Legendarily created by the combined the storytelling genius of Walt Disney and the sure hand of animator Ubbe Iwerks, Mickey and and Minnie are not only true American creations, but also linked with the birth and growth of Hollywood beginning with their 1928 premiere in the first American animated short with sound, “Steamboat Willie.” It is that Hollywood connection that inspired me to take cues from George Hurrell’s classic portrait photography of Hollywood stars to created these two portraits of the eternally youthful Mouse and his leading lady. Each were created as contributions to Disney’s “Art of” collections for each individual character. Minnie’s volumes was released in 2015, and Mickey’s this year, 2018.
Today, is the 90th anniversary of “Steamboat Willie” and by Disney standards the coincidental 90th birthdays of Mickey and Minnie!
Merely as a result of the respective individual projects schedules, Minnie’s image was first called upon to coincide with a “Rock the Dots” promotion. Plainly evident in my developmental pencils sketch is my intention for her to smile. However, I decided during the digitally painting process that a more introspective expression better fit the Hurrell aesthetic.
Although the polka dots on her dress were roughly plotted in the sketch, ultimately a pattern of dots was digitally stretched over her dress. The dress itself is only appropriate for fashion/ glamour photography with its extreme length panned specifically to fill the picture frame. I did want to ensure that it appeared that her dress was long and that her legs were not equally elongated.
With “The Art of Mickey Mouse” collection organized two years following the Minnie Mouse collection, I purposefully wanted to make something that would be a companion to the Minnie image. I spent a bit of time figuring out how to fill the frame when I couldn’t dress Mickey in pants of exaggerated length. Hurrell’s photography provided the answer with the use of set pieces to create interesting compositions, although I was neither referencing any specific Hurrell portrait nor anything specific from Mickey’s filmography. Here, stair steps drawn in perspective enhanced by the interplay of shadows from a low-set lighting source create an interesting geometric pattern that contrasts with the circular motifs found in Mickey’s design. The subtle palm tree shadow is a Hollywood nod.
So why go with the exaggerated tall image frames when the standard portrait photograph is 8-inches wide by 10 inches tall? I went with the proportions of a rectangle that is 11 units wide by 28 units tall, which alludes to 11/28 (November 1928). Playing the numbers game, 11 x 28 is just more dramatic than 11 x 18 (November 18).
Happy Birthday, Mickey!
Happy Birthday Minnie!