Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tenggren's Concept Art

During the 1930s, Walt Disney evolved the look of animation from simple black and white cartoons to richly imagined worlds that seemed to leap from the pages of illustrated books.

Disney's interest in illustrated children's books intensified after a trip to Europe where he bought many books illustrated by artists such as Dulac and Rackham. 

Disney hired Gustaf Tenggren, often called the "Arthur Rackham of Sweden," to join the studio as a concept artist. Tenggren's dramatically lit concept paintings influenced the look of Snow White (above) and Pinocchio (below). 

Other artists at Disney remembered that Tenggren didn't really join the team; he remained aloof and didn't talk much.  

It was Disney's practice to hire a few artists whose sole job was to produce fully-realized production illustrations, as well as innumerable loose idea sketches, with the hope that their work would inspire artists down the pipeline in layout, color, story, and animation. 

Elaborate miniature design studies for the animated short The Old Mill
Some of Tenggren's watercolor studies are loose and small, yet brimming with mood and drama. His sketches, sometimes called "atmosphere sketches" also inspired the look of Sorcerer's Apprentice, and several shorts such as The Moth and the Flame and The Old Mill. 

Tenggren also worked on a planned adaptation of Wind in the Willows, (which later was absorbed into The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad), but those sketches have been lost. 
A new book called They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Golden Age brings together rarely-seen work of Tenngren, as well as three other concept artists: Albert Hurter, Ferdinand Horvath, and Bianca Majolie. The book is over 200 pages long and with hundreds of color reproductions, mostly of work that doesn't appear in other Disney art books. There's a short bio of each of the featured artists written by Disney expert Didier Ghez. 

This is just the first volume covering the 1930s. Others in the series have come out or are on the way, including They Drew As they Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Musical Years (The 1940s - Part One) and They Drew as They Pleased Vol. 3: The Hidden Art of Disney's Late Golden Age (The 1940s - Part Two). (Thanks, Matt)

I would recommend these books to anyone interested in animation art or movie concept art, or any artist who wants to use their sketchbooks as incubators of visual ideas. 
They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Golden Age
The book is a companion volume to the earlier book on Disney's concept art: Before the Animation Begins: The Art and Lives of Disney Inspirational Sketch Artists


Matt Hunter Ross said...

Love this book. Volume 2 "The Hidden Art of Disney's Musical Years" is also great, and volume 3 is coming soon:

Rich said...

Another great exploration, James, and a childhood remembrance:
I had inherited a Disney jigsaw puzzle from those times - still remembering the faery-eyed flowers and a hovering, humming-bird-like, rocking horse.

The puzzle got lost, unfortunately.

Steve Gilzow said...

Tenggren was one of the first favorite illustrators I knew by name -- by way of Golden Books. Though I'd seen and loved his work in the Disney movies, I had no name to associate with those. The Golden Books had his name on the title page. There were several, but the ones I recall were Poky LIttle Puppy, Saggy Baggy Elephant, and -- perhaps my favorite because it appeared the same year I did (1950), The Little Trapper. The cover of that book featured a boy in a coonskin cap. This turned out to be oddly prescient, as a major Davy Crockett fad swept the nation in 1955 and millions of us --myself included -- ran around in coonskin caps.

My Pen Name said...

Thanks for the rec James picked up my copy today and enjoying it a great deal.