A Pocahontas Masterpiece Monday

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Doing a little bit of a different Masterpiece Monday today by featuring this beautiful maquette of Pocahontas. I’m not sure how many people know what maquettes are, so I’ll fill you in. After a character’s final design is decided upon, maquettes are made up of all of the major characters. These are 3D sculptures made of clay that show the character in a pose characteristic of their personality.  Animators then keep these sculptures on their desks to use as a guide for their drawings. It helps them visualize the characters designs from every angle in a more concrete way than would be possible in just plain flat model sheets. This practice of making maquettes for the animators is one that has been around for at least as long as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs if not even longer. Clearly their helpful for the animators as they’re still used today.

Normally maquettes are plain grey, but for Pocahontas many of the maquettes were hand painted by the ink and paint department. I have yet to find out exactly why this was done, but I do think they did a beautiful job. Pocahontas is not the only one to ever be painted though, many of the maquettes from Fantasia were painted, and a full colour working puppet version of Pinnochio was made in the 1940s as well. Besides the beautiful colours, one of the other things I really enjoy about Pocahontas’s maquette is her strong pose, with her head held high and her feet almost in ballet 4th position. This pose actually came to be used in a lot of the merchandise that came out for Pocahontas. This is a common occurrence as maquettes are usually easily available for merchandise designers to use as a reference. That’s part of why maquette’s are so important, because they help keep Pocahontas and other characters looking consistent even when being drawn by a hundred different artists in  different branches of the company.

So now you know all about maquettes and their purpose thanks to this beautiful hand-painted maquette of Pocahontas.

Image Credit: Disney Animated

Bienvinido Vecino

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My next article is going to be a rather odd one about a very unique film. I will be looking at the 1943 film Saludos Amigos which at only 42 minutes is the shortest film ever made by Walt Disney Animation Studios. I’ve discussed the film a little in a Masterpiece Monday, but in my next article I will go much more in depth into the film’s history. The film is actually a series of four shorts pasted together with some 16mm documentary footage. The running thread keeping these segments together was Walt Disney’s trip to South America as part of FDR’s Good Neighbor program. The point of the program was to use film and film stars to foster a good relationship with South American countries in order to prevent them from allying with Nazi Germany. No part of this program was as successful as Walt Disney’s tour of South America and the film Saludos Amigos.

Walt Disney’s trip to South America was not just a hand-shaking political tour. It was also a research trip. He brought with him animators, visual development artists, musicians, and other staff from the Studio. There they were set lose to sketch, photograph, and record what ever aspects of the various South American cultures and countries that inspired them. This research was then brought back to California at the end of the trip and used as inspiration for the making of Saludos Amigos. From this research Disney animators came up with four short cartoons based on four of the countries they visited, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brasil. The home movies they made during the trip were used as connective tissue in the film, bringing the audience from one country to the other and introducing the inspiration for each short. The film even shows many of the artists making the very sketches that inspired the film. With this Saludos Amigos becomes one of the most unique films in the Disney canon, as it reveals it’s own conception in a research trip. So in my next article i will give an in depth look at Walt Disney’s research trip through South America and how it lead to the creation of Saludos Amigos, one of the oddest films ever made by Disney during one of the most complicated periods in the Studio’s history.

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

A Beauty and the Beast Masterpiece Monday

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I’ve been really into Beauty and the Beast lately, probably for two reasons. One, because the film’s 25th Anniversary is this November and the 25th anniversary Blu-Ray is released tomorrow. Two, because I’m in the middle of making my Halloween costume right now, Belle’s pink dress. The particular piece of concept art that I am featuring today depicts an early version of that very pink dress. It was created by artist Alyson Hamilton and is meant to examine the different angles of her dress with it’s romantic off-the-shoulder neckline and low back. Yet, although this drawing of Belle and her pink dress are not that far off from her final design, this drawing is not what it seems. The drawing, and the pink dress, actually predate the conception of Belle’s more famous blue dress and gold ballgown.

This sketch actually comes from an interesting early version of Beauty and the Beast in which Belle  wore pink throughout the film. This version was not made by artists at the Walt Disney Studios in California, by rather by the studio that created the animation for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Richard Williams Animation Studio in London, where it was directed by Richard Purdum. Unlike the Broadway style musical we know today, this early version of the film was actually a vary serious period drama, which explains the sophisticated romantic gown Belle would have worn throughout. I won’t go too much into detail right now (that’s for a more in depth article someday in the future), but it was extremely different from the final version of the film. Belle’s father was actually a down on his luck merchant like in the original fairy tale. She also had a younger sister names Clarice, a pet cat, and an evil step mother like Aunt. This Aunt was determined to set Belle up in a marriage with Gaston, who was not a macho hunter, but a foppish high-ranking aristocrat. You can actually watch the story reel for the opening of the London team’s version of the film here.

Eventually it was decided that the version of the film created by the London studio just wasn’t working and production was brought back to the Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank where Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise were chosen as the film’s new directors. They completely revamped the film, getting rid of several characters and adding plenty of others. Yet, Belle’s beautiful pink dress still remained in some form  within the film even if it never became as iconic as her blue dress or her gold gown. So there’s a little bit of the story surrounding my favorite dress of Belle’s

Image Credit: Disney Animated
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An Oswald Masterpiece Monday

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Today’s Masterpiece Monday is a little different, because I’m featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first major cartoon character and the precursor to Mickey Mouse. September 5th marked the 89th Anniversary of Oswald’s debut in the short Trolley Troubles  in 1927. Oswald will always hold a special place in my heart and I just had to take this opportunity to belatedly celebrate his birthday. The particular piece of art being featured today is a recently rediscovered animation sketch of Oswald from the short Sky Scrappers  ( you can watch the full short here).

Oswald was a character designed by Walt Disney and his fellow animator Ub Iwerks for a series of shorts made for Universal studios. He quickly became extremely popular with audiences. He even had his own chocolate bar! Unlike his counterpart Mickey, Oswald was a major trouble maker in his shorts. Still, the two bore many similarities to each other, both in design and in personality. Many of the plots and gags used in early Oswald shorts were even later reused and modified for Mickey Mouse shorts. Unfortunately for Walt, he lost the rights to Oswald along with most of the animators at his studio during a dispute with Universal. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as from the loss of Oswald came the creation of Mickey Mouse.

All was not lost for Oswald. In 2006 Disney CEO Bob Iger traded the sportscaster Al Michaels to Universal in exchange for the rights to Oswald and his animated shorts. After recovering the character, the company took a great interest in him and his history. They have been continually working on rediscovering many of his lost shorts and releasing them on DVD. Original sketches of Oswald, like this one, are few and far between, as most were destroyed during a move in the 1930s, but the Walt Disney Archives and the Disney Animation Research Library have been working on collecting and preserving what they can find. Oswald is also being brought into the 21st century with his inclusion in the Epic Mickey series of video games, his now frequent appearances on Disney merchandise, and his appearances as a meet and greet character at several Disney parks.

So thank you for joining me in wishing a happy 89th birthday to one of Disney’s oldest animated characters, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. His history is a fascinating one, and I plan on eventually writing a much more in depth article on him in the future.

 

Image Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2119309/Mickey-Mouse-predecessor-Oswald-RABBIT-1928-Walt-Disney-sketch-centre-piece-exhibition-work-kept-locked-away-40-years.html

A Tangled Masterpiece Monday

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After writing that article on Rapunzel I have a ton of beautiful concept art I didn’t get to use. Claire Keane is probably one of my favourite Disney artists, everything she draws is so beautiful, especially her sketches of Rapunzel. So I decided to feature another piece of her artwork today. This piece comes from the time period during which Nathan Greno and Bryon Howard were the directors of the film.

Art is practically in Claire Keane’s blood as her father is famous Disney animator Glen Keane, who animated characters like Ariel and Pocahontas. When her father became the director of Tangled he put her in charge of visual development on the film. One of my favourite things about these later sketches of Rapunzel is Claire Keane’s beautiful use of bright and pastel colours. I have also fallen in love with all of the beautiful dresses and hairstyles she designed for Rapunzel. They have a classic fairy tale feeling to them thats almost a mix of Renaissance peasant dress and modern day boho clothing. It’s no surprise that costumes stand out in Claire Keane’s art, after all her first job at Disney was designing Giselle’s dresses in Enchanted.

I find that Claire Keane’s drawings really capture the spirit of Rapunzel. She actually  kept a sketch book with her at all times throughout her day and would periodically sketch Rapunzel doing everyday tasks. She felt it was really important in understanding Rapunzel’s personality to imagine how she would spend an ordinary day in her unique situation. She even did sketches trying to figure out how Rapunzel would maneuver around her 70 ft of hair when getting dressed, which when you think about it is quite a dilemma. Because of her unique understanding of the character, Claire Keane was also asked to design Rapunzel’s murals in her tower. Se put a ton of effort into the little details and thinking about how Rapunzel would have used her paintings to express herself throughout he various stages in her life. I really recommend looking more closely at her murals next time you watch the film.

Thanks for reading as I gush a little more about Claire Keane. If you want to see some more of her beautiful artwork you can visit her website Claire on a Cloud here. She is also a wonderful children’s book writer and illustrator and you can see some of her books on her website as well.

Image Credit: http://www.claireonacloud.com/