Sunday, October 11, 2015

Original Animation Production Cel of Madame Medusa & Mr. Snoops from "The Rescuers," 1977

Original hand-painted production animation cel of Madame Medusa and Mr. Snoops used during the production of The Rescuers, 1977, Walt Disney Studios; Set on a lithographic background; Walt Disney seal lower right; Size - Madame Medusa & Mr. Snoops: 8 x 9 1/4", Image 15 x 10 1/2"; Unframed.

"The Rescuers" is an animated feature film produced by Walt Disney Productions; and was released on June 22, 1977 by Buena Vista Distribution. The film is based on a series of books by Margery Sharp, most notably "The Rescuers and Miss Bianca." The 23rd film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film is about the Rescue Aid Society; an international mouse organization headquartered in New York; and shadowed the United Nations. The Rescue Aid Society, a mouse based group, was dedicated to helping abduction victims around the world at large. Two of these mice, jittery janitor Bernard (voiced by Bob Newhart) and his co-agent, the elegant Miss Bianca (voiced by Eva Gabor), set out to rescue Penny, an orphan girl being held prisoner in the Devil's Bayou by treasure huntress Madame Medusa.

Photograph showing the entire Madame Medusa and Mr. Snoops production cel with Disney Seal.

Early designs for Medusa were done by Ken Anderson, there were even discussions about bringing back Cruella deVil from "101 Dalmatians" as the villain; but that was eventually abandoned. The character of Medusa was eventually created and although there are many similarities with Cruella (thin build, similar cars, appear wealthy, bad tempers, cry upon realizing that they have lost, etc.), Medusa is still quite distinct with her wild red hair, sagging breasts, green eyes, and lots and lots of makeup. Her ultimate goal in the film is to possess the Devil's Eye, the world's largest diamond. Milt Kahl was given the task of animating Medusa and it is known that one his inspirations was his ex-wife. Kahl's brilliance in animation is really showcased with this character and many point to the scene where she is removing her false eyelashes as proof of his technical skill. Geraldine Page, the Oscar winning actress, provided the voice to this wonderful villain and the way that she utilizes her voice tone is just so wonderful and extremely memorable.

Close up of the Madame Medusa and Mr. Snoops production animation cel.

Mr. Snoops was Madame Medusa's business partner and her henchman. He was animated by the veteran Walt Disney animator Milt Kahl and voiced by Joe Flynn, an American character actor best known for his role in the 1960s ABC television situation comedy, "McHale's Navy." He was also a frequent guest star on TV shows, such as "Batman," and appeared in several earlier Walt Disney films. The role of Mr. Snoops was to be Flynn's last; he died on July 19, 1974 from drowning shortly after completing his performance in the film.

From Walt Disney animator Andreas Deja:
"Brilliantly drawn and animatedly by Milt Kahl, his part in the movie The Rescuers is relatively small. This is due to the fact that actor Joe Flynn, who voiced the character, died in 1974 during production of the film. Director Woolie Reitherman decided to build Snoop’s role around the already recorded dialogue, instead of using a sound-alike actor for further development.  Snoop’s design is based on animation historian and teacher John Culhane. Milt had given a talk at his class in New York and was inspired by John’s appearance. Snoops is one of many Kahl masterpieces. He is a chubby man, dressed in a baggy suit, wearing oversized glasses and 1970s platform shoes. Milt took great care and delight in defining the character’s bulgy anatomy. His arms are relatively short in contrast to his big pear shaped body. As in all of Milt’s characters, Snoop’s chubby hands are beautifully defined. They are worth studying frame by frame, because…they are just plain fun to watch in slow motion. There is as much personality in these hands as there is in Snoop’s expressions."

It is always a great joy to be able to acquire animation cels that have more than one character. In the case of Disney animation art; this is rather rare because unlike other animation studios, Disney artists animated the characters independently in order achieve a more realistic look. This is a great cel because it has the two main villains of the film on a single sheet of acetate. The cel is used during the end of the film when Medusa realizes that the Devil's Eye Diamond is located inside of Penny's teddy bear. Medusa, with gun in her hand, races over top of Mr. Snoops in an attempt to grab the Diamond.

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