Oscar from Fraidy Cat

In 2002 Harald Siepermann was one of the first artist to be involved in the Walt Disney project Fraidy Cat, an computer animated movie that was in development under the guidance of director Piet Kroon and with Hans Bacher as production designer. The movie was a parody of the classic movies from famous director Alfred Hitchcock, and was filled with his trademark style of mystery and suspense.

When Harald worked on Fraidy Cat the story was about Oscar, a lazy house cat, who’s comfortable life turns around when an injured parrot named Rebecca flies into the apartment. Oscar tries to help her, but when his owner Doris enters the room, it looks like Oscar ate the bird. Although innocent, all the evidence leads to Oscar. To get his comfortable life back, Oscar has to prove his innocence and goes after Rebecca, who had just flee out of the window.

Over the course of six months Harald Siepermann worked on the visual development of all the main character. After Siepermann’s involvement the movie remained in development for several years, with Ron Clements and John Musker on board as new directors, but in 2005 the project was shelved.

However, Harald made a wide range of designs for the movie. Below are some of his illustrations and color variations for the character Oscar. More of his work for Fraidy Cat will follow in future posts.

John Silver from Treasure Planet

After Harald Siepermann finished his designs of Billy Bones for the Walt Disney movie Treasure Planet, he continued with the character John Silver.

“I always find it very helpful when designing a character to spend some thoughts concerning which social class the character belongs to,” commented Siepermann about working on Silver. “A good cast has characters from all three classes to play against each other with their different approaches to life. Look at The Lord of the Rings for example with its working class Hobbits, the intellectual wizards and aristocratic elves. The same thing is true for Treasure Island: working class pirates, the middleclass Hawkins family and the captain and the upper class Squire Trelawney and Doctor Livesey. Things like that are very interesting when you look for example at the ways the different members of these classes kill. The Pirates do it ‘hands on’, the upper class in more sophisticated ways. Anyway, Silver clearly is the most sophisticated amongst the pirates, he doesn’t act his class. A potential aristocrat amongst working class pirates.”

John Silver, was quite a challenging character since it was half alien and half cyborg, with mechanical limbs. Harald Siepermann initial approached the character in bio form and then continued with his mechanical parts. “Silver, being a pirate, disguised as an innkeeper, half alien, half pirate, was a bit too much to design in one go, something was always right, other things were always wrong, so I decided to design one thing at a time. I neglected the cyborg-part in the drawings you see here, to concentrate at the warm and father like, yet evil pirate. Pure evil hidden in normality, profanity.”

 

Here are more of Harald Siepermann’s visual development work on Silver, before Glen Keane took over and did his magical work.

Billy Bones from Treasure Planet

In March 1998 Harald Siepermann started on visual development of the Walt Disney movie Treasure Planet, from directors Ron Clements and John Musker. The movie was a futuristic take on the classic novel Treasure Island from Robert Louis Stevenson.

The first character Siepermann worked on was the old pirate Billy Bones, who brings the treasure map to the young Jim Hawkins. When Siepermann started on Billy Bones, the character had to be approached as an old wrinkled and wizened alien pirate, with a tortoise-like presence. On the development of Billy Bones Harald Siepermann commented: “Silver is a gentleman-pirate. A working-class, down-to-earth, next door friendly neighbor buccaneer, whom you wouldn’t suspect to be the worst pirate that ever sailed the seven seas. In fact, Jim chooses him as his surrogate father. In contrast to that I wanted Billy Bones to be the pirate’s pirate, he should look like your typical Hollywood pirate, cliché, romantic, smelling of salt, tar, rum and adventure.”

Here are some of Harald Siepermann’s visual development designs.

Grandmother Fa from Mulan

In the summer of 1995 Harald Siepermann worked for Walt Disney Feature Animation on the project Mulan, that had been in development for more than a year by then. Initially Siepermann worked on the little dragon character Mushu, but moved on to work on other characters as well, among them Grandmother Fa.

Here are some of Harald Siepermann’s Visual Development work for that character. More designs of Grandmother Fa will feature in a future post.

Tarzan from Tarzan

In the summer of 1995 Harald Siepermann started with a new project that went in development at Walt Disney Feature Animation called Tarzan. “My job on Mulan was as good as finished and I was merely waiting for my flight home, when we saw a Chinese movie for reference,” reflected Harald Siepermann. “A very brutal and gory movie, with lots of blood, beheadings and severed arms and stuff, everything a good movie should have in other words. Just for fun and to kill the time till lunchbreak I made a few over-the-top-sketches to get it out of my system. And also just for fun, I boarded them.”

His drawings, that were on display in the corridor of the Walt Disney studio, were noticed by Kevin Lima and Chris Buck, the directors of Tarzan. They saw something in these drawings that they were searching for in the gorillas that had to be designs for Tarzan. “They called me into their office and I think we were the first three people, to work on the project,” continued Siepermann. “They just had obtained the rights from the Burroughs-family and still didn’t really know, what to do with the story. So basically, what they did was giving me the novel, telling me to doodle away and explore as many directions as I could think of, concentrating on the gorillas. I went back to Germany with that brief, doing exactly that: sketching away, doing a lot of quick drawings, exploring the characters and their possibilities.”

Here are some of Harald Siepermann’s exploration for the character Tarzan. In contrary to the other human and gorilla characters from Tarzan, on which Siepermann worked for more than two years, he didn’t continue with the development of the character Tarzan. Glen Keane was the Supervising Animator of Tarzan, and did his wonderful work on the character at the Walt Disney studio in Paris, France.

The other Tanana…

Between November 1998 to November 2000 Harald Siepermann worked on the Visual Development of the Walt Disney movie Brother Bear. During this period Visual Development was frequently put on hold for an extensive rewrite session, because the movie experienced some challenges in this area.

The first character Siepermann worked on was Tanana, the shaman of the tribe. His first designs were in the direction of what you would expect from a shaman, an old wise lady with long grey hair.

During the rewrite process of Brother Bear the character Tanana was dropped from the movie, or better said, put aside. Once the story reached its final shape, she was resurrected to state the rules of Kenai’s transformation into a bear.

Once Tanana was back, Harald Siepermann made a new series of designs, in a complete different direction. “When we first started with the design of Tanana, the village’s shaman, she looked like how shamans usually look in these kind of movies, until we thought that maybe we should try something else and started to make her look less like Pocahontas’ grandmother Willow or even Yoda,” Harald Siepermann explained. “So I did some drawings in which she was tall, bald and skinny. I liked that approach very much, but others, like Michael Eisner for example, didn’t and so they went back to the original design.” Here are some designs of Siepermann’s new approach for the character.

Pacha

While Harald Siepermann was still working on the movie Tarzan, simultaneously he was involved in another production at Walt Disney Feature Animation called Kingdom of the Sun, under the direction of Roger Allers.

The story was about a spoiled and selfish prince named Manco who meets Pacha, a sixteen year old llama herder, who looks exactly like him. To avoid his duty as royalty, Manco switch places with Pacha.

During the development the story and its characters underwent drastic changes. Eventually the movie was released in 2000 under the title The Emperor’s New Groove.

In addition to the character Yzma and the llamas, Harald also made designs for Pacha, that during that time in production looked completely different than the final version that was voiced by John Goodman.

Here are some of Harald Siepermann’s Pacha designs.

Mulan Ancestors designs

In the summer of 1995 Harald Siepermann went to Burbank, California, to work at the Walt Disney Feature Animation building on the production Mulan. Some of the characters he worked on were the Ancestors. Here are some of his designs.