Another Frozen Masterpiece Monday


It’s my final Masterpiece Monday featuring a princess I’ve never featured before! Technically I’ve already done one Frozen post, but that time I focused more on Elsa. I thought it was only fair that Anna get her own separate post. While she didn’t go through as many physical changes in design as her sister did, there were plenty of changes made to Anna’s personality and journey during Frozen‘s chaotic development process.These character design drawings, done by Scott Watanabe, reveal a little bit about one of the rejected script’s for the film and Anna’s unusual role within it.Of course, do keep in mind that much like Tangled, the details of the many rejected plots for Frozen are kept pretty secret, so my information is pieced together from a lot of bits and pieces uncovered through a lot of difficult searching.

These two drawings are actually designs for Anna’s  dress for her wedding to Hans, which explains the fancy crown and the bouquet. In this version of the film, Anna would have knownabout Elsa’s ice powers and they would have caused a rift between the two sisters. The people of Arendelle would have feared and ostracized Elsa because of her powers, while kind and normal Anna would have been beloved by all. This would have caused Elsa to hate her sister, until she eventually fled the kingdom and created her ice palace, leaving Anna alone to become queen. Eventually, Anna would have met and become engaged to Hans, who she naively believed she was in love with. In the hopes of patching things up with Elsa, Anna would have invited her to her wedding, only for Elsa to come with an army of snowmen, destroy everything, and kidnap her sister. Elsa would have taken Anna to her ice palace, where she would have sang her villain song “Cool with Me” (you can read the lyrics here). At the end of the song, Elsa would have purposely frozen Anna’s heart out of jealousy and a desire to make her sister feel as icy and unloved as she does. Anna then would have spent the rest of the film trying to get back to Hans to unfreeze her heart, while Elsa tried to stop her, until eventually Anna realized that Kristoff was her actual true love and Elsa would have been somehow redeemed. The story that these wedding dress designs were created for would have been very different than what made it onto the screen, but clearly some of the key elements were already there.

Anna’s dress does not look much like a typical fairy tale wedding dress. That’s because it’s actually based on traditional Norwegian wedding dresses, which are nothing like what brides typically wear in America. Frozen‘s visual development artists did a lot of research on traditional Norwegian culture, even going on a research trip to Norway, where they sketched and photographed many aspects of the culture. The traditional clothing they saw especially inspired them, and many of their early concept sketches of Anna showed her in very realistic traditional dress. Over time her clothing became a little more simplified and cutesy to match the classic Disney Princess look,  but they still retained some Scandinavian elements.. Even the traditional Norwegian wedding crown Anna wears in these drawings made it into Frozen Fever, as Anna’s birthday crown.

Thanks to this concept art of Anna in different wedding dresses, you now know a little bit  about another discarded plot for Frozen and about Anna’s design links to Norwegian culture. Hope you enjoyed.

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A Valentines Day Masterpiece Monday


Happy Valentines day! A little late I know, but I thought I would celebrate today by featuring a piece of concept art depicting one of Disney’s most famous couples. Today’s featured art is an early concept drawing of Belle and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast created by Glen Keane. Although they don’t necessarily look like the characters in the final film, the romantic chemistry between the couple is clearly present in this drawing. Despite the huge changes that would eventually be made to the design of the couple, especially to that of the Beast, the Disney animators clearly knew from the beginning that the main focus of the story they were telling was romance.

Obviously, the Beast looks very different from his final design in this concept art. This version of the Beast was actually based on a mandrill, a type of monkey. Despite the magic curse, Beast’s supervising animator Glen Keane wanted the character’s transformation to be based on real-life animals and not the alien beasts often seen in story books. He spent a lot of time going to the zoo and sketching various animals to try to figure out what creature would be best for the Beast. For a while he liked the idea of the Beast being a mandrill, because he felt they were very intelligent looking creatures. It was an idea that I think actually worked quite well in this concept art. Despite his animal form, the mandrill based Beast looks just human enough and intelligent enough to be sophisticated instead of comical in his period accurate suit.Of course, this version did not make the final film. Instead, Glen Keane created a completely new creature for the Beast, combining all of the features he liked best from the various animals he sketched.There are far less differences in Belle’s appearance in this sketch, but there are a few, mostly in her dress. The square neckline and bell sleeves are far more accurate to the late 18th century than any of her outfits in the final film are. For most of the film’s early development Belle was depicted wearing highly period accurate clothing. Even her gold ballgown had the overly  wide panniers worn in french courts at the time.Over time her dresses became more modernized, but still fitting for a period fantasy romance.

As I said, the directors, writers, and animators who worked on the film were fully aware that the main focus would be on romance. They often referred to the story as the greatest love story ever told. That didn’t mean that it was initially easy for them to create that love story. Early drafts of the script were seen by many as boring and lacking in any real chemistry between Belle and the Beast. The story at that point was basically two people sitting down to dinner every night with the Beast asking Belle to marry him and Belle saying no, until she eventually said yes. A lot of changes needed to be made to the script in order to make it a more believable love story, including the addition of the enchanted objects to help encourage the romance. Even when most of the script was finished, there were still problems with the relationship. Much of the crew felt that the ball room scene felt like it came too soon, like Belle and the Beast were being pushed into romance rather than naturally falling in love. The solution to this problem came from Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who wrote the last song to be added into the film “Something There”. Once that song was added all the rest of the pieces fit together, and Belle and the Beast seemed to fall in love gradually and naturally in a compelling way that the audience could believe.

As you can see, even a romantic pair as iconic as Belle and the Beast took a lot of time and effort to create. Hope you enjoyed your Valentines Day.

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


A Mary Blair Masterpiece Monday


Right now at Epcot Disney is holding an International Festival of the Arts, which I went to a week ago. As part of this festival, they have a few galleries displaying the art work of famous Disney artists throughout history. One of these galleries celebrates the work of Mary Blair, specifically her South American inspired work, which in turn inspired the look of the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros (which I also just rode a week ago). I’d always wanted to see some of Mary Blair’s art work in person, so it was a real treat for me to visit this exhibit. The art work  is even more spectacular n person when you can see every brush stroke and experience every bright colour up close. I was so inspired by my visit to the gallery that I thought I’d feature one of the paintings on display in today’s Masterpiece Monday.

This gauche painting shows a costume design done by Mary Blair for the film The Three Caballeros, one of the first feature films made by Walt Disney Animation to combine animation and live action. Because of this, costumes were needed for the human actors, and Mary Blair took on the role of designing these. It was the perfect role for her, as she often designed and sewed much of her own unique clothing.  While not all of her designs made the cut for the final film, this particular one did. This design was inspired by the clothing Mary Blair saw Brazilian women wearing while touring the country with Walt Disney. The silhouette draws from Brazilian sources both traditional and modern. The colours of the costume are extremely bright and festive, reflecting Mary Blair’s signature style, while also showing off the capabilities of the still relatively novel technicolor process. As good as this costume looks in Mary Blair’s design, it looks even better on screen. in the “Baia” segment of the film.

The singer who wore this particular costume in The Three Caballeros was Aurora Miranda, the younger sister of Carmen Miranda. While touring South America, Walt Disney and his staff met and developed relationships with many native performers, including the famous Carmen Miranda. Walt had asked her to be a part of the film, but her schedule did not allow for it, so she recommended  that Walt hire her younger sister Aurora instead, which he did. Creating Aurora Miranda’s scenes alongside Donald Duck and Jose Cairioca involved a technologically innovative process.Miranda performed her scenes in the costume designed by Mary Blair in front of process screen and the animated characters were projected behind her for guidance. Then, a new optical printer developed by Ub Iwerks was used to combine the animation and live-action footage. The result was what I consider one of the most fun and memorable scenes in The Three Caballeros. 

I hope you enjoyed this look at Mary Blair’s costume design for Aurora Miranda’s part live-action and part animated number in The Three Caballeros . If you can at all make it to Epcot this month for the International Festival of the Arts I highly recommend it. There you can see this painting and many other Mary Blair paintings for the film up close and in person. It is truly and amazing experience.

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A Snow White Masterpiece Monday



And now another Masterpiece Monday focusing on a princess, this time Snow White. This water colour concept painting for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was created by Gustaf Tenggren, who is probably one of the most influential Disney artists ever .I’ve always loved this particular piece of concept art for it’s unique old-world style, and for the stark contrast in colour between Snow White and the Queen.I have talked extensively about how Snow White was designed in this article, so today I’m going to take a slightly different approach to discussing the princess’s film.Instead, I am going to tell you about how Gustaf Teneggren’s gorgeous concept paintings, like this one, influenced the style and tone of  the entirety of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Gustaf Tenggren was born in Sweden and spent many years there as a children’s book illustrator before moving to the U.S. and joining Walt Disney Animation Studios. He had a background rooted in fairy tale illustrations and folk art that was exactly what Walt Disney needed to give Snow White and the Sven Dwarfs the old European fairy-tale charm he wanted. Prior to starting work on the film, Walt had actually taken a trip throughout Europe with his wife to find inspiration for himself and his animators. While there, he bought many European fairy tale books to take back to the studio as reference material. Tenggren became the perfect artist to continue the work of the fairy tale books and provide ideas and inspiration to the  American animators. As you can see here, his old-fashioned water colour paintings of the characters perfectly captured the European illustration style, and because of this his designs were used extensively throughout the film. So although the many values depicted in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were called thoroughly American by many reviewers, the overall artistic style of the film borrows heavily from old-world Europe, in large part thanks to the work of Gustaff Tenggren.

Gustaff Tenggren was actually one of the very first visual development artists at  Walt Disney Animation Studios. His art was less about the specific designs of the characters and scenery, and more about setting a tone and colour scheme for the film. I think this piece of concept art illustrates this quite well, with it’s sharp contrast between the soft pale pastel tones of Snow White and the inky black of the Witch. This contrast showed up in much of Tenggren’s concept art, and the film reflected the art by having softly coloured scenes of Snow White and the dwarfs sharply contrasted with the extremely dark scenes involving the Queen/ Witch. Much of Tenggren’s art also took inspiration from dark and almost surreal images of German Expressionistic film. This can be seen in the Witch in this painting with her monstrous face, bulging eyes, and long knobby fingers. Again the animators took inspiration from this quality in the concept art, applying this style to the darker scenes in the film. With his heavy influence on the tone, style, and colour scheme of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Gustaff Tenggren set a precedent for the importance of the role of the visual development artist in future animated Disney features.

So now you know just how influential Gustaff Tenggren, one of the first Disney concept artists, was to developing the European inspired look of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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