Tag: Disney Animation

Introducing The Art of Alan Bodner: Award-Winning Disney, Warner Bros, & DreamWorks Art Director

We’re incredibly excited to announce the art of Alan Bodner, which is inspired by mid-century modern design styles, is now available at ArtInsights. The first release will include limited editions featuring classic tv, great Broadway shows, and your favorite musicians from all genres. As you know, we are committed to highlighting artists that actually work in the industry. The art of Alan Bodner fits perfectly with that mandate.

To people in the animation and film industry, Alan Bodner needs no introduction. Fans best know him as the award-winning art director of animation projects as diverse as the Bugs Bunny short Carrotblanca, the cult classic animated feature film The Iron Giant, and Disney’s popular shows Kim Possible, and Tangled: The Series, for which he won a Daytime Emmy Award. Animation insiders, however, know Bodner well. He’s been working in Hollywood since his first gig as a background artist at Filmation. He started in 1979, with The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle. The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids soon followed. He was destined for success.

If kids who grew up in the 80s and 90s were to list their favorite Saturday morning cartoons, no doubt he’s worked on a significant share of them. He lent his talents as background artist to Ghostbusters, She-Ra: Princess of Power, and a slew of Looney Tunes shorts. The wonderfully wacky Daffy Duck shorts Duxorcist, Quackbusters, and The Night of the Loving Duck number among his projects. In the 90s and into the new millennium, he painted backgrounds for Garfield, Rocko’s Modern Life, The Avengers, and Phineas and Ferb, just to name a few. Proving his range and skill with a wide variety of art styles, while developing a look of his own that would be recognizable, Bodner began getting hired as art director. In that position, he could dictate and orchestrate the look and feel of entire projects.

However, it wasn’t his art direction in animation that got him the gig as art director on The Iron Giant. Bodner had been at Warner Bros. Classic Animation, working under legendary background artist Dick Thomas, when storyboard artist Harry Sabin brought his name up to Brad Bird. Though Alan showed the core team his work, he later found out it was his fine art, his abstract paintings and his use of color in them, that inspired Brad Bird to hire him, even though Bodner had never worked in feature films.

Bodner found the experience immensely educational. He says it was through that project that he learned how to create a cohesive and inspired look. He explains, “It wasn’t just about a single painting; I was really learning to understand how to tell a story through color. I think that’s what Brad imparted to me. I watched movies with him and he would point things out to me. It was like I was going through a college course in cinema. I remember taking frames of black and white films and just copying the lighting. A lot of the films were film noir, filled with mood. The challenge with The Iron Giant was to go from a happy place to a very dangerous one with the film’s color.”

Color script, keys, and finishes by Alan Bodner for The Iron Giant, a feature for which he won an Annie Award.
Alan Bodner shows how to created emotion and feeling through color on The Iron Giant.
If you haven’t seen this wonderful, poignant, visually stunning animated feature, stop right now and get to it.

Alan continued his ascent to well-known and respected animation art director with Kim Possible in 2002 and 2003, art directing the first season, and laying the groundwork for the show’s visual palette. He went on to both create backgrounds for and art direct on Phineas and Ferb, and art direct the critically acclaimed Tangled series.

You can see Alan’s appreciation and fascination with mid-century modern design in this show, which won him a Daytime Emmy.

Most recently, he’s been art directing a new project on Disney Junior, Mickey Mouse Funhouse. It has been particularly rewarding for Bodner, because he was able to draw on his memories watching The Mickey Mouse Club as a kid when considering the styling and feel of the new show. As he told Jazz Tangcay of Variety, the bold colors used in 1951’s Alice in Wonderland were an inspiration for “Mickey the Brave”, the premiere episode of the series. You can watch Mickey Mouse Funhouse now on cable, or many of your streaming providers through Hulu + Live TV and DirecTV Stream. It’s perfect for little kids, and the colors are joyful and eye-popping.

All this background about Alan’s storied career should make it clear why we’re so exciting to be able to get art representing him for our clients. The artist has a singular style and vision that’s super fun and joyful but also harkens back to the look of the great movie poster artist Saul Bass and other famed mid-century modern masters. He himself says he has been very influenced by the art of Warner Bros. background artist Maurice Noble, and you can see how he’s expanded upon that influence and made it his own.

Here’s a review of a great book all about Maurice Noble and his impact on the history of animation.

You can see his cheeky, fun, but utterly authentic aesthetic in the collection of his art available through the gallery.

Alan will continue to create visual worlds for Disney and other studios in the coming years, so it’s exciting to know you can get both original and limited edition art from this award-winning animation insider.

Prices and timing for commissions have not yet been ironed out, but do start thinking about what might groove you. Alan also creates some art in 3D, and those pieces are a sight to behold!

The program is starting with this first release, but there are lots of other wonderful pieces coming soon, all of which you can see on Alan Bodner’s website. That site offers the opportunities to buy other collateral products like phone cases, pillows, shower curtains, and a host of other cool doodads that you’d be buying directly from Alan, so by all means, check all out. Here’s a link to a lot of other images from classic tv, many of which will be turned into limited editions as the program catches wind. Honestly, I can’t wait for the Adams Family piece to premiere! There are lots of other categories, like music and Broadway, but I’m a Little Shop of Horrors fan from way back, so that’s my favorite for sure. His website also has more info about his career and projects. You can explore HIS WEBSITE HERE.

If the above images spark joy in your heart, contact us soon. We have low numbers for these new limiteds right now, and can deliver them quickly, but who knows how fast they’ll go? He’s pretty great, and at the very least the Rat Pack and Fab Five images will blow through and sell out soon!

Lastly, please contact us if you’ve already figured out what you might want as a commission, because we can put you on the waiting list. He still works full time with the studios, and doesn’t have unlimited time to create these beauties!

Restoration of Vintage Animation: The Basics pt. 1

In this blog, I’m going to start talking about restoration, my thoughts on it, what sorts of cels need it, and as much information as I can think of to spread around from my opinion and perspective…  As a dealer and lover of animation who has been around the “business” since there were only 5 galleries in the world some 25 years ago, I have certainly seen my share of damaged cels….Here are the categories of cels that need restoration:

  • There are cels that have been left in the closet of a house that has no air conditioning: the worst example of this was a cel of Cheshire Cat where the bright pink paint had seeped into the actual cel, and the paint had melted to make the poor creature look like he’d been smashed to death. Tragic. (No picture. No one needed a reminder of such ruin)
  • There have been cels that are from the era of “art corner”–these are the cels from Disney released at Disneyland–they are put on thin litho copy backgrounds and it is just about inherent to the era that the cels are stuck, often completely, to the background. Many collectors just leave them that way, since anyone who knows what they are looking at will expect the cel to be stuck. Fortunately, a friend devised a way to separate those cels from their backgrounds without destroying all the paint, and keeping the art intact.  YAY!!! He deserves an award! (no, he doesn’t do it for the general public…)
  • There are cels that are painted nitrate cellulose, and that “plastic” shrinks and expands with the moisture in the air and they look all shriveled and wavy. Often the paint cracks off because it is being asked to stay adhered to these wavy pieces of plastic. TOO MUCH STRESS! These pieces are often Courvoisier set ups, which were put together and sold by Disney in the late 30s and early 40s. There are also cels from Dumbo that crack from the kind of paint they used with the elephants. Rare indeed are the cels that are unrestored of the lead character or other elephants from that film.
  • There are cels that are from the 50s from movies where the paint they used is notorious for cracking. An example of this is the white on Alice in Wonderland. Her apron, her tights…these crack very easily. Since Alice and Cinderella fall in between the Courvoisier and Art Corner eras at Disney, they are often just loose cels someone saved. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few that are in perfect condition from that time period that I call “The Secretary’s Era”, because women who worked in the offices there and took art home sometimes painted over the back of the cel where the paint was with clear nail polish. I have never seen pieces that have nail polish with chipped or cracked paint. Those gals knew what they were doing!
  • There are cels that are from when Disney started selling art to the public through what they called “The Disney Art Program”. These cels have seals (a variety of them, actually) but they are often laminated on both the front and the back of the cel. So that means an extra piece of plastic is added on top of the cels with art on them. THESE ARE TICKING TIME BOMBS, says a chemist friend who has been working with restoration experts for longer than I’ve even been around animation.  Why? Because something happens with the chemistry of the paint and whatever they used to seal it all together. I don’t really understand it, but what I DO know is the end result is at some point the cels start getting bubbling, smell weird, and then shrivel up. I have heard of, and a few times seen firsthand that removing the layers on either side of the art saves the inner cel(s), but once it starts bubbling time is of the essence. For this reason I rarely sell cels from between 1971 and 1986 unless I can tell it is laminated only on one side or not at all.

Winnie the Pooh double laminated cel in bad shape...
Winnie the Pooh double laminated cel in bad shape…

Damaged double laminated cel--a rare example of a vintage piece sold from "The Disney Art Program" between 1973-1986.
Damaged double laminated cel–a rare example of a vintage piece sold from “The Disney Art Program” between 1973-1986.

  • Finally, there are cels that are simply not well taken care of–left in houses with extreme changes in temperature, or in a hot car, or in a pile of cels where they all get stuck together. Also, if an extremely hard winter (as we’ve just had on the East coast) has caused sharp changes of temperature and extreme cold, it can mean trouble for a perfect unrestored cel.

Unfortunately, (from my perspective), the world of animation doesn’t see any difference between art that is in original condition and art that’s been restored. This is good news for those who agree with this notion, but those who know me are aware of the fact that I would always prefer to carry and sell art in its original condition. I suspect those from Europe, or at least more often from outside the US, tend to be more committed to finding art that is in good original shape. When a collector with either perspective finds a great image of a key scene or moment from a favorite short or movie, however, if the art is damaged to the point of being visually distracting, restoration often becomes a necessity.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss how to proceed when cels are damaged, at what point a collector might decide restoration is necessary, and where information and help can be obtained.

Postscript: I was searching the web for Courvoisier cels that are cracked but in good condition, and I found no less than dozens of cels that I’ve had for sale and sold at some point, and remember what they looked like at the time, and now they are “perfect”