Story Artist Art Hernandez Talks About Bringing Artistic Form To Disney’s Planes

No compensation was received for this post. I attended a press junket, which facilitated the writing of this post. Accommodations were provided.

As a little girl, I remember my father drawing pictures, primarily of “cartoon” characters. He was the artistic one in the family and while his passion was photography, I knew that I could always go to him when I needed help with school art projects. Many a late night was spent frustrated at my lack of right-brain capabilities!

Fast forward several years and not much has changed. I’m still up late at night muddling my way through PhotoShop as I repeatedly try to draw a single triangle. It’s times like these that my awe and admiration for the talented team behind animated films is at its peak.


Last month while at DisneyToon Studios, I had an opportunity to sit down with story artist Art Hernandez for an inside look at how he brought the Planes script and characters to life through drawings. While just a few years ago artists were still hand drawing, today Hernandez states that he now prefers to use the computer because programs like Photoshop streamline the drawing process. In a film like Disney’s Planes where 40 to 50 thousands storyboards are drawn, it makes sense that a screen and a stylus would be faster than hand-drawn art.

Hernandez began working at Walt Disney Animation Studios in 1996 as an in-betweener (animator’s assistant) on Fantasia/2000 and eventually landed at DisneyToon Studios in 2004. His work includes Bambi 2, Brother Bear 2, and the first four Tinker Bell DVD releases. His latest project is Disney’s soon-to-be released animated feature Planes. But before he even began drawing, Hernandez studied aerial footage from classic films and documentaries and became a virtual aviation expert to learn how to incorporate the mechanics of planes into the personalities and actions of the film’s characters.


One of my questions was what exactly a story artist does? Hernandez explained that a story artist takes the script and any notes from the writers and translates that into a visual layout for the film…a comic strip of sorts. Each scene is broken down, drawn, and then presented to the director. You may remember during my visit to Pixar Animation Studios, I had an opportunity to speak with Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann who described that an integral part of the storyboarding process is “pitching” the ideas for the scenes and elements of the story to the filmmakers. Hernandez walked us through one of the scenes in Disney’s Planes, drawing and voicing the character, just as Mann did 2 months ago and I was just as fascinated and in awe of his talent. Eventually, the storyboards will be passed on to several departments, including animation.

Hand Drawing of Dusty

During this demo, Hernandez walked us through the process of drawing Dusty, the crop duster aspiring to race around the world in the largest air race. Much like my previous “drawing lessons,” it wasn’t until the drawing was completed that I fully grasped the process. While I definitely felt like my drawing turned out better than it would have without guidance, I still think I need to leave the artistry to the professionals!

Disney Planes takes flight on August 9th, 2013.

Images:  Disney


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