Sunday, July 22, 2007

ROBIN HOOD CONFIDENTIAL pt. 2 : Keith Ward's "Reynard the Fox"

I stumbled across this book in the Burbank Public Library one day in the early 1980's. It's an "Americanized" version of the German folk classic "REYNARD THE FOX" published in 1945. The illustrator Keith Ward decorates the book with highly appealing drawings of animals in medieval clothing that appear to have influenced Ken Anderson's take on the 1973 Disney version of ROBIN HOOD. "Reynard" was also the villain in Marc Davis' proposed CHANTICLEER feature (which appears to have been set in a somewhat later time period) and I suspect that somewhere during the research for both properties this book may well have been kicking around the studio.

Keith Ward was a prolific illustrator in the first half of the 20th century. These fanciful and accomplished renderings are typical of his later work. Some of his other notable assignments include the original "Dick and Jane" reading primer illustrations and he also designed "Elsie the Cow" for Borden condensed milk, and "Elmer the Bull" for the same company's glue. (I remember an oil portrait of the entire bovine clan at supper that hung in the cloakroom of kindergarten class that was likely Mr. Ward's work as well. I can't for the life of me remember what they were eating.) When the digital age of electronic used book searches dawned, this book is one of the first things I tracked down and got.


As you can see, Keith Ward's jaunty Reynard (on top) resembles Ken Anderson's preliminary "Robin" at least as much as the finished model.




The "Lion Queen" in the above drawing seems to have had every bit as much influence on Ken's version of "Prince John" as the Campbell Grant drawing I posted earlier (see HERE).



Could this anonymous snake in the grass, wandering along with a crow, have been involved in the inspiration for "Sir Hiss?"



And most strikingly, this noble bear's costume "bears" an "unbearably" close resemblance to the disguise "Little John" wears at the archery tourney.



There are many other illustrations in the book too, including rabbits and elephants that look like the ones in the film, a gallows scene, and the king dozing in his royal bed, not unlike the setting of the movie's climactic "heist" scene. Once again, I am not bringing these to light to besmirch Ken Anderson, but to show a likely influence from a heretofore unsung artist. I have to think that Keith Ward must have in some sense been influenced by Disney films back when he was illustrating this book (though to my knowledge he never worked for the studio), so it's all cyclical in a way. Reynard, even in this cleaned-up 1945 version, is too a vicious and cynical character for a Disney movie. He constantly rips innocent creatures off and even kills and eats quite a few. Somehow he gets away with it all. I guess he never heard of "karma."

19 comments:

Bruce said...

This is miraculous. While reading your latest post, I had never laughed harder. As well, I realized that you can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

Oh, and before I push the PYC button, who, or rather, what, had inspired you to be where you are today?

Will Finn said...

i'm not sure what PYC means, but the list of people and things that inspire me is too long to fit here.

obviously i'm Disney geek; i loved all the 'golden age' hollywood cartoons & studios--they were in heavy rotation on tv when me was young and impessionable little monster...
which reminds me: jim henson too.

graphically i am very influenced by an old print cartoonist named Henry Syverson, whose artwork i try to post as often as possible.

how about you?

Will Finn said...

oh wait, me get it: 'publish your comment'. me thought it some kind of newfangled textmessage slang. never mind...

AMID said...

In all likelihood, Anderson would have been aware of these illustrations. The reason I say this is because if you go to the Art Center school library in Pasadena, a lot of the design and illustration books have Anderson's name written in them so his personal library certainly indicates that he was familiar with European illustrators and designers. I'm assuming the books were donated to the school after his passing.

Will Finn said...

amid-i have to think i checked the 'sign out' card in that old library copy to look for Ken Anderson's name, but i can't recall if i saw it there or not. either way, its a safe bet he was consciously inspired by this book... not a crime in any event, but like i said in the earlier post, the extent of 'borrowed' material in that film speaks to its inherent weakness.

Bruce said...

'how about you?'

Well, I'll start off with Cartoonists, in no Particular order:

Don Martin - Mad Magazine artist, great sense of timing

Bob Camp - Wonderful storyboard artist for 'Stimpy's Invention'.

John Delaney - one of my favortie teachers from the Cap. College animation program, currently penciling for the Futurama and Simpsons books. Can draw without a falt.

John K. - Need I say more? I had read his blog since last year, done everything what he had said, improved my ability to illustrate, want to work with him before he dies, and I want to post everything I done on my blog...except I don't have a scanner. Doh'!

Jessica Borutski - Self taught artist, inspired from Betty Boop & Bob Clampet, can draw the cutest characters

Ed Benedict - Designer for Hanna Barbara During the 50's/ 60's. First initial designer for the Flintstone characters. Apeeling drawings, Also designed the 50's tex cartoons.

Potato Farmgirl - Great shapes, nice contrast with colour, and appealing designs.

T.S. Sullivant - A conservitive artist, but his drawings are solid, yet somewhat funny.

Milt Gross - His comic strips are filled with so much life, you'd think Count Screwloose is on the loose..in REALITY!

Cliff Sterret - Attractive characters, good use of principles

Charles M. Jones - During his 40's early 50's period, he so masterful and confident that he can draw and time his takes with such clarity and power that he barely leaves them onscreen for you to register them-but you do and it's perfect! See his short 'Scardy cat' or 'Rabbit punch'

Earl Oliver Hurst - A great stylist, with wonderful composition

Andreas Deja - Considered the master of Disney animation today; lifelong fan of Disney animated films, once shared a cubical with Tim Burton, and Animated & designed Gaston from B&tB, same goes with Lilo from Lilo and Stitch.

Joe Grant - A Disney legend, he created the Queen in Snow White, Co directed Dumbo. Still worked at the studio until he had a heart attack on May 2, 2005.

Jack Hannah - employee of the Walt Disney Studios, Credited with developing, if not creating, the animated version of Donald Duck. Brilliant Director, see Duck Pimples.

John Hench - An employe of the Disney Studios for Sixty Five years, an exceptionally long tenure which saw the rise of nearly every Disney animated feature and theme park. Starting in 1939 as a story artist, he weaved his way through the animation department doing everything including backgrounds, layout and art direction, even effects animation and special effects. Walt Disney respected Hench as one of the studio's most gifted artists and teamed him with Salvador DalĂ­ on the animated short Destino, a project begun in 1945 that was not completed and released until 2003. My favorite, sadly unsung, Animator.

All of the Harvey Comic artists, such as Steve Mufatti, for example

As for Jim Hennson, I loved Statler & Waldorf, the Swedish Chef and Sam the 'American' Eagle.

Willy Pogany - one of the most important book illustrators and designers of the first half of the 20th century, probably the artist most responsible for establishing what most think of as modern children's book illustration.

As for the 50's Playboy Illustrators, their is:

Eldon Dedini - Just see some of his work, and you'll understand it's more than attractive girls with huge...tracks of land.

Erich Sokol - arguably the most gifted artist who ever worked for the magazine, with a keen eye for all of the elements of good drawing- composition, clear silhouettes, original color harmonies, interesting staging and a keen sense of light and shade. Need I say more?

Jack Cole - he assisted WIll Eisner on The Spirit, ghosting the strip when Eisner was drafted during the War. He is best known though, as the creator of the DC superhero, Plastic Man. Done some work for girly magazines, until he work at Playboy until his untimely suicide in 1958.

Doug Sneyd - I consider him the best at designing attractive females, as well for designing humans in general.

Phil Interlandi - Another PB Artist, also did some work with Home and Garden weekly. My second fav. artist, when it comes to drawing sexy females.

For Childrens illustration:

John Bauer - My favorite golden age illustrator, designs the best trolls for childrens illustration.


And that what I can think of off the tip of my toung. I hope this helps.

mark kennedy said...

I have this book too; I am amazed that Ward is not better known. I just always assumed that Ken knew about the book and borrowed from it for "Robin Hood". When I first started at Disney I remember someone telling me "If you're going to steal, steal from the best".

Will, do you know anything about "Animal Court"? I have a stack of xeroxes of Ken's drawings from that project and it looks like it was about animals walking around on two legs wearing clothes. The designs look like they were the germ of the idea to do an animal version of "Robin Hood", but I don't know anything else about the idea.

Will Finn said...

Mark, i haven't heard of ANIMAL COURT although i remember sketches of "catfish bend" lying around after Ken retired.

Wow Bruce, i thought the box wasn't big enough to list everybody but you sure proved me wrong!

you listed a lot of my favorites too, including Joe Grant who i got to be pretty good friends with in the last ten years of his life... he was a real inspiration.

Wilbert Plijnaar said...

I loved Ward's Reynard illustrations the the moment Hary Sabin showed me the book several years ago. Never having heard of the man I Googled him till I dropped and found there were either several Keith Wards or just one who did illustrations and painting for 60 years in about every style possible. Including some bland ones. My favorite is his more humoristic style ( and virtuoso brushwork) which he also displayed in the ELSIE the COW illustrations you mention. Here's one:
http://img217.imageshack.us/img217/4114/wardcow3rj0.jpg
(i have more)
It seems Walt Kelly must have been familiar with Keith Ward too, don't you think?

Bruce said...

'graphically i am very influenced by an old print cartoonist named Henry Syverson, whose artwork i try to post as often as possible'.

I found a page, which contain's some of Syverson's work. The fellow had lot's of talent. Oh, here is the link, if you want to take a peak

http://www.pbase.com/csw62/syverson

Bruce said...

Oh, I also have a list of animators that I was inspired from, but I think I will post that another day. Also, I had done a post about the history of Popeye. I hope you have the time to read it, and maybe give me some constructive criticism.

Will Finn said...

wilbert--yes, i do see a walt kelly influence definitely (or is it the other way around?).thanks for the link. i think it was all one guy who adapted with the times. his early 1930's stuff is pretty standard but the later stuff is great. thanks for stopping by!

bruce, thanks for the link! that TOUCHE book is where i've gotten some of the images to post, it is well worth picking up!

Patrick said...

Poor Mr Anderson your are giving us all his secrets.

Pau said...

Dear friend Will,

Congratulations for your interesting blog.

Here Pablo, a graphic designer from Barcelona, Spain.

About Keith Ward (1906-2000), note he also illustrated a large advertisement campaign in 1950s for Armstrong Rubber & Tires Co. He created the Rhino character to advertise the Rhino-Flex Tires. If someone are interested I can send you scanned images of some exemples.

I'm also a Master Thesis researcher on Advertising Character trademarks in pioneer Tire Companies, like the forgotten Lotta Miles (Kelly-Sprinfield), Fisk boy, Hood red Man Service, Old Man Mileage from Republic Tires, the Gillette Polar Bear, The Miller man...

Best regards from mediterranean Barcelona, and sorry for my poor english.
Sincerely, Pablo (pauvictoria@arrakis.es)

Suzannah said...

I know this is a very old posting, so not sure if you still check, but often my siblings google our family members, and came upon this posting. Keith Ward is my grandfather. And he was indeed the only Keith Ward - both an illustrator, and impressionistic painter and teacher for decades. My mother - his daughter - would be a good source of information for those interested. Glad that you love his work as much as we do.

Bob Foster said...

Suzannah -I would love to talk to you and your mom about your grandfather. Just yesterday I saw an old Halloween mask for sale on Ebay, designed by Keith Ward. The more I stuff I find that he did, the more impressed I am with his work. I have a rather large collection of his various magazine ads, Child Life covers, spot illustrations, even several copies of the Walter T. Foster book on how to do impressionist paintings. He was a remarkable artist and I wish I'd had an opportunity to know him. I was particularly fascinated by the fact that he lived in Lake Oswego, Oregon for awhile, and I thought it was amazing that he could maintain such a successful career as an illustrator without living in Chicago or New York. I think we're overdue for a Keith Ward website. I'm happy that so many people know about Keith Ward, especially animation artists. If this blog allows it, I can be reached at:
bfosterla@aol.com.
- Bob Foster

slafa said...

I am a fine artist who has painted the landscape professionally now for almost 20 years. My work will appear on the cover of the April 2011 Southwest Art Magazine coupled with an article.

The first and only workshop I ever attended was taught by Keith Ward in Las Vegas in 1980 and was amazing. My Grandmother who was also in the class bought the 20x24 painting he did of some petunias in the workshop ($200) and has kept it all these years. This year she gave me the painting along with the conch shell that also appears in the painting.

I can honestly say that while I was very committed to art by the age of 18 this workshop "catalyzed" my desire to paint for a living and I am indebted to Mr. Ward for his enthusiasm and willingness to give something back during his amazing career.

thanks for this very interesting and informative blog!

Steven Lee Adams

slafa said...

I am a fine artist who has painted the landscape professionally now for almost 20 years. My work will appear on the cover of the April 2011 Southwest Art Magazine coupled with an article.

The first and only workshop I ever attended was taught by Keith Ward in Las Vegas in 1980 and was amazing. My Grandmother who was also in the class bought the 20x24 painting he did of some petunias in the workshop ($200) and has kept it all these years. This year she gave me the painting along with the conch shell that also appears in the painting.

I can honestly say that while I was very committed to art by the age of 18 this workshop "catalyzed" my desire to paint for a living and I am indebted to Mr. Ward for his enthusiasm and willingness to give something back during his amazing career.

thanks for this very interesting and informative blog!

Steven Lee Adams

Don said...

Some years ago I purchased the painting "California Mellon Stand" by Keith Ward. It still hangs proudly in our dining room. His use of color was outstanding. It is what attracted me most to this painting and why I still enjoy it.