Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Hello, friends. And I mean that.

In the years since I started this blog, I've made real friends around the world.

The time has come for a hiatus. Possibly permanent.

It takes an incredible amount of time to digitally restore these backgrounds. I've loved every minute!

But, my life is in a state of evolving and transition, and I need to focus on that.

I'm going to leave the blog online for your reference. And mine too!

Thanks for your support and encouragement over the years. Over TWO MILLION people have visited this blog.

Amazing. It's a tribute to the artistry of the talented people in the animation industry.

For the moment... that's all, folks.

Thanks again for your interest!


Rob Richards

Monday, September 27, 2010

Website Highlight: Jason Martinsen

Hey Everybody

Haven't done a highlight in a bit so wanted to point you to Jason Martinsen's site. He's worked at quite a few studios and has done some great work on films @ BlueSky, ILM, Double Negative and even Naughty Dog the great game studio that brought you Uncharted. Under his animation tab he has generously put together a Reference Comparison showing his refVid and the shots he used them on...Great Breakdown!!


All of his work you can frame through too they are in QuickTime...enjoy.


Grizzly Bear, Governor's Island NYC

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dumbo Part 23

While there are nice bits of animation in this sequence, this section is really dominated by story and layout. The way in which the audience learns that Dumbo can fly is quite inventive. Rather than see a take-off, the screen is obscured with dust, Timothy is convinced they've failed and then the audience sees Dumbo's shadow on the farmlands below.

This image is one that could only exist in a period when commercial air travel existed or the audience (and the artists) could never have conceived of such a shot.

The other great piece of layout is shot 28, where Dumbo lands on the phone wires. That's another shot that depends on the widespread use of a technology. Will future audiences understand what those wires are when all they know is cell phones? I'm assuming that Don Towsley animated the bending poles. It's a thankless task; what could be more boring? Yet the shot always gets a laugh.

Towsley's Dumbo still has a pinched face, where the features are too low on the head. Walt Kelly gets another couple of crow shots, but I've yet to see evidence, much as I admire him, that Kelly was more than a second string animator. He was right to leave the studio for greener pastures. Ward Kimball and Fred Moore get the personality shots here, but neither does work that's up to the previous sequences. The same is true for Tytla's lone shot. That's due to the story material more than their animation.

Michael Ruocco, a sharp-eyed animation student, found a series of Fred Moore drawings from a deleted scene in this sequence and shot them. Here they are:

It's shot 30, though not the entire shot. You can lip read Timothy saying, "Dumbo! I knew you could do it!" The balance of the dialogue, not in this clip, is, "Now our troubles are over. Ho-ho!" The crows apparently agree to keep Dumbo's secret in this shot (as voice over) and shots 31 and 32. The final shot of the mosaic doesn't exist on the draft, though it is very likely by Ward Kimball.


Here's background art from TO BEEP OR NOT TO BEEP , a Warner Brothers classic from 1963!

Friday, September 24, 2010


a digitally re-assembled pan B/G of NYC:

The Vault of Walt

Here's a Disney book I'm looking forward to reading. I've known Jim Korkis in print for several decades and have always enjoyed his writing and his passion for animation history. He's the co-author (with John Cawley) of several out-of-print books such as How To Create Animation, Cartoon Confidential and The Encyclopedia of Cartoon Superstars. He has contributed numerous articles to Mouse Planet under the pseudonym Wade Sampson, a name taken to avoid any conflict with his former employment at Walt Disney World (and bonus points to you if you know where the name came from).

The book is over 400 pages of articles concerning Walt Disney, his films, and his theme parks. Many are based on Korkis's own conversations with Disney employees over the years in addition to historical research. For instance, I'm interested to read why the FBI opened a file concerning the original Mickey Mouse Club.

Here's a list of the book's contents:

Part One: The Walt Stories

The Miniature Worlds of Walt (Walt’s fascination with making miniatures)
Santa Walt (Walt’s feelings about Christmas and a special family gift)
Horsing Around: Walt and Polo
Walt’s School Daze (Walt’s public school education)
Gospel According to Walt (Walt’s feelings about religion)
Walt and DeMolay
Extra! Extra! Read All About It! (Walt’s adventures as a newspaper boy)
Walt’s Return to Marceline 1956
Walt’s 30th Wedding Anniversary (The very first Disneyland party)

Part Two: The Disney Film Stories

Disney’s Ham Actors: The Three Little Pigs (Including the Rarely Seen Spanish cartoon)
Snow White Christmas Premiere (Description of the event at the Carthay Circle in 1937)
Destino (The true story behind Salvador Dali’s collaboration with Walt Disney)
Song of the South Premiere (Description of the event in Atlanta in 1946)
The Alice in Wonderland That Never Was (The Aldous Huxley script never filmed)
Secret Origin of The Aristocats
So Dear To My Heart (The neglected film that inspired many Disney firsts)
Toby Tyler (How Walt recreated the circus of his youth with authentic props)
Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. (Only film with a story credit for Walt Disney)
Blackbeard’s Ghost (Last live action film made while Walt was alive)

Part Three: The Disney Park Stories

Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel (The complete history of a genuine antique)
Circarama 1955 (The very first 360 degree theater show at Disneyland)
Story of Storybook Land
Liberty Street 1959 (Walt’s planned addition to Disneyland that never was)
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk Through
Zorro at Disneyland (How Guy Williams and friends entertained in Frontierland)
Tom Sawyer Island
Epcot Fountain (The true meaning behind the popular landmark)
Captain EO (The only complete story in print about Michael Jackson’s 3-D film)
Mickey Mouse Revue (How and why the beloved attraction was created)

Part Four: The Other Worlds of Disney Stories

Khrushchev and Disneyland (Russian leader denied entrance to Disneyland)
A/K/A The Gray Seal (Walt’s favorite pulp mystery hero)
Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air (The unknown radio show from the Thirties)
Golden Oak Ranch (Location where Disney classic live action films were made)
Disney Goes To Macy’s
Tinker Bell Tales (The first Disneyland Tinker Bells and much more)
Mickey Mouse Club: FBI’s Most Wanted (Why Walt got in trouble with J. Edgar Hoover)
Chuck Jones: Four Months at Disney (Pepe Le Pew’s father’s troubles at Disney)
Walt’s Women: Two Forgotten Influences (Walt’s Housekeeper and Studio nurse)

The Disney History blog has posted an interview with Korkis about the book, which is currently available from Create Space and will be available from Amazon in early October.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Cure

Probably what she's listening to.  
I couldn't sleep this morning so I woke up and drew.  One of my best friends here, Joe Lee and I are working on a book w/ art based on people & places in New York.  Crunching on this movie, I've been slackin' big time but he's been doing some absolutely killer stuff! Do yourself a favor and check out his Work ! Ironically enough, Joe had never heard of the Cure before this year.  Whaaaaat. Oh those crazy Aussies!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dumbo Part 22

Except for two shots, one by Walt Kelly and the other by Don Towsley, Ward Kimball and Fred Moore dominate this sequence. Kimball does the entire song, "When I See an Elephant Fly" (except for Kelly's shot 22), including shots of Timothy. Then Moore takes Timothy over for his heartfelt recitation of Dumbo's troubles. Once again, the film is powered by contrast, this time moving from the upbeat song to the plea for understanding.

Was Kimball ever better than this and his work in Pinocchio? The music here allows him to be as broad as he wants to be while the crows' reaction to a flying elephant is perfectly reasonable. As much as I love Kimball's work, there are times I feel his broadness pulls me out of a film. His work here and in Pinocchio has an emotional grounding that keeps him functioning as part of the story.

All of Kimball's strengths are on display here: brilliant posing, fantastic accents and eccentric movements. The bottom half of the crow with glasses in shot 12 is just astounding in the way it moves. I can't figure out how Kimball planned it. Maybe he animated it straight ahead knowing where the beats were, but there's no obvious logic to it and yet it works. The shots that follow it with the two tall crows dancing are approached more conventionally, but Kimball's posing and timing make them stand out, the same as shots 19 and 20 animated to Cliff Edwards' scat singing.

If Kimball quit the business after animating this song, we'd still consider him a genius animator.

I've already written about how Kimball doesn't care which voice comes out of which crow and also pointed out that the two crows switch positions in shot 14. I've found yet another cheat. In shots 25 and 29, Jim Crow is painted different colours, so there's a sixth crow in the sequence. This might be because the film cuts from shot 29, with all the crows on the ground, to shot 30 with Jim Crow standing elsewhere. Perhaps the wrong colours were used to avoid the appearance of a jump cut.

Moore's animation does an excellent job with Ed Brophy's voice track. His trademark rhythmic line is present in his poses and his accents, such as kicking and grabbing the hat in shot 46, are dead on. Moore captures Timothy's anguish and emotional exhaustion well, making the crows' eventual response believable. Timothy's speech provokes tears, embarrassed looks and in shot 41, a cringe when Timothy describes how they made Dumbo a clown.

I've always felt that cringe was very daring. It rips away the pretense that the crows are genuinely happy, revealing their awareness of their own social position. It's that line of dialogue and the reaction to it that convert the crows to Dumbo's allies. They know what Dumbo's experienced, even if they're not showing it. Having the crows take Dumbo's side implicitly acknowledges that they are equally victims of injustice, a rather audacious racial attitude for a 1940 Hollywood film.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dumbo Part 21A

This is a continued discussion of the "Up in the Tree" sequence. The first part dealt with racial issues surrounding the crow characters. This part will look at the animation. I'm reprinting the mosaic below so that you don't have to scroll down several articles to see the shots.

The two animators whose work is important in this sequence are Ward Kimball and Don Towsley. Kimball is a master of certain things. His poses are very strong; they have a strong line of action and good negative shapes. They are also very rhythmic, with long sweeping curves that tie a character's body parts together into a unified whole. He also understands stretch and squash, changing the character's body shape to make the pose more pleasing or to communicate more effectively. As a result, the poses read very clearly.

The pose above is typical of Kimball's work. Note the negative spaces that separate the legs, arms and cigar from the rest of the body. This pose has a clear silhouette. The line that runs down the back ends at the character's right foot and the line that runs down the chest ends at the character's left toes. That line also forks and continues to the sweep of the tail. Note that the angle of the arms and the tail are parallel and that each arm is defined by continuous curved lines, broken only by scalloping to give the impression of feathers.

Kimball is also a master of contrasting timing. This was standard at the Disney studio at the time, though Kimball's background as a jazz musician may have made him more sensitive to this than most. If you watch this sequence with the sound turned off, you can clearly see how Kimball accents his animation by placing fast actions against slow ones. This is accomplished by the spacing between drawings. The wider the spacing between drawings, the faster the character will appear to move.

There's a sequence in the Disney Family Album on Kimball, where he flips key drawings drawings of Jiminy Cricket. (If you go to the link, the relevant portion is at 2:42.) Those drawings are an entire course in animation by themselves. Everything an animator has to know is in those drawings and by 1940, those qualities were as natural to Kimball as breathing.

Don DaGradi did a good job of laying out the crowd shots of the crows. However, Kimball knew how to animate them so that the audience knows where to look. This is another tough skill to master, as with 5 characters on the screen, an animator who doesn't understand staging will produce a mess of unfocused movement.

What's here is typically strong Kimball animation, but the next sequence is where Kimball really shines.

I first watched this sequence single frame on Super 8mm film. During the heyday of the home movie market, Disney released seven minute long sequences from their features in colour and sound. The last few shots of Timothy really made an impression on me due to their strong poses. At the time, I assumed that the work was by Fred Moore, though now I know it was Don Towsley, a lesser-known animator who did some excellent work at Disney.

The one negative against Towsley in this sequence is his treatment of Dumbo's face. He pushes the facial features too low on the head, giving them a pinched look.

However, his animation of Timothy is great. In those final shots, Timothy is bursting with enthusiasm for his vision of the future. Towsley puts in a lot of broad poses that are very different from each other, though each one is impeccable. As Timothy moves between the poses, the rapidity of his movements perfectly communicates his excitement at discovering the truth that will finally redeem Dumbo.

In addition to what I've already mentioned, take a close look at panels 5-12. The motion is very sophisticated in that Towsley is not having all the body parts move at once. In panels 5-9, the arms are leading the body. In panel 10, the body leads and the arm hangs back before snapping forward in panel 11 and the motion resolving itself in panel 12.

Look at how broad those poses and shape changes are. Look how appealing the drawings are. You can't tell the timing from the stills, but there's some very fast accents in that animation. Towsley really knew what he was doing.

Monday, September 6, 2010

BAMBI Winter Pan B/G

The complete re-assembled pan B/G:

Left side detail:

Right side detail: