Learn To Draw Disney Characters in Disney+’s Sketchbook

Eric Goldberg (Disney/Richard Harbaugh)

Disney+ has partnered with the creators of Chef’s Table to bring the wonders of drawing to its audiences with Sketchbook. In the documentary series, Disney artists teach you how to draw Disney characters, and viewers also get to learn about how they got to work at Walt Disney Animation Studios including legends like Eric Goldberg (Aladdin) and Mark Henn (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King). Joining them are the younger generations including Samantha Vilfort (Ralph Breaks the Internet, Frozen 2), Hyun-Min Lee (Supervising Animator of Frozen 2’s Anna, co-designer of Olaf), Gabby Capili, and Jin Kim (Moana, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Tangled).

Jason Sterman is the executive producer, and he talks about how Sketchbook invites viewers to learn to draw while also having that human element.

“And there was this idea of doing something around the instructional component of teaching people to draw, not wanting it to be this mystified thing that felt unapproachable,” Sterman said during the junket. “And at the same time as well, one of the things that we love doing is finding human connections in the stories that we tell. And the thing that’s always interesting about animation is you never really get to see the humans, obviously, because it’s the world of animation. And so how do we go about introducing the human component? That ultimately led to the idea of taking, I think, things that we love about shows that we do like ‘Chef’s Table’ and things like that, and how do you bring that elevated nature into this world? So, it was this kind of evolving process that always started with the idea of something that people know and love, which I think is like, as a child, people always draw bringing that forward. But at the same time, also, where do you find the human connection? And that was where really the heart and soul came from: finding the individuals who we would feature in this season to kind of be the backbone of that.”

Sketchbook’s Mark Henn (Disney/Richard Harbaugh)

Mark Henn is a legendary artist who was the Supervising Animator of Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Tiana, Mulan, young Simba, and more. He discusses what makes Sketchbook unique.

“But the magic is seeing all of the different stories and all the different paths because everybody here had the same passion of wanting to work here [at Walt Disney Animation Studios],” Henn said. “But how you got there, that was kind of the mystery. And I think that’s been the fun of the series, is that we’ve kind of pulled the curtain back, not only get to see what people look like, but you get to hear their story and their journeys to here at Disney, which has been great.”

Eric Goldberg (Disney/Richard Harbaugh)

It would seem that animation artists are finally getting the spotlight with the series on Disney+, but back in the day, artists were even more popular. Eric Goldberg, known as the Supervising Animator of Aladdin’s Genie, talks about the heydays of the artists in the ’50s and ’60s.

“None of you are probably old enough to remember certain things that I remember because I’m really old,” Goldberg said. “But you know, when I was a kid in the 50s, in the early 60s, drawing on camera was a big deal. That was a TV show. You know, people who just drew stuff on camera were ubiquitous. We had a children’s television host in Philadelphia named Gene London who used to draw on a big drawing board. That was the show. And before that, Windsor Mackay used to draw live on the stage. That was a vaudeville act. So, I feel like it’s all part of a continuum. But I think the thing that really hit home with me about the series and the core of it is that anybody can draw, and anybody can have fun with drawing. I often think that it’s fascinating that human beings are the only animals who were compelled to make a mark on a piece of paper. There are no other creatures on the planet who do that. And so, it’s natural for everybody.”

Samantha Vilfort (Disney/Richard Harbaugh)

“I think a lot of people feel like if they’re not masters of a craft, that it’s not for them,” Vilfort said. “And what’s really crazy is we go to work every day and I feel like being on the job, I still make bad drawings all the time. Like all the time. You know, the drawings I do are like 10 percent of all these other ones that I’m like, ‘Nope, this arm is crazy’. But it’s really about expressing something and it’s really about expressing a feeling, a motion, something that you just can’t really get out in words, or you can’t really explain it to a friend. It’s just that freedom to just let it all out on the page.”

There is writer’s block, and then there is art block. Gabby talks about the issue and solutions on how to overcome art block.

“Art block is so real,” Gabby Capili tells Nerd Reactor. “I talked to my friends all the time about art block… how your brain will get in the way and be like, ‘Everything that I make is absolute trash.’ And there are only two ways to [stop] art block… either you pause, and you just wait until you feel better, which takes like 10 times longer. Then when you come back, your drawings are still the same, and you’re like, ‘Oh, well, I guess I’ll be okay.’ And then the other one is to just push through it and everything that you draw, you’re like, ‘Garbage, I hate it.’ But eventually, you draw one line and you’re like, ‘Might be salvageable.’ And then you just draw around that line. So I favor that one. Art block is so real that it’s happened to every artist a million times. So now I’m at the point where I’m like, ‘Okay, I know what this is. I know I just have to draw through it. I’m going to hate everything that I draw for a while. But at the end of it, I’ll start to feel good about my drawings again.'”

About Sketchbook

An intimate instructional documentary series, “Sketchbook” with Walt Disney Animation Studios takes us onto the desks and into the lives of talented artists and animators as they teach us how to draw a single iconic character from a Walt Disney Animation Studios film. Each episode focuses on a single artist illustrating a character that either they helped create or inspired them to want to be an artist at the Studio. As we learn the steps to drawing these characters, we also discover that the artists each have a unique story to tell about how they made their way to Disney Animation and their chosen character. From the creators of “Chef’s Table,” this exclusive experience will give viewers of all ages a new understanding of how these beloved characters come to life on-screen while introducing them to a new cast of real-life characters along the way.

“Sketchbook” with Walt Disney Animation Studios is produced by Supper Club in partnership with Disney Animation. For Supper Club, Jason Sterman, David Gelb and Brian McGinn are executive producers. For Walt Disney Animation Studios, Amy Astley is executive producer. Sterman, Leanne Dare and Andrew McAllister serve as directors.

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