A Brave Masterpiece Monday



Today’s Masterpiece Monday post is featuring this sketch of Merida from Brave.  What makes this sketch special, in my opinion, is that it was created by one of my personal idols, Brenda Chapman. Brenda Chapman was the original writer and director of Brave, before John Lasseter decided to replace her mid-production with Mark Andrews. Before working on Brave she also had an impressive history of working with both Walt Disney Animtion and Pixar as a story artist. In my opinion, Chapman was the greatest source of influence in the creation of Merida’s appearance and personality. While they may not be a whole lot of concept art done by Chapman out there, her guidance as a director was the main force in shaping much of the film and the character.

Like many of the writers, artists, and animators who have worked at Walt Disney Animation and Pixar, Brenda Chapman is a graduate from the famous CalArts school. She initially wanted to become an animator, but after looking at her story reels for her final student film, Disney hired her as a story artist instead. She began her career as a story trainee on The Little Mermaid before becoming one of the major story artists on Beauty and the Beast. She was credited with creating some of the most emotional and realistic romantic moments between Belle and Beast, including the scene where Belle tends to Beast’s wounds. She went on to work on The Lion King and the Hunchback of Notre Dame  before leaving the company to work with Dreamworks. At Dreamworks she directed The Prince of Egypt, making her the first woman ever to direct an animated film. She then left Dreamworks to join Pixar where she helped write Cars. It was as Cars was wrapping up production that Chapman first had the idea to make a film about the relationship between a head-strong princess and her mother, the film that would eventually become Brave.

Chapman’s main source of inspiration for the film was her relationship with her then five-year-old daughter, Emma. She and her head-strong daughter were constantly butting heads, and she was worried about what their relationship would be like when Emma grew into a teenager. This gave her the idea for a movie about a teenage princess that would be different from anything made in the past.She wanted to make a film about the relationship between a young princess and a queen, not about a princess falling in love with a prince. For Merida’s personality Chapman continued to look to her own daughter for inspiration. Like her daughter, Merida wouldn’t  mind getting dirty and would love to do activities typically meant for boys. Merida was also originally going to be a bit younger and closer to Emma’s age, until the story required them to have a princess who was older and closer to marriageable age. For Merida’s appearance Chapman really pushed for Merida to have wild and unmanageable curly hair, just as she does in her drawing. She wanted the hair to be symbolic of Merida’s wild uncontainable spirit. Thanks to her influence, the hair became a defining feature of every concept drawing done of Merida, and of Merida’s final design.

As you can see Brenda Chapman is an artist and director with a truly incredible career who played a huge role in the creation of Brave and Merida. It’s a shame she didn’t get to oversee the film to its completion. Nevertheless, she is truly an idol of mine and I’m so glad I got to share one of her character sketches with you today.

\Image Credit: The Art of Brave by Jenny Lerew

A 3rd Big Hero 6 Masterpiece Monday



The excitement for Big Hero 6: The Series continues. at D23 last week Disney released a video of the new show’s opening credits. I am completely in love with them and if you haven’t seen them already, you can watch them here. They also released a preview of the series at Comic Con which you can watch here.  With all this excitement over the tv show happening, I felt it was time to feature a piece of concept art of another member of the super hero team. Today I will be looking at the Fred, the geeky comic-book loving slacker of the group. This piece of concept art is by Chris Mitchell, and depicts an extremely early version of Fred, then called Fredzilla, in his monster super suit. One of the reasons I really like examining concept art of Fred, is because its a great illustration of  both the similarities and differences between Disney’s Big Hero 6 and the Marvel comic book series it was adapted from.

In the original comic books Fred, or Fredzilla as his nickname was, had the power to summon a kaiju, a Japanese Godzilla-like monster, and control it in battle. The animators struggled with a way to retain some elements of the character’s original super power, while still making it suit their film and their version of Fred. For a while they experimented with having Fred himself be able to turn into a Japanese style monster, but this idea was eventually rejected. Then, playing off the films theme of using technology and science to create superheros, the film’s team experimented with having Fred be able to control holographic monsters made of hard-light that would battle for him. This idea was also eventually rejected. The directors then discovered a group in Japan called “Kaiju Big Battle”. These people would make their own monster suits and wrestle each other in rings full of tiny buildings. This sounded like the perfect thing for the nerdy character they were trying to create and inspired Fred’s Kaiju super suit.

The artist of this particular piece of concept art, Chris Mitchell, is not a Disney artist, but rather another outside artist the directors asked to help them with Big Hero 6‘s visual development process. The major reason for Chris Mitchell’s involvement in the film was probably his impressive cartoon show pedigree. Most notably he worked  on another team of super heros, The Powerpuff Girls, as well as shows like Dexter’s Laboratory  and Samurai Jack. All of those shows have a distinct art style which you can definitely see on display in this drawing.  His cartoon experience made him an excellent choice in helping the Disney animators with the early design work on Fred. He helped design both the character’s super suit and mild-mannered alter ego. He created several different designs of multi-headed lizard monsters like this one for Fred’s super suit, many of which bear similarities to the kaiju’s final design. Little of his designs for Fred’s street clothes were retained in the final design though, as Mitchell saw the character as a  punk-type with multi-coloured hair and spikey clothes. It was ultimately Shiyoon Kim who came up with Fred’s final design in that regard, by studying the style of Snowboarders and real-life comic book geeks.

Hope you enjoyed this look at an earlier version of Fred from Big Hero 6. I’m now half way through discussing every team member and the premiere of the new series is getting closer and closer. I could not be more excited for it.


Image Credit: http://www.gramunion.com/henshincyborg.tumblr.com/103077459854


A Bambi Masterpiece Monday



Sorry for the unannounced three weeks off from this blog, I was on vacation and then I moved to a new apartment and I just did not have time to write any new posts. Today I return to feature a piece of Bambi concept art by artist Tyrus Wong. I’ve told many stories about Disney artist’s whose amazing and unique concept art influenced the look of an entire animated film. Tyrus Wong’s art played this role for Bambi. Wong’s watercolor concept art, like this painting of Bambi and Thumper, is considered some of the most gorgeous concept art in the Animation Research Library, and the story of how he came to influence the style of Bambi is a fascinating one. His story is especially close to my heart, as his Chinese heritage played a huge role in his success.

Tyrus Wong was a Chinese immigrant and artist who was hired to work at Walt Disney Animation in the late 1930s. When Bambi began production Wong was essentially at the bottom of the animation totem-pole, an inbetweener, one of the animators whose job it is to fill in the in-between drawings after the head animators draw the character’s main poses. During this time  Walt Disney was aiming for a completely different look  for Bambi. Gustaff Tenngren, who had created the main visual style for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio  had created the initial concept drawings for the film. His drawings depicted lush, detail heavy forests that would have taken forever to draw, and seemed to many to be far to busy and distracting from the main action of the animals. In his spare time Wong began to create his own watercolor concept paintings for the film. He took his inspiration from from traditional Chinese paintings and made his backgrounds minimalist and impressionistic. You can see in this painting how he masterfully used the few details in his paintings to draw the eyes attention towards the animals in the centre. Eventually Walt Disney saw Wong’s paintings and thought they were perfect for the simplistic, natural story he wanted to tell. They also had the benefit of taking much less time to create than Tenngren’s backgrounds would have. Wong was quickly promoted from in-betweener to lead concept artist and the style of the entire film was based upon his paintings.

One interesting aspect of this particular piece of Tyrus Wong concept art is that it is one of the few paintings of his I’ve seen that include Thumper alongside Bambi. Most of his concept art features Bambi alone. or accompanied by his mother or father. Thumper is not actually a character in the original book that the film was based on. He was a character made up by Disney storymen for inclusion in the film, and he was not even the first choice of sidekick for Bambi. For a while the film contained a comedic team of a squirrel and a chipmunk instead. At this time in the film’s development Thumper was a minor character, an adult rabbit that interacted with Bambi in only one scene. Eventually someone in the story department must have realized how adorable the rabbit vharacter would be as a child, and Thumper took on the role of Bambi’s best friend . It was sometime in this later phase that Wong must have made this painting

Hope you enjoyed this look at this gorgeous concept painting of Bambi and Thumper created by Tyrus Wong. His story is an inspiring one and he is truly worthy of the title of Disney legend. He passed away earlier this year at the age of 106, and I am glad to say that many websites took the time to acknowledge his fantastic contribution to the Disney masterpiece Bambi.

Image Credit: https://www.awn.com/news/bambi-artist-tyrus-wong-dead-106