AJK Merchandise (4)

In celebration of Harald Siepermann’s birthday let’s have a look at some wonderful merchandise illustration that was created for Alfred J. Kwak. In the illustration Alfred gives a birthday party, organized by his father Henk, for his friends.

The illustration also shows what happens when two masters like Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher join forces.

First Harald Siepermann thinks of a composition and draws the characters in the poses:


Then Hans Bacher continues with the inking:

Inking by Hans Bacher

… and then completes the illustration by adding colors:

Final color design by Hans Bacher

Happy Birthday Harald Siepermann!! (59)

Today Harald Siepermann would have turned 59!

A day to celebrate his talent and to be thankful for his creative work that he did for the world of animation. If Harald were still alive today, no doubt that he would still be on the frontline of the animation industry and delivering creative and innovative designs that would make us all laugh.

Thoughts go out to Harald’s family and friends that lived close to him.

Harald Siepermann in 1988


John Silver from Treasure Planet (3)

After visual development for the character Billy Bones, Harald Siepermann continued with one of the main characters from Treasure Planet, Long John Silver.

Long John Silver and the young Jim Hawkins from Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet

In the visual development guide Long John Silver was described as a charming, charismatic, roguish alien pirate leader. A ‘big’ guy, physically imposing, in his fifties. A cyborg, with a mechanical arm, leg and eye.

Harald Siepermann found Silver quite a complicated character to crack. He worked about 2 months on the character to find the right direction, “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 [below], to concentrate at the warm and father like, yet evil pirate. Pure evil hidden in normality, profanity.”


Below is another series of designs:


… and another series where the character seems to get more defined:

Billy Bones from Treasure Planet (2)

Once Harald Siepermann wrapped up his work on Walt Disney’s Tarzan in March 1998, he immediately continued to work on visual development for Treasure Planet, Disney’s futuristic adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island. The project was under directorial guidance of Ron Clements and John Musker, who had just finished the movie Hercules.

Billy Bones from Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet

The first character Harald Siepermann worked on was the pirate Billy Bones, an old tortoise-like alien creature. Bones is on the run for a group of space pirates. During his flee his space ship crashes on the planet of the young Jim Hawkins. Hawkins sees the crash and runs to Billy Bones’ aid. The dying Billy Bones removes a small metallic globe from his treasure chest, which turns out to be a map of the galaxy that points out where the treasure of the notorious pirate Captain Flint is hidden, and entrusts it to Hawkins.

Below are some of Harald’s rough sketches to find the right shape for the body:


Some of Harald’s head designs for Billy Bones:


…and Harald Siepermann’s full body design of Billy Bones:


The final design and animation of Billy Bones was created by Supervising Animator Nancy Beiman, who used the work of Harald Siepermann and Peter de Sève as an inspiration in her search for the best design for the old pirate.

Harald Siepermann

Today, on February 16, it has been 8 years since Harald Siepermann passed away. He died in 2013 after a battle with cancer at the age of 50. Thoughts go to Harald’s family, his friends and former colleagues.

Harald Siepermann in his early twenties

The picture above is from circa 1983, when Harald was in his early twenties. 1983 turned out to be a pinnacle year where he met Hans Bacher, a teacher at the Folkwang University, where Harald was a student Graphic Design. Hans Bacher became instrumental in developing Harald’s artistic talents and help channeling his career path.

In that same year Harald Siepermann met Dutch artist Herman van Veen. Siepermann was a big fan of the famous singer, and finally met his idol after one of his concerts on March 1, 1983. Van Veen had a children theater show called Alfred J. Kwak. In late 1985 Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher started with the development of the comic book for the character. It brought a complete new dimension to Alfred J. Kwak and eventually became Harald’s most famous creation.

If Harald would still be alive today, no doubt that he would still continue with the adventures of Alfred J. Kwak.

Harald Siepermann and Alfred J. Kwak

Dinosaurs from We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story

In 1990 Harald Siepermann provided visual development for the Amblimation movie We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story. An earlier post already showed some of Harald Siepermann’s visual development for the character Professor Screweyes, which he based on the actor Danny DeVito. In addition to Professor Screweyes, Harald also made designs for various dinosaur characters that appear in the movie, among them Rex, Dweeb and Woog (at the time of production called Hatrack).

The four dinosaur characters from We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story. From left to right: Elsa, Woog, Rex and Dweeb.

Below are several of Harald Siepermann’s visual development designs for the character Rex:


… the character Dweeb:


… and the character Woog (Hatrack):

Happy Birthday Harald Siepermann!! (58)

Today you would have turned 58. Sadly you passed away too early, at the age of 50. I can’t help to wonder what beautiful designs and projects would have come from your pencil if you were still at the front line in the world of animation. However, the immense amount of work you have left behind remains an inspiration for other artists and aspiring character designers.

My thoughts go out to Harald’s family, friends, and former colleagues who miss him every day.

Happy Birthday Harald Siepermann!!

The Gang of Three from Walt Disney’s Mulan

When Harald Siepermann worked on Walt Disney’s Mulan, he also contributed visual development for the characters Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po, three soldiers that befriends Mulan, which during that time of production was also called the Three Soldiers or the Gang of Three.

The Gang of Three from Walt Disney’s Mulan

Harald Siepermann worked on and off on these characters in April and May 1995 during his stay at the Walt Disney studio in Burbank. His reference for these characters were the designs of Chen-Yi Chang, that had already established the significant different shapes of postures for each character.

Below are some designs that seems to be channelled after the character Yao:


… and Ling:


… and below are designs that resemble Chien-Po:


While Harald Siepermann’s designs might have been inspiring during the creative process of these characters, the final design for Yao was done by Supervising Animator Aaron Blaise, and for Ling and Chien-Po by Supervising Animator Broose Johnson.

Chen-Yi Chang

When Harald Siepermann arrived at the Walt Disney studio in Burbank to work on Mulan, he was introduced to many of the exceptional talents who were working there, and made many new friends.

One of the people he was introduced to was Chen-Yi Chang, the main Character Designer for Mulan. Both artists had a great admiration for each other’s work and they became good friends. “Harald and I first met in the midst of making Mulan through our production designer Hans Bacher,” remembered Chen-Yi Chang. “Hans and Harald had worked on the comic book, Alfred J. Kwak. It was through the comic book I got a sense of Harald’s solid draftsmanship and the incredible imagination. Harald’s gentle and down-to-earth personality made him very easy to get along with. We clicked right away, and had become really good friends since.”

After Mulan, they also collaborated on Tarzan, where Harald and Chen-Yi often interchanged tasks with each other that were given by the directors. “Harald himself is a big fan of Asterix the comic series, and his art reflect that similar aesthetics, especially when doing a more cartooning design. When we both worked on Disney’s Tarzan, his other approach showed off: a seemingly more realistic European comic book influence. He brought to the production a feel of classic European comic tradition with solidity, dimension and fluent expression.”

“I remembered Harald showed up and disappeared periodically at the studio during the development of Mulan and Tarzan. This was before the all-digital era, Harald always turned out sheets of animation paper with his beautiful design work on them. Also on them were his famous “coffee stains”, sometimes spattered, sometimes painted on, and once a while with a partial ring of the foot print of his coffee mug. He just couldn’t stop having some fun while working!”

On the photo below Harald and Chen-Yi are making dumplings at Harald’s house in Essen, Germany, when Chen-Yi stayed for a visit in 1996.

Stone Dragon from Walt Disney’s Mulan

On the project Mulan Harald Siepermann was mostly assigned to secondary characters. Following Mushu and Grandmother Fa, he continued with characters related to the temple scene when the ancestors awaken. One of them was the Stone Dragon. Here are some of Harald’s early exploration for the Stone Dragon:


And below are some rough sketches of funny situations between Mushu and the Stone Dragon: