Here is the first look at our newest Disney princess Moana, and the other main character in the film, Maui. Coming next feature after Zootopia.
I was honored to have been invited to be one of four judges, me, from Disney, and three famous Chinese Artists, to judge a My Dream Mickey art contest in Shanghai, China this week. It was held by Disney to further encourage Chinese students of all ages up to university age, to engage their imaginations more fully with art. It was an experience I'll never forget. Our Disney office, led by Nikkey Wang, and Carol Choi, took great care of me for the quick three day trip.
About 5 years ago, Don Hahn asked me if I would do some conceptual art for an idea he had to develop Tim Burton's 1980s live action short film "Frankenweenie" into a full length animated film. He was going to pitch the idea to Tim and wanted to know if I would come back to Disney to do 2 months worth of development art for his pitch to Tim. I jumped at it because although I was doing freelance for Brenda Chapman Lima's The Bear and the Bow (Brave) at the time, I still had plenty of bandwidth to take on Frankenweenie too. Frankly, it was just great to do art again after so many years directing. And to work with good friends, all the better. Tim was one of my best friends when we both were starting out at Disney in the early 80s and I was, like everybody else, a huge fan of his style of art. I was excited to see if I could mimic the Tim Burtonesque look the final film would most definitely have. I was around for Tim's making of the original film, watching him draw away in his pad all the time, pinning up incredible originals in his office, and going over all his ideas as he planned out what he wanted to do. I always thought it was a genius idea and so how cool to be asked to be a part of the remake in animation form, albeit a mere two months of coolio. In those two months, I produced art that I am very proud of. I was emboldened by Tim's insanely pushed, free form design sense and Ed Gorey's precision line look. It propelled me to go further in my usual design choices than I ever would have.
Joe Grant and I worked a long time together while he did his second stint at Disney, from 1989ish to 2005ish. We would work in my office sitting across my Kem-Weber-designed, original Disney studio director desk meant to accommodate one person on each side, and he would sit back and put his feet up on the desk and his arms behind his head and we would talk about ideas and thoughts as we shaped concepts for the new idea I had to make Pocahontas. Joe worked as Walt Disney's right hand man for most of the 30s and 40s, running his character model dept., designing all the characters with his all-star team of artists for all the films being made. But more than that, Joe was his confidant, his Consigliere, and story advisor. They would meet at the end of every work day, sharing a cocktail in Walt's office and relaxing as they discussed the daily dilemmas and staff issues.
Joe and I met as I was completing my first film, The Rescuers Down Under. I was dumbstruck at the how vibrant, vital, exuberant, clever, with it, funny, fun and personable, the great Joe Grant turned out to be that day at lunch at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank. By the end of that lunch I had a new best friend and we started to meet and discuss future film ideas and stories that would make great animated features or shorts. Joe and I struck up a fast and deep friendship almost immediately. We both loved working together, as natural a fit as I have ever had working creatively with anybody. His intellect, wit, and vast wealth of experience was an advanced art education every single day. Joe would usually pop in around 1p.m. and stay for a few hours, sucking on coffee nips all afternoon. We would go over the drawings he and I had done since the day before, and discuss new ways to push our story even further. He worked in two ways. He would either sit down quietly at home at night and just start drawing, didn't matter what. He would not specifically draw pertinent drawings for the film, he would just draw without thinking. Let the pen wander. Eventually his mind would drift into a Pocahontas idea and he would start to go down that road visually, but he never forced anything, just let it float into his pen tip as light as a feather. Not important whether it fits our current thinking, or is good or viable, just important to let the drawings begin. His other method was the same except in written word form. He had an interesting way of jotting down random thoughts, stream of consciousness writing, and letting his imagination fire off as he wrote, making it up as he drifted into an animated realm of his mind that only Joe knew how to activate. I was unbelievably blessed to have had that opportunity to sit there and work with Joe exactly the way he had worked with Walt Disney, Bill Peet, J.P. Miller, Mary Blair, James Bordrero, Albert Hurter, Dick Kelsey, Martin Provensen, and his partner during his first disney tenure, which ended in 1950, Dick Huemer. Joe taught me many many things over the years, but the greatest lesson of all was not to fight change. Embrace the way life shifts you into new roles and new opportunities. Let age refine you and shape you into a more dimensional artist. Never stop being curious and active in your life and in your art. Here is Joe's favorite quote with which he lived by from Henri Bergson:
To exist is to change,
To change is to mature,
To mature is to create oneself endlessly.
Here are a few pages of Joe's stream of consciousness writings:
I was one the early visdev artists, (Paul Felix did some killer paintings as well), on Frozen back when it was still called The Snow Queen. These are some of my Snow Queen concept pieces. This was before the Anna Elsa sister concept was part of the story. Anna discovered the long neglected Snow Queen's ice palace high in the mountains, and then the Snow Queen's body encased in a huge block of solid ice within it's frozen walls. Anna unwittingly resurrected the Queen and her ice palace to full fury. The penguin was just me throwing ideas for frozen tundra character ideas, never really a part of any version. Chris Buck had an army of snowmen in the story back then, and I gave the queen a flying sleigh for heightened action possibilities.
Thanks for checking out my art.
I made an Oscar nominated short film called Lorenzo for Disney in 2004. The 5 min. film is still unreleased on dvd but here are some of my early visdev paintings done in liquid acrylic on black paper.
My first storyboards i ever did were on Oliver and Co. Here are a few random board panels.
Why Should I Worry--- always fun boarding to a song.
Some of these ideas made it into the final film some of them didn't.
These are done with Prisma color and felt pen marker
With Billy Joel, the voice of Dodger, recording in New York.
Billy Joel, director of Oliver and Co. George Scribner, and me with 80's mini party in the back going on.
Me with the voice actress for Jenny, Natalie Gregory, back row, Tim O'Donnell asst dir, the legendary Mark Henn lead animator on Jenny, and dir George Scribner.
Prod Manager Kathleen Gavin, little Joey Lawrence the voice of Oliver, Billy Joel the voice of Dodger and my boards.
Mark Henn, Dom Delouise the voice of Fagin, and me in a classic standard disney cheesy publicity shot. I guess I liked that dotted shirt back then.