balto backgrounds 2

19 11 2016

some more BG’s from the AMBLIMATION animated feature film BALTO ( 1994 ), painting technique oil and gouache.












© universal / amblin


balto backgrounds

13 11 2016

digging through my photography files I found these beautiful backgrounds from the AMBLIMATION animated feature film BALTO, except the last one all painted in oil by LUC DESMARCHELIER, one of the master-painters. it’s the year 1993, london. we decided to paint most of the BG’s in oil after painted snow tests in gouache were not looking like snow. only some wooden textured house shots and a few interiors were painted in gouache. it was hard for most of the background painters to get more familiar with this unusual painting technique in animation. after disney’s BAMBI BALTO was the second feature film painted in oil.

Minolta DSC

Minolta DSC

Minolta DSC

Minolta DSC

Minolta DSC

Minolta DSC

Minolta DSC

Minolta DSC

© amblimation / universal pictures

recreated backgrounds

8 02 2016

I was asked how the re-creation of long lost backgrounds from DVD material works, below are some of the steps. in this case, a pan from disney’s FANTASIA, NUTCRACKER SUITE, an additional problem besides removing the animated milkweed ballerinas was the multiplane pan, the foreground elements moved in different speeds, what created very complicated overlappings. in the final version I had to add some airbrushed light effects in the sky background, but based on the original source. this is one of the more time consuming pieces, the endresult was worth it though.


2fanta2033 work in progress


4fantatasia comp nutcr.abcFINAL

© disney enterprises, inc

mother goose

21 05 2018

following some designs created by EYVIND EARLE for the disney special THE TRUTH ABOUT MOTHER GOOSE in 1957. at that time EYVIND EARLE must have been very busy with his production design and backgrounds for SLEEPING BEAUTY, what was released january 1959. it must have been quite challenging even for a genius like EARLE to come up with a style that was supposed to look different from his sleeping beauty look, and that parallel working on both projects. that’s why I am not surprised to see a certain MARY BLAIR and WALT PEREGOY influence in his mother goose work, lots of inspiration from other illustration of that time, like ALICE and MARTIN PROVENSEN, and the simplicity of the tv-commercials of the fifties. it show how much EYVIND EARLE was informed about the artworld and constantly was challenging himself to develop into a new direction.

© disney enterprises

style 12.1

31 05 2017

the following designs show a wide variety of styles. when it comes to the final look of a film the style should not be overwhelming, it should always be based on the needs of the story. and characters and environment should work together, the worst is if a character looks like an overlay. simplified characters need simplified backgrounds, in case you want to work with more realistic designs for both, don’t overload the backgrounds with unnecessary detail – make your character ‘read’. in some of the following posts I talk more about how to develop a new style.

recreated animated treasures 1

2 10 2016

now that I got most of my favorite animated films in blu-ray I realized with pain I probably have to redo most of my recreated backgrounds. they were all done with screen captures from DVD’s. you can see in the recreated BG from disney’s SLEEPING BEAUTY below the big difference, so much more detail and it nearly looks like the original artwork in front of you. blu-ray even reveals sloppy jobs or painting mistakes once in a while. this forest BG might not exist like that in the disney archives, because it was painted in 3 different layers, a masterpiece! I am sure it was painted by EYVIND EARLE himself.


© disney enterprises, inc


12 02 2016


the layout in traditional animation is the ‘blueprint’ of a scene, the line and tonal version of a background including camera instructions and field sizes, as well as rough sketched key poses of the animation. in the past the dark and light values were drawn with blue or black soft pencils, in the forties ( BAMBI ) the layout was ‘painted’ with graphite dust and gasoline, highlights erased with eraser-pens. all that was done on vellum what made it easier to trace the lines onto background cardboard. a lot of those layouts from the old days are masterpieces, they look like painted in graphite. in the archives they were not treated as well as most backgrounds, folded several times, a lot of them torn because of the vellum thin quality. following I want to show you a few layouts from some of the older disney animated shorts and feature films. they are treasures of a lost art…

1937 clock cleaners

1961 101 dalmatians

1939 the practical pig

1942 bambi

1939 donald’s lucky day

1940 fantasia

1948 melody time – once upon a wintertime

1938 mickey’s trailer

1940 pinocchio

1938 the moth and the flame

1959 sleeping beauty

1947 fun and fancy free – bongo

1940 fantasia

1967 the jungle book
15jungle book 664

1955 lady and the tramp

2002 lilo and stitch
17lilo+stitch 722

1999 tarzan

© disney enterprises, inc

style 12

10 02 2016


EYVIND EARLE designed these beautifully styled backgrounds for the 1957 released disney animated short THE TRUTH ABOUT MOTHER GOOSE. the story was based on the MOTHER GOOSE nursery rhymes, directed by BILL JUSTICE and WOOLIE REITHERMAN.



mother goose bridge

mother goose 3

© disney enterprises, inc

johnny appleseed

7 02 2016

disney produced a 19 min short animated segment THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY APPLESEED in 1948 for MELODY TIME. designed by MARY BLAIR and directed by WILFRED JACKSON, the main animators were MILT KAHL, OLLIE JOHNSTON, ERIC LARSON and DON LUSK, backgrounds by CLAUDE COATS and BRICE MACK, layouts DON DA GRADI, THOR PUTMAN and MCLAREN STEWARD. below are some screen captured backgrounds and a few layouts.

appleseed comp 1a

appleseed comp 109 BB

appleseed comp 109 CC





© disney enterprises, inc

lost treasures 3

23 01 2016

…and a few more recreated backgrounds from disney’s animated classics

1945 three caballeros-bahia3 caballeros BAHIA C

1948 melody time-once upon a wintertimemelody time comp once 1948 2

1940 fantasia-nutcracker suite1941 fant nut AAA

1937 don donalddon donald 1937 mex

1947 fun and fancy free-happy valleyfun+fancy comp C

1939 ugly ducklingduckling 1939 comp.A

1936 donald and plutodonald+pluto comp AA 1936

1935 music landmusic land GGt

1940 fantasia-nutcracker suitefantasia nut DDa

1938 donald’s better selfbetter self 1938 comp A

1948 melody time-johnny appleseedjohnny appleseed A

1947 fun and fancy free-happy valleyfun+fancy 1947 comp B

© disney enterprises, inc

more lost treasures

22 01 2016

below are more recreated backgrounds, as far as I know the originals don’t exist anymore in the disney archives. in case you are interested in those recreated treasures, I posted a lot more in the past.

1948 so dear to my heartso dear to my heart 025

1945 tiger troubletiger trouble comp A

1936 three little wolves3 little wolves A

1938 farmyard symphonyfarmyard symphony A

1938 the fox huntfox hunt

1939 donald’s lucky dayD.lucky day comp 1

1946 casey at the batcasey at the bat PAN

1936 three little wolves3 little wolves B

1940 fantasia-pastoral symphonyfantasia comp BEET aa

1935 music landmusic land pan BB229

1954 the vanishing prairie-openingopening vanishing prairie blog

1948 so dear to my heartso dear BB 047

1936 elmer elephantelmer comp A

1947 fun and fancy free-bongofun+fancy comp a

1948 bumble boogiebumble boogie B

1939 practical pigpractical pig

1939 donald’s cousin gusdon.cousin gus

1940 tugboat mickeytugboat AA

1935 who killed cock robinwho killed cock robin

© disney enterprises, inc

tender game

13 06 2015

JOHN and FAITH HUBLEY’S – THE TENDER GAME – was produced in 1958. when I saw this animated masterpiece in the early 70s in an animation exhibit in zurich, the abstract style of the animation and backgrounds inspired my own work for all my years in artschool. all the background artwork is by JOHN HUBLEY, the animation by BOBE CANNON, EMERY HAWKINS, ED SMITH and JACK SCHNERK, ELLA FITZGERALD sings the beautiful song ‘TENDERLY’, together with THE OSCAR PETERSON TRIO. I am sure, all the artwork still exists, but I never had a chance to see the originals. below are some of the pan-bg’s, recreated from a very good quality print I found recently.

tender game 1
tender game 2
tender game 3
tender game 4
tender game 6

© john and faith hubley

amblimation balto documentary 1994 part 1

27 03 2015


the AMBLIMATION studio in london-acton town, jan.1994, shortly after the disaster earthquake in northridge, L.A.

some impressions of the background department, located separate on the 1.floor, because of the better light conditions,

fun after work in the pub next door. most of us were hanging out there after work several times a week.

studio party after successful work, STEVE HICKNER, producer, giving a speech.

more BALTO BG’s, most of them painted in oil. I never understood, why that was never used in the promotion of the film. at least it was the only film next to BAMBI where the backgrounds were nearly entirely painted in oil.

amblimation 1.1994 balto from hans bacher on Vimeo.

© Amblin / Universal

ori and the blind forest

19 03 2015

johannes-figlhuber- ori

usually I don’t talk too much about games, because there was nothing exciting happening in the past (except the SONY 2012 game JOURNEY). now MICROSOFT has released a very unusual game – ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST, unusual, because you won’t find futuristic warriors killing hordes of bloodthirsty creatures.
it’s a coming of age story of a child figure’s journey through a fantastic forest, it grows and gets progressively more and more powerful, to fight and overcome obstacles they are in it’s way. when I saw the first introducing trailers I was blown away by the visuals, the artistic painterly quality of the world the MOON STUDIO artists had created. it is a mixture between the jungle world of AVATAR and the BAMBI forest, beautifully and very tasteful painted to the smallest detail. the image compositions are stunning, never overloaded with unnecessary information. like in BAMBI parts of the backgrounds are blurred and give you the idea of depth, everything is built in several layers in traditional 2-D, moving organically and giving you a perfect interpretation of a threedimensional world.
for the first time I can see a future for a different look in animation, where CG is only used where necessary. it gives me hope that ART returns to the screen. funny, that it starts in the game-world. below some screen captures from the game

ORI comp
ORI comp 2
ORI comp 3
ORI comp 4

© microsoft / moon studios

tell-tale heart 1

7 02 2015

it has been a while since I last posted a recreated background. besides that I realized I had never shown any artwork from THE TELL-TALE HEART. this animated short based on the EDGAR ALLAN POE short story was produced in 1953 by UPA and directed by TED PARMELEE, narrated by JAMES MASON. PAUL JULIAN, master designer and painter, was responsible for all the backgrounds in this film, as well as the color-styling. the film was nominated for an academy award but lost to disney’s TOOT, WHISTLE, PLUNK AND BOOM, nevertheless it is a true masterpiece. below now the first recreated pan from the film.

telltale heart pan up dark 2-15



5 09 2014

1madeline cover

the first children book MADELINE was published in 1939, 8 more followed. the author and illustrator was LUDWIG BEMELMANS, 1898 – 1962, born in austria and emigrated to the united states in 1914. the illustrations in the first book are very simple, concentrating on the characters, there is barely any major background. in the few pieces where BEMELMANS added some more detail to establish where the story takes place you can see that he was obviously inspired by the french painter RAOUL DUFY, 1877 – 1953.

2madeline bemelmans
3madeline 2
4dufy style

in 1952 UPA produced an animated version of the first book, directed by BOBE CANNON, layout design ART HEINEMAN and color by JULES ENGEL. the animation was done by BILL MELENDEZ and FRANK SMITH. the design team was facing the problem to develop a background style since there was not enough reference in the books. they went back to RAUL DUFY, and came up with backgrounds inspired by his art. below you can see 2 recreated longer pans from the short.

7Madeline (1952) pan 1
8Madeline (1952)night pan 1
9Madeline (1952) night pan 2

© ludwig bemelmans / UPA / raul dufy

rooty toot toot

30 08 2014

Rooty Toot Toot.John Hubley.UPA.1951 AA1

after a long time I recreated some more backgrounds, from the 1951 UPA short – ROOTY TOOT TOOT. directed by JOHN HUBLEY the main animators were GRIM NATWICK and ART BABBITT. you might have guessed it, the amazing styled layouts and backgrounds were created by PAUL JULIAN. the film was voted in 1994 one of the best ’50 greatest cartoons’.

Rooty Toot Toot.John Hubley.UPA.1951 B
Rooty Toot Toot. John Hubley.UPA.1951 C
Rooty Toot Toot.John Hubley.UPA.1951 A


la peau de chagrin 2

18 01 2014

my first post about this masterpice is from 2008, here now a lot more and better quality screen captures – LA PEAU DE CHAGRIN, ZAGREB FILM from 1960. script dragutin vunak and tomislav butorac, directed and designed by VLADIMIR KRISTL, animated by zlatko grgic, backgrounds by zvonimir loncaric.

la peau de chagrin 1
la peau de chagrin 2
la peau de chagrin 3
la peau de chagrin 4
la peau de chagrin 5
la peau de chagrin 6
la peau de chagrin 7

© zagreb film

ronald searle’s christmas carol

31 12 2013

for the last day of the year 2013 I want to show you some of my most favorite illustrations, RONALD SEARLE’S visual interpretation of CHARLES DICKENS’ – THE CHRISTMAS CAROL. searle illustrated this classic novel in 1960 and it was published by perpetua books, london. the way searle captures the mood of the story together with the english victorian period of time is I think unsurpassed by any other illustrator. his very special style, the way he mixes fat brushstrokes of black ink with a kind of nervous thin nib line, always fascinated me. but in these illustrations he adds a lot more, a very detailed world in the backgrounds beautifully colored in his very special watercolor style. this book is one of my treasures. have a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

searle dickens 15
searle dickens 16
searle dickens 18
searle dickens 19
searle dickens 20
searle dickens 21
searle dickens 22
searle dickens 23
searle dickens 24
searle dickens 25

© ronald searle / perpetua books

milkweed ballerinas

30 08 2013

you can see here some of the dozens of screen-captures I used to recreate a background from disney’s FANTASIA, THE NUTCRACKER SUITE. it is my favorite segment of the 1940 released masterpiece. backgrounds from FANTASIA are extremely rare, so I ‘just’ needed to re-create one. that turned out to be one of the most difficult tasks, since it is not just a side pan with dozens of little milkweed ballerinas flying around, it is a multiplane scene as well. what means that the different levels move in different speeds. anyway – it took me a while, and I had to paint a lot additionally. below is the result

milkweed ballerinas recr

© disney enterprises, inc