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Home Movie News Animation Illustrator ‘Tutorial’ + ‘Karl Hess’ & ‘From Mao to Mozart’

Animation Illustrator ‘Tutorial’ + ‘Karl Hess’ & ‘From Mao to Mozart’

Bambi watercolor Tyrus Wong
Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

“The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator: William B. Major, Harold Michelson and Tyrus Wong,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ latest exhibition, opens on Friday, Sept. 28, in the Academy’s Grand Lobby Gallery in Beverly Hills. Admission is free.

Featuring more than 110 color and black-and-white storyboards, sketches and watercolor renderings – including those for the production of Bambi (above, 1942), The Birds (1963), The Graduate (below, 1967), Dick Tracy (1990) – “The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator” will showcase the illustrator’s rarely publicized role.

As per the Academy’s press release, “motion picture artists sketched and painted countless scenes for each film, drew hundreds of pages of storyboards, and illustrated key sets: they enabled production designers to convey their ideas to directors, facilitated set construction, and helped directors and cinematographers alike visualize their most important shots.”

Major and Wong attended Otis Art Institute, while Michelson studied at the Art Students League and Pratt Institute in New York. Both Major and Michelson worked in the Paramount art department on Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956). Major was to spend thirty years at Paramount, and later had a brief stint at Universal before his death in 2002 (according to a relative, as seen in the comments below, and not in 1991 as originally reported).

Michelson became an art director and production designer starting in the late 1960s, earning Academy Award nominations for Star Trek – The Motion Picture (1979) and Terms of Endearment (1983). He continued to accept illustration assignments throughout his career. He died in March 2007. (Above, Michelson’s sketch for The Two Jakes, 1990.)

Wong worked for three years at Disney, where his watercolor style shaped the look of Bambi (1942). He then went to Warner Bros., where he worked as an illustrator for three decades. He continues “his personal artistic pursuits” to this day.

“The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator” will be on display through Sunday, December 16. The Academy’s galleries, located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, are open Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m. The Academy will be closed during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend – Thursday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, November 25. For more information call (310) 247-3600.

Images: Courtesy of Suzanne Bravender (The Graduate watercolor by William B. Major), Lillian Michelson (Two Jakes sketch by Harold Michelson), Tyrus Wong (Bambi watercolor)

In the next installment of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ “Oscar’s Docs, Part Three: Academy Award-Winning Documentaries 1977–1988,” Karl Hess: Toward Liberty and From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China will be screened on Monday, October 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.

Filmmaker Murray Lerner will discuss From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, his 1980 feature-length documentary winner. The film follows Isaac Stern’s visit to China, where he plays a formal concert and teaches master classes.

Filmmakers Roland Hallé and Peter Ladue will be on hand to discuss their 1980 short subject documentary winner Karl Hess: Toward Liberty. Hess, who at one point was a speechwriter for U.S. Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, became a Libertarian later in life.

“Oscar’s Docs” is a screening series of every short subject and feature to win the Academy Award for documentary filmmaking since the category was established in 1941.

Tickets to “Oscar’s Docs” are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. A limited number of series passes are available for $30 for the general public and $25 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets and passes are available for purchase online at, by mail, or at the Academy box office during regular business hours. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved.

The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. Free parking is available through the entrance on Homewood Avenue (one block north of Fountain Avenue). For additional information, visit or call (310) 247-3600.

Photos: Courtesy of Hallé/Ladue, Incorporated (Karl Hess: Toward Liberty), Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library (From Mao to Mozart)

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1 comment

Donna Vis -

The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator: William B. Major, Harold Michelson and Tyrus Wong article incorrectly states the year William B. Major passed away. Rather than 1991 it was 2002. He is my uncle. By the way, the show at the Academy was fabulous. Thank you, Donna Vis


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