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Mark Henn

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Mark Henn
Born
Mark Alan Henn

(1958-04-06) April 6, 1958 (age 66)
Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
Occupation(s)Animator, film director
Years active1978–2023
EmployerWalt Disney Animation Studios (1980–2023)
Spouse
Deborah Lou Hall
(m. 1981)
Children2
AwardsWinsor McCay Award, 2013

Mark Alan Henn (born April 6, 1958) is an American animator and film director. His work includes animated characters for Walt Disney Animation Studios films, most notably leading or titular characters and heroines. He served as the lead animator for Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Jasmine in Aladdin, Young Simba in The Lion King, the title character in Mulan and Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, and directed the short films John Henry and D.I.Y. Duck. Henn spent a total of 43 years at Walt Disney Animation Studios, from 1980 until his retirement in 2023.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Henn grew up in Dayton, Ohio. At seven years old, Henn watched a reissue of Cinderella and decided to become an animator.[1] He also viewed The Reluctant Dragon remembering a scene of "Ward Kimball drawing a scene of Goofy. He picked up all that paper, started flipping and everything kind of came to life. From then on, the animation bug beats hard for me."[2]

In 1976, Henn graduated from Trotwood-Madison High School. He next attended Bowling Green State University and sent an animation portfolio to the Disney studios, but did not accept it though they recognized his potential. He then attended Sinclair Community College and sent a second portfolio, which was rejected. He sent a third portfolio a semester later, to which he received a rejection letter from Don Duckwall, the studio's production manager. Henn recalled, "[Duckwall] sent a nice rejection letter back and he wrote a sentence that was burned into my memory saying that it wasn't that I wasn't a good artist, but they just didn't think I had what it took to travel the narrow roads that their animators travel."[3]

In 1978, he attended the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and was accepted into the Character Animation program.[4] His professors there included former Disney animators Jack Hannah, Elmer Plummer, Jack Kinney, T. Hee, Bob McCrea, and Ken O'Connor, while his fellow students included Joe Ranft, Mark Dindal and John Lasseter.[2]

1980–1988: Initial years[edit]

In 1980, Henn was hired by Walt Disney Productions and entered the animation training program where he was mentored by Eric Larson. He began work as an inbetweener for Glen Keane on The Fox and the Hound. According to Henn, Keane was finishing the climactic bear fight scene and Henn worked with him on that.[2] He was promoted to animator less than a year later for Mickey's Christmas Carol, in which he animated Mickey Mouse. Henn looked to past Mickey Mouse shorts animated by Freddie Moore, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnston for inspiration; overall, he remembered, "He [Mickey] was an easy character to get, for me at least. Putting him in the role of Bob Cratchit was a perfect match as far as casting goes."[2]

On The Black Cauldron, Henn was initially assigned the role of Creeper, the Horned King's assistant. He also animated scenes of Gurgi and Fflewddur Fflam.[2] He next joined The Great Mouse Detective, primarily animating Basil, Dawson and Olivia, as well as Ratigan in a few scenes where he confronts Basil. On the next animated film Oliver & Company, Henn mainly animated Oliver and his human owner, Jenny.[2] For the 60th Academy Awards telecast, in April 1988, Henn, along with Rob Minkoff and Nancy Beiman, animated Mickey Mouse as he presented the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.[5]

1989–1998: Move to Orlando, animating Disney Princesses[edit]

In 1988, Henn was selected by directors John Musker and Ron Clements as one of the two supervising animators for the character Ariel in The Little Mermaid (1989), alongside Glen Keane.[6] The animation workload was divided by Keane, who mostly animated Ariel during the underwater scenes, whereas Henn animated her in the film's opening scene and when she was a human.[2] A year later, Henn moved to Orlando, Florida to work at the newly-opened Feature Animation Florida studio at the Disney-MGM Studios. His first assignment there was The Rescuers Down Under (1990) animating the lead characters Bernard and Miss Bianca, as well as the villain Percival C. McLeach.[7] For the mice characters, Henn studied the mannerisms of Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor during voice recording sessions, and looked to George C. Scott's performance in Dr. Strangelove (1964) for inspiration while animating McLeach.[7]

For Beauty and the Beast (1991), Henn was next assigned as the supervisor animator for Belle, sharing the role with James Baxter.[8][9] For character reference, Henn decorated his studio with photographs of famous women, specifically Hollywood actresses Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn.[10][11] However, Henn hardly met the character's voice actress Paige O'Hara apart from rare occasions when he would travel to California for production meetings. Regardless, he incorporated O'Hara's mannerisms during the recording sessions into the animation, including her pushing a lock of hair off her forehead.[11] Meanwhile, Glen Keane was the supervising animator for the Beast at the studio's California division. To coordinate the staging of the characters, Keane and Henn agreed the characters who were most dominant in their scenes would be animated first. For scenes in which the Beast was most dominant, Keane animated first and placed scribbles for Belle. The animation was then exchanged through the 3000–mile distance via an overnight courier.[12]

Having animated two previous Disney heroines—Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Belle from Beauty and the Beast, respectively—Henn was afraid he had been typecast when he was assigned his third heroine, Jasmine.[13] By this point, he had been dubbed as the "Julia Roberts of Disney animation".[11] In search for new inspiration, Henn stated, "I just reached into my pocket, and I still had my sister's high-school graduation picture. I looked at it, and at the time her hair was a roundish haircut shape that surrounded her face, and we were playing with things like that, so I essentially modeled Jasmine on my younger sister Beth."[14] Linda Larkin was hired to provide Jasmine's speaking voice and discussed the role with Henn during a dinner meeting at the Disney-MGM studios. Robina Ritchie, a model, was hired to provide live-action reference for the animation, pantomiming actions to the recording of Larkin's voice-overs so, in Henn's words, "the animator gets the feeling of what the real human movement would be."[13]

In 1993, Henn starred as himself in Full House for "The House Meets the Mouse" episode. Henn remembered Max Howard, then the head of the Feature Animation Florida studio, called him into his office and asked if he was willing to appear in the episode. Henn agreed and was handed his dialogue pages.[15]

When he became involved with The Lion King (1994), Henn initially expressed interest in animating the film's villain, Scar, because he wanted to do "something different."[8] However, producer Don Hahn felt that he was better suited for animating Simba. Before animating the character, Henn and his animators visited the Miami Metrozoo to observe African lions.[11] His colleague Ruben Aquino handled the animation for adult Simba at the studio's California division. To ensure a smooth transition between the cub and adult versions, Henn animated adult Simba at the end of the "Hakuna Matata" sequence.[8] Before the film's release, during the summer of 1994, Henn was slated to work on Mulan (1998), in which he accompanied Pam Coats, Barry Cook, Ric Sluiter, and Robert Walker on a research trip to China.[16]

However, Mulan (1998) was pushed back into development due to unresolved story problems. Henn then joined Pocahontas (1995), which was already in production, and animated several scenes of the title character.[8] When Mulan was ready for production, Henn animated Fa Mulan and her father Fa Zhao.[17] During production, Henn stated: "I was asked to not only animate Mulan, but I was also asked by the directors to animate her father as well, Fa Zhou because it was that relationship which was the heart and soul of that picture. That was the tension."[18]

1999–2006: Directorial debut, transition to computer animation[edit]

In 1999, Henn made his directorial debut with the animated short John Henry (2000).[19] Afraid it would offend Black American audiences, the film's release was suppressed by Disney. It premiered at the Heartland International Film Festival, where Henn was awarded the Crystal Heart Award. Afterwards, it was screened for three days as a double feature with a re-release of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) at the El Capitan Theatre.[20]

During early development on Lilo & Stitch (2002), Henn was initially meant to animate Stitch, but after ten years in Florida, he decided to relocate to Burbank, California. Despite this, Henn was asked to animate female hula dancers during the opening scene, in which he returned to Orlando.[17] Back in California, Henn animated on Home on the Range (2004) animating several characters such as the cow Grace, the dog Rusty, Wesley, and the farm owner Pearl Gesner (shared with Bruce W. Smith).[21]

Henn began his first CG animation role on Meet the Robinsons (2007), animating Lewis and the family members. However, he struggled with the transition to computer animation and found the assignment very difficult.[22] Shortly after, Henn, along with Andreas Deja and other 2D animators, were loaned out to James Baxter Animation to animate Giselle for the live-action/animated film Enchanted (2007).[19]

2007–2023: Return to traditional animation[edit]

In 2006, John Lasseter and Ed Catmull became the new management heads of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Lasseter and Catmull reopened a new shorts program to experiment with the new animation techniques. Henn returned to Disney to animate Goofy on the 2007 animated short How to Hook Up Your Home Theater. The short implemented a paperless technique by using Harmony and Wacom Cintiq pressure-sensitive tablets, but Henn found the approach too difficult and resumed using pencil and paper.[23]

In 2007, he was assigned his next heroine Tiana for The Princess and the Frog (2009). In an interview, Henn stated he animated her human form "fairly naturalistically" while he went more broad when animating her as a frog.[22] Following this, he was the supervising animator of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin in the 2011 film Winnie the Pooh.[22] In December 2011, the long-gestating Snow Queen project, initially planned to be a 2D animated film, was rechristened into a CG animated film titled Frozen (2013). Henn remained on the project as an animation consultant, providing 2D character tests for the CG animation team to improve the performance and timing.[24][25] During the same time, he animated Pete on the short film Get a Horse! (2013), which was attached with Frozen.[14] He again served as an animation consultant on Big Hero 6 (2014) and Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018).

On Moana (2016), Henn animated Maui's tattoos, as well the prologue and the stylized visuals on the tapa cloth for several sequences. In 2022, Henn, along with Eric Goldberg, Jin Kim, and others, were featured in the Disney+ documentary series Sketchbook.[26]

In December 2023, Henn retired from Disney Animation Studios, having worked there for 43 years, with his last work for the studio being D.I.Y Duck, a short film starring Donald Duck, which he directed.[27][28]

Accolades[edit]

Throughout his career, Henn has been nominated for an Annie Award four times: three times for Character Animation for The Lion King, Mulan, and Winnie the Pooh, and once for Short Animated Film Direction for John Henry.

In 2013, Henn was the recipient of the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement in animation.[29][30]

Personal life[edit]

In 1981, Henn married Deborah Lou Hall and has two children. In 1998, he started a hobby in sculpting to celebrate American history.[31] He is a Christian.[32]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Credits Characters Notes
1983 Mickey's Christmas Carol (Short) Animator Mickey Mouse
1985 The Black Cauldron Animator
1986 The Great Mouse Detective Supervising Animator Basil, Dr. David Q. Dawson, Olivia
1987 The Brave Little Toaster Animator Kirby and Plugsy
1988 Oliver & Company Supervising Animator Oliver, Jenny, Dodger
1989 The Little Mermaid Directing Animator / Supervising Animator, Florida Ariel
1990 Roller Coaster Rabbit (Short) Animator
The Prince and the Pauper (Short) Character Animator
The Rescuers Down Under Supervising Animator Bernard and Bianca
1991 Beauty and the Beast Supervising Animator, Florida Belle
1992 Aladdin Supervising Animator Jasmine
1993 Trail Mix-Up (Short) Character Animator
Full House: "The House Meets the Mouse" (Part 1) (TV episode) Himself Animator
1994 The Lion King Supervising Animator Young Simba
1995 Pocahontas Animator Pocahontas
1996 Quack Pack (TV Series) Supervising Animator - 1 Episode
1998 Mulan Supervising Animator Fa Mulan and Fa Zhou
2000 John Henry (Short) Director
The Emperor's New Groove Additional Animator
2002 American Legends (Video) Director - Segment "John Henry"
Lilo & Stitch Lead Animator Hula Dancers
2004 Home on the Range Supervising Animator Grace, Wesley, Rusty and Pearl Gesner
2006 Bambi II (Video) Supervising Animator Ronno
2007 Meet the Robinsons Animator
Enchanted Animator Giselle
How to Hook Up Your Home Theater (Short) Animator Goofy
2009 Pups of Liberty (Short) Supervising Animator
The Princess and the Frog Supervising Animator Tiana
2011 The Ballad of Nessie (Short) Supervising Animator
Winnie the Pooh Supervising Animator Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin[33]
2012 Wreck-It Ralph Additional Visual Development
2013 Saving Mr. Banks Animator: Walt Disney Animation Studios Tinker Bell
Get a Horse! (Short) Animator
Frozen Lead 2D Animator
Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier (TV Movie) Special Thanks
2014 Big Hero 6 Lead 2D Animator
2015 Pups of Liberty: The Dog-claration of Independence (Short) Supervising Animator
2016 Zootopia Animator Judy Hopps and Bellwether
Disney Art Academy (Video Game) Special Thanks
Moana Animator
2018 Ralph Breaks the Internet 2D Animation Supervisor/Animator Mickey Mouse
Humphrey Bear
2021 Space Jam: A New Legacy Supervising Animator uncredited
Binge Watching (Short) Supervising Animator Goofy
2022 Zootopia+ 2D Animator/Opening Sequence Animator
Mickey in a Minute[34] Animator Mickey Mouse
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (Short)[35] Animator
2023 Once Upon a Studio Animator Tinker Bell, Snow White, Grumpy, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather
Wish Additional 2D Animator
2024 D.I.Y. Duck[28] Director / Writer / Animator

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Chairman of the Storyboard". Orlando Sentinel. July 7, 1998. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Noyer, Jeremie (December 18, 2009). "The Princess And The Frog's Supervising Animator Mark Henn – Part 1: It All Started With A...Mermaid!". Animated Views (Interview). Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  3. ^ Armijo, Victoria (February 12, 2019). "Mark Henn Interview—Inspiring Future Animators". Simply Today Life. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  4. ^ Moss, Khalid (December 10, 2009). "'Princess and the Frog' animator a Dayton native". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  5. ^ Solomon, Charles (April 13, 1988). "Mickey's Special Effect at the Oscar Telecast". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 4, 2024. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  6. ^ Friedman, Mark (February 1990). "The Warm Wacky World Witty Wistful Wonderful World of Walt Disney's Animation". Boys' Life. p. 26. ISSN 0006-8608. Retrieved January 9, 2024 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ a b Hinman, Catherine (November 19, 1990). "Disney Dips Into Local Inkwell Florida Animation Team Lends Hand To 'Rescuers'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  8. ^ a b c d Noyer, Jérémie (January 8, 2010). "The Princess And The Frog's Supervising Animator Mark Henn – Part 2: The "Disney Decade"". Animated Views (Interview). Archived from the original on April 23, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  9. ^ Chan, J (November 14, 2014). "Meet the Disney Animator Who Helped Create Some of Your Favorite Princesses: Mark Henn". Animation School Daily. Archived from the original on January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  10. ^ Bean, Jason (April 21, 2013). "More than 20 years after 'Beauty and the Beast', Paige O'Hara still remembered as voice of Disney princess". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on April 25, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d King, Jonathon (December 26, 1993). "New Home, Same Magic". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on November 19, 2015. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  12. ^ Thomas, Bob (1991). Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Beauty and the Beast. New York: Hyperion. pp. 130–131. ISBN 1-56282-899-1.
  13. ^ a b Culhane, John (1993). Disney's Aladdin: The Making Of An Animated Film. Disney Editions. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-1-56282-757-1.
  14. ^ a b Zakarin, Jordan (November 7, 2014). "Meet the Disney Animator Who Helped Create Some of Your Favorite Princesses: Mark Henn". Yahoo!. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  15. ^ Taylor, Drew (April 28, 2022). "Disney Animator Mark Henn Still Gets Recognized for His Surprise Role on 'Full House'". TheWrap. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  16. ^ Kurtti, Jeff (1998). The Art of Mulan. Hyperion Books. pp. 46–67. ISBN 0-7868-6388-9.
  17. ^ a b Noyer, Jérémie (January 22, 2010). "The Princess And The Frog's Supervising Animator Mark Henn — Part 3: The Orlando Features". Animated Views (Interview). Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  18. ^ "Episode 139: Mark Henn on Disney+ Series "Disney Sketchbook"". Apple Podcasts (Podcast). Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  19. ^ a b Noyer, Jérémie (January 29, 2010). "The Princess And The Frog's Supervising Animator Mark Henn – Part 4: Americana". Animated Views (Interview). Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  20. ^ Hill, Jim (February 22, 2001). "A black hero comes up short". Orlando Weekly. Archived from the original on December 17, 2023. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  21. ^ Singer, Gregory (April 2, 2004). "Home Sweet Home". Animation World Network. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  22. ^ a b c Noyer, Jérémie (February 5, 2010). "The Princess And The Frog's Supervising Animator Mark Henn – Part 5: Down In New Orleans". Animated Views (Interview). Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  23. ^ Desowitz, Bill (November 16, 2007). "How to Hook Up Your Animated Short at Disney". Animation World Network. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  24. ^ Belz, Emily (December 9, 2013). "Disney Animator Mark Henn talks Faith and Frozen". Crosswalk.com (Interview). Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  25. ^ Noyer, Jérémie (December 9, 2013). "Author Charles Solomon puts the chill to us with The Art Of Frozen". Animated Views (Interview). Retrieved January 9, 2024. Disney used two of its very talented 2D artists, Mark Henn and Randy Haycock, to draw test animation of the main characters that suggested how to move them to the CG artists.
  26. ^ "If You Can Dream It, You Can Draw It... Disney+ Presents The One-Of-A-Kind Drawing Experience, 'Sketchbook,' Available To Stream April 27" (Press release). Disney+. March 16, 2022. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  27. ^ Amidi, Amid (December 16, 2023). "Animation Legend Mark Henn Retires After 43-Year Run At Disney". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved December 20, 2023.
  28. ^ a b "The Walt Disney Company Kicks Off Global Celebration Honoring 90 Years of Donald Duck". June 7, 2024. Retrieved June 7, 2024.
  29. ^ Flores, Terry (December 3, 2012). "Disney pics populate Annie noms". Variety.
  30. ^ Beck, Jerry (December 3, 2012). "Annie Award Nominations 2012". Cartoon Brew.
  31. ^ "Mark Henn—About". Mark Henn. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  32. ^ Goodwyn, Hannah (December 10, 2012). "Mark Henn: Disney Animator on Frozen, Christian Faith and Fairy Tales". Christian Broadcasting Network (Interview). Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  33. ^ "Interview with Mark Henn, Supervising Animator (The Princess and the Frog) • DLRP Magic! - Disneyland Paris at the click of a mouse!". www.dlrpmagic.com. Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2022.
  34. ^ Hoepfner, Fran (March 19, 2022). "'Mickey: The Story of a Mouse' Film Review: Disney Doc Explores Character, Icon, Ubiquitous Mascot". TheWrap. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  35. ^ "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Stars in a New Walt Disney Animation Studios Short for Disney 100 Years of Wonder" (Press release). The Walt Disney Company. December 1, 2022. Retrieved June 25, 2023.

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