Today, February 16, is the day that Harald Siepermann passed away. It’s been 10 years now without Harald, and it remains a tragic to lose such a kind man and incredibly talented character designer at such a young age.
Thoughts go out to Harald’s family and friends who miss their father, husband, brother, uncle, friend, and even grandfather now, as Harald’s daughter became a mother herself on June 16, 2022, from a daughter Ava Liona.
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.
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:
Today, June 10, marks the 60th birthday of Harald Siepermann. Sadly Harald passed away at the age of 50, and for 10 years now we’ve missed out on Harald’s creative talent and great characters that remained in his pencil. Thoughts today go out to Harald’s family and friends.
Let’s commemorate how much fantastic artwork Harald created during his life time. Below are a series of designs by Harald Siepermann of his most famous creation, Alfred J. Kwak. These are pencil/ink illustrations and were made for a children book that was published in the Netherlands and Germany in 2004, called Afspraak is Afspraak / Abgemacht ist Abgemacht [freely translated A Deal is A Deal].
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.
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.
“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:
“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.”
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.
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.
“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:
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.
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.
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.
Also collected Bacher a wide range of reference material that worked perfectly for the setting that Brother Bear was aiming for.
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.
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:
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.
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.