Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Walt Disney World Christmas Cover

Mickey Monitor magazine for Disney Passholders
I was recently asked if I'd be interested in doing an original cover for the holiday issue of the annual Walt Disney World Magazine for Passholders, with the magical moniker of"Mickey Monitor". Being that it was obviously a Christmas theme and Mickey Mouse would be included I immediately nodded yes! Unfortunately it was an email and the Disney exec didn't see my head shaking up and down or hear it rattling so I emailed him back with a yuletide yessiree! 

The Mickey Monitor is a very popular magazine that is sent out to the Passholders 4 times a year and filled with wonderful behind the scenes photos and interviews as well as information about special events held at Walt Disney World for Passholders only . On the right are two inside pages  from the recent Fall 2012 Mickey Monitor discussing facts about the fabulous  New Fantasyland that mouse ears have been buzzing about.

One of my rough sketches, sepia pencil on paper

Now that I've explained the magazine for those new to it, I'll get back to the cover assignment.  Well Mickey had to have pal Pluto in the painting with him. Obviously  a man... er I mean a mouse and his dog was a natural setup. When I saw the skinny vertical format and was told it could also be enlarged as a 2-pager I decided to include his confederates in comedic cartoon collaboration, Donald and Goofy.

I sketched out a few different setups and settled on the one to the left. It's designed so when you first see the cover it'll be just Mickey and Pluto but as you open the 2 page spread it reveals two special holiday guests visiting the house of mouse. I sent in the rough pencil sketch and they liked the setup giving me the thumbs up to go for paint. I like it when they like it.

Cleanup drawing by Mike Peraza ready for color

I tightened up my rough into a 2-tone cleanup shown here to the right with the background drawn in blue and the characters in red just to keep it simple while I rendered it out. I didn't want to rush into color before having a fairly tight setup to work from. Disney Legend and friend Ken O'Connor instilled in me how important it is to be sure your layout's clear before going to color or you may be wasting a lot of time coloring and then re-coloring a badly composed illustration. Ken really knew his stuff so I listened.

After experimenting with quick little color studies I decided on the path below for the final direction with yellow as the brightest hue while including white to help pop the characters. The only black used is for character details like ears, noses, boots, etc to also help separate from the background where I didn't go that dark. I toned down the red in Goofy's Santa suit so as to give Mickey the "hot seat" so to speak and make him stand out.

Final painting "Dreaming on Christmas Eve" by Mike Peraza
Being that it was a magazine illustration instead of an animation background I was free to include more detail with a super saturated color scheme than I would normally incorporate although I still had to get it out under one week. I also included a few "hidden Mickeys" that folks seem to hanker for so "have a happy holiday hidden Mickey hunt!" As this painting "hits the newstands" I was honored to discover that the D23 folks will also include it in their special "23 Days of Disney Christmas" gallery and ultimately display the final piece in the Walt Disney Archives.

This wintery scene was created in the summer of 2012, during the record breaking heat wave that baked Southern California. The AC was on and Christmas carols were playing non-stop to get me in the mood. The neighbors must have thought I was nuts but I prefer to think I'm just a bit early for the season, like the department stores are every year.  

I am so thankful to have the opportunity to illustrate cover art and hope I'll be asked to do more in the future. I'm thrilled anytime I get to work with the original "stock company" of  Walt Disney, namely Mickey, Pluto, Donald and Goofy. I know some folks will think I'm corny but I've done so many illustrations of this gang over the years that they feel like part of my family. Well folks, as the jolly old elf said, "Merry Christmas!" Now would someone please pass the eggnog?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mel Shaw

1914- 2012
I'm very sorry to report the passing of a long time friend, mentor and Disney Legend Mel Shaw who has left us at the age of 97. He died peacefully in his sleep on Thanksgiving evening surrounded by his family leaving behind a legacy of artwork and graciousness that will not be forgotten. I had been in awe of Mel since he came to Cal Arts and gave us an in depth look at the concept work he had created for an upcoming full length animated feature entitled, "The Black Cauldron".

Mel goes over his "Black Cauldron" 
concepts with Gary Goldman
Not long after arriving at the studio, I was fortunate to be added to the tiny 2-man crew working on new projects with Mel and Woolie whose room was literally right next door. Mel introduced me to the story telling illustrations of N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle and others that I was ignorant of at the time and I soon became a rabid fan of the Brandywine School style of illustration thanks to his tutelage and nuturing.  

One of Mel's masterful pastel concepts for "Black Cauldron"
Mel was patient and helpful as I tried my best to match his beautiful pastel work on our "The Little Broomstick" film project that sadly ended up shelved in favor of "Black Cauldron" getting greeenlit.  Ironically this was due in large part to his stunning work on Cauldron.

Mel began work at Disney Studio back in 1937 after making quite an impression on Walt at the polo field. He continued to make a good impression on Walt contributing to "Fantasia", Bambi", and many other classics. He left the studio only to return in 1970s to help bridge the transition between the retiring animators and us "new kids" on films like "Rescuers". He also contributed his beautiful sense of color and staging to additional Disney titles including, "The Great Mouse Detective", Beauty and the Beast", and "The Lion King".

Eventually, if I can ever organize this hovel I lovingly call my studio, I plan to post some of the the pieces I still have that Mel, Woolie and I created for "The Little Broomstick" and  some watercolors from "Catfish Bend" along with the photos and the stories behind them. That work should be seen and shared. Mel will be sorely missed but his stunning art will live on to inspire future generations.