lone wolf and cub

22 06 2009

SAM MENDES directed this july 2002 dreamworks release – ROAD TO PERDITION. some critics called it one of the greatest achievements of film-making of this decade. it is not only the good story and perfect acting that makes this film special to me. as source of inspiration mendes and cinematographer CONRAD HALL drew from the paintings of EDWARD HOPPER, especially his NEW YORK MOVIE from 1939. the film has numerous very unusual shots and amazing compositions, with an interesting depth of field use. a big influence for a lot of shots were the panels in the graphic novel, illustrated by RICHARD PIERS RAYNER. I should not forget to mention the outstanding work in this film of production designer DENNIS GASSNER and costume designer ALBERT WOLSKY.

road to perdition

EdwardHopperNewYorkMovie1939 copy

rd to perd.comic

© edward hopper
© richard piers rayner/max allan collins


style 2

21 06 2009

from my experience it is a challenge to develop a style for an animated feature film, because you as the designer have to invent a unique look that fits the story, looks amazing, can be executed by the studio talent and is not too expensive ( …and fits in the marketing strategies of mc donald’s, mattel or whoever else will be involved in promoting the studio’s film ). besides that you better know what you where doing when you mixed some crazy ingredients in your first design, because you have to repeat it and you need to explain it to other artists.

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once in a while a studio hires a designer to design a film for them in his/her personal style. that’s what disney did with GERALD SCARFE for HERCULES. but usually an artist within the studio, an art director or visual development artist, is selected in case he/she comes up with promising visual ideas for the new project. after the look is found and even management likes it, the toughest part starts – to keep the style consistent and under control. usually there are about 25 – 30 layout artists working on the basic linear design of the environment, and another 25 – 30 background artists to paint the layouts in color. to confront the audience with about 60 different versions of your style is not too good, as you might have seen once in a while on a cheaper DVD. a good film should look like the work of just one artist. that’s where the problems start!







I remember the major headaches I got when I needed to analyze what the hell I was doing when I painted that one landscape for MULAN and I knew – that was it. usually you don’t come up with a style like a scientist with a new chemical formula, it has a lot to do with feelings, subconscious stuff. and of course you are influenced by paintings, images, films you have seen. in this case it was of course chinese art, chinese caligraphy and a lot of two french painters of the BARBIZON school around the end of the 19th century, JEAN-BAPTISTE-CAMILLE COROT and PAUL DESIRE TROUILLEBERT. the final designer of BAMBI, TYRUS WONG, with his impressionistic and simplified interpretations of a forest-world, was a big influence as well. and then probably my amateurish way to paint with acrylics in that big 12 field size, what I had never done before. everything I ever designed before was about 20 x 10 cm, and done with feltpen. all that somehow got mixed the right way, with a lot of luck. now I had to explain the recipe to all the other artists.

mulan 1

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mulan 3

mulan m1

we had started the film after some problems with relatively simple environments, like the army camp and mulan’s house. it was good that way, we got slowly used to a new look. later we were confronted with major problems, – the avalanche and the palace. at that point we needed to add more detail ( against the style-rules ), otherwise the mountains and the palace would have looked like toy-pieces. but it worked! because everybody went through a learning period, after a while it was everybody’s style. the mulan-look had nothing to do with my personal style, the work on it changed my understanding of design completely. even today I can see that experience in my work. the early designs were just a start, the mulan-style grew with the film. we just needed to follow the rule – poetic simplicity!

© disney enterprises, inc

midnight 9

20 06 2009

some of you wanted to know about the technique the MIDNIGHT designs were done with. as you can see here it was all sketched very rough with a black japanese brushpen on paper. some more texture was added in photoshop, as well as the color. lookwise I was inspired by german expressionistic films like CABINET OF DR.CALIGARI, DER GOLEM and FAUST.

after midnight sketches

midnight roughs

© bilderfabrik

more baghdad

19 06 2009

following are some more sketches for disney’s ALADDIN

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alad palace garden0135

aladdin romance




alad 24.8.90-1301


© disney enterprises, inc

style 1

18 06 2009

as I mentioned in one of the last posts, WALT DISNEY did not hide the fact that he hated the look of 101 DALMATIANS. well, I think he should have known from day one in visual development how the film might look like. as head of the studio he would have had the power to change the style of the film very early. but I am sure he knew that this look was the only way to combine the new animation-XEROX-technology, that made it possible to show 101 black-spotted characters, with a more modern non-fairytale environment, and – for a very low budget! a MARY BLAIR-style fifties-london would not have worked. even a LADY AND THE TRAMP-like more realistic BG-style would have been too soft and probably even more expensive. I admire the solution these artist, especially KEN ANDERSEN, came up with.




when I met KEN ANDERSEN in 1991 he talked about the first test screening of a part of the film. walt disney was with his back towards him and said to someone ‘I hate this stuff, KEN did!’ for ken andersen that was like a shock. he worked for another year to finish the film and during that time walt disney never talked to him anymore. ken remembered, walt always wanted to have nearly 3-dimensional animated characters, like in live action films, so the audience would forget they watched animation. that’s why he hated clear contours, especially the ‘inches-thick’ xeroxed outlines blown up on the big screen. ken said, walt disney was not willing to finance more films for over $ 8 million after SLEEPING BEAUTY. that’s why he, ken, had pushed the development of that very complicated and revolutionary technique,that made it possible to produce the DALMATIANS for only $ 3.5 million. he recalled the moment when he saw walt disney returning from the hospital after his lung-surgery. ken saw him shortly on the stretcher, walt did not look very good but he was happy to see ken. so, said ken, finally 2 weeks before his death he did forgive him.




© disney enterprises, inc

more jiri trnka

17 06 2009

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you might have noticed that JIRI TRNKA is one of my favorite artists. a while ago I posted some of his puppet animation artwork and a few children book illustrations. here is some more, a lot of his earlier work…

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© jiri trnka


16 06 2009

this is one of my favorite scenes in disney’s 1961 released 101 DALMATIANS. the whole film is one of my favorites, it has a very good story, the animation is beautiful, and because of the by UB IWERKS developed new XEROX-technology you can even enjoy the original animation drawings. since I first saw the film in 1962 I was fascinated by the look of the film. KEN ANDERSON developed the ‘line-art look’, based on RONALD SEARLE’S caricature style. he told me that SEARLE was a close friend and they had exchanged a lot of sketches. the use of color, developed by WALT PEREGOY, is very interesting as well. the linear drawings, where thick and very thin sketchy lines are mixed, were xeroxed and superimposed on the background layer. the color-blocks in these BG’s were never matching exactly the linear outlines, they were slightly offset. without the lines they look like a CUBIST-style piece of art. for me it is the perfect combination of line and color. and it works very well with the characters, with their xeroxed lines. the color overall in this masterpiece is so well chosen, the characters always read in front of the BG’s with most of the time a lot of line-information. all these ingredients create an atmosphere that caught me when I first saw the film and it still does.


101 dalm.0044l

101 dalm.0044aa

© disney enterprises, inc