m.o. we passed up a completely ideal surprise gag situation. It might have been so much funnier if one of the rungs, two or three notches ahead of the gaping hole would have given away, and the Goof would have dropped quite unexpectedly. Or after stepping safely over the hole caused by the previously established missing rung when naturally everybody expected him to drop into space, have him negotiate this dangerous spot successfully, keep him going for one or two more steps and then have a rung break afterwards when nobody would expect it. Here would be surprise, because people kind of expect him to fall where he won't. There would be a laugh when the Goof failed to fall through the most logical trap in the world the audience would laugh at being knowingly kidded, and then there would be immediately another laugh probably a much heartier laugh, after the Goof promptly broke through when everybody thought him safe. This, I believe illustrates clearly how a gag can be improved by its unexpectedness and correct timing.

Outline No. 10 dealing with the Fox Hunt pointed out as an example one of my gags in that picture: the fox, hard pressed by the pack of dumb hounds, suddenly slides to a stop (I hope without screeching brakes this time), and starts to scratch. The dogs do the same. If I am not dead wrong this gag should get a laugh because it comes as a complete surprise, is natural action and totally absurd at the same time. The audience does expect the fox to outwit the pack, to dive, to dodge, to double back and trick the dogs in numerous ways but they will hardly expect him to play follow the leader.

February 22, 1937 F. H. Horvath

Now - I don't think he is COMPLETELY right in this, but it certainly is worth considering!!!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Auction (X) - A Note from Walt

Walt2Weeks(Item #445)
A few years ago, the ASIFA Animation Archives presented the Clair Weeks Goodbye Book: in August(*) 1952, assistant animator Clair Weeks, who started at Disney in 1936, left the studio on an invitation to start India's first animation studio, in Bombay. On the eve of his leaving, he found above note on his desk...
Another fine item found in the upcoming auction!

In revisiting the ASIFA Archives, I noticed a blog posting dated two days ago: Animation Archive Temporarily Suspending Operation - I’m sorry to announce that due to lack of funding, the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is temporarily suspending operation.
I am aware that opinions about these archives and its leadership are quite strong in either direction. I must say that for some years I felt that the archive's blog's focus should have been more on animation-archive work than on rather obscure illustrators, so as to arouse interest in animation instead of giving the impression that it wasn't in itself interesting enough to concentrate on - but that is my personal feeling about it. Anyway, let's all not comment here on the archives, just take note of its situation. And let's not forget they presented us with nice scans of above mentioned Goodbye Book and of Jerry Beck's copy of the first edition of Preston Blair's book Advanced Animation!

(*) Note that the Clair Weeks book is dated August 1952 on the cover, but the only dates found inside are from September 2nd. 1952, so the above note could well be of that date, which by the way was about half a year before Peter Pan was released.

[Sold for $11,210 incl. 'Buyer's Premium...']

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Auction (IX) - Ub Iwerks (II)

IwerksQuitIwerksQuitIwerksQuit(Item #448)
So - Ub Iwerks arrived in Hollywood and started at Disney Bros. Studio in July 1924, as we saw yesterday. The upcoming auction has another landmark document for sale, one that, I believe, has had as big an impact on the Disney future as did the fact of Ub arriving: on January 22nd, 1930, while Walt was in New York negotiating with Pat Powers, Ub quit the studio! Roy Disney then had him sign the release (note: he signed "Ubbe E. Iwwerks"), witnessed by his would-be successor Burt Gillett and an Edythe Vosburgh, and calculated his part of the studio as $2,920, for his share that now would have been worth billions of dollars. These are the papers up for sale!

As animator, Ub's resentment with the studio seems to partly have stemmed from Walt re-timing his drawings, something that may seem trivial to anyone but those in the business. Some artists deal with this matter-of-factly, others go through the roof. It seems Ub kept most of this to himself, then, just as he was about to boil over, he was offered a studio to run, so he resigned.

The whole deal with the new studio had been misrepresented to Ub, who at the time of his resignation wasn't aware that Pat Powers had orchestrated it all. This made him sorry about the whole thing from the start. Walt had a hard time being cross at Ub, just mentioning that the poor guy didn't know what he was in for, as he was no businessman. This turned out eventually to be proven correct, and Ub's studio folded after half a decade with Flip the Frog and Willie Whopper. In 1940, through the intervention of Ben Sharpsteen, he returned to the Disneys, becoming the renowned special effects wizard famed for his optical trickery and inventiveness. When he passed away in 1971, he had left a legacy (and several sons in the business) that will stand through the ages. Of course, you can see all about Ub in his grand-daughter Leslie's wonderful documentary, or read about him in Leslie and John Kenworthy's great book "The Hand Behind the Mouse."

Now for the part that interests me most, but may be most contentious: it is my sincere opinion that, just like Ub's arrival in 1924, his leaving Disney in 1930 was arguably the best thing that could have happened for the studio, where everyone relied on his facile draftsmanship and animation expertize. All of a sudden, from January 1930, the good folks at the studio had to figure out things for themselves! The film Just Mickey, a.k.a. Fiddlin' Around, shows a definite low point in the studio artists' abilities. The film was released a month late and was by all standards below par. It wasn't for lack of trying: I have a flippable stack of animation drawings from this film that shows they worked very hard on it! But they had lost a lot of knowledge when Ub left.

From that moment, one could call it the beginning of the Golden Age of Animation, any little advance in the art and craft of animation registered with the crew, any invention was considered ground-breaking. One of the greatest proponents of this was Norm Ferguson, who became the big innovator, and not only by being the first to use moving holds: eventually he was the first to show the inner life of the characters in his famous Pluto and the Fly Paper sequence. Had Ub remained with Walt, I doubt if we would have seen these advances; I doubt we would have seen the growth from the low in mid 1930 trough the beginnings of Snow White in 1934 to its premiere in 1937.

On the other hand, would Ub have been able to remain at the studio throughout the 30s when eventually his style went out of vogue? Would he later have become the renowned effects wizard anyway?
We will never know. On the other hand, Ub Iwerks doubtlessly deserves our sincere respect, a legend of the animation industry.

For many of you out there: Happy Second Day of Easter!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Auction (VIII) - Ub Iwerks (I)

Happy Easter, Friends!

IwerksLetter(Item #450)
Today we look at Ub Iwerks, who is, of course, all over my blog.
Ub and Walt Disney went back a long way in Kansas City between 1920 and 1923 when Walt left for Hollywood. Then in 1924, June 14th to be exact, Walt wrote a letter to Ub, suggesting how he could get to California, all expenses paid. Recently shown on Cartoon Brew, this landmark letter is now up for sale at the upcoming auction!

Ub had already made up his mind when Walt wrote this happy letter to him asking him not to change his mind about it. One can clearly read how small the studio was - Walt and one assistant doing all drawings, two girls inking and painting, and Roy doing the books -
Disney Bros. had quite a way to go to becoming the empire of today!

On the last page, "The boys at the Arabian Knights" refers to the Arabian Nights studio ("A Thousand and One Laughs") formed by Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising and Max Maxwell, the "left-overs" of Laugh-O-grams, Walt's K.C. studio, who started their own outfit after Walt left, buying their equipment and furniture from the estate. Harman and Ising would later join Walt, of course, and then have their own illustrious careers as starters of several other famous animation studios.

The ending of the letter is maybe most famous: "Don't hesitate - Do it now - P.D.Q. [Pretty Darn Quick] - P.S. I wouldn't live in K.C. now if you gave me the place - yep - you bet - Hooray for Hollywood - !!"

After reading the letter, he packed up his mother and traveled Out West, in Virginia Davis' father's Cadillac, as suggested by Walt in the letter. The auction catalog sports two fun images of Ub and his car, but I do not know enough about cars to say that this is that Cadillac...
[Sold for $247,800 incl. 'Buyer's Premium...']

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Auction (VII) - Kay Nielsen

NielsenNielsen(Item #427)
Another famous illustrator of children's books who made inspirational works for the Disney studio was, of course, Danish Kay Nielsen.
I have previously written about him (first here, then here and here), announcing a new book about him, which has since been delayed and delayed. I can see it is now scheduled for October 2011. Over four years late...

I admit I like the above Fantasia storyboards for the Night on Bald Mountain sequence more than the horseman concept for that same sequence:
Nielsen(Item #428)
but opinions may differ on that point. All are worthy of a loving home, which I am sure the upcoming auction will provide them.
[But no: none of Nielsen's works sold!]

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Auction (VI) - Gustaf Tenggren

TenggrenGustaf Tenggren -
Was he right or left-handed?
    << Image from auction catalog, and seen elsewhere on the web. >>
Gustaf Adolf Tenggren (1896-1970) is a legend not only in Disney lore, but in children's book illustration, as well. Aged 22 he took over the Swedish series Blandt Tomtar Och Troll after the famous John Bauer who died in a Swedish lake in a storm in 1918.

Tenggren moved to the US after a successful exhibition of his works in 1920, never to return to Sweden again, and in 1936 was hired by Walt Disney to make inspirational works for his feature films beginning with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, followed by Pinocchio, as well as several short films. He left Disney in 1940 and would never paint in the Rackham-Bauer inspired style again: from 1942 to 1962 he made a name illustrating many Little Golden Books.

Tenggren(Item #394)
[Sold for $70,800!]
The first inspirational painting up for auction that I show here, is very much of the type that Tenggren is most well known for: a colorful rendition of how a sequence in Pinocchio might look. Pinocchio, as a real puppet with donkey ears and mitten hands (very typical Tenggren), under water asking the way to Monstro the Whale where he will find his "father" Geppetto.

Tenggren(Item #400)[Did not sell!]
The second Tenggren item up for auction is more eclectic. It is a layout for the opening scene that transports us from the "Wishing Star" to Geppetto's house. Pencil on punched animation paper, with highlights in white paint and signed by the artist himself. Also note the pan indications for camera!

A famous scene, but in an early stage, not designed as a Multiplane shot. The final version actually has a longer, rather more intricate pan, which distorts perspective even more and gets away from the muddle of rooftops before getting to Geppetto's street where it can zoom in on his house from Jiminy Cricket's low, hopping point of view. (For the final version, see halfway down this page).

TenggrenTenggren<< Click on them!

Yet, we HAVE seen a final rendering of the above pencil sketch - I just found one here, which I blatantly copied for my example, on the left - which I believe (but cannot right now verify, I will check) was used as illustration for a Pinocchio book. How this fits with the pencil drawing up for auction you can see in the image on the right: except for adding a bit on the bottom, and the position of the baby hanging from the stork's beak on the weather vane, it fits pretty darn well!

I noticed that the color illustration was probably lifted from one of Hans Bacher's great blogs. Here, you'll also find a good image of the final pan background, as laid out by Ken O'Connor. It seems all the non-auction images I show here ultimately originate from John Canemaker's great book "Before the Animation Begins," and the photo of Tenggren is from there, as well - left handed!

(Remember to click on the images for a version in a better resolution than the ones in the auction catalog!)

IMPORTANT: the artwork that is for sale in the upcoming auction will be on display in the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, California, from May 2nd through the 13th!

If I sound like an ad for Van Eaton Galleries, please note that I have no affiliation with them whatsoever - except that I have bought some incredible things from Mike, and I want to help get the word out on this auction, as there is some incredible stuff in there!

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Auction (V) - A Little Milt Moment

MiltRescuers(Item #683)
[Did not sell.]
Milt Kahl, the "Michelangelo of animation," seems to have been proudest of his creation of Madame Medusa for the 1977 feature film The Rescuers.

The upcoming auction has above sheet up for grabs. It is Milt's thumbnail staging of a sequence where Medusa tells her henchman Snoops (a caricature of animation historian John Culhane) that he is too soft. Most drawings are of Snoops, and they show Milt's way of sorting out possible drawing problems - they show Milt's way of working in a quite interesting way.

E.g. see the Snoops in the bottom center: you see his mouth through his hand that is in front of his face. First Milt would have drawn the complete face; then he put the hand in front, carefully covering his mouth completely. I say this, because I know plenty of people who would have thought to not draw the mouth as "it won't show anyway."

Milt's control of shapes is, of course as phenomenal as it is legendary. Look at the simplicity of the shapes of Snoops' hands and fingers on the last drawing!

Check out the incomparable Michael Barrier's interview with Milt Kahl!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Auction (IV) - Politically Incorrect...?

Remember the Disney shareholder meeting of last month? When asked "When will Song of the South come out on DVD" (by a well-informed person who had heard from Dave Bosschert that the film was restored and ready to be released), CEO Bob Iger said:
Now - I captured this - and you know the very first thing my software captured? Intro music - yes, you guessed it! "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah!!!" What are these people thinking? I revisited the film recently, and found that only the white people were "portrayed unfavorably," in this sweet story from the Restoration era, the period after the Civil War, after slavery was abolished. James Baskett, who so wonderfully portrayed Uncle Remus, received an Academy Award®! Walt Disney and his crew put a lot of effort into making this film! Enough said...
(Let's not make this a political discussion!)

AutogHoundBG-regular(Item #691)
[Sold for $8,850]
The catalog of the upcoming auction shows a nice painting by Mary Blair of Bre'r Rabbit hopping on his way into the world, with bold strokes in an otherwise rather subdued watercolor. I find it more appealing than one of the many other Mary Blair items -
AutogHoundBG-regular(Item #679)
[Sold for $7,080]
Johnny Appleseed - though he certainly has more gumption than the boyish old man from the final film...

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Auction (III) - another Technicolor Example

Here is another example from the upcoming auction, item #485, a nice, colorful background from the 1939 Donald Duck short The Autograph Hound.

Just as yesterday's example (with explanation), the original on the left, the "streched in Photoshop" version on the right. And again, the left version looks fine by itself, but compared to the stretched version it looks rather bleak.

I do need to add that on top of the background there would probably be four levels of cels, subduing the colors even more. Thus is becomes even more evident how much influence the Technicolor process in itself must have had!

A technical aside: in Photoshop's "Levels..." I have not even gone as far as choosing levels of 63 and 192 as one could suspect indicated by Sam Armstrong's lecture, since the whites would be burnt out. Still, with four levels of cels on top, it might start to make sense!

[Sold for $5,150 incl. 'Buyer's Premium...']

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Auction (II) - a Technicolor Example

I have previously talked about the use of Technicolor and how the artwork shot in animation was adapted to its use on the screen. This page has a document transcription from a 1936 Disney art class that explains just that. An example from the upcoming auction can maybe clarify this a little, as well. Here are two versions of item #21, a background from the great "Mr. Duck Steps Out," the 1939 short of which I posted the draft back in May 2006.

The left image is a regular scan of this wonderful background. What one notices is, that there is less contrast than one would expect to see in a movie background. I read in an explanation by Sam Armstrong (in a transcript I thought I had posted, but which seems to be on my to-do list) that the painters were asked to paint anything between around 25% to 75% of the color array. Technicolor would then stretch it out to from 0% (black) to 100% (white). Thus - no real whites and no real blacks; the painting gets a very elegant veil of low-contrast spread over it. Or graphically:
The right image is a "fake" I made in Photoshop: I noticed that the histogram had no peaks in left and right, so I stretched it using "Levels" which would do approximately what Technicolor did at least in its most basic form. We get a bright, very colorful image, which, if nothing else, I think goes to make my point.

Admittedly, the image on the left, the background as-is that is up for auction, would look prettier on my wall than the bright spray of colors I generated...
[This beautiful background did not sell at the auction!]

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Amazing Auction Coming Up!

Saturday, May 14th, 2011, at 10 am PDT, the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. Mark that date, time and place: it is when one of the most significant animation auctions of these times will be held by Profiles in History!
Well, maybe not the greatest catalog cover, but still...

Mike van Eaton, everybody's favorite gallery owner and "the least offensive of all animation art sellers," whom through my dealings with him I would even dare call a friend, made me aware of this about a week ago, but I have been so very busy I have not had a second to properly look into this, only noting that some AMAZING things are going to change hands, like Walt Disney's 1924 letter luring Ub Iwerks from Kansas City to Hollywood or the 1930 document that released Ub as partner of Walt and Roy. Truly iconic material! It is my plan to show a few of MY favorite things here in the next days, well, basically so you know what to get me for Christmas.

Why, yes - I AM busy, thank you for noticing! I am currently directing a stop-motion feature movie called Miffy the Movie about a cute bunny girl originally drawn in Dutch graphic artist Dick Bruna's appealingly simple style, predating a certain Japanese kitty by some 20 years - and her friends. We are still in the start-up phase, so, yes, I'm busy, busy, busy! That's why I have not posted anything for nearly two months: not that I do not want to! Anyway, back to the auction...

The catalog is online, but I would like to highlight a few things, as I said, and I notice I have some of these items in a little higher resolution, as well, so here is a sample.
This is an original pencil model sheet for the 1933 Mickey Mouse short Mickey's Mechanical Man of which I have posted the draft nearly five years ago. I remember seeing this at Comic-Con in Mike's booth and wishing to myself that I at least could have a good scan of it to study and to post here! (#454)
Backgrounds to animated films are obviously much rarer than cels. Here is one from the 1935 Mickey's Service Station, the penultimate black-and-white Mickey short. (#482)

By the way, to indicate how very little time I have had to even browse the internet these days, I have NO idea if any of my fellow animation-history bloggers have recounted lots of these things already. I suspect they would have jumped on it many days ago, and honestly - that would only be GREAT, as I hope the auction will be a great success. Just don't bid on anything I might bid on!

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