the emperor’s new clothes

27 05 2020

looking through some old artwork I found this poster design I created in the early days around february 2002 for a very new project FRAIDY CAT, that went into visual development.

in the past years I published several posts about FRAIDY CAT and I still like one from 2009 a lot, that’s why I republish it, with a few additions.

it is funny to read all different articles and speculations why apparently such interesting looking projects in the past at disney were shelved. well, – it was pure incompetence, believe me. let’s just look at FRAIDY CAT, not 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

© walt disney enterprises





down the drain

24 09 2013

fraidy 1

ANDREAS DEJA just posted his beautiful designs for the main characters on a project that was called FRAIDY CAT, and that was eventually shelved after the story had been systematically destroyed. when the story research group presented the rough 3 page treatment to me and aked me for my opinion, I thought first it was a continuation of 101 DALMATIANS. it was a charming crime story taking place in london of the sixties, a bit of HITCHCOCK’S ‘REAR WINDOW’ with animals. I told them it was the best treatment I read for a very long time and we should start immediately to develop it. what I did, andreas joined later. it was planned for CG, so I designed everything very stylized, a bit still remembering the look of another shelved project only a few months prior to that – WILD LIFE. the original author was apparently not good enough, another one was hired, and more followed – it went more and more down the drain. my interest followed, the charme was gone. well, I did not experience this for the first time – too bad. I still hear myself screaming in meetings, until I finally left. below some of my designs for the environment.

fraidy 2
fraidy 3
fraidy 5
fraidy 6
fraidy 7
fraidy 8
fraidy 9
friday 10
friday 11
fraidy 12

© disney enterprises, inc





a cat and a bird

11 12 2010

the last project I worked on at disney was FRAIDY CAT. similar to 101 DALMATIONS it was a crime story around a cat and a bird taking place all over london. I was the first artist in visual development who was given the outline and a few pages of the script to read, and they even asked me about my opinion! I loved the idea and the script pages were promising as well. it had a lot of atmosphere, the same what I liked about the 101 DALMATIANS so much. well, as usual the executives in charge ordered re-writes of the script, ‘to improve’ it and it was systematically destroyed. finally, after several years the whole project was shelved, I had already left the company then.

anyway – during visual development I did just for fun some poster-designs to introduce the new concept to the rest of the crew. the story had some HITCHCOCK ingredients, so I chose some of the master’s well known older films and modified their advertising posters ( a lot of them had been designed by SAUL BASS ). my spoof versions were supposed to create interest among the crew, at the same time I worked with a very small team on the designs, the characters and the locations.

© disney enterprises, inc
© universal pictures / saul bass








The Hidden History of Oz

Discover the Secrets of an Enchanted World

Ellen Li

Illustration & Design

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The Hidden History of Oz

Discover the Secrets of an Enchanted World

Ellen Li

Illustration & Design

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.