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.

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