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.
...to 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....
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.