Check the Category Labels in the side-bar on the right! There you can find animator drafts for sixteen complete Disney features and eighty-five shorts,
as well as Action Analysis Classes and many other vintage animation documents!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prod. 2521 - The Small One (II)  - Section 2 - Loading wood and journey home

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Animation by John Pomeroy, Heidi Guedel/Ballreich/Garofalo, Lorna Pomeroy, Jerry Rees, Bill Hajee, Gary Goldman and Emily Jiuliano.

Did you read Heidi's 2003 book "Animatrix: A Female Animator - How Laughter Saved My Life?" It has several chapters on her time at Disney's, her first animation on The Rescuers, daily life at the studio, and it basically ends when she left the studio to follow Don Bluth. If you are hoping for a full book describing life at the studio, well, this is not it. There is a lot of very personal stuff in there.
But I wasn't disappointed, as in over 100 pages she describes her time at the studio and puts you right there in that interesting time in the middle of the 70's. In these pagers you get a close-up view that most official books cannot give you.
Heidi, it turns out, is still quite active in the arts, but as a sculptress in Florida.

Looking at this section, I really like Heidi's scene 3, Small One waking up. Simple, but it tells its point well. John Pomeroy's scene 10, of Small One sliding down hill and the boy running after him, is quite nice, while his scene 18, the father asking his question towards the camera, is probably not his proudest moment. Jerry Rees (of Brave Little Toaster and Tron fame) has a nice scene 14 with the boy trying to hold the sticks.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Prod. 2521 - The Small One (I)  - Section 1 - Waking up of Small One

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All draft pages are FINAL and have the same date: 10/9/1978 - a month and a half after my first visit to the Disney studio. Except for sequence number and title, all other info is identical, as well: Directed by Don Bluth, assisted by Rick Rich, layout by Dan Hansen with secretary C. Rogers.

In this segment/section/sequence we find animation by Randy Cartwright, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, Bill Hajee and Don Bluth.
I can't help but feel that we are looking at a work-in-progress: animators learning their craft...

Again: I would be more than happy to hear from anyone who worked on the film...

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Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a.....

The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway.
There's never been such a day
in Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's June the twenty-eighth, —
And I am longing to be out West —


Ok, it doesn't rhyme, but it means what I mean to say - for this largely is the beginning of Irving Berlin's White Christmas, and though I am in the AC-free Danish summer, I would actually much rather be in L.A....

But all is money. I can hear it now! "Clink, clink, clank, clank, get the money to the bank..." And thus...

...next up is Prod. 2521. Yes, you guessed it! The Small One!
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Some of you may raise eyebrows! Some may raise noses! Well, you should have commented earlier - this is what you get for being quiet! I am certain that there will be some of you who will be particularly interested, though, and let's face it: while most all the earlier drafts feature artists who are not with us any longer, many of the ones who worked on this film are still around! Let's get their input! It may even get to be quite a lot more interesting than we at first expect!

Directed by Don Bluth, written by Vance Gerry and Pete Young based on a book by Charles Tazewell. Backgrounds by Jim Coleman and Daniela Bielecka. The film premiered on December 16th, 1978 with the 5th re-release of Pinocchio.

Having known the songs basically since 1978, they certainly grew on me, even though I always found Sean Marshall too, well, Californian. But I guess that is OK for Californians. It seems, though, looking at IMDb, that even THIS film has not escaped the PC Police! I read: "The Merchant's Song" lyrics have been altered. The original lyrics were "We simply cheat a little if we must". In the recent versions it was changed to "We work a little harder if we must". This is because the original lyrics are perceived to have Jewish stereotypes. These original lyrics are no longer present on the DVD versions of the film.
How do they make this stuff up?
Isn't what they did actually perpetuating the stereotypes? I mean - THEY (the PC Police) suggest that Jews cheat by making this alteration! Honestly! The original song was FINE! Actually, they have now put "working harder" on one line with crooks. What kind of a message is THAT to present to coming generations?
[Ergh! Just saw it on YouTube with these new lyrics! Yikes!]

IMDb also states that this film was originally to be directed by Dick Sebast. What's up with that?

Doesn't Bethleham (with an A) - sound like a town in England?
Anyway, The Small One it is! Then, if everyone is nice and comments here, I will follow it with The Rescuers...

(Eager readers will ask me "But... but how did we get from Melody Time and Johnny Appleseed to The Small One?" To which I answer: the original backing group for Bing Crosby's White Christmas were the Ken Darby Singers. Obscure enough for you?)

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Johnny Appleseed revisited

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When, in the Eisner years, all departments of the Disney Company were forced to deliver material to be sold through eBay, on what they called Disney Auctions, I was lucky enough to pick up this piece of art. It was described basically as "boy with pan on head and skunk, from a magazine."

What this is, of course, is an illustration by master background painter Al Dempster for the article you see on the right in Walt Disney's Magazine (formerly Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club Magazine), an amazing run of magazines with simple stories but illustrated by some of the greatest Disney artists in the late 50's. One finds work by Ken Anderson, X. Atencio, Collin Campbell, Vic Habush, Ken Hultgren, Eyvind Earle, Herb Ryman - art directed by Paul Hartley under the supervision of record-boss Jimmie Johnson.

[Visitors: remember to check out the rest of my stuff!!!]

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dumbo and other drafts...

...or getting around the limited posts shown when clicking on a label.

Michael Barrier, who unwittingly drove my desire for historical information on animation through the invaluable magazine Funnyworld when I first came in contact with it through my mentor Børge Ring in 1978 (where I also saw my first animation drafts) notes on his great site that "unfortunately, I haven't figured out to get to the earliest installments, but a full page of later posts of the draft comes up when you click on the label "Dumbo.""

If you look to the right column, there you find the "Archives" links.
In the case of Dumbo, the first posts are from April 2010, so pressing that link will show them.

This should give you access to most of the 630 earlier postings. Whenever there are too many posts to be able to be shown within a month, this can cause the last ones to "drop off," which has annoyed me for quite some time. In this Blogger template, I do not know how to add an "Older posts" link, and I tried updating to the newer template, but I had problems running the Javascript necessary for te conversions.

John V. wrote a very helpful comment: "As I eventually discovered, if some of the posts "drop off", then go to the last post displayed (this can only be done, I think, by clicking on the "comments" link, then on the title of the post) and on the right hand side of the page there will be links to the previous few posts. Then you can just continue to follow the posts back by clicking on each individual post title."

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Thoughts on Melody Time

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These Little Toot storyboard drawings were sold last year through Heritage Auctions...

Having gone through the entire draft of this film in a week, and eagerly awaiting comments, I do have a final thought regarding the order by which the film was put together. let's have a look at the dates of these final drafts:

2052 2/20/47 Little Toot Geronimi
2059 11/5/47 Bumble Boogie Kinney
2056 12/12/47 Pecos Bill Geronimi
2058 2/9/48 Johnny Appleseed Jaxon
2055 2/24/48 Once Upon a Wintertime Luske
2060 4/8/48 Blame it on the Samba Geronimi
2054 5/5/48 Trees Luske
2061 5/6/48 Titles&Inserts Jaxon

Interestingly enough, the draft for Little Toot predates all but Bumble Boogie and Pecos Bill by a year or more. No wonder that its intro sequence in the first part of the draft is scene 1 - and its production number is the lowest. I would think that Johnny Appleseed and Bumble Boogie were next in the pipeline, and they became scenes 2 & 3, and so on and so forth. Why the intro for the relatively short sequence Trees - with the one-before-lowest low production number - is numbered before Pecos Bill while the final draft is dated five months later is curious to me. Maybe I do attach too much value to these dates - who knows! Here are the sequences again as listed in the first pages.

Page 1, scene 1 & 1.1 - Little Toot intro (2052)
Page 1, scene 2 & 2.2 - Johnny Appleseed intro (2058)
Page 2, scene 3 & 3.1 - Bumble Boogie intro (2059)
Page 2, scene 4 - Once upon a Wintertime intro (2055)
Page 2, scene 5 - Trees intro (2054)
Page 3, scene 6 - Blame it on the Samba intro (2060)
Page 3, scene 7 & 7.1 - Pecos Bill intro (2056)
Page 3, scene 10 & the entire page 4 - Opening credits & intro
Page 5, scene 40 - End title

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prod. 2061 - Melody Time (VIII)  - 2060 - Blame it on the Samba

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Directed by Gerri Geronimi, assistant director Ted Sebern, layout by Hugh Hennesy and Bob Cormack. This FINAL draft is from 4/8/48.

Again a musical piece, and though Kinney or Jaxon might have directed it a little more light-hearted than Geronimi, it is still a fun and lively segment with animation by Hal King, John Lounsbery, Les Clark, Harvey Toombs and Ward Kimball, effects by Josh Meador. I know the names are a bit hard to read (Josh Meador the hardest, it seems), but I think it is possible to decipher them anyway.

For a closer look of this segment, check out Thad's blog.

Again, it is the last segment in the draft because its production number is highest, though it is the penultimate segment in the film.

This concludes my complete feature draft #9, prod. 2061 Melody Time. I will try to sum things up in my next post. In the mean time, as always, please feel free to comment!

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Prod. 2061 - Melody Time (VII)  - 2059 - Bumble Boogie

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Directed by Jack Kinney, layout by Al Zinnen.
This FINAL draft is from 11/5/47.

A fun action sequence, no surprise it is directed by Kinney.
Animation by Les Clark, Marvin Woodward and Harvey Toombs. Effects by Jack Boyd.

One can see here that during the inventory in 1964 they found nine backgrounds for scene 32...

Congratulations on all anniversaries - and that includes:
the 47th anniversary of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room and
the 43rd anniversary of Walt's last personally supervised live action film The Happiest Millionaire (an under-loved film about which I here will only allow positive comments regardless).

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Prod. 2061 - Melody Time (VI)  - 2058 - Johnny Appleseed

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Directed by Wilfred Jackson, assistant director Mike Holoboff, layout by MacLaren Stewart. This FINAL draft is from 2/9/48.

Animation by Ollie Johnston, Hal Ambro, Les Clark, Milt Kahl, Harvey Toombs, Eric Larson, Don Lusk, Hicks Lokey, Ward Kimball and Marvin Woodward. Effects by Josh Meador, Ed Aardal and George Rowley.

Apart from the very design-y backgrounds, this, too is a very classical piece. Not much is left of Mary Blair's designs in the characters. The only place where her influence is really noticeable is the design of the settlers, some of them even with the blue almond Mary Blair eyes. The the composition of the background layouts are at times quite beautifully two-dimensional, seemingly going against everything that gives a sense of depth in a way that only a painting can convey.

The content is quite another matter. The story is about the unlikely hero's journey of John Chapman, born 9/26/1774 in Leominster, Mass., died 3/18/1845 in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, at the (for the time) respectful age of 70. As such, when you go a bit in depth in the origins of the legend, it is interesting enough, even though we really are just watching the story of "a badly dressed missionary who planted apples throughout three states." He has become an American legend, so let's learn to live with that.

In this Disney version, however, old Johnny Appleseed looking like a baby with a beard stuck on is not the most appealing of designs, and I am reluctant to comment on the way that his Swedenborgian religious views enter into the story. I let it be the basis for someone's thesis. As Thad, who himself detests this segment, pointed out recently, Milt Kahl did not like parts of this film [rephrased after comment]. But let's be honest: this piece too has plenty of merits, even apart from the interesting and at times quite beautiful backgrounds. Take for instance the fun square dance animated by Ward Kimball - it is not a star bit, but it is full of life in a way that few others have been able to match as masterfully. I also like the bit with the skunk a lot, even though I have my doubts about Eric Larson's assistants, as most of these scenes wobble terribly. Great timing, though.

There is, of course, a lot of music in here (what else, in a film called Melody Time!), and the music, though not terribly memorable, is nicely integrated, which we have come to expect from Jaxon the director. One is tempted to remember the story in Jack Kinney's book Walt Disney and Assorted Other Characters, where he writes that Walt told Ken Darby upon hearing music for this segment: "It sounds like New Deal music!" to which Darby replied: "That is just a cross section of one man's opinion." Exit Ken Darby from the Disney opus.

On a personal note: here is another bit of primary source information that has never seen the light of day in its entirety before! I am quite surprised that e.g. the Pecos Bill draft that I posted yesterday until today has drawn only ONE comment! As much as I enjoy the comments of John V., Zartok-35 and Steven Hartley, there MUST be others out there with an opinion, or, even better, additional information! GET TO DA COMMENTIN', PEEPS!

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