A Sleepy Hollow Masterpiece Monday


Today’s Masterpiece Monday is going to be unfortunately short as the particular film I’m writing about is very difficult to find information on. Today I’m featuring  a piece of concept art from one of the lesser known Disney Animated films, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad. It is a piece of story art by an unknown Disney studio artist featuring the headless horseman from the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” portion of the film. The reason I decided to feature concept art of this particular character today is because Halloween is coming closer and closer and the Halloween parties have started happening at Walt Disney World. One of the coolest parts of the party is the ride of the Headless Horseman, which takes place before the parade (you can watch a video here, but it’s even cooler in person.) So today I thought I’d talk a little bit about the creation of this particularly spooky character.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad was the last post WWII package film made by Disney Animation before the release of Cinderella in 1950. In many ways the film seem to be leading up to the studio’s return to high quality animated features. The animation is much improved over the previous package films as most of the studio’s best animators had returned from the War by the time the film was in production. This included the famous 9 Old Men, most of whom had worked on this film. The stories in this package film are also more fully developed than the previous ones. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad contains only two rather fleshed out, if poorly connected, stories. The first is based upon Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows and was planned as a full length feature before the war, but post-war budget cuts lead to the film being shortened to just a 30 minute short film. The search then began for a story to pair the Mr.Toad segment with in a package film. Some of the stories considered were “Mickey and the Beanstalk” and a collaboration with Roald Dahl called “The Gremlins”. Eventually, Walt Disney acquired the rights to Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the short film was rather hastily produced so that the two famous literary characters of Mr.Toad and Ichabod Crane could be pared together in one film.

Because the production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was so rushed it is quite difficult to find very much concept art or information on it’s development. There are some very interesting pieces of visual development art by Mary Blair which clearly influenced the segment’s style, especially it’s backgrounds. There are also a handful of rather dark and scary looking pieces of story art like this one by an unknown artist. These drawings seem to be partially influenced by the dark and creepy demons shown in the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment in Fantasia. This particular skeletal headless horseman  idea was rejected in favor of a more cartoony and human-like horseman. This was probably to match the style of the already produced “The Wind in the Willows” segment. One has to wonder that if the film had been allowed to develop into it’s own full-length feature, would this much darker design would have been brought to life in scary detail by the talented animators that went on to create Cinderella?

So there’s a little bit about the “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ” segment of the little known  film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad. Hope you enjoyed and it made you a little more excited for fall just as it did for me.

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




Another Mulan Masterpiece Monday


I’ve been super husy, and tired, and just plain cranky this past week, so I thought I should return to my favorite Walt Disney Animation film for this week’s post, Mulan. While I’ve previously focused mostly on character design in my Mulan posts, today I thought I’d focus a bit more on the overall style of the film. I believe this piece of visual development art was created by Sai Ping Lok, one of the visual development artists for the film. The reason I selected this particular piece is that, besides being stunning to look at, it illustrates how the  overall visual style of the film was heavily influenced by traditional Chinese paintings.

I have previously discussed films like Hercules and Bambi, that had one artist whose style guided that of the entire film. This was not at all the case for Mulan. For this film, the artists had to come up with a unique style for the film in a more organic way, by studying and experimenting with various art styles and taking what they liked best from each and throwing away what they didn’t. To help the lead film’s visual development artists through this task was the production designer Hans Bacher. Bacher was an experienced visual development artist who had worked on Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Hercules. He began the task of finding Mulan‘s style by studying traditional Chinese art from various dynasties. He also studied photographs of many of the most picturesque location within China. This task was helped along by visual development artists with a familiarity with Chinese art like Sai Ping Lok. Lok created many beautiful visual development paintings like this one, influenced by various styles of art from throughout Chinese history. From these paintings Bacher and the directors of the film were able to better pin down exactly which elements of which periods of Chinese art they wanted to borrow from for the film.

Eventually Bacher and the directors settled on a style based upon Tang Dynasty era paintings. These paintings focused on bold graphic and simplistic shapes with few details. This style was a huge departure from the more heavily detail orientated art styles of the animated films that came directly before Mulan. The art style of Mulan instead focused on strong shapes with small positive details added in. It also focused heavily on playing with positive and negative space in a very graphic way.  Bacher and the visual development artists eventually came to refer to the film’s style with the phrase “poetic simplicity.” It was this motto that was used to guide all the layout artists, background artists, and other who worked on creating the final film.

Now you know how visual development paintings inspired by traditional Chinese art, like this painting of Mulan and Khan, helped the film’s crew create the unique yet distinctly Chinese art style of Mulan. Hope you enjoyed this look at one of my favorite films.

Image Credit: https://ohmy.disney.com/movies/2015/06/19/17-pieces-of-stunning-mulan-concept-art/



Another Big Hero 6 Masterpiece Monday



Today I continue my summer of being super excited for the release of Big Hero 6: The Series by focusing on the 4th member of the team, Wasabi. To do that I am featuring a piece of early character design concept art by Shiyoon Kim, whose influence on the characters  I have discussed at length in previous posts. I have mainly focused  on the characters in their super hero suits, but today I thought I’d offer a change in pace by featuring a piece of concept art depicting Wasabi in street clothes.  Wasabi went through some of the most massive changes to his personality. This evolution is clearly illustrated by his very different appearance in this concept art, which depicts an extremely early version of the character.

Wasabi, or Wasabi No-Ginger as he was initially called, was not always the anxiety ridden neat-freak  we see in the film. In his earliest versions, he was a big tough guy with a stoically zen personality. Because of this zen personality, he would have would have mostly had a stoic look on his face like the one shown in this drawing. Wasabi would have also had a side job, as a chef and owner of a sushi food-truck. This side job would have both explained Wasabi’s nickname, and why he used blades as his weapon of choice in his super suit. This little detail about Wasabi being a sushi chef is actually something  I hope comes in to play some where in the new series. Slowly Wasabi’s character began to change as the film’s development continued. The directors and animators realized that the stoic tough black guy character was something they had seen plenty of times before. They instead made Wasabi a compulsive neat-freak, thus contrasting with his burly appearance. Wasabi was changed further when Damon Wayans Jr.  was cast as his voice. The animators wanted to study and take advantage of the actor’s own expressive faces when he was recording his lines. So artist Jin Kim created model sheets for the character based on photos of the actor’s expressions in the recording both. This transformed the character into a much more expressive and outgoing character than the one in this drawing.

Interestingly enough, despite the personality changes, some of Wasabi’s personal style of clothing remains the same in both this early piece of concept art and in the final film. A large part of this was because even in the earliest stages, the character designers were still following the east meets west, San Francisco meets Tokyo aesthetic in their designs. This came across particularly well in the character’s clothing designs. I recently discovered that fashion stylist and vintage clothing store owner Danny Flynn served as a consultant for the costumes in the film.  Flynn suggested various styles of traditional Japanese clothing as well as elements of Japanese street style for the characters. Much of this came out in both Wasabi’s early concept art and in the final film. In this concept art he wears a patterned shirt loosely based on a kimono, he wears a similar, though more understated, kimono jacket in the final film. The use of drop-crotch pants found in Japanese street style and seen in both this concept and the final film was also an idea that came from Flynn. While Wasabi does not wear the Japanese style sandals seen in this drawing, his footwear in the film also retains elements of traditional Japanese clothing. Wasabi wears shoes with tabi toes, based on traditional Japanese socks, but also frequently incorporated into shoes in modern Japanese fashion. As you can see, incorporating elements of Japanese culture applied not only to the team’s super suits, but to their everyday clothing as well.

Now you know a little more about the development of Wasabi as a character. You also found out a little bit more about how the fashions of the members of the team were influenced by both traditional and contemporary Japanese fashion. The premiere of Big Hero 6: The Series is getting closer and closer and I hope these posts are starting to make you as excited for it as I am.

Image Credit: shiyoonkim.tumblr.com

A Donald Duck Masterpiece Monday


Today I thought I’d share some art work of a character that is becoming very near to my heart, Donald Duck. Since I showed some of Ub Iwerk’s earliest drawings of Mickey Mouse, I thought today I’d share some drawings of Donald’s first ever cartoon appearance, in the 1934 short ,”The Wise Little Hen.” Believe it or not this was not a Mickey Mouse short, but a Silly Symphony short where Donald Duck was a side character.  This model sheet by a Disney studio artist. comes from this early short. As a model sheet, it is also an interesting type of artwork that I have never discussed on this blog before.

Donald Duck’s first on-screen appearance was in the Silly Symphony “The Wise Little Hen”, alongside the title character and his friend Peter Pig. The short was directed by Wilfred Jackson and loosely based upon the Russian folk tale “The Little Red Hen and the Grain of Wheat”. The character’s in the short, including Donald Duck, were designed by Disney Artist Albert Hurter, who you may remember later worked on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio. Much of his character design can still be seen in the version of Donald Duck we know today.  It was Hurter’s idea to dress him in his now iconic Sailor suit and hat. At the same time there are sill clear differences in this early Donald Duck. As you can see he looks more like a realistic duck, with a longer neck, smaller head, thinner beak, and wings instead of fingers. Despite these differences, Donald’s distinct quacking voice was also present in this short, provided bu voice actor Clarence Nash, who would continue to voice Donald until his death in 1985. Nash once held the record for the longest continues voice for one animated character.

While Mickey Mouse’s first appearances were mostly animated by Ub Iwerk’s, Donald Duck was animated by several animators in “The Wise Little Hen”. His group of animators included Art Babbitt, Gilles de Tremaudan, Dick Huemer, and a team of junior animators lead by Ben Sharpsteen. With all these animators working on the short, it was super important to ensure that each character was drawn in a consistent way throughout.  This is where model sheets like this one come in to play. They serve as a guide for all the animators working on a character. The character is drawn both in full and in portraits displaying different emotions, poses, and angles. This way all of the animators can draw Donald Duck in more or less the same way in the short regardless of what he is doing in their sequence. Examining a character’s model sheet also gives you a good idea of the key points of a characters personality. Donald’s model sheet, for example, with its various poses of laughing, dancing, and faking a belly-ache, shows the character’s mischievous side. Although Dona;d’s personality has evolved since his first on-screen appearance, that aspect has remained present even today.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the birth of Donald Duck. As you can see,  though much has changed about this famous duck over the years, much has also stayed the same. If you’d like to see Donald’s first appearance in “The Wise Little Hen” you can watch it here.

Image Credit: http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/happy-birthday-donald-duck-walt-disneys-the-wise-little-hen-1934/

A Treasure Planet Masterpiece Monday



For today’s Masterpiece Monday post I am featuring this visual development painting of Jim Hawkins and John Silver for the film Treasure Planet. I recently started reading Disney Pirates: The Definitive Collector’s Anthology by Michael Singer. It discusses all of the Disney film’s that involve pirates, and there is a small section on Treasure Planet. The film is a particular favourite of mine, because I love anything with pirates in it, and I feel that it does not get nearly enough acknowledgment. While skimming through some concept art for the film, I discovered this gorgeous visual development painting and just had to feature it. Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down the artist, but nonetheless I just had to share it with you all.

Director’s John Musker and Ron Clements first had the idea for Treasure Planet all the way back in 1985. The idea came from their experiences watching an Italian mini-series entitled Treasure Island in Space. They liked the idea of creating a sci-fi updated version of Treasure Island, and thought the concept would work even better in animation. That year Disney executives Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg held a meeting called the “Gong Show” where animators proposed ideas for new films to them. Coming off their success on The Great Mouse Detective, Musker and Clements proposed two film ideas at the meeting. One of these was Treasure Planet the other was The Little Mermaid.  While the executives had no interest in Treasure Planet, the idea of The Little Mermaid did catch their attention, and so Musker and Clements went on to direct that film. Years later after the release of Aladdin, Musker and Clements once again proposed Treasure Planet and were once again told no. So they struck a bargain with the executives, the team would direct the adaptation of Hercules that the studio was currently developing, if afterwords they were allowed to finally direct Treasure Planet. The deal was struck and in the late-nineties they finally began developing  Treasure Planet. In the end, the years of delay worked to the film’s benefit, as by that time animation technology had developed to a point that allowed the directors to better achieve their vision of a spectacular outer-space action-adventure film.

I choose this particular visual development painting to feature today because it illustrates  the style Musker and Clements chose for the film so perfectly. Although Treasure Planet is a sci-fi film, the director still wanted to be able to incorporate some of the 18th century pirate elements of the original book. To encourage this they created a “70/30 law” for the artists. The style of everything in the film was to be 70% traditional adventure film, and 30% sci-fi. Going along with this mantra, the film’s visual development artists took inspiration from the Brandywine School of illustration and gave their concept art a warm, painterly feel. They took particular inspiration from the work of N.C. Wyeth, who illustrated the 1911 edition of Treasure Island. The painting I am featuring today was part of a set of visual development paintings inspired specifically by  Wyeth’s Treasure Island illustrations. As an avid collector of beautiful editions of classic novels, I immediately fell in love with the quaint traditional style of this painting of the cyborg John Silver and Jim Hawkins. I feel it is the perfect illustration of the film’s blending of traditional and sci-fi.

Hope you enjoyed this  look at visual development art for Treasure Planet. I really feel that the style of this art really came across well in animation, and it’s part of why I find the film to be such a unique and enjoyable film.

Image Credit: disneyconceptsandstuff.tumblr.com

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

A Tangled Masterpiece Monday



I’ve talked so much about my excitement about Big Hero 6: The Series that I haven’t even mentioned that there is currently a Tangled: The Series on Disney Channel. I’ve written plenty about Tangled in the past, and even wrote a full length article about the film’s story problems. Today I’m going to feature some concept art of a discarded character from the film I really hope makes into the series in some way in the future. This piece of concept art depicts the discarded character of Bastion, who I’ve talked about briefly in my longer article, but I think he is interesting enough to get his own short post today.

This concept drawing of Bastion was created by Disney character designer Jin Kim, who has worked on many other Disney films including Moana and Big Hero 6. I recently discovered a whole set of drawings he did of Bastion. Bastion was an early idea of a male lead for the film back when it was called “Rapunzel” and was still being directed by Glen Keane. He was sort of a proto-type for Flynn, but with some major differences. The biggest difference being he was of Romani descent (Keane and others used the term Gypsy to describe him, but that is a bit of a loaded term so I am going to avoid it). Like Flynn, Bastion was a thief and incredibly charming, but to an even greater extent. He was a bit like Aladdin in that he was capable of charming his way out of any sticky situation that he got into. Bastion also fell in love with Rapunzel much faster than Flynn does. In this early version of the film Rapunzel was extremely afraid of the outside world, and Bastion spent a good portion of the film convincing her to leave her tower and go explore the world with him. So despite sharing many similarities with Flynn, Bastion was still quite a different male lead.

Design wise, this Jin Kim drawing of Bastion also shares some similarities with Flynn, but as Bastion is of Romani descent, he is darker and more ethnic looking. Due to his nomadic lifestyle, he also has a more disheveled and bohemian sense of style. He’s got a long dark ponytail, which in the few color drawings of him that exist is tied up with multi coloured bands. He has an earing and many necklaces and scarves and a vest with no shirt underneath, none of which you would ever see worn by the more clean cut Flynn. Both men are handsome, but were based on different types of handsome men. Flynn was designed to appeal to every woman and was essentially designed by a committee of women working in Disney Animation in what was called the “hot man meeting”. Bastion on the other hand was designed as a very specific type of handsome, a rugged, swashbuckling, bad boy type. In this particular drawing Jin Kim based him off of a young Johnny Depp, and it definitely shows. This was actually the reason he was rejected as the male lead for the film, because Keane thought he was a bit too pretty and eccentric looking. Although there are certainly elements of the character that would become Flynn Rider in Bastion’s design, he is still a very differentleading man.

There you have it, the little bit of information I can find about the character of Bastion. Wouldn’t it be cool if he appeared in Tangled: The Series some day? Maybe as a friend of Flynn’s? I certainly think so.

Image credit: artoftangled.tumblr.com

Another Big Hero 6 Masterpiece Monday



As I said before I’m trying to write one post about all of the Big Hero 6 super hero team members before the new Big Hero 6: The Series cartoon show is released next fall. Today’, I’m featuring character design drawings for everyone’s favourite robot, Baymax. This particular piece of concept art is unique, as it was not created by any Disney animators. Instead, it was drawn by Japanese anime creator Shigeto Koyama, who was who asked by director Don Hall to provide drawings to help the animators design the robotic healthcare companion. He ended up having a huge influence on the characters design both in and outside of his armor. As you know from my previous articles, this was not the first time the Disney Animators asked an outside artist to help design a character, but it is always interesting to examine just how much influence these artists have on the final design.

How Koyama came to be asked to design Baymax is rather an interesting story. As I’ve said before, the directors were trying to add authentic elements of Japanese culture to the film. To help find inspiration, Don Hall traveled to Tokyo where he bought several Japanese toys to bring back to the studio and inspire the crew. One of these was of a character named Heroman, who was designed by Koyama. This lead Hall to meet with Koyama and ask him to help them design the look of Baymax. These sketches were some of the results of his work. Keeping in mind that Baymax was a health care companion, Koyama looked towards soft, round, white foods like mochi and pork buns for inspiration. Yet, he never fotgot he was designing a robot, and so many of his other drawings also show Baymax’s hard metal skeleton. He also designed Baymax’s armour, and really liked the idea of a soft squishy robot being hidden by imposing armour. Judging by the drawing in the upper right-hand corner, it seems he also liked the possibility of seeing Baymax try to disguise himself as a human. I personally wish this silly image of Baymax in a trenchcoat and beard had made it into the final film.

Of course, Koyama wasn’t the only one who contributed to Baymax’s design. The character designers at Disney also played a role in creating the character. They did a lot of research into new robotics technology and talked to researchers at the Carnegie Mellon institute of robotics. There they learned about “soft robotics” a new kind of robotics technology being developed using vinyl to create soft and flexible robots. They thought this new field of technology would be perfect for a health-care companion like Baymax, and so they designed him as an inflatable, huggable robot. But Baymax, couldn’t just be a piece of technology, he also had to be an appealing character. To do this they gave the robot cute but unusual features, like his waddle, which was inspired by a toddler. Baymax’s face carried on the film’s motif of Japanese inspired elements. It was based on the  look of the bells at the Suzu Shinto shrine in Japan. Don Hall felt this design would give Baymax’s face a more serene appearance. Many of these design ideas were already in place when Koyama was asked to help create Baymax’s design.

Thanks to sketches like these by  Shigeto Koyama and various pieces of concept art made by Disney character designers, Baymax’s design was eventually refined into the huggable robot we see in the final film. Baymax’s became a robot inspired a mix of Japanese culture and cutting edge technology.

Image Credit: https://akiba-souken.com/article/22338/