The Animatress Pipeline

Filmmaking Adventures

Detailed Layouts for Eric

Hello Eric, I know you’re a fan of the 70’s style, but let’s start with the Disney bellwether of the 70’s style: 101 Dalmatians.

This is the first Disney film where you see more of the animators drawings as opposed to the ink and paint team. Walt hated the look, but it stuck. The longevity of this style must have been some comfort to Walt’s berating of Ken Anderson the the film’s production designer.


I included the credits to show you how animation artists move around.


Dick Ung will go on to be the chief BG layout artist of the Pink Panther cartoons.


Enri Nordli is the second Chuck Jones layout giant after Maurice Noble.


The opening of 101 Dalmatians has always been my favorite part of the film. I never understood why as a kid for Cruella is certainly the most entertaining character. Today I think I like it for it’s subtlety. 101 Dalmatian’s opening is the only calm part of the film where you get to observe the characters as a voyeur.


I like Roger’s messy bachelor pad and the items in it. He may be cluttered, but he isn’t a worthless slob. Note his awards and certifications. Roger may not be an alpha male, but he’s not loser either! The establishment of Roger as an accomplished person in an admirable respect helps you forgive him later on in the film when he is unable to protect his furry, spotted family members as Man of the House against Cruella’s henchmen.
This is a compromise, for the story is about the dogs and it’s the main protagonist job to solve his own problems not the supporting characters.



The lead protagonist, the “hero” of this story is the dashing Pongo. Grey line used as depth of field. More on that later.


It is possible to have both dark and light clean up lines in a layout. Note the dark line in the foreground and grey cleanup lines in the background. They work together because the grey gives the illusion of depth of field; meaning objects fade in definition when they’re in the distance.


A grey clean up line for the BG also helps make the foreground character pop.


Depth of field for the grey-lined outdoors versus the intimacy of the dark-lined foreground.

Staging. Pongo stands out despite the clutter.


The eye draws you to the area of the layout that is rendered in planes in lieu of line.


Disney doesn’t cheat on the dishes and even the clock has a personality in this universe of realism.


The wallpaper is subdued to planes so as not to compete with Roger.


Nice palette. Pink and Purple needn’t be the basis of the female world, so says John K.


BG tells a story: Roger’s bachelor clutter is now confined to his study in the attic.


The conflict of the set up: enter the villiainess!

Cruella is ENORMOUS in the door, but note how there’s plenty of room left for her head to “breathe” in the layout.

Character layout with the use the camera work created in the storybook take over. Cruella roams the house like she owns the place. The animator’s job was no walk in the park with the crazy timing either. However, as a former character layout artist, I know this scene was a pill. Camera moves are not fun to learn. I ever thought of myself as dyslexic until I had to do camera moves on Futurama, which being a space show, had camera moves a plenty. Also, there is the issue of perspective with Cruella moving throughout the house. The storyboard artist may establish the horizon line, but it’s the layout artist who has to tie everything down to final stage. The BG color people have they share of challenges too. In short, this sequence was very difficult and I applaud the Ken Anderson and crew for pulling it off.

Here’s a cheat on the pole growing out of the head rule. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but note how the layout artist keeps Roger moving toward the nice safe negative space between the timbers.


Down shot; very high offscreen horizon line. 3 point perspective. It’s not hard once you figure our your aesthetic.




This scene was obviously referenced, but I like how the animator included the tilt of the head toward the Roger on the other side of the ceiling. Using reference is an art in itself. You have to know what to abstract from the rotoscope. Otherwise you get Gulliver’s Travels and Bakshi’s Lord of the Rind (and arguable Pocahontas. Why bother making a character animated film if you’re not going to include your own acting?

Dangerously tricky BG. Note the wall detail growing out of the foreground character’s head. The layout team keeps her moving though.

A gasp of air in a wild scene. No characters.

Cruella blows out the door the same way she blew in.

The villainess is gone but her impression lingers on. The antagonist is established!


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