Saturday, December 03, 2005


When we started with Tarzan, we were aiming at the impossible, namely not giving away, that Clayton was the villain of our movie, but using Kerchak as a kind of a red herring instead. That of course, couldn't work, but we tried anyway. The idea behind that was, that not too long ago in the history of Hollywood-movies the great white hunters were the heros in these kind of movies. And who would make a better great white hunter than Clark Gable, in fact, he played these kind of roles. So I looked at him a lot. the great surprise of the directors, who were expecting a kind of caricature of Brian Blessed, the wonderful voice of Clayton. I just had a tape with some of his lines but in my ignorance, didn't know , what he looked like, and worked only from what I was hearing.
When I had my first sketches ready I had to board them and run the voicetape to the directors to convince them, that it would work, even if there was no resemblance.

Gable as Clayton was too "American" for my taste, so I looked a lot at J.C.Leyendecker's work to get a feel for the "English Gentleman", well educated, ready to kill, but deciding against it.

I found out, that Leyendecker's favorite model was the actor John Barrymore, grandfather of Drew, so I went directly to the source. You'll find more Barrymore in Clayton than Gable.

It always helps, to look at the contemporary version of whatever it is your drawing. This guy is Southafrica's greatest elefant-killer.Look into his eyes....

I never miss out to look not just at other ( animated ) movies, but at the historical real thing and get familiar with it, doing my reasearch. This is Sir Richard Burton, -not the actor-, the first and only non-muslim, who ever was inside the Kaaba, who first translated the Kamasutra an the "Arabian Nights", who discovered the "Victoria Falls" and the source of the nile. The blueprint of any generic explorer.

As I said before, I wanted Clayton to be "english", so I tried everything I could, using the likes of David Niven as reference, Errol Flynn, even Prince Charles and Prince Phillip, basically everything I could get hold off....

Getting closer...

One of the first modelsheets with the finished design. We took the neck and the chin a little bit back.

Kent Melton's wonderful maquette....

I was having a break from Clayton and all the others in my little cubicle, reading a magazine with my feet on the table, when all of a sudden Joe Grant popped in. " Wanted to have a look at what you're doing..."
I talked him through my stuff , we chatted for quite a while, I asked him everyhing I could think of, being well aware that this was my once-in-a-lifetime-chance to talk face to face with animation history. Of course I had seen and talked to him before, his office was right next to Hans' when I was working there on "Mulan", but we never talked that intimate before and after.
We talked about Dumbo, Fantasia, Walt and Joe's non-Disney-work and lots of other things. He was just the nicest guy. I'm glad to have had that moment and I'll cherish it for ever.


A. Riabovitchev said...

Very interesting story! Story for a book! I read your post immediately after watching Tarzan on TV today.
Very interesting!

Christophe said...

Very interesting post, thanks !

Ashton said...

Very interesting. You should make indepth posts like this twice a day.

Boris Hiestand said...

Always great to hear these stories-love the prince Charles/Niven drawings!
I always wonder how much the supervising animators are involved with finalising/creating these characters. Probably depends on the situation and character, but it'd be nice to know! Randy Haycock work with you on this?

Elliot said...

It is interesting to note that the finished character reflects almost all the elements you considered in one way or another.

Thorsten Hasenkamm said...

BTW: Is the maquette yours?

HaraldSiepermann said...

I wish it was !!!!!!!!!!
I never got one, well not exactly true , we all got one of Tarzan at the premiere.

Bobby P said...

And was it Randy Haycock you worked with on finalizing the design? How do you feel he turned out on the screen?

HaraldSiepermann said...

Yes I did work with Randy, I remember talking to him a couple of times, and I do remember my goosbumps when I saw the first test of Clayton moving, it was still a tentative dialogas far as I remember, but I could be wrong. Hello to Randy from here !

Cedric said...

Wow, thanks for posting these. It is so fascinating to observe the evolution of your design process.

randyh said...

Hey Harald,
Randy here. A friend here at work sent me this blog. Your drawings were a huge part of why I wanted to animate on Clayton. They were inspiring. Since we didn't get to talk after I started animating I was always worried that you wouldn't like what I did with the character. It did my heart good to see above that you liked the animation you saw. I'm animating on the computer now so I appreciate good drawing even more and looking at your drawings here I'm inspired all over again! Thanks.

HaraldSiepermann said...

Hi Randy,
good to hear from you !!! What are you up to ?
Are you still with Disney ???
Yes, I liked a lot, what you did with Clayton and how he turned out, no need to worry , on the contrary. Isn't blogging just the coolest thing??? I have heard from so many people, that I thought, were lost for ever, please say "hello" from me to all of them out there in animationland !I have a terrible cold, so I guess I'll call it a day for now, take care, Harald

PEPE said...

thanks for sharing the process!!

Matthew Cruickshank said...

This is an outstanding post, thouroughly enjoyed studying this particular process.

ShigueS said...

Just amazing man! I suspect that you made tons of studies to get to this final idea. There´s no words to discribe how beaultifull are all your proccess of creation. You´re the man! Keep posting these wonderfull drawings, please!

Thorhauge said...

Damn, you are goddamn brilliant (excuse me my language) This is such a brilliant character! Absolutely breathtaking. I have drooled over your stuff a couple of times now and I thought it was about time I got my admiration down in letters.

I am at the moment a first year at The Animation Workshop in Denmark - taking a bachelor in char animation and would love for you to give some critizism on my work =)

And merry Christmas!

HaraldSiepermann said...

Merry Christmas to you!
I know the Animation Workshop, I have been a guest there last year and who knows, might come back again, I had to skip it this year, timing was bad and I was just too busy. Show me your stuff and I'd be happy to comment.
Give my regards to Michelle and Tim and everybody else. Merry Xmas to all of you, h

Thorhauge said...

Thought you might, and it would be a honour to have you back again :-)
I'm in the process of building a blog up of my own, but I can't say I am rushing it hehe, however, there is a bit to look at if you visit ! (please do ;])

And I shall certainly say hello to everybody!

Mike Owens said...

Your process is fascinating and admirable. That third sketch of Clayton is just great!

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