New evidence for retooled Mickey short?: First Draft Steamboat Willie Script

I saw an article that suggests the first draft script of ‘Steamboat Willie’ is going up for auction and it contains some interesting areas for consideration.

To recap:  It has been suggested that ‘Steamboat Willie’ was always planned to be a sound short; animation synced with recorded sound.  This is true in a sense but my conjecture is that the short started out as a typical orchestral piece (played with accompanying orchestra in the live theater as was custom in that day) but was retooled to fit into Walt Disney’s new vision of animation synchronized to sound played back from a recording.

In previous post I pointed to an Exhibit A (although technically Exhibit A might be the actual reconstructed timeline of how everything played out in the making of the film).  That exhibit was the notes to the orchestra that suggested how they should approach their music and sound (effects) to achieve the best possible theater experience for their audience.

There are at least three new items of interest revealed in this ‘first draft’ script.

The first is on the cover page where the note at the bottom appears to state “inc New Sound timing Sheets”.  I only assume the first three letters are “inc” (inclusion) as the copy I have is very pixelated.  I hope whomever purchases this script may release clearer copies.

Secondly, I note some interesting capitalization that leaves the word “timing” lower case.  This odd capitalization  continues in other places in the document and it’s hard to say whether this was largely due to general typist practices of the day.  In other words, it might have been meant to be capitalized but the editing practices of secretaries in those days might have deemed that not worth correcting.  Other typos in the document (I’ll guess they are mostly misspelled words) are visibly corrected.

So… here then is our Exhibit 2A:


So, why is the important?

Consider:  As a ‘first draft’ everything is new right?  If all is new then why do we need to take the time to specify the inclusion of “New Sound timing Sheets”?

The answer to this shouldn’t surprise us.

This first draft script isn’t the first ‘script’ of ‘Steamboat Willie’.

We’ve already seen that ‘script’ in its storyboard form (as seen in earlier post… our Exhibit A).

But let’s move on.

We’ll skip over some interesting things in the middle and head to the end of the script (that is to say from what I have currently available) and head to a familiar looking page.  We do need to return here to the middle some day however because it reveals some very important things about Walt and his approach to animation as well as his thoughts concerning staying on the cutting edge and ahead of any competition.  But please remind me about this as we don’t have time to go there today and that isn’t what we want to focus on here.

In this, an Exhibit 2B, we see that old familiar set of instructions to the orchestra but note the large red X that now removes it from production consideration.


I can almost see Walt’s red pencil going into action as if to impress upon those helping him achieve his vision, “We won’t be needing THAT anymore in our animation fellas’.

We are seeing ‘history’ in the making folks.  It’s rolling out before us on the page in real time.  Now it just needs to be further replayed, reviewed and studied.

Ladies and gentlemen.  ‘Steamboat Willie’, a Walt Disney short film which at first had been set up like it’s companion shorts to receive the orchestral accompaniment of that day was now set via this first draft script to proceed along a very different pathway.

Epilogue?:  Walt’s interest in maintaining secrecy is still a matter of interest and speculation in our discussion but we can’t wish our way to easy answers.  The fact remains that there is more to this story and hopefully we can all see that the details of how ‘Steamboat Willie’ came to be the first animated ‘talkie’ can be further studied and the film’s true provenance revealed.  This is an important a part of animation history.

Submitted for your consideration.



P.S.  The script in question (first four pages?) is reportedly being auctioned on 24 Oct 2016 (via phone) by S/R Labs and can be had for (a minimum bid of) $300,000.  LINK

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Raster to Vector Conversion

OpenToonz makes quick work of the process of toonwomanconverting raster images to vector lines.

That makes sketching in either all the more fun.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Random Happy Troll

As I’ve been testing I’ve also been trying some different styles.

Sketchy… (Technically this was drawn on the 27th but I hadn’t noticed I’d passed the hour of midnight.  Who says we can’t time travel?  Creative people do it all the time.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Random Superhero with Invisibility Superzuit


Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Characters: Meet Roko

I enjoyed the work of OpenToonz user Jame who animated a short cartoon called ‘Roko and Roka’.  I liked it enough that I thought I’d try drawing his character Roko myself.

I may not speak Jame’s native language but animation bridges that gap.  For those interested, here’s the cartoon:

Fun stuff.   And I’m especially intrigued by the critter sleeping (?) on Roko’s head.  :)

So here’s my tribute drawing of Roko in it’s OpenToonz/MotionMonster setting:making-of-roko

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Random Doodle

I’m troubleshooting/gap checking and trying to improve workflow.

This guy/gal represents an issue with quickly laying down line work that doesn’t easily fill with color.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Revisiting Leonardo

One of the first posts on this blog pointed to Leonardo Da Vinci as an early pioneer of animation.  I still stand by that assessment.

In that post I pointed to the sequence of poses from Leonardo’s notebooks that sketch the motion of a man chopping wood:

Man chopping wood - Leonardo DaVinci

Man chopping wood – Leonardo DaVinci

I recently came across a book that had these images in a bit clearer format and in clearer context and was tempted to purchase the book.  However, I realized those tiny images would very likely be the whole reason for buying the book.  As with most notebooks Leonardo added notes to these images so there is much more to be gleaned from studying the originals.  Maybe some other day…

The thing that set Leonardo apart from other artists (as an ‘animator’) is his intense and never ending study of movement.

Yes, my friends… animation may be ‘the illusion of life’ but movement… basic movement of all types is present in animation too.   In fact that ‘movement’ is what creates a compelling illusion.

Leonardo understood movement and how it relates to us in ways that even in our day and age we often do not.

Another recent book on Leonardo that I have not purchased covers theories of how he created the illusion of movement in still paintings.  I should buy that book too.  Some day…

Keep on animating!


And here for the curious are some additional ‘pose studies’ by Leonardo.


If anyone can share links to larger images of Leonardo’s motion studies on the internet or provide additional context concerning his affinity with motion/animation I will be most grateful to you.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment