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: /disneyconceptsandstuff.tumblr.com