Did you know I once considered a job in Disney’s layout department? Yes, it’s true. Veteran layout artist, Joe Hale tried to talk me into joining Walt Disney Studios layout department back in the sixties. While I truly admire and respect the incredible work done by Disney’s premiere layout artists, I don’t think it would have been a good fit for this particular artist.

I remember seeing these beautiful layouts from Walt Disney’s classic films when I was a kid eager to become an animation professional. I would spend hours in the Santa Barbara library pouring over all the books I could find on Disney animated films. One of the things I especially admired was the animation layouts, especially the work done in the Disney films, Bambi, Sleeping Beauty and so many others. Because of todays technology, we can now enlarge these images for greater study. These beautiful backgrounds were created from inspired layout sketches created by the Disney layout artists and you’ve got to admit the work is incredible. Of course, it’s not just feature films that impress me. The layouts created for the Disney short films are no less impressive. I honestly don’t regret not getting into the layout department. While I admire the Disney veterans and continue to study the work of veterans such as Ernie Nordi, Don Griffith, Joe Hale, Mac Stewart, Jack Huber and Homer Jonas it’s a job best left for the artists with those special skills.

Back in 1966, I toyed with the idea of becoming a Disney layout artist but it simply didn’t work out. It appears there was a reason for this turn of events and it was a good one. I eventually found a home in the story department of Walt Disney Productions and it was a job I never even considered. However, this decision to move from animation to story was decided by a man who was a good deal wiser than myself, and for that I’m forever grateful.

Inspired sketches created by the Disney layout artists. It was a job I once considered.

Inspired sketches created by the Disney layout artists. It was a job I once considered.

Posted
AuthorFloyd Norman

I usually try to post daily but this has been a busy week. I thought I might get in some early morning writing but that time was spent preparing for our short trip south to San Diego. Having arrived in San Diego and braved the early lines of ComicCon check in, I can finally settle back and post something on my neglected blog.

As expected, the weather here in San Diego is awesome. Neither too hot or cold, but simply just right. After settling in our hotel we decided to take a brief walk to check out the area. I'm always delighted by what a beautiful city San Diego happens to be. No wonder it's difficult to leave once the ComicCon comes to a close. However, for now it's time to take a break. We've already seen a few old friends and I'm sure we'll be seeing more as the Con ramps up. I'll be back on stage this Saturday with my old pals, Sergio Aragonés and Scott Shaw! We'll be matching wits and Sharpies as we go toe to toe in the famous event known as, "QuickDraw." If you happen to be in the area and you're one of the lucky few to have a pass to the San Diego ComicCon, please stop in and join the fun.

For now, I'm going to settle back and simply enjoy the beautiful weather and the awesome San Diego vista. It's my home away from home, and we simply love coming here every year. Yeah, I've heard the complaints about the crowds and the general madness of this annual event. However, in order to enjoy the Con you've got to go with the flow. Mellow out and groove with the madness. It's not a science fair or a medical seminar - it's a comic book convention.

A view from our hotel in San Diego. It's a beautiful July day in Southern California and I wouldn't want to be anyplace else.

A view from our hotel in San Diego. It's a beautiful July day in Southern California and I wouldn't want to be anyplace else.

Posted
AuthorFloyd Norman

Animator, Rick Farmiloe makes a good point concerning master animators at the Walt Disney Studios. Awesome talents such as John Lounsbery were often eclipsed by high profile artists. Guys like Milt Kahl were almost always in the spotlight. It was well deserved, of course because Milt was an incredible talent. However, John Lounsbery was no less a talent. This recent color sketch of Merlin the Magician is a good example of a wonderful character he brought to life. Clearly, Milt Kahl did a fair share of Merlin in Walt Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone.” However, you might be surprise to learn how much of Merlin was animated by John Lounsbery. His stuff was as dynamic as Milt’s work and it was darn funny as well. John Lounsbery was no less a master animator.

Here’s another color sketch of Merlin the Magician I did this morning. I had done an earlier sketch of Merlin, but I remembered one of Merlin’s lines from the movie. In this particular scene Merlin turns toward the owl, Archemedes and says, “I’m not guessing Archemedes, I know where he is!” Of course, Milt Kahl animated this scene and I did the clean-ups. It was early on in the production and we were all getting warmed up. The animation department, now under the new austerity program, was trying to reduce production costs. An edict was handed down from animation boss, Andy Engman. We would now have to crank out twenty five feet a week. I guess that doesn’t seem like much by today’s standards, but back in the early sixties that was a considerable amount of footage. Especially since we had to meet the rather high standards of Disney’s “Nine Old Men.” 

It was the early sixties, and I had just moved out of A-wing to 1D-1 in coveted D-wing. I placed my desk near the window in the large room and began my clean-up duties for Milt Kahl. Naturally, I continued to wonder how long I would last before the very exacting master animator would boot me off his crew. Stan Green had worked with Kahl on “Sleeping Beauty,” and now Stan had returned to act as key clean-up for Milt. More often than not, I picked up my work from Stan, not Milt. Naturally, I thought Stan would do a few of the key clean- ups in Milt’s scenes - but he didn’t. He would simply give me the scene folder along with the exposure sheet and say, “clean it up - you know what to do.” Initially, I was awestruck that I would even be trusted with a Milt Kahl scene, but Stan seemed confident in me. Perhaps because we had worked together briefly on “Sleeping Beauty.” Anyway, I managed to hang in there for over two years. It was one of the few Disney motion pictures that I actually worked on from start to finish. From the first scene where Sir Kay turns his head and says, “Quiet, Wart!” to the final scene where the young King Arthur pulls the sword out of the stone. Yes, I worked on that awesome scene as well and it was beautifully drawn and animated by Milt Kahl.

So, the color sketch down below is a reminder of the glorious Disney days back in the sixties. It was a time when we created animation by hand, Walt Disney still walked the hallways and animation was the best job in the world.

I did this color sketch of Merlin the Magician this morning while remembering working with Milt Kahl.

I did this color sketch of Merlin the Magician this morning while remembering working with Milt Kahl.

Posted
AuthorFloyd Norman