An Emperor’s New Groove Masterpiece Monday


I’m sorry posts are so infrequent lately. Work keeps me very busy, but I’m trying to post as much as I can. Today, I thought I’d write a little bit about a Disney film that went through some of the most drastic changes during its development process. Believe it or not, this dark, dramatic, piece of visual development art was for the film that would eventually become The Emperor’s New Groove. At this early point, the film was known as “Kingdom of the Sun”. It was a far cry from the irreverent comedy that we know today as it had a completely different plot, and several characters that didn’t make the final film.  We’ll never know if “Kingdom of the Sun” would have been better than The Emperor’s New Groove, but it is certainly interesting to learn about what could have been.

The original idea for “The Kingdom of the Sun” was conceived by the film’s original director Roger Allies. After his enormous success with directing The Lion King, animation department heads Tom Schumacer and Peter Schneider asked Allers to come up with another film idea to direct for the studio. They suggested possibly look at making a film set in South America, and Allers immediately took this idea and ran with it. He began researching the ancient Incan society and decided that it was the perfect setting for a film. Eventually, Allers came up with the idea for a dramatic musical that was loosely based on Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.  The basic story and characters of Allers’s “Kingdom of the Sun” were quite different from the final film. The conceited young emperor we know as Kuzco was called Manco, but was still voiced by David Spade. Pacha, on the other hand, was a much younger peasant, who looked exactly like Manco and would have been voiced by Owen Wilson. The two men would have switched places temporarily so that Manco could experience freedom away from the palace and Pacha could know what it’s like to be rich. Yzma would have been a villian who in her youth was the beauty of the kingdom, but had since grown old, wrinkly, and bitter. She would have made a deal with a dark spirit who would bring back her youth and beauty if she could get the emperor to perform a ceremony to blot out the sun. In this version of the film, when Yzma finds out that Manco and Pacha have switched places she, with the help of her sidekick , the stone talisman Huaca,  turns Manco into a llama and blackmails Pacha into performing the ceremony. Added to this rather complicated main plot, were two romantic side plots. At the beginning of the film Manco was to be betrothed to a woman named Nina who hated the arrogant emperor, but  falls in love with his new softer self, whom she doesn’t realize is really Pacha. Manco on the other hand, falls under the care of a llama herding girl named Mata whose sarcastic, down to earth personality and refusal to deal with Manco’s ego would have taken him down a few pegs, while also causing him to fall in love. As you can see, “Kingdom of the Sun” was a much more complex and serious drama than The Emperor’s New Groove. 

Unfortunately for “The Kingdom of the Sun”, Disney’s more serious films, Pocahontas and Hunchback of Notre Dame did not do as well in the box office as executives wanted them to, so they were very wary of doing another serious dramatic musical. When animation heads  Tom Schumacher and Peter Schneider went to screen the film’s completed story reels, they ended up hating the film. They thought the pacing of the story was way off and the Prince and the Pauper storyline felt like it had been done way too many times before. So they sent the films crew off to try to hurriedly fix the problems in time for the film’s looming 2001 release date. To help Allers along with making these changes, Schneider and Schumacher found him a co-director, Mark Dindal. The two directors began to change things, cutting most of Sting’s songs, deleting Huaca, adding Kronk, and making the film’s plot a bit closer to that of the final film. Another test screening was done, and executives realized that the two director’s styles were not meshing properly. The scenes Allers had taken charge of were still very dramatic and emotional, while Dindal’s scenes were very comedic and silly. The executives told the two directors that they liked Dindal’s scenes better and they wanted the rest of the film to go more in that direction. After this screening, Allers realized the film was no longer going to be anything close to his vision, and so he left the project. That left Dindal and his crew with a very limited amount of time to turn “Kingdom of the Sun” into the film we know as The Emperor’s New Groove. 

Obviously this dark, dramatic, and very Incan inspired piece of concept art by John Watkiss comes from the early, Roger Allers lead version of “Kingdom of the Sun.” While I have no way of exactly what scene this art work depicts, if I had to guess I’d say it would’ve been an early scene of Manco, or the scene of Pacha at the ceremonial sacrafice. We will never know if “Kingdom of the Sun” would have been better or worse than The Emperor’s New Groove, but it certainly is something interesting to think about while looking at this visual development painting.


Image Credit: Design: Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Archive Series

A Nutcracker Masterpiece Monday

fish sm


With all the Christmas stuff going on in my life during the past couple of weeks I have heard a lot of music from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.  The Nutcracker holds a special place in my heart because I was in the ballet many holiday seasons as a child. My absolute favorite part of the ballet is the “Arabian Dance” divertissement. So today I’m focusing on the “Nutcracker” segment of Disney’s Fantasia. I will be specifically looking at the part of the segment featuring dancing fish set to the “Arabian Dance” music. This beautiful pastel piece of concept art by an unknown Disney studio artist served as a major piece of inspiration for the ethereal dancing fish in the film.

The “Nutcracker” segment of Fantasia was meant to be the last and grandest of the many Silly Symphonies featuring dancing nature that Disney Animation had made in the past. It was initially going to be entitled “Ballet des Fleurs” and was invisioned as the ultimate nature ballet. Yet, it would be the most modern and abstract flower ballet the studio had produced up to that point. The segment was guided in design by 3 major artists from the visual development and story departments of the studio. These were Bianca Majorie, Sylvia Holland, and Ethel Kulsar. Their art depicted the various flowers, plants, and animals in a highly impressionistic manner. They drew in bright pastels against contrasting black backgrounds. Especially influential to the team was the work of Edgar Degas. This beautiful ethereal pastel drawing of an almost glowing fish perfectly expresses the aesthetic that the visual artists and story artists envisioned for the “Nutcracker” segment of Fantasia.

Walt Disney fell in love with this pastel impressionistic style created by the visual development and story artists. He especially loved the ethereal translucent quality of the Arabian dancer fish’s tails. He wanted this effect to replicated as closely as possible on film. This made bringing the fish to life no easy task.  The “Arabian Dance” sequence was animated by Don Luske. Luske already had quite a bit of experience animating fish, as he had previously assisted Eric Larson in animating Cleo in Pinocchio. Although the music comes from a ballet, Lusk studied the dancing of belly dancers in order to capture the seductive movements of the fish. He even brought a professional belly dancer in to the studio to sketch. Once Lusk was done with his animation, it was time for the Ink and Paint department to replicate the glowing, diaphanous effect of the pastel concept art. To do this the women used a special dry brush technique when painting the fish to give their tails the filmy quality of a belly dancer’s veil. The effect on film is mesmerizing to watch, though oddly enough Lusk hated it. He thought the effect should have been done through double exposure, and that the dry brushing wasn’t smooth enough and made his animation look jittery. Even today at the age of 104, Don Lusk insists that the “Arabian Dance” sequence would  have looked better had double exposure been used.

Despite Lusk’s opinion on the final result, I find the “Arabian Dance” sequence to be beautiful. His animation of the slowly undulating tails of the fish is nearly hypnotizing and matches Tchaikovsky’s music perfectly.  The air brush paint technique, well not perfect,does a fantastic job of making the fish’s skin practically glow and their tails appear  gauzy. It’s a unique style of animation that is fascinatingly beautiful to watch even 78 years later. And it all started with beautiful pastel visual development drawings like this one.

Image Credit: Taylor, Deems. Fantasia. (1940).

A Ratatouille Masterpiece Monday



I realise that I hardly ever write any posts about Pixar films, and I really need to work on that. So today I’m writing about Ratatouille, a film that has a special place in my heart for two reasons. The first is because the film was released on my birthday, and I went to see it that day to celebrate. The second, is because I love Disneyland Paris, and I love the Ratatouille ride they have there, and I can’t wait for Epcot to get their own version. Today I am featuring this beautiful color key painting created by  Ratatouille‘s product designer Harley Jessup. If you do not know what a color key  is, I featured one in this previous post (oddly enough also about a film taking place in Paris). While some color keys don’t stand very well as a piece of art work on their own, this particular one does. It also draws attention to the important role that color plays  in Ratatouille. 

Harley Jessup has worked as a Production Designer for many Pixar films. Besides Ratatouille he worked on Monster Inc, Toy Story 2, Up, Cars 2, The Good Dinosaur, and most recently Coco. While working on the design of Ratatouille, Jessup had an idea for how to use color in the film to reflect Remy’s desires. Jessup studied many live-action films set in Paris as well as photographs of the city itself and discovered that the city had a very warm, yet muted overall color scheme. He decided to take advantage of that color scheme’s symbolic abilities in the film. In his color keys he made the colours of Paris look warm and inviting, full of chocolaty browns and muted oranges and pinks.  In contrast, the world of the rats  were full of cool-based colors. This served the purpose of creating contrast between these two world, while also making the human world look as desirable to the audience as it is for Remy. As a rat with cool, grey-blue fur, Remy also stands out noticeably from his warm-toned human surroundings, no matter how much he wants to be a part of them.  You’ll notice this contrast between the warm-colors of the human Paris and the cool colors of the rat Remy displayed to full effect in this particular color key.

Besides this focus on warm versus cool color contrasts, there was also a focus on contrasting the neutral, muted colors of  the environment surrounding the characters with the bright saturated colors of the food Remy loves to cook with. Gusteau’s kitchen actually has a very limited neutral color scheme. It has a black and white floor, white walls black stoves, and gray tables. On the other hand, the food in the kitchen is all bright reds, greens, oranges, and even purples. This makes the food they are cooking become the real focus of each shot. It also makes all of the food more pleasing and inviting to look at, as they add a splash of spice to the otherwise muted color pallatte of the film. You can again see that effect in this color key.  Most of the background in the painting is made up of browns, grays, and blacks. The vegetables, painted in bright saturated  red, greens, purples, and oranges, pop out from the background and look beautiful in contrast. The food becomes the most visually pleasing object in the painting, and thus in the sequence of the film as well.

Food is often a very challenging thing for animators to make look appealing with CG animation, but thanks to the work production designer Harley Jessup did in in creating the film’s color scheme, their job was made a little easier. The colors of the environments he created also helped to draw the audience into Remy’s own perspective. This color key, along with the others Jessup painted for Ratatouille helped to illustrate to us and to the film’s production team the important role color plays in an animated feature.

Image Credit:



A Wendy and Tiger Lily Masterpiece Monday



Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the girls of Peter Pan and how they are often overshadowed by the much flashier Peter. This really disappointing to me, as they’ve always been my favorite part of the story. A lot of people do not even realize that Wendy Darling is the film’s main character, as the plot focuses on her story and her decision to grow up. To help rectify this misconception, I thought I’d feature a drawing of two of the girl’s of Neverland, Wendy Darling and Tiger Lily. This drawing was created during the early 1940s when the film was meant to be released soon after Pinocchio.  At this time, the film was styled on the concept art of  one of my favorite Disney artists, David Hall, whose Alice in Wonderland concept art I featured in a previous post. Although this particular drawing was not necessarily created by Hall himself, it certainly follows the style and tone of his concept art for the film.

One thing you may notice about this particular piece of art is that it is much darker and more full of shadows then any other scene in the final film. Much of Hall’s concept art, and the art made by other artists working on the film at the time, is like this. Their art brought out some of the more mature themes that had often gone unnoticed in this children’s  story. In particular they made the scenes with the pirates especialy frightening looking, a far cry from the silly comedic fellows in the final film. This piece of story art is part of a set of story boards illustrating the scene in skull rock. The moody drawings heavily feature horrifying skeletons and show a menacing looking Captain Hook cloaked in shadows. Even this drawing showing Wendy helping save Tiger Lily from drowning features dark moody lighting and in a clear sense of danger in the image of the waterlogged Tiger Lily.

You have probably also noticed how much younger Wendy and Tiger Lily look in this drawing compared to in the final film. This was true of all the children in Hall’s concept art. While the final version of Peter Pan appears to be just on the verge of preteenhood, the Hall inspired version had a young and impishly cherubic face. Disney’s Wendy Darling has a face and a body poised just on the verge of womanhood. David Hall’s version of Wendy appears much younger, with a shorter, more girlish  figure, a round face and eyes, and hair in childish pigtails. Even Tiger Lily, whose final design is one of the closest to the David Hall designs, appears much younger in this drawing. Her face did not yet have the sophisticated exotic features she would gain in the final film. These youthful character designs contrasted sharply with the dark shadowy settings Hall designed for the film. This would have really heightened the danger and adventure of the situations the children were in. Had it been made, Hall’s version of Peter Pan  would perhaps have presented the story in a new light.

While the characters and story inspired by Hall’s concept art never did come to fruition, they came awfully close. Model sheets for the character were mad up in the very early 1940s and maquettes for this version of several of the characters, including Wendy, can be seen in the behind the scenes tour portion of The Reluctant Dragon. Then World War II hit the U.S., and plan’s for the film were halted. When production started back up on the film in the 1950s, Hall no longer worked as a concept artist at the studio, and Mary Blair’s art became the animators’ main source of inspiration instead. Though I love Peter Pan the way it is, a part of me can’t help but wonder what this earlier, darker version of the film would have been like.

Image Credit: The Walt Disney Film Archives. The Animated Movies 1921–1968

A Final Big Hero 6 Masterpiece Monday


Today is the day! It’s the release day of Big Hero 6: Baymax Returns. It’s also time for me to cover the 6th and final member of the Big Hero 6 team. Last, but not least, I have chosen to feature concept art of Hiro, the leader of the team and protagonist of the film. Like Hiro, the artist of this particular piece of character design art, Lorelay Bove, played an  important role in the development of the film. Bove was a visual development artist for the film, but most of her art work seemed to have focused very specifically on the characters. She created multiple pieces of concept art for every major character in the film, and did plenty of work on Hiro. Many of her co-workers  credit her with creating distinct yet unified outfit designs for all 6 members of the super hero team.

When I look at Lorelay Bove’s concept art for the film, more than anything I think about costume. Bove seems to have an innate sense of how a character’s clothing style and even the coours they wear help define their  personality to the audience. Some of her concept art shows a broader variety of possible outfits, and thus possible personalities, for each character. These sets of drawings would show the character with very different hairstyles, completely different outfit styles, and in the earlier stages of the film, even different faces.  Other’s are more like this concept art of Hiro, focusing on the very fine details of what a character would wear. While all three of these possible outfits for Hiro remain in the same sloppy teenage-boy vein, each little tweak highlights a slightly different kind of  personality. Although the decision over whether Hiro should wear a hoodie or flannel shirt and sweatpants or shorts may seem simple, Bove’s art shows how the film’s production team put thought into every little detail of their characters. Notice also how Bove uses this piece of concept art to experiment with which colours would work best for Hiro’s clothing. Choosing character colour schemes was another important task she fulfilled on the film. She is credited for coming up with the final colour scheme of every team member’s super-suit. She choose bright, vibrant colors that best expressed  each character’s individual personality, and yet managed to compliment each other in an interesting yet unexpected way.

As sloppy and casual as Hiro’s final design looks, a lot of effort went into designing a authentic looking fourteen year-old boy. In many ways, Hiro was very unfamiliar territory for Disney.  For starters, he’s the companies first mixed-race protagonist. The film’s production team chose to make Hiro half Japanese, half white to fully embody the overarching east-meets-west design concept they had been shooting for in the film’s art. It also allowed many of members of the film’s team to use Hiro to reflect their own experiences growing up as Asian-Americans. Disney animation also does not often feature teenage boys as their main characters, and thus Hiro presented a challenge for many of the film’s character designers, story-artists, and animators. They had to make him look appealing to audiences, without falling into the trap of making him look too cutesy. They spent time observing real teenage boys in their lives, like their sons and younger brothers, and also actual gifted teenage boys. They found that many  gifted kids often look extremely disheveled as they were too focused on their activities to worry about combing their hair or putting together matching outfits. So they did the same with Hiro, putting him in slightly mismatched clothing that mostly consisted of t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, cargo shorts, and sneakers. They also gave him unkempt hair that proved a real challenge for their hair simulation programs in it’s random looseness. In the end Lorelay Bove and the rest of the film’s crew came up with a rather authentic looking depiction of a teenage boy and science prodigy in Hiro.

There you have it, the last in my series of Masterpiece Monday posts featuring members of the super heroes of Big Hero 6. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Big Hero 6: Baymax Returns premieres tonight on Disney Channel and Disney XD and serves as the pilot for Big Hero 6: The Series. I am so excited to watch it and spend even more time with these fantastic characters.

Image Credit: The Art of Big Hero 6


A Lady and the Tramp Masterpiece Monday


The Silver Era is without a doubt one of my favorite eras for animated films and I constantly find myself looking at all of the beautiful concept art created for the films of that era. Lady and the Tramp is without a doubt one of the  best of the era, and I felt it was time I give it some attention. While looking around for concept art for the film, I was shocked to discover a series of beautiful paintings by background artist Eyvind Earle. I, like most people, more strongly associate him with his work on Sleeping Beauty. I had no idea he also played  a large role in creating Lady and the Tramp. It turns out Earle was the main background artist for the “Bella Note”  sequence of the film. Now that I know, it  seems obvious to me that Earle’s beautiful concept paintings, like this one had a huge impact on the sequence in the final film.

Walt Disney actually asked Earle to design and paint the backgrounds for the “Bella Note” sequence while he was already hard at work on the long process of designing Sleeping Beauty. Walt wanted a romanticized and almost impressionistic setting for the film’s key love scene and knew Earle was the perfect man for this job. Earle began this task by painting a series of small concept paintings depicting different moments and backgrounds he thought should be included in the film. Many of these paintings depicted romantic moments between Lady and Tramp as this one does. Other paintings showed other romantic pairs of animals within the park, whose love was to reflect that of Lady and Tramp. Still others depicted the beautiful natural nighttime environments of the park that surrounded them. Earle then used these concept paintings to help him create the scene’s backgrounds. He used his signature bright and bold colors, but stuck towards cool blues and greens next to bold sections of black to create a magical moonlit night. His trees and plants are highly detailed with stylized knotty bark, further creating a more impressionistic feeling to the only natural setting in the film. He also stuck to the simple geometric shapes on very clear horizontal and vertical planes that were his trademark. His unique background style stood out in great contrast from the more soft, sunny, idealized backgrounds of the rest of the film, which were designed by children’s book artist Claude Coats. Eyvind Earle’s work made the romantic moments between the two dogs a clear key moment in the film that audience members would remember long after they left the theatre.

I’m so glad I discovered some of Eyvind Earle’s concept art for Lady and the Tramp and found out what an important role he played in the film’s production. Now that I know that he worked on the “Bella Note” sequence, it is quite obvious to me upon re-watching the film. All the hallmarks of his style that would later show up in full force in Sleeping Beauty years later are present within the scene. This new knowledge really enhances my enjoyment of the film, especially that particular sequence, and I hope it will do the same for you in the future.

Image Credit:


A Villainous Masterpiece Monday


Since Halloween is this week, I knew I had to feature a villain in my Masterpiece Monday post. I’ve decided to write about one of the villains that frightened me the most as a child, the Hag from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I am certainly not alone in my childhood fears of this evil character. Upon the film’s initial release in 1937, children found her so frightening that the frequently wet the theatre seats. She has continued to terrify children for generations since then. This particular piece of visual development art depicting the Hag rowing across the castle moat is especially eerie.  It was created by animator Sam Armstrong, who went on to create the actual mist effects in this scene.The painting is very reminiscent of the Grim Reaper paddling down the River Styx. It is associations with classic horror elements like the Grim Reaper that help to make the Hag so terrifying.

Very early on in the film’s development, the suggestion was made to make the Hag a comical caricature of a villain. The hope was that this would make it easier for the animators, who were not yet skilled at animating the human form. This idea was experimented with in a few drawings, but quickly rejected. The Hag, just like the Evil Queen needed to look entirely evil in order to make Snow White’s plight truly compelling. This did not necessarily mean the Hag had to look like a realistic human character. She was made grotesque in appearance and flamboyant in action. She was animated mostly by Norm Ferguson, whose previous animation claim to fame was another villain, the Big Bad Wolf in the short The Three Little Pigs. The Hag’s design borrows elements from many a classic Grimm’s fairy tales illustration. Yet, she also contains subtle elements of the Evil Queen’s design, creating continuity between the villain and her disguise. The Hag represents a release of the previously stoic Queen’s true villainy. As the Hag she can show her glee in her evil doing, There’s a mirth in her big round eyes as she creates the poison apple and a pure joy in her frequent cackles. The Hag is truly the terrifying Jekyll to the Queen’s reserved Hyde.

Jekyll and Hyde actually served as a important source of inspiration for the Queen/Hag’s role in the film. While storyboarding the transformation scene in the film,Walt often referred to it as a “Jekyll and Hyde” moment. The animator’s may have even have taken some inspiration from the transformation scene in the 1931 film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde , where Jekyll’s transformation is shown through the use of a spinning camera and superimposed flashbacks. Other horror films of the time may have also influenced the Hag’s many gruesome scenes. The shots showing the hag’s shadow along the dungeon walls  recall the vampire from the German Expressionist film Nosferatu. The scene of the Hag creating the poison apple in a cauldron recalls various adaptations of Macbeth. The most gruesome scene in the entire film seems straight out of a horror film itself. The moment when the Hag kicks the skeleton and taunts it’s former thirst was considered so horrific at the time that Walt ordered an alternate version of the scene without that moment created, in case the censorship board took issue with it. It is these gruesome acts of villainy committed  by the Hag in the film that made her so terrifying to me and thousands of other children.

Given her her horror film pedigree and the talented animators and character designers who helped create her, is it any wonder that the Hag has continued to terrify children for nearly 80 years? She is a fascinating character in her gruesomeness, and truly a member of the Disney villain elite. Hope you have a happy Halloween.


Image Credit: The Fairest One of All: The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs



A Honey Lemon Masterpiece Monday


We’re getting closer and closer to the premiere of Big Hero 6: The Series. Disney has started to release some fantastic clips and previews of the new series and I could not be more excited. They just recently posted this amazing sneak peak on Youtube and I love it.  So I am continuing my countdown to the premiere by featuring some concept art of my favorite member of the team, Honey Lemon. The film’s crew knew from the very beginning that Honey Lemon would be a fashionista, but pinning down her exact fashion sense proved to be a challenge.  This piece of character design art by character designer Shiyoon Kim, was part of the artists’ attempts to answer the question of what Honey Lemon’s fashion-sense would be like. It’s a very different look than that of the final character, but I personally love this potential version of Honey Lemon.

Initially, the film’s character designers experimented with a number of very bright and outlandish fashions for Honey Lemon’s street clothes. As I have mentioned before, Shiyoon Kim especially looked towards Japanese culture for inspiration when creating character designs for the film. This concept drawing of his is a great example of this tendency. Here he drew Honey Lemon in an extremely popular form of Japanese street style called Sweet Lolita. It is a form of dressing where girls wear big poofy dresses, lacey socks, and lots of bows. Colours tend to be pastels, especially pink, and clothing often features patterns of items considered “kawaii” or cute, like and flowers. Makeup is bold and hair is generally partially up in big wavy styles, and is usually died blonde. . Honey Lemon’s bright blonde hair was an important feature of the character in the comic books, and reflected her name, but there was much debate over whether or not the animators should keep this feature in their version of the character, who was Latina. This Sweet Lolita Honey Lemon design was one solution of how the blonde hair could be kept while still creating a unique character. Personally I’m a huge fan of Sweet Loita style, so I would have loved if this design had become the final one, but it was eventually rejected

When the design for Honey Lemon’s supersuit was finalized, the character designers decided to try a different approach to her street clothes. Since Honey Lemon’s super hero outfit was such a bright pink and orange, they wanted to make her street clothes slightly more understated in order to contrast. They moved away from the outlandish fashions of Japanese street style to some more simplified, but still trendy designs created by Lorelay Bove. Her clothes in the final film have more of  retro ’60s and ’70s style with a heavy emphasis on pink and yellow.. Yet, she still retains a sense of “kawaii”, just look at her phone-case and purse. She also shows off some outlandish fashion sense still in her outrageously high heels. In this wa,  the character designers were able to make Honey Lemon a fashionista, while still using clothing to show how she comes into her own as a super hero, just like the other members of the team.

In the end, this Sweet Lolita concept for Honey Lemon did not make it to the final film, but this concept drawing did. If you look closely, you’ll find it on a billboard in San Fransokyo advertising a fashion brand. I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the designing the clothing of the fashionable Honey Lemon’s street. We’re getting closer and closer to the release of Big Hero 6: The Series and we’re to see plenty of other cute outfits on Honey Lemon in the series.

Image Credit: The Art of Big Hero 6

A Lilo Masterpiece Monday


Sorry I missed last week, once again work is keeping me incredibly busy. Even so, work has actually inspired me in choosing today’s theme. Lilo is another character that has become very close to my heart lately, and I really wanted to feature a drawing of her in a post. So today I will be discussing this set of early pose and movement experiments drawn by Andreas Deja, Lilo’s supervising animator. In particular I want to direct your attention to my favorite drawing in this set, the one on the right that show’s Lilo hula dancing.

Lilo & Stitch is a film with interesting origins, as unlike most other Disney films, it is not based on a preexisting source. It is instead based entirely on an original idea by the film’s director and the voice of Stitch, Chris Sanders. Sanders had worked as a story artist for Walt Disney Animation since the 1970s, and had worked on films like The Rescuers, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Mulan. The story of a Stitch was one that Sanders had originally considered for a children’s book in the ’80s. Eventually, he decided to propose his idea to the heads of Walt Disney Animation and to do so in picture book form. They fell in love with the story, and also with Sander’s unique art style. Sander’s artwork was chosen as the inspiration for the main style of the film. This meant following his habit of making everything rounded with no sharp edges. It also meant having chubbier, softer characters, especially in the case of Lilo, who was designed by Sander’s as having a baby-like body.

Andreas Deja was the first animator assigned to Lilo & Stitch as the supervising animator for Lilo. Deja had a very successful career with Disney Animation already, having animated King Triton, Gaston, Jafar, Scar, and Hercules. As one of the lead animators on the film, Deja got to go with the rest of the crew on a research trip to the islands of Hawaii. There he sat in on a real classroom of six year olds and sketched them as the played and talked. He could then take the poses and movements in his sketches and experiment with applying them to Lilo’s chubby stylized body. While in Hawaii he and the rest of the crew also observed real hula dancing performances, where Deja again made sketches of poses he liked. When they returned home to California, the crew also invited a troupe of hula dancers to come to their studio and perform several hulu dances for them. These dances were filmed to be used as reference footage for the animators. Using his sketches from Hawaii and the reference footage, Deja then experimented with sketching and animating Lilo in various hula poses. This proved to be one of Deja’s greatest challenges with the character, as he found it difficult to apply the long graceful lines of the hula dancers’ bodies to Lilo’s chubby torso and stubby limbs. Despite the challenges, I think Deja did a terrific job with animating Lilo’s dancing, and I find this sketch of her in hula class to be a particularly fun one.

There you have it, a brief look at the creation and animation of Lilo from Lilo & Stitch. I feel Chris Sanders and Andreas Deja did a fantastic job of bringing this unique yet familiar little girl to life on the big screen. I’m very proud and glad to now be a small part of this impactful character’s legacy myself.

Image Credit: /



A Cinderella Masterpiece Monday

cindy 3


Sorry that I went a few weeks without any new posts. I was struck by Hurricane Irma, and although I and my apartment are fine, things were pretty crazy here and didn’t leave much time for writing. I realized that with all posts I’ve made so far, I’m not sure I’ve ever discussed Marc Davis or featured any of his work. Marc Davis was one of the famous Nine Old Men, and is considered an absolute Disney legend.  His work was incredibly influential on the films made during Disney’s Silver Age. He later went on to work in Disney Imaginering and had a huge influence on many of the attractions at Disneyland. So today I am honoring the work of Marc Davis by featuring this beautiful character design sketch he did of Cinderella as a scullery maid.

Marc Davis began working at Walt Disney Animation as an in-between animator in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He then later moved on to become a story artist on Bambi. Upon seeing his story-boards, Walt Disney realized that Davis had an incredible talent for drawing characters in a way that was realistic while also exhibiting personality. So he decided to make Davis an animator. In that role, Davis reached the peak of his success. Walt realized Davis was an incredibly talented draftsman, and therefore would be able to animate women in a way that was realistic, yet still looked pretty and appealing. So he assigned Davis to many of the pretty women characters created during the Silver Era. He was one of two Supervising Animators in charge of drawing Cinderella in Cinderella. He also worked on Alice in Alice in Wonderland, Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. He did not just draw pretty women though, he was also in charge of animating some of Disney’s most famous villains. He helped create and animate the elegant and stoic Maleficent as well as the more comical and exaggerated characters of  Cruella De Vil and Madame Medusa. His work on these characters is considered by many to be some of the greatest animation of all time.

Not only was Marc Davis a great animator, he was also a fantastic character designer. He created many drawings of Cinderella in her scullery maid clothes. In these drawings experimented with different hairstyles and faces, as he was trying to figure out just what kind of girl Cinderella should be. This drawing was an experiment with a slightly younger Cinderella with more of a simple country girl look to her, but there is still some of Cinderella’s sophistication in it. Once he got the basic look of the princess down he began making more detailed drawings experimenting with  the exact placement of her eyes, nose, and mouth in various expressions as he was very precise in his animation drawings. Once Cinderella’s design was finalized Davis animated her alongside Eric Larson. Unfortunately, the two animators could not exactly agree on how to animate Cinderella’s personality. Larson saw Cinderella as  a young, kind, simple girl, while Davis saw her as a more mature and sophisticated woman with a bit of a snap to her personality. If you examine Cinderella closely throughout the film, you can actually tell whether Davis or Larson was in charge of animating her on that particular scene.

Now you know a little more about Disney Legend Marc Davis and how he helped design and animate Cinderella. I hope you enjoyed reading about him, as I intend on featuring much more of Davis’s work in the future.


Image Credit: Cinderella Platinum Edition DVD