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/


A Winnie the Pooh Masterpiece Monday


I feel as though I have been neglecting the films of the “Dark Ages”. This is in large part because there seems to be so very little information about these films out there, except for those films that Walt had a hand in before he died. Today’s featured piece of concept art comes from one of those films, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Walt had actually been working on making an animated adaptation of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books since the 1940s, and the first segment of the film Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was released as a featurette while he was alive. This piece of concept art by an unknown studio artist comes from that segment, and depicts the live-action prologue with its twist on the classic Disney storybook opening. It highlights one of my favorite aspects of the film, the character’s almost meta awareness that they are characters in a classic children’s’ book.

It was not until the 1960s, after two decades of trying, that Walt Disney was able to acquire both adaptation and merchandising rights for the Winnie-the-Pooh . By that time Walt Disney was starting to have some doubts over the stories’s potential to be a successful animated feature. Disney had suffered several flops over the course of his career, and some of his least successful and most criticized films were those based on classic children’s books. In particular, Alice in Wonderland was heavily scrutinized by devotees of Lewis Carroll’s books. British Pooh fans were just as big of purists as Alice fans, while American’s were not nearly as familiar with the characters as children in Europe were and so Walt started to worry about the film finding and pleasing an audience. To top it off, the Pooh stories, while having fantastic characters, lacked many of the plot elements generally found in his most successful features. There was very little drama, no romance, and no villain. For these reasons, Walt decided to make two very important decisions regarding the film. First, it was to be released as a series of episodic featurettes, to introduce american audiences to the characters and make up for the stories dramatic plot deficiencies.  Second, it would be directed by animator Woolie Reitherman who was not a particular fan of the books, as he was best equipped to solve the problem of pleasing British audiences while still making a recognizably Disney product.

Reitherman’s solution was for the film to never lose sight of the fact that the characters were from a series of children’s books. This lead to the use of the storybook opening in the nursery as a framing device, as seen in this concept art, as well as the idea of having a narrator who read from the occasionally visible pages of the book. Even the characters were made aware of their existence inside a book and occasionally interacted with the physical text itself. Design wise, there were thoughts of closely following the original illustrations of Ernest H. Shepard. but the illustrations proved too difficult to animate. Still, the animators stuck closely to Shepherd’s stuffed toy designs, with button eyes and mitten-like hands, while making the characters a bit softer and more expressive.  The backgrounds also took inspiration from Shepard’s illustration in their design. They were painted in simple water colours, with bold ink lines that mimicked the cross-hatched shading of the original illustrations. While the films’ art style took heavy inspiration from the original books, Reitherman wanted to be sure not to make the film seem too stuffy and British. He wanted to attract American audiences so they would watch future Pooh films. He did this by adding broad humor and gags into the story, and by creating a new character for American audiences to embrace, the folksy American Gopher. Yet, even the creation of Gopher was done with a clear awareness of his presence as an interloper, as both Gopher and Pooh discuss how he is “not in the book.” It is this same humorous awareness of it’s awkward position as an American animated adaptation of a revered British classic that, to me ,makes the film so enjoyable to watch .

In the end, the first short based on the Pooh stories, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was quite well received on both sides of the pond, and the featurettes that followed were even more successful. Eventually, they were compiled like chapters in a book into the full length The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which is now nearly as beloved and revered by audiences as the original books.

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


A Pirates Masterpiece Monday


I just saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales which was a perfect addition to my absolute favourite film franchise and so I thought I’d make a Masterpiece Monday post about Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Today’s concept art is a early piece of costume design art for Jack Sparrow. It was most likely drawn by Penny Rose, who has been the costume designer for every film in the franchise. This costume design is obviously very different from Jack Sparrow’s famous costume, much more romantic and less disheveled than in the final film. This is in large part because this design most likely came before Johnny Depp started to get involved in creating his costume. In fact Depp played a huge part in creating every aspect of Captain Jack Sparrow.

The creation of Jack Sparrow’s costume was very much a collaborative process between Penny Rose and Johnny Depp. The main part of the process was a hour long fitting session. Rose provided dozens of options for each part of Jack’s costume and Depp chose what he felt fit his character best, making instructions for alterations when necessary.  Depp carefully selected each of Jack’s accessories with a story for the character in mind. For example, Jack wears a piece of Spanish lace tied around his wrist that is meant to be a trophy he took from a woman he once slept with. This also applies to Jack’s many rings. He has one designed after the rings that Spanish widows wore, another souvenir from a conquest. Another of his rings is modeled after a real Greco-Roman ring owned by a friend of Johnny’s and is meant to be a piece of ancient treasure picked up in one of Jack’s travels. He also has a jade ring with a dragon on it, from one of his many visits to Singapore. Depp even provided some of his own accessories to be used in the film, including a ring he picked up at a thrift-shop in the 80s. Jack’s dread-locks with little bits and bobbles tied in was entirely Depp’s idea. It was based on the hairstyle of his good friend Keith Richards, who was constantly tying souvenirs of his travels into his hair. These hair accessories were also hand-selected by Depp with various stories in mind. Two particular favorite’s of Depp’s was the long shin-bone of a reindeer and a pretty blue crystal. Even Jack’s hat was hand selected by Depp. Penny Rose presented him a number of hats at the end of their fitting, and Depp immediately selected the one in the film as the perfect hat for Jack and refused to try on any others. Jack Sparrow was very much a part of Depp and he knew exactly what the character should look like.

Jack Sparrow was very much Johnny Depp’s creation in a number of other ways. As you can see from this costume design art, Jack was originally imagined as a more romanticized stereotypical swashbuckler. Depp didn’t want to go that way with the character as he felt that he had seen that in films far too many times before. Instead, he pictured Jack as a 18th century rock-star of the sea. So he based his characters personality and mannerisms after Keith Richards. He also took some of the character’s mannerisms and manner of speaking from the cartoon skunk, Pepe la Pew. While this drawing depicts a very traditionally handsome pirate, Depp actually wanted his character to look unattractive. He had some pretty crazy ideas for ways in which to do this. One of his earliest ideas for the character was for him to have had his nose cut off in battle and poorly stitched back on. This would have given him an ugly blue nose, and would have led to bits of comedy with Jack having sneezing fits that lead to his nose falling off. The director felt this idea to be a little too outrageous and rejected it. Depp’s next idea was to give Jack a mouth completely full of gold teeth, and this made it all the way until filming when it was discovered that the teeth appeared blindingly bright on camera. The gold teeth were then reduced to just a few, some of which actually belonged to Depp. In the end Depp got some of the disheveled rock-star pirate he was imagining in Jack Sparrow, a far cry from the handsome leading man in this drawing.

Hope you enjoyed this look at Penny Rose and Johnny Depp’s creation of Jack Sparrow for Pirated of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. I know today’s article was very different than my typical animation articles, but I just had to show some love for my absolute favorite film.


Image Credit: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl: 2 Disc Collectors Edition


A Mermaid Masterpiece Monday

ariel 5.png

You may have heard that throughout social media that the month of May is being referred to as “Mermay”  to celebrate mermaids. In honour of Mermay I thought  I’d write another post all about everyone’s favorite Disney mermaid, Ariel from The Little Mermaid. This artwork is a character design drawing of Ariel in her mermaid form by an studio artist who’s name I have unfortunately been unable to track down. While in my last Ariel post I focused on how the animators made the important decision of what colour Ariel’s hair and tail should be, today with this black and white drawing I want to focus on how real teenage girls influenced the teenage mermaid’s design.

One of my passions in my research and writing is uncovering the untold stories of the many real woman and girls who inspired and contributed to the design of the Disney princesses. There were several woman who contributed to Ariel’s look, and many of them were young ordinary women. Everyone knows that Broadway actress Jodi Benson provided the mermaid’s speaking and singing voice, and animators also studied footage of her recording sessions to gain inspiration for Ariel’s expressions. Like Snow White, Cinderella, and so many others, a live action reference model was also filmed acting out Ariel’s role in footage used as a guideline for the animators. This model was Sherri Stoner, an expressive and silly improv comedian whose thin 5′ 2″ frame inspired Ariel’s own super thin teenage body. Many of Ariel’s teenage mannerisms were also taken from the footage of Stoner, including her frequent biting of her lip and her habit of blowing her hair out of her face. For the design of Ariel’s face, supervising animator Glen Keane looked to a source very close to home, his wife. He also studied pictures of a young starlet who he felt epitomized the 1980s teenage spirit, Alyssa Milano star of Who’s the Boss? . It was very important to the animators that Ariel looked like a typical teenage girl, despite her mermaid tail.

Ariel has so much contemporary fame that I think many forget that she is very much a product of the 1980s. That is why I chose this particular drawing, as it really highlights how much the era influenced Ariel’s design. Just look at the frizzy ’80s pigtails she has in this drawing and the giant flower hair accessory. Her heavy makeup is a clear reflection of the trends of the era as well. Although Ariel’s final look toned down this trendiness, her hair and makeup are still clearly 80s inspired. Her human clothes are even more a product of the era, just look at the leg-o-mutton sleeves on her wedding dress that were lifted straight from Princess Diana’s own wedding dress. Her personality is also based upon the concerns of a typical ’80s teenager. She’s a rebellious teenager eager to be considered an adult and be free to make her own choices, while still being “daddy’s little girl”, a clear contrast from Cinderella and Aurora in the ’50s. Ariel’s strong athletic swimming ability also makes her stand out from past princesses, while reflecting the exercise craze of the 1980s. While Ariel may still be the favourite of many  little girls today, she really is the embodiment of a 1980s teenager.

Hope you enjoyed this brief look at Ariel from The Little Mermaid and the real young women of the 1980s who inspired her. Happy Mermay!

Image Credit: The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition