August 04, 2023

Recreating Old School Animation Backgrounds, A Study


by Donya Collins

Beauty & The Beast, Snow White, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book and Sleeping Beauty. All these movies are classics and a part of the golden age of animation. Did you know that in these animated films that backgrounds were hand painted often using gouache or acrylic just like we have here in Ignite’s Kit Library? I took some time to explore recreating old school animations backgrounds in this study of the classic film The Sword in the Stone.

The Golden Age of Animation

The Golden Age of animation was a period in the history of U.S. animation that began with the popularization of sound cartoons in 1928 and gradually ended from the late 1950s to early 1970s. These movies were before the digital era we have today where animation is crafted on computer. Back then, they did everything by hand. This handmade look is what many people love about traditional animation.

Recreating Old School Animation Backgrounds, A Study

Here is a look into a film study I did. A study is when we take a still (a picture) from a film and try to replicate it in purpose of learning how to do it ourselves. The supplies you’ll need are:

  • gouache paint
  • water
  • two plastic cups
  • mixed media paper
  • pencil
  • colored pencils (optional)
  • a computer or a color printed copy of a background picture from your favorite classic animated feature. (I’m using The Sword in the Stone.

Here is the original image:

Here you can see the before and after sketch process.

Here’s some close-up photos:

I had a blast using Ignite’s Gouache Kit to create this film study as I’ve watched this film countless times. It wasn’t exactly the quickest project, but I am proud I got it to look so close to the work of the greats. For anyone attempting to do the same, I’d recommend either using a black piece of mixed media painting or painting the entire thing black as an underpainting. After that, sketch the image on top and start painting. That should save you so much more time instead of having to carve the trees and dark background behind it back out. I also used color pencils to help add texture to the hay, various trees and plants and the gouache. It’s not mandatory but I would recommend it.

Come into Ignite Studio to explore all kinds of painting mediums or try a study of your own. Share your latest creations with us on the Ignite Community Discussion Board. Happy Making!