The Mighty Blackwing Pencil

Back in the day, drawing was king at the Walt Disney Studios. Those talented animation artists who could do it well were considered cartoon royalty. Of course, good drawing mattered and good pencils mattered as well. Today, few people even know the name, Blackwing, but it’s a pencil that has fond memories for us old Disney animation veterans.

The Blackwing pencil was a staple at the Walt Disney Studio back in the fifties. You might have called it the perfect pencil for animation. Young animation artists headed down to the supply room located on the first floor where you would pick up your art supplies. You had your choice of pencils, of course, but it always included a few Blackwings. Should you have the opportunity to follow up guys like the truly great shorts animators such as Volus Jones, Jerry Hathcock or Al Coe, there was nothing like the good old Blackwing for sketching Donald Duck.

Of course, once you moved onto the feature animation department, the trusty Blackwing pencil proved just a little bit too soft when it came to carving out tight animation drawings. It would appear the feature animated films required a much harder pencil such as a B, HB or 2H. The only exception was the masterful Key Assistant animator, Iwao Takamoto. No one could control a Blackwing pencil like Iwao. His clean up work on Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” was masterful, and he did it all with a Blackwing pencil.

Blackwing pencils are difficult to find today. I was given this pencil by Disney artist, Scott Tilley. I seldom use it because it's the only one I have. Yet, I keep this Blackwing on my desktop because it's an important reminder. It’s a reminder of another time at the Walt Disney Studios when people who could draw were highly regarded and respected. And, there was no way management would ever let them walk out the door.