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Conceptual Drawing for Atlantis


This is a conceptual design I did for Disney's Atlantis in 1997. Wow, nearly ten years ago!

When I was first approached with the Atlantis project I had it described to me as an animated Indiana Jones adventure, done in Mike Mignola's comic book style. I was also told that this particular film would be different than its predecessors in that it would not be a musical or comedy. All in all, I thought this was a fantastic idea!

It didn't take long to see that the graphic Mignola styling for the backgrounds was being abandoned (as is reflected in this drawing). Soon afterwards, the characters also lost the Mignola influence. One of the things I kept being asked of was to create a sense of atmosphere and drama. I tried to create a sense of mystery, drama, and of course atmosphere, but also to add a sense of dignity to the characters. In this particular case I drew Preston Whitmore as a dignified elderly gentleman who was passing the mysterious book to the young Milo.

In the end result, the Mignola comic book influence was all but gone, and the film turned into a comedy. Because much of the original creative vision was abandoned, I think the film was caught inbetween that nowhere land of neither comedy, nor drama.

This drawing was also drawn in Prismacolor on vellum and it is about 15"x24". Start to finish, the drawing took about a week. This is a good example of the type of work I did for Disney while working for them, combining characters, backgrounds and my own conceptualization of themes and ideas. Ultimately, as a freelancer, my job on this project was to create inspiration and innovation, not direction.

Note: There is a caricature of myself as a small Inca clay pot atop Whitmore's desk.


Henry Elmo Bawden said...

This is an amazing piece. Especially all the detail work. I thought it was funny though when you showed me this that most of the historical objects and things that you used where sitting around your office/studio. Such as the different skulls and things. There were two other pieces that you did for the project that I remember seeing that absolutely blew me away also. The one was the distorted view of the mask room with the multiple vanishing points. The other was all the people climbing over each other to get to the flying machine. I am still amazed at all of the amazing conceptual pieces that you were putting out during your time in St. George. Even more so because I was able to see some of it first hand. Beautiful stuff moe. Looks great. As soon as you are allowed to show it. (I don't know how long until the release dates or anything else). It would be nice to see some of the pieces that you are working on now just to see the comparison and contrast in your work after 10 more years of growth. Looks awesome!

Marcelo Vignali said...


I'll see if I can find those images and post them as well.


Mark McDonnell said...

Stunning Marcelo.


Henry Elmo Bawden said...

Cool. They were all awesome. You do great work Moe.


Dibumac said...

Well, this image was done to inspire, and sure it does !

Great work!

Hans said...

Hey Marcelo,

First of all, thanks for your tips and tricks, they're much appreciated!
Wow, yet another amazing piece, please keep 'em coming so I can study:) I see you're great character designer too. Went back to see one of your ealier posts of the out of control western barfight, simply stunning!
Hope you don't mind me asking a bunch of questions here:D. I tried using a black prismacolor pencil today, but on regular paper. I couldn't seem to get those smooth tones, is that because it's not on vellum?
Do you ever work in colors when doing layouts and concept drawings for studios like Disney? The reason I'm asking is, that I'm getting ready to update my portfolio and was wondering if my chances for landing a job would increase if I put more color into my portfolio, or does that matter?
Any other portfolio suggestions is HIGHLY appreciated!

I hear you are currently working as Art Director on a feature, is that for Disney?

Again, thanks for sharing. Looking forward to your next piece.


len said...

Amazing Marcelo. Great details.
I bow before the awesome might of your pencil.

Marcelo Vignali said...


Yes, the reason you are not getting the smooth tones with the Prismapencil is because you are not using vellum. You can use tracing paper or vellum, personally I like to use Clearprint 100% Rag Drafting Vellum. After you lightly shade an area, use a blending stump to smear the wax around. Once you get the feeling for how it will smear, then you can start to plan for how you intend to use it.

Most of my backgrounds are drawn with no color, but there is no rule that it has to be that way. Some painters submit their portfolios to Disney with all paintings and no drawings. If you intend to include both, you had better be good at both.

Currently, I'm an art director for Sony Pictures Animation.

Cheers, and good luck on your portfolio review at Disney!

afroman said...

wow, absolutely astonishing.

Miras said...

I'm contemplating in silence.

Lubomir said...

This is a treasure, thank you so much for posting it!

Lee-Roy said...

This is great. Thanks, too, for the notes on materials. I've used prismacolor on vellum for some storyboards in the past. Though, nothing to this scale or level of complexity. Really very nice.

Hans said...

Hey Marcelo,

Thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions:) I'll go get myself some drafting vellum this weekend. As you said, it's probably better not to include color, unless you really master it! The jack of all trades... So I'll spend my time improving what I do best.
I'm working with Joe Barruso who recognized one of your layouts that's on my desk and asked me to send his regards. Funny how you always seem to run into someone who knows someone in this business:)

Can't wait to see "Open Season" and would love to hear more about the current Sony project you're working on. Well, as soon as you're allowed to talk that is:D

Will probably return with more questions, as I start exploring your techniques. Hope I'm not bombarding you too much?!

Thanks again and take care,


Marcelo Vignali said...

Please tell Joe I said hello. It's been too many years since I last talked to him. I think it was shortly after Carmen San Diego that I last spoke with him. Perhaps at the Comic Con.

I'm glad you like the stuff, I will continue to post more stuff, and share with you all some of my thoughts, techniques and rambings.

CarolineJarvis said...


Andrew Glazebrook said...

Oh boy your blog is full of amazing work !!!


i had this one over ny desk formthe longest time while doing layout on Atlantis, esp. the inside of the mansion, but i liked yours better.