Thursday, October 29, 2015

Original Courvoisier Production Cel Set-up of Snow White and Five Animals

Original hand painted and hand inked production cel of Snow White with five animals (fawn, rabbit, and three chipmunks); all over a hand painted Courvoisier background from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," 1937; Size - Snow White & Animals: 4 1/4 x 6", Image 6 1/2 x 6 1/2", Frame 15 3/4 x 15 3/4"; Framed using a wood frame, double matted, and UV plexiglass.

“Lips red as the rose. Hair black as ebony. Skin white as snow.”
―The Magic Mirror describing Snow White

Development on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs began in early 1934, and by June Walt Disney announced to The New York Times the production of his first feature, to be released under Walt Disney Productions.  Before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Disney studio had been primarily involved in the production of animated short subjects in the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies series.  However, Disney hoped to expand his studio's prestige and revenues by moving into features, and he estimated that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs could be produced for a budget of $250,000 (this was ten times the budget of an average Silly Symphony).

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was to be the first full-length cel animated feature in motion picture history, and as such Walt Disney had to fight to get the film produced. Both his brother and business partner Roy Disney, as well as his wife Lillian attempted to talk him out of it.  The Hollywood movie industry mockingly referred to the film, while is was in production, as "Disney's Folly."  Disney ended up having to mortgage his house to help finance the film's production, which would eventually ran up to a total cost of $1,488,422.74; an absolutely massive sum for a feature film in 1937!

A large number of actresses auditioned for the voice of Snow White. Walt Disney listened to each audition in his office while the actress performed in another room, without any knowledge of the actress' appearance or reputation. This would insure that he would only judge based on the sound of the voice. According to later accounts, most of the voices Disney felt, did not sound young enough. Eventually, in September of 1935, Adriana Caselotti was chosen for the voice of Snow White. Caselotti was eighteen at the time and made her coloraturo soprano sound younger, knowing that the character was intended to be 14 years old. In recording sessions Caselotti found difficulty in the line, "Grumpy, I didn't know you cared"; instead of "didn't", Caselotti was only able to say "din". After rehearsing the line many times, Walt Disney eventually said "Oh, the heck with..." and "din'" remained in the final film.

Snow White's design was supervised by Grim Natwick, an animator who had previously developed and worked on Betty Boop at Fleischer Studios. It is interesting to note that early designs for the Snow White resemble Betty Boop, and some appear to be caricatures of famous actresses of the time. As development continued, Snow White became more and more lifelike. Another animator, Hamilton Luske's first designs for Snow White depicted her as a slightly awkward, gangly teenager. However, Walt Disney had a different idea in mind; he wanted Snow White to be older, and more realistic-looking. This was achieved by the use of live-action references for the animators. Also, in order for Snow White to better relate onscreen to the seven Dwarfs, it was decided that her head be slightly larger than normal. In addition, the women in the animation studio's ink and paint department felt that Snow White's black hair was too unnatural and harsh, so they drybrushed whisps of light grey over the top of each and every cel.

Framed image of the Snow White and animals original production cel.

This is a wonderful original Courvoisier production cel set-up of Snow White with five animals. The cels are from the scene in the film when Snow White has fled from the Queen's castle after being spared by the Huntsman. After a frighting run through a forest, Snow White finds herself in a clearing and sings the song "With A Smile and A Song." Slowly forest animals begin to come out from hiding and begin to comfort her. This set-up has a fawn nustling under Snow White's arm while she is petting a bunny and three chipmunks scurry around her. An absolutely beautiful cel set-up placed on top of an original Courvoisier airbrush background.

To see the cel in the film; click on the short video:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Original Production Animation Cel of Prince Phillip and His Horse Samson from "Sleeping Beauty," 1959

Original hand painted and hand inked production cel of Prince Phillip and Samson from "Sleeping Beauty," 1959; Set on a hand prepared background; Size - Prince Phillip and Samson: 3 1/4 x 4 3/4", Image 11 x 22"; Unframed.

Prince Phillip was animated by Milt Kahl and voiced Bill Shirley and Aurora was animated by Marc Davis (who was also lead animator for Maleficent) and voiced by Mary Costa. Both Bill and Mary would be live action models for Prince Phillip and Briar Rose/Princess Aurora for the animators, and their chemistry was magical on screen. In addition, their singing together was one of the many highlights of the film. As discussed by Andreas Deja, Milt Kahl did not like the job of animating Prince Phillip:

"Some of you might know that Milt absolutely despised working on the prince. During one of our get togethers I asked him, how he could do such a beautiful job on a character he loathes. To my best recollection he said: 'Well, the character needs to be in the picture, I didn't like the assignment, but you do the best you can.'"

Close up of the Prince Phillip on Samson production cel.

The animation of Prince Phillip by Milt Kahl was radically different than prior Princes in other films.  Phillip was an active character; speaking to his horse Sampson and Sampson understanding what he was saying.  Phillip was also seen as a child at the start of the film, had to be animated in more than one outfit, was the first Prince to use weapons against a Villain; and had to speak, interact, and sing with his love interest Princess Aurora/Briar Rose.

The entire 12 x 27" pan original production animation cel of Prince Phillip riding his horse Samson.

Also from Andreas Deja:
"As I mentioned before, Milt Kahl really didn't enjoy animating Prince Phillip. A handsome dude with a limited range for acting just didn't appeal to him. Of course he still gave it all he'd got to put a descent performance on the screen. (In reference to viewing some of Kahl's rough drawings)... It looks to me that this scene was somewhat based on live action reference, but the translation into drawn animation is incredible. Just dealing with the horse turning direction would be a real challenge. Assistant artist Dave Suding, who worked on the film, told me once that one clean up drawing with the prince on his horse took one full day. That means a second of final clean up footage would require a whole month! Incredible."

This is a great cel of Prince Phillip riding his horse Samson, set on a beautiful hand painted non-production forest background. Both the Prince and his stead are full figure and this is a wonderful piece of animation history.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Original Animation Production Cel of Madame Medusa & Mr. Snoops from "The Rescuers," 1977

Original hand-painted production animation cel of Madame Medusa and Mr. Snoops used during the production of The Rescuers, 1977, Walt Disney Studios; Set on a lithographic background; Walt Disney seal lower right; Size - Madame Medusa & Mr. Snoops: 8 x 9 1/4", Image 15 x 10 1/2"; Unframed.

"The Rescuers" is an animated feature film produced by Walt Disney Productions; and was released on June 22, 1977 by Buena Vista Distribution. The film is based on a series of books by Margery Sharp, most notably "The Rescuers and Miss Bianca." The 23rd film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film is about the Rescue Aid Society; an international mouse organization headquartered in New York; and shadowed the United Nations. The Rescue Aid Society, a mouse based group, was dedicated to helping abduction victims around the world at large. Two of these mice, jittery janitor Bernard (voiced by Bob Newhart) and his co-agent, the elegant Miss Bianca (voiced by Eva Gabor), set out to rescue Penny, an orphan girl being held prisoner in the Devil's Bayou by treasure huntress Madame Medusa.

Photograph showing the entire Madame Medusa and Mr. Snoops production cel with Disney Seal.

Early designs for Medusa were done by Ken Anderson, there were even discussions about bringing back Cruella deVil from "101 Dalmatians" as the villain; but that was eventually abandoned. The character of Medusa was eventually created and although there are many similarities with Cruella (thin build, similar cars, appear wealthy, bad tempers, cry upon realizing that they have lost, etc.), Medusa is still quite distinct with her wild red hair, sagging breasts, green eyes, and lots and lots of makeup. Her ultimate goal in the film is to possess the Devil's Eye, the world's largest diamond. Milt Kahl was given the task of animating Medusa and it is known that one his inspirations was his ex-wife. Kahl's brilliance in animation is really showcased with this character and many point to the scene where she is removing her false eyelashes as proof of his technical skill. Geraldine Page, the Oscar winning actress, provided the voice to this wonderful villain and the way that she utilizes her voice tone is just so wonderful and extremely memorable.

Close up of the Madame Medusa and Mr. Snoops production animation cel.

Mr. Snoops was Madame Medusa's business partner and her henchman. He was animated by the veteran Walt Disney animator Milt Kahl and voiced by Joe Flynn, an American character actor best known for his role in the 1960s ABC television situation comedy, "McHale's Navy." He was also a frequent guest star on TV shows, such as "Batman," and appeared in several earlier Walt Disney films. The role of Mr. Snoops was to be Flynn's last; he died on July 19, 1974 from drowning shortly after completing his performance in the film.

From Walt Disney animator Andreas Deja:
"Brilliantly drawn and animatedly by Milt Kahl, his part in the movie The Rescuers is relatively small. This is due to the fact that actor Joe Flynn, who voiced the character, died in 1974 during production of the film. Director Woolie Reitherman decided to build Snoop’s role around the already recorded dialogue, instead of using a sound-alike actor for further development.  Snoop’s design is based on animation historian and teacher John Culhane. Milt had given a talk at his class in New York and was inspired by John’s appearance. Snoops is one of many Kahl masterpieces. He is a chubby man, dressed in a baggy suit, wearing oversized glasses and 1970s platform shoes. Milt took great care and delight in defining the character’s bulgy anatomy. His arms are relatively short in contrast to his big pear shaped body. As in all of Milt’s characters, Snoop’s chubby hands are beautifully defined. They are worth studying frame by frame, because…they are just plain fun to watch in slow motion. There is as much personality in these hands as there is in Snoop’s expressions."

It is always a great joy to be able to acquire animation cels that have more than one character. In the case of Disney animation art; this is rather rare because unlike other animation studios, Disney artists animated the characters independently in order achieve a more realistic look. This is a great cel because it has the two main villains of the film on a single sheet of acetate. The cel is used during the end of the film when Medusa realizes that the Devil's Eye Diamond is located inside of Penny's teddy bear. Medusa, with gun in her hand, races over top of Mr. Snoops in an attempt to grab the Diamond.

To view the scene which this cel was used to create, click on the short video below: