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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.

AJK merchandise 3

Here are a series of illustrations by Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher of Alfred J. Kwak. These space theme designs were part of the extensive collection of merchandise that was produced based on the successful Alfred J. Kwak television series. The inking of these illustrations were done by Hans Bacher based on the sketches of Harald Siepermann.

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.

Scary sketches

Here are some of Harald Siepermann’s scary sketches that fit the Halloween season. The sketches come from Harald Siepermann’s 1983 portfolio book, as can be seen in the last two images below.

Inking

When Harald Siepermann started out as a professional artists he usually worked with a blue or red color pencil for the rough sketches, and finalized the drawing with a grey pencil. Harald actually didn’t do inking. At that time the final inking of his drawing was done by Hans Bacher, especially for all the work that had to be done for Alfred J. Kwak.

In the early 1990’s Harald Siepermann started to practice more with inking, and created a series of drawings on A3 size paper based on some of his famous characters. Here and there you’ll find some Tipp-Ex to erase some errors (it was the pre-Photoshop era). But, he quickly made that skill his own, and further throughout his career he would do the inking himself. Here are some of these drawings.

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.

Storyboard of Balto

In 1993 Harald Siepermann worked on the movie Balto, the third animation feature from Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation studio. Balto was based on a true story about a husky dog named Balto who was the leader of a sledge dog team that, under difficult weather circumstances, had to transport medicine from Nenana, Alaska, to a little town called Nome, to save children from a deadly epidemic.

Once the production was launched the team was in need of additional storyboard artists. Hans Bacher, who was the Production Designer on Balto, recommended Harald Siepermann to the producers. While Siepermann is more known for his character designs, he also had a long resume as storyboard artist through his work for his Mad T Party company, his work on the duck Alfred J. Kwak, and on the Walt Disney/Steven Spielberg picture Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

In August 1993 Siepermann went to the Amblimation studio that was located in London, where he worked until the end of the year on the visualization of the script into a storyboard. Below are storyboard thumbnails of the scene were Balto meets the white wolf and is resurrected after he had fallen from a high cliff.

Making of the second Alfred J. Kwak comic book

Vissen in Troebel Water © Harlekijn/Van Veen, Siepermann, Bacher

Throughout 1987 Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher worked on the development of the second comic book about the adventures of Alfred J. Kwak, called Vissen in Troebel Water [Fish and Chips]. Harald Siepermann designed the characters and wrote the comic book, based on a theater play called Onder Water [Under Water] by Herman van Veen, and Hans Bacher did the inking and color design.

In this adventure Alfred J. Kwak is concerned about the situation of the herring, who are threatened by the new modern fishing ship of Kapitein Stoppel, which will immensely reduce the herring population.

The images below show the process of the making of the comic book, with as example pages number 6 and 7 of the comic, based on what is in the Harald Siepermann Archive. In these pages Alfred J. Kwak and Henk de Mol are on the beach relaxing after their adventure in the first comic book. The sun makes way for the rain. In the distance they see a new ship being launched into the water and they decide to have a closer look.

Siepermann drew the page layout with in each panel a rough sketch of the drawing. On a new paper he drew for each panel a more detailed sketch.

 

Once the sketches were completed Hans Bacher did the inking of the entire page and provided it with color. Next to the (rough) sketch Siepermann often wrote the corresponding text of the characters. Once the text was clear and finalized, Siepermann wrote it in a script. The comic book publisher would added the text later in the text balloon of the finished color page.