Saturday, July 11, 2015

Original Production Drawing of Br'er Bear, Br'er Fox and the Tar Baby from "Song of the South," 1946

Original production drawing in red, blue, green, and graphite pencils of Br'er Bear, Br'er Fox, and the Tar Baby from "Song of the South," 1946; On five peg hole paper; Numbered A192 in blue pencil lower right; Size - Characters 7 1/2 x 10 1/2", Sheet: 10 x 12"; Unframed.

"Song of the South" from 1946 is a live-action/animated musical film produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures. It was based on the Uncle Remus stories collected by Joel Chandler Harris. Harris created the character of Uncle Remus in 1876 and began writing the Uncle Remus stories as a serial series to, in his words, "preserve in permanent shape those curious mementoes of a period that will no doubt be sadly misrepresented by historians of the future." President Teddy Roosevelt said of Harris, "Presidents may come and presidents may go, but Uncle Remus stays put. Georgia has done a great many things for the Union, but she has never done more than when she gave Mr. Joel Chandler Harris to American literature."

"Song of the South" was Disney's first feature film using live actors, who provided a framework for the animated segments throughout the film. The character of Uncle Remus, who was presumably a former slave, was played by James Baskett. The film includes several folk tales of the adventures of anthropomorphic Br'er Rabbit and his enemies, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear. The film's song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Song and is used often by both Disney and in popular culture. The film also inspired the Disney theme park water log attraction, "Splash Mountain."

Because of the film's depiction of black former slaves and of race relations in Reconstruction-Era Georgia; the film has been controversial since its original release. A number of critics, both at the time of its release and in later decades, have described the film as racist. Consequently, "Song of the South" has never been released in its entirety on home video in the United States.

Close up of the Br'er Bear, Br'er Fox, and Tar Baby production drawing.

Br'er Bear is slow-witted (compared to Br'er Fox and Br'er Rabbit) and prone to violence when provoked. He is gullible which leaves him open to being tricked repeatedly by Br'er Rabbit, even when he accompanies the more sly Br'er Fox. Br'er Bear is a tall grizzly bear, with brown fur, a cream muzzle, large black nose, wearing a blue unbuttoned dress shirt, and a red fedora. He may be one of the most cruel and heatless of all the Disney villains. And, in referring to Br'er Rabbit, his most memorable quote is "I'm just gonna knock his head clean off!" Br'er Bear was animated by Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, and Eric Larson and was voiced by Nicodemus (Nick) Stewart, who was an American television and film actor. Stewart was best known for his role as Lightnin' (Willie Jefferson) on the "Amos and Andy" television show.

Br'er Fox is the fast talking sly fox who is always trying to trick and trap poor Br'er Rabbit. Br'er Fox has red fur, sharp teeth, a yellow-green hat, pale white shirt, and a forest green vest over a pair of green pants. In referring to Br'er Rabbit, his most memorable quote is ""I GOT 'im! I got the little rabbit! I sure's got 'im! Heh heh heh! I got the little rabbit this time for sure!" Br'er Fox was animated by Marc Davis and Ollie Johnston and was voiced by James Baskett; who also was the star of the film portraying Uncle Remus. In recognition of his warm portrayal of the famous black storyteller, Baskett was given an Honorary Academy Award; making him the very first black male performer to receive an Oscar.

Close up of the upper right of the drawing sheet, showing notes and the animation ladder.

Close up of the production number in blue pencil.

This is possibly the greatest animation drawing from "Song of the South" to exist outside of Walt Disney Archives. Original animation artwork is very rare from this film, and in addition to have three characters on any single animation drawing is quite rare. The drawing is from the part in the film when Br'er Fox constructs a Tar Baby to trick Br'er Rabbit into getting entangled. Using tar and items from Br'er Bear such as buttons from his jacket (for the eyes), the bowl of a corncob pipe (for the nose), and hair from his tail (for a hairdo); Br'er Fox makes the Tar Baby. He and Brer Bear take it to the road and begin to argue whose hat should be used to complete the trap. This wonderful drawing is from that scene and you can see the action that is taking place; as Br'er Bear grabs his own hat off the Tar Baby and reaches to grab Br'er Fox's hat, to then put it onto the Tar Baby.

To view the scene which this drawing was used to create, click on the short video below: