MULAN children-book

12 03 2010

september 1997, during the last months of the production of disney’s MULAN, I was asked by the N.Y. disney-publisher to illustrate the children-book of MULAN. timewise it was a challenge. to explain my layout ideas I sketched all the planned doublepages, showing an interesting combination of text and illustration. and I developed a style for the pictures that was slightly different than what we did in the film, but still kept the chinese feel. the publisher had very different opinions about the distribution of text on one side and illustration on the other. I suggested that someone else illustrated the book. below are some of the layout pages and a styled double page in color. the technique is a pen and ink drawing, using brown ink, then colored the old traditional way with feltpen and feltpen-airbrush, and a touch of colored pencil and gouache.

© disney enterprises, inc



11 responses

12 03 2010

Those are beautiful layouts. What a shame Disney missed the boat on that one. Sadly, Disney publishing has only gotten worse in this regard.

12 03 2010

That would have been a wonderful book. Shortsightedness prevails again.

13 03 2010
Floyd Norman

Dear Hans,

I had a bad experience with Disney as well. I was asked to write a children’s book based on the film, “Mulan.” After working on the manuscript for months, Disney suddenly cancelled my book because marketing had told them that “Mulan” would have no appeal to children.

Disney is run by morons.

from hans –
hello floyd. you are right. one of them, a vp-moron, showed me what marketing had in mind for the MULAN video cover, at that time still VHS.
I was supposed to correct the designs. he tried to convince me that the mothers of the kids who saw MULAN loved ‘pink’. so the cover had to be ‘pink’. I don’t want to repeat what I told him, but for all future marketing hated me. and – when I accidentally see today what the disney- channel hurts my eyes with, I know how happy I am not to work there anymore.

13 03 2010

Stunning! They made a big mistake not letting you do what you had in mind.

13 03 2010
Wouter Tulp

Dear Hans,

Thank you so much for saring this. It is so very inspiring to me.!!!!!



13 03 2010
Anne Kelley

Gorgeous work! I love this blog 🙂

13 03 2010

it seems that the days of wonderful illustration in children books are long gone.
as a kid…if the mulan book had your designs instead, i would’ve bought it and it would still be in my shelf.

every time i see their children-book version of their movies in our bookstores…i’m rather disappointed. they try so hard to make it look like the common children books of Barbie and other stuff of the like. Those movie masterpieces are not even toys and they try so hard to sell them like one.

But one thing that really makes me wonder: who’s influencing who really? i thought that we…the artists can set the trend. that we can actually influence the people to like something more of quality standards. but for some reason, it’s like the world turned upside down. it’s like they hold us by the neck to do half-assed work.

is it the money? and why would people let their money go to waste on crappy designs and enjoy it??? and why would most designers succumb to watered down work?

all of this reminds me of how businessmen ruined KFC’s gravy and the colonel hated them for it.

from hans –
hello gabey, you answered it yourself. the main reason is that not enough artists voice their opinion and are responsible for
what they are doing. most of them don’t want to risk their jobs, a lot give a shit. trends are created by specialists who are
able with enough ‘power’ to manipulate the clients, the audience. look what happened with traditional/CG-animation.
someone who was powerful enough said – traditional animation is dead. and all the other brainless followers took it as
the new religion. it happens everywhere, usually in politics. and a lot in the entertainment industry. everywhere where
the big money can be made.

16 03 2010
Joseph Sapulich

Hans, your work has inspired me for years. Thank you for sharing these amazing designs.

18 03 2010

These are terrific! How unfortunate that it never made it to final product. I am laying out a text and images for a childrens book right now and this is very inspiring. I love the way your text follows parts of the images. Thanks!!

2 04 2010
Christian Alzmann

Bummer, those are really great layouts, all the way down to how you incorporated the text.

15 04 2010
Richard Tulloch

Thanks for the reference to my blog, Hans.

Interesting that you worked on Mulan. In 1997 my script for the very modest FernGully II was nominated for an ANNIE award. I went over (from Sydney) to the Hollywood ceremony and was beaten in the script category by Mulan. It was a very worthy winner I thought, and I was honoured to be in its company. I particularly liked the way the design pushed the envelope a bit, at least as much as possible within the Disney boundaries.

I watched Mulan again on a plane a few weeks ago and still enjoyed it.

Best wishes, Richard

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