Chilkoot from Brother Bear (2)

Below are more designs by Harald Siepermann for the character Chilkoot, the father of Kenai and Sitka, from Walt Disney’s Brother Bear. These are part of his first series of designs for the character in 1999. After that the production went on hold for an extensive rewrite session.

Although Chilkoot was eventually dropped from the movie, the character would survive this rewrite session, and in 2000 Harald would work again on the character. So, later more of Chilkoot by Harald Siepermann.

Chilkoot from Brother Bear

When Harald Siepermann worked on Walt Disney’s Brother Bear, the story was quite different. While the final movie revolved around the three brothers Sitka, Denahi, and Kenai, an earlier version of the story focused on the brothers Sitka and Kenai, and their father Chilkoot. And it was Chilkoot who gets killed due to Kenai’s negligence. “In the early version of the script, Kenai’s father, Chilkoot, would be the one who got killed instead of his brother, by Kenai’s fault of course,” commented Harald Siepermann. “But they finally realized that that was too close to The Lion King, so eventually Chilkoot had to go and was replaced by Denahi.” Although the story changed frequently during Harald’s involvement on Brother Bear, this drastic change only came after Harald wrapped up his work on the project, and therefore never made designs for the character Denahi.

However, Harald did do quite some exploration for Chilkoot, the father of the boys. Below is a selection of Harald Siepermann’s first series of designs:

Kenai from Brother Bear (2)

Kenai by Harald Siepermann

In addition to the previous post about Kenai, here is another series of designs by Harald Siepermann, with a little different design. “I wanted Kenai to be in the middle of his puberty, so I tried to give him a girlish attitude as well, long thin limps for example an altogether puppyish feel,” commented Harald Siepermann.

“This is almost the final design of his haircut, but it took me a long time to come up with it and keep it simple,” continued Siepermann. “I wasted a lot of time and pencil milage to come up with something fancy.”


A year later, while the story underwent some rewrites, Harald worked again on Kenai. So more to come.

Kenai and Sitka from Brother Bear

The earlier version of Brother Bear revolved around the brothers Sitka and Kenai, and their father Chilkoot. Since Harald already made a series of designs for Kenai, he was asked to create a series of designs with situations between Sitka and Kenai.

Sitka and Kenai from Walt Disney’s Brother Bear

“The main difference between the two,” commented Siepermann, “is that Kenai is the young, impulsive one, whereas Sitka is the clearer, more serious type, who’s preparing to become chief of the tribe, sooner or later. But all this changed many times during the production, and with every change in story, the characters changed too.” Below are a selection of Harald’s designs of the two brothers:


Costume design for Kenai

“This is one of many costume studies,” continued Siepermann. “I was looking for a way to anticipate the transformation into a bear in his costume, so I was going for a way of dressing, where he would just throw over some furs in the morning, that would also correspond with his impatient and impulsive character. I also liked the warpaint in this particular sketch.”

Kenai from Brother Bear

During Harald Siepermann’s involvement on Brother Bear he worker mostly from his home in Germany. But on two occasions he went to the Walt Disney studio in Florida for one week, to work more closely with other team members on Brother Bear. In March 1999, he went for the second time to Florida. And while he continued with designing Loki the Raven, he also made his first designs for the human character Kenai.

During that time of the project, the story revolved around the brother Kenai and Sitka and their father Chilkoot. In this version it was Chilkoot who was killed by the bear due to the negligence of Kenai.

Kenai from Walt Disney’s Brother Bear

At the end of the week, producer Chuck Williams asked Siepermann if he could continue with designing Kanai when he is back home in Germany. Harald spent quite some weeks on Kenai, and he would quickly start with designs for Sitka and Chilkoot too.

Face studies by Harald Siepermann for Kenai from Brother Bear

“Here are some early sketches for Kenai’s face,” commented Harald Siepermann. “I wanted to come up with something different from Pocahontas and stay away from Mulan as well, so I was looking at a lot of faces from the South-Sea for reference, even Korea and the Philippines, Eskimo as well.”

Below are some of Harald’s first series of designs:


And here is part of a second series:

Visual development material for Brother Bear

Throughout Harald Siepermann’s involvement on Brother Bear he received various recourse material from the Walt Disney studio to get inspiration for specific characters and to stay up-to-date with the overall development of the project.

Among this material was the impressive work of Terryl Whitlach, who created a comprehensive anatomy study of bears and other wildlife animals from North America.

Brother Bear reference material by Terryl Whitlatch

Harald’s reference material also included various work by Hans Bacher. It’s nice that Hans and Harald crossed paths again on Brother Bear. Hans has always been an important force in Harald’s career. When Harald was a student at the Folkwang University, Hans Bacher was his teacher in Comic and Strip illustration. He saw Harald’s extraordinary talent and pushed him forward in his development as an artist. Harald also joined the Mad T Party studio that they formed on Hans Bacher’s initiative. Through this studio Bacher maintained good contact with Richard Williams, which landed Hans and Harald a job on the Walt Disney / Steven Spielberg production Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Furthermore Bacher was an important force with the development of Alfred J. Kwak, he invited Harald on the project Balto from Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation studio, and he brought Harald to Walt Disney to create character design on Mulan.

On Brother Bear they spent a week together in March 1999 at the studio in Florida exploring design possibilities for the project. And just like when they worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Alfred J. Kwak, there emerged a great working atmosphere and the drawings went back and forth, and at the end of the day there was a huge pile of drawings with endless visual possibilities.

Hans Bacher showed his wide range of talent and sense for the project. He created a series or background impressions that depicted the mood and color variation of North America.

Brother Bear reference material by Hans Bacher

He created an impressive document with Design Notes, that was filled with a wide possibilities of interesting compositions through camera angels, light/shadow contrast, unique moving patterns, various size relation between characters, open spaces, and much more.

Brother Bear reference material by Hans Bacher

Also collected Bacher a wide range of reference material that worked perfectly for the setting that Brother Bear was aiming for.

Brother Bear reference material

Harald Siepermann’s Brother Bear reference also contained a series of visual development designs by Ruben Aquino and Franc Reyes, and story sketches for various sequences in the movie, among them of Kenai hunting on a bear.

Brother Bear reference material by Ruben Aquino and Franc Reyes
Brother Bear story sketches

Loki the Raven from Brother Bear

Following Tanana, Harald Siepermann continued on Walt Disney’s Brother Bear with designing the bird Loki, the pet of Tanana. During the development of Brother Bear the character Loki the Raven was eventually dropped and did not appear in the final film. It’s actually not know what Harald’s task and design approach was for the character. However, he did spent some weeks on the character and created a series of designs:


And another series with a little more cartoony approach:

Tanana from Brother Bear

After designing bears for Walt Disney’s Brother Bear, Harald Siepermann continued with visual development for the human character Tanana, the shaman of the village.

Tanana from Walt Disney’s Brother Bear

After Kenai is transformed into a bear by the Great Spirits, Tanana helps him understand his transformation and instructs him to travel to the mountain where the light touch the earth, where he can transform back into a human.

Below is a selection of Harald’s first round of design for Tanana:


And here is a second series in which the design becomes more defined:


Throughout the development of the story, at one point was Tanana was dropped from the movie, but once the story reached its final state, she was resurrected into the movie to state the rules of Kenai’s transformation as a bear. Therefore, later in the project Harald would create another series of design for Tanana with a more extreme approach. Some of these designs can be found here in an earlier post, but more will come later as well.

Bears from Brother Bear

In November 1998, the Visual Development stage for the Walt Disney project Treasure Planet was reaching its end. Harald Siepermann had worked for 9 months on that project and when he wrapped up his work, he could immediately move on to another project that was in development at Walt Disney Feature Animation, called Brother Bear. The project was in development at the studio in Florida, and was produced by Chuck Williams, and under the direction of Aaron Blaise, who was joined by co-director Robert Walker in the spring of 2000. “This project was haunting around the studio for a while as ‘King Lear with Bears’, before Aaron Blaise took it under his wing,” reflected Harald Siepermann. “I was asked to do some PreVis on the bears based on what I had done to the gorillas in Tarzan and the llamas in Kingdom of the Sun.”

Brother Kenai transformed in a bear

At the end of 1998 Harald Siepermann went to the Walt Disney studio in Florida to get familiar with the project and the other team members. Although Harald worked several weeks in Florida at various times throughout his involvement for Brother Bear, he mostly work from his home in Hamburg, Germany.

Cave painting of a bear.

“Since the movie was playing in the time when the first Asian nomads crossed the Behring passage into the Americas (at least at that point of development), we started with looking at cave painting of bears,” continued Siepermann. “I found a lot of very good reference and shapes in particular. I was amazed with the way those artists treated the straights and the curves for example. A lot of the reference we collected found its way into the movie without change.”

A bear toy Harald bought in Russia.

“Of course, there had been many Disney (and other cartoon) Bears already. I wanted to stay away from them as far as possible. So I started my sketches based on this little toy, which I had picked up in a monastery outside Moscow and which I always had loved for it’s nice proportions. Now, I finally knew, why I had bought it…”

Bart the Bear.

“And of course Bart the Bear was a great inspiration, I watched and studied a lot of his movies and I was lucky to even find a documentary from National Geographic on him, what a great guy, rest in peace, Bart…”

“Look at the size of this guy, the head and the paw on the shoulder, the sheer ‘presence’ of this wonderful creature, you easily forget this if your used to – and think in terms of – cartoon bears. I also visited the two Kodiaks in the Hamburg zoo, and time and time again, my first thought was: ‘My god, they are huge!’ I wanted to capture this feeling by all means. But how do you draw ‘size’ and ‘weight’, without having a chance to give a relation on the same sheet, use an upshot camera-angle or just a part of the body??? If you gotta show the whole body, even a whale looks like a herring.”

“I found the lower lip very helpful for this purpose, it always hangs down, makes a great tool for a follow thru, always looks kinda numb and there’s spit and saliver dropping from it. It gives a great feel of size and weight to the drawing.”

Harald’s bear design with a pronounced lower lip

Below are a series of bear designs by Harald Siepermann:

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.