Color and Styling

I've always been impressed by the various art styles I've observed while working at the Walt Disney Studios. This includes new material that's currently under development. Unfortunately, this work for upcoming productions can't be shown, so let's look at some earlier work done by the gifted artists who have contributed to the Disney legacy.

I remember seeing the beautiful work of forties Disney when I was still a kid. The artwork on the left is clearly the styling of designers Mary Blair and Claude Coates. I still remember the impact the color palette had on me even as a child and it made me yearn to one day work in animation. On the lower left we see again the rural color and styling of Blair and Coates for the motion picture “Song of the South.” Blair's amazing color palette drives the animated story telling in this underrated remarkable film.

In the upper right we get a glimpse of the styling of the recent Disney animated motion picture, “Tangled.” I couldn't help but be impressed by the painterly quality of the early design work and how much the color palette felt like a classic Disney movie. One of the things that annoy me about the current rash of CGI films is the continuing desire to ape live-action rather than animation. The whole reason I watch animation is because it isn't live-action. That's what gives animation its special charm. When an animated film becomes indistinguishable from live-action I have to ask, what's the point?

Finally, we get a glance of the Ken Anderson, Tom Oreb, Walt Peregoy styled, “101 Dalmatians.” Using Ronald Searle as a springboard, this Disney production design excited all of us working in Walt's animation department back in 1959. The movie had a freshness not seen in years, and Walt Peregoy's inventive, bold palette was like a breath of fresh air. We moved into the sixties energized like never before. While a few discouraged artists grumbled that animation at Disney was doomed, we felt exactly the opposite. The new feature film reminded us that cartoon animation was capable of great things and Disney animation could always be counted on to surprise us with a brand new creative approach.

Once again, this is what excites me about these impressive images. All different, yet all Disney - they remain fresh and exciting. My friends tell me that modern day production hasn't really changed animation all that much and the color and design work is as good as ever. Somehow, I still find that difficult to believe.