Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Pongo Muzzle Issue

Story artist Bill Peet boarded all of "101 Dalmatians" by himself.
He had definite ideas about the construction and flow of the story, but Bill also had strong opinions for what the characters should look like on the screen.
Ever since "Song of the South" (which Peet also boarded) it had been established that Milt Kahl would take a look at Bill Peet's story drawings, and from there he would polish the look of the characters for animation.
Most often this process worked swimmingly. Peet provided the overall concept, and Kahl refined it with outstanding design and draughtsmanship.
Yet when it came to finding the final design for Pongo both artist found themselves butting heads.
Milt had finished a few drawings showing Pongo next to Perdita, but Bill Peet was not impressed. "Pongo's muzzle is too large, that doesn't look like a Dalmatian, that's a Great Dane" he argued. I am sure Milt responded with a few angry choice words, defending Pongo's muzzle size to better contrast Perdita's.
In the end though Milt gave in and adjusted his design. 
I wonder if Walt himself helped to settle the matter.

Bill Peet 

Bill Peet                                    Milt Kahl

Milt Kahl

One of my favorite scenes with Pongo shows the final design.


  1. Both those titans of animation at odds, wow. Good call on Milt backing down. Peet is just the appeal master. The last panel, coincidentally Vic Navone has a quick Animation Tip post on it, with the shot.

    Andreas, does it get to a point that you can tell who did what shot? How can you tell, I think Milt may have done this one on the sill?

  2. BOth designs look beautiful but I have to say BIll Peet was right. Milt's design has that lovable goof look. I just love everything about this film. The whole idea of the dog thinking the human is the pet has such a charm to it.

  3. Great comparison (with regard to both subject matter and animator's approach). Bill was definitely right on this one. Perhaps after enough reflection Milt recognized this.

  4. I always believed that Milt Kahl's was the superior model for Pongo.

  5. It's great to see these two masters side by side. I wonder if Bill Peet left any room for the animators to come up with their own ideas about the characters and the way they would act in the story or if they followed the boards shot for shot to a T.

  6. ...Gorgeous stuff, from both of them. I do like the final design in this case.

  7. Wow I love being able to see direct comparisons. Am I imagining things or did Milt have a preference for small eyes rather than the typical large "Disney" eyes?

  8. Love this! I am such a fan of Bill Peet! He's always been my favorite from "back in the day." I know he ruffled feathers, but the man had undeniable talent.

  9. P.S. Did you know Bill Peet or ever work with him? What were your impressions of him?

  10. Such wonderful, graphic silouettes! Muzzle size has always been an issue for me when designing animal characters, just how it balances the rest of the design. For me, the larger nose looks nice, but doesnt work for Pongo's character. The larger nose suggests more brawn and aggression for me.

  11. Another great post!

    Those Peet drawings are the best I've seen from him. I usually get the feeling he's more about staging than anatomy, and most of the animal drawings I've seen of his seem to go for a really cartoony look (with lots of ovals instead of authentic bone structure), but he seems to have had a real feeling for these dogs. There aren't many other artists who can look great next to Kahl!

    I agree with Peet's call regarding Pongo's snout. Kahl's bigger snout makes Pongo appear less sophisticated than the dialogue and voicework suggest, and it too strongly forces the Pongo/Roger parallel (by mimicking Roger's big nose & chin). The snout he ended up with looks right for the breed and the character, and their choice to distinguish Pongo from Perdita by giving her white ears works fine.

    Herman G -- FWIW, someone on YouTube uploaded a version of Dalmatians with text added to each shot to credit the animator of that shot. I don't know if the video is still up, but it was a revelation to be able to match each animator with each shot. "So THAT'S what Blaine Gibson did..."

    1. These drawings were probably done before voices were selected...this is probably another case of Milt trying to 'claim' a character. The large-muzzled design is incredibly non-plastic around the eyes (!!) and would need a Kahl level of draftsmanship to draw the audience's eye.

      One thing that a lot of young CalArts grads get wrong (Fox and the Hound inspired them the wrong way?) is that they think that the eyes have to be highlit.
      I don't know how they can be so oblivious to the basic human instinct to find an eye. My cousin (who has asbergers) made me realize exactly how illogically we insist on eye contact. Humans will drag through mud to be able to look something in the eye! XD
      They're confusing it with the need of the eye to be PLASTIC. It has to change shape for emotional moods! That's like half the point of drawing eyes in the first place!
      The reason it gets confused is that small eyes aren't very plastic, and it's hard to move them around.
      (I'm astonished that Illusion of Life pays so much lip service to that concept, given as how all the people who study from the same organization as produced that book all draw the same damn eyes on EVERYTHING. If Milt drew it for Sword, it will be copied. In this case, the eyes are always slightly egg-shaped, thin at the top. It's not very plastic if you want to have the character move or express emotion with their eyes (The Nine Old men did it creatively and rarely); but what it's good at is making a character look Disney-cute if he/she looks up the top of the eyes.)

  12. Not only is this blog awesome, so is the commentary. Lots of diversity of opinion and discussions to flavor Andreas's highly valued blogging. If you aren't already doing so, you should be subscribing. :)

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  15. Wow! These are great! As always :D
    I agree that Pongo's muzzle should be smaller. I love the big nose, but that gives him a more goofy, funny, older look, not the younger, leaner, yet strong (inside and out) feeling that matches his personality as a dalmatian and father.
    Thank you for introducing me to Bill Peet's work! I Googled him, and now I adore his illustrations. His animals all seem so lively and fun-loving!
    Brightened my evening (and lessened my study-for-midterms dread :D)

  16. Liimisan,
    I invite criticism and it's ok to vent, but let's be civil about it.

  17. Milt Kahl, despite having some ego to good pictures, but I agree with Bill Peet that Kahl had not drawn well at dalmatian Pongo, good design is that Peet good character, good information Deja.

  18. Great Post Andreas. I see Milt's point about contrast, but Peet was right- Milt's looks likes a Great Dane. I'm glad Walt stepped in. We always give Milt the credit for "creating the Disney style" but I think Peet deserves just as much credit. Tony and I grew up loving Bill Peet books even before we knew he worked at Disney before that.

  19. Oh, its wonderful to think about people fighting over subtle design choices. Those moments of yeah, these are great, but which best fits the function, serves the bigger idea. That level of devotion really makes me smile inside.

  20. Thank you for posting these Andreas. Milt's original had large chest and head against tiny paws. The final design has a nice balance. I'm glad you didn't cut the scribbled out drawing by Peet. It's nice to see the design process at work.

  21. Andreas Who do you think was the biggest influence on the over all look of the Disney's animal characters in the films. I know they have a different look in each film but there is always something that makes you think Disney. Who would you say created that fill in the characters?

  22. I like both designs. Both have appeal and real character. I agree, though. If I had to choose, I'd take Bill Peet's take on Pongo and Perdita.

  23. It looks to me like Milt Kahl's Pongo was used as the character design for Pongo's brief appearance in Oliver and Company? Am I right?

  24. Peet was right, it does look like a great dane.