Weekend pop art: Disney characters go whimsically dark in Tim Burton-esque illustrations

(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)
(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)

 

Gifted, idiosyncratic director and creative visionary Tim Burton is no stranger to Disney.

He has after all, in the last few years alone, directed or produced Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) for the home of Mickey Mouse so it makes perfect sense that artist Andrew Tarusov would lend Burton’s distinctively whimsical Gothic style to a succession of Disney characters and films.

And much as you might not think the characters and artwork style would go together, they meld perfectly, lending Dumbo, The Lion King, Pinocchio and The Little Mermaid an extra layer of depth and otherworldiness.

They are quite arresting too, revealing another level of soulfulness to characters who actually endure their fair share of loss or melancholy on the way to their happy endings; Disney has never shied away from combining heartache and happy endings and Tarusov’s impressive artwork brings out this side of the legendary studio beautifully.

You can glory in Tarusov’s gorgeously Gothic artwork at both his Facebook page, and portfolio site, where you can download high-res pictures for a small donation through Patreon.

 

(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)
(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)

 

(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)
(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)

 

(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)
(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)

 

(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)
(artwork via Laughing Squid (c) Andrew Tarusov)

Goofy gets his motoring Jekyll and Hyde on in the 1950 animated short Motor Mania

(image via Wikipedia (c) Disney)
(image via Wikipedia (c) Disney)

 

Goofy has always been my favourite Disney character.

There’s something incredibly appealing about his innate, well, goofiness, an innocent, fun likeability that makes him somehow more relatable for me than say Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.

First appearing in Mickey’s revue in 1932, Goofy, described by the good folks at Wikipedia, as “a tall, anthropomorphic dog, and typically wears a turtle neck and vest, with pants, shoes, white gloves, and a tall hat originally designed as a rumpled fedora” is often a few kilos short of a full bag of puppy chow but he is no less loveable for that.

I would in fact argue, as a lifelong Goofy fan who fell in love with his adventures on The Wonderful World of Disney TV programme, that this increases his appeal since he seems all the more down to earth and hilariously normal as a result of not being as whippet smart as his fellow Disney stars.

But for all his goofy likeability, Disney, to their creative credit, showed a willingness to stretch and expand Goofy as a character, most notably in Motor Mania, a 1950 cartoon short directed by Jack Kinney that showed how the usually affable Goofy, playing the part of well-behaved suburbanite, Mr. Walker could be transformed into a reckless, angry, slavering monster called Mr. Wheeler, by the simple act of getting behind the wheel of his yellow Lincoln-Zephyr convertible.

Yep, folks, way before anyone had coined the term, Goofy starred in a cartoon about road rage, and as Laughing Squid correctly points out (video via Twitter user @gregveen), “many of the points about road rage are still valid today.”

It’s a lesson about being a safe driver, playing fair and well yeah, not quite learning the lesson in its entirety, if at all.

 

You know we can’t Let It Go: new short Frozen Fever gets a trailer worth holding on to

Olaf is back! Along with Anna and Elsa and Kristoff and Sven ... and well, everyone! (image via YouTube (c) Disney)
Olaf is back! Along with Anna and Elsa and Kristoff and Sven … and well, everyone! (image via YouTube (c) Disney)

 

As you may have noticed if you haven’t been trapped under an ice floe for the past 15 months or so (and possibly still even then), Frozen, Disney’s music-filled, visually-stunning, heartwarming take on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale “The Snow Queen”, is a BIG DEAL.

I mean, grossed $1.2bn [insert Dr. Evil from Austin Powers doing his thing here] to date, world wide phenomenon that shows no sign of stopping, “Let It Go” on endless repeat while little girls dance around in colourful, gossamer princess dresses BIG.

And it shows no sign of slowing down anytime yet.

Now, while there is no confirmation of a feature-length sequel in the works – at least a movie sequel anyway; Disney announced mid last year that it would continue the story of Anna and Elsa and their eclectic bunch of friends in book form – there is a brand new 7-minute short, Frozen Fever, that will be the lead-in to Disney’s live action re-telling of the classic tale of Cinderella.

Exciting news for sure, and now we have a tangible sense of what the short, directed by the same people who helmed Frozen itself, Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and featuring the same voice cast which includes Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, will be like in the form of a delightful 39 second trailer.

It has, as you’d expect, a show-stopping song, again by the same team that made Frozen such a musically magical experience, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Olaf acting goofy and eating cake, Anna and Elsa showing the sisterly love, and the whole kingdom of Arendelle turning out to celebrate in fine style.

To complicate things just a little bit Elsa also gets a cold and her powers, which have proven to be a little chilly and unpredictable cause havoc once again.

It sounds like delightful fun, so much fun in fact that I am highly tempted to fly up north to the Gold Coast in southern Queensland, and take my niece to go and see it.

I have every feeling that it, and Cinderella itself, will be worth the time and expense.

Yup, it looks like neither I, my niece or any of Frozen‘s fans are going to be able to “Let It Go” anytime soon.

(source: Hey U Guys)

 

 

And here’s an interview with conducted by the awesome people at Hey U Guys with the directors of Frozen, Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee …

 

Get Frozen … and Get a Horse! (New Mickey Mouse short)

(image via bigscreenanimation.com)
(image via bigscreenanimation.com)

 

Mickey Mouse is back where he belongs – cheeky, impetuous and with a nice retro 1920s sheen, thanks to a wonderful new short Get a Horse! that will accompany Disney’s new animated film, Frozen.

With more than a tilt of the hat to cartoons like Steamboat Willie – try the whole milliners shop inverted at a pleasing backward-looking angle – the snippet of animation glory which introduced Mickey Mouse to the world in 1928, it is styled to resemble its animated forebears using a mix of the latest digital effects and ye olde hand drawn methods to get the desired visual effect.

It’s yet another sign after Disney’s recent series of shorts such as Croissant de Triomphe featuring Mickey Mouse and a host of The Mouse House’s iconic characters and utterly delightful Paperman, that Disney has rediscovered the playful sense of style, both visual and narrative, that made it so revered and well-loved in years gone by.

Celebrating Mickey Mouse’s 85th birthday, Get a Horse! features the famous mouse himself (who appears to have rather self-aware and cheeky clothes and shoes) along with his sweetheart Minnie Mouse, Horace the Horse and Clarabelle Cow out for a relaxing hay ride, complete with jaunty musical accompaniment, in the countryside.

All is well until Peg Leg Pete, in his new fangled motor ve-here-kel (vehicle), equipped with an aggressively loud car horn that rather rudely orders everyone aside to “make way for the future!”, tries to ruin their bucolic carefree fun by running them off the road.

While we only have the first minute of the cartoon to go by, and by all accounts it gets insanely manic and amusing just after the point where the clip ends, it possesses more sight gags, silliness and sheer charm than many other cartoons possess in their entire running time.

It’s great to see Mickey Mouse back in such fine form, and one can only hope that Disney pursues this back-to-their-roots approach to their cartoon making, even if it’s in spirit and not always looks, recognising that cheeky and charmingly subversive is what made them great in the first place.

You can see Get a Horse! in all its glory when Frozen opens in USA on 27 November and in Australia on 26 December.

* Check out the first minute of this old/new Mickey Mouse short …

 

 

Ooh la la mes amis! Mickey Mouse’s new short Croissant de Triomphe

Mickey Mouse en Paris (image via designtaxi.com (c) Disney)

 

Mickey Mouse is back in the house my friends and I couldn’t be happier!

After spending much of my childhood glued to the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights way back in them thar olden days – otherwise known as the 1970s – and relishing the myriad of programs on offers which included everything from movies like The Parent Trap to Pollyanna, Herbie the Lovebug to cartoon starring Goofy, Donald Duck, Chip ‘n’ Dale and of course Mickey Mouse, I gradually grew away from Disney.

As did it seems many people with Disney falling out of favour for a while.

With a resurgence in the late 1980s under new CEO Michael Eisner, Disney was back front and centre in the fast flowing current of the zeitgeist, with movies like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and The Little Mermaid proving very popular at the box office, alongside more adult offerings courtesy of Miramax which “The Mouse House”, as it is fondly known, acquired in 1980.

 

“Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” (image via awn.com (c) Disney)

 

But curiously absent among all this new success was Mickey Mouse, the iconic face of Disney ever since his first cartoon short Steamboat Willie in 1928, who was featured in only three films since 1980.

Relegated to appearances in preschool television on the Disney network, and largely stripped of his early mischievous persona, Mickey appeared destined to be a symbol of this now sprawling entertainment empire, and not much else.

But conscious of the fact that Mickey was no longer registering on the radar of the younger generations, Disney has embarked on a series of 19 short films (which will take place in an assortment of cities round the world such as Tokyo, Venice and New York) in partnership with Paul Ruddish (Powderpuff Girls), all of which are rendered in a gorgeous 1930s art deco style that recalls the look of the original Disney shorts.

This is what Disney had to say about the envisioned series of short, which will begin appearing on its network of television channels from 28 June this year:

“Produced in 2D animation, the design esthetic for the Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts reaches back almost 80 years and borrows reverentially from the bold style of his 1930s design, but not before adding a few contemporary touches. Designs for other characters have a similar approach, favoring a “rubber-hose” cartoon style for more exaggerated animation. Background designs closely reflect the graphic design sense of 1950s and 1960s Disney cartoons. And for those true eagle-eyed Disney fans, the production team has also included the occasional homage to other icons from the storied Disney heritage.” (source: slashfilm.com)

 

A host of Disney characters appear alongside Mickey in this delightful short including Goofy, Daisy and Minnie Mouse (image via fanpop.com (c) Disney)

 

The first film in the series, Croissant de Triomphe, has been released in preview form, and features Mickey frantically driving across Paris on his trusty Vespa overcoming a host of obstacles to restock Minnie’s cafe with much needed croissants.

It is whimsical and delightful with an inspired out-of-the-box visual look and feel, and is yet another sign that Disney, fresh from its Oscar win for Paperman, is at the top of its creative game.

I can’t wait for the rest of the shorts to be released.

*Click on the image below to watch Croissant de Triomphe. (Thanks to disney.com.au and grizzlybrice via slashfilm.com)

 

The title credits for “Croissant de Triomphe” (image via awn.com (c) Disney)

Disney’s “Paperman” charms its way online

Paperman (photo: Disney via bigscreenanimation.com)

 

It is both a symptom of growing older and the saturation of pop culture delights that our burgeoning digital age provides us, that very little truly surprises anymore.

It is not that the quality is questionable – although like anything in life, much of what is produced is of dubious worth – or that the approach is inventive or lacking in creativity; it is simply that it is that much harder to stand out and when something does, to have enough of a “x” factor that people will pay enough attention to it for longer than a nanosecond.

That’s why I know that Paperman, a delightful and whimsical Oscar-nominated six-minute short from Disney that debuted at Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June 2012, before becoming the lead-in short for Wreck It Ralph in December the same year, and now released online, is something truly special.

 

Ain’t love grand (Photo: Disney via supergirlsidekick.blogspot.com )

 

It only took a few seconds for this charming little movie, with a love struck commuter pursuing the doe-eyed woman of his dreams with the help of some highly clever and insistent paper aeroplanes, to win me over and I sat enraptured for the entire length of the film before hitting the replay button and watching it all over again.

And that was in the middle of a busy day at work when time was, as always, at a premium.

But it’s not only the gorgeous storyline that draws you in.

It’s the wonderful animation that appears to be hand drawn even though logic tells you they must have used computers to bring this beautiful mid-20th century-esque love story to life.

 

Unlike most animation these days, the animators didn’t need to abandon their drawings when it came time to produce the film (image via ginadraws.blogspot.com)

 

And after some digging I discovered the reason it looks hand drawn is because it is.

Well partly.

Using a new technique pioneered in-house at Disney called Meander which allows animators to augment computer-generated images with a hand drawn overlay, director John Kahrs was able to achieve the old-fashioned look of traditional cartoons without using time and money he didn’t have, and the results are nothing less than delightful.

The other added benefit of this innovative process was that the artists didn’t have to abandon their painstakingly drawn renderings of the film’s characters when it came time to make the film proper.

 

This illustration beautifully captures the joy and beauty of “Paperman” (image via chirart.deviantart.com )

 

Says John Kahrs in an article by Alice Vincent on telegraph.co.uk:

“There were such phenomenal drawings being done of all the characters and it seemed like, ‘Why do we have to leave these drawings behind?’”

Most importantly, of course, Kahrs and his team realised that there is little point making use of all this whiz-bang technology if you don’t fully flesh out your characters and imbue them all the warmth and humanity you can.

All of which means that Paperman is one of those remarkable films that manages to rise above the clamouring mob of a thousand and one other competing visual treats, and stands a better than average chance of nabbing an Oscar at the ceremony in March (it is competing against two other movies), and no doubt winning over even more people than it has already.