Posted on Monday, December 7th, 2009 by Brendon Connelly
On Friday December 4th, I was lucky enough to spend the whole day at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank. My mission was to film footage for a /Film Exclusive documentary about the return of hand-drawn animation, focusing on Disney’s superlative new picture, The Princess and the Frog.
During the day I carried out filmed interviews with the film’s directors John Musker and Ron Clements, leading lady Anika Noni Rose, producer Peter del Vecho and a whole host of animation, storyboarding and design talent. I think I pushed deeper than you’d typically see on a behind-the-scenes piece for DVD, for example, and I’m sure I managed to get an awful lot of good footage and interesting discussion, as well as some genuine revelations about the current state of hand-drawn animation and the creative qualities of The Princess and the Frog.
That documentary will be some time coming, however – I’ve got hours and hours of footage to sculpt – but, in the meantime, I’ll be able to show you a few little glimpses of what went down on the day. To start off with, there’s a very brief and essentially unedited clip after the break, one in which Peter del Vecho makes very clear the next few hand-drawn projects from Walt Disney Animation.
The last we heard about an animated The Snow Queen, I believe, was when Disney were last trying to develop it – perhaps as late as around March 2008. That appeared to be when it was last frozen (if you pardon the pun), following a few earlier dead ends, such as when Glen Keane infamously quit the project in 2003. Now, though, all signs are that the film is progressing nicely – though, at the moment, there’s no mention of it on the official Walt Disney Animation Studios site. I asked around – not actually at WDAS, but through the grapevine – and it seems that Alan Menken is working on the music for the film, possibly based on music he was developing for a stage production of the story. Nice.
This concept art is by Harald Sieperman, a concept artist working on the last iteration.
If you’re wondering why Peter mentioned neither Rapunzel nor The King of the Elves in the clip, it’s because those two are CG animated pictures and we were discussing hand-drawn movies only. Of course, they wouldn’t let me take pictures of any of it but I did see a great deal of Rapunzel and Elves concept art and, as expected, it all looks quite promising, to say the least. Rapunzel probably has the edge at this stage but it is some way further forward in development. Some of the Elves close ups had a vague Avatar vibe, which was unexpected.
There wasn’t much Winnie the Pooh artwork on show in any of the areas I was permitted to explore, but I did see some Milt Kahl Tigger poses prominently displayed on the walls. What better inspiration could the animators look to?
Stay tuned for another (more substantial) clip from my footage at the end of the week, seeing as The Princess and the Frog is going wide across the US on Friday 11th.