7 02 2009

I mean – WATERCOLOR, in that technique most of the backgrounds of the late 30s and 40s were done. at disney the BG-painters started to use a different technique, to paint with gouache color, from the mid-forties on. there seems to be a change during BAMBI, where most of the BG’s were painted in oil, a few in gouache. then from CINDERELLA on, everything is painted in gouache. one of the reasons might have been the simplified style MARY BLAIR introduced. earlier, in PINOCCHIO the wooden textures had been pretty realistic, the environments were very close stylistically to childrenbook illustration of that time, TENGGREN and NIELSEN were at the studio as designers. later, especially in ALICE IN WONDERLAND, the environment is way more stylized. with LADY AND THE TRAMP the studio returned to a more naturalistic look, but still painted in gouche. SLEEPING BEAUTY is a different story, because disney tried to create an epic film in style and format. so it had to have its own very specific look. we all know that after the film’s moderate success the studio had to come up with a cheaper way to produce a look, what resulted in a new technology.
anyway – here are 4 backgrounds painted in that beautiful watercolor technique, they are recreated from disney’s DONALD AND PLUTO, sept. 1936 – and MGM’s BOWLING ALLEY CAT, july 1942. as you can see, no matter what studio, the look is very similar.





© disney enterprises, inc




5 responses

9 02 2009
Nancy Beiman

HI Hans,

Weren’t PINOCCHIO’S backgrounds in oil? I remember reading this in the DISNEY VERSION.

I know that THE RITE OF SPRING in FANTASIA had oil backgrounds since I saw the only surviving one at Cal Arts, when Ken O’Connor brought it in to show us.

from hans –
no, the PINOCCHIO bg’s were in watercolor. actually the originals I saw looked like they were painted with hundreds of layers of dirty water. FANTASIA I don’t
know about the oil ones, but it could be. they were testing so many techniques like the bg’s in the NUTCRACKER SUITE, done in pastel crayons.

9 02 2009
Nancy Beiman

woops, I meant the ART OF WALT DISNEY. The DISNEY VERSION should not be taken as a source!

10 02 2009
Zoran Arizanovic

i love this old watercolor backgrounds!!!Thanks for posting. Just for the same reason Lilo
and Stitch had similar quality after a long time

13 02 2009
Colin Stimpson

It amazes me how they managed to paint them without having an “undo” button! They are perfect.

I check your blog every morning before starting work, it always inspires. Thank you Hans.

2 04 2010
Ainsley Walters

Hi Hans
I just found your blog, I love it! I’ve just ordered a copy of your book dreamworlds which I cant wait to read! I’m just wondering with this one, when you said Sleeping Beauty is a different story, are the backgrounds in this film in gouache too?

from hans –
yes, all BG’s in SLEEPING BEAUTY are painted in the same gouache technique.

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