Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Marc Davis - Disney's Nine Old Men

Marc Davis (March 30, 1913 - January 12, 2000) was the very last of the "nine old men" to join the Disney studio, December 2, 1935. As with all new recruits, he started out as an in-betweener, but his first assignment was to attend two-weeks of intensive life-drawing classes under Don Graham.

Marc Davis

By late spring of 1936, Marc was made assistant to Grim Natwick, the original animator of Betty Boop. Although Davis' background experience was more in line with drawing animals, he would soon be helping to create the star of Walt Disney's first feature.

Grim Natwick

Natwick had a team which consisted of three assistants, Davis being the principle of these, and three in-betweeners. Their sole purpose during production? Animate the Snow White character. Supervising animator Hamilton Luske also had a Snow White team, and it was not uncommon for conflicts to arise between the two heads. In a nutshell, Natwick saw the princess as being older, more mature, Luske as more childlike.

According to Michael Barrier...
As Davis became aware of the hostility between Luske and Natwick, he gradually took it upon himself to make the necessary changes in Natwick's drawings. Those changes went beyond the character's proportions to what Davis called a "kind of feeling of the character"; Natwick, he said, wanted the girl to have "a vitality," more than simple cuteness, and it was this vitality that Davis had to tame. Hollywood Cartoons, p.198


Production Drawing via Collectors Paradise Galleries


Animator and assistant worked well together. Grim would say about the help that Marc provided during Snow White, it "was like having two right arms."
"During the three and one-half years that Marc and I worked together at Disney's," wrote Natwick in 1979, "twenty months or nearly six hundred days were spent drawing Snow White herself in scene after scene for the picture that carries her name in the title." Source: John Canemaker's Nine Old Men p.274



Snow White with broom. Rendered and initialed by Davis in graphite and red pencil on a 12 field sheet of animation paper (12" x 10"). Includes Disney studio stamps. Sold in May 2007 for $597.50 (USD). Heritage Auctions...




Snow White with bird. Drawing on animation paper (9.5 x12"), lead pencil with colored pencil accents. Marc Davis initialed bottom right-hand corner. Sold in June 2008 for $747.50. Hake's Americana and Collectibles...



Snow White collage, each head has been trimmed from an original animation production sketch and mounted to another piece of paper. All drawn by Davis. Image area 7.25" x 9.5". Sold in February 2011 for $1314.50. Heritage Auctions...



Marc had fond memories of those early days at the Disney Studio when the push to learn was immense...
At one time, Walt rented a studio up in North Hollywood and every Wednesday night we would see a selection of films--anything from Chaplin to unusual subjects. Anything that might produce growth, that might be stimulating--the cutting of the scenes, the staging, how a group of scenes was put together...

Everybody here was studying constantly. we had models at the Studio and we'd go over and draw every night. We weren't making much, because the Studio didn't have much, but it was a perfect time of many things coming together into one orbit. Walt was the lodestone. Nine Old Men p.273
As Natwick's assistant, Marc had to attend the "sweatbox" projection room meetings with the directors and Walt. But "the boss" hardly knew who he was. It wasn't until Davis started doing story sketches for Bambi that Walt "got excited" about his drawings.


Davis would go on to animate key characters in many of the classic features from the 1940s and 50s including both Maleficent and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty.



Video posted by TheBunnyHD


His contributions to the Disney empire, however, weren't restricted to just the animated motion picture. His visionary work as an Imagineer is the stuff of Disneyland legend.



Marc pictured below in 1987 at a Snow White 50th anniversary celebration...

 Marc Davis and Grim Natwick photo via John Canemaker's Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation, 2001.
Snow White image scans copyright Disney.

Further reading:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Disney Catalog - Cover Art in Pins

From 2002 to 2003, the Disney Store produced a series of pins representing some of the most memorable cover illustrations from the Disney Catalog. The pins, limited to 3500 each, were sold in sets of three. An interesting feature about these guys is that they have two different backings, the regular pin-back and also an easel so they can be displayed standing up like a picture frame. Each pin measures 2" x 1.5". Printed on the back is "Disney Catalog Exclusive Pin Collection, Limited Edition of 3500."

The first two sets appeared in October of 2002. The third set in the series, the first to include Snow White artwork, was released in November.

  • The Fall 2001 catalog cover of the princess and all seven of the dwarfs.



  • A "Royal Holiday" from the Christmas 2001 catalog; Snow White, Aurora and Cinderella decorate tree.



  • One of the Ariel covers completed the set of three. Original retail price $22.50/set.





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The next set in the Catalog series included two more Snow White covers. Released in April of 2003, the collection of three pins retailed for $24.50.

  • The Fall Preview 2002 pin with Aurora, Belle and Snow gathered under a tree.



  • The well-known Halloween 2002 catalog cover (and the backside).



  • A Winnie the Pooh on "cloud 9" pin completed the set.




See the rest of the pins in the Disney Catalog Cover Art series at pinpics.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Disney Catalog - Snow White Cover Art

Most of these images come from Dan-the-man-Alexander of Dizmentia. Back in May of last year, I asked Dan if he happened to have any old Disney Catalogs in his collection, particularly those that featured Snow White characters on the cover. When the online world started to come into focus for the Disney Store, the paper catalog with its whimsical artwork was discontinued. I was expecting to see maybe four or five from Dan. He found 16! I added a few more myself, and so here they all are--the Snow White covers.

Summer 1992. Princesses framed...



Fall 1993. An all Snow White cover in celebration of the theatrical re-release of the film that year...



Holiday 1993. Dopey does his best not to drop the ornaments...



Holiday 1994. Dopey's back along with a few Snow White gifts...



Fall 1995. Queenie quadruples the villains...



Early 1997. Snow White's 60th Anniversary...



Halloween 1999. The Queen in all her evilness...



Holiday 2000. Grumpy, Dopey and a train full of fun...



Fall 2001. Snow and the boys made the cover to commemorate the film's release on DVD...



Christmas 2001. Aurora and Cinderella help Snow White decorate a pink tree...



Holiday 2001. The Disney characters came out in force for this cover, but at first glance, it appeared that Snow White didn't make the cut. This was a special fold-out edition. When opened, she and the dwarfs are revealed.



In 2002, the Disney Catalog released lithograph prints from the artwork seen on the two Christmas covers above, "Magical Night" and "Royal Holiday"...



Fall Preview 2002. Snow with Aurora and Belle under a weeping willow...



Fall 2002. Belle, Cinderella and Snow White with their masquerade masks...



Halloween 2002. The Disney characters dress up for a night of treat-or-treating. Tinkerbell wears a Snow White mask; Snow White dons one of Maleficent. The others include Mickey as the Beast, Tigger as Pooh, Minnie as Marie, Donald as Jiminy, and one of the Dalmatian Puppies as Cruella...



Last-Minute Gift Guide, Holiday 2002. Snow White, the Prince and Dwarfs celebrate with the other Disney princesses around another pink tree...



Halloween 2003. Minnie Mouse as Snow White along with Lilo as Ariel, Tinkerbell as Cinderella and Marie as Aurora...



Christmas 2003. Wreath hanging with Snow, Aurora and Cinderella...



Winter 2003. More wreath hanging...



Spring Preview 2004. This is one of my favorites. Tea time in front of the castle with Snow White, Aurora and Cinderella...



Halloween 2004. The Old Witch and her Raven look on as the evil brew brings forth the villains Chernabog, Maleficent, Ursula, Jafar, Captain Hook, Scar, Cruella and Hades...



The hard copy catalog ceased operations in 2006. I'm glad to see the Disney Company saving trees by going paperless. Yet, I do miss the cover artwork that used to arrive in the mail all those years. Unfortunately, most of my copies somehow ended up in the recycle bin. So it's thanks to those like Dan Alexander Dizmentia that we still have a glimpse of what they once looked like.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

John Lounsbery - Disney's Nine Old Men

John Lounsbery (March 9, 1911 - February 13, 1976) was hired at Disney on July 2, 1935. Times were tough, and any job was a good job. Still, his starting salary was only $12 a week. Not much to live on, especially for someone with hopes of getting married. So it was that John would draw for Disney during the day and work for Sears department store at night.

Don Graham, instructor for the studio's evening art school, saw that Lounsbery had talent. He got the young artist a raise so he could quit his night job. By December, John and his fiance, Florence were married.

The newlyweds, 1935...



John became an assistant to Norm Ferguson with whom he worked on several Pluto shorts. Lounsbery's strong draftsman skills shown through as he developed quickly under his mentor. For his assignment on Snow White, John continued with Ferguson as they tackled the all-important Old Witch character. A few of the scenes he was given included working over the rotoscoped drawings of the Witch atop the cliff...



Her poling the boat across the lake...



And the feigned heart attack...



Lounsbery was also asked to animate on his own the scene where the Witch exits her dungeon down through a trap door in the floor...



As an assistant, he was given no screen credit in the film. Yet, thanks to Ferguson, Walt was made aware of John's hard work on the movie's evil villain. As a result, Lounsbery did receive a nice financial bonus.

Pictured below, John working at his drawing board on Fantasia (with Leopold Stokowski)...



And on Mickey and the Beanstalk...

John Lounsbery photos via John Canemaker's Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation, 2001.
Snow White image scans copyright Disney.

John continued as an animator at the studio until 1973 when he was moved into directing. It was a position he didn't really seem to enjoy. He would pass away three years later.

Further reading: