Friday, July 27, 2007

JohnK on the Gay Arabic Villain

Yes , in his grumpy ol' man-way he might be right , and yet not,... what do I know. One thing's for sure though: When I did sketches for Clayton I was in no way thinking of Gaston, that idea didn't cross my mind for a nanosecond. I'm rather proud of not looking into other animated movies for my inspiration. It was John Barrymore, eventually- after doing much exploring along other ways, that I had in mind.

I've talked in this blog about this before, so: to save some time: further down, you'll find the original post about Clayton again .

Anyway, here's how I see it in my Krauty english: about the gayness of the cartoon-villain, -and I said this too in JohnK's commentsection, it's not so much a caricature of the sexual orientation, -how pathetic would that be ?-, but of the fact, that these kind of characters are very much in love with themselfes and tend to overact and overdramatize and -style themselfes, that's why they keep their beards so neatly trimmed,that's why they overdress, they have certain insecurities to overcome,if they hadn't , they wouldn't be vulnarable by the hero. That might come across as gay. But a caricature of a gay person, at least if I was involved , would look totally different.

And don't forget: the Disney-Hook, -Jaffar and whosoever, they didn't fall to earth in Burbank, there had been other illustrators and actors who visualized specific characters or charactertypes before, which makes them quotes , sometimes caricatures or simply "The Disney version" of the collective imagery audiences worldwide had in mind already, and as a designer, you wish to communicate with this audience and use this images, build unto them. That's what's often misundersood as a rip-off.
Lucky is the designer who doesn't need to worry about a believable, sincere and entertaining villain to carry a 90 min plus movie, because he works for a 7 min shorts with just funny characters bouncing off each other.
Entertaining often means contrasting the sinister plans with funny trades and mannerism. Of course there are villains that stay dignified throughout the whole picture, Snowwhite's Evil Queen for example or Lady Tremain, but they can do so, because the dwarfs or the mice are funny "for them". In other words : it's a question of the entire cast. A cast full of looney characters is as unbearable to watch as a cast of sincere, dignified ones. A question of balance, also on the design level. Dignified characters have to look dignified and funny characters have to look funny.Pocahontas slipping ion a bananapeel won't work.

The many origins of Hook for example...

Blackbeard-The pirate's pirate

J.M.Barrie as Hook, he should know, what Hook looks like....

Boris Karloff and George Rose as Hook

Tom Oreb

And the reason they look the way they look is not because storytellers worlwide can't think of anything better, it'sjust an archetypal language of inner and outer design. The person which overdressses , which makes and overstrong message with his outfit tries to hide the opposite : Hook is dressing as a gentleman, because he's a monster.Voila.The monster that looks a monster is booooooooring.

My fancy beard as the center of the known universe: swollen ego in other words, or insecurity on the flipside.

Now for the many origins of Jaffar:

Conrad Veidt, the german actor who also inspired The Joker

Zigzag, as far as I know, is a caricature of a producer that Dick Williams knew and dispised.

Well , anyway, I hope I could get my point across, here's that Clayton post again:


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....


jim45y said...

Its cool to see how much time and research goes into developing a character... but i do wish disney or just any character designers would just drop the vain and effiminet thing... its been over done and frankly is offensive to gay people especially in a country that thinks gay people are evil anyway. When someone like yourself takes so much time and energy developing a character and comes up with great refrences and designs its kind of unfourtunate that he will be lumped in with a hoard of evil gays for another generation and ur hard work and originality gets overlooked.

Luciano Werhli said...

How much predjudice. People are pretty sad. You are the villain that tries to hide in your narcisistic figure.

Luciano Werhli said...

How much predjudice. I thought you as an Disney artist should be more intelligent.
You must be the villain that hides in your narcisistic and egoisthical personality.

JohnK said...

Hey Harald

those are great drawings!

They'd be hard as hell to animate, but I bet they could be simplified and still maintain your ideas.

your fan

John K

mark kennedy said...

Harald - great post! When most people talk about designing characters, they don't talk enough about how everything must come from the personality, and how many things you have to juggle (like making him look "English" enough) as you work. Thanks for walking all of us through your process.

Jenny Lerew said...

This is really fascinating to read and pore over. Beautiful stuff! Thank you for posting(and re-posting)it.

X180 said...

Some people apparently don't read very carefully. You guys are calling Harald a liar for his rationale for using "preening" and "overdressing" as a villainous characteristic? Saying he's secretly motivated by the same shallowly caricatured prejudices that he himself calls "pathetic"?

I've got news for you folks: gay people in America (of which I am one) have it pretty darned good. Plus we're big boys. We can take care of ourselves. We don't see witch-hunts in every Disney villain, or shriek and jump up and down yelling "Mommy! Mommy! The bad man drew mean hurtful things about meeee!" Maybe they don't bend over backwards to coddle us here by stuffing marriage laws down people's throats, but that just makes us practical and balanced, more so (I daresay) than an entire class of overeducated intellectual affectatious twentysomethings who sip espresso and sneer about bourgeois American culture, so comfortably and conveniently far away.

Watch William Shatner's "Invasion: Iowa" show sometime. It's heartbreaking to see how wonderfully polite and forgiving and hospitable the plain people of a Middle American farming town are to the cadre of Hollywood phonies who show up to exploit them and try to get them being Stereotypically Boorishly American on camera; all they succeed in doing is showing who the better men really are.

murrayb said...

I apologize for my comment, sir.
When I said "reused" I was referring to the handsome, vain, barrel chested "type"; storywise, not design wise. I wasn't disparaging your fantastic design.

The red herring villain was also part of gaston's arc as well. he went from boorish to murderous, and he also died in almost the same way.

anyways, open mouth, insert foot.

Clinton said...

I like how you showed all your reference material in creating Clayton. Do you have more?

Aurorah said...

To make a man english is easy. just make him gay.

St. Anger said...

It's quite plausible that John has the gay.

Gordon Groat said...

Like so many others, I'm a great fan of your work, and I appreciate the time you take to post it.

I'm also a great fan of Edmund Dulac's work. Could you post his name with his work so people who visit your blog and are not familiar with his work, have a chance to discover him.

Gordon Groat said...

Like so many others, I'm a great fan of your work, and I appreciate the time you take to post it.

I'm also a great fan of Edmund Dulac's work. Could you post his name with his work so people who visit your blog and are not familiar with his work, have a chance to discover him.

Sam Nielson said...

Great, great post. I love to see how character designs evolve. I can see why Clayton lost the monocle with further revision, but that certainly would have been an interesting soft spot for such a strong villain. He turned out great in the end, though.

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