mulan findings 10

17 03 2015

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that’s how MUSHU looked like around mid 1995. CHEN-YI CHENG came up with that version. as you can see the design is very much influenced by chinese dragon pictures and sculptures, the cartoony touch is missing. disney had given me the opportunity to invite comic strip artists from all over the world, artists who could give us different ideas about the look of the film MULAN. REGIS LOISEL was the first comic strip ‘giant’ I invited. you can see his designs in some of my earlier posts. another artist who joined us for 2 weeks was vietnamese born belgian comic strip artist and painter VINH KHOA. and in summer 1995 my former partner on the ALFRED J.KWAK comic strip and tv-series, HARALD SIEPERMANN, came to L.A. for a few weeks. harald concentrated on MUSHU, and as you can see below, added the missing cartoony touch to the character.

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© disney enterprises, inc

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mulan findings 9

17 10 2014

the first pen+ink style sketches for disney’s MULAN and their color versions.

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mulan 1.color designs

© disney enterprises, inc.





mulan findings 8

31 08 2013

mulan early design

one of my earliest hun-attack designs, probably from 1995

© disney enterprises, inc





mulan findings 7

10 08 2013

the REFLECTION-song in disney’s MULAN was much longer in an early version what was storyboarded by DEAN DEBLOIS. the shorter and final version as it is in the film was boarded by CHRIS SANDERS. below are DEAN’S boards.

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© disney enterprises, inc





mulan findings 6

16 06 2013

during the pre-production of disney’s MULAN several amazing artists worked in the visual development team, PAUL FELIX was one of them. he always created the most stunning black+white pencil-‘paintings’, in his own style – very designed and stylized. he did not mind that I added some color to his black+white jewels, following the stylization in his drawings I wanted to test a different look in color as well. paul worked ( and still works ) after MULAN as a production designer at disney and created the most beautiful artwork for several animated feature films.

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© disney enterprises, inc





mulan findings 5

29 03 2013

here is some more visual development artwork for disney’s MULAN. it was done sometime early 1994 before I joined the team

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© disney enterprises, inc





mulan findings 4

14 02 2013

this is the color script for one of the first sequences in disney’s MULAN that went into production – the song sequence I’LL MAKE A MAN OUT OF YOU. the head of background in the florida studio BOB STANTON painted the thumbnails

mulan color script MAN

© disney enterprises, inc





mulan findings 3

13 01 2013

mulan title+poster

you probably remember the MULAN-poster, the red-one on the left .this version was used in the US and in europe, other versions were developed for the rest of the world – here you can see 2 alternatives for asia. FRED TIO and his designers in disney publications created the designs. I remember the presentation meeting, wow, I could not believe my eyes. stunning! it could not be better! but not everybody was excited, for some of the executives the motif and the execution was not ‘disney’ enough. it was a fight. fortunately the poster was chosen and became a huge success. the cover for the follow-up vhs-cassette ( at that time there was no DVD yet ) is another story, less nice.
anyway, the dragon was from the beginning the ‘leitmotif’, I developed the first one for the emperor’s seal. for internal use I came up with a preliminary logo as header for our artwork with a more stretched dragon. that dragon made it into the final logo. for a while I was involved in the search for that logo, a typical lettering and even the title. in the very beginning it was FA-MULAN, as you can see we had several very different titles and chose the simple short ‘MULAN’ in the end. a good choice.

mulan logos

funny coincidence – I live now for 2 years here in singapore. and in one of singapore’s many parks, the chinese garden, there is a HUA MULAN ( her original name ) sculpture.

Sculpture of Hua Mulan in Chinese Garden, Singapore

© disney enterprises, inc





mulan findings 2

10 01 2013

before I became the official production designer for disney’s MULAN in december 1994 a small team of visual development artists had explored all different artistic directions for a possible style of that project. some of them had nearly worked on and off for 2 years on that. it was a challenge, the chinese typical painting-look was very difficult to copy for the use in animation. it still was supposed to be a disney movie but the studio wanted to come up with a story-typical style for the new projects. it had been successfully done with HERCULES, ALADDIN and LION KING where art-historic and geographic elements had been combined and ‘disneyfied’. below a few of the hundreds of paintings and sketches from that early stage of development. some more will follow

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© disney enterprises, inc





mulan findings 1

3 01 2013

you probably have made that same experience – you search for something and find tons of stuff way more interesting than what you were looking for. it took a long time since my archives has grown too big, but it was worth it. you will see a lot of it in my next posts. today I start with some of my oldest MULAN color designs, from 1995, a mushu cel set-up and a directional map with sequence numbers.

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© disney enterprises, inc





mulan historic 1

10 08 2012

as comparison here are some kind of ‘historic’ designs I did for disney’s MULAN in october 1995. starting with the very first rough black/white sketch, about postcard size, and together with my own logo for the fim, at that time after ‘the legend of fa-mulan’ as a working title ‘the legend of mulan’. the dragon survived in the final logo. then a step inbetween, a marker sketch, about 6 x 10 cm. and the final 12 field acrylic painting on cardboard. the last design in this post is the very first planned cover of the ART OF MULAN book by jeff kurtti. I like the final cover with the original powerful poster much better.






© disney enterprises, inc





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





fa mulan

24 02 2010





red

21 04 2018





lost and found 7

30 05 2017

© disney enterprises, inc





tin soldier

27 05 2017

in summer 1994 I started to work at disney, after several years freelancing, with a seven-year contract. my first assignment was the style development and visual research on 5 projects – all at once! HERCULES, TIN SOLDIER and BEETHOVEN’S FIFTH ( both FANTASIA 2000 ), DINOSAUR ( first CG prod.) and FAMULAN. I don’t know what the reason was for that ‘overload’, it was a challenge. I started to work on the single projects one every week, using the weekend as kind of a mental break. but it didn’t really work that way, because the production schedule didn’t follow my schedule. the result though were dozens of color sketches and the complete color-script for HERCULES, until GERALD SCARFE took over in autumn 1994. TIN SOlDIER was first planned as traditional animation, they changed it then into a CG piece, horrible in my opinion. and BEETHOVEN’S FIFTH turned out a bad experience, because I could not work with the director. DINOSAUR was a lot of fun, because it was a new world, they invited specialists, who taught us about the look of dinosaurs and the environment of that time. and then of course FAMULAN, what became MULAN. based on my early designs BARRY COOK, the first director on the project, asked me beginning of december 1994, if I wanted to take the job as production designer.
below you see some of the designs I did for TIN SOLDIER. I had to restaure some of them, the color xerox quality in the nineties was bad.

© disney enterprises, inc





alex nino 12

25 07 2016

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another one of ALEX NINO’S masterful pre-visualizations of the hun attack in disney’s MULAN

© disney enterprises / alex nino





dragon abstract

4 11 2015

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during the production of disney’s MULAN I designed a t-shirt motif, mushu and abstract art. it might have been too abstract, was never done.

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first video test

23 03 2015

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over the past years a lot of you have asked me to upload some of my ‘hidden historic animation documentaries’. I decided to start with it now. but – I need some advice with the uploading of the videos to WORDPRESS, I am not quite sure if I do it right because even the shortest clip takes forever to upload. so, please let me know if there is someone out there who can advise me.
today I chose a very short clip because of the slow uploading, it was a look-test we did for the shelved disaster experiment, that could have been a masterpiece, WILD LIFE. from 1999 on I worked on it for probably 1 1/2 years. there are more posts on my blog about this unusual disney project, but here now for the first time a short test animation of the heroine KITTY, her crazy dress what took a while to create, and the environment. please keep in mind, this was done during the ‘pioneer’-days in CG, over 15 years ago.
anyway – in case I can finally solve the uploading problem, there will be a lot more – footage from the making of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST ( there is about 9 hours of documentary ), footage during my 4 years in london at AMBLIMATION with documents from WE’RE BACK and BALTO and lots more from my following 10 years at disney, especially documents from MULAN and the production in florida. hope it will work, you might enjoy it…

© disney enterprises, inc





…down the drain 2.0

29 09 2013

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it is funny to read all different articles and speculations why an apparently so interesting looking project was shelved. as I wrote in my post – it was pure incompetence, believe me. I am not talking about the FRAIDY CAT that JOHN MUSKER and RON CLEMENTS restarted in 2004. I am talking about the very first version that was offered to me late in 2000 as a 3 page treatment. I started with a lot of environmental and a few character designs and after I showed the story to ANDREAS DEJA he wanted to contribute some character explorations. he loved the treatment as well.

let me explain the reasons why a project like that could fail. one major reason – because the management at that time was for some never explained reasons convinced that a good final story develops out of over and over destroyed story-versions. I remember a meeting after a screening of some major sequences of another project, where TOM SCHUMACHER, at that time sr.vice president and head of feature animation, answered a statement of a storyboard artist that it looked great and worked well, ‘then let’s do it all over again, because it only can get better’. – I don’t think so!

to be frank, I always thought that this procedure was completely stupid and had only one effect – immense costs and a lot of wasted trees. I remember on MULAN were in the end about 10 different writers involved. coming back to FRAIDY CAT – the poor writer who had come up with this stunning treatment would have never had a chance to write the final script. unfortunately he was not too well known, but more important – he was the first one and to continue you need to throw dollars after a second one. after story-discussions in a team of vice presidents in development ( I always thought they were there for decoration and to fill some luxury offices ) the story had to move to another writer and that could happen several times.

but that was not really the main reason for the systematic destruction of a good idea. that reason was obvious in another department, but nobody else apparently saw it. usually a script ends up first in the storyboard department. one storyboard artist takes care of a sequence. as far as I remember in FRAIDY CAT’S case about 6 or 7 were involved. now there is a major problem – all the top talent in storyboard is busy to fix the disasters in the running production(s). that’s why usually only ‘apprentices’ are thrown into a starting new project. I don’t want to say that there couldn’t be a major hidden talent in such a fresh team, well, usually that is not the case. that means that, what this team comes up with as an interpretation of a third generation script, is not the best of possible versions. in a presentation to the highly competent jury of vice presidents this interpretation must look like a story that needs to be fixed, – back to another writer, and the game starts all over. you can imagine, after several redo’s there is nothing left of an original and once charming story. unfortunately nobody ever had the idea to at least look what others might have done in earlier versions. FRAIDY CAT is not the only project where I saw this happen, it was the same with MY PEOPLES, RAPUNZEL ( inclusive other major problems ), WILD LIFE ( with a ton of more and very serious other problems and directors too arrogant to listen to warnings ) and SNOW QUEEN ( OMG ). the FRAIDY CAT affair ended after I left in 2003 and ron and john tried to fix it afterwards with major artistic talent like CARTER GOODRICH and PAUL FELIX. apparently it did not help because some of the ’emperor’s new clothes’ guys thought it was not a good idea afterall. after 5 yaers and probably 50 million dollars, not to talk about thousands of pieces of art – down the drain.

usually it’s not my style to write that much, but – this had to be said