"The Black Cauldron" was to be a return of greatness for Disney Feature animation. There was a lot of fresh new talent alongside veteran Disney artists to bring it to the screen. Somewhere along the way as it slowly creeped through production, I just found it difficult to get excited about the direction Cauldron was taking. I wasn't as thrilled about it as I had been when I first saw Mel Shaw's dramatic pastels for the film. He had captured a tale of sweeping adventure and fantasy in brilliant colors. For me, that excitement had been watered down. I wasn't alone. There were others too who wanted to work on something else. That something else became, "Basil of Baker Street."
|One of two desks I used simultaneously during Basil. |
Here I'm working out the staging outside the toyshop
The story was based on a series of children's books by Eve Titus where a mouse fashioned after London's greatest detective lives just beneath that famous 221B Baker street address. His archenemy is Professor Ratigan, a nod to Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes world. At one point the little girl, Olivia, was older and a possible love interest for Basil but it was deicided a small girl searching for her father would gain more feeling between our leads in the story dynamic. Basil also plays the violin quite well in our movie whereas in the books he's horrible with the instrument. Basil was named in honor of Basil Rathbone who played the detective role famously for MGM and Universal studios for many years.
Ken Anderson had done a marvelous workbook for "Ben and Me", and I was using copies of those as a guide to workbooking for Basil. The productions hadn't been using workbooks in their planning for many years. I'm guessing because the older crew with icons like Don Griffith and Mac Stewart and others had gained so much experience that they could just go from story sketch to layout with a minimum of problems. Well I wasn't as experienced or comfortable doing that so I liked relying on workbooks to aid in the staging process. I did all my thumbnails and even full size layouts in charcoal, sometimes using a carbon pencil for tight detail line work. I also made what I called "Color Ribbons" in small thumbnails to show the progression of color which is so important to setting mood and having an emotional impact. I got that idea from Fantasia, where they had these great little charts showing the abstract color in a sequence and how it would flow through the story. These were then set using workable fixative.
|A rather messy corner of my room at the old Disney Studio|