Friday, February 13, 2015

Drawing of Ursula from "The Little Mermaid," 1989

Original production drawing of Ursula in graphite and blue pencils from "The Little Mermaid," 1989; Numbered 111 upper and lower right on peg hole animation paper; Size: Ursula 8 1/2 x 7 3/4", Sheet 10 1/2 x 12 1/2"; Unframed.

For me, Ursula is the last of the Disney Villains in which to collect.  "The Little Mermaid," 1989 was the final Disney film using hand painted animation cels; so my animation collecting goes from the Evil Queen/Witch to Ursula the Sea Witch.  Disney Studios, specifically Ron Clements and John Musker, adapted the Hans Christian Anderson story to give the villain a much bigger role.  The first choice to voice the character was Beatrice Arthur who turned down the part.  It was eventually accepted by veteran stage actress Elaine Stritch; however she clashed with the music stylist.  The voice was finally given to Pat Caroll who described the role as, "part Shakespearean actress, with all the flair, flamboyance and theatricality, and part used-car salesman with a touch of con artist."  Although I would have loved to have heard Arthur and Stritch sing "Pour Unfortunate Souls," Ursula is the absolute embodiment of Caroll and I think she was the best choice!

The animation of the character was initially offered to Glen Keane, however after hearing Jodi Benson sing "Part of Your World" he wanted to animate Ariel instead and so Ursula ended up going to Disney animator, Ruben Aquino.  Aquino credits Ursula as his favorite character in which he has ever worked and said, "When animating Ursula, I was inspired mainly by the voice and by the story sketches, but of course, I also worked very closely with the directors (John Musker and Ron Clements) to realize their vision.  Given a great voice, the scenes almost animate themselves, and that definitely was the case with Pat Carroll's amazing vocal performance.  I also did a lot of research on octopus locomotion to make sure Ursula's movements were convincing."

Close-up of the Ursula production drawing.

In the case of some Disney characters, drawings are more rare than the cels; Shere Khan from "The Jungle Book," Prince John from "Robin Hood," Cruella de Vil from "101 Dalmatians," and Ursula the Sea Witch from "The Little Mermaid," 1989.  This is the first drawing that I have ever owned of Ursula  and the detail is just wonderful!  Her eyes and mouth are open and the graphite drawing is further heightened by the addition of blue pencil.  She is wearing her nautilus pendant that is eventually used to hold Ariel's voice.