No story can exist without its hero. Since it is the characters who form the viewer’s attitude to the picture, forcing them to empathize, experience fear, rejoice, fall in love, and be surprised. However: “Without a pronounced personality, no one will believe in our characters” – this phrase Walt Disney often said to his employees.
I think the modern audience is incredibly lucky to see the results of 96 years of work because it allows understanding the development of the studio’s character design.
How was the image of the classic Disney hero formed? How did it change? And what influenced these changes?
To answer these questions it is important to first consider the heart of the studio.
Walt Disney has always been a dreamer. As a child, he, dressing up as characters from his favorite fairy tales, constantly told fascinating stories to his older brother. At a young age, he developed a great interest in creativity. Walt took part in the creation of the school newspaper as an artist and photographer, attended the Academy of Fine Arts in the evenings, sold his comics, studied newspaper caricatures. At an older age, he began to be interested in classical European art.
These hobbies of Walt were reflected in his work: the first short films of the studio were made in a caricature style, later fairy tales became the basis of Disney cartoons, and the new style was inspired by classical European art.
Walt sought to surprise his viewer with characters, history, the magic of moving pictures: “The trouble with our world is that too many grow up. I don’t make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in each of us, whether he is six years old or sixty.” Sergei Eisenstein, in his study of Disney’s creativity, wrote: “… It seems that this man … knows all the innermost strings of human thoughts, images, thoughts, feelings … He creates somewhere in the region of the purest and most primary depths.
There – where we are all children of nature. He creates at the level of ideas of a person who is not yet chained by logic, rationality, experience. This is how butterflies make their flight.
Disney was a storyteller: elephants flew in his cartoons, mice talked and danced, fairies flew. But despite this, he possessed important character traits that brought him success in his favorite business. He was accustomed to working, and hard work from childhood. He never knew luxury and was fanatically industrious. According to the studio staff, “Walt always knew what he needed” and strived for excellence in his work.
That is why, before he was twenty years old, Disney found work as an artist of short animated cartoons. Then, together with his colleague Ab Iwerks and brother Roy, he founded his studio – the Walt Disney Company.
Initially, the position of a concept artist or character development artist (in the modern sense) was not at the studio. It is important to understand that Disney did not invent the art of animation, but it was he who “defined its face” and content: gradually discovering new technologies and rebuilding the strong inner workings of films.