Sunday, 24 November 2019

Medusa Thumbnails by Milt Kahl

Thumbnails by Milt Kahl
Andreas Deja's animation blog, Deja View, is a treasure trove of information about the Golden Age of Disney animation, and in particular the work of Disney's "Nine Old Men".

The scene is one of Milt's best; a shot I often show in class to illustrate the importance of great acting choices in character animation.

Medusa adjusts her ear-ring. 
Chuck Harvey Animation Lecture
Andreas came across the thumbnails in the form of a lecture given by animator Chuck Harvey at California State University in 2017.

Chuck showed and discussed several Milt Kahl thumbnails for Madame Medusa, the "make-up removal section", where Medusa removes her eyelashes.

The images are low quality - they are "frame-grabbed" from the video, but you can still see how Milt used the thumbnail sketches to plan his work.

On the right (top) is the first pose; Medusa is adjusting her ear-ring, looking grumpy. Her expression will change when Penny enters the room, and Medusa feigns a "sweet expression".

Note how Milt also marks the aspect ratio in red, carefully planning how his drawings will be composed within the scene.

Madame Medusa from The Rescuers 
You can see the original animation in the video below.

What is remarkable is how closely Milt sticks to the thumbnail poses he first sketched out.

Madame Medusa
Using thumbnail sketches to plan animation
These thumbnail sketches are so important because it's easy to forget, looking at polished, final animation, how much planning went into its creation.

It's like looking at a beautiful building like St Paul's cathedral; without seeing Wren's original plans, you cannot possibly know how the building was created.

A system for planning animation
Student animators need to learn a system for planning their work. Nowadays, 3D animators don't necessarily need to draw that well, but the ability to use thumbnail sketches to plan animation is still an important part of the animator's toolkit.

Thumbnail sketches and animation
To see other how to use thumbnail sketches to plan your work, see more examples below:
Deja View Blog
You can find Andreas's original blog post here:

Chuck Harvey Lecture

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