Hands from Treasure Planet

The last character Harald Siepermann worked on for Treasure Planet was Hands. Hands is part of John Silver’s pirate crew, and in the script described as a hulking alien swabbie who is as mean as he is stupid.

Hands from Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet

“Israel Hands is the most brutal of the pirates,” commented Harald Siepermann. “I wanted him to be a cockroach, with his knifes and daggers being part of his actual anatomy, like the clamps or a lobster.” Below are very rough copies of Harald Siepermann’s visual development for the character:


Harald Siepermann did all his work for Treasure Planet from his home in Germany, and periodically he would send the originals to the Walt Disney studio in Burbank by FedEx, and made copies for his own archive. However, as Harald Siepermann commented, “I was way behind, had to send the stuff over in a hurry and with FedEx knocking at the door, I only had the time to copy my favorite one on the fax machine.” Therefore the copies above are the only surviving drawings of Hands in Harald Siepermann’s archive. And unfortunately none of Harald’s designs for Hands were featured in the book Treasure Planet A Voyage of Discovery. Let’s hope Disney will publish them someday, so we can have a more clear and colorful view of Harald’s design for Hands.

Harald Siepermann made his last sketch for Hands, and also for Treasure Planet, on November 16, 1998. A few weeks later Harald went to the Walt Disney studio in Florida to start on visual development for a new project called Brother Bear.

Dr. Doppler from Treasure Planet

When Harald Siepermann was working on Mr. Arrow in September 1998, the visual development stage of Treasure Planet was reaching its end. For the few remaining weeks, the directors Ron Clements and John Musker wanted Harald to work on the characters Dr. Doppler and Sarah, the mother of Jim Hawkins. Eventually Harald didn’t work on the character Sarah, but he spent some times creating visual development for Dr. Doppler.

Dr Doppler from Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet

In the script he’s described as nerdy and dog-like. Doppler was Jim Hawkin’s astronomer friend. Thanks to an inheritance, Doppler is the most wealthy of all the locals on the planet. But he is an eccentric recluse, overflowing with theoretical knowledge, yet nearly devoid of personal experience.

Although it was clear that the character would have dog-like features, it seems that Harald neglected that part in his designs. It is not really clear why, since Harald never elaborated much on his design approach for this character, despite that he described this for the other characters from Treasure Planet on his personal blog that he kept active for several years. Below is a series of his designs:


The final design for Doppler was created by Supervising Animator Sergio Pablos.

Since the visual development stage was reaching its end, the directors asked Harald to leave the character Doppler, and work for the remaining 15 days on the pirate Hands.

Mr. Arrow from Treasure Planet

Once Harald Siepermann wrapped up his work on Captain Amelia, he continued his work on Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet with the character Mr. Arrow, the first mate of the space galleon RLS Legacy, during time of production called the Starfinder. In the script Mr. Arrow is described as a creature of molten rock, with a courtly manner and stiff upper lip, who is totally loyal and devoted to Captain Amelia.

Mr. Arrow the first mate of Captain Amelia from Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet

“I was hoping to come up with something really special,” commented Harald Siepermann. “I didn’t want to do just a human with a skin-problem, to avoid the human form as much as possible. The problem with a stone is, as soon as you move it, bent it, squash it, stretch it, it looses it’s ‘stoneyness’ and becomes soft. I thought, maybe it should stay firm and float, or stand in the corner on the bridge, like a real stone, his voice coming from a chasm in his ‘face’, if it had any, why not.” Below are some of Harald’s earliest visual development for the character.

“He could also have had a robot-arm or walking device, that would help him to move, but that was too close to Silver and his cyborg-arm,” continued Harald Siepermann.

“Anyway, there’s always that one drawing, that you do to illustrate, what you don’t want, and in Arrow’s case, it was ‘The Thing’. I wanted to avoid that solution by all means, unfortunatetly it was what Ron and John liked the most, so there you are, a stone thing in a uniform…”

Below are more of Harald Siepermann’s explorations for Mr. Arrow:

The final design for Mr. Arrow was created by Supervising Animator T. Dan Hofstedt.

Captain Amelia from Treasure Planet (2)

Captain Amelia by Harald Siepermann

In continuation of the previous post about Captain Amelia, about working on the character Harald Siepermann commented, “If there’s one thing I wanted to avoid on this picture and it’s animal/aliens, it was ending up with humans with animal heads. Funny enough, it’s exactly what happened most of the time. Also in this case with Amelia, the captain. I tried many ways to incorporate the catlike attitude, I looked at Egyptian art and lots of other things but eventually she turned out to have a cat’s head on a human body.”

Below are more design by Harald Siepermann for the character Captain Amelia from Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet.


The final design for Captain Amelia was created by the Supervising Animator for the character Ken Duncan.

Amelia from Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet

Captain Amelia from Treasure Planet

On Treasure Planet, Harald Siepermann also worked for several weeks on visual development for the character Captain Amelia.

Amelia from Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet

Amelia is the captain of the magnificent space galleon the Starfinder, that takes Jim and Professor Doppler on the expedition to find Flint’s treasure. In the script she is described as a clear leader, educated, well trained, highly experienced and extremely competent. She’s competitive, projects overconfidence, and can seem a little arrogant, though underneath this there is some vulnerability. Physically she is described as tall, imposing and beautiful. And she is cat-like and moves gracefully.

Below are some of Harald’s early designs of Captain Amelia, the alien creature with cat-like features:

Jim Hawkins from Treasure Planet

After working on Long John Silver, Harald Siepermann continued with visual development for the character Jim Hawkins from Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet.

Jim Hawkins from Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet

“He was a lot younger in my version of the script, than in the final movie, maybe 13 or 14, and he wasn’t a surfer either,” commented Harald Siepermann about the character. However, the backstory and the characteristics of the boy in the script were similar compared to the final movie.

Jim Hawkins is untested and unsure of himself. He helps his mother Sarah run the Benbow Inn, a lonely space outpost on a small planet tucked away at the far reaches of the galaxy. Jim’s father, a renowned space pilot, died before Jim was born, leaving a hole in the boy’s life that has been difficult to fill. It left him with a feeling of abandonment, what caused him to become a little withdrawn and slightly rebellious. Jim is longing to become a space explorer like his dad. His space adventure is about to begin when Billy Bones hands him a map that indicates the location of the treasure of the notorious Captain Flint.

Below are some of Harald’s designs of Jim Hawkins:

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.

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.