Saturday, April 28, 2007

"Sketchbook in Africa" by Ken Anderson

These pages are from a magazine you could buy in 1970 at a gas station (I think it was Mobil). A friend loaned these to me to scan.

Disney Artist Ken Anderson used to go to Africa - rather frequently, I gather - and would come back with sketchbooks full of drawings. I've heard that he would xerox his drawings and staple them together as books to hand out to his co-workers - whether they wanted them or not. For some reason this gas station Disney magazine did an article on Ken and his sketching trips to Africa. They feature some beautiful samples of his sketches. If anyone has one of those old xerox books I'd love to see it!

The weird part about this article is the last page where, for some reason that's not explained in the text, Ken drew some African animals dressed up as hippies. The stoned-looking Lion even appears to be smoking a joint. For a guy who always seemed to have a lot of good taste and sophistication in his approach, it seems like a striking lapse of good taste. He drew every tired hippy cliché you can think of.

It's also interesting to note the way he refers to a drawing of a sleeping leopard in his sketchbook as being "flaked out." Click to see them bigger.


tulanoodle said...

I actually rather like the giraffe. The rest I can see what you mean though. I like to travel Africa on my computer and sketch from Google. It's the closest thing I can get! But it's better than nothing.

Pete Emslie said...

C'mon, these are all funny! I'd rather live in that era where Disney cartoonists caricatured the world around them without concern for "political correctness". Besides, I suspect these are all pretty accurate portrayals of typical "hippies" of the time - probably quite representative of the Haight-Ashbury set. Thanks for posting these pages, Mark!

tek! said...

at a gasstation ? wow.
its easy for us now to look in retrospect and see the varieties of hippy-culture but if someone sketches
a subculture from today (let's say ravers) , then too we see a very stereotypical image. also i dont think Ken Anderson was totally involved in this scene so maybe thats
why they are very caricatured.

Matt J said...

What a great discovery. I've been hoping to see more Ken Anderson sketches & to get a glimpse inside his sketchbook is wonderful. I really hope someone unearths some of these xeroxed books he made for his colleagues.

Silvio Ortiz said...

Unfortunately I found these drawings emasculated, reiterative and stereotypical. It must be my fault but I am starting to get sick of "Disney's" Style. Isn't it time to realise that we have to move in a completely different direction of appreciation and admiration?
Tragically these drawings remind me of the dreadful Anderson's designed "Robin Hood"

Pete Emslie said...

Well, Silvio, we certainly see them differently indeed. I always loved Ken Anderson's concepts, being a fan of "Funny Animal" cartoons in general. Personally, I bemoan the fact that Disney animation in the mid 90's was veering away from the fun and appealing, character-driven films I grew up with in the 60's through 70's. Today, I believe that too many films suffer from having designers who are trying to be far too clever, resulting in character designs that don't move particularly well and are not conducive to full animation. Give me the funny, organic designs of Ken Anderson anyday!

Yeti said...

Those drawings are great to see. When I was a kid my dad encouraged me to write a letter to Ken Anderson. To get his attention I drew a picture of Donald Duck on the envelope. He sent me a hand written reply with a critique of my drawing and then enclosed a few drawings of Pete's Dragon. He also invited me to his home in La Canada.

I took him up on the offer and spent a wonderful afternoon with him. He showed me many more drawings and encouraged me to 'keep working'. He also signed my Illusion of Life book and grumbled about it a bit by saying 'it was a nice tribute to Frank and Ollie" I've been a big fan since then. I only wish I knew where that letter was!

Chris Sobieniak said...

I would agree with Pete on that as well, much of today's work in animation lack a sort of friendliness and interest I had in having watched the films of my youth and the characters I could relate to that seems so sterile in today's world.

Stephen said...

More sketchbook stuff - I love it! I'll bet the magazine editors either asked him to do the hippie stuff or they picked them out of pages and pages of traditional animal sketches. They do seem rather out of place there.


dr. hong said...

Dear Ken Anderson,

Where can i get a scarf like that?

Stephen Worth said...

Hello Mark

I just posted the chapter from Gene Byrnes' "Complete Guide to Cartooning" on sketching to the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Blog and linked to your great series of sketchbook posts.

Gene Byrnes' Complete Guide To Cartooning Part Five: Sketching


k. borcz said...

I rather like the giraffe too!

Sam Nielson said...

Can any drawing of a hippy done in 1970 be called a tired cliche? Seems like the whole concept of hippy would have been new enough that the "tired cliche" didn't exist yet.

mark kennedy said...

Considering that the musical "Hair" opened in 1967 and that the "Summer of Love" was in 1967, I would think that by 1970 those hippy stereotypes were pretty well-known, but I could be wrong.

I think that the reason I don't like the hippy cartoons is that it reminds me all too much of what was wrong with the studio at that time - when "Robin Hood" and "Aristocats" were being made. Those films seem to be trying very hard to be "hip" and "with it" when the great Disney films were never even close to "hip". They were always corny, sentimental, and above all, sincere, which those later films were not, and it's interesting that so many great artists who worked with Walt Disney would make such a blunder, in my opinion, but I enjoy reading everyone else's comments so don't feel like you offend me if you disagree! Please keep the comments coming!

Kevin Kidney said...

I love these caricatures! They remind me of Marc Davis' character designs for "America Sings" at Disneyland, with the hippy gators and flower-child bullfrogs, etc. Joy to the world!

Pete Emslie said...

I'm not sure I'd describe either "The Aristocats" or "Robin Hood" as trying to be "hip" for the time period. If anything, I think they were reflective of the rather "square" tastes of middle America, considering that their voice talents were plucked from the likes of cornball TV hits like "Green Acres" and "Hee Haw". By the way, I say this with no slight intended, as these were also the shows I loved during that era.

The characters of Scat Cat and his gang of alley cats may have been Disney's attempt at recreating the success of the multi-ethnic pound dogs in "Lady and the Tramp", though I believe it was better done in that earlier film. Scat Cat, of course, was Disney's homage to Louis Armstrong and his Le Jazz Hot period spent in Paris back in the 40's. Only the English cat, in his beads and red shades would seem to be cashing in on the hippy phenomenon of the time, and admittedly that felt like a glaring anachronism within the context of the time period the film takes place in.

(Hi to Kevin Kidney - glad to see you on here!)

Anonymous said...

'The weird part about this article is the last page where, for some reason that's not explained in the text, Ken drew some African animals dressed up as hippies. The stoned-looking Lion even appears to be smoking a joint. For a guy who always seemed to have a lot of good taste and sophistication in his approach, it seems like a striking lapse of good taste. He drew every tired hippy cliché you can think of.

It's also interesting to note the way he refers to a drawing of a sleeping leopard in his sketchbook as being "flaked out." Click to see them bigger.'

Good god admire the artwork and keep your ridiculous conserative views to yourself please. The 60's was a very different time .

"flaked out." Oh my god ! what an outragous description ...............lighten up and admire the sketches .

mark kennedy said...

Hey pete- good points, I was just barely born in 1970 so I can only talk about my perceptions of what was "hip" at the time, but the vernacular in those movies - the use of words like "groovy" and expressions like "solid gold hubcaps" and things like that, as well as the twangy guitar music used in some of "Robin Hood" make it seem like those are trying to be more in step with tastes at the time than the older Disney films, and it's what makes them seem creaky now. I'm not too familiar with "Hee Haw" but my impression is that they didn't use words like "groovy" or anything like that.

anonymous - I have been called many things since I started this blog but "conservative" is a new one! Unfortunately this post has garnered a lot of attention and many readers new to this blog are coming. I always assume that regualr readers know that I tend to spout my opinions and they are obviously just the opinions of one person.

The blogs I like are the ones where people share their thoughts and opinions openly. Obviously there will always be dissenting opinions. I welcome your comments but I won't ever stop saying what's on my mind, so you can either just enjoy the posts without reading my writing, or leave comments taking me to task for my stupid opinions, or just don't come back - your choice.

Jenny said...

Gee whiz, man--cool it, baby!
I think Mark certainly admires the sketches quite a bit--for pete's sake, he took the effort to post and share them with everyone! Thanks, Mark. : )

I can see both Mark's and Pete E.'s POV...I too feel the films of the 60s and 70s were at times embarassing whenever they tried too hard to be hip.

Just think of that scene in "Aristocats" where the song "Everyboady Wants To Be A Cat" devolves into a realistically-drawn Duchess standing on her hind legs, singing "Ouuuut of sighhhhht!" and dancing in what's meant to be a "groovy" manner. The buzzards in "Jungle Book"...the siamese cat wearing--wasn't it loev beads and little colored glasses? Supposedly in Paris around 1900?! It's always beautifully animated stuff, drawn fully as well as these Andersen sketches--but it's just as corny, too.
Not a slam, but you're talking about middle-aged men who just weren't part of the same culture as kids in their late teens, yet they were trying to adopt some of that zeitgeist. It wasn't their strong suit at all and it dates those films badly today.
But to contradict myself yet again, I still love the stoned lion and the other hippie animals just because the darned drawings are so well executed. You can always feel Ken A's line, it has such a visceral quality. So solid and so appealing. I could stare at the realistic studies of the rhinos etc. all day, too.

Thanks again, Mark! This is a rare treat.

Jenny said...

Hey Mark--how'd your post get in there while I was furiously typing my typos?
Anyway, I meant that "cool it" to 'anonymous', as I am sure you can guess. ; )

And...sorry for my awful typing mistakes. Ugh! I hate to see my garbled posts like that. Must. Learn. typing. *sigh*

mark kennedy said...

Thanks, Jenny, I always appreciate your thoughts - I'll overlook your typos if you overlook mine!

Obviously, I love Ken's stuff, it's always well drawn. And I said that I found this to be a rare lapse of taste, implying that he always had very good taste, in my mind.

We were just discussing this at work and someone pointed out that the Beatle vultures in "Jungle Book" were a really good example of trying to infuse a Disney movie with something that was popular at the time.

Thomas said...

I'd rather see Ken Andersen's version of hippies onscreen than some bastardized Tom of Finland reference, which so permeated Disney's "Hercules"...

Anonymous said...

["For a guy who always seemed to have a lot of good taste and sophistication in his approach, it seems like a striking lapse of good taste. He drew every tired hippy cliché you can think of..."]

You don't know what you're talking about.

I remember those magazines - I'm pretty sure the station was Gulf. Anderson was an awesome cartoonist.

The hippy animal drawings are wonderful, and they weren't necessarily "tired cliches" in 1970, when the art was generated.

I love when someone looks at 30, 40 or 50 year-old art and pronounces it "dated".

Well, duh!

mark kennedy said...

anonymous - there is work done 500 years ago that is not "dated" and there is work that was done yesterday that is "dated". Work that is done in good taste is timeless. Work done in bad taste is instantly dated.

Taste is in the eye of the beholder. They're great drawings, I never said otherwise.

I just think they lack good taste.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Mr. Kennedy. I was rude. I'll go bother someone else now.

Brian B said...

I thought the same thing, the designs were pretty cliched and absolutely out of date now. Reminds me of the Robin Hood period. I wish trhey searched a little bit harder for the designs and stopped being pushed around by cliches and tendencies. That said, I like the giraffe as well. And the other observational sketches are great also.

Robert said...

I thought "Robin Hood" the moment I saw the drawings.

These stereotypes were already well-known by 1970 and in frequent use in mainstream media. There was a certain kind of movie/TV show in the 60's-70's that seemed to be the result of cigar chomping studio executives sitting around and saying "Hey, let's make movie about this 'hip' thing that all the kids are into now! It will be easy, just dress up some kids in weird clothes and get them to say 'far-out' every so often."

Pete Emslie said...

Before the hippy there was the beatnik. Dressed in black turtleneck shirt, tight black pants, with shades and a beret, goatee on the guys, the beatnik was a highly developed stereotype or cliché that popped up in many movies, TV shows and cartoons of the 1950's/early 60's, sitting around in cafés, discussing Marxism to the sound of a bongo beat. Can ya' dig it, Daddy-O?

Before that, there was the breezy hipster with boater straw hat or fedora tilted jauntily up on one side. My point is, there are always going to be stereotypes in every era that can and should be lampooned in popular entertainment. Hippies and beatniks were ripe for such obvious stereotyped portrayals. We should be doing the same thing today with rappers and goths, only today's idiotic political correctness would likely deem that as being insensitive. The heck with it, I say - let's lampoon 'em in films and cartoons!

Marjorie van Heerden said...

I really enjoyed Ken's sketches - I do live in Africa and love drawing African animals and when I do it always strikes me human they look - In expect them to look up and start talking to me any minute. Thanks for a really interesting blog. I'm new in the blog world and am enjoying it!!!
- Marjorie -

Ramses Objio said...

hello . your site has become a place for reference for me.. really good, i read almost all of your post by now.. jejje , i would like to see more on composition for cuts or transition from one shot to the other how to effectively link tow different point of view.. that's something hard for me.

knifepainter said...

Very nice to see. I have actually been to one or two of the places mentioned in the sketchbooks.

Just passing through from another blog, what a treat.

Thanks Mark.........I'll be blogrollin' you right now.

Will Finn said...

Wow, I might be the only person here old enough to remember this magazine coming out, (i was 11 in the summer of 1970 and my grandparents went to Gulf gas stations where they were sold). i liked the drawings (still do!) but they did indeed strike me even then as cliches of hippies, drawn more from old fart impressions of hippies in the media, than actual counterculter types in the real world. Hippies still turned up in corny gags here and there but by 1970 "Hippiedom" had "jumped the shark" and even little squares like me knew it. There was a palpable sea change in the culture between 1969 and 1970.

The attempts to be "hip" in Disney (and everywhere else) always set my teeth on edge as a kid and it still bugs me. Back in the 60's & 70's I never once heard an actual kid or teenager use the word "groovy" unless it was scripted by someone over 40. It was an automatic giveaway. I would bet that "groovy" probably peaked as actual hip slang before WW II among musicians and such.

Anonymous said...

My instinctive reaction was the groovy cat was smoking a rolled cigarette...back to nature and all...flower children...the insinuation is not implicit.